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The Baby Discount

Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2008.


The retirement celebration of Dr. William Farley, MD brought along a sea of smiles, amazing stories, and gratitude. Generations of families lined up to say goodbye to the father of 8 and small town Obstetrician/Gynecologist whose practice had spanned 57 years. It was a fitting end to the career of a man who had delivered between 15,000 and 20,000 babies; all with such a personal touch that were it not for his age, his practice would still undoubtedly be going strong to this day.

Dr. William Farley

“I had the dubious honor of saying that I was delivered by a veterinarian.”

This is William’s way of introducing his father whose influence on his own decision to practice medicine was huge. A large animal veterinarian, William recalls accompanying his father on trips to farms to deliver calves and horses, all without the use of tranquilizers. There were only ropes and brute force at play as William watched his father pull a 500 pound sow into a field to perform a cesarean section on it. The impact was lasting on William as he watched the careful hands of his skilled father save the health of both cows and in turn save the money of the farmer.

So the scene was set. And the backdrop came with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was during this time that the government arranged for all medical students to end one school year on a Friday and start the next one on a Monday”. Help was desperately needed on the front lines and William’s medical program was decreased from four years to three without the luxury of summer breaks. Once his naval duties, schooling and residencies were completed, he found himself married to a nurse and practicing OB/GYN in the small town of Peru, IL.

Little did he know that there wouldn’t be many deliveries in such a small town; not enough to sustain a focused practice anyway. So he performed all types of general practice, including a large amount of pediatric work. The hospital would direct his patient’s children back to William for treatment by default because he had been the one to deliver them. Soon the hospital staff increased to fit the needs of a practice area which grew to 35,000 patients. Now at 10 to 12 deliveries a month, William was able to focus on the practice of delivering children with the care he watched his father use in tending to farm animals.

His focus (and that of the hospital at the time) was to keep cesarean sections at the lowest rate possible. Complications involving this level of surgery were deemed a largely unnecessary risk. It is this practice that allowed William to learn the techniques that served him most frequently. He remarks on having delivered an 11-pound child for an Amish woman whose beliefs wouldn’t condone being operated on surgically. Perhaps Williams most famous and heart-warming stories involve his discount. He started a deal where if had delivered four babies for a family, the fifth baby and all relating surgeries (circumcision for example) would be free. This included twins. This was done by returning any and all monies he received from the insurance companies to the families themselves. He continued this practice until it was brought to his attention that he was in fact committing insurance fraud, a sad reality instilled by modern legal practices.

Believe it or not there were many “fifth babies” in attendance at William’s retirement party. In fact there were even “tenth babies” where families had received this discount twice. There were people from all walks of life who had gathered to bid farewell to a man who had touched their lives in such a profound way. William placed the patient before the rules. He inspired his son to practice nursing and supported his son leaving that practice to become an entrepreneur. And he inspired me to give birth to this blog. And although it’s my first one, it’s still on the house.

Cheers to you Dr. Farley.

Farley and Son

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6 Responses to “The Baby Discount”

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • What a wonderful story! I wish I had been in the booth that day to meet Dr. Farley! Thanks for sharing it, Carl!

    Comment from sara esrick on October 13, 2008 at 11:40 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Anyone who chooses to deliver babies for a living after watching a 500 pound cow in agony from a c-section must be an amazing person. This is a great story, and your words certainly did Dr. Farley justice. Can’t wait to read more…

    Comment from Tara on October 12, 2008 at 12:51 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Great inspiration for a 1st blog!

    Comment from Chaela on October 10, 2008 at 6:37 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Love it! Great story!

    Comment from Jeremy on October 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • This is a fantastic and inspiring portrait! I especially like the part about Dr. Farley’s special deal for patients. I’m looking forward to more of your blogs – especially because I’m traveling with you and have the privilege to discuss after I read!

    Comment from Alex on October 10, 2008 at 3:24 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Cheers to you Carl. Great story. Dr. Farley sounds like a truly exceptional person.

    Comment from Nina on October 10, 2008 at 3:23 pm - Reply to this Comment

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