When I became pregnant with my daughter in the spring of 1973, I was twenty-two years old. I had graduated recently from Indiana University with a degree in psychology, but had not given much thought to motherhood. The pregnancy was unplanned; if anyone had asked me before that whether I wanted to have children someday, I would have replied with a definite no. The responsibilities of parenthood brought up fear; they were not part of my life plan. Once I learned that I was six weeks pregnant, however, I was surprised by unexpected feelings of attachment to the unborn child. My husband's excitement about having a baby helped me decide to continue the pregnancy. I did not yet know the richness that this decision would bring to my future. Nor could I have imagined that I would look back on this period of pregnancy, childbirth, and new motherhood as a pivotal event of my life˜the cornerstone of my professional, as well as personal, development.
Early in my pregnancy I decided to give birth at home. I had discovered that in most American hospitals, fathers and friends were banned from the delivery room, and babies were whisked away to the nursery as soon as they emerged. Women whose physicians were acquainted with the work of natural-childbirth advocates such as Dick-Read, Lamaze, and Bradley were sometimes able to arrange for more humane conditions. Women who did not prepare for a natural childbirth or who had complications in labor risked having an emotionally ungratifying delivery.