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So we decided to choose the closest hospital, which in our case was Mills Peninsula in Burlingame. Before this, we rarely needed to go to the hospital except for some routine blood draws. From what I could tell, the appearance on the outside felt old and worn down. But how clean is the hospital with the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak? I've already missed a majority of the OB appointments since only the patient is allowed at the visits. Thankfully, I was allowed to take part in the birthing process.
Before the Special Day
So before the day, there are a handful of classes that can be taken. Given COVID-19, the classes are all done over WebEx. You have the option of choosing the classes. Each have the option of being either taught by a live instructor (where you get to opportunity to ask questions) or a pre-recorded session.
- Virtual Baby Basics - I knew nothing, so this was a good session to attend. It was the most high level one that gave some insight into the entire overall process from beginning to end.
- Breastfeeding Your Newborn - I probably didn't need to attend, but attended with my wife off-screen for support. After giving birth, a lactation consultant will visit your room everyday to assist with breastfeeding.
- Childbirth Preparation - Least helpful, since my wife had already elected to take an epidural. After the fact, we did not need any of the breathing techniques
The virtual classes were all very long days, each taking a day of the weekend. At the end, it felt like a lot of information over-load and I'm honestly not sure how much information I retained. That being said, if I didn't take the classes, I may have been even more confused day of the birthing. Luckily, there is a lot of support and volunteers at the hospital to guide the way... and we had to go to the hospital at 4am!
First Day at the Birthing Center
Upon entering, the steps are fairly straightforward. Because of COVID-19, you must now bring everything you need with you to the hosptial, including the stroller and any change of clothes, and one baby outfit for on the way out. Bring any snacks you might want as well. Once you're admitted to the Birthing Center, you cannot re-enter. Also, remember to bring your face mask. You'll need to wear it everywhere in the hospital except when you're in your private room and no doctor's or nurse's are in the room.
As you approach the Mills Peninsula Hospital, we parked in the regular parking lot. Loaded our bags into the stroller and headed to the normal entrance at 4am. My wife's water had broken in the middle of the night, so we knew we needed to go in. However, the first place you in a triage room where to confirm your details and confirm that you're ready to be admitted. They also administer a COVID-19 test to the mother and await the results. Once everything is confirmed, they transfer you to your own private room!
The private room is fairly large. There's the main bed where the mother uses, and then a long 3-4 seater couch than is wide enough to be a bed with provided sheets and pillows. Everything you need to give birth (except C-section) is stored in the closet in the room and is pulled out when you're ready to deliver. Nurses are stationed throughout the birthing center for quick access to patients. Each room also has it's own private bathroom with a shower, though the water pressure to the shower is really low.
After being admitted to our room and getting settled, the nurses will come in with various techniques to encourage the baby to start the contractions. They have various techniques like exercise balls and peanut sized balls. They also demonstrate different techniques that can be used. Additionally, they offer aromatherapy in a bottle (they smell really bad) to help take your mind off the pains of contractions.
And when the mother can no longer take the contractions, they can discuss how when to get the epidural. Remember, once you get the epidural, you'll have to remain in bed, as you lose sensation in the your body, so they don't want you wandering around your room. That means no bathroom breaks, so you'll have a pee bag inserted as well. Poop is just going to come out if it happens during pushing (we were assured that's normal). Your blood is monitored throughout the process, with lots of needles. But its for the mother and baby's health.
Time for Contractions
Here, the nurses have wireless monitors that can "kind of" detect your contractions. Generally, the mother will still feel the contractions before the monitors pick it up, but the nurses use this tool to help you push. This process took about a few hours, with a couple of nurse shift changes and breaks in between. Therefore, get use to having many people in and out of the room while giving birth. Once the baby's head has crowned, they move to the next step and call in the OB. During COVID times, we understand there is only one OB on call who takes care of all births. Therefore, the OB you met with during pregnancy may not be the doctor delivering your baby or providing your after delivery care.
When the baby's head is crowning, the nurses call in the OB. The pull all the equipment out of the closet in your private room and the bed transforms by removing the bottom half of the bed so the doctor has access to the baby. It does take quite a few more pushes to finally get the baby out. Once out, they give the father the opportunity to cut the umbilical cord, which I did. We were also give the option to keep the placenta, which we declined.
We found out after the fact that some people keep either the umbilical cord (deep freeze the cord blood) in case there are future developments in treatments for blood disorders, autoimmune diseases, etc.
Once the baby is out, the first thing they do is apply tags to the baby's wrist and ankle. A similar wrist tag with the same number is given to the mother and father. The nurses then perform a gamut of tests such as weight, height, head measurements, blood test, etc. All this happens in the room. I believe only of the reasons the baby may leave the room if the need to go the NICU.
Mills Peninsula, and I assume other hospitals, are big on skin to skin and breastfeeding.
Skin to Skin and Breastfeeding
This hospital from my experience is huge on skin to skin and breastfeeding. The moment the baby is born, she is left skin to skin with mother. This way, they can build that special bond and being breastfeeding when ready.
In my opinion and from many other stories, the hospital and lactation consultant push breastfeeding very hard. At times, it can be stressful, but note its because breastmilk is suppose to have so many beneficial
To re-iterate, this is very specific to our visit to the Birthing Center, but all the nurses and doctors we worked with were great. For the most part, when one of the monitoring devices starts beeping, a nurse will show up. But depending on your situation, the nurses seem to constantly be coming in and out, which can become distracting, especially when you're trying to sleep at night.
The Push to Breast Feed was constant (though I hear this is the case at many hospitals as well). The lactation nurse made a daily round for about 10-15 minutes explaining how to use the Medela pump as well as any tips if there are any problems. I find that hands-on approach to be much more useful than most of the hospital led courses we attended (via Zoom due to COVID).
Food at the Birthing Center During COVID-19
I believe the hospital cafeteria food is always free for the patient (mother), but not for the guest (father). However, since they don't let people leave, the food is now free for both the mother and father. The food varieties is wide, though we ended up sticking to a few favorites. In my opinion, the food isn't as terrible as TV shows make it out to be, but you also can't expect gourmet food.
An example is breakfast burrito for breakfast, thinly sliced steak for lunch and dinner. You can always choose a dessert and drink to go along with it. They also have salmon, organics salads, pancakes, and the list goes on and on.
Again, the food is nothing special, so if you don't come in with high expectations, you won't be disappointed.
Medela Symphony Pump for In-Hospital Use
At our stay, the hospital provides for use free for care during our stay the Medela Symphony Pump (the hospital grade version over $2000). This pump is ideally more powerful than standard at home ones. Additionally, the lactation nurse stated that this hospital grade version of the pump is more ideal for starting the process.
Note that at the end, the used pipes and flanges can be taken home, as new parts are made available for the new patient. The only part you don't take home is the actual pump and accessories to run the pump (such as the flange holders). Though these parts are likely only compatible (you may want to confirm) with other Medela pumps.