The original and unabridged edition of Grantly Dick-Reads Childbirth Without Fear is finally on bookshelves and available to the public after many years of being out of print and hopelessly without a publisher. Endorsed by Janet Balaskas, Michel Odent, Sheila Kitzinger and Yehudi Gordon, there is nothing further I can write that will convince readers that this is the single most influential book in the history of modern childbirth.
I first obtained a very dog eared 1959 copy of this book from the library shelves at my local hospitals birth centre where I anticipated the birth of my second baby. I gobbled the book up voraciously in a kind of speed reading exercise as I finished the final page with the onset of prelabour contractions. There was no better inspiration I could have taken into labour with me – my daughters birth being the most easy and empowering of my experiences so far.
Grantly Dick-Read was an inspired London obstetrician with a profound respect for women and their birthing and mothering instincts. Long before medical science developed any understanding of human hormones (strangely understanding them does not equate with acknowledging them), Dick-Read professed that women needed little more than support and security to successfully and safely birth their babies. Fear, he explained, was what obstructed and complicated birth. Fear creates tension and tension creates pain. Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome is now so well accepted that the above list of famous people have built their careers from it. Even the modern practice of Hypnobirthing takes is core philosophy from this basic principle.
As Michel Odent wrote in his foreword to this edition:
“If this book by Grantly Dick-Read had been more profoundly discussed and better digested when it was first published, there would have been a different history of childbirth.”
Since the original book was published in 1942 under the title Revelations in Childbirth, many heavily edited versions of Childbirth Without Fear have been produced bearing little resemblance to the original work of Grantly Dick-Read. This new, unabridged edition is the final edit by the author himself; completed the month before his death in 1959. Now that we are permitted to rediscover the original, classic text as Dick-Read intended, perhaps the history of childbirth can begin to change from this day forward.