Jane Crawford Peterson

In the spring of 1978, I was a high school biology teacher, single and contemplating graduate school. Several of my friends were having their first children. They were concerned about some of the childbirth protocols in local hospitals and decided to form a group in order to educate themselves and explore all of their options. I came to offer the knowledge I had of human physiology and genetics, while birth educators, healthcare providers, and two midwives from several hours away also came to speak.

As the group unfolded, each couple asked me to be present at their birth as a friend and support person. These mothers and babies were my first teachers, my beginning, and I learned a great deal in helping these dear friends.

Alone, on a windy November day in 1979, I helped a baby boy be born, into my own hands.
His precious cry, his first breath, my first catch, will be with me always;
perhaps the most important knowledge I gained was that there was a great deal more to know.

In 1980, I apprenticed with a midwife from Hawaii who had moved to this area. She stayed for 10 months before the Wisconsin winter drove her home, but my gestation as a midwife had ended. I attended a midwifery training program in Dallas, Texas, and worked in a clinic doing 20-30 births per month. Afterward, I returned home to Wisconsin, and began to allow the title of midwife to share my life. 

In August 1982, I married, and in 1984, our first child, Ilsa, was born. During her infant months, I reduced my birth schedule and completed work on establishing a certification process in our state. Over the next six years, I experienced three second trimester miscarriages, all at home. In June 1990, our second child, Tobin, was born with a complex chromosomal abnormality, and lived only eight days. In my largest leap of faith, knowing our chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy baby were small, we welcomed another pregnancy. In August 1992, we greeted our third child, Tamas. He was born in our bedroom, as all our children had been. He was healthy and strong. We were deeply grateful and incredibly happy!

I have attended over 1,800 births in my 40 years as a midwife. My commitment to births has always ebbed and flowed around my family and the needs of the community. My family has always embraced this work that can change the day with a phone call. My life now as a wife, mother, and grandmother, have taken shape in a stronger way, and I continue to adjust the balance between family, self, and the work I love so dearly.