Our Midwives


M Catherine Schaefer, CNM, ND

CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife)
ND (Naturopathic Doctor)

Catherine has spent her life helping others. She grew up under the tutelage of a very active community nurse - her mother. Alongside her she dressed wounds,  went on home visits to sick neighbors and helped her mother after school when she became the head nurse for a private prep school. Catherine was drawn to alternative medicine in her teenage years, using herbs to heal while scouring the local bookstores for anything on natural healing and women's health. Both of her grandmothers had home births and she knew that someday she would follow in their footsteps. 

Cath with Baby.jpg

After obtaining her undergraduate degree in science and anthropology, Catherine went on to four years at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM - now NUNM) in Portland Oregon.  She fell in love with midwifery after attending a home birth in 1979 and birthing her first child at home in 1980. She focused her studies at NCNM in midwifery, women’s health care and pediatrics. After graduation in 1983 Catherine began practicing as a Naturopathic Physician (ND) with specialty certification in midwifery in Oregon and as a Licensed Midwife in Washington.

After twenty-two years attending births in homes and birth centers and catching over a thousand babies, Catherine returned to school once again to broaden her scope of midwifery. She was honored to be selected into the graduate entry midwifery program at Oregon Health and Sciences University. While continuing her home birth practice, A Gentle Beginning, she revisited her role as a midwifery student, receiving her masters in nursing, CNM certification and Nurse Midwife/Nurse Practitioner license in Oregon and Washington in 2005. While the hospital experience of birthing taught her much, Catherine has never swayed in her belief that natural birth in an out of hospital setting provides the greatest possibility for optimal birth experiences.

Catherine has four children, all now grown and off exploring the world. She feels blessed to have been able to birth them all at home. She lives with her husband, three dogs and many animals on a farm where her husband is responsible for a small private school. When she is not catching babies she enjoys being with her family, digging in her flower garden and working with her hands. She has a deep passion for assisting couples to begin and continue their lives together as parents and in helping them understand how to raise great people.  It is with her family’s love and support that she is able to continue the art of midwifery and Naturopathic medicine.

My training as Nurse Midwife and Naturopathic Physician gives me a foot in both worlds with a willingness to find a balance to serve your needs and a grace to move easily between the two. What I understand is that birth usually unfolds in a natural rhythm unique to each woman but can occasionally present unexpected surprises when intervention is needed and appropriate. My experience and training allows me to be prepared for those situations. At the same time, my perspective is always balanced by my trust in the birth process and understanding that whatever is needed can be greeted with respect and awe.

Carissa St. Onge Carneiro, CNM

CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife)

Carissa knew at 17 years of age, from a deep down calling, that she would become a midwife.  She graduated from the University of Portland's School of Nursing in 2000, a place which provided her with a spirit of hard work and service.  Immediately afterwards she dove into midwifery; volunteering as a maternity nurse at Holy Family Birth Center on the Texas/Mexico border.   This was a confirmation of her aspiration to become a midwife and a launch-pad into understanding what an exemplary out-of-hospital midwifery practice looks and feels like.  Carissa spent the next 15 years having 3 babies at home and working in a variety of birth settings - in hospital as the “natural birth expert” even being given a room in the corner of the unit and in the home setting, her true passion.

Furthering her dream, Carissa attended Frontier Nursing University, whose mission is to “educate nurses to become competent, entrepreneurial, ethical and compassionate nurse-midwives” in the ancient art of midwifery and evidence-based care.   She has her certification as a Nurse-Midwife (CNM) and is licensed as a Nurse Midwife/Nurse Practitioner in both Oregon and Washington.
The out-of-hospital setting is her true calling, a setting in which she has the opportunity to honor the couples' journey in a gentle, comforting and intuitive way.  The nurse-midwifery model of care also resonates deeply with her - a model of care in which shared decision making is the key.      

"After I married my college sweetheart, Augusto, we quickly began our family.  We interviewed several midwives and deeply connected with Dr. Catherine Schaefer at A Gentle Beginning.  Through 3 pregnancies and 3 home births our relationship grew and after my third child was born, I began working alongside Catherine, teaching birth/parenting classes, assisting in home births and caring for families.  Catherine and I knew from our first meeting in 2001 that we would work alongside each other as midwives.   I feel grateful and honored to walk this path, thrilled to work alongside such an amazing midwife, and live our mission of “women supporting women supporting women.

I am also grateful to all the people who have inspired and supported me along my path.  My father taught me to use my quiet nature and voice to make the world a better place.  My mother taught me to have a sense of humor and to ask the right questions, and a lot of them.  Motherhood is teaching me patience and flexibility beyond imagination.  I believe all decisions, choices, paths, interactions, relationships, traumas and opportunities I have encountered these 38 years have prepared me and molded me into the midwife and woman I am. 


Our midwives are licensed in both Oregon and Washington as Nurse Midwife Nurse Practitioners and Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners.