I’m pretty darn pregnant with my first baby (35 weeks) at present. Went to the prenatal tour offered at Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH) today in New Westminster, BC. Great experience, so I want to share with you the details in case you’re looking to give birth at RCH as well.
Here’s the booking information I got from my doctor:
PRENATAL TOURS & PRE-REGISTRATION: Prenatal tours/Information sessions are available for you and your partner, usually when you are approximately 30-34 weeks. Space is limited, so please call to book when you are approximately 25 weeks. Please call 604-520-4956 between 9:00am and 4:00pm Monday to Friday. The hospital fee for tours is $25.00 per couple
The tour met today (Thursday) at 5:30 pm on the main floor lobby of RCH by the lottery stand. There were about 10 couples on the tour. The nurse who does the tours is named Jeanine (or maybe Jeanne?)…and she is GREAT. She has worked the labour/delivery unit at RCH for 35 years, and is now a lactation consultant in the maternity ward there. Her tour was very thorough, and she was clear and concise in all her explanations. Made my other 4 week prenatal class seem like a waste of time!
First, she explained that first, you call your doctor or midwife to let them know that you’re in labour. Then, when you come to the hospital in active labour, you go to patient admitting and register. The person driving you to the hospital can drop you off right outside admitting (by the emergency entrance) and go park the car. The best parking lot with no time restrictions (unlike the staff parking lot and street parking) is just west of the hospital where the daily maximum is $8.75. THEN you head up to Labour & Delivery. So we went up to the 2nd floor to visit the Labour & Delivery unit. We passed by the neonatal intensive care unit on our way to the assessment and birthing rooms.
In L&D, the first thing in the hallway is the ice/water machine, toaster and microwave, and the placenta fridge! The food fridge is further down the hall – no food in the placenta fridge! Yes, I am planning on getting my placenta encapsulated, so I will be making use of this fridge. The food fridge is for food you bring for yourself and your partner. They don’t feed any of your labour support team – delivering moms get fed 3x per day, but no one else – so it is imperative that you bring food so your husband or support person doesn’t get cranky.
Next, we went past the assessment room where they bring you after you have been admitted. They do an exam to check the progress of your labour and dilation etc. If you’re not in active labour, they’ll send you home for a while. Otherwise, they set you up in a birthing room. Note: if you have a midwife, you might skip the assessment room because your midwife will probably have assessed you at home before you decided to head to the hospital.
Then we all went into one of the birthing rooms. It’s not a terribly cozy scenario, but functional and clean. They have a variety of birth accessories there – birthing stools, birthing bars, birth balls, mirrors, and really encourage changing positions to help labour progress. Each room is also equipped with a shower (some rooms have bathtubs – request one upon admission and they will do their best to get you into a room with a tub if one is available). Labour partner should bring a swimsuit. She advised moms to stick with wearing the hospital gowns (they give you one for the front and one for the back so you’re all covered up if you need to walk around). If you bring your own gowns, make sure they’re really ratty – apparently they’ll get totally destroyed in the birthing process. There is a full sized (like high school) locker in this room – you need to bring your own padlock.
Then came the talk about pain control procedures. At RCH, the nurses will work with you to try to manage your pain first with acupressure, massage, breathing, showers, etc., but if you do need more, they will be there to help you make informed decisions. They offer nitrous oxide, morphine, fentanyl, and epidurals, and apparently each of them can only be applied during a certain window of your labour. I’m personally hoping that I don’t have to get an epidural, because I just don’t like the idea of not being able to stand up and walk around. But it’s nice to know it’s available if I need it.
If you need a cesarean section, one interesting thing is that in the last few years, they’ve changed their procedures so that after the surgery, instead of whisking mom off to the recovery room and baby and labour partner to another room, they try to regroup everyone back in one delivery room to recover if possible, and apparently, they are now able to do this in 75% of their cases. Sounds much nicer.
