Dr. Amanda Hess is a board-certified OB-GYN practicing in Frankfort, Kentucky. While Dr. Hess has delivered thousands of babies, she recently made national headlines for her most recent delivery, which was while she herself was in labor. On July 23, when she was checked into Frankfort Regional Medical Center to give birth to her second child, she rushed out of her hospital room and to the aid of a distressed mother and baby, safely delivering the baby before the on-call doctor could get there. She then went on to give birth to her own daughter, Ellen Joyce.
Hess’s story started as a simple Facebook post shared, not to friends or family, but to a secret professional group called Physician Moms Group (PMG). Female physicians from around the world rallied behind her, calling her a “real-life superhero” and encouraging her to share her story so “people can see how amazing doctor moms are.” With one public share, the post quickly made its way to morning shows and national media outlets, including Romper, with Dr. Hess’s story inspiring mothers to believe that they can do and have it all.
This is Dr. Amanda Hess’ story, as told to Romper writer and fellow physician Alexandra Sowa:
I thankfully had an easy pregnancy, with just a little bit of morning sickness. Of course, I felt tired here and there, but I operated until the week before I delivered. And I actually took an OB call on the two days before my scheduled induction. With my first, I had an elective induction at 39 weeks and it went really smoothly, so with this pregnancy, I decided to do another induction at 39 weeks.
People don’t realize how much doctors put their hearts out there. We care so much about our patients.
I delivered two babies on my last call on Saturday — the second baby was delivered at about 12:30 p.m. and my call ended at 1 p.m. and I felt pretty satisfied. I thought, this is a really nice ending to working and a great way to start my maternity leave.
Saturday night after my last call, my mom came to town to watch our 2-year-old, so my husband and I went out for a nice dinner. We wanted to make sure we had our names picked out, because we didn’t know if the baby was going to be a boy or a girl — we wanted it to be a surprise! We wanted to make sure we had our names picked out. Sunday during the day, I was running around, getting the house ready, spending time with my toddler, and running errands, and I definitely thought, "It will be so nice to have a good night’s sleep, relax and take a long shower when I get to the hospital." I was excited to get to the hospital and have a little time away from home and work. With my first, the induction took all night and I had a great night’s sleep. I was expecting an experience like last time, but it did not turn out like that at all.
My husband and I got to the hospital around 8:00 p.m. It’s a small hospital – I am part of the only OB group that delivers there, so I know everyone. I specifically chose not to go to a hospital in a nearby city, because I love my partners and trust them — they are like family to me. When we got there, I was being a little nosy and asked the nurses, “Hey, is it busy?” And they were like, “Not really, but someone just came in.”
I got settled into my room, put on my gown, and got into bed. It was taking a little while for anyone to come back. By that point, I should have had an IV line started, so I started to wonder what was going on. I thought I had heard someone moaning and groaning outside, but my husband, who is not a doctor, was concerned that he heard someone screaming. At that point, I started to look at the active fetal heart tracings — there are screens located in every room, so the nurses can keep tabs on all of the moms and babies while they are checking on other patients — and I noticed that the fetal heart rate on the only active screen kept dropping. I wasn’t hooked up to the monitor yet, so I knew it couldn’t be me. That only left the patient who just came in, so I asked, “Is that the woman who just came in?” And they said, “Yes, and now she’s fully dilated.”
I just knew something had to be done. All of the OBs in my group were within 10 minutes of the hospital, but I didn’t think this mom and baby could safely wait 10 minutes.
The baby’s heart rate should be a certain level, and if it starts to dip, that’s a sign that the baby is in distress. It can be a sign that the cord is wrapped around the neck, or a sign of some other serious issue. And if the heart rate doesn’t resolve on its own, or the baby isn’t delivered quickly — either through vaginal delivery or C-section, it can result in problems with the baby after birth like low APGAR scores, difficulty breathing, and other long-term problems.
