And what a midwifery master Peggy Vincent is.
Peggy was part of the natural childbirth movement that cropped up in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the East Bay of California, and she played a key role in its increasing prominence in women's health through the mid-1980s and early 1990s. As she puts it, she "caught" more than 3,000 babies throughout her career, most of them in home births.
I'm so glad I read this book.
Not only did the variety of the stories fascinate me and Peggy's professionalism and gumption amaze me, but I also found much to learn and apply to my Bookwifery profession through this book. Below, I'm delighted to share three things I learned from Peggy Vincent's Baby Catcher book about midwifery that can encourage you in the unique journey that is the birthing of your book.
(Note: You can watch an expanded Facebook Live video on this topic—including a few other books on the topic and a meditative exercise—here.)
1. Each mother's labor is her own.
Some laboring mothers in Peggy's book hunkered down in closets. Some rocked in catatonic rhythms. One woman, in the opening story of the book, walked back and forth on a mattress while singing praise songs.
During labor, some mothers wanted their kids and other family and friends surrounding them. Others wanted to be alone. Some hollered when the contractions came. Some chanted. Some got quiet, channeling an inner focus from a still, small space inside.
And Peggy? She lauded and cheered them all. She believed in a mother's right to choose the way she labored, and she championed a woman's ability to connect to her own intuition about what she needed.
What this means for you: Let the birthing of your book be yours. Listen to your own inner guidance about what you need. Ask for it, and cling to it. Don't compare your book-birthing needs or process to another's. Steward your book's birth in accordance with the practices and values you cherish.
2. The alternative path is just as valid as the traditional path.
Peggy's book is as much a chronicle of the natural birthing movement as it is a compendium of awe-inspiring birth stories.
Her road to championing the midwifery movement required pushing through bureaucracy, bias, disbelief, and competition. She worked with doctors who made no effort to hide their disdain or skepticism of the midwifery approach to birth. Insurance carriers shied away from midwifery coverage, and medical boards needed to be persuaded of its value.
Through Peggy's eyes, we come to see just how valid a practice midwifery is. We see the training, knowledge, and skill she brought to each home birth. We see the systems she upheld to support each birth and to keep judicious records. We see, too, that the supportive, nurturing posture of midwifery enhances, rather than detracts from, the experience of childbirth.
What this means for you: An alternative approach to publication is just as valid as the traditional approach. If you choose an alternative approach, you can still apply professionalism and skill to what you create, even as you incorporate other values you want to bring to the experience that are outside the range of what a traditional path might offer you.
3. This is a deeply personal approach.
One of the most moving moments for me while reading Baby Catcher came near the end of the book. Circumstances had led Peggy to pick up shift work at the big HMO in her town. She says of the experience:
Like a factory worker, I faced a new shipment of patients each day. Twice I delivered nine women in the course of my twelve-hour shift—and by morning I could barely remember even one of them. In my old practice, I'd known my clients well. I had known their children and their neighbors, their homes and lifestyles, their belief systems and their dreams. . . .
Most came just because it was convenient. We midwives cared for them because they were assigned to us, not because they'd requested us. They didn't care if they got a midwife or a doctor. They usually just wanted drugs, as little pain as possible, and a baby. . . .
"This is an obstetrical factory," I said to my husband. "I check these women, order an epidural so they won't feel pain, deliver them, and move on to the next room. I'll never see them again."
This small piece of the story offered me such a crystallized view of what the midwifery approach to birth offers a mother—and, consequently, what my own approach to helping authors birth their books is meant to offer them. It is deeply personal. The midwife knows the mother, knows the mother's life, knows the mother's baby, and is in tune with the mother's wants and needs.
What this means for you: You can have that same deeply personal and companioned experience of birthing your book. Although services abound for publishing a book these days—there is no shortage of companies that will offer to typeset your manuscript, slap a cover on it, and push it out the door—not all those services are created equal. Be discerning about what you want. Choose the partners for your book's birth who are right for you. Choose the experience you most want to have.