In 1980 my mother had me in a little hospital in New Jersey, USA. It was a great birth. Natural, straightforward and just what my mother had hoped for. I had my first breastfeed and was then promptly taken away to the nursery so my mother could rest. We were so lucky in that my mother had no issues breastfeeding me, however it is heartbreaking to read her experiences with the hospital nursery and what it meant for her (and me)!
From my mother’s diary that she kept in the hospital…
I was ready for bed but I got this feeling to go see Megan one last time. I went in and she was in a room all by herself. I felt, “Why is she here all alone?” And I figured it was because she has been crying. I felt so bad I started to cry and so did she, so I picked her up.
The nursery nurse Barbara (who is an absolute doll) said, “Oh! You found her in the bad baby nursery!” I felt like such a lousy mother. Barbara said, “Why don’t you rock her in the chair?” So I did. I said I felt guilty because I wanted to breastfeed her but had taken some medication. She said it would be OK so I sat and nursed her. I nursed about 5 minutes on each side.
I sat with her and there 2 other nurses there trying to calm down some of the other babies. At about 12pm they said I should go back to my room and rest. One of the nurses said they would take care of her and put her under the warmer. So I went to room and slept.
I am so grateful to have these notes from my mother!! Such raw insight into what it’s like having baby nurseries in hospitals. Mother and baby are separated and the mother feels like she has no control. Almost like it’s not even her baby! My mother felt her instincts calling out, “Go see your baby” and then felt so sad just seeing me lying there by myself. Imagine how different it would have been for her confidence as a mother to have me with her 24/7 in the same room? Have my care be 100% from her. There is something to be said for building the confidence of mothers by keeping them together.