"Birth… matters because the journey through pregnancy and birth offers an irreplac eable way for women

to explore their deepest selves – their minds, bodies, and nat ure… There is a sacred power in the innately feminine capacity of giving birth. I t is one of the elemental, continuing processes of nature that women have the ch ance to experience, and it is the one act of human creation that is not shared b y men." - Ina May Gaskin I love and respect Ina May. She is changing how pregnancy and birth are handled in the United States, which is a much-needed vocation and a high calling. What s he speaks of I have personally experienced- a true woman’s mystery. But from my ow n personal experience, I can say that Ina May Gaskin is only referring to the mo st ideal and wanted of pregnancies and births. I experienced what she is talking about in my second pregnancy, but not at all in my first. The first time I was pregnant, I was a teenager (who was scared and ashamed of g etting pregnant and who was judged by friends, family and strangers for being so ). Because of my predicament, I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening- until my bod y would no longer allow me to deny what was happening. It was a hard lesson- ign oring your “problems” does not make them go away. I gave up my child for adoption, a nd the whole experience left me with scars, PTSD, and a desire to never experien ce such powerlessness again. Finally, as a woman in her late thirties, I wanted that ideal pregnancy, birth, and child that Ina May proclaims in her quote, despite my myriad fears. I had fo und my voice and no one could force choices upon me to which I did not freely ag ree. I assembled a team of people (midwife, partner, doula) to protect and nurtu re me. I finally found the experience that Ina May describes. But I am keenly aware that this birth experience- of deliberately conceiving a w anted child, seeking midwifery care in lieu of a doctor (midwives spend more tim e with their patients and support them holistically- versus a doctor who sees yo u for a few minutes each visit), creating the spiritual container for such a mir acle, and birthing with a team who were all behind my choices- is not a universa l experience. I truly wish this spiritual experience for every woman- but I know intimately th at it cannot happen unless the basics are met. This means conception only when a woman is ready and desirous of it, pregnancy and birth according to her own pla n and her body’s rhythms, and support and loving care from multiple people during a vulnerable time in life. Only then can a woman experience the spiritual side o f pregnancy and birth, when all other physical and emotional needs are met. We a re far from this experience universally. Let us work to make conception, pregnan cy, birth, and child-rearing a choice. Let us work to make them the spiritual le sson they were meant to be. So mote it be.