My question is: does that previous experience inherently mean that person knows best? With all due sincerity and respect, I don't think knowing more necessarily equals knowing best. Advances in philosophy and technology will change approaches over time (though those may be at odds with each other as well).
We're using the Bradley Method and doing a natural birth. There's some basic info here and here. In conjunction with the Bradley Method, the birth will take place at a birthing center and be attended by a midwife, as opposed to at a hospital with a doctor. This all happened when we came to see that pregnancy is not an illness, but a natural and regular part of life. To us, it just didn't seem right to go to a hospital and see a doctor, who is trained to diagnose and treat medical problems, for something normal. Midwives have been assisting in births since at least 1900 BC, while doctors became the prominent pregnancy/birth caregivers in the US around the beginning of the 20th century, so it's not like seeing a midwife is flying by the proverbial seat of one's pants. We also don't want drugs entering into the laboring equation for a variety of reasons, but most importantly for us, is the potential of a slippery slope ending in a c-section.
I was initially opposed to the idea of going to a midwife. This was mostly due to having watched a neighbor leave her homebirth in an ambulance for a hospital when I was a kid. We started out with a doctor, partially due to that memory but also due to concerns with Pam being in her late 30s. Those concerns, however, were unfounded and all tests were passed with flying colors. We talked with Dr. Binford about some of our concerns with how things would go down in the hospital and the desire to avoid drugs. Unfortunately, the answers she gave were not really answers, but more passive-aggressive lectures, and "we'll do everything we can to do a natural birth, so long as its safe for the baby." We toured the hospital with about 10-12 other expectant couples. Pam was one of only two people to ask any questions. When those questions dealt with natural birth, the answer always ended with "we'll do everything we can to do a natural birth, so long as its safe for the baby." But never did we get details on what those parameters were or how they would be determined. We felt they were giving themselves leeway to be overly cautious to do things to protect themselves. But, many of those things seemed to be counterintuitive to the natural birthing methods we hoped to use and could in fact slow labor down.
One difference between midwives and obstetricians is that the latter practice medicine while the former do not. If Pam didn't pass all the tests with flying colors and wasn't having a low-risk pregnancy, we'd still be with Dr. Binford; the birthing center will not even accept clients unless the pregnancy is low-risk. Should anything change, or God forbid, complications arise, we'll go to a doctor at a hospital. We're glad they're around with the skills they have to help out in a medical emergency, and if we need those skills, we won't hesitate to use them.
In preparing for yesterday's Bradley class, I read this: "If someone were to say that in nine months he was going to throw you into ten feet of water, you would want to learn how to swim. Being pregnant, the same rules apply. If you know that at the end of nine months you are going to give birth, you should learn how."
If you know Pam and I reasonably well, you may know that we don't make decisions, especially major ones like this, quickly or lightly. We are contemplative and deliberate, sometimes perhaps to a fault, though not this time. We're doing all we can to prepare for the arrival of the little nipper. Is there a chance of making mistakes? Most definitely, because that's just how life is, especially when you're about to do something you've never done before. But I assure you we're approaching this with confidence and educating ourselves so that we're as prepared as we can be.
Everyone goes thru life doing what they feel is best for them (and/or their loved ones) in any situation, given the choices they have with which to work. For some that might be giving birth at a hospital with a doctor and an epidural. For some it might be at home, or at a birthing center, with a midwife. The when, where, and how doesn't change anything about the overall awesomeness of the event. It doesn't matter when, where, and how it happens as much as ending up with a healthy baby and a healthy mom.