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Where Have They Gone?

Asian Newborn baby girl 1 day after the birth, in hospital.

By J. Galvin

There is a trend overtaking hospitals and it terrifies me. Hospitals across the nation are taking away nurseries within their maternity wards and, instead, are insisting on twenty hour in-rooming for mothers and their new babies in the name of bonding and breastfeeding.

Why does this terrify me? Because I am pregnant with my second child. It was the hospital nursery that saved my sanity and kicked my maternal instincts into high gear when I had my first child four years ago; not a twenty four hour in-rooming policy.

Four years ago when my daughter decided to enter the world I had no clue. I had no clue how hard labor and delivery would be. I had no clue the sheer physical and emotional exhaustion a new baby came with. I had no clue breastfeeding would not come naturally. I had no clue to ask for help from the nurses and lactation consultants. I had no clue some newborns don’t, and won’t, sleep no matter how much you rock them, feed them, sing to them, and offer up prayers to whatever higher power you believe in.

I had no clue until a doctor making her rounds took one look at my face and suggested I put my daughter in the nursery for a few hours. I still remember she was dressed up as a bumblebee with a padded yellow and black body suit and a light up headband. It was Halloween.

“Put her where?” I stammered.

“Put her in the nursery,” she said with both a concerned and an amused face. “The nurses will take good care of her, they’ll wake you if anything happens, and bring her to you when she needs to feed.”

I felt terror, horrible guilt, and an inkling of hope. Was I a bad mother to leave my new baby in the nursery? Would the nurses really wake me if something was wrong? Would I be able to finally rest?

My husband listened to me weigh every possible option while the hormone-laden tears poured down my face. At this point I had been up three days straight between labor pains and a long, hard delivery. My daughter, who entered the world twelve hours earlier, had yet to fall asleep; a trend that would continue for weeks.

“Put her in the nursery.” My husband said. “It will be fine.”

Happy to relinquish all decision making to him, I agreed and my daughter was whisked away to the nursery. I passed out instantly and woke three hours later. I didn’t feel so bone numbingly exhausted or on the edge of losing my mind. I felt such a pull to see my daughter I knew my maternal instincts had finally kicked in.

Fast forward to the present and the countdown, though still a long ways away, to the birth of my second child begins. I feel calmer, more prepared and happier this time around, but still with such trepidation that should not be necessary. I don’t think someone else, namely a hospital, has the right to decide what is best for myself or my child. I alone, with my husband, have that right.

So for the time being, I will do my homework. I will research hospitals in my area that still offer the option of a nursery and will plan accordingly. I will hope hospitals realize that a mother’s decision to rest is key to both the emotional and physical well being of both baby and mom. I will hope hospitals realize that the decision to decide what is best for mother and baby lies with mother, not hospital staff or hospital policy.

Jamie Chase Galvin works part time as an Academic Advisor and is also a freelance writer. Jamie possesses an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology. She loves to write any chance she can and lives in Massachusetts with her husband and very talkative four year old daughter.

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