Matt and I took a tour of Franklin Square, the hospital where I will most likely be giving birth, on the 19th. There were plenty of no-shows, so it was just us, a girl of about 18 and her sister, and a girl in her mid-twenties with her boyfriend. The tour guide used to run these information sessions, but hadn't in a while, and was filling in for the usual guide. I think by the end of the tour, she was regretting that kindness!
The tour started in a small classroom with a slideshow obviously shot when the Women's Pavilion first opened, and an opportunity to ask some questions. I was the only one who had questions, and the poor guide didn't know the answers to most of them.
I asked were whether there is an anesthesiologist or nurse-anesthesiologist specific to the labor/delivery unit, and whether they are in the hospital 24/7 or just on-call 24/7. She wasn't sure whether there is an anesthesiologist or nurse-anesthesiologist specific to the labor/delivery unit, but there is at least one in the hospital at all times.
I asked what types of epidurals are available: regular, combined spinal/epidurals (CSEs), or patient-controlled epidural analgesias (PCEAs). She didn't know, but confirmed with an employee that at least PCEAs are available, which is what I would prefer if I choose medical pain relief.
I asked what the policy is on timing of epidurals, as some hospitals won't give you one if you are nearing or in the pushing stage. She gave up and suggested I take Franklin Square's course on anesthesia and pain relief. I was kind enough not to point out that I was probably already overinformed on what's out there.
At that point, we started our actual tour of the birthplace. We saw the exam room we'll go in first, where they would decide whether to admit you or send you back home to labor for a while. Then we saw a room where we'd do our active labor, birth and recovery. The rooms are nice, large rooms with a beds that breaks apart for the doctor to get to you, and has holes to install a birth bar in should the mother want to use one. The medical equipment is tucked away in cabinets behind the bed; cabinets on the other side of the room hold a TV, DVD player and CD player; there is a guest chair that converts into a bed (they provide sheets); and there is plenty of room for a bassinet.
I asked whether laboring in water was an option. She said they got rid of the labor tubs, but do allow you to labor in the shower if you'd like. The adjoining bathroom is large and they can put a chair in the shower.
I asked whether they provide birth balls. She said they don't, but welcome you to bring your own.
I asked whether IVs were mandatory. She didn't know, but found out that they were. I am NOT happy with that. I don't see the need for it.
I asked about their oral intake policy, and she said that they only allow ice chips. I'm not terribly happy with that policy, either. (But no wonder they insist you get an IV!)
Based on the responses from my last two questions, I asked what the rate of vaginal births to C-sections is. She didn't know... and didn't find out. I imagine it's higher than they would like to admit. (IVs make it easier to pump you full of meds, and if they don't let you eat, they worry less about you throwing up and choking in an operating room.) At that point, I was REALLY wishing we lived closer to Mercy.
We also saw the OR where C-sections are conducted. It's obviously more functional and less...pretty. I hope I don't have to see it again.
I asked what the typical hospital stay is, and she said two days. I asked whether lactation support was available, and she said that a specialist visits each mom at least once, then as often as the mom would like. I asked how many copies of our birth plan we should bring, and she said one is sufficient as they will add it to your chart.
I don't think the other two mothers-to-be had any idea what any of my questions meant.
At the end of the tour, we were brought back to the classroom to allow for any additional questions, and to fill out a survey. Frankly, the tour was only beneficial to us to become familiar with the actual space; there wasn't much education that went along with it, and I think that's a shame for people like the other two couples, who were as far along as me and farther, and didn't seem to have done much more to prepare than register for gifts. Birth used to be something so normal and natural, and now it's become a mystery to most women. Especially for you first-time moms: educate yourselves! We need to know what to expect, and what our options are!