The medical community's unsatisfactory response to women's emotional needs during childbirth and women's growing desire to take charge of their health care had generated a grassroots home-birth movement. Many women turned to lay midwives, who provided the emotional sensitivity that was lacking in traditional hospital settings. The research that would ultimately promote changes in and arrangements for maternity wards, including alternative birthing rooms where families could stay together during and after the birth, had not yet been conducted. Ultimately, I would become one of the researchers who would support consumer demands for changes in hospital policy.
But I chose to deliver my baby at home simply because I felt that separation from my husband and close women friends would have a negative effect on my labor. I wanted to be with my baby during the first hours of life. Even in my inexperience, I sensed that emotional variables could have an impact on my baby's birth.
I was fortunate to have received my prenatal care from lay midwives who prepared me for labor both physically and psychologically. Their gentle questions guided me to contemplation of this period of growth and change. My exploration of significant childhood memories and feelings helped me identify the kind of mother I wanted to be.
The midwives also encouraged their patients to learn from each other. We waited for our prenatal appointments in the living room of an old Victorian house, the home of my midwife, Kate. Mothers who had recently given birth shared their experiences with those of us who were pregnant, imparting realistic information about childbirth. Their birth stories helped me develop resources that I brought to my own labor. Although I had attended Lamaze preparation classes where I'd seen movies of women giving birth, none of these films had the impact of one uncensored audiotape that I was lucky enough to hear while I waited for my last prenatal appointment.