The Battle Over Birth

JEAN CLAUDE MOSCHETTI/REA for TIME

NATAL MANUEVERS: Group care at France's largest maternity center

Esra Erkal-Paler is used to being in control. As a London-based corporate affairs director for a global cosmetics company, she runs a team of five people. When she married in 1994, she and her husband, Robert, put off having a family because she didn't want to risk derailing her career. But she always told herself that she would have a child no later than 35 — and now that her first baby is due in May, it's only logical that Erkal-Paler, 34, wants to be in charge of every aspect of the birth.

Britain's National Health Service (NHS)...

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