1. By the time Sibyl was of college age, her daughter says, "She
had already developed what was then a popular distaste for most
traditional or institutional authority" [p. 31]. How does Sibyl
continue to maintain an "anti-establishment" stance throughout her
life? How does the legacy of the sixties continue to shape the
lives, and the self-images, of Sibyl, Rand, and Stephen?
2. "My mother never came quickly or lightly to the decision that
one of her patients should go to a hospital" [p. 62]. Why not? What
does the act of home birth symbolize for Sibyl, her patients, and
the other midwives?
3. Does Anne Austin do the right thing by calling Dr. Hewitt, or
does she act out of hostility towards Sibyl? Why doesn''t she call
Sibyl before talking to the doctor? Should she have done so?
4. Sibyl notes that bankers, lawyers, doctors, and architects
choose to have babies at the hospital rather than at home. What
point is she trying to make?
5. Tom compares doctors with "pack animals" [p. 95]. Stephen, at
the trial, says, "The whole idea that a midwife can do what they
do--and do it better--drives some of them crazy, and so they''re
persecuting my client" [p. 232]. Are these accusations fair, or
unfair, to doctors?
6. After Charlotte''s death, Tom says to Connie, "So, they''re
going to have to blame someone" [p. 101]. Do you think this is
true? Is Sibyl blamed because people must blame someone?
Should someone be held accountable for every death of this
sort, or can some be simply attributed to tragic accident?
7. Sibyl carries Pitocin and Ergotrate in case of emergencies
during labor. For a lay practitioner to do so is illegal, "but," as
Connie states, "every midwife carried them. My mother wasn''t
unique" [p. 64]. How does this affect midwifery''s position as a
natural way of delivery? Does the fact that every midwife does so
make it all right, or should use of these drugs be limited, as the
law prescribes, to licensed doctors and nurses?
8. How alike, basically, are Rand and Sibyl? Has Rand changed
more or less than Sibyl from their hippie days? How compatible is
he with Sibyl and what she stands for? Do you see their marriage as
9. Do you think that the relationship that develops between
Sibyl and Stephen is simply a flirtation, or is it more than a
flirtation? What role do Rand''s behavior and attitude during the
trial play in fostering this relationship?
10. Some of the male and female reporters who cover Sibyl''s
trial try to avert their eyes from the breasts of the many nursing
mothers in the courtroom [p. 213]. Does this reflect to you an
essential discomfort with the human body in our culture? Might such
a discomfort explain society''s disapproval of people like Sibyl
11. In the final analysis, do you think that Sibyl behaves
irresponsibly during Veil Bedford''s birth? Should she, as the
prosecution claims, have been more alert to potential weather
problems and to Charlotte''s health history? Is she precipitate in
performing the cesarean section without checking Charlotte''s life
signs a final time after Asa and Anne returned with the knife, or
is it imperative that she rush in order to save the child''s
12. Do you believe that Connie makes the right choice in
shielding her mother from the law? "My mother''s conviction would
not bring back Charlotte Bedford. It would merely destroy a second
woman," Connie reflects [p. 295]. What about the principle
involved? Should Sibyl in fact have been allowed to continue to
practice as a midwife?
13. "My choice of profession was neither an indictment of my
mother''s profession nor a slap at her persecutors," says Connie
[p. 143]. Is this true? What does Connie mean when she says that
"atonement," "reparation," "compensation," and "justice" entered
into her decision to become an obstetrician [p. 303]?
14. Did Sibyl''s final diary entry [pp. 309-310] change any of
the opinions you formed during the course of reading about the
trial? If you had any firm ideas about home versus hospital birth,
have they been changed by reading this book? Do you think that lay
midwives should be allowed to practice? Would you trust yourself to
the care of a midwife, or would you go to a hospital for delivery
by a doctor?
15. Connie quotes physicians as saying: "But we''ve lost our
collective memory of the fact that although labor is natural, it''s
dangerous. Let''s face it, there was a time when women and babies
died all the time in labor. . . . A hospital is like an infant car
seat: If something unexpected should occur and there''s some kind
of collision, we have the tools to pull the baby out of the oven"
[p. 18]. The midwives argue: "What''s the price of attempting to
eliminate chance, or trying to better the odds? A sterile little
world with bright hospital lights?" [p. 123]. By which of the two
points of view do you find yourself persuaded?