What is childbirth compared to the demise of Luca Brasi?
It wasn’t orthodox labor room procedure, but the thought was comforting as I watched my husband become absorbed in our readings aloud from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Anticipating lengthy labor prior to the birth of our first child, I had tossed the bestseller into my overnight bag as we left for the hospital.
I have only two children, but I don’t expect any awards from Planned Parenthood. I’m not much of a planner. I took Latin instead of home-ec in junior high, Eighteenth Century Novels instead of Marriage and Family in college.
So in 1970, the year that overpopulation ranked second only to Kent State in newsworthiness, I became a parent.
For one so ill prepared by inclination or education, the whole event could have been a disaster. First of all, I didn’t know an obstetrician and was loath to call my fertile friends who had been waiting for years to welcome me into the “sisterhood,” and who would set the legions of La Leche on me at first hint of nausea. I made my selection on the sole recommendation of an eminent and discreet medical malpractice trial attorney. (Try putting that on the office form under “Who Recommended Dr. ____” if you’d like a full confession from your OB of any malpractice involvement.)
The next hurdle was facing the headmaster of the private school where I had been teaching one month. How does one explain that the innocent commitment given six months earlier is now inoperative?
Fortunately, a private girls’ school can be flexible in its policies regarding pregnant teachers. Whether I was to be observed as a natural phenomenon or as a Hester Prynne figure to keep the wayward in line was never quite clear. However, my duties continued, and I had little time to dwell on the realities of childbirth.
Retiring at spring vacation, I allowed myself five weeks to get mentally prepared for parenthood. That’s long enough to read too many books on childbirth and to have too many nightmares about the way your spasmodic dieting has already assured your unborn child a seat in the slow reading group. It’s also long enough to make you glad you didn’t spend nine months thinking about being a mother.
In these five weeks, however, I did discover, quite by chance, that there are significant differences in maternity procedures at local hospitals.
Some doctors are on the staffs of more than one hospital and will deliver at the one of your choice unless an emergency prohibits it, but more than likely, your choice of obstetrician will determine the hospital. The Dallas hospitals did not differ in their efficiency or concern for the newborn, but in their attitudes toward the whole event.
It seems to boil down to a question of “Who’s flying this plane, me or you?” (A friend actually got that response from her OB when she became too inquisitive about his plans for her delivery.)
St. Paul’s Hospital in Dallas goes to great lengths to allow parents maximum participation in the birth of the child. Parent education classes which include films, a trial run tour from parking lot to delivery room, and exercises for natural or at least more comfortable childbirth are offered by the hospital. (See list for books used at St. Paul’s if your local hospital doesn’t offer such courses.)
BOOKS USED IN PARENT EDUCATION CLASSES (at St. Paul’s Hospital, Dallas)
- Husband Coached Childbirth, Robert A. Bradley, M.D. (Harper & Row)
- Nursing Your Baby, Karen Pryor (Harper & Row)
- Painless Childbirth, Fernand Lamaze, M.D. (Regnery)
- Preparing for Childbirth, A Manual for Expectant Parents, Frederick W. Goodrich, M.D. (Prentice-Hall)
- Six Practical Lessons for an Easier Childbirth, Elisabeth Bing, R.P.T. (Bantam)
- Thank You, Dr. Lamaze, Marjorie Karmel (Dolphin)
The father is not only permitted in the labor room, a standard procedure in most urban hospitals, but with doctor’s permission and instruction, he may also be present in scrub suit and mask for the delivery.
My husband and I were a little too old and inhibited for the group exercises and rhapsodic testimonials by breast feeding mothers, but we did weather enough sessions to permit his presence at the birth of both of our boys.
I refuse to bore people with the heroic details of my own childbirthing experiences. Suffice it to say that I wanted to be as alert as possible and found that the Lamaze natural childbirth techniques (which I confess I never practiced with any great discipline until we started down Inwood Road to the hospital) came quite naturally. My own conservative obstetrician, who still questions my judgment in refusing the miracles of Demerol, nevertheless indulged me in these my finest hours and discounts the whole thing as self-hypnosis.
The sense of family is encouraged at St. Paul’s beyond the delivery room. After a brief observation period in the nursery, healthy babies spend most of the day and part of the night with their mothers and, if their work schedule permits, their fathers. Fathers have unlimited visiting privileges until 10 p.m. and are permitted to hold, feed, and change the babies without the scrutiny of a mother-in-law or a practical nurse.
“Rooming in” (i.e., keeping the baby in the room with his mother) isn’t a new idea. It’s always been the price you paid if you had your babies on military bases. It’s not compulsory at St. Paul’s —just another choice you can make.
In contrast, at other Dallas hospitals, no fathers are allowed in the delivery room and babies are brought in only at feeding time, that is, on the hospital’s feeding schedule, not the baby’s. Baylor Hospital now allows fathers to assist with the evening feeding, and both Presbyterian and Baylor allow fathers to join mothers for breakfast. But fathers and babies don’t really get acquainted until departure from the hospital.
By the time we had our second child (1972), St. Paul’s had arranged a visiting time for young siblings to view the babies in the nursery. This is now possible at Baylor and Presbyterian, too. If the visit did nothing to allay the jealousy, at least our older son could view the room of squalling infants and see that his brother wasn’t the only “weird” looking one.
One mistake that I made the second time around was in deciding that a private room wasn’t necessary. It is, if you can possibly afford it—especially since hospitals have made television compulsory in most rooms. I consider the time I spent in the hospital with my babies, having meals (albeit mock filet mignon and saucy green beans) served in bed, about the closest I’ll ever get to the luxury of the Greenhouse, and I refuse to have the serenity of it destroyed by a roommate who wants to bring me up to date on “The Secret Storm.”
