Book Reviews

What people are saying about…
Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love:

-UHB belongs in every collection of books on alternative birthing. The other stuff is all of the crisis mentality that marks modern birth. This book examines our cultural assumptions. - Valarie Nordstrom, publisher of "New Nativity II" (newsletter for Do-it-Yourself Homebirth Couples)

-UHB is everything a good book should be - honest, informative, inspiring, and incredibly well-written. It is sure to open many eyes to the safety and beauty of unassisted birth. -Laura Kaplan Shanley, award-winning author of Unassisted Childbirth.

-In UHB, Lynn M. Griesemer describes the way childbirth will be commonly experienced in the new millennium, which is only weeks away, really. All other books about birth (with the exception of a couple by me) are as obsolete as a manual typewriter in a newspaper office. _Marilyn Moran, author of Birth and the Dialogue of Love and Pleasurable Husband/Wife Childbirth: the real consummation of married love.

-This is the best book on unassisted homebirth. - Martha Pugacz, Fairview Park, OH, mother of seven; had her first unassisted birth 40 years ago.

-I am enjoying your book!! KUDOS on a wonderful contribution to healing birth at the edge of the millenium. I am so honored to be included and see the term FREEBIRTH in the index ~ a first!! Your book is herstoric!! I keynoted the International Primal Association with a speech, "Healing the Earth by Healing Birth" in which your book was referenced, barely a day after I first got it. -Jeannine Parvati Baker, world reknown author and speaker (a more detailed review below).

-Everything is WONDERFUL - we are so thrilled with this book - it says EVERYTHING. You have just done a fantastic job; you have given completely of yourselves for such an important work. The passion you have for unassisted birth shines through on every page. CONGRATULATIONS!!! We will be doing our best to promote your book everywhere we can. - Rick and Patty Kohl, Hopkinton, NY

-Lynn Griesemer's UNASSISTED HOMEBIRTH is a refreshingly honest and empowering book. This is wonderful, bold stuff that deserves wide attention. Yes, we can reclaim our lives and that begins with parents birthing their children without people who make their living in the technological childbirth industry. I highly recommend expectant couples to take to heart the truthful message and information in this important book. - Michael Fogler, author of UN-JOBBING: THE ADULT LIBERATION HANDBOOK.

-Fantastic - EVERYONE GET IT!! Very useful. I devoured the book mostly in one day. It is a fantastic work - very thorough! I thought it was great the way you had the parents remarks in the chapter on "How to Prepare." Our first birth was in a birth center four years ago - no complications, but I ended up bonding with my midwife and not my husband. TO this day I still feel an attachment and after reading all this wonderful literature, I saw why I felt that way. My husband felt a desire to birth our second baby alone, but I had a homebirth with a midwife. I felt attached (again!) and didn't listen to who I should have been listening to - my husband. I am due any day now and we are looking forward to our upcoming, unassisted birth. - Saunya Hildebrand, Webster, FL

-Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love is a comprehensive guide for the woman who desires the comfort and intimacy of home delivery. Natural homebirths are discussed giving encouragement and helpful information. For some women there is no place like home to deliver a baby! -Connie Williams, President, Tri-County American Family Association

-I'm glad you wrote this book. - Mike Hiott, host of Charleston's TV-5 Midday show.

-While reading your book, I thought to myself, "I can do this." What struck me was that everything worked out very well for all of the couples who chose to give birth this way. - Brenda Rindge, mother of four and features reporter, The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC daily newspaper)

Longer reviews from:

-world known speaker, author, Jeannine Parvati Baker
-Debbie Hutchinson, psychotherapist
-Annmarie G. Klyzub Kalmar, editor Special Delivery
-Cher Mikkola, Senior Editor, Midwifery Today
-Jenny Hatch, childbirth educator, mother

Jeannine Parvati Baker - author/advocate/international speaker:

Eagerly I had awaited the arrival of Lynn's book, having heard about it through the chat on-line with the unassisted childbirth list ~ a cybercrew of authors, mothers and others who were obsessed with birth and loved to share queries and discoveries with as much passion as gourmands share recipes.

