Birth Matters

About Me

So what did you want to know?


I was born in San Diego, California in 1965 and lived there for 18 years.  I moved to Berkeley, California to get my Bachelor’s degree at U.C. Berkeley.  I then moved to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan to get my Master’s degree at Central Michigan University (I studied snakes, if you wondered).  Then I moved to East Lansing, Michigan, to get my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Michigan State University.  I am currently a part-time Emergency Veterinarian at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital, having practiced there since 1995.  I live in a village in S. Central Michigan with my husband, kids, dog and cats.  Assorted other creatures pass through on a regular basis (currently we have 2 tadpoles to look after).


I met my husband Brad in East Lansing and we were married in June of 1991.  We have twin boys, Aleksandr and Daniel who arrived via scheduled (not elective!) cesarean in June, 1998 because they were both breech.  In January, 2001 my daughter Ena (“eenah”) was born at home, in the water, a vaginal birth after cesarean.  In January, 2004 (hmmm, April seems to be a "good" month for us?) my daughter Maille (“molly”) was born into my own hands, in my living room.  Both my homebirths were attended by a midwife from New Moon Midwifery and I can’t speak highly enough of them.


I was left deeply depressed and troubled by my cesarean.  I had been brow-beaten into scheduling a cesarean I dreaded after being persuaded that my breech babies could never turn and it was both dangerous and inconvenient to wait for labor.  I was told that my stubbornness would kill them (this is an exact quote from my primary caregiver!).  Fortunately, I didn’t suffer any serious complications from the surgery though I do deal with minor and annoying effects to this day.  Perhaps more importantly, my cesarean left me with permanent “high risk” status in the obstetrical world, something I fought hard against during my twin pregnancy.  These things eventually led me to the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) where I learned that I wasn’t alone in my experience or in my response to it.  Currently I am the Midwest Regional Coordinator for ICAN and a co-Leader of the Ann Arbor Chapter.  I am also the administrator of the main support email list, which has over 1200 members and is sadly growing quickly.


My grief and anger about my cesarean also propelled me into the world of non-mainstream birth.   I was probably a bit more “radical” than most before my cesarean (I absolutely did not want one, I planned a unmedicated birth, we took Bradley Method classes, I used a Family Practitioner instead of an Obstetrician) but I soon learned that I knew a lot less than I thought.  I did not realize that obstetrics is one of the least evidence-based specialties out there, with most Obstetricians practicing in ways that are directly contradicted by their own research.  I’d never heard of a Certified Nurse Midwife, much less a midwife who’d attend you at home.  I thought homebirth was something done by people in strange and restrictive religious groups.  I thought that the hospital was the safest place to be, “just in case”.  I learned that most of what I knew wasn’t correct and a lot of what I didn’t know was very important.  I also learned that just about anyone could read the research and figure out just exactly how safe birth really is, if you let it be.


I started writing.  There was season in my life when I wrote extensively about birth, cesareans, VBAC and other concerns.  Most of it is out there in cyberspace somewhere.  Then the season passed and I’ve been quiet for several years.  I’ve just rediscovered that need to write and that’s part of why this website exists.  I also have a desire to make t-shirts with pithy birth-friendly sayings on them so those too may appear here someday!


My childbearing days are done (maybe that’s part of why I need to write again) but I haven’t lost my passion for women and their babies and the struggles that they face, just to be treated decently (much less with respect) by a medical system that is more about profit and liability than health and wellness.  I’d like it if women knew enough to make decisions that didn’t leave them hurt, grieving and with regrets they’d struggle against for the rest of their lives.  I want women to know that they are not alone, there are many more of us who know just how bad it can be than you ever imagined.  I want change.  And I need to do my part, even if it is just a tiny drop in a very large ocean of indifference.


I’m sure there’s more but not sure anyone really wants to know it!  Feel free to email me, I’ll try to be good about responding.   Thanks for being here and checking things out.


Gretchen Humphries


June 3, 2006