No more nurseries?

What do you mean you don’t HAVE a nursery?????

This was my dumbfounded response when I toured the maternity ward (the only one in Santa Fe) where I’ll be delivering next month. The hospital where I had my other three children had one, and since all my deliveries were c-section and I wasn’t quite up to round-the-clock baby care the moment I came out of surgery, all my babies spent at least some time in there. I just assumed all hospital maternity wards had nurseries. They all used to, at any rate, as I’ve read many a mournful lament and many an angry diatribe from mothers who were deprived of crucial bonding moments because hospital staff insisted on taking their babies to the nursery for one reason or another.

Over the past several decades, rooming-in (where the baby stays in the mother’s room and sometimes never even goes near the nursery) has become more common, but at my old hospital it was an option rather than a requirement. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a good option. If a new mother wants to have her baby in her room every moment of her hospital stay, more power to her. But I’m going to be recovering from major abdominal surgery and facing a return home to four young children including a baby who will have me up every couple of hours for who knows how long, and those few nights in the hospital are going to be my last chance to get some sleep.

When I pointed out that I was going to be recovering from surgery, and wasn’t sure I was up to taking full charge of the baby for the entire hospital stay, the nurse blithely suggested my husband could stay with me and sleep on a chair that pulled out for that purpose. Since we have three other children my husband will caring for at home, that isn’t an option. And even if it was, I wouldn’t want him in that tiny hospital room with me, tossing and turning on an uncomfortable chair-bed, and I’d wake every time the baby did anyway. I liked being alone in the hospital when I delivered before; I don’t like an audience for my physical maladies, and I want to be alone again this time.

When I told the story to one friend (who had also delivered by c-section), she said that her hospital had had a nursery, then added, “But I couldn’t imagine who would want to send their baby there.” That’s the attitude most mothers giving birth today have, I’ve found. So I guess dinosaurs like myself, who are selfish enough to want a few hours of uninterrupted sleep while recovering from surgery, will just have to adapt.

Comments 4

  1. Martha Brozyna wrote:

    You’re not alone, Brigette. Both my children spent time in the hospital nursery after delivery. Like you, my children were delivered by c-section, and I can’t imagine having to care for them immediately after such major surgery. I don’t perceive my actions as selfish. I was getting my strength up so that I could tackle the enormous responsibility of taking care of a baby once I got home. I don’t see how an exhausted, half-healed woman can be an attentive mother. Unfortunately, many women today have unrealistic ideas about motherhood and try to hold all women up to these same standards. Whatever happened to giving women the choice to do what’s best for themselves and their children?

    Posted 07 Jun 2008 at 6:18 pm
  2. Brigette Russell wrote:

    What indeed about choice? Back in the sixties they were all complaining they couldn’t bond and had to use the nursery, but instead of just giving everyone the option, they made it a requirement, and took away the choice of using the nursery. Of course, it’s partly about money. Nurseries require nursery staffs, and if they can make all the mothers (even the ones who’ve just come out of surgery) take care of their own newborns, then they save a bundle.

    Posted 07 Jun 2008 at 7:31 pm
  3. Beverly Matda wrote:

    None of my children were born by C-section and they all spent time in the nursery. Fortunately, I had nurses that encouraged the use of their nursery, since when I got home I wouldn’t be able to get that much-needed rest. Ask any of my children, we still bonded. 😉 What happens at this hospital if the baby needs a little more care, such as babies that go to a NICU? Ship them off to another hospital miles away? Here I live in a tiny city, and we have super-modern birthing facilities and nurseries. I would expect more from Santa Fe!

    Posted 08 Jun 2008 at 1:08 pm
  4. Julie Deardorff wrote:

    Hi Brigette,
    I’m writing on baby-friendly hospitals. I know you wrote this several years ago but would love to talk about rooming in vs. infant nurseries. Please email if you can.
    Julie Deardorff
    Chicago Tribune

    Posted 15 Oct 2013 at 9:04 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 2

  1. From Moralia - Off to the hospital on 10 Jul 2008 at 4:48 am

    […] off to the hospital (the one without the nursery) in the morning, so there won’t be any posts for at least two days. Hopefully day three will […]

  2. From Moralia - C-section moms to the back of the bus on 28 Oct 2008 at 1:32 pm

    […] As I wrote before, my first three c-sections were performed at a hospital in California where a nursery was available. Most of the mothers who delivered vaginally there kept their babies in their hospital rooms with them, and after the first 24 hours after surgery, I kept my baby with me most of the time too, except when I wanted to sleep or shower. But for that first day after surgery, I really could not take care of a baby on my own, and because there was no nursery staff to help, what that really meant was that for c-section moms, the hospital policy was BYOBN: bring your own baby nurse. Pretty neat racket for the hospital, which doesn’t have to pay a nursery staff, and for the insurance companies, which have to pay out less for each hospital stay since c-section moms are eager to get the heck out of the hospital and go home. I stayed four nights after each surgery in California, but only three this time, because what was the point of staying in the hospital when I couldn’t rest? I had to have someone stay with me every night I was there, my aunt the first and third nights, and a good friend (and Portia’s godmother) the second night. The logistics of the BYOBN policy bring me to yet another way this hospital made me, as a c-section patient, feel like a second-class citizen. […]

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