"I've seen around 400 kids born in the Eugene area," says midwife Joni Dawning, who announced a sabbatical at her 50th birthday party in September. "I'm taking time to go outside pager range." Dawning gave birth to her own first child, Megan, in Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1975. "It was a perfect hospital birth," she recalls. "I wound up feeling spiritually adrift." She began to study birthing practices, and soon was called to help with a home birth when the midwife was delayed. Later, she worked with pregnant women at a shelter as a VISTA volunteer, then had two more children, Quail and Breeze, at home, as a hippie homesteader in southern Oregon. "Their birth focused my interest on the couple's experience of giving birth together," says Dawning, who moved to Eugene in 1985 to study midwifery, but didn't pursue certification. "I prefer to think of myself as a lay midwife." She counts five ongoing play groups among her clients and stays in contact with several hundred people. "They call me for advice about canning or chickens," she says. "I help people create community." In the photo, Dawning poses with her fourth child, eight-year-old Amelina.