A Wealth of Knowledge: Whitney Pinger

May 1, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Note: Whitney received two nominations at the same time from two different people. Both are included in this post.

Entrant: Meryl Heyliger

Nominee: Whitney Pinger, Certified Nurse Midwife

whitneyI am writing to nominate Whitney Pinger, CNM, for the Women’s Health Heroes Award because she is by far a hero to me and to my family!

Before I met Whitney in person, I knew that she would be my midwife. We spoke on the phone several months before my daughter was born and Whitney shared her résumé, basically, with me on the phone. I was impressed! Throughout our conversation, Whitney emphasized the need for me to feel comfortable with whatever decision I made and to feel confident in my capacity to have a natural birth. As she shared her experiences, and encouraged me to share my views as well, I knew that I would be able to talk openly with her, in a way that differed from my regular doctor.

It was not an easy decision to switch from my obstetrician to a midwife, but what I’d been experiencing with my doctor felt so technical and matter of fact. After meeting Whitney, I knew my husband and I made the right decision to have her help us deliver our baby. My husband accompanied me to every appointment and through our visits, he also developed a trusting relationship with Whitney. She’d ask what we were thinking and feeling, what questions we had, and would always remind us that we needed to do what felt right to us in preparing for labor and delivery.

Whitney is a wealth of knowledge! Her experience and commitment to a research based practice helped us to quickly trust her, feel comfortable, safe and prepared. Even now, almost 5 months after my daughter’s birth, my husband or I will ask, “What would Whitney say about this?” I’ve contacted her with questions about friends’ birth experiences and she continues to be readily available and willing to help.

Whitney led my “team” during labor and delivery and I am certain that I would not have had the birth experience that I had without her! No matter what I was experiencing, I knew that Whitney was there to make sure I was okay. She held my hand, guided my husband and doula, gave updates, encouraged, was compassionate, ensured that my birth plan was followed, and gave the support I needed throughout my labor and delivery.

All while caring for me, I learned about Whitney’s advocacy work, experience in the field of natural childbirth, and leadership.  She works tirelessly to serve women and is an incredible advocate for us. Without question, Whitney is a hero for me, my family, and many others. I am extremely happy to submit this nomination; Whitney is truly an asset in our community and we have been very fortunate to have her in our lives!

Second Nomination

Entrant: Heather Wilson

Whitney Pinger is indisputably a women’s health hero.

Whitney, now a senior Certified Nurse Midwife in the Washington, DC region, began her midwifery training 30 years ago in Berkeley, CA.  She was attracted to midwifery as a high school student after reading “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and began a string of apprenticeships with lay midwives.

Whitney was at the forefront of the homebirth movement in the late 1970s and received her training at the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective.  She obtained her midwifery degree at Yale University and has been a staunch advocate for natural birth and the midwifery model of care ever since.

As a CNM, Whitney has run low-income clinics, established multiple private practices, and served as faculty at Yale, Georgetown University, and the Washington Hospital Center.  Several Washington, DC area midwifery practices have closed in recent years.  Whitney filled the void by creating a new private practice dedicated to natural birth in a hospital setting and opened her door to women who were shut out of these closing practices.  She continues to actively promote natural birth, women’s autonomy, and maternity care reform in an environment that can be antagonistic to low-tech, high-touch birth.  Whitney is currently touring regional hospitals with an educational presentation about evidence-based midwifery practice.

I am privileged to apprentice with Whitney and to see her in action, both as a birth activist and as an incredibly nurturing and intuitive midwife.  I see her, time and again, establish trusting, respectful relationships with her patients.  She encourages them to listen to and follow their instincts and empowers them to be active participants in their health care.  Whitney creates an environment that enables laboring women to dig deep and do their work without distraction.  She manages birthing women with patience, flexibility, creativity, and compassion and trusts the birthing process.  Whitney is an inspiration to me, her patients, and her colleagues and is our hero.

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