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Reviewed Publisher: 
New York: Atria Books. 340 pages including an extensive "Resources" listing. ISBN: 0-7434-3963-5. Available at 800-984-8116.
Reviewed Title: 
Having a Baby, Naturally (2003)
Reviewed Author: 
Publication Date: 
March, 2004
Starting Page: 
Page Count: 

I recommend Having a Baby, Naturally. I was kept in the Fathers' smoky waiting room while my first child was birthing through her very frightened mother. I was allowed to see her only through a glass window, could not stay in the room while she was there, and did not get to lay hands on her until she was 3 weeks old. That was how it was in the 50s. Fathers were "nothing but trouble." For my second family, I was the father, the OB, and support for their mother as the two girls were born under hypnoanesthesia, safely and happily.

"This book has focused on the tendency in our culture to turn pregnancy and childbirth into a medical experience." This is an excellent description of the book I am endorsing to you. Peggy O'Mara has done just what she said but has also shown an alternative: pregnancy and childbirth with intentionality and clarity.

The juxtaposition of my two personal experiences are a microcosm for the macrocosm of Having a Baby, Naturally. Ms. O'Mara, editor and publisher of Mothering magazine, has taken her expertise to another level, clearing the air about childbirth and doing it with a far greater consciousness than any other book I have read about childbirth. The author has covered well the complicated subject of empowering women in childbirth, to not only understand the invasive and disempowering nature of traditional obstetrical care, but to realize women's innate ability, well informed, to birth without intervention. Particularly of value was her message that birth outside of the hospital, in the hands of a midwife, supported by a doula, is far safer for the mother and her baby than hospital-managed birth.

Peggy O'Mara has placed childbirth's responsibility back in the soul of the mother.

The seven-part book presents pregnancy and birth in every aspect, perhaps, but one. I was disappointed that she had nothing to say about the emotional and psychological life of the fetus and the fetal responses to birth. APPPAH has long sought to recall that the fetus is a conscious, feeling person from the day of conception, and Having a Baby, Naturally did not include discussion of the effects "programmed" into the baby by perinatal medical intervention. The nature of the fetal/baby experience and fetal programming and birth trauma are important considerations in our ongoing effort to bring another level of safety to childbirth.

That being said, Ms. O'Mara did an extraordinary job revealing how a woman can have a more-satisfying, safer, and far-more-rewarding birth while working to avoid the cascade of medical intervention. She cautions soon-to-be parents to become informed before conception in order to realize the potential of having a birth of their dreams, and she succinctly offers relevant information. The offering allows the mother to see ways in which she can contribute to her birthing satisfaction. Within the text, a considerable lexicographic enumeration shows how prenatal events, stages of labor, and postpartum events can be shaped to avoid medical interference.

Laced throughout the book are wonderful sidebars called "Higher Ground," containing clues, potions, and essences for making pregnancy a happier and more-comfortable event. Beneficially, there are sections on labor, pain management without pharmacological intervention to allow delivery by an alert woman, and the risks and benefits to be considered regarding induction. An extended section of the book is dedicated to postpartum eventualities and recovery, breastfeeding, and resources for assistance.

I was pleased that Ms. O'Mara included the responsibility and contribution of the father in childbirth. Instead of just a sperm donor, she makes the father an indispensable part of childbirth. To that I offer my applause. Women are transformed into mothers through childbirth. Men must learn their role as father. The material in this section suggests the intimate role we fathers play in the lives of our children.

What is negative about Having a Baby, Naturally? Very little other than the aforementioned lack about the fetal experience.

The medical community will reject the book out-of-hand. That in itself is a good recommendation. The obstetrician will reject the recommendation for midwives, doulas, home birth, and natural birth as "too risky." The material, however, clearly demonstrates the superiority of Ms. O'Mara's recommendations and that birthing naturally is far superior to the medical model. This threatens the obstetrical hold on the woman and on birth, as well as slaps at the professional wallet. The medical community will have resentment at the exposure of the truth about medical childbirth.