Peggy Vincent Bio
Peggy Vincent's articles and essays
Peggy Vincent Bio
An Interview with Peggy Vincent
BABY CATCHER, a tale of narrative nonfiction, cavorts with drama, hilarity, and tenderness through the career of Peggy Vincent
, a midwife in Berkeley, California.
readers into a fascinating world that few experience: the world of a midwife doing both home and hospital births in a unique urban setting.
We follow as she
rushes from the hospital delivery of a teenage welfare mom to the home of an astrologer married to a paraplegic.
Hitchhiking along in her
VW bug, we meet women like Megan, a Scot who delivers on a leaky sailboat during the storm of the century; Teri, a butch-dyke lesbian who rises to fairy godmother status; and Sofia, whose hyper doctor-father nearly burns the house down.
We peek over Peggy’s shoulder as she
"catches" as midwives say, the wet and wriggling babies of these memorable women who are busy negotiating their own unique paths through childbirth.
Peggy’s baby catching days ended abruptly when a lawsuit resulting from a Good Samaritan act caused the closure of her
independent midwifery career.
The following year, all certified home birth midwives in the U.S. were similarly affected.
Until that event, however, Peggy
caught about 10 babies a month, and every one came with its own story to tell.
Whether a profound epiphany, a tweak on a universal theme, a dramatic crisis resolution, or a heartwarming tale of birth trivia, each chapter of BABY CATCHER shares the feeling of the world moving aside to make room for one more soul.
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Peggy Vincent Bio
Peggy Vincent was born in Delaware in 1942, the first child on either side of her family to be born in a hospital.
After spending most of her
childhood in the Midwest, she
family moved back to Delaware where she
graduated from high school in 1960.
After graduating with a BS in nursing from Duke University in 1964, Peggy
married Roger Vincent, her college sweetheart, and moved to California.
Beginning in 1970, Peggy worked as a staff nurse in labor and delivery at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley and then as the founder and director of the hospital’s birth center from 1977-1981.
Following graduation from University of California’s midwifery school at San Francisco General Hospital
opened a private home birth practice in the East Bay.
In 1984, Peggy
managed to gain hospital privileges at Alta Bates
For the next seven years, she
"had it all": a joint home birth and hospital birth practice, affordable malpractice insurance, benevolent physician backup, and easy access to the hospital for women who risked out of a home birth.
The fallout from Peggy’s Good Samaritan response to a woman’s request for humane care during her
labor resulted in the termination of her
After closing her private practice, Peggy worked as a staff midwife at Kaiser Walnut Creek until her retirement in 1996.
Since 1998, Peggy
has pursued a full-time writing career, an endeavor which resulted in the sale of her
memoir, BABY CATCHER: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife, in October 2000.
never loses sight of the psychological complexities and human quandaries involved in this ‘natural’ process.
Page after page, we revel in astonishing new twists to an age-old plot as Peggy Vincent
delivers well formed stories—and children—into the waiting world.
Peggy Vincent’s memoir of her career as a nurse-midwife during the last two decades of the 20th century covers everything from her days as an independent home birth practitioner to a shift worker in a high volume ‘birth assembly line’ of a huge HMO hospital.
It’s entertaining, funny, informative and quite moving.
Through a series of true stories of planned home births attended by the author midwife Peggy Vincent
, vivid pictures are painted of what childbirth can be when allowed to (proceed as) it was meant to, rather than the way physicians who have never seen a midwife attended home birth think it should.
- Marsden Wagner, MD, M.S.P.H., Former Director of Women’s and Children’s Health, World Health Organization
Baby Catcher, an extraordinary, spirit-lifting book by veteran nurse-midwife Peggy Vincent
, explores the magical moment of birth and the practice of birthing in the US.
The reader is given a joyful and intimate picture of the myriad ways that babies come into the world and a mesmerizing and deeply disturbing story of how she
and other midwives have too often been excluded from the American medical establishment.
first home birth as a midwife, Peggy Vincent
dropped a newborn into a toilet.
More miraculously, so did her
career, during which she
"caught" hundreds of babies in bathrooms, kitchens, living room and bedrooms in the San Francisco area.
In this engrossing look at some memorable births, Vincent
proves as gifted at birthing stories as she
eventually became at coaxing out babies.
has terrific material: the overhelpful grandfather told to warm up some blankets who put them in a broiler and nearly burned down the house; a stoic who crouched over her
bed, a dress hanging past her
thighs, and eased her
baby out in silence; and the kid who thought babies were attached to mommies through a "polenta.
On the troubling side, there are miscarriages, a severely handicapped b y, and members of the medical establishment who deride Vincent
clients, telling them, "Pizzas should be delivered at home
, not babies."
Readers will sense the steam boiling out of the author’s ears at such moments; too often she
strays from her
powerful storytelling and into proselytizing for "women who wanted to sigh and moan and deep breathe through their labors.
Vincent’s preference is clear enough without such rhapsody, but birth as a spectator sport, at home
in the bathtub under the loving eyes of expectant siblings and Daddy, is not for everyone Vincent
acknowledges as much.
Mothers who took the drugs-and-hospitals route, though, may feel slighted by Vincent’s tone.
Bottom line: She
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It was in nursing school at Duke
in the 1960s that Vincent
calling: delivering or "catching" babies.
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
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.
was only a student nurse when she
life's passion: obstetrics.
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.
own third child is born at home