by Peggy Vincent
Each time she knelt to “catch” another wriggling baby — nearly three thousand times during her remarkable career — California midwife Peggy Vincent paid homage to the moment when pain bows to joy and the world makes way for one more. With every birth, she encounters another woman-turned-goddess: Catherine rides out her labor in a car careening down a mountain road. Sofia spends hers trying to keep her hyper doctor-father from burning down the house. Susannah gives birth so quietly that neither husband nor midwife notice until there’s a baby in the room.More than a collection of birth stories, however, Baby Catcher is a provocative accountof the difficulties that midwives face in the United States. With vivid portraits of courage, perseverance, and love, this is an impassioned call to rethink technological hospital births in favor of more individualized and profound experiences in which mothers and fathers take center stage in the timeless drama of birth.
Editorial review – Kirkus Reviews
A joyous account, packed with warm and wonderful stories, though tinged at the end with sorrow.
Vincent was only a student nurse when she found her life’s passion: obstetrics. When she began working in labor and delivery in 1970 at a Berkeley hospital, a revolution in women’s health care was beginning. By 1977, her hospital had opened a birth center catering to women’s wishes for a more natural and supportive environment in which to have their babies, and she became its nursing coordinator. After more than a decade as an obstetrical nurse, she went to midwifery school and opened a home-birthing practice as a certified nurse midwife. Most of the stories here recount her hilarious, unpredictable, sometimes hair-raising adventures delivering babies in women’s homes, often surrounded by curious children, excited husbands, intrusive friends and relatives, and unhelpful pets. For one patient, giving birth is “like laying an egg”; for another, it’s hours of hard labor; for all, it’s an unforgettable experience. Ever resourceful and reassuring, Vincent thrives in the happy chaos and communal nature of home births. When her own third child is born at home, the crowd of friends and family includes her preadolescent son and daughter, who clamp and cut the cord. Vincent is an articulate advocate of a non-medical approach to birth, arguing persuasively against the notion that “all births are complicated until proven otherwise.” Her own career parallels that of the independent nurse midwife movement in this country, its growth fostered by the rise of feminism, its decline brought on by financial pressures. In 1992, the only insurer of certified nurse midwives attending home births withdrew its coverage, forcing them out of business. In a poignant epilogue, Vincent gives her books and supplies to a young Muslim woman about to become a midwife in Syria.
An inspiring and hard-to-put-down celebration of natural childbirth.