Last night, Chris and I went for a tour of the maternity ward at the hospital we’ve chosen. Chris hates hospitals and started complaining as soon as we walked in. This was turn-off number one for me.
After making our way through the maze of buildings (bad news: we parked on completely the opposite side of the hospital grounds from where the tour starts; good news: we parked right where they recommend labouring women park), we settled into comfortable lobby chairs to wait on everyone else to show up. Score one for the hospital! Within five minutes, one bed-ridden woman and one baby, both hooked up to IVs, were wheeled by us at a casual pace; turn-off number two. We were joined by four other pregnant women (my due date in the middle of us all) and our friendly little tour guide, a nurse named Cheryl who had been working there for 19 years.
We started in Labour & Delivery. And yes, somewhere down the hallway, a woman was moaning in her labour, which seemed to make the tour guide far more uncomfortable than me (honestly, as pregnant women, only one of which was expecting something other than her first child, do we need to be shielded from the sounds? it’s an experience we are going to go through); she kept saying, “Usually it is very quiet in here, since 85% of delivering women end up choosing an epidural and make very little noise.” Turn-off number three — I expect a labour & delivery ward to be an active, lively, noisy place; after all, this is where babies are being brought into the world.
We head into a labour room on the opposite side of the ward from where the one woman is labouring; all of us fit into it easily. Score two for the hospital. There’s no window in the room and as soon as we walk in and close the door, I’m suddenly aware of how many machines and monitors there are; something like six different cables poke through the wall behind the bed. Chris is so tense beside me that when I glance over at him to try and share an empathic look, his knuckles are white from being clenched so tightly. Turn-off number four.
Cheryl explains how when we come in, we’re immediately hooked up to a monitor. She points out how most women end up being hooked up to the IV as well (100% of women who get an epidural are, and then there are others who are hooked up for reasons like exhaustion). I have a deep and abiding hatred of needles. Turn-off number five. She talks about how after delivery, they like to place the baby skin-to-skin with the mother for “bonding time”. Score three for the hospital on skin-to-skin; turn-off number six is that she puts “bonding time” in air quotes and there’s no mention of breastfeeding.
Following skin-to-skin, the nurses will take the baby to a little side table to clean its eyes and inject some vitamin K. Then, Cheryl says, if baby hasn’t been fed yet, they will encourage the mother to feed. She says nothing about breastfeeding vs formula, only that the hospital provides formula if needed. The hospital does not, however, provide any diapers. What the fuck? Turn-off number seven.
At this point I desperately want to leave. I’m literally at the point of antsiness where I know this is not where I want to be and if I do not leave I may donkeypunch someone, but at the same time I’m aware of the fact that if I do end up coming here for one reason or another, we really ought to know where we’re going. Plus, I gave the homebirth class all the time it needed, and I should do the same for this hospital tour — I want both sides of the picture.
Only one labour room has a jacuzzi tub, and the hospital does not allow water births. Turn-off number eight. Cheryl shows us to the other jacuzzi tub that is not in a labour room, which is at least nice to have there as an option. I ask about the monitors we’re hooked up to and whether they can be removed so we can walk around; she says that in a normal labour, that’s not a problem after the first half hour or so although monitoring will continue on a regular basis. She seems happy to explain how walking around is a great way to make labour progress. Score four for the hospital.
After the tour of this area, we head up to the post-partum / maternity ward. It’s silent up here, which is more than a little disconcerting. However, the hospital has a “rooming in” policy, which means that the baby stays in the same room as the mother after being born, and the mother is responsible for all of the baby’s care. I like this. Score five for the hospital. The hallways here are bright and uncluttered, the walls painted in soothing pastel hues with little pony-shaped, pink and blue plaques marching across them listing the babies born in the ward. My kid would have her name on the wall here? Score five for the hospital. The plaques are $100 apiece and you don’t get one to take home with you. Turn-off number nine. If you want a telephone in your room, it’s a $20 hook-up fee; television is the same. The use of cell phones is not permitted in the maternity ward. Turn-off number ten.
Visitor hours are only 2pm-8pm; fathers cannot stay overnight even if the mother is the only person in a two-bed semi-private room, and it costs $25-125 to upgrade to a private room. Turn-off number eleven. I cannot fucking fathom the thought that, if I have to stay in the hospital for an extended period (vaginal deliveries stay 24-48 hours generally), my husband cannot stay with me and his baby; I have to be alone in a strange place, having just given birth, unless I want to pay extra, even if there’s an empty bed in the same room with me. As it turns out, this is the thing that pisses Chris off the most.
I honestly feel like a big oversight of the pregnancy care I’ve received so far is its failure to acknowledge and include the father as an important part of the process. It’s like he helps make the baby and then he doesn’t matter again. His health coverage can’t cover ultrasounds; his presence at the baby’s side isn’t considered pivotal. I don’t need Chris just for making babies; I need him around to make me feel whole. I couldn’t do this without him. He has been so supportive and so involved that everytime someone slights the role of father I want to scream from the rooftops that this would be miserable without him. Am I too dependent on him? I don’t know. I just know that I feel stronger and more capable when he’s around, that he is full of pride and love for his girls, and I couldn’t find better support than he provides.
I ask how often labours are induced; the answer is approximately 27% of the time. If the mother is 1 week overdue, labour is automatically induced. Turn-off number twelve. Admittedly I hope Maia’s not late, mostly because the longer I have to wait the crazier I’ll go, but I am anticipating it nonetheless. I do not I want my labour artificially rushed to try and get her out on someone else’s schedule when she’s perfectly healthy and safe just chillin in my womb.
Then I ask the question that apparently is more unexpected than I expected it to be: I ask what the benefits of a hospital birth over a homebirth are. Now, I admit, my midwives have the edge here, as both are something they deal with on a regular basis whereas someone who works in a hospital clearly only deals with hospital births. Cheryl makes it clear that she respects midwives and understands that homebirth can be safe, but points out the extra emergency precautions of a hospital birth. Honestly, I wanted more. I wanted her to give me facts and numbers, not a vague statement about emergencies, but I guess this probably came out of nowhere for her and it’s not something she really thinks about. So I greatly appreciate that she acknowledged the training and qualifications of midwives, but since I came into this tour with the expectation that I’d have an ardent spokesperson for hospital birth just as I’d had for homebirth, I was a little disappointed.
When the tour ends shortly thereafter, Chris and I walk in silence, hand-in-hand, down the hallway. Finally he asks, “So, we’re doing a homebirth then?”
I was so happy to walk out of that hospital. We will still go to the maternity registration clinic on Wednesday afternoon, so if I do change my mind or end up there, they have all of my information and preferences written down. But it is certainly not our plan.