Juliana van Olphen-Fehr. Diary of a Midwife: The Power of Positive Childbearing. (Bergen & Garvey, 1998)
I can't resist reading these stories, I just can't. Even when I'm feeling blue about my personal choices (or lack thereof), I have to read such memoirs.
As a document about the Certified Nurse-Midwifery movement, this is an excellent autobiographical source. It's even funny in a number of places. There's a certain amount of didacticism, a certain amount of dogmatism, involved. It's important to read this document in the context that it's the work of an activist, and of course you'll pick up on the activist tone. I wish there was better balance in the stories she tells (most of them are either 'how the OB sucked' or 'how I and other nurse-midwives were great') but it's certainly more balanced than some of the earlier works. The experiences she documents took place in the late 1970s through the 1980s, and that's important context (some things have gotten better, some worse, and some things haven't changed.) It's also important to remember, when reading this book, that this is a document about primarily a home-birth practice, where the patients accepted were SEVERELY limited by her risk definition-- no overweight patients, no smokers, etc. etc.
Basically, when Ms. Olphen-Fehr talks about her personal feelings and experiences, she is giving us a picture of what it means/meant to become a CNM and to start up her own practice, how home births work/worked while she was practicing (as of the publication of the book, she had become an administrator in a CNM training program, also a worthy pursuit). I would NOT take her strictures or opinions as generalizable to all CNMs or any other kind of baby-catching professional, and I wouldn't read this as a document about childbirth (as one of the reviewers said, too many babies suffer pain or injury for some moms to be able to deal, even if they haven't had the sort of traditional medical birth of the kind she censures. On the other hand, for those interested in how home-birthing more or less works before pursuing it for oneself, this is a good read, not least because the author points out, somewhat tactfully, problems she did have to struggle with. (Ok, I admit it: I don't think I'd want her for my midwife, but I think she's emblematic of her time and for people for whom her approach works, I think it's useful to know what she offered.)