Wellness Collective member Teresa Cramer carries a strong, gentle presence. As a midwife these qualities serve her. Her knowledge, experience, and passion for women’s health is evident. We spent some time interviewing her to learn more about what makes her the incredible person and midwife she is.
Although I do love babies, I actually became interested in midwifery because I wanted to work with pregnancy and women’s health. People need to feel loved and supported through this process. As well as have space to use their voice and make decisions during care rather than just going through the motions and routine.
How was your educational experience? What important things did you gain from it?
I loved my days at Calvin College where I studied International Development and learned to question everything. After living in Grand Rapids, I moved to Maine where I attended midwifery school, which challenged me educationally and as an individual. Although I didn’t use my International Development degree much, it continues to influence the way I practice midwifery. Since many ideas and values in international development can be compared to family development, I am always looking at all the different aspects of a person’s life and the impact they have on them.
Is there a documentary that resonates with you? What did it do for you?
One of my favorite documentaries is “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” I think about it often because of how deliberate and purposeful he was in not only how he lived but how he prepared his sushi. In his day to day he was good at identifying his customers’ needs and preferences in order to make it a wonderful experience. He was always mindful with his work. This is something I very much aspire to do.
How does your work differ from other midwives?
I find that I can hold space for other people well. I don’t have to take up a room or speak on behalf of someone else, but rather let them be fully present and accept who they really are without judgment or telling them what is the right or wrong way to do something (unless something serious needs to be addressed.) I’m empathetic and I am on the quieter side so I allow my client to have a bigger voice.
I am flexible with my client’s wants and needs. If herbal remedies and supplements are their preference, we will use them or if they prefer medications, we figure out what will work best. In certain cases I do home visits which is fun because my clients are more relaxed and it includes the whole family. My visits are about an hour long and we spend time talking about nutrition, exercise, emotions, stress, fears, and family circumstances. We also do routine care by checking on the mother and baby.
What type of people/symptoms do you generally work with?
While working with pregnant women, I’ve seen that there is a similar rhythm of pregnancy from one person to the next and I get to see that from client to client. This is a process I see over and over again not just in pregnancy but also in labor and birth. I’ve worked in many different communities such as women in Boston, Grand Rapids, Maine and an Amish community in rural Pennsylvania. It’s interesting to see how cultural differences plays into the idea of family and how each culture enters pregnancy and birth.
What was working with the Amish like?
One surprising thing I experienced while working in the Amish community was their openness and desire to get to know me. They let me join them at meals and had several questions about where I was from and my family. They taught me about the simplicity of life and the beauty of living at a slower pace. Our Amish clients taught me about the hard work of labor by comparing it to a chore. They didn’t talk much about going into labor and once it started they faced it squarely and did the work set in front of them to birth their babies.
Was there a specific moment that ignited your holistic flame?
My sister had her first baby nine years ago and she wasn’t provided any education around pregnancy or birth during her care, let alone given options around screenings and tests. She experienced an uncomplicated hospital birth, but the experience impacted her deeply, as pregnancy and birth do. I was helping her clean up after the birth and she looked at me and said, “No one told me this was what it was like.” She was caught off-guard by the experience and her voice was left out of her care. I knew then I wanted to help educate people about this process, even though I didn’t know in what capacity. Around the same time a friend of mine had a home birth. She talked about her experience in an entirely different light and was empowered. This sparked my interest in midwifery. I then started reading anything I could find in relation to homebirth and midwifery and immediately recognized that the qualities needed in a midwife, I saw in myself!
“When despair grows in me and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
About: Teresa Cramer is a Certified Professional Midwife providing holistic homebirth midwifery care at River Birch Midwifery. Striving to create a family-centered and nurturing environment, Teresa works with her clients to ensure a safe and empowering birth experience through informed care.