An indictment of hospital-based labor and delivery practices.
Waters (Vaginal Politics, 2003) employs some of the same scare tactics used by the medical community against midwifery to challenge those doctors and the notion that hospital births are safer and healthier than using a midwife. The bulk of the book is in the third chapter, a collection of testimonials from different women on their experiences giving birth. Other chapters present Waters’ own opinions on doctor-assisted births and the practice of midwife-assisted births. She presents a brief history of midwifery and discusses the ways in which the medical community has tried to discredit midwives. Though trained as a nurse before becoming a midwife, Waters clearly feels that the use of a midwife, or at least a doula, is in the best interests of women during the birthing process. The testimonials included in the book are often moving and heartbreaking, but a larger, more diverse sampling might have helped Waters better make her case. The vast majority of testimonials are from women recounting their experiences giving birth 20 or more years ago, which paints a vivid, sometimes horrifying story of maternity-ward practices of the past, although it does little to indict present-day hospital practices. Also, many of the women are either nurses or women who have given birth at military hospitals. Testimonials of today’s young mothers and women from other walks of life would help to round out the book.
A historically significant collection of firsthand labor experiences, which falls short of making a case for or against midwifery.