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Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife Paperback – April 15, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

In a joyous, often hilarious ode to the Birkenstock-scuffling, tackle box-toting mobile midwives who flourished in the 1980s, Peggy Vincent chronicles her abundant life as a professional Baby Catcher. The wild ride begins during her nurse training years in the 1960s, when laboring women were expected to lie down, shut up, and submit to whatever drugs and procedures the doctor ordered. A rebellious patient who chants and dances through her contractions--and the hell that ensues when seasoned hospital staffers intrude--lights a permanent fire under Vincent. Her resolve to serve each laboring woman with compassion and respect carries her from obstetrics nurse to head of an alternative birth center within Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California, and eventually into her own private practice as a licensed midwife. Like the most courageous home births, this collection of delivery experiences refuses anesthesia: plenty of bellowing, sweating, bleeding, and pushing accompany nearly all of the more than 40 tales. Tough confrontations with stubborn physicians, panicky labor partners, and one particularly nasty calico cat are dabbed with as many keen insights as Vincent's quieter, more heart-rending newborn encounters. Baby Catcher is an inspirational literary gift suitable for expectant mothers, fellow baby catchers, and anyone who loves reading about nature's greatest magical feat. --Liane Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

It was in nursing school at Duke in the 1960s that Vincent found her calling: delivering or "catching" babies. She moved to California and became a midwife, specializing in home births; over the course of 40 years, she brought some 2,000 babies into the world. There's a predictable plot structure to most of the stories she recounts: the initial meetings with the pregnant woman, the last-minute phone call once labor speeds up, the coping with contractions, the appearance of the baby's head, the wet newborn, the oven-warmed blankets, the celebratory meal afterwards. Despite the repetition, Vincent's account is a page-turner. It's not just the risk that something might go wrong (meaning a nail-biting trip to the hospital for an emergency cesarean), and not just the quirkiness of home birth settings (which can involve jealously raging house pets or leaky houseboats), but something inherent in the magic of birth itself. What sustains Vincent and her readers is this sense of standing ringside at the greatest miracle on earth. A solid writer, Vincent doesn't preach the virtues of unmedicated birthing; she just lays consistent stories of women doing it Christian Science moms, Muslim moms, spiritualist moms, lesbian moms, teen moms and just plain ordinary moms. With the midwife's axiom "birth is normal till proven otherwise" as a guiding principle, all these women have a chance to make childbirth a crowning moment in their own lives. Male readers may find this female-centered narrative off-putting, and mainstream readers might raise eyebrows at the inclusion of children in the birthing process, but Vincent addresses these issues fairly directly herself. Agent, Felicia Eth. (Apr.)Forecast: With appendices guiding readers to more technical resources, Vincent's latest baby is bound to be popular with women's health and alternative medicine readers. A cover blurb by Anne Lamott could break it out further.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743219341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743219341
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (273 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Since observing the birth of a baby for the first time when I was a 19yo nursing student in the mid-Sixties at Duke University, childbirth has been my primary focus.
During the good old hippie years, my husband and I took an extended trip to Europe, but upon our return, I began working as an obstetrical nurse at a prominent hospital in Berkeley, California, where my first 2 children were born.
In 1978, I established the Alternative Birth Center in that hospital and then went to midwifery school, graduating in December 1980.
Unable to obtain hospital privileges due to dig-in-the-heels obstruction from obstetricians to the mere idea of a midwife in their midst, I attended only home births for the next 3 year. Finally, after I jumped through countless hoops, the walls of resistance crumbled and I was granted privileges. At last I could offer clients a midwife-attended birth in the place of their choosing.
Women can take a long time to give birth, and while waiting through those countless hours, I told birth stories. Family, friends, nurses, other midwives all nagged me to write a book." The most persistent was my college roommate, a copy editor, who offered to edit it for "no payment other than California Meyer lemons for life."
So I wrote Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife (Scribner, 2002), and it succeeded beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. Not only did it open women to options other than those offered by the status quo, but it also caused a career change in many women who, after reading the book, chose to become doulas or midwives themselves.
I was 42 and a busy midwife with a very big practice when I gave birth to my 3rd child. He was born at home surrounded by what felt like a cast of thousands. Present were my 2 older children, my husband, the 2 youngest children of my primary midwife, 2 other midwives, 3 of my hospital nurse friends, my parents, our pregnant au pair, a photographer, a few stray husbands, I think maybe a neighbor...there might have been more. Afterwards, we had quite a party, and I made sure someone saved me a piece of the hazelnut torte.
My career would not have been possible without the support of my husband, Roger, and those three children of ours: Colin, Jill, and Skylar. They endured (with minimal complaint and eye-rolling) my absence on far too many Christmas mornings and other family events.
