I was really dreading having another c-section. Mostly because the memory of the first one is fresh in my mind – how painful it was to sit up, much less walk for the first few days. I remember feeling helpless in the hospital bed, unable to sit up enough to reach my son who was crying for a diaper change. It was a terrible feeling – not just the pain, but the inability to move like I wanted to. Afterward, I wasn’t looking forward to the restrictions – not being able to lift my son, or go up stairs too much, or even drive for a few weeks. But without an option, I had to resign myself to the repeat surgery and its aftereffects.
I did have the option, though, in hospitals given that my doctors practice in three different area hospitals. I chose (after discussion with the doctor who would be performing my surgery) the smaller, local community hospital that’s near my town. With my son I went to a large city hospital with a full NICU unit, just in case there were any issues with my son and his size. With my daughter, who was growing really well and above average on her weight, I felt less of a need to make sure I had a huge medical facility. Neonatal care was available at that hospital if I needed it. And now looking back, I enjoyed that hospital stay much more than I enjoyed the one at the larger hospital. While I realize my experience is highly specific to these two hospitals, I thought I’d outline some of the distinctions that made my second visit a more pleasant one.
1. Convenience. The community hospital is less than 10 minutes from my house, while the city hospital is 30 minutes on a good day. With a little one at home, being so close was handy for my husband to run home and take a shower, and for my mother and sister who were helping to care for my son and who don’t know the area well. For my 6am check-in appointment for surgery, it was nice to only leave 15 minutes early rather than more than half an hour. And there was no charge for parking.
2. A smaller, quieter facility. I was the only scheduled section the day I gave birth; and from what I could tell I was one of the only people in recovery for a while. My recovery room was the furthest from the nurses’s station and entrance – the last one on the floor – so it was furthest from outside noise. When there was a code red or blue in the hospital, it was difficult to hear from my room. No one was wheeled past my door. It was nice.
3. Nurses were friendlier… and they actually came when called. In the large hospital it might have taken an hour for a nurse to come in when called. In this case, if my nurse wasn’t available they sent someone else in – which was the case when I wanted to stand up for the first time.
4. Pain control was more of a priority. Seriously, you should ask about this at any hospital you are considering. In the bigger hospital, you had to call for your nurse to bring you pain medication – and as mentioned in the previous bullet, that could take an hour before they even showed up to see what you wanted. This time around, the nurses and the lactation consultant stressed making my comfort a priority – if mom isn’t feeling good, she’s no use to anybody, especially the baby. The nurses were always concerned about my pain level. Yes, I did have to call for medications a few times, but they were prompt and sometimes scolded me for waiting so long to call (since I wanted to see if I did need them or not… and I really did).
5. I had more than 5 minutes with a lactation consultant. Her office was two doors down from me, as a matter of fact. She asked that I call for her at every feeding while she was on her shift. She sat patiently with me, reassured me I was doing everything right, and told me how much further along with breastfeeding I was than people are usually. She checked in before she left to teach a class. I saw her a lot and I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit (unlike at the other hospital when I was told, “You know, people usually only see a lactation consultant once before they go” after I had seen her twice).
6. I felt listened to. When I was concerned about my daughter’s weight loss, her constant crying, her constant nursing (to what felt like no avail to me), all of my nurses were patient and explained options to me. When I described what happened with my son, they listened but reassured me each pregnancy is different.
7. Even the cafeteria workers took pride in their job, even if they realized the food they were delivering wasn’t so great. They were very kind to me, always offering to make something off the menu if nothing sounded good. (I never took them up on that offer). One morning the woman had an extra food tray (like I said, I was at the end of the hall which usually meant I was the last to get food), and she gave it to my husband so he wouldn’t have to go to the cafeteria and pay $3 for yogurt. Super nice.
8. Between my husband and I, we had a connection to at least two of the nurses who treated me throughout my stay – that we knew about. One of my surgical nurses during the birth was connected to me through someone at work, and one of the head nurses requested to be my nurse because she knew my husband and his family from high school (she was the nurse there). While sometimes people might find it annoying to know someone everywhere you go, I can tell you this much – I don’t mind knowing people at a hospital, since I think you’re bound to get better service because if you don’t, then everyone will know about it.
9. I had two anesthetists with me during surgery. In the large medical center, I had a nurse anesthetist. She was great, sure. I flinched during the spinal – actually, I tensed up pretty bad, which you’re not supposed to do – and later I realized it was because I was ticklish on that side on my back. So the second time, I warned everyone who would listen that I was ticklish, and to please warn me when things were happening with the spinal. And the second time, I had two people working on numbing me – a nurse anesthetist and the actual anesthesiologist. They were both phenomenal, but it also added two more people to help talk me through the process and keeping watch over my vitals and state of mind. It helped they both had a sense of humor and put me at ease. Whereas the nurse hadn’t warned me during the birth of my son that lightheadedness, nausea, and a sense of panic are all side effects of the anesthesia, the anesthesiologist was very forward in asking how I felt and told me to tell him the minute I felt anything different. I told him once I started feeling lightheaded, and he put a hand on my forehead and said, “Yep, you’re getting a little sweaty, a little clammy. Don’t worry, perfectly normal. We’re going to give you a little something to make you feel better.” That. Was. Awesome. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.
I hope you will be able to ask some tough questions and take a critical look at your birthing center, wherever it may be, and think about what’s important to you. Privacy, quiet, pain control, accessible nurses… You may think you know what you want – if you’re like me you think you don’t want a lot of pain medication, but then you do – so just keep an open mind, and I wish you the best of luck.