Ashlie Behm


Woman Warrior – Mirra Nerenberg, LDM, CPM, IBCLC

Mirra Nerenberg, Portland Oregon Midwife sitting in a field of flowers

Having a midwife as your pregnancy care provider is becoming more and more popular, especially here in Portland, Oregon. And with the spread of COVID-19, many people are opting to give birth at home or a birth center not wanting to risk the exposure of giving birth in a hospital setting. 

I honestly didn’t know about midwives or what  did until I was in college.. Ever since then I’ve found that model of care incredibly appealing.

Meeting Mirra only confirmed my ideas about midwives and midwifery care. I met Mirra for coffee almost a year ago and was immediately struck by her calming presence and easy-going nature. It was clear to me  that she had found her calling in life. I loved listening to her talk about her work. Mirra loves working with pregnant people! She impressed me with the amount of individualized care that she gives her clients. She spends time really getting to know her clients throughout their pregnancy. Mirra and I also connected over our love of nature, hiking, backpacking and, of course, babies. 

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to the newest Woman Warrior in our series: Mirra Nerenberg, Certified Professional Midwife and owner of Portland Natural Birth

Get to Know Mirra

Where are you from? 

I was born in Baltimore but have lived a lot of places including growing up outside of Philadelphia and going to college in Asheville, NC. I moved to Portland in 2005! 

Tell me about your family? 

I have two kiddos, 7 and 10 year olds, an awesome husband who I met at college and a fluffy puppy. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Portland? 

Hmm, this is hard to answer! There are so many fun and family friend things in Portland. I do love biking with my family, especially biking downtown and doing the Tilikum-Sellwood bridge loop. I like walking in our neighborhood and chatting with all our neighbor friends. I of course love hiking and love Portland for being so accessible to hikes. I also spend most of my time dreaming up the best backpacking trip for when I’m off-call! 

Your Midwifery Journey

When did you first know you wanted to become a midwife?  

I didn’t have a defining “a-ha!”moment. I grew up thinking birth was normal (because I was born in a free-standing birthing center and my mom had 3 natural births) and have always been a huge advocate for women’s health and choice, even in high school. My journey morphed from women’s studies to traveling to Asia and seeing families and women at ease with pregnancy and parenthood. I became a doula in 2006 as a stepping stone on my path to midwifery.  

Where did you get your degree/do your training?  

I went to Birthingway College of Midwifery where I attended 3 years of academic training plus a 2 year apprenticeship at a birth center.  I graduated in 2010 with a BS in Midwifery.   

Portland Natural Birth

When did you first start Portland Natural Birth? 

I started my own homebirth practice about 6.5 years ago. I had been attending births at a birth center and realized I was ready to slow down for both my family and my clients. I started Portland Natural Birth so I could provide that individualized and relationship-based care that I felt I was losing by attending so many births each month. 

Can you explain the different services/packages you offer?  

We provide full continuity of care for families who are low risk and want a homebirth. This includes all their prenatal care, on-call time, birth plus 6 weeks of amazing postpartum care for both the birthing person and their baby! I’m also an IBCLC so I provide any additional lactation support that may be needed. Jaime, my midwifery partner, also provides Ayurvedic care and packages if our clients want that, which is pretty great! We also are happy to provide prenatal and postpartum care for clients that may be higher risk and planning a hospital birth but still want solid-individualized midwifery care for their appointments.  

If you could give me a quick synopsis of your business in 5 sentences or less, how would you describe it? 

We offer homebirth and comprehensive, holistic Midwifery care for families during the childbearing year. We individualize care for each client and family, and offer education and informed choice regarding every aspect of care. We utilize modern, evidenced-based protocols as well as time-tested, traditional practices that treat the process of birth as normal and healthy. We base our care on mutual trust, respect, and the idea that each person knows what’s right for their body and their family.

Going into business for myself has taught me a tremendous amount about myself as a person. What have you learned about yourself since starting your business?  

Yes, running a business is no joke!  It’s so different than “just” being a care provider. Most of us aren’t business-minded folks so this can be hard. Thankfully, I’m super organized and task-oriented so the organization of the business comes naturally for me. I already knew how to bill insurance and do client billing. What is hard and what I didn’t realize before diving in was the marketing piece. Putting myself and the business out there is hard for me. Asking clients (who I know love us!) to write reviews to help our SEO [Search Engine Optimization] is a challenge for me!  

If self-employment was easy, everyone would do it. Can you tell me about the obstacles you have faced being in business for yourself? 

It’s hard not having a predictable client load.Some months are booked solid before our clients are even out of their first trimester, while other months we only have one client. This makes taking time off challenging. And there’s the monthly juggle of being well stocked but not having all our meds expire before we use them! 

What accomplishments are you most proud of? 

Hmmm, I don’t really think in those terms. I’m a super practical person so I just continue on with what’s in front of me! I do think I do an awesome job at juggling midwifery and motherhood. Although during these weird times I’m not sure I’m the best I can be right now 😉 

final thoughts

I enjoy reading and love sharing new book ideas with others. What book  would you recommend to new or expecting parents?

I’m old school and really do still love Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. There are some great new books out there about the politics surrounding childbirth in America, which I also enjoy, but Ina May’s guide is such a good jumping off book for families to read about the range of normal for birth and read stories that are affirming and not fear based. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

Thanks for doing these blogs! I love reading about other strong folks and feel passionate about making sure all families know about midwifery care. It’s really the crux of our care at Portland Natural Birth to make sure midwifery and homebirths are safe, viable options for families and they come out the other end empowered by their own decisions!

Mirra Nerenberg, Portland Oregon Midwife sitting in a field of flowers
Mirra Nerenberg, Midwife in Portland Oregon in a field of flowers
Portland Oregon Midwife, Mirra Nerenberg, sitting in a field of flowers

Where to find Mirra:

Portland Natural Birth

IG: @portlandnaturalbirth

FB: Portland Natural Birth

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