Maternity Ward: Officially Nicer Than Our House

May 17, 2010

Yesterday, Eric and I went for our tour of the Portsmouth Hospital’s Maternity Unit, part of a brand-new $65 million renovation project. It looks more like a Marriott than a hospital – there’s a little kitchenette stocked with snacks for moms and dads; flat-screen TVs and wi-fi in every room; a lovely “family waiting area” with couches, wingback chairs, magazines, and yet another flat-screen TV; a lactation room with expert consultants for the breast-feeding-challenged; and decor in calming shades of peach and green (Eric said to the nurse who gave us our tour, “It’s just so nice and soothing, but the next time I’m in here I’ll probably be running around like a Marx brother”).

There are separate rooms for labor/delivery and post-partum, and the nurse said there are certain standards you must meet before you’re transferred. “If you have an epidural, for example, you need to be able to feel your legs before we move you.” This struck me as eminently reasonable (how else would one access the snacks in the kitchenette?) She also noted that the hospital provides literally everything you’ll need for your new arrival – departure clothes, diapers, etc. – putting a fresh spin on the notion of BYOB(aby).

I don’t know if baby-snatching has been a problem in the past at Portsmouth Hospital, but no longer – the floor is completely secure (all visitors must be buzzed both in and out from the front desk), and they use a “Hugs & Kisses” security system that electronically matches a baby’s anklet with his or her mother’s bracelet. “When a baby and mother come together,” the nurse told us, “the system plays a lullaby. But if the mother picks up the wrong baby, or even gets too close to the wrong baby, an alarm goes off.” Clearly, we will not have the option of surreptitiously trading up if we wind up with a blotchy screamer.


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