On December 8, Hugh Michael Clark will celebrate his first birthday, marking a year filled with smiles, trips to the Memphis Zoo, almost all of his baby teeth coming in and some tentative first steps. Rebecca and Andrew Clark will celebrate their little boy, and something else as well – a moment of healing they say is thanks to Danielle Tate, MD and Regional One Health.
“It’s a healing experience for someone who’s gone through a pregnancy loss to deliver their baby and hold their baby against their chest. It’s cathartic,” said Rebecca. “It was probably the greatest experience of my life. They gave me that, and that’s something I’m eternally grateful for.”
Rebecca and Andrew opted to have their prenatal care and labor and delivery at Regional One Health’s Labor and Delivery Facility because they wanted access to the best resources if her pregnancy became high-risk or their baby was in danger.
“I knew I wanted to go to a doctor I could trust.”
The Clarks had been referred to a high-risk obstetrics practice in late 2016. When they went for their first visit, the OBGYN on duty was Dr. Danielle Tate of Regional One Health’s High-Risk Obstetrics Program.
They immediately knew they had found an ally. “We met her at a very difficult time in our lives, and she treated us with dignity and compassion and fairness,” Rebecca said.
With Dr. Tate at their side, they began to explore their options, and decided in vitro fertilization was on the table if they didn’t get pregnant on their own. Dr. Tate referred them to Laura Detti, MD and her Regional One Health Reproductive Medicine team, and they set up a consultation.
When the day of the appointment arrived, Rebecca remembers asking Andrew, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we’re already pregnant?”
Perhaps it was a mother’s intuition. They were.
Dr. Detti saw them through the early stages of pregnancy, and when it came time to select an OBGYN, there was only one name in the running. Rebecca had kept in touch with Dr. Tate with the very hope of having her deliver her child someday: “I chose to see a high-risk doctor because that was what I was comfortable with,” she said. “I knew I wanted to have a baby and I knew I wanted to go to a doctor I could trust.”
“I wanted to go where I could get the best care.”
Rebecca’s trust in Dr. Tate grew as her pregnancy progressed. “I told her, ‘My birth plan is your birth plan,’” Rebecca recalled. “She’s the one who went to school for this. I asked her where she would recommend I deliver, and she said, ‘Based on the resources, Regional One Health.’”
It would mean a half hour drive downtown, but Rebecca and Andrew never seriously considered going anywhere else. “I live five minutes from another hospital. I could practically walk there,” Rebecca said. “But I wanted to go where I could get the best care.”
Their experience not only met that expectation, it exceeded it.
Rebecca liked that she was always given options – and plenty of ultrasounds to keep an eye on her baby – and that everyone talked to her as a person, with compassion and genuine interest. She was impressed with how the doctors and nurses communicated with one another, with her Expectant Parent Classes, and with her Labor and Delivery Facility and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit tours.
Dr. Tate even invited her to text her with concerns – “I swear I didn’t take advantage!” she laughed – and promised to be there when it came time to deliver. “She was really intentional about that,” Rebecca said. “She’s incredible. She does what’s backed by science and education, but she also has the emotional intelligence and soft skills and bedside manner.”
“I wish there were more doctors like her.”
Finally, when Rebecca was over 39 weeks pregnant, Dr. Tate ran a routine test and discovered her amniotic fluid was low, a condition that can be dangerous. Together doctor and patient decided the best option was to induce labor that evening.
At long last, the Clarks were about to become a family of three.
“Labor and Delivery was incredible. I was practically up trying to walk right after I gave birth,” Rebecca said, recalling the moment her son came into the world at 3:07 p.m. December 8, 2017. “I didn’t even feel like I’d had a baby, and that’s a testament to the job they did.”
Her nurses kept her spirits up through hours of contractions with a capable, caring demeanor – and even came within minutes of guessing Hugh’s time of birth. Anesthetist Keith Owens provided prompt pain relief: “I swear there was a halo over that guy’s head!” Rebecca laughs. And of course, there was Dr. Tate. As Rebecca wrote in a letter she sent to Regional One Health CEO Reginald Coopwood, MD shortly after her delivery, “I can’t put into words how great she is. I wish there were more doctors like her practicing.”
“Being in the NICU allowed me to witness miracle workers.”
As it turns out, the Clarks would experience more than Regional One Health’s Labor and Delivery Facility.
When Hugh was born, his Apgar score showed he had low blood sugar: “They did lay him on my chest, but then they did have to take him to the NICU for four days,” Rebecca said. “When we decided to deliver at Regional One Health, part of it was if something went wrong, there wouldn’t be a 25-minute ambulance ride when 25 minutes could mean life or death. I knew if there was a need, they could call the NICU and wheel my baby right in – and that’s exactly what they did. To be able to use that resource we didn’t even know we’d need was amazing.”
While Rebecca and Andrew had toured the NICU – at one point watching in awe as nurses gave chest compressions to a baby born at 25 weeks, the point Rebecca was in her pregnancy at the time – they didn’t know what to expect once Hugh got there. With Rebecca at full-term, they hadn’t anticipated a NICU stay.
They quickly learned the patterns and were amazed by staff including Dr. Mark Weems, Dr. Brianna Saadat and the team of nurses who work around the clock to care for vulnerable babies. Quite simply, “Being in the NICU allowed me to witness miracle workers,” Rebecca said.
Fortunately, Hugh Michael improved quickly, and on December 12 the Clarks were bundling him into a car seat for the trip home, eager to start their adventures as a family.
“I love to see my baby. It’s the highlight of my day.”
The past year has been filled with baby smiles and giggles, sleepless nights, new foods, picking the right daycare; with joy, love and precious memories. “When I get off work, I love to see my baby. It’s the highlight of my day,” Rebecca said.
Weekends mean trips to the zoo; Hugh’s first birthday will be at Disney World, where Rebecca joked her family is crashing a trip planned by her sister and brother-in-law, who have a 6-year-old and 4-year-old twins. In a few months, the Clarks will take Hugh to Europe, where Rebecca has family in England, Ireland and Wales.
Adventures indeed, and adventures with a purpose.
Rebecca wants Hugh to grow up experiencing new cultures, tasting new foods, smelling new smells, hearing new sounds – and realizing there is more than one way to live a good life and be a good man. She wants him to have an open mind, and to always have the ready smile that, as a friendly and loving little boy, he never hesitates to display for other people.
As he grows, she’ll also make sure he knows the people who gave him a healthy start. She keeps in touch with Dr. Tate and considers her part of the family; Hugh’s de facto aunt.
And if and when it’s time for Hugh to be a big brother, there’s no question where the Clarks will turn: “I hope if I ever have another child, it will be with Dr. Tate at Regional One Health.”
Rebecca feels privileged she had the choice in care afforded to her by good insurance from her employer, and that her community has a resource like Regional One Health she could opt for.
“As an employee of FedEx, I could have chosen any hospital really in the county. Coming to Regional One Health for our labor and delivery was one of the best decisions we made throughout pregnancy,” Rebecca said. “When you lose a pregnancy and you know how bad things can be, you either overthink everything, or you just have to trust your doctors. I decided to trust the doctors. They come from all over the world to work at Regional One Health. The dedication of the employees, their pride in what they do, their love for their work and for their patients – I wouldn’t deliver a baby anywhere else in Memphis.”
Birth Facility tours and Expectant Parent classes are available at Regional One Health to see the hospital and learn about Early Prenatal, Preparing for Childbirth, Breastfeeding, Nutrition/Prenatal Yoga and Dynamic Dads. For more information, call Jacqueline Beasley at 901-545-8449.