When Allison and Colton Woolsey, of Hurst, were expecting their second child, they did not expect anything unusual about the delivery. After all, she had also given birth to River, their 3-year-old son, at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, where they were planning to have their baby. She even was seeing the same specialist, Dr. Doug Gates of New Horizons OB/GYN of Carbondale.
The Woolseys, however, didn’t expect the significance their baby would have for Gates.
It was during her March 14 appointment with Gates that the physician explained her baby — likely to be born in the next 24 to 48 hours — could possibly be the 7,000th delivery of his career.
“We actually were pretty excited about the possibility,” Allison said. “We were getting our hopes up.”
As it turns out, Gates was on call the next evening as Allison and another woman both went into labor.
“Allison knew she could be No. 7000,” Gates said. “The other one was one of my partners’ patients, and I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to put her in the stress of the moment, so we just let the process continue naturally. Allison got there first.”
Briar Reid Woolsey was born at 10:09 p.m. and he was delivery No. 7,000 for the 58-year-old physician. He is sure of it because, over the years, he has maintained notes on every single birth.
“It was probably my second week of practice when I hit on the idea that I wanted to remember all of the births that I did,” he said. “At first, I kept the information on 3x5 cards that I stored in a box. I later discovered Microsoft Access and started putting all of the information into a database. I began to add a description of the experience of the birth as a way of remembering the details and reliving what makes an OB-GYN’s life interesting and different.”
Gates said eventually he noticed milestones — the 1,000th birth, the 5,000th and so on. It led him to beginning including the “delivery number” on birth certificates as he signs them and it reminded him of a conversation with a professor he had as a medical student in California.
“I had an anatomy professor and I found out he was an OB-GYN,” he said. “He told me that he had done 10,000 deliveries and I didn’t believe him. He was in his 70s and had probably been a doctor for 40 years, so now I can see how that would have been possible.”
Gates says he averages about 300 births each year, but doesn’t expect to hit 10,000 like his mentor.
“I would have to do another 10 years and I don’t know if I can keep up this pace,” he said.
Gates says that since his first delivery in July 1995, all of them have been special to him — but some have been more memorable than others.
“There are always mile markers,” he said. “Like the first time you delivered a baby for a woman whom you also delivered, but the ones that standout with greatest clarity are those that required a great deal of effort and emotion to work through — the sad ones like when there is a stillbirth and we work with the parents through the emotions of that.”
The physician does not hide his Christian faith and says it has impacted how he works with new parents, especially fathers.
“It has been my desire as is mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Malachi to draw fathers’ hearts closer to their children and children to their fathers,” he said. “One of the things that I have tried to focus on is making the experience of birth such a joyful moment — especially for the men that are there — that their experience of being part of the birth of their child profoundly changes something in them so that they are more likely to remain very strongly attached to their children and their families.”
The list of families Gates has served continues to grow and he continues to make new entries in his database. Sometimes, those entries even make for great conversations.
“We were at a restaurant recently and I mentioned to the waitress that I had once delivered a baby who would be about her age and had the same name. I asked her if she knew who her mother’s doctor was and she didn’t have a clue. ‘Do you mind if I ask your birthday?’ I asked. She told me and I quickly scrolled through the database. I turned the phone to her and showed her that I was her doctor. She ran and got a friend and we took pictures together. It was delightful.”
Gates says his job continues to be something he enjoys.
“I want each of my patients to know that it has been a remarkable privilege to be a part of that moment for them. It continues to be a source of great joy in my life. Even after 7,000 deliveries, it is still a rush. It never gets old.”