When I was 36 weeks pregnant with my second child we were booked on a tour of the maternity unit at our local hospital. I wasn't sure it was worth going as I'd imagined all hospitals were the same clinical, impersonal, yet dirty places.
As we had recently moved to the area we decided to go on the tour, just to get our bearings.
There was plenty of car-parking and reasonably priced too! There were bays near the entrance for mums in labour. After a short walk we entered the maternity unit. It was light and airy. It didn't smell like a hospital. It was clean without smelling of disinfectant.
We were greeted by a cheery midwife named Sue . She welcomed us all (there were five couples on the tour) and told us to ask as many questions as we liked.
We saw the wards first. They were bright and spotlessly clean. Midwives chatted with new mums and cooed over newborn babies.
We heard a loud moan and saw a woman in labour being pushed by in a wheelchair. 'She's on her way to the delivery suite', said Sue, 'that's where we're going next'.
The delivery suite was a picture of calm efficiency. There were many delivery rooms. Each room had a large birthing pool, mats on the floor, bean bags and birthing balls. Sue showed us how to dim the lights. She also mentioned that all essential medical equipment was at hand, but not in full view. The room was cosy and private.
'Follow me', said Sue, 'we're very proud of the next unit'. We approached a new wing called The Breastfeeding Unit. It was next to the maternity ward. I hadn't seen one of these before.
In The Breastfeeding Unit were several large rooms. In each room were a few breastfeeding chairs and stools. There were pillows of all shapes and sizes. There was also a bed.
Sue explained to us that new mothers could come here, away from the ward, and learn to breastfeed. There were five full time, fully trained, breastfeeding specialists working on the unit. Sue had arranged for us to see a breastfeeding specialist in action. She was helping a new mum to feed her newborn son. The new mum was happy for us to watch.
The breastfeeding specialist, Kath, explained that the most important part of learning to breastfeed was for the mother and baby to feel relaxed and comfortable. Kath helped the new mum get comfortable. She laid a pillow on her lap and handed her the baby. We could see the baby was hungry so Kath explained exactly how to attach the baby to the breast. This took a few attempts, but each time Kath patiently advised the new mum what she should do next. Once the baby was feeding well, Kath passed the new mum a glass of water.
This was a revelation to me. Kath didn't grab the new mum's breast or force open the baby's mouth and shove the two together (as had been my experience of being 'taught' how to breastfeed).
Kath said that the mums could spend as long as they liked in the unit. It was manned around the clock and a breastfeeding specialist was always available to help, with every feed if necessary.
'What happens when you go home?', I asked. Sue took over again and led us to another part of the unit. 'Here's the day clinic', she said, 'you can come back - every day if you need to - for as long as you like. You never have to wait long, there are always plenty of staff.'.
'We're so proud of our breastfeeding rates, they're more than double the national average'. Sue was beaming. I started to cry, for joy. This time I would get the help I needed.
So, where is this wonderful hospital?
I'm sorry to disappoint you. It doesn't exist. I made it up.
But wouldn't it be BRILLIANT?!
This post was written for the Sleep is for the weak writing workshop #5.
The prompt I chose was 3. What would you like to see in your ideal hospital?