I just found your email. Sorry bout that. If you could find Michael
Ancharski (now in Hawaii) or John Dye (at the Southwest College of
Naturopathic Medicine), they would be able to add stuff. (Kathy
Naughton, ND also did births with Dr. Hedges, and Katherine Downey was
in my class along with Michael and John.) John and Michael trained with
two people in LA. One was Dr. Nail Ettinghausen. He was a licensed
"Drugless Practitioner". Really old school licensing. He wrote a couple
of books, one was "Childbirth at its Best". His methods were pretty much
exactly what we were taught. He even did a very nice video on delivering
breeches (that saved our bacon early in my career). He typically worked
with midwives who did the labor sitting and Dr. Ettinghausen would show
up later and deliver the baby. He was much beloved, but at the end was
getting hassled by the legal structure in California. Shortly after he
stopped doing births he spoke at a conference mainly of ND's in
Portland. Just after explaining to the audience about his retirement -
he seemed to want everybody to know that he was not retiring because of
legal pressure - he collapsed and died right while he was speaking. It
seemed like he was dead when he hit the floor. He might be considered
the leader in the field of home birth in our profession, but Dr. Babnick
might dispute that. Dr. B no doubt trained more doctors, but didn't
write a book. They really used the same methods, but Dr. B never used
midwives to my knowledge.
There was also a MD who did homebirths in the LA area, but I don't know
anything about him. Dr. Ancharski also trained with him.
Dr. Babnick spoke Russian and he helped the Russian community. I guess
he was Russian Orthodox. He lost the sight in one eye early in his life
due to an accident. He was very proud of being a champion weight lifter.
He would sometimes put force on the iliac crests to widen the lower
pelvis during the pushing stage. During birth classes, he taught
exercises, like duck walks and squatting to help open the pelvis, and he
advocated aerobic exercise, particularly walking, that is now well
proven to help labor. During labor, he would sometimes have the laboring
mother climb stairs when her pelvis was particularly challenged. He
would often successfully deliver babies after a first baby was CPD. He
did do VBAC's. He was a believer in various breathing techniques -
typically Lamaze - to help women in labor. He would invite women back to
birth class to tell their story. He would sometime say, "Now is there
anything else I could have told you that would have helped you?" The
answer was usually, "No". He was a big believer in having women at
births to help the laboring woman. He was famous for his technique of
having the woman climb onto his birth chair for the second stage. The
chair was on a sturdy folding table that Dr. B would bring to the birth.
That set up gave a very good exposure for various techniques - like the
iliac crest pressure or supported squat - for difficult second stages. I
myself did these and other techniques, but I designed my own birth chair
that was much more comfortable than Dr. B's, and it sat on the floor -
easier for the laboring woman but not for the birth team.
He had a very good record of success. My wife Elena says he had an angel
on his shoulder. She did a birth with him where the baby came out growth
retarded/genetic defect, and he was able to transport the baby alive to
the hospital where it subsequently died. In retrospect, he should have
recognized that the baby was abnormally small, but all in all, it worked
out well and showed that he had skill in CPR.
Finally, Dr. B was committed to training. Some would criticise him for
bring three students to births. I personally think it could be too much,
and the pregnant women also sometimes would quietly complain. But there
it is - his commitment to training and promoting home birth.
I remember my first birth with Dr. B. He slept in a chair (he advised
that we catch our sleep when we could) then checked dilatation every two
hours. Each student then would do the check after him. A laboring women
naturally would prefer not to have a series of 4 internal checks
periodically during their labor, but most respected the goal of training
and loved Dr. B for his generous heart. At one point in the labor he
happily announced for our benefit that this was a perfectly normal
average first labor.
I hope this fills out some of the info about our early teachers. Dr.
Hedges was two years ahead of me, so he could give you more info.
On 2/17/15 11:14 AM, Sarah Taylor wrote:
Hi Alan and Ed,
So here I am, trying to put together the pieces of Oregon's home birth
history. I realized that the younger midwives did not know it all and
what a grand story it was and so I am trying to capture it. We are
having a panel and display night on May 5th at 6:00 at the Central
Lutheran Church. We are also going to thank doctors like you two.
In the man time, I am trying to put the story together and realize
that DC/ND's were most likely the main ones attending home births
before they trained a core group of midwives and ND students who in
turn trained more and so on down the line.
I remember Dr Babnick but could find little at NCNM about him.
What do you all recall? Were their others? Did he share what his
training was and who taught him? What stories do you recall? What
other ND's did he train? Was he the main source of that teaching at
He seems to have worked in northeast Portland; Hollywood area and his
wife's memorial was at St Stephen's in SE so perhaps Catholic. Did
you get the sense that a particular group used him?
Do you have any idea when DC's stopped doing births an when the DC/ND
In addition to the panel I am trying to encourage people to write down
any small stories or pieces of history for anon informal journal. We
are including ND's, Midwives and CNM's. Any homebirth practitioners.
Do you have any direction you think I should go? Ed, do you have a
link of the ND Ob group email if they have one?
Of course, with any history collecting there is the question of
importance. Is this useful to collect before its too late. I know
that we mostly failed to capture the stories of the last midwives who
practiced before the 1970's. Everyone was so sad but now we are about
to do it again. I guess its easy to not think the current story is of
value. One thing I am fascinate with is the connecting moments
between the old time ND's and the new generations of 1970's- 1980's
Love and appreciate you guys for all you did. Lets capture some