Education and Experience — Robin is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). She graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing 1977, and from SUNY Downstate Midwifery School in 1985. Through her years as a labor and delivery nurse at White Plains Hospital, her early contacts with pioneers in obstetrics as well as her own experience as a midwife, Robin has witnessed, and contributed to, profound advancements in how women give birth.
The move to Full Circle Women’s Health in 2005 brought her back to the kind of practice which she loves – a space where women can be heard.
Areas of Interest — I have always been attracted to teens and their needs as well as the needs and concerns of menopausal women. This has lead to an increased interest in bioidentical hormone therapy as well as other integrative therapies. Knitting has always been a source of meditation and helps me develop patience.
My Path to Midwifery — In the fifth grade I attempted to take out a book that had fascinated me during library period. The librarian quietly refused to let me check out the book until I had my mother’s permission. The book was about human reproduction. My mother happily signed the permission slip, and my interest turned into a lifelong passion.
I have always found birth, and all the emotions and stories around it, fascinating. My first personal experience with pregnancy and birth was with an older friend when I was a teenager. Somehow I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. All through high school I volunteered on the postpartum unit and learned as much as I could from the nurses. While studying at Syracuse University I met a midwife who shared her story with a group of fledgling nursing students and I began to understand how I could achieve my dream of being with women at birth. After transferring to Columbia University, I began to witness a developing phenomenon of dads and midwives attending births. The first birth I attended while in nursing school was with a midwife, Joyce Beebe Thompson (who would later go on to be president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives), and I was awestruck by the experience – a difficult birth which she handled with confidence all the while encouraging the mother to succeed. After that I spent every moment that I was allowed in labor and delivery.
As a labor and delivery nurse at White Plains Hospital I gained first hand experience with the best and the worst that obstetrics had to offer, and each chapter led me closer to my own career goal of being a midwife.
Early on, Marjorie Karmel’s groundbreaking book, “Thank You Dr. Lamaze” had opened my eyes to the potential that early preparation had in helping women to fully experience the birth of their children. Childbirth classes were beginning to empower a new generation to demand conscious participation in their birth. A group of women from different walks of life banded together to develop a new kind of childbirth class with CEA of Westchester to offer classes which were full of information to help couples make informed choices about their prenatal care and birth. This was the experience I wanted in my own life. I met and spoke with Michel Odent, an early advocate for women in birth, when he came to America to share his quiet calm for births. When I became pregnant with my first daughter I sought out Therese Dondero and Nancy DeVore, pioneers in midwifery, to help us have the birth I had read about and witnessed. Therese left during the pregnancy to give birth to another practice at North Central Bronx Hospital, but Nancy and her new partner Celia taught me the essence of patient advocacy during my birth experience.
I graduated from midwifery school at SUNY Downstate in 1985, more than 10 years from my first encounter with a midwife. My hope was to work in a Birth Center which I would help to create in White Plains to assist women in birthing on their own terms. But midwifery was new to Westchester County, and “natural childbirth” was a term that women knew but not an experience they were familiar with. There were not many resources available to open a new center, nor was there a public calling for it yet. But my resolve was strong: In my experience at the Maternity Center in New York I had seen that birth could happen safely out of the hospital. But I felt badly when we had to transfer a laboring woman to the hospital when interventions were required. It seemed to me that there had to be a way to make a valued hospital setting more ‘hospitable,’ to make it a safe space for women to birth naturally.
In 1985, I joined with a group of open-minded physicians and 5 years later, an incredibly vocal group of women helped White Plains Hospital to see their way to finally open their doors to a midwife assisted birth for the first time anywhere in a Westchester County hospital. Slowly birth began to evolve. Births in a delivery room became passé, and staying in a Labor, Delivery, Recovery, and Postpartum Room became the norm. Women walked during labor, and the bathrooms were re-designed to accommodate showers and laboring families. We encouraged showers and water to help ease labor. Helpful partners, husbands, friends, sisters, mothers, and even younger children were invited to participate, resulting in joyful, inspiring, and empowered births. Since that first delivery I have tried to be a voice for, and with, women to experience what they want in health care, birth, and labor.
My first patients have aged with me, and we have explored questions of mid-life and menopause in the same way that we explored the new territory of empowered birth. My well-woman practice expanded to include perimenopause and menopausal therapies, as well as fertility, encompassing all phases of a woman’s life.
Our practice at Full Circle Women’s Health is based on offering education, options, and support to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and in all stages of their journey to health. I invite you to join us, and make the best choices for your body and your family at each stage of your life.
My Hope for Clients — Since the first delivery I experienced, I have tried to be a voice for, and with, women to attain what they are looking for in health care, labor and birth. I tell each new patient, “I have had my children in my way, and now you have to find your path. I will try to help you to find this path.” Each birth is a new miracle. Every woman’s story is different but what connects us all is the need to be heard. From a teen’s first experience through the journey of menopause and beyond we need connect in a way that supports health.