Diana Palencia and her son Noah with her midwives Elizabeth Morrison and Vandy Ferrer. Photo: Julia-Anna Searson

For some, the practice of midwifery may still conjure images of medieval times and ladies-in-waiting, but midwives Elizabeth Morrison and Vandy Ferrer bring the practice into modern medicine in Riverhead.

Peconic Bay Medical Center recently hired four new members to its women’s health services including an OB/GYN, a women’s health nurse practitioner and two midwives. Morrison and Ferrer are the first midwives to be hired at Peconic Bay Medical Center.

“We decided to hire them to offer the community new services that there is a demand for. They are both well known in their field and have excellent reputations,” said Scott Berlin, chair of OB/GYN at Peconic Bay Medical Center. “They are extremely competent and very dedicated to their patients.”

The midwife duo has already delivered several babies as employees of PBMC, including Diana Palencia’s son, Noah.

Palencia lives in Riverhead and saw two other doctors through PBMC during her early months of pregnancy. All was going to plan until both doctors left on a leave of absence, they were unavailable for the final months or pregnancy and birth.

She planned to switch to a different hospital until a nurse recommended she meet with a midwife. Palencia arranged an appointment and met with both Morrison and Ferrer.

“Instantly I was relieved,” said Palencia. “I had peace of mind from the very first meeting and I just stayed with them.”

Through the remainder of her pregnancy, both midwives saw Palencia and helped deliver her now one-month old son.

“The doctors are great [at PBMC], but the midwives actually sit with you for 10-15 minutes and answer your questions and hold your hand if you feel overwhelmed,” said Palencia. “I would’ve been thrilled to have the doctors deliver my baby but the midwives are just your friends instantly.”

Palencia plans to have a midwife for any future pregnancies and recommends them to expecting mothers.

“They’re just amazing and they make you feel comfortable,” said Palencia. “The whole process was painless, literally and figuratively.”

Morrison and Ferrer are both from the East End and have years of experience in midwifery and delivery. Morrison has been a resident of Greenport and had a doula practice for over 15 years.

Morrison always had an interest in medicine, but her interest in midwifery started during her time in the Navy.

“I was a hospital corpsman working in a medical office,” said Morrison. “I worked with a midwife at the time and she was doing women’s health exams and that kind of sparked my interest.”

Morrison owned and operated Mother Me Doula and Childbirth Services based in Greenport from 2005 to 2015. Morrison’s doula services brought her across Suffolk County and provided emotional and physical support for expecting women or couples through education, breastfeeding support and postpartum services.

She switched her career in private medicine to work in the public health sector because she wanted to help more women.

“I wanted to serve all women of the community, not just women who could afford the out-of-pocket costs,” said Morrison.

She got her New York license to practice midwifery after she obtained her master’s degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s midwifery program. She worked at Hudson Center for Women’s Health in Montefiore-Nyack Hospital in Nyack.

Ferrer was hired alongside Morrison and is a Brookhaven resident. She graduated from Stony Brook in 2007 as a certified midwife and has practiced midwifery ever since.

She briefly worked in Brooklyn and then went to Southampton Hospital from 2009 to 2014 and was employed as their first midwife. She would help deliver babies at the hospital and see patients at the clinic in Greenport. In 2014 she worked at Stony Brook but only saw patients and no longer helped with deliveries.

“At Stony Brook I did not work within the midwifery practice,” said Ferrer. “I saw pretty sick woman with complicated pregnancies. I also took care of them after they delivered when they went to the postpartum floor. So I ran around teaching breastfeeding and newborn care.”

Ferrer was offered the position of director of the new midwife program for Northwell Health and took the opportunity. She hopes to instill more confidence in women and expectant mothers.

“My favorite thing is to instill confidence in mothers. As women we beat ourselves up constantly. Men do not do that mostly; it seems to be a foreign concept to many of them,” said Ferrer. “But just like you saw Diana today reading her baby’s every squeak, women, generally speaking, are damn good at this and informing them of that is so simple and so important”

Morrison and Ferrer’s years of experience have allowed them to be experts with helping pregnant women, but also with the entire lifetime of a women’s reproductive health.

“We do all aspects of gyn-care for women from adolescence through menopause including birth control, IUD inserts, annual exams, pap-smears,” said Morrison. “We work collaboratively with the physicians here so if a woman needs a different level of care then we can refer them.”

In-line with the traditional role of a midwife, Morrison and Ferrer assist in the birthing procedures, but monitors expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy.

“Midwives do all of what is considered the standard of care of prenatal as well as when a woman is in labor,” said Morrison. “We can order the sonograms, all of the blood tests, all of the screening tests and we provide education. We like to educate all women of their choices so they can make the best informed decision. Women’s desire for pregnancy, labor, and birth can be so varied.”

Morrison urges women to call her office, 631-929-0510, to schedule an appointment or consultation with either her or Ferrer.

“Most women say that midwives are very thorough,” said Morrison. “We do take a little bit more time talking and educating which is a huge part of our background and our training.”

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Julia-Anna Searson
Julia-Anna is a Riverhead native and a recent graduate of Stony Brook University, with a degree in Biology and minor in Anthropology. She currently lives in Cutchogue.