[Photo of our family, taken Christmas day 2007]The idea that normal birth should be protected had not occurred to me when I was a young mother, back in the '70s. Protect from what, or whom? You only protect something that is under threat.
I was not idealistic about my own ability to engage in labour, and to give birth to my children.
There was an unspoken rule that medical and surgical interventions were only used when necessary, and everyone understood that the doctor would act in a way that protected the interests of the mother and her baby. I never considered that there was any choice other than to expect my body to do the work of childbirth. There was no notion of consumer choice, or discussion about decision making. The doctor/nurse/person in authority - knew best.
I don't want to imply by this that maternity care was particularly good when I studied midwifery, and became a mother myself, in the 70s. In fact it's difficult to find a time, or culture, where people have understood the power and rightness of normal birth. Perhaps if we look way back to the Biblical time described in Exodus 1, we find an example of civil disobedience that suggests both the midwives and mothers held birth as something that not even the king could interfere with.
"The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 'When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.' But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, 'Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?' The midwives said to Pharoah, 'Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.' So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families." (Exodus 1:15-21)
The threat today to normal birth is quite different, but it calls for a similar degree of bravery on the part of those who are guardians of the natural processes.