Patiently I waited, content to read Lynn's astute postings via email. Soon her book would be here! I hadn't expected a recipe book for ideal birth ~ actually, I had no set assumptions about this book for what I had garnered from the on-line chat was this book would transcend categories. Not primarily a manual for homebirth, nor solely a persuasive discourse on even natural birth, and it is far beyond anecdotal evidence or inspirational reading. It simply fulfills its purpose: informative, encouraging and AN ACT OF LOVE. There is no better way to say it ~ this book could come only out of love, the mature love of seasoned parents who are also passionate lovers in partnership with life.

There is so much that I like about this book, that it would serve to understand that I read from a unique perspective (which each reader has as well ~ a unique point of view). I am a mother of six children, half of whom were born unassisted, or as I have coined the new term, were FREEBORN. I am married and in love with my husband. Also, our granddaughter was an ecstatic freebirth here in our home: I have devoted much of my life to freebirth education and walk my talk. As founder of Hygieia College, author, midwife,
keynote speaker, my work is to heal the Earth by healing Birth. Before I read Lynn's book, I was already had ~ birth claimed me a generation ago so her words were welcomed, many already familiar and where I didn't have the same experience or perspective, I still felt a unity of intention and profound respect. Indeed, the entire work is deeply respectful to all who have been called to birth ~ as a midwife, I felt validated (after deconstruction) and gently represented as a mindful resource. As a doula (grandmother), I felt fully appreciated. As a mother, I felt empowered to be my own midwife. For me, this is the real indicator of the power of language to shape realities ~ UNASSISTED HOMEBIRTH is a major contribution
toward creating a birth reality I already know I can live with, and have ~ indeed one I would wish for all families.

Reading Lynn's book is like sitting in your own kitchen, with your favorite friends, and exploring the possible birth over a steaming cup of raspberry - mint tea. Her writing style is akin to the best midwifery ~ she evokes and draws out understanding. Like talking with your best woman friend, with no hidden agenda ~ just the joy of sharing what has heart and meaning with someone you care for. Indeed, I felt cared for by reading this book in all ways. My intelligence was never insulted, and over and again I found delight in new ways to express the mysteries of birth.

Though the author is careful to be inclusive by mentioning that "Unassisted homebirthers represent various family structures portrayed in society" (pg132), the women with whom I shared this book and who liked it the most, were other happily married mothers. Some single mothers found it challenging as Lynn makes a good case for monogamous marriage. Her chapter on "An Unbreakable Bond" is worth the price of the book alone. I found out the hard way what the author is sharing as the best kept secrets of life ~
sexual love especially deepens by "going all the way for God". Indeed, with freebirth, this ecstasy amplifies with each birth so that I now feel it a pity that women (usually) stop having babies just when we are getting good at it! The elusive "birth orgasm" Lynn writes about (pg 139) takes some practice. A few single mothers who I shared this book with felt left out. However, in my opinion, Lynn presents many ideas to connect spirituality, sexuality and birth which anyone, regardless of family structure or most cherished religious belief, would benefit from knowing.

Speaking of birth orgasm, I have experienced this in my births and believe me, it is worth getting to know oneself to experience it! Of course, women have orgasms with or without men. However, in my extensive field research on this topic, orgasms with my beloved are more powerful, just as giving birth with my lover between my legs so much more orgasmic.

The chapter, "Men And Birth" I found so wonderful that now I don't have to write that book after all! Thank you Lynn for articulating so well what I have learned in 30 years of attending to birth as a holy celebration. This is major paradigm shifting material here. "By choosing to leave their partners in another dimension when it comes to those 'female times' (which are actually 'couple times'), they are leaving men out of an important part of their lives. How can fathers be expected to be fully involved if women do not involve them from the outset?" Pg 146 Yes, from conscious conception to freebirth, the father of the baby is vital for the holy celebration and much to my chagrin, has taken a very long time to reclaim (or evolve to) his place in sacred sexuality. Women, as mothers, have the capacity to change this in a generation.

