I first heard of Ina May Gaskin when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I read her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and was transformed in the way I thought about myself, my body, and how I would and could handle bringing a life into the world. She is a midwife by trade, but, as her website indicates, she is also an “author, activist, and innovator.”
The way she writes about birth makes you feel empowered as a woman. She gives you the confidence to trust yourself, trust your instincts, and know that your body was built to bring new life into the world. Her views are in stark contrast to the intervention-heavy births that happen more often than not in the United States these days.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful that we live in a world where medical intervention during the birthing process can save both mother and baby, but after a lot of reading and research, I have come to the conclusion that these technologies are vastly overused in the United States. One intervention leads to another intervention and suddenly, birth is a medical event that must be “treated” by a doctor (and too often, by a surgeon), rather than the natural, beautiful, mother-led process that it should be.
The real problem is that the increased use of medical interventions during birth in the United States has not resulted in the deaths of fewer mothers. In fact, since 1982, the maternal mortality rate in the United States has more than doubled! This is appalling! And until recently, I didn’t even realize there was a problem.
Ina May Gaskin began the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project to bring awareness to this issue. She was inspired by the AIDS quilt, and wants to have the quilt available for public viewing so that, hopefully, more people will become aware of the problem of high maternal mortality rates in the United States and we will begin to work toward a solution. She wants a block made to represent every mother who has died as a result of pregnancy or birth since 1982.
Since I can make quilt blocks, I sent Ms. Gaskin an email offering to make a block to represent one of these mothers and she responded with a mother who had died at the age of 31 as a result of died of an epidural that was wrongly administered and the resuscitation errors that followed this complication.
I used rainbow colors to keep the block bright and happy to celebrate the life of this woman. A circle of triangles on one side was inspired by some paper piecing blocks I had been looking at recently and another row of bright squares balances the other side of the 12 inch x 16 inch block.
I practiced my embroidery skills by adding the name, death and location information using DMC floss.
Any death is awful, but for a family to experience that at a time when they were to be rejoicing a new life is just tragic. I can’t even imagine it. The rates of maternal mortality in the United States should not be as high as they are. I hope that Ina May Gaskin, and this Safe Motherhood Quilt Project to accomplish the goal of awareness and we begin to take steps toward all births being filled with only joy.