The Birth Center is a book that will interest all parents-to-be because of its practical approach to some highly controversial aspects of today's maternity care: birth outside a hospital, the presence of children at the birth of siblings, and early discharge from the direct supervision of professionals.
This book is of special interest to me because it is a testimony to how far we have come in stimulating change through responding to parents. It is also a testimony to the similarity of the desires of parents nationwide.
This book is the warm and human story of how Vic and Salee Berman set out to find for families a way of birth that would meet the needs of all concerned expectant parents, their family constellations, and the professionals who assist and guide them. The search the Bermans undertook was not a new one, but one that required courage and conviction. Their search built on the work of the professional and parent pioneers who went before them, molding their accomplishments and teachings into a form of care that is both old and new. I am particularly delighted to see the effects at NACHIS of the early work of MCA in parent and nurse-midwifery education. In the beginning, these ideas were also highly controversial.
In telling the story of the birth center, the Bermans have recognized and emphasized the importance of the family's active involvement in the selection of the setting and the care team and in the maintenance of health throughout pregnancy, birth, and early parenting.
The Birth Center is and will continue to be an important affirmation of desirable standards for the operation of birth centers. As with any "new" idea, enthusiasm runs high among those who recognize its validity, but great care must be taken that the operating principles that ensure safety in the prototype be stringently followed and not compromised. Only carefully conducted scientific trials should cause a loosening of the strict criteria that to date have provided birth centers with their records for safety. Staffing and structural variability will be found among centers-there should be some flexibility but the clinical criteria for acceptance and protocols for management must be upheld.
A birth center, after all, is not so much a place as it is the embodiment of the philosophy that families deserve an important say in the conduct of their pregnancies and births. I commend this book to all who share this belief, but even more so to those parents and professionals who have never inquired or thought to question the American way of birth. May their minds be opened by its words and their hearts stirred by its story.