"Men who have been the first person to see and touch their babies often develop a new perspective on sex. Because they have partaken in a miraculous event which results from intercourse, sex with their wives becomes more emotional and spiritual." pg 149 This point was made to me many years ago when I had a showing of birth films in Joseph, Utah. A father brought his five sons to the viewing, all teenagers. He had realized that none of them had ever seen a birth, were all hospital born themselves and if he had it to
do over, which he kind of did potentially through his sons, he'd have homebirths. When my husband asked him why he came with his young sons, he said, "I think seeing a birth is the best sex education my boys could have. Then they will know the consequences of sex. One picture is worth a thousand words."

In one birth story written by the father, he cites a moment which I would wish for all men. "I was the first thing that Cody saw when he came out. He looked at me and we looked at each other. He was very clear in telling me that everything was all right." Pg 175 I have heard this same statement from fathers in freebirths over and again. For these men, it utterly transforms them from worrying daddies to a trustful, respectful bond with their sons. When a new father imprints on this look, when he is SEEN by his newborn, he also recognizes the original face in all creation from then on.

The beauty of Lynn's book is how she interweaves first person accounts with her text. A father says in an interview, "I think it is very crucial for men that when we get separated out of the birth process, it sets up a dynamic to where that continues throughout the rest of the relationship between the father and that child...." Pg 177 This reminds me of when I was giving a keynote to the International Primal Association. A classic looking psychiatrist, probably in his sixties and sitting in the front row, told me that when I made this point in my talk, he suddenly realized something which had bothered him for almost 40 years. He said that when his son was born, he was present yet pushed away as soon as crowning began. He had wondered all his life why he seemed to "unconsciously" feel "pushed away" from his son by his son's mother, then later by his son himself. He thanked me for he could finally connect these two events. This is the healing power of Lynn's book as well for it's immediate relevency.

The author has courage. Her statements on abortion are direct, honest explications of the core of feminism. There is one organization called "Feminists for Life" who have (wo)managed to integrate, as Lynn and I have
done, our beliefs in the sanctity of human life at conception and being feminists both at once. I resolved this by being both pro-life and pro-choice through conscious conception ~ in other words, I chose life. I commend Lynn on her declaration and hope more feminists come out of the choice closet. On this issue particularly, I have felt like the little child in the story of "The Emperor Who Wore No Clothes". "Look", I have been saying, privately and in print, "he's naked!" All babies can be welcomed babies through fertility awareness. Here we are, dressing up in medical garb our sacred sexuality, pretending that we are "controlling" fertility with pill or device. Yet underneath all the dressings of culture, we can know, each of us, when we are fertile and behave appropriately with this natural knowing.

An excellent chapter entitled Home Is Where The Hearth Is takes on the subjects of making a home and large families. Her comments on homeschool and home business are ones I can testify to from personal experience. Homeschool and home business are the natural consequences of freebirth. Indeed, home health care is another possibility as well as the fullest freedom to be a family in the way our souls inform us, rather than the mainstream society would mold us to be. Lynn's statements on these topics, plus home death are pithy and requisite reading for anyone considering being part of the solution to society's rapacious greed, not content to merely be a mindless consumer, but rather be a change agent for evolution.

UNASSISTED HOMEBIRTH is a book I have given my daughters and friends for it will be a gift which transforms their lives. I also just gave a copy of this book to the pregnant daughter of a midwife friend of mine. She had declared her intention to give freebirth and I always rejoice when the daughters of
midwives, like my own, choose this way. For my friend's daughter, this is especially helpful ~ ideally again, when pregnant, we would turn to our own mothers for counsel, if desired. However, most all our mothers missed out on giving birth themselves (anesthetized, (wo)manipulated by the alleged helping medical hand) and therefore can offer no real assistance. In the case of my friend the midwife, another advocate of freebirth, Lynn's book will be the surrogate mother for her daughter as she is presently in prison, serving out a 4 year+ term for practicing medicine without a license, child endangerment, etc. The irony here is that if every mother was her own midwife, we wouldn't be blaming others, and incarcerating some of the most courageous women on the planet, homebirth midwives. Lynn's book goes a quantum leap toward making this a consensual reality ~ we are our own midwives when giving freebirth.

