I knew how to deal with potential complications because kind doctors helped me. But basically I was behaving the way my aunt, who had a farm, would around any laboring mammal. You don't disturb her, you don't upset her. She deserves peace and quiet and respect. Doing that meant that no C-sections were necessary for the first 200 births on The Farm.
It's very rare to see an undisturbed birth in a modern U.S. teaching hospital, but when you see a woman who isn't frightened, who's giving birth without interference, you stand back in awe and realize how little needed you are except in the rare circumstance. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be around in case there is a problem. It just means that you should be able to tell when there's a problem, and you should be able to tell how not to create problems. (See the risks of early C-Sections.)
Yes, she acknowledges how difficult it can be. But she also asks, Why are we so afraid of pain in childbirth? Why do women who choose unmedicated births get called masochists? (See TIME's Special Report on Women and Health.)
Lately, I've been thinking we really need to get men interested in birth. Because fathers-to-be have a very strong protective instinct, and we're not utilizing this well. Men instantly understand what I call "sphincter law." You don't try to defecate while lying flat on your back tied to various machines with somebody shouting at you! Why do we then continue to treat women as if their emotions and comfort and the postures they might want to assume while in labor are against the rules?
If birth matters, midwives matter. In Europe, there are hospitals where the cesarean rate is less than 10%, and you'll find midwives in these hospitals, you'll see a lot less re-admissions with infections and complications, and you'll see a lot less injury to mothers.
It's getting a lot worse, in fact. There's still a lot of hostility toward midwives.
A lot of OBs aren't happy about the high cesarean rate either. Malpractice insurance companies have become the boss of obstetricians. It used to be that OBs were taught skills to deliver twins and breech babies vaginally. Now all they can really offer is surgery. If you're a woman who would like to have a breech birth vaginally in this country, you'll probably have to find a midwife. When I go into hospitals, I talk about how we do things on the Farm. I love talking to OBs. We midwives and physicians have a lot to teach each other.