The availability of first rate medical care is one of the big advantages of urban living in Texas. Maternity care is no exception. But hospitals aren’t just hospitals anymore; and expectant fathers don’t have to be routinely shunted off to the proverbial smoke-filled waiting rooms, unless they want to be. It just takes a little investigation and planning or, as in my case—luck.
Here’s what is offered at some of the other hospitals around the state:
1500 East Avenue
It all depends on your doctor here. With his consent, prepared fathers may be in the delivery room as well as labor and recovery rooms, and you may have partial or complete rooming in. Fathers are restricted to regular visiting hours, and no one under 14 may view the babies.
Lamaze courses are offered by the hospital at night.
600 West 26th
Seton offers a series of four evening pre-natal classes. Fathers who have taken the classes are permitted in the labor room and delivery room at the discretion of the doctor. Space is limited in the recovery rooms, so fathers may be present depending on the crowd.
Fathers have unlimited visiting privileges and are encouraged to come at feeding times. No children under 14 may view the babies.
St. David’s Community Hospital
919 East 32nd
Short prepared childbirth and Lamaze type classes are offered by the hospital. Tours are included in the classes.
All fathers may be present in the labor room, and those with classes and doctor’s consent may be in the delivery room.
Fathers have extended visiting privileges while babies are with mothers from 1:30 to 6 p.m. They may also assist with the 9 p.m. feeding.
No children under 14 are permitted to view the babies in the nursery.
Baylor University Medical Center
3500 Gaston Avenue
Pre-natal and baby care classes are offered. Husbands may be present in the labor room, but not delivery room.
Fathers may visit from 7:30 to 8:30 in the morning for breakfast and may assist in the feeding of the baby from 5:30 to 7. Siblings may view the baby within the first eight hours in the Admissions nursery.
Babies weighing more than nine pounds are given certificates to be presented to the Baylor line coach eighteen years hence.
Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas
8200 Walnut Hill Lane
Parent education classes are offered at the hospital which include tours of the maternity facilities. Fathers are permitted in the labor rooms only.
Fathers may visit mothers for breakfast and at the regular visiting hours. Young siblings may view the babies in the nursery.
John Peter Smith Hospital
1500 South Main
Red Cross parent education courses are offered by the hospital. Fathers are not permitted in labor rooms or delivery rooms, but may join mothers in the recovery room.
Fathers observe regular visiting hours and have no contact with the babies except through nursery window. No children are permitted to view the babies.
All Saints Episcopal Hospital
1400 Enderly Place East
Tours of the hospital are given but no parent education is offered. Fathers are allowed in the labor and recovery rooms, but not in delivery. Fathers may visit anytime babies are not with their mothers. No children under 12 may view the babies in the nursery.
Fort Worth Medical Center
13 00 West Cannon Street
Tours of the maternity facilities are offered weekly. No classes are offered at the hospital, but hospital or physician refers patients to Red Cross or trained professionals in the community who offer pre-natal and/or prepared childbirth courses.
Fathers are permitted in labor and recovery rooms. To be present at delivery they must have taken prepared childbirth classes, they must have doctor’s permission, and they must be interviewed prior to the delivery date by the supervisor of Maternity Services.
Fathers may visit from 6:30 to 7 p.m. At dismissal time, father may assist in dressing the baby. No children may view the babies in the nursery.
Sharpstown General Hospital, Inc.
6700 Tarnef at Bellaire Boulevard
Lamaze classes in prepared childbirth are offered at the hospital. With doctor’s permission fathers may be present through labor, delivery and recovery. If the couple has chosen the “rooming-in” plan, fathers have unlimited visiting and may feed and hold the babies. No one under 12 may see the babies.
Memorial Hospital System
Southwest Hospital: Tours and Lamaze classes are offered by the hospital. Fathers may be present through labor, delivery and recovery with doctor’s consent and classes.
Fathers who are present during delivery may hold the baby in the delivery room, but may not be in the mother’s room afterwards when babies are present.
No children under 14 may view the babies.
Southeast Hospital: No formal classes are offered, but couples may tour the maternity facilities.
Fathers are permitted in labor room and recovery room only if the mother is having natural childbirth. Lamaze certificate is required. There is a telephone hookup to the delivery room so that the father can talk to mother and hear baby.
Fathers may not hold the baby or visit during feeding times. Children may see babies at a special viewing room.
Northwest Hospital: Tours are given, but no formal parent education classes. Fathers are present in labor room only.
They may visit anytime babies are not with mothers. A special window and waiting room allows children to see the new babies.
1203 Ross Sterling
Tours are offered, but no formal parent education classes. Fathers may be present in labor room and, with doctor’s permission, in the delivery room.
Fathers may visit any time and are permitted to hold the babies and assist with the feeding.
St. Joseph Hospital
Tours and dietary classes are offered by the hospital. Lamaze classes are also given. Fathers are permitted in the labor and recovery room.
Fathers can feed and hold the babies and rooming-in is allowed.
No children under 15 may view the babies.
Southwest Texas Methodist Hospital
7700 Floyd Curl
Tours and baby care classes are offered prior to delivery date. Fathers are permitted in the labor room only, and may visit when babies are not in the rooms with mothers.
Closed circuit television in the visitors’ rooms enables siblings to see and be seen by their mother.
Santa Rosa Medical Center
Tours and Lamaze classes are given. With the classes fathers may be present in labor, delivery and recovery. Fathers have unlimited visiting and the babies may “room-in.”
Children under 14 are not permitted to see the babies.
Generally speaking, county-supported hospitals in the larger urban areas do not offer such personalized services. We have tried to cover the larger, mostly private, hospitals where they are offered.