Then when the baby is born, they encourage immediate skin to skin contact on the mom’s chest and breastfeeding right away. They’ll dry off baby with a warm towel placed on mom’s chest. Interestingly, they don’t dry baby’s hands! Apparently amniotic fluid smells like colostrum, and the smell on their hands helps them find their first meal. Also, it was nice to find out that not all babies latch right away, so a couple hours before the first feed is normal as well. Labour partners are welcome to cut the baby’s umbilical cord if they so wish.
There’s a heat lamp and some fancy looking equipment on the other side of the birthing room so they can take care of baby in case he/she is in distress of any kind after the birth. They must also do a thorough assessment of baby before you are released from L&D.
Then we went up to the postpartum/maternity unit on the 3rd floor and visited the kitchen and one of the semi-private recovery rooms. They do 24 hour rooming in for baby and mom – they don’t whisk baby away to the nursery like they used to! There are cots available for semi-private and private rooms for your significant other to sleep on, but they have to bring their own sleeping bag. No cots are permitted in the 4-bed wards and SO has to sleep in a chair. Private rooms are $195 per night, semi-private $165, and is worth it if you have extended medical coverage (or don’t mind paying). The basic 4-bed ward is covered under your basic BC medical insurance. There are also lockers in these recovery rooms.
So the average stay for moms after vaginal birth is 24-48 hours, and 2-3 days after a c-section (not counting day of surgery). Again, they’ll feed mom 3x per day, but bring your own snacks! During this time, there are daily lactation classes at 10am, and a nurse will come in to your room to teach you how to bathe the baby. A hearing specialist will also come in to check baby’s hearing. They’ll make sure baby is properly secured in a CANADIAN certified car seat before you are discharged from the hospital.
And then finally Jeanine discussed all the procedures for SAM (self-administered medication), and wristbands for mom, significant other, and baby (x2), the little starter pack you get with 6 newborn diapers (ie. bring your own stash), some maxi pads (again, bring your own stash), a squirt bottle, and fun stuff like that. She also talked about the BC published Baby’s Best Chance guide as the one thing that you should definitely read during pregnancy that you should have picked up from the public health unit (mine actually got mailed to me!) as it is chock full of up to date and easy to understand info that is relevant to giving birth in BC.
Finally, she collects your $25 per couple fee (cash preferred, I paid by cheque payable to Fraser Health), and helps you complete your hospital pre-registration if you haven’t already registered.
So in summary, if you are considering giving birth at Royal Columbian Hospital, I’d HIGHLY recommend signing up for the prenatal tour. It was really a great tour. I feel much more confident now that I know the lay of the land a bit more so I won’t be anxiously wandering around the hospital wondering where to go when I’m in labour. Also, they seem to be well balanced with all the latest labour and postpartum and breastfeeding practices, which I like. Also, I’ve known two other families who have given birth at RCH, who have nothing but the highest praise for the care they received during labour/delivery/postpartum and recommended birthing there without hesitation.
I’m not really into the whole homebirth-with-midwife scenario because I’m not comfortable with being even 10 minutes’ drive away from RCH if I happen to have sudden life-threatening complications. But that’s just me. I know plenty of people have had really pleasant and safe homebirth experiences but for this birth, it’s just not something I want to do.
So yes. Less than 5 weeks to go before baby girl arrives! I’m excited to face the whole challenge of labour and delivery. In some odd, perhaps sadomasochistic way, I really enjoy pushing my limits to see what I can physically accomplish. I used to row, and know what it feels like to push myself through muscles screaming 3/4 through a race or a time trial, still push through tunnel vision where everything else fades, you think you’re probably about to faint, and it’s just you and your goal. I’ve run a marathon without giving in to the temptation of walking, so I know what it feels like to be at mile 20, completely exhausted with aching joints, and break down crying over the thought at how brave Terry Fox must’ve been to do a marathon every single day, then keep going. It’s really neat to feel like you’re on the edge, that you’re really living. So in the same way, I hope to be able to experience a natural vaginal birth with baby girl, even though I know it’s probably going to…um…hurt.