I knew that the on-call doctor, my partner, was on his way, but with decreased fetal heart tones and tracing looking like that, I just knew something had to be done. All of the OBs in my group were within 10 minutes of the hospital, but I didn’t think this mom and baby could safely wait 10 minutes.
Dr. Amanda Hess and her daughter Ellen.
I asked the nurses if they needed help and they were like, “Well, we didn’t want to bother you, but if you don’t mind…” And I was just like, “Absolutely.” I had the nurse go down and explain the situation to the patient. While she was doing that, I put another gown on to cover my backside, just to make sure nothing was showing. And I put my underwear back on. I only had flip-flops, so I put those on. My husband was kind of perplexed, like, “Really?” He was surprised, but wasn’t bothered by it, because I was just doing what I always do — deliver babies.
Then the nurse came back and told us that the patient was fine for me to come in, so the nurse helped me get two doors down and I walked in there, completely in my hospital gown and flip-flops. I actually recognized the patient, as I had seen her in our practice before. Thankfully, she recognized me as one of the doctors from her OB group.
It occurred to me that it might look like a random, crazy person in a hospital gown just delivered his child.
The nurses quickly wheeled in the delivery cart and the nursery staff was on the way. I put on the regular delivery gear — sterile gloves, big delivery boots, gown and face mask. I checked her myself and she was fully dilated and ready to go. She was obviously in excruciating pain. She was fully dilated and didn’t have an epidural and was so ready to push.
So I said, “Baby’s heart rate is dipping, so do you mind if we go ahead and do this without the on-call doctor?” She was fine with it. She just wanted to get the baby out. So I broke her water and we delivered a baby in a few pushes. Her husband walked back in the middle of it, and that’s when it occurred to me that it might look like a random, crazy person in a hospital gown just delivered his child. I tried to explain that I was being induced, and that’s why I was in this outfit. [In the end] the mom and baby were healthy, so that’s really the only thing everyone cared about.
Dr. Amanda Hess's daughter Ellen.
After the delivery the nurses turned to me and said. “Ok, now it’s your turn. You aren’t allowed to be a doctor anymore. You have to stop and be a patient now.” So I listened to them, settled back into my room, and started my induction. But this induction was much faster than my first and instead of getting a good night’s sleep, I got an epidural in the middle of the night. I gave birth to my sweet baby girl, Ellen, in the morning.
It didn’t really occur to me how special my delivery story was until I posted it in a Facebook group of other doctor moms called Physician Moms Group. For me, this was just typical doctor-mom stuff. As both a mother and a physician, [I am] never off the clock. We are all always taking care of people, whether it's at home or at work. While I didn’t think it remarkable, I thought the story was very much in the spirit of the group.
As both a mother and a physician, [I am] never off the clock. We are all always taking care of people, whether it's at home or at work.
I actually didn’t post the story on my personal page, because I thought people wouldn’t find it very interesting. On my regular feed, I just put something like, "The baby is here and we had an easy delivery!" But I knew my colleagues would appreciate the uniqueness of the delivery.
Pregnant physicians work until the last minute every day — that’s not uncommon at all. Colleagues have told me they were having some mild contractions in a delivery or on call, but I’ve never heard of another physician delivering a baby when they were in the hospital to have their own baby.
People don’t realize how much doctors put their hearts out there. We care so much. When someone suffers, I suffer. It breaks my heart. It’s never just medicine — it’s about my patients and their families. And people don’t get to see that all of the time; sometimes, they think we want to schedule a c-section by 5 o’clock just so we can go home golfing. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. I go days without seeing my family. And while that breaks my heart, I also know that I need to take care of my patients and their families, too. So, yeah, moments like this help me remember why I love what I do.
Dr. Alexandra Sowa is a doctor and mom of two young boys. She is an internist and metabolic medicine specialist, practicing in New York City at MyMD Medical Group. You can reach her at www.AlexandraSowaMD.com or on Twitter @AlexandraSowaMD.