September 17, 2014
Meredith Brelo

My husband and I moved to Maryland when I was 9.999 months pregnant.  My OB in Dallas told me to pick at which hospital I wanted to deliver, then call the Labor and Delivery department at that hospital and ask which doctor they recommend.  Excellent way to pick a doctor, I tell you.  Since DC is full of old hospitals, a private room is still a luxury.  I decided upon my hospital for two reasons.  1) Proximity to our apartment 2) They could guarantee me a private room. 

We went on the tour to find out what to do in the big event.  On the tour we learned that half of their L + D rooms had tubs and half had showers.  The tubs were for laboring only, they do not do water deliveries.  We learned that if you are going to use the tub for laboring, and your husband wants to get in to assist, he needs to bring a swimsuit.  When we left the tour the first thing my husband said was “I’m not getting in that tub,” to which I replied “neither am I.”  My questions for the tour guide were as an Adventist institution do they serve meat and most importantly coffee (yes and yes), and does the L + D nurse chart in the room (yes, but also back at the central station)?  When the big event occurred, we went to triage (which was not part of the tour).  It was curtained bays, which was fine with me as I was only there for about an hour.  It was really just a holding ground for a labor room to become available.  My daughter had apparently chosen a popular night to arrive.  The lady in the bay across from us was on her cell phone the w h o l e time.  I don’t know if she had a partner, if her partner wasn’t there, or if he/she had given up vocal communication years ago.  Any of the above were possible.  It did provide some good fodder for my husband and I.  Once a labor room was available, I was pushed in my bed.  I ended up with a room with a shower (much to my husband’s relief).  I slept off and on pretty much the whole time I was in the labor room.  The only thing I can report is that I never looked at the headwall.  I ended up having to have an emergency c-section.  I remember the OR had clerestory window to the outside, and the nurse told my husband that the storage cabinets were highly reflective, so if he was truly squeamish to avoid looking at them.  The L + D room didn’t have windows so it was the first time in 26 hours I had any realization of what time of day it was (not that I cared).  My daughter ended up having a whole NICU team and drama around her birth.  When they finally had her stabilized and they were going to take her to the NICU, they told us to kiss her.  A few seconds later the nurse told my husband he could follow her to the NICU.  He did, but he returned a few minutes later, because he said when she got to the NICU the team surrounded her and he felt in the way.  I was taken to the PACU, which was again curtained bays.  I asked permission before I used my phone to call my dad, but it turned out I was the only patient at that time.  I was there for a while and then I was wheeled in my bed into the NICU to see our daughter.  The NICU was also curtained bays, but there were three walls around every two curtained bays.  The bay next to her was empty so there was no issue with my bed fitting next to her bassinet.  We weren’t allowed to hold her yet, but by that time she was stable and remained stable. 

By the time I got to my (private) postpartum room it was about midnight.  Approximately 25 hours since I had arrived at the hospital and about 40 hours since I had last slept.  The lactation nurse had arrived in my room at the same time I had and proceeded to instruct me on how to use the breast pump, and the importance of me pumping every three hours to get the milk started.  In my super drug stupor I nodded along, and when she left I passed out into a deep morphine sleep until the nurse came into take my blood and check my vitals at whatever time middle of the night.  A) it didn’t even occur to me at that point that it was time for me try out the breast pump B) even if I had thought of it, the lactation nurse had left it away from my bed, and I was post c-section- still bed bound.  I don’t know if it dawned on me the next day or the next, but my room window was directly facing the hospital’s parking garage.  I don’t think many people were in and out of the parking garage at midnight, but if they were, they got a full show of the lactation nurse showing me how to use a breast pump.  Sometime also while I was still bed bound, and when my husband had left the hospital to go let our dogs out, my room phone rang again and again.  I finally rang the nurse call and explained that someone was trying to call my room, but that I couldn’t reach the phone.  Someone came and moved the bedside table closer to me.

Once I was awake I was on a 3 hour schedule to the NICU and back.  So I woke up at 6, went to the NICU, got back at 7:20, ate my breakfast that had been left, slept for an hour, back to the NICU at 9, and on and on.  There was a direct connection between the postpartum unit and the back of house corridor that went to the NICU, but it was card access and a nurse had to accompany you to open the door.  We were usually not accompanied, so the route was through the waiting room full of families waiting on news from L+D.  I was going to see my baby no matter what, but it was not an ideal route. Again, I never looked at the headwall in the post-partum unit, except when we were just about to leave… I noticed the gases were concealed with a “painting”.  I opened the “painting” and then I couldn’t reclose it.  So yes, they do break easily.  The footwall was a newer design similar to what I have done a million times in different facilities, but the shelves that were photographed (I’m sure) with flowers and cards displayed, held all of the extra supplies and towels the nurses didn’t have a place to store.  The supplies aren’t attractive really, either.  For the most part all the supplies I needed accumulated on the desk area.  Everything I needed (glasses, cell phone, etc…) stayed on my over bed table, and had to be cleared when a meal tray was delivered.

Lessons Learned

1)      First and foremost, I have no problem with curtained Triage bays.  As long as the hospital is keeping the beds turning in L + D, a curtained bay is fine.  You shouldn’t be there very long anyway.  Just don’t allow people to take calls in that area, well I don’t know how that would work…what if you are trying to get a hold of your partner...thought to be continued. 

2)      Second, Labor and Delivery Rooms without windows are ok too.  I would definitely prefer to have had a room with a window, but it was a finite amount of time.  I kind of think it helped me rest more actually, because I didn’t see the sun come up. 

3)      Headwalls are really truly not as big of a deal to the patient.  The gases and plugs need to be there, but as a patient, you aren’t looking at it. 

4)      Consider the path of the mom to the NICU.  Mom may still be admitted.  My hospital did have this path, they just didn’t utilize it.  I didn’t give @#*& about walking through the waiting room to get to my baby.  But I know I was not the prettiest sight in my hospital gown.   

5)      NICU bays… oh NICU bays.  I really didn’t mind.  I liked that my daughter had lots of eyes on her when we weren’t there (I was still a patient, too).  And granted she was only in the NICU for four days.  I know this pales in comparison to some experiences.  But for her and me, and the experience we had, I actually preferred that she was in a bay instead of a private room.

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