mama2lennon, I haven't been in your situation but just wanted to offer some hugs.
We are applying for state-sponsored medical care, since that would make having a midwife a bit more practical for us. DH and I are still unresolved on the issue. We are thinking that in the best-case scenario, we would be able to find a midwife who was willing to basically just be available by phone to answer questions during the birth, and then maybe show up afterward to check on things. We both think that it is pretty impractical to expect this. But we did need to apply for medical care anyway (DH is already covered by his work, it is just me that is not). Ironically, I don't think that having a UC-experienced mama, or even a midwife, available by phone is going to help DH much, since he believes they won't be able to tell him anything I wouldn't be able to tell him. The only real value is that he is worried I will go loopy at some point and not respond to him anymore (this kind of thing hasn't happened at either of my previous births, but I have to hand it to him, every birth is different and it *is* possible).
And this lying-to-the-relatives thing is getting REAL old, REAL fast. They ask questions more and more often (along the lines of 'what does your midwife say'?) even though they are unprompted - I am as healthy and complication/complaint-free as you can hope a pregnant woman will be. Lying outright really sucks and I'm sick of doing it. I could solve all that by getting a midwife and simply not calling until 'too late.' It is soooo tempting, especially since I was never planning on attempting to explain the whole UC concept to most of them, anyway. I feel like that would be hideously unfair to the midwife, though.
I am not so close to Pamamidwife that she is a real alternative, I don't think. I'm in Washington near the northern part of Tacoma, and even if she's right on the border (she lives in Oregon, right?), it is a pretty decent drive.
Amy, it sucks that your midwife is giving you so much trouble. At least she seems honest and I can kind of see her point - according to her ethics system, it would be unethical of her to purposefully miss a birth, but if you took that out of her hands, well, she isn't going to throw a fit. That's what I read into it, anyway. I'd go with your plan of just not calling until way late in labor.
About birth classes - with my first we faithfully trotted along to one. It sucked. We learned breathing, we learned 'pushing positions' (ha! What a joke! We learned one back-lying position and one side-lying one!), we were given the standard mainstream load-of-bull. I am sure this totally depends on the class - but we learned nothing useful. With our second I hadn't done any further research, but had thought about it and come to my own conclusion that positive visualization and working with my body was the way to go, and that labor was MUCH easier. And I mean, easier in a not-so-explained kind of way, not just in a the-second-is-easier kind of way. I really hit on something that worked well for me, which I think is the important thing. I do know that from what I've read in the "Birthing From Within" book some of those techniques may have worked, and that class would have helped the way the first one did not, but the point is, just going to the class would not have equiped me to deal with labor and childbirth. It was more a matter of figuring out where I was and what would work for me - and for me, it was visualization and actively *willing* my body to work for me, not attempting to short-circuit things by breathing certain ways or thinking certain things or focussing and certian things. Still, I think that the experience of my first birth was integral to my understanding, and if someone had told me about visualization, etc, before the first birth it wouldn't have made sense to me (this is just how I am, not how everyone is...) and I probably wouldn't have benefitted much from it. I didn't realize until after the birth how strongly I could fight my body, how huge a battle I would fight with myself (the uncontrollable physical half of me fighting to do what it must, the mental/controlled physical half fighting to escape). Nowhere did I learn how important it was to surrender to the physical, to the uncontrolled - all I learned was how to introduce a semblance of control to the matter, and it did nothing but harm.
OK, so I had a really bad experience, a bit of a childbirth-classes-gone-wrong experience, the kind of experience that drives less supported or less convicted women to flee towards interventions and drugs. I avoided the drugs and interventions, but it was because I was (ironically) educated enough to realize the truths about these. But my education is in the scientific and physical, in worlds that are tainted by the masochistic tendencies of their histories - the mind-body connection, the things I really needed to know, remained uncharted territory despite all the (mostly mainstream) reading and classes I took.