I could write a very long post about this book, but I could never do it justice. (Go ahead and read the 350 five-star reviews on Amazon).
Nonie gave it to me at the beginning of my pregnancy, and it has been the greatest gift! Ina May approaches the subject of natural birth in a uniquely sensitive way. She does not show disdain for the medical community --- unfortunately common among many natural birth advocates. Rather, she focuses on the power and the right each woman has to bear her own children in the way she chooses. I confess, it would be hard to choose an assisted hospital birth after reading this book.
The first half of the book contains scores of birth stories written by women who gave birth with Ina May or her assistants. The second half of the book is Ina May's very detailed examination of the birth process, and of the benefits of the midwife model of birth (as opposed to the medicated model). Her long and intensive experience as a midwife over the last four decades has given her a great deal of insight, which she presents very scientifically. The statistics she and her sister midwives have achieved at their birth center will astound. Above all she emphasizes the mind-body connection (Please read chapter 4, "Sphincter Law"), and how our bodies' abilities to function as they are intended depend greatly on how comfortable we are with our surroundings. (And I would add, on nutrition. I don't agree with the soy diet followed by Ina May's mothers, although it seems not to inhibit their healthy, normal births).
The best part, though, is the birth stories. Reading these has given me so much encouragement as I near my son's birth. Cameron and I have enjoyed reading them aloud to each other, and discussing the methods employed by the laboring couples, and how we will deal with this situation or that. Please read the birth stories.
Whatever kind of birth a woman chooses, she will benefit from reading Ina May's guide. No woman should feel ostracized because of the way she has chosen to bring her child into the world --- hospital or home birth, naturally or medicated. But every woman should know what her birth options are.