Apparently, Mary came across a copy of “Observations in Midwifery” by Percival Willoughby (1596-1685).
We can assume from Mary’s writing that she kept her ability to read, as a secret from her women friends and also from her midwife, but it’s safe to assume that she did read this pioneering book.
In his “Observations in Midwifery,” Willoughby tried to convince Midwives to let nature take its course in birthing. It seems that already in the 16th Century the medical world treated the body of a birthing woman as a tool that can’t function without medical intervention.
The needs and wellbeing of the mother-to-be did not concern most birthing practitioners already then.
(Having read Mary’s description of her birthing experiences, and asking around among my friends, I’m honestly relieved I never had to go through that horror. I admire women who long to have children and go through all this trouble and torture! I also understand why more and more women seek the help of Doula’s nowadays.)