When Elizabeth Raffel found out she was pregnant, she wanted to do everything she could to have a healthy pregnancy and baby and the magical experience she wanted.
As a labor & delivery nurse, Elizabeth knew right where to look – Regional One Health’s certified nurse midwives.
She said the nurse midwives provided personalized, empowering care and supported her in having the type of delivery she hoped for.
As a mom of four and a labor and delivery nurse at Regional One Health, Elizabeth Raffel knew what to expect when she learned she was pregnant with baby Everleigh. But pregnancy and birth still held some joyous surprises thanks to her decision to seek a different style of care.
“I had worked with our Certified Nurse Midwives many times as a nurse, so I knew that was the kind of delivery I wanted,” Elizabeth said. “You get that personal touch – it was like seeing a friend every time I went for an appointment. I had a great experience from top to bottom.”
Meghan Madea, CNM, MSN, was Elizabeth’s primary provider. Madea describes midwifery as a style of medicine that treats pregnancy and birth as natural processes that should be empowering and special. She said rather than dictating one-size-fits-all rules, nurse midwives engage, educate and support women to make safe, healthy choices.
“We want each woman to have the experience she chooses throughout her pregnancy and labor,” Madea said. “Midwife means ‘with woman,’ and we take that to heart. Our focus is to treat each patient as an individual and to really understand her goals and concerns.”
For Elizabeth, that’s exactly what happened.
Prenatal visits included the usual measures of weight, blood pressure, fetal heartbeat, etc. – plus conversations on her wishes for pregnancy and birth. The nurse midwives made sure to involve Elizabeth’s older kids, letting them listen to Everleigh’s heart and asking them about their lives.
“It’s family-centered care,” Madea explained. “This wasn’t just Elizabeth having a baby – it was the family welcoming a new member. It was important that everyone felt involved.”
Elizabeth also experienced midwifery’s caring support after she started having heart palpitations. Madea saw her the same day and ultimately sent her for a full cardiac workup, while also taking the time to address how Elizabeth was coping emotionally.
“She knew my goal was to not have any interventions, so she asked me how I was dealing with all of it. She showed respect for what I wanted, and it was like talking to a friend – but a friend who could give me all the medical services I needed,” Elizabeth said. “I knew she was going to keep me safe and keep my baby safe. That trust was just there.”
Elizabeth says that’s why she chose midwifery.
Regional One Health is the only hospital in Memphis where moms can deliver with a nurse midwife, and Elizabeth wanted both the safety net of a hospital birth and the holistic support of a nurse midwife: “As a nurse, I know things can go terribly wrong unexpectedly. I’ve always felt I needed to be in a hospital to deliver,” she explained.
And when the time came, she would discover a hospital birth can feel very personal.
With Madea as her advocate, Elizabeth got to live out her birth plan: a natural labor, her husband Richard taking an active role in the delivery, and having her mom and sisters in the room.
“Elizabeth and Richard were able to dictate what they wanted,” Madea said. “It was beautiful. It was definitely a room full of love and family.”
“It is so key, as a patient, that she supported what I wanted,” Elizabeth said. “She’d notice the lights were too bright and dim the lights. We forgot our diffuser, so she got hers. It just changed the atmosphere – we had lavender instead of hospital smells!”
The support continued after Everleigh arrived. “They never just assumed because it was my fifth child I already knew everything,” Elizabeth said. “They came in with the latest research and information on breastfeeding. They went the extra mile to encourage me and support me.”
Elizabeth said midwifery could be even more helpful for women giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, when visitor limits decrease the number of loved ones who can be onsite to support a laboring mom. “Having a midwife to provide that extra support is such a blessing!” she said.
Today, Everleigh is an inquisitive toddler who loves nothing more than watching her older brother and sisters, and mom and dad couldn’t be happier with their busy family and the joyful experience that introduced its youngest member.
“From the second she came into this world it was such a moving experience. It’s something you remember all your life, so to have that magical moment is very important,” Elizabeth said. “Meghan made such a difference to our family. Should we decide to expand our family further, we will definitely be seeing the midwives!”
Madea believes that’s what every new mom deserves. “With Elizabeth, it literally was delivering a friend – and that’s what we want for all our patients,” she said. “You should never feel like a number. You’re with people who know your name, who know you, who respect your choices.”