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My passion for midwifery begins before my memory does.  I have always been drawn to the experiences of birthing women and have been observing, listening and learning about this sacred mystery my whole life. I’ve worked as a Traditional, Holistic, apprenticeship trained midwife since 2002. Most Traditional Midwives are “community created”.  Meaning – others recognize/see a gift in our ability to attend women at birth, hence we are asked to participate in births.  In other words –“The gift makes way for you.” We do the clinical, medical protocol most are familiar with and develop deep relationships with the families we serve, creating expanded understanding intimacy and  trust.

Read her full story

As a community created midwife I have provided home-based maternity care since 2002. I have been blessed to be a part of hundreds of births since 1985.  The first homebirth I attended was in 1995. ​ My more direct education and experience began when I was both an expectant mama and student of maternity care, with the birth of my children, during my R.N. education in the 1980s.  My own pregnancies and birth experiences offered invaluable lessons for me.  Crossing that threshold at birth completely changed my life, reality and world in ways that are beyond words, and the heart understands completely.  This is the transformation gift that birth offers every woman. ​ As a nurse I worked in the fields of Labor & Delivery, Neonatal ICU, Adult ICU and Psychiatry.  For 17 years, as nurse, a doula, and then an apprentice midwife, I had the great honor of supporting many women, and their loved ones, as they gave birth and grew their families.  At that time confidence and trust in a woman's own innate birthing wisdom and power grew and solidified. ​ I originally became an RN with the intention of becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM).  It became clear to me as I worked within the medical system that my own philosophical beliefs regarding pregnancy, birth and those early months after baby arrives, were aligned strongly with supporting women in broader informed choices and options then I was experiencing in the medical setting.  After some deep reflection and consideration I followed my philosophical beliefs and began to study traditional midwifery. ​ In the late 1990s, I began an apprenticeship with a homebirth midwife.  During this time I expanded my midwifery knowledge and skills. After completing my apprenticeship, I opened my practice in 2002. During this time I continued to develop my own deepening practice of midwifery.  I learned to incorporate the healing properties of a woman’s own beliefs and strengths, nutritional supports, herbs and homeopathic remedies into my practice. This amazing and unique window of time in a family’s life continues to fuel my passions.  I returned to graduate school and in 2007, received a MSW, with a focus on the childbearing women, infants and families, and providing support and counseling for those amazing transitions. ​ Birth, the world over, continues to call.  I have a deep desire to study and learn birth wisdom from many cultures.  This call has taken me to Eastern Africa where I have studied with a diverse array of midwives.   To help facilitate serving as a midwife in other countries I have become a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM).  This process involved submitting a portfolio of my midwifery work and completing competency-based skills and knowledge exams. ​ I continue to carry this growing fascination for birth, the spark that has been there since my own childhood, and frequently attend lectures, training, workshops and conferences; learning and deepening my own abilities to serve. ​ Currently, I have my own practice and often am in practice with other midwives.  I also provide labor support (Monitrice) for planned hospital births and care for women occasionally, in tandem with a physician. That would mean those who want to labor as long as possible at home but give birth in hospital. Beyond all this, I have learned my most valuable lessons from the mothers that I have the honor of serving.  I thank them all for this amazing gift.


Meet the Team

In order to support you, we support each other. Willow River Midwifery is privileged to have experienced birth workers to provide you person centered care. 


Emily Stiner, Student Midwife 

I started as an apprentice in the Fall of 2021. Before I was even pregnant with my first babe, I knew that I wanted to have a home birth and midwifery care. I had the joy of having Brenda as my midwife for my three children. I loved my experiences from start to finish and the seed was planted that maybe this was the path for me. In March 2021 I decided to take the first steps down that path with doula training through Childbirth International. I also started with Brenda as a birth assistant that same month. I continued my education and became a Certified Lactation Counselor in August 2021. When fall came and my older kids were back in school, I started in the apprentice role and am currently doing a self study program through National College of Midwifery. Before starting birth work, I was a stay at home mom and still thoroughly enjoy the time I get to spend at home with my kids (Cora 7, Calvin 5, Charlie 2). In my life before kids I was a nurse; I graduated from the University of Iowa in 2008. I worked in a variety of areas: family practice clinic, general medical/surgical floor, cardio/pulmonary floor, surgery and nursing education. I live in Cedar Falls with my husband, David and our kiddos.


Anna Peterson, Student Midwife

Anna has been a birth assistant in the practice since 2018 and will be stepping into a new role as student midwife in early 2023. She's also an active doula in the region, teaches childbirth and postpartum education workshops, and is the founder of the Decorah Breastfeeding Support Group. When she's not attending births, she teaches history at Luther College. Her first pregnancy was complicated by high blood pressure, preeclampsia and a NICU stay for her daughter. She knew she wanted something different for her second journey and working alongside Brenda, she welcomed a healthy baby boy at home surrounded by love. Anna lives in Decorah with her spouse and two kids (Nina, 6 and August, 2). 


Sara Hanssen

Sara started as a birth assistant with Brenda in 2015 and has supported the practice with administrative services. Sara has training as a doula through ToLabor and has gratefully received knowledge and respect for birth through Brenda, the families served, and from her own pregnancy and birth journeys. Sara lives in La Crosse with her spouse and their daughter Greta, 2.  


Mikah Jaschke 

Mikah is a trauma informed doula and herbalist that integrates yoga, reiki, and mindfulness into her work with clients.  She has been a birth assistant with the practice since the spring of 2020.  She offers a local, organic, hand crafted and small batch line of pregnancy and postpartum herbal remedies. She also offers birth education in the form of Full Circle Birth and Postpartum Preparation Workshops with fellow doula Anna Peterson.  When she isn’t working or chasing down kiddos you’ll usually find her in the garden, reading, or knitting.  You can find out more about her at her website or you can email her at

Sarah Frydenlund

Sarah joined as practice administrator in 2023. She experienced hospital prenatal services, but was privileged to complement this with care by Brenda and her team in home births for both of her daughters. Sarah has worked in arts education for many years and additionally as office support for nonprofits. She lives in Decorah with her family of people, pets, and plants.

Sarah can be reached at


If you want to learn more about this richly rewarding work please get in touch with your thoughts and ideas. Learning opportunities and other positions may be available throughout the year. 

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