Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this memoir of Vincent’s experiences as she transitioned from being a labor & delivery nurse, to working in a birth center within a large hospital, to working as a midwife in her own practice. She worked under such varying circumstances, through such varying cultural conditions that it makes for a fascinating tale.
I have a high tolerance for potentially squeamish details, so I’ll add a disclaimer that I don’t remember anything that bothered me. But she is talking about labor & delivery & it’s aftermath, so if you’re super sensitive to anything relating to that topic, you’ll probably want to pass on this book.
While the book has some information related more to birth resources as well as comments on birthing legalities and regulations related to midwives, I found the actual birth stories the most compelling.
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 account of 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.
If you can’t get enough of the midwife topic, Penny Armstrong has a memoir of her experiences working as one: A Midwife’s Story. I thought it was good, but preferred Vincent’s book and would recommend it over Armstrong’s.
There is also The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (revised from her original book Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s) I haven’t read it, but I’ve got it requested from my library. I think the setting alone will make this one interesting! And apparently it’s been adapted into a BBC drama, and it’s currently airing on PBS. I also feel a lot more confident recommending this one because my friend Catherine just gave it an excellent review.
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads, go to the series page.
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