I will never forget Ann's playing the audiotape of herself in labor, while she waited for her postpartum visit. The sounds of her wailing during a contraction resounded throughout the waiting area, as she nursed her two-week-old baby. I listened to this woman's labor and at the same time watched her smile at her newborn. At once, both the reality of labor pain and the beauty of birth were communicated to me. The sounds of Ann's labor provided me with a type of body education that my childbirth classes had lacked and readied me to meet my own labor without fear.
My daughter's birth was a very moving experience for me. It was a natural childbirth, and I delivered her at home after eight hours of active labor, during which I felt the power of the life force traveling through me. That feeling came again with the birth of my son three years later. Both times I felt lucky to be a woman. I was able to meet, and enjoy, this experience only because I integrated the emotional work of this period of my life into my preparation for childbirth.
Wanting to share the richness of my own experience, I immersed myself in research of the safety of home delivery to see if my choice could be a viable one for other women. Lewis Mehl, M.D., Donald Creevy, M.D., Nancy Shaw, Ph.D., and I studied the outcomes of homebirths attended by Santa Cruz midwives in the early 1970s. Our initial research encouraged us to study prenatal care. This work led me to explore the way that emotional and psychological factors affect normal and healthy labors in any setting: home or hospital. Emotional factors proved second only to physical health and nutrition in importance for a normal labor and delivery.