In late 2018, WHA had the pleasure of welcoming Catherine Schaefer, CNM, ND, Carissa St. Onge Carneiro, CNM and Rachel Kofron, RN to our Midwifery Birth Center. All three joined the team from A Gentle Beginning, a Portland home-birth midwifery practice Catherine owned and operated since 1994.

“I have known for a long time that a birth center was how we, as midwives, could support mothers and families seeking out of hospital birth while also taking care of our own physical and emotional health,” said Catherine, “when I was offered the position as part of a team of nurse-midwives at the Midwifery Birth Center I knew it would allow me to continue doing the work that I loved while better supporting my own well-being.”

Catherine joined the Midwifery Birth Center as the fifth full-time nurse-midwife. The team cares for women collectively during and after pregnancy, and share rotating responsibility for attending births. They also have physician back up led by birth center director and OB/GYN Gregory Eilers, MD, who practices at the adjacent WHA Gateway clinic. In addition to the support of the team at the birth center and throughout WHA, Catherine also appreciates being able to care for more women seeking an out-of-hospital experience: “I believe that every woman, regardless of her financial situation, should be able access out-of-hospital birth. Moving to the Midwifery Birth Center allows me to care for a wider clientele because we are the only Portland birth center that is contracted with CareOregon and is in-network with most insurance companies.”

Carissa St. Onge Carneiro joined Catherine in practice at A Gentle Beginning in 2007—as a registered nurse for the first eight years, then as a full-scope nurse-midwife beginning in 2015. “I knew from a deep calling at a young age that I would become a midwife and have been making my way along that path since graduating from nursing school nearly 20 years ago. Working as a nurse and midwife in home, birth center, clinic and hospital settings during the intervening time clarified my goal of one day being part of an integrative birth center focused on diversity and community. The fact that my own midwife, mentor and colleague is part of that is really a dream come true.” Carissa is the sixth member of the midwifery team and fills in during vacations and other time away from work.

Birth assistant Rachel Kofron, RN, was also drawn to midwifery early. “Growing up in a small island community, midwifery was always part of my life.” Rachel worked as both a hospital labor and delivery nurse and as a home birth RN and birth assistant for 15 years, joining Catherine and Carissa at A Gentle Beginning in 2010. “While the physiologic birth paradigm is part of who I am, working as a hospital labor and delivery nurse helped me realize there are different ways to have a satisfying experience and a healthy outcome. To me, supporting women and being of service to them during pregnancy and childbirth is making sure they have the information and space they need to choose what that means for them. The beautiful thing about the birth center is, while our entire team is dedicated to supporting the physiologic experience, we have the ability to bring more resources to support someone if their plan changes at any point along the way and have that still be a satisfying experience.”

For more information about our team, visit the Midwifery Birth Center.

Photo: Natalie Gildersleeve Photography