Years passed with fans and friends begging for "another book." I finally wrote Midwife: A Calling (Ant Press 2015), the first of a projected 3-book series.
I'm officially retired, but I still put in a cameo appearance now and then.
Attending births is an addiction: once you've shared the raw emotion of labor with a woman, the transcendent joy of birth, and the feel of a warm, wet newborn in your hands, it's hard to kick the habit.
I hope I never do.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Dawn on March 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
After reading this book, I will never look at midwives, childbirth, or my body in the same way again. This honest, authoritative memoir, by a woman who started her career as an obstetrical nurse, liberates women from the embarrassment that starts in adolescence with a budding female anatomy.
In her memoir, she presents the miracle of birth and shouts aloud those things that some of our mothers could only whisper and blush about. Immersed in bodily fluids up to her elbows, Peggy checks a cervix as naturally as a mechanic checks the oil. She demonstrates that, regardless of differences in race, belief, life style, or age, birth is a celebration of life. She welcomes each new soul and stands in awe at nature's magic--birth.
The writing is warm and welcoming, with a storyteller's enthusiasm and a savvy eye for the humor and irony of every situation. Peggy crafts a must-read for every woman who ever thought about childbirth. Men will discover...they'll gain insight into the intimate world of women and the men who stand with them. A truly strong debut book that fills a remarkably empty niche on the bookshelf....
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Robert Huffstedtler VINE VOICE on April 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Although I am a strong advocate of midwife assisted home birth, I probably wouldn't have bought this book myself. That would have been my loss. My wife had borrowed it from our midwife, and I had run out of things to read, so I decided it would be a good way to pass the time.
Mrs. Vincent's story is not only the story of herself, but it is the story of midwifery in the late 20th century in general. The early portion of the story, chronicling her time as a nursing student in the early 60s when natural childbirth was not at all accepted, serves as a pretty good summation of the things that my wife hated about our first daughter's hospital birth, and the reason we chose to have our second at home. In short, the ideological conflict between midwifery and hospital birth is this: Mrs. Vincent and those like her believe each labour should be treated as normal unless some serious complication presents itself. Obstetricians see labour as an inherently dangerous medical condition requiring their intervention.
We follow the author through her career as she becomes a certified nurse midwife, gets privileges at a prestigious Bay Area hospital, and develops relationships with patients and doctors along the way. This also gives us a fascinating and humorous glimpse at the way American culture has changed over the last 40 years. For whatever reason, home birth seems to attract a greater percentage of unusual people than one might find in a random sample of the population. They're all here: people who have pets at their birth, recovering drug addicts, hippies making the transition to suburban yuppie life, families with complicated emotional dynamics.
The stories of individual births are great, and many are very uplifting, but the book as a whole is something of a downer.
Read more ›
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Hoppe on May 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love reading about other women's birth experiences, and the view from the midwife was both informative and emotional. While I would never attempt a home birth due to known cardiac issues with my children, it made me wish that I could have had the experience. A balanced view of the home birth experience, without condemning those of us who have to opt for the hospital birth.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this during my last few weeks of pregnancy. I highly recommend the book, it was wonderful, but read it after you give birth. While many of the stories were happy ones, there are one or two sad ones and at nine months pregnant I had a hard time emotionally with the happy ones, I was a wreck with the sad ones! I've read a lot of women's birth stories, but this book is not just an accounting of the events of the births she attended (as so many birth stories are) but a really compelling read. Peggy Vincent is a wonderful storyteller and she really captivates you with her tales of catching babies while being mauled by the family cat or on a rickety boat during a storm. Highly recommended!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Panzica on November 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
The great thing about the stories in Baby Catcher is that they gave me some context for understanding labor and delivery. Before reading this book I only vaguely understood what they were. Peggy Vincent gives the reader a midwife's view of more than a dozen labors and deliveries. Although each birth is unique, some very helpful patterns emerged. I am grateful for having this vicarious experience and I will use it to decide whether to attempt a drug-free delivery.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Laurel Phillips on January 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a student midwife and mother of three homebirthed babies, I have read every book out there regarding birth. Peggy's book is such a delight! What I love the most is that she imparts so much information and wisdom, not through preaching or lecturing, but through storytelling. Any one of the chapters could stand alone as a short story. It is equally compelling as a memoir and as an informative birth preparation resource. It is destined to become a classic in a genre glutted with how-to and how-not-to birth opinion pieces. Peggy embodies a concrete sense of trust in the birth process. As readers we can take that trust on as our own, since we feel that we are experiencing every birth right there with her! This would be very valuable reading for any expectant mother (or father!)
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