Macfarlane is a pediatrician ""for whom the inability to quantify emotion, mysticism, and change still provides a certain joy and satisfaction,"" and his discussion of the elusive psychology of childbirth reflects that affirmative outlook. Acknowledging the ""extraordinarily difficult methodological problems"" of investigating this area, he sifts through the available research (what stimuli provoke fetal reactions, how maternal attitudes affect delivery, the range of spontaneous newborn responses), always respectful of the subjective aspects of the experience and variations in human nature. Separating the chapters are transcripts of conversations recorded during and just after deliveries, all with fathers present, conversations which reveal relief, disappointment, delight. Although Macfarlane clearly admires the work of Lamaze, Dick-Read, and Leboyer, he is not pushing natural childbirth; he examines the advantages and disadvantages of induction as well as the arguments on intervention generally, and recognizes that only the low death rate at birth--a fairly recent phenomenon--permits such concern for emotional and psychological consequences. Still, despite the attention to the specifics of care from conception through delivery to the early years, longitudinal studies confirm social class as the best single indicator of healthy development--a fact which suggests that in the long run social reform may be more significant than medical science. A personal but balanced introduction, sensitive to observable behavior and less accessible factors.