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Sunday, June 29, 2014

She's mother to five, doctor to many

A mom, and then some

BY ANNIE CALOVICH
The Wichita Eagle

In a hectic world where children are sometimes seen as a hindrance to those things we're supposed to otherwise be accomplishing, Amy Short is a mother, busier than most, who wants people not to miss the forest for the trees.

"People ask me: 'How could you possibly do this?' and I think, boy, having children is the only way I would be able to do this," says Short, stopping outside the room of one of her patients at Wesley Medical Center who has just given birth. Short is an obstetrician-gynecologist who is looking forward this Mother's Day weekend to becoming a mother for the sixth time herself.

But she's not pregnant, at least not this time. On Tuesday, she and her husband will pack up their three biological sons and their twin adopted daughters and take off for China, where they will adopt another child, a boy who was abandoned at 1 week old and who has lived in an orphanage all of his three years.

Until they depart, Short will continue to take calls around the clock from other expectant mothers, assuaging their fears, remedying their pains, and dashing off to the hospital whenever a delivery is imminent.

Even if it's in the middle of the night, or in the middle of playing out in the yard with her own children.

Full-time support

"Ohhhhhhhh," Short murmurs as she takes the newborn baby of one of her patients into her arms. "This is my favorite part of my job. My babies don't come to me little anymore."

"Are you excited?" the new mother, Jenna Harris, asks Short about the trip to China.

"Oh, my gosh," Short gushes.

Short is seen as rather unusual among her colleagues for having several children. At 37, she is also a Navy veteran and a relative newcomer to Wichita. Although she lived for eight years in Derby growing up, she and her family left the Navy and moved to Wichita only last year, to "settle down and grow some roots."

Short says that a cocoon of support allows her to do what she does. She and her husband, Jeff, are a "solid team" who have made all their decisions together. He gave up his job as an international missionary to stay home with the children, and her mother and father live in Derby and help out.

Short has made the choices she's made because, she says, she's been called by God to be a doctor, to be a biological mother, to be an adoptive mother.

She has always loved biology and taught it for two years before being drawn to medicine.

"Initially I thought I wanted to do pediatrics, but it is just an amazing miracle to be a part of birth on a daily basis. I rarely experience a delivery where I'm not in awe of creation and the beauty of that miracle."

Family tree

Short had her first baby as a medical student, and that son, Harrison, now 10 years old, says "no comment" when asked about his mother's job. He bore the brunt of her being away from home to become a doctor, Jeff Short says.

Son Christian, now 6, was born when his mother was a resident and after she enlisted in the Navy to help pay medical school expenses, and Noah, about to be 5, was an unexpected pregnancy that got the Shorts booted off Cuba because Amy Short, serving at Guantanamo Bay as the only obstetrician, couldn't deliver her own baby.

It was while Short was stationed in California that the couple felt called to adopt. They took their three boys to China in September 2008 to pick up Mia and Sophia, 2-year-olds who had been left in a box in a park at 3 months of age.

The girls, now 5, are talkative and playful. Their adoption has been "particularly challenging and also unbelievably rewarding in the midst of it," Amy Short says. "My sons are just sweet and precious and they have big hearts and they're just dear boys. My daughters are just an incredible gift. They are strong young women. They had to really survive in a place where they were abandoned. And they have this will to live and to love life and to be joyful that is just very deep, and they have given us a great deal of joy."

Motherhood in 2011

The Shorts have been waiting on the Chinese government for 19 months to allow them to adopt the little boy they call "Charlie." Short has been telling her patients about her "elephant gestation" with the unknown due date. The Shorts have no idea what the little boy will look like, or how healthy he is.

Amy Short's patients see parallels between their situations and their doctor's. But they also face different challenges.

"The uncertainty of insurance and how to provide for the baby is a constant stress," Short says of what new mothers face in 2011. "And many of my patients are single mothers, so they're navigating what it looks like to have a role now as a mom with not as much support as they would have dreamed of having in the midst of that.

"I think, too, there's an information boom and so much access that my patients don't know how to filter through that to have a healthy pregnancy."

Short says she regularly delivers babies who are given up for adoption.

"It's a very brave thing to do, and I really respect mothers who make those choices for those children. Jeff and I will always be grateful for the mothers who gave birth to our children.

"It's always a brave act for a mother to give up their child for a better life."

On call

Less than a week before the trip to China, the Shorts enjoy a relaxed evening at home with their children. There's no TV and not a lot of extracurricular activities to take them out of the house.

"Our life is really simple, and when I'm home we're playing and hanging out, so we just relax," Amy Short says.

But three of her patients are in labor. Amid intermittent calls from the hospital she informs her husband as she gathers up her bag: "Jeff, they called me stat. Baby in distress." And off she goes to Wesley.

"We are normal. We get tired, and we get frustrated," her husband says after she leaves. "The kids miss her. Everyone's a little sad, and we just catch up." The peace that pervades in the meantime, he says, comes from faith that God is directing what's happening.

"It's fun," Jeff Short says of their life. "It's really fun."

Mother's Day

Short hadn't planned on taking the whole family to China for this latest adoption, but "it's probably like childbirth," he says. "You forget how painful it is. Amy's mother is going. So we're all going."

But first there is Mother's Day. Amy Short will be working today, and she thinks delivering a baby on the holiday celebrating mothers would be fun.

"I got her a present," her daughter Sophia confides to a visitor, irrepressible and not at all the shy girl she was when her parents first brought her home. She's too little to understand that she and her siblings have already delivered gifts.

"They bring such joy, they just bring a fullness to our lives and a comedy and laughter," Amy Short says. "They teach me so much about the Lord, about how much he loves us. I learn lessons in parenting my children that are so humbling to me, and that's such a gift."

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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