Dr. Keith Vrbicky knows a thing or two about moms.
As a longtime obstetrician in Norfolk, he has provided care for many expectant women from the first signs of morning sickness to the first wails of their newborn babies.
Now, as residents of the area celebrate Mother's Day, many in Norfolk's medical community are also congratulating Vrbicky on the significant milestone he's achieved in his career of helping moms usher new lives into the world. On Wednesday this week, Vrbicky said that, by his count, he delivered his 10,000th baby, an eye-popping number considering he didn't initially intend to go into obstetrics.
"I went into family practice," he said during a short break from his patient schedule on a recent afternoon.
Vrbicky, a Clarkson native who now practices with Midwest OB/GYN in Norfolk, said he always thought he'd be a family doctor in a small, rural area. But he switched focus to women's health after completing a rotation in obstetrics and gynecology.
"Delivering babies, taking care of well-women checks, doing a lot of gynecological surgery, cancer, endocrinology, infertility -- that was appealing," he said.
During his residency in 1979, Vrbicky was required keep track of the number of deliveries in which he took part for board certification purposes. Over the years, he's never lost count.
"I just felt it was going to be interesting to see how many births we participate in in a career," Vrbicky said.
In 1985, he and his wife, Karyn -- whom he sincerely calls the "best wife and mother in the world" -- moved to Norfolk, where they raised their six children, and he began his private practice.
On average, Vrbicky said, he delivers about two to five babies a week, but the numbers often vary because of the "cluster effect" of obstetrics.
"Labor and delivery will be full for a couple of days, then the whole place empties out, and then here it comes again," he said with a smile. "It's always been like that."
His most memorable moments as an obstetrician have occurred during those times. Shortly after arriving in Norfolk, Vrbicky offered to cover for a colleague who was going on vacation and ended up delivering 11 babies in 24 hours. In the 1990s, he delivered three sets of twins within 24 hours of each other.
Vrbicky said he's also grieved with patients and their families when they've experienced poor outcomes in their pregnancies.
"It hurts," he said. "Most of (the profession) is rejoicing together, but you also weep together. When there's a poor outcome, you grieve with the patients, and you pray with them and support them."
He also investigates the factors that cause poor outcomes and looks at ways to prevent them in the future. Vrbicky said he stays up-to-date on the cutting edge of technology and research in the field so he can deliver the best care for his patients.
Vrbicky said he has been in practice in Norfolk long enough that he now is delivering the babies of patients he delivered as babies. He's encouraged by the generational support he sees offered to new moms by grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
Although his career demands a lot of time and sacrifice on behalf of himself and his family, Vrbicky said he believes it is the most rewarding profession out there.
"You spend well over a year with a patient, her husband and their families. You get to know them. They get to know you," he said. "It's very special because you're walking through that together. It's such a privilege to be part of the delivery of a baby, which is God's finest miracle."
If he could say one thing to the women who have chosen him to be their health care provider on their journeys to motherhood, Vrbicky said it would be a simple thank you.
"Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your life, and it's been a privilege, and I'll have those great memories forever," he said.