Asia and Michael Meador were ecstatic when they learned they were expecting their first baby. As a new mom-to-be, Asia knew she’d face plenty of unknowns – labor and delivery, midnight feedings, changing those first tiny diapers. But she had a clear idea of how she wanted her birth story and early chapters of her baby’s life to unfold.
If possible, she wanted to go into labor naturally and give birth without pain medicine or surgery. She wanted to breastfeed. She wanted to keep her infant with her. And, she wanted to work with a doula and a midwife.
“I knew in my mind I wanted a natural birth,” Asia said. “One day I was checking my insurance online, and six midwives popped up!”
They were the Certified Nurse Midwives at Regional One Health, a team dedicated to giving patients a personalized birth experience while still having access to the emergency services and technology of a hospital. Certified Nurse Midwives differ from Certified Professional Midwives in that they hold a master’s degree and are licensed to assist with hospital births.
Regional One Health is the only hospital in Shelby County where mothers can deliver with a Certified Nurse Midwife, so Asia knew she had found a perfect match.
During her prenatal care, she was thrilled with the opportunity to learn from the midwives. “They took the time to educate all the women who came through,” she said. “Even if they were on a third or fourth pregnancy, I’d hear them say, ‘I didn’t know that!’”
Most importantly, they made it clear they would be Asia’s advocate.
“They were encouraging about what I wanted to do. They assured me they would not push intervention, and they would honor my wishes as much as possible,” she said, noting she and the midwives even established a safe word to use if labor pains got too severe. “You get to make the choice how you want your birth to be, and it’s very personal.”
Education and a personal touch are key to Regional One Health’s practice, said Certified Nurse Midwife Meghan Madea. “We focus on the person. We call them by name, they call us by name – we know each other. Every time we see a patient, we incorporate education into our care,” she said. “We let the patient drive how they want to be cared for and what they want to experience, and we find they’re happier with their birth experience, because they feel like they had control.”
Madea has worked with patients who want to be up and moving around, patients who want family and friends in the room for support, a couple who wanted the dad to help deliver the baby, “a beautiful, magical experience for everyone.”
While Asia wanted a natural birth and no intervention, other patients choose an epidural or to induce labor. Madea said Certified Nurse Midwives have prescriptive authority and offer both, and have excellent relationships with Regional One Health physicians who can assist if an emergency arises, a patient becomes high-risk, a C-section is needed, etc.
Asia is grateful she had the healthy pregnancy and natural delivery she worked hard for, but she always felt comforted knowing help was available if her story took a scary twist.
“They’re realistic. They told me, ‘Asia, what you need to understand is birth is unpredictable. We’ll have a plan and we will not push anything on you, but you’ll also have the care of other medical individuals if you need it,” Asia said. “We went in expecting to have an incident-free delivery, but they reassured us Regional One Health has the best care if something does happen.”
When her contractions started and progressed, she and Michael went to Regional One Health’s Labor and Delivery Center, where Certified Nurse Midwives are on-duty 24/7. “They triaged me and coached me and helped me through my delivery. It was a wonderful experience. It was calm – or at least as calm as it can be when you have contractions for 12 hours!”
The happy ending to Asia’s birth story – or perhaps it’s best to call it a happy beginning – is a precious little girl named Savannah with cheeks you want to squeeze and some of the biggest, prettiest eyes you can imagine. Asia said she felt great post-delivery, and also felt the continued warmth and support of the midwives: “I felt so loved when other midwives came to visit me and my new bundle after I delivered.”
Today, Savannah’s story is unfolding just as Asia hoped. She is a healthy, happy little girl, and the nonprofit where she is an attorney lets employees bring their babies to the office with them for the first nine months. That means brightly-colored toys and cheerful board books join computers and legal files in Asia’s workspace, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s made Savannah quite a people person, and puts Asia’s mind and heart at ease: “I don’t have the new-mama trauma of not being around your child and not having your child breastfeed.”
Watching each chapter of her daughter’s first year unfold is important to Asia, just like it was important to her to guide her own birth story. “I hope women realize there are midwives under the direction of licensed physicians and it’s covered by insurance – and it can help you have the birth experience you want,” she said. “It’s a hidden treasure Regional One Health offers. With the trend of women going back to wanting natural births and birthing the way they feel their body is intended to, the program should grow.”
Madea said interest is increasing, and her team sees a lot referrals and return patients. “Society is embracing preventative medicine, and people are more aware of their body and health,” she said. “Pregnancy is not an illness and birth is not a procedure – it’s a life experience, and this is a more mindful approach where patients can be active participants. Memphis has a lot of healthy women having healthy pregnancies, and we want them to know we’re here.”
As for Asia, she will opt for a Certified Nurse Midwife if she has another baby, and plans to stay with the practice for regular well-woman care, which midwives offer along with annual and gynecological exams, breastfeeding education, preconception and postpartum care, birth control and more.