As a midwife, this book makes my job much easier. Highest recommend for UNASSISTED HOMEBIRTH for anyone who was born and cares about realizing our country's promise ~ Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

Debbie Hutchinson, CSW, psychotherapist/marriage and family counselor, New Paltz, NY:

-I first met Lynn in the late 1980s; we were neighbors and became friends fast. She was someone I confided in as I prepared for and succeeded in achieving the VBAC for my second child. In preparing for this natural experience, I did the research, both in written and personal forms; I read, talked to women, looked at hospitals and doctors. In the end, I found that there were some suggestions I could take, and others which were not within my scope of accepting, mostly because of my vulnerability and fear.

Most valuable was the opening of the door to the research of others before me, both medical and feminist. I was helped by ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network), hospital notes from my C-Section, literature, Labor & Delivery Nurses, midwives, my labor-support person, and literature; most helpful was realizing the facts, myths, feelings, judgments, and opinions of people in the birthing fields.

The birth of Jesselyn, my second child, was empowering, and it helped me towards the completion of my healing process. Sharing all this with Lynn gave me strength and courage.

Lynn and Bob are regular, down to earth people; they have ups and downs, family struggles, and hard economic decisions to make; as parents, they enjoy the love and the pain we all share. They are not activists or politically motivated; their efforts since I have known them have always been honest and from the heart.

Lynn takes her birthing experiences to the highest levels. Her energetic dedication and loving enthusiasm fill the pages of her trend-setting book Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love. She openly shares her own experiences in a humble and unassuming way. She delivers the message well, and shares her humanness and imperfections in a user-friendly, educated manner. If she weren't a friend, I would still easily read her words like a friend was talking to me. She's that real.

As a practicing psychotherapist, I concur with Lynn's emphasis on the importance of emotional preparation for birth. Whether a first time delivery, a VBAC, birth after prenatal loss, or unassisted homebirth, we birth as we live. If we "hold on" to established beliefs and ideals, without accepting them fully as our own, we have the tendency to over-control. We are more likely to resist the birthing process, and give our decision-making responsibility to our doctors or midwives or nurses we had never even met. But no matter what, babies will be born; it is our choice as to what role we play in that process.

Whether you are ready for an unassisted homebirth or a hospital VBAC, there is much to learn from Lynn's ability to open the door to those thoughtful questions we can only benefit from asking.

Our birthing history has undergone consistently more medical interventions. Some of those interventions have saved many lives, and I am grateful for the intent of safety. Unfortunately, things can get overdone.

Women were forced on their backs to labor and deliver, for the convenience of the medical staff. In the fifties doctors told new mothers that their breasts were for their husbands, and formula was bottlefed to infants on a rigid schedule. Those mothers were anesthetized and remembered nothing of their children's births.

Lynn brings us back to the roots of our ancestors, complete with the wisdom of centuries stored in our cells. Her words are freeing, and we realize as we read, that what she states has been the truth we always knew.

This book can help open the doors you didn't know were locked; there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from reading about her experiences which she shares with the purpose of simply sharing.

Annmarie G. Klyzub Kalmar, doula, editor of Special Delivery magazine:

Lynn Griesemer's Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love is a good resource for anyone determined to have a DIY birth (Do-it-Yourself birth). Additionally, labor support doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives can find useful information between the covers.

While, of course, Griesemer's position is pro-homebirth, she fairly and consistently advises readers why they may not be candidates for unassisted homebirth. However, even though she discusses both sides, the book is clearly written for those who have already decided to give birth at home without a midwife or medical caregiver present.

