Two Farm publications, reviewed by Priscilla Rich Safransky, whose experience suggests that you shouldn’t buy one without the other.*
* But I’m happy, too.
A Cooperative Method of Natural Birth Control by Margaret Nofziger. The Book Publishing Company, Summertown, Tennessee. 1976. 128 pp.
When first contemplating writing this review, I decided to start by saying I’ve been using this method for one year and so far, so good (but my fingers are crossed). Since then I’ve discovered that I’m pregnant (happily). Needless to say, this somewhat tempers my original laudatory intentions. Still, I think that with more care than I took, it is a viable alternative to the current means of birth control, most of which poison and/or upset the balance of your body, or interfere with the flow of energy. However, if you do not have a partner who is willing to abstain or use an alternative method of love-making during fertile or potentially fertile times, this method is not for you.
This means of birth control combines the basal body temperature, (BBT) rhythm system, and the mucus method to help you find out when you’re fertile. Basal body temperature is the temperature of the body at rest, after at least three hours of sleep. Since the BBT rises noticeably after ovulation, its cyclic changes, observed on a graph, form the mainstay of this method. The mucus method involves checking your mucus discharge daily and learning to judge its viscosity.
“Pregnancy can happen if you make love at the exact time of ovulation. You can also get pregnant by making love up to 72 hours before or 24 hours after ovulation. This is because the egg only lives for 12-24 hours and sperm can fertilize an egg for 48 hours, occasionally 72 hours. So in order to avoid pregnancy, a couple needs to abstain from making love for 3 days preceding ovulation and 1 day after. This would be very simple if we could pinpoint the exact time of ovulation. But at this stage of fertility research, we can only estimate the approximate time of ovulation and allow some extra leeway for error.”
The rhythm system and mucus method will help you find the fertile time and safe, infertile time before ovulation. BBT charting indicates the safe, infertile time after ovulation.
You will need to check your mucus, take your temperature, and record your findings daily on charts like the ones in the book. After about nine to twelve months, when you’re relatively certain of your cycle, you may skip taking your temperature every day, if you add a few days of abstinence. However, every few months you will need to take your temperature the week surrounding ovulation to make sure your pattern is not changing. So, if the thought of taking your temperature every day for the rest of your fertile years seems oppressive, you can see that it’s not that bad.
There’s also a chapter on using only the mucus method for nursing mothers with no periods, a section of questions and answers, and an appendix with information on female endocrinology, yeast and other infections, and new developments in natural birth control. A ten-year supply of charts like those in the book can be ordered postpaid for $1.00 from the Book Publishing Company, Summertown, Tennessee 38483. They also sell basal thermometers with case for $3.00.
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May and the Farm Midwives, The Book Publishing Co., Summertown, Tenn. 1975. 380 pp.
I wish I had read this book before giving birth to our daughter, Mara, at home, not because of the many “amazing birthing tales” (I had previously read numerous accounts of homebirths), but because of the attitudes toward labor and delivery expressed in them. Hopefully, it will serve me well the next time. Here are a few excerpts to illustrate what I mean:
“Contractions don’t hurt. They are energy rushes that enable you to open up your thing so the baby can come out. If you cop to the level that they hurt, then you’ll tense up and not be able to completely relax and it will take the baby longer to come through and you won’t have any fun either. It is a miracle to be able to create more life force and there is no room for complaining.”
— Barbara, mother of three children born on the farm
“Nancy taught me what heavy magic speech is, when she was having her first son, Russell. She’d say, ‘I just want to open wide,’ and her cervix would dilate another 2 centimeters. Then she’d say, ‘I want to let go and let the baby out,’ and she started to push the baby out. As Russell was just about to be born, she said, ‘I want the very best for this baby,’ and he came out into vibes full of crystal clear life force.”
— Cara, one of the Farm midwives
“At each push it felt like I was pushing as far as I could, only to find out those weren’t real limits and I could set my goals further ahead. I really discovered I had to believe I could keep setting ahead my previous threshold of what I felt I could do and what I could handle. And the miracle was, in believing in that leap of faith, it became real — I could push still harder and open further, and stretch more. I just had to concentrate everything on that total effort, and grunt and push. And sometimes I had to override brief temptations to interpret that powerful earthy push as pain instead of as life force, something greater than just me that I was only a part of. I guess you could say it was really down to the nitty-gritty.”
— Carolyn, one of the Farm mothers
“It does a man good to see a lady being brave while she has their baby . . . it inspires him.”
— Ina May
The main part of the book contains accounts by mothers, fathers, and midwives of birthings that occurred on the Farm and a few that happened at the local hospital. Though one might expect so many versions of a particular event to become repetitious, I found that to be true only of the “Farm dialect.” Most of the birthing tales managed to convey the magical sacredness of the event and were each as different as the people involved.
The rest of the book consists of two “primers”: the first concerns care of the mother and child (changes during pregnancy, instructions for mothers at the time of birth, exercises to restore muscle tone, what to do when the baby cries, how to make more milk, etc.); the second is a manual for midwives. Though I found this latter part of Spiritual Midwifery interesting, I suspect that most of the information is available elsewhere in greater detail. For me, the main importance lies in the attitude of these people toward birth and their methods for dealing with it.
“This is a spiritual book, and at the same time, it’s a revolutionary book. It is spiritual because it is concerned with the sacrament of birth — the passage of a new soul into this plane of existence. The knowledge that each and every childbirth is a spiritual experience has been forgotten by many people of this culture. This book is revolutionary because it is our basic belief that the sacrament of birth belongs to the people and that it should not be usurped by a profit-oriented hospital system.”
“The Midwives who have authored this book feel that returning the responsibility for childbirth to midwives rather than a predominantly male medical establishment is a major advance in self-determination for women. The wisdom and compassion a woman can intuitively experience in childbirth can make her a source of healing and understanding for other women . . .”
“When a child is born, the entire Universe has to shift and make room. Another entity capable of becoming God has been born. In that way, every child’s birth is exactly like the birth of Jesus. The Christ child is born every time a child is born, and every child is a living Buddha. Some of them only get to be a living Buddha for a moment, because nobody believes it. Nobody knows it, and they get treated like they’re dumb. Babies are not dumb. Just because they don’t speak English doesn’t mean they’re dumb. A newborn infant is just as intelligent as you are. When you’re relating with him you should consider that you are relating with a very intelligent being who just doesn’t speak your language yet. And you shouldn’t do anything gross to him before he learns to speak with you.”
The Farm midwives have delivered more than 600 babies in Tennessee and on sister farms in Wisconsin and Guatemala. In addition to Farm residents, the midwives will deliver the baby of anyone considering an abortion. “Don’t have an abortion. You can come to the farm and we’ll deliver your baby and take care of it, and if you ever decide you want it back you can have it.” They will also consider delivering anyone else who wants to have her baby on the Farm, depending on how much they can handle. If you are interested in either of these alternatives, write to the Farm Midwives, Summertown, Tennessee 38483.