June 10, 2010

Amy Polk remembered for her birth-center work

Takoma Park resident Amy Polk is remembered by her loved ones as a devoted wife, dedicated mother of two and talented transportation engineer. She was also — up until her death April 29 when she was struck and killed by a vehicle in Washington, D.C. — an outspoken advocate for a Takoma Park-based birthing center. It is around Polk's lasting vision for the center that her friends and family have rallied in the previous weeks of sadness. They have drawn strength from her commitment to see the proposed Seasons of Life Women's Health and Birth Center built on the site of the Washington Adventist Hospital, which will vacate a considerable amount of space if it is granted its request to relocate to the White Oak/Calverton area by 2013.

While the fate of the hospital remains uncertain and the board of the Birthing Options Alliance group—which Polk had chaired up until her death—struggles to cope with the loss of its leader, Polk's friends and fellow advocates held a spirited meeting Saturday paying homage to Polk and promoting the center.

"We all feel a real vacancy in her absence, but we're more determined now than ever to move forward with her vision," said Birthing Options Alliance board member Marsha Stalcup at the gathering, which took place in the home of Takoma, D.C., resident Angela Lauria, another birth-center advocate.

John Robinette, Polk's husband, was in attendance Saturday to offer his support for Polk's vision. He described his late wife, who was 42 years old, as a compassionate and intensely motivated woman who pursued her goals with confidence.

"She was very high-energy; when she knew what she wanted, she just went and did it; ... when she set her mind to something, it was just going to happen," he said, adding that Polk's enthusiasm for a birthing center came from her experiences with a similar center in Bethesda that has since closed.

"We had two fantastic birth experiences at the Maternity Center in Bethesda, and then it shut down," he said. "To have that option go away didn't seem right, so she set out to fix that problem. ... In some ways, it feels like Amy died in childbirth with this infant child in [the form of] the birth center."

Both of Robinette's and Polk's two sons, Adam, 7, and Brian, 4, were born at the Bethesda maternity center before it closed due to a lack of funding in 2007. Birthing centers offer less-invasive pain medication options to pregnant women along with an emphasis on the intimacy of the experience and the comfort of expectant mothers, according to Lauria. SOURCE: Gazette

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