Griesemer makes some excellent points about the values of unassisted homebirth: empowerment, woman- and partner-centered (husband-centered) birth, and the effectiveness of labor support. Equally evident, however, is a cynical view of the medical establishment, including midwives. I was excited to see an entire chapter devoted to midwifery, but was somewhat disappointed to read that I shouldn't expect support from a midwife if I have chosen to birth alone. On the next few pages, though, Griesemer admits that, when used for education and information, midwives can be a DIY's best resource.

The author also provides a few pages on labor doulas. She explains that some DIYs prefer to have someone other than their partner for support in attendance. In her view, the most logical choice would be a labor doula. Griesemer makes a good case for labor doulas pointing out how effective they are in reducing length of labor.

I especially enjoyed the questions and answers throughout the book. Griesemer sent out questionnaires to families that experienced unassisted homebirths. Their answers ranged from the practical to the metaphysical -- both of which are quite enlightening.

My favorite section of this book appealed to my romantic side and I feel it is noteworthy. Griesemer's strongest reason for affirming and promoting homebirths is one of unity and love. She states, "Both partners conceived the child together and it seems logical they should both embrace the birth, the beginning of their parenting journey together. Traditional birth experiences pull a couple apart rather than strengthen their unity." Birth and sex are intimate experiences, both with similarities. Griesemer asks, if sex is intimate and private, shouldn't birth be?

I read this book from two different perspectives. From my doula view, I believe that Griesemer's book has merit for two reasons. First, it did, albeit indirectly, provide me with insight into the psyche of the moms and families that are determined to have no assistance whatsoever in their births. Second, the educated reader may find many things with which he or she disagrees. This provides an excellent tool for reevaluating one's own birth beliefs, either to challenge them or to reaffirm them.

From my "I want to have my next baby at home" perspective, I found some practicality in this book -from commonsense advice ("have a back up plan") to what experienced DIYs would do differently.

Cher Mikkola, senior editor at Midwifery Today. Freelance writer, editor and proofreader (email: (Midwifery Today, June 1999, #50 issue)

I have worked hard to support midwifery for a dozen years and admittedly have looked askance at those who advocate unassisted homebirth. I have heard the rumors of disasters and deaths and regarded with more than a little aversion the outside fringes of this movement. Yet Lynn Griesemer's book is a thoughtful, level-headed, sensible delve into the subject and it deserves the full attention of all childbirth practitioners.

Try getting past whatever fears and preconceived notions you may have about unassisted homebirthers. And give Lynn a chance to speak her piece - it just may enhance your practice and your philosophy about birth. In various chapters Lynn talks about common myths about childbirth, nonconformity to those myths, preparing for birth, responsibility, self administered prenatal care, the partner's crucial role, healing past birth wounds, and self actualization. She comments on women's roles in societies and communities and how they have been compromised or usurped. She defines the many forces that orchestrate birth for women: the medical establishment, insurance companies, society itself, the fears and expectations of our families and friends. Lynn is a firm advocate for women, loving, respectful and mutually supportive marriage, and for women living out their full potential.

Lynn effectively uses both brief and extensive quotes and stories from other women and men who have had unassisted births as assurances that it not only can be done, but it is accomplished with considerable joy and satisfaction. There are stories of breech birth, dystocia, uneventful birth, marital conflict, floppy babies and more. A chapter on unassisted homebirth gone awry, however, recounts some stories but doesn't directly address the subject from any angle. I wondered why Lynn held back comment.

I was most interested in what Lynn had to say in a chapter about midwives and their role in the birth process. Her objections to a midwife's presence at birth stems largely from her belief that birth is as private and intimate a matter as sex and conception and that a midwife's presence is inhibiting. "Sex, love and birth are for lovers," she affirms, and love and comfort should come from the woman's partner, not an outsider. Furthermore she fears that not only are many midwives frustrated obstetricians, but that most view childbirth as a business. She tells her readers that midwives oppose unassisted birth because they think only of the risk; that it is a professional insult to them and their training; and that the general public is not smart enough or skilled enough to take matters into their own hands.

