Maisie Elizabeth Merrill was just 6 days old when she welcomed her first guest.
Only a few days home from the hospital, the darling newborn with a tuft of red hair was part of an old tradition — a doctor's house call.
Dr. Shannon Voogt gingerly walked up the ice-covered sidewalk to check on her newest patient and her parents at their Lexington duplex.
Greeted on the porch by Maisie's dad, Andrew Merrill, Voogt wasn't quite in the door when the questions began.
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"We were going to call you," said Andrew Merrill, before launching into inquiries about sleeping and eating and all the basic baby functions that are a wonder to a newborn's parents.
Mom Colleen Merrill was upstairs breast-feeding or attempting to. Another one of her new-mother challenges was helping Maisie master the art of latching on.
Voogt, a family medicine doctor at UK HealthCare, is operating under the old cradle-to-grave treatment model, tending to mom, dad and baby before and after birth. Voogt makes it a point to offer prenatal visits, to be at the hospital when the baby is born and to make a home visit to check on the newborn — and the new parents — within a few days of birth.
Upper-level resident physicians nearing the end of their training also see patients. She bills for her service through insurance, as with the other treatment she provides.
Voogt, who had a baby six months ago, says it's easier for her to get to the family than for the family to get to her.
When Colleen Merrill, 27, and Andrew Merrill, 28, found out she was pregnant, they sought advice from friends about a doctor. Colleen Merrill, who works with the Lexington Arts League, and Andrew Merrill, a social worker, were interested in natural childbirth. Voogt's name kept coming up.
Voogt said many, but not all, of her maternity patients are interested in natural childbirth. During a prenatal visit weeks before Maisie made her debut, Colleen Merrill said she was comforted in knowing that Voogt, a warm and familiar presence after months of prenatal checkups, would be the person to help with delivery.
"That doesn't happen that much any more," she said.
Like a good and sensible husband, Andrew Merrill wanted what his pregnant wife wanted.
When the couple went to the hospital for what would turn out to be 30 hours of labor, Voogt was there. "A long time," she said, with a smile.
Maisie's entrance didn't go exactly as planned. After more than 24 hours of labor, Colleen Merrill was exhausted and feverish. After consulting with Voogt and the doula who had helped during labor, the couple decided an epidural was necessary, and the birth plan was changed. Because forceps were required, another doctor assisted in the delivery. Ultimately, a healthy baby was born. And Voogt, someone the parents knew and trusted, was on hand.
Voogt thinks that having a long-term doctor-patient relationship with the parents is best for the baby, she said. Because she knows the child, she can see minor changes that might indicate a problem that might be missed by a stranger. And, she said, "it is really enjoyable for me and for my patients."
During the home visit, the soft-spoken Voogt answered matter-of-fact questions that come up for all new mothers, issues of nipples and peeing and pooping and swaddling.
With a healthy baby, Voogt generally checks to make sure the infant, mother and father are doing what comes naturally. Maisie, apparently, was right on target: wiggly, pink and staying up all night to the bleary dismay of her parents.
Voogt uses a food scale — good for babies who weigh less than 10 pounds — and a shallow basket lined with a blanket to get Maisie's official weight of 7 pounds, 7 ounces.
And as Voogt gently touched Maisie's tummy and declared, "she looks good," the newest member of the Merrill family kicked and stretched, seemingly pleased to be home.