Doing things (including pregnancy and childbirth) the all-natural way was how Susan Escobar had determined to live. Her experience with the birthing center where she bore her first child, Claire, in 1990 so satisfied her that she felt she’d never consider going elsewhere for future pregnancies. Even when a miscarriage followed that first birth, she remained convinced that she was in the best hands among the providers at the center. All that changed with the birth of her son Luke in 1992.
There were difficulties with Luke’s birth—difficulties that led her to high-risk obstetricians who, in the course of caring for her, told her that any future pregnancies she had would be high risk. Still deeply committed to natural childbirth but trusting God’s plan, she read an article in the Arlington Catholic Herald about a Catholic OB/GYN, Dr. John Bruchalski, who was starting a new pro-life practice in the diocese. When Susan called his office, Dr. Bruchalski listened patiently to her story and gave her hope that she might not be as broken as she had been told.
Her first appointment at Tepeyac, in 1994, took place in borrowed office space staffed by Carolyn Bruchals-ki as nursing and office support and Dr. Bruchalski for OB/GYN care. “The very early Tepeyac practice was like a small-town doctor’s office,” Susan remembers. “My two kids and the Bruchalski boys would play together in the waiting room while I had my appointment.” Dr. Bruchalski reassured Susan that she was healthy—and, in fact, seven weeks pregnant with her third child!
While writing up a birth plan, she persisted in her desire for a natural birth and he agreed to fulfill her wishes insofar as was medically sound. “If you want to have that baby on the floor, I’ll get down there with you to deliver it,” was his memorable promise. Trusting in God’s will for her and her baby, Susan knew that Dr. Bruchalski and the Tepey-ac practice were where she would receive her best OB/GYN care.
As it turned out, Susan’s de-livery date of Kate coincided with the full moon. So full of laboring mothers was the delivery ward that only at the last minute was a room made available to save her from a very public delivery in a hallway. Despite great effort, great speed in his car, and a successful fending off (by waving his stethoscope) of the police-man who’d stopped him for failing to signal a turn,
Dr. Bruchalski didn’t arrive in time to perform Susan’s unexpectedly fast delivery. Her quick-witted nurse located the duty doctor, who just happened to be within shouting distance and who carefully, quickly, and safely delivered Kate—with the too-short cord wrapped twice around her neck. Arriving late and very contrite, Dr. Bruchalski sat with Susan and her husband, Mark, for a long while, revealing to them that his delay was due to a lengthy phone call from a woman who wanted to abort her baby. Only then did Susan realize that the other mother needed Dr. Bruchalski more, and that it was God’s hand that not only brought her a last-minute doctor to successfully deliver her baby, but also saved another baby through Dr. Bruchalski’s counsel.
Even after Kate’s birth, when Susan developed a painful and potentially life-threatening uterine infection, Dr. Bruchalski’s expert care helped her heal with no lingering effects. Through a growing Tepeyac practice with a dedicated office, an excellent staff, and the additions of Dr. Marie Anderson and a nurse midwife, she bore two more children–Sarah in 1997 and John Paul in 2000—and was successfully treated for complications from three miscarriages and another postpartum uterine infection. High-quality medical, emotional, and spiritual support were constantly provided during all of Susan’s joys and sorrows, births and losses. “Neither faith nor prayer was ever checked at the door,” she mused, “They were constants, humbly offered through all of the staff’s counsel and care.”
In 2001, the Escobar family moved to Texas. Learning in 2004 that Tepeyac was in danger of having to close its doors due to skyrocketing liability insurance premiums, Susan and Mark joined with several other patient families to donate the funds necessary for the practice’s survival. Mark has always referred to that deluge of donations as “Dr. Bruchalski’s George Bailey moment.” Like the protagonist of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” who was saved from financial problems by friends, John Bruchalski also had the chance to know what a difference he had made in the lives of so many people.
After moving back to Virginia, Susan returned to Tepeyac for GYN care. “Nothing but moving away would ever have convinced me to leave Tepeyac in the first place,” she confided. “With Dr. Bruchalski, his care for his patients is more a ministry than a job. I put myself in a doctor’s hands; he tells me he listens to the Holy Spirit; I know and believe there’s Divine Action at work.”
For its part, Tepeyac is endlessly thankful for patients like Susan. The loyalty bestowed over a quarter of a century by people whose care has been entrusted to the practice is a true and sustaining measure of God’s grace.