Midwives perpetuate the myth that childbirth is inherently dangerous. And the midwives whose priority is making money will harbor resentment toward the unassisted homebirth community. She does, however, credit midwives for encouraging confidence and education among the women they serve and for being a good resource for those choosing unassisted homebirth. She goes on to describe how to find a midwife and the considerations a couple should make if they decide to hire one.

By no stretch of the imagination does Lynn support her subject strictly from a Christian viewpoint, but the numerous references to this particular religious belief from her and many others may be off-putting to some. I too appreciate the undeniable spiritual element of birth and found it easy enough to substitute my own beliefs for those expressed in the book and feel quite comfortable. Fortunately no one is preachy, self righteous or "out there."

A brief glance at Lynn's bibliography will tell you she is not close-minded; her sources are many -from Suzanne Arms to Gregory White and everyone in between. All in all, I still don't advocate unassisted homebirth, but when it is thoroughly prepared for, when the couple accepts all responsibility, when they are choosing it as a fully informed, loving, bonded partnership, and when birth is regarded by them as an art and an act of love, I firmly believe couples should have the choice and the choice should be respected. Rebelliousness, radical politics, religion or social ideals aren't viable reasons to have an unassisted homebirth. Responsibility, family bonding, safety, love, the power of choice, spiritual nourishment, autonomy and wisdom are.

This book serves as a good reminder to midwives to try not to manage birth, to sit on their hands, keep their comments to themselves, recognize that the woman's partner is the primary caregiver and support, and that birth is a private event requiring the minimum of their attention. To remember how to support a birthing couple's wisdom and autonomy, give it a read.

Jenny Hatch, Boulder, CO, mother of four, Bradley Childbirth Educator for 8 years, unassisted homebirth "junkie"

-After two days of intense reading and slight neglect of my children, I finished UNASSISTED HOMEBIRTH: AN ACT OF LOVE at 11:30pm last night. WOW! I am so impressed with the job you did! I am a voracious reader and have read just about everything out there on nutrition, exercise, breastfeeding, homeschool, etc..and all I can say is that you did an awesome piece of work, a great contribution to the field.

I have been a birth activist in Boulder, CO for the last eight years. As I have read, studied, and pondered family issues, and also experimented with nutrition, exercise, pregnancy, birth and parenting in my own home, I have come to the same conclusions as the author of UNASSISTED HOMEBIRTH: AN ACT OF LOVE. Lynn Griesemer has written a book which has the potential to heal families who have been beaten up by the 2oth century. It has the knowledge necessary to educate, inform and inspire couples to "take the road less traveled" and reap the bounteous harvest of a strengthened marriage, healthier, happier babies, less financial strain, and overall strengthen our society by this man and woman being so completely bonded together in this infusion of body, mind, spirit and heart that nothing is able to break the marital bond.

I have long felt that the seeds of divorce are not sown in the bedroom. They are carefully planted, watered, nurtured and sometimes even harvested in the Delivery Room. When a husband/father watches another person cut his lovers body to pieces and then his child treated like an object, a thing to be weighed, measured and then presented to him with a price tag of $6,000 minimum (some babies can cost families a quarter of a million dollars!), it reinforces the materialism/consumerism our sick modern society is based on.

The potential for healing families through the unassisted homebirth movement is limitless. I plan to continue my activism until I leave this Earth and I will have Lynn's book as a powerful witness and ally by my side as I continue to loudly share the true principles of family soverignty. The ability to choose is the ultimate true principle of our lives here on Earth and if women and families are denied knowledge simply because of fear, ignorance and the evil of conspiring men who want to soak us for every penny we earn, then I believe it is the responsibility of every educated person to help spread the good news - we do have a choice in how to birth, educate and raise our families. I'm grateful that Lynn Griesemer has taken her responsibility so seriously.