Baby Catcher, by Peggy Vincent

When I was about eight months pregnant, a friend who had given birth a year before recommended Peggy Vincent’s Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife. She said it was the most helpful book she had read during pregnancy because it reassured her that babies can be born anywhere, under any circumstances: by the toilet, in a closet, on a boat (and we’re not talking about a cruise liner).

And indeed, Baby Catcher is great pre-childbirth reading, if only to inject a dose of humor into the process. If my contractions hadn’t started out strong and steady (and if I hadn’t loaned the book to my cousin who I was hoping could be at the birth), we probably would have read it in early labor.

Each chapter is a birth story, beginning with the African-American woman Vincent attended as a student nurse who refused to lie down and be quiet like a model “patient.” Vincent writes about doctors who prove to be surprisingly supportive, wild and crazy dashes to the hospital when complications arise, and Christian Scientist women who push their babies out with less commotion than a hen laying an egg. (We are devoted members of our evangelical church, but we started to wonder if the Christian Scientists might be onto something when it comes to birth!)

The stories follow Vincent’s move to the Bay Area, where she first worked in a hospital and later became a homebirth midwife. They culminate with her unhappy surrender of her homebirth practice after her insurance company refused to renew her policy. A malpractice suit aimed at her and a doctor with whom she sometimes worked (because they carried more insurance than those really at fault) caught her in a catch 22, tragically illustrating the dysfunctions of our current medical/legal system.

Baby Catcher isn’t just for nurses, midwives, and moms-to-be. Vincent is a superb story teller, and even my husband found the stories hilarious. Besides, as a future labor companion, they were good preparation for him, too. He was working on a linguistics paper at the time I was reading Baby Catcher, so I tried not to interrupt, but it was impossible to keep the stories to myself, when I was sitting on the couch reading and chuckling!

Baby Catcher was originally published in 2002. On her Web site, Baby, Vincent says she has enough stories to write at least two more books and that she would like to try her hand at fiction, as well. We sincerely hope she will.

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