Maternity Ward Experience – Do Private Rooms Matter?

Charlie and I in our shared room at Holy Cross Hospital, 2003

I’ll be delivering our third baby at the same location I delivered Charlie and Eve – Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD, right on the DC border. My babies and I have received excellent medical care at Holy Cross through two births and one health emergency and hospital stay for Eve when she was 11 months old. And so I feel like having our third baby here too will be a sort of homecoming.

I was especially happy with our second birth and recovery experience at Holy Cross, which occurred in 2006, after the large maternity ward expansion which now offers private labor, delivery and recovery rooms for every single patient and her child. The entire experience was full of excellent care.

My first recovery experience at Holy Cross, however, was definitely an experience. I learned a great deal. I learned that it’s possible that patient care may sometimes be drastically different if the mother is perceived as having little money, is single, is young or is without insurance.

I was none of those things, but I was perceived as being all of them, mainly marked by the fact I did not snag a private room on a crowded night at the hospital.

Back in December of 2003, when our first child Charlie was born, private recovery rooms were available only to patients who had reserved them in advance for a $100 fee, subject to availability. I reserved such a room and paid the fee, but by the time Charlie was delivered and he and I were both deemed ready for a recovery room, it was 1 am and none were available.

I didn’t mind the roommate aspect of sharing a room that much. We each kept to ourselves. The other woman and I did not speak the same language, and I felt self-conscious infringing on her established territory and turning her single into a double in the middle of the night. And in the midst of such huge private events in our lives, there was no room to engage with each other, as we were both wrapped up in the business of feeding and changing our newborns, calling our families and shuffling to the shared bathroom to attend to our own healing and hygiene. (Of course, these bathroom visits took twice as long, since we both were extremely self-conscious of leaving any drop of um, evidence, of each visit out of courtesy for the other.)

Both of our babies cried. Both of us spoke to our families on the phone and she entertained visitors. So we didn’t sleep at all. But again, that was all really no big deal. It’s a hospital, not a hotel.

It was how I was treated (and I assume, we both were treated) by my day nurse the next day that was surprising.

The nurse assigned to me and Charlie, as well as my roommate and her baby, did not always come when I rang. I was in pain from my episiotomy and birth and so requested Tylenol, which did not come even after three requests. I was still wearing my stained gown from the delivery, and was not given a new one even though I requested one.  I ran out of baby wipes from removing the extremely sticky meconium from Charlie’s bottom, and was told that I had wasted the wipes and used up all that I was allotted. I could moisten cloths in the bathroom and wipe him using that, or send someone out to buy more.  Chris was sent home to grab more newborn baby wipes and plain OTC Tylenol for me.

Although I had opted out of being visited by people I knew until coming home, I was visited by a steady stream of vendor-type visitors who constantly came in, moved the curtain aside without asking first and tried to recruit me to purchase photos, purchase special commemorative copies of The Washington Post, participate in mother and child studies…all whilst I was half-naked and trying to breatfeed for the very first time.

I’d never had a baby before, or ever stayed in a hospital, so I accepted all of this as the normal practice.

However, a few details of my outward appearance may have contributed to this treatment.

  • Spouses/partners were not allowed to stay overnight in shared rooms, and my husband Chris was not able to be with me for a few hours that morning, as his mother was having very serious heart surgery at another hospital and he went to see her.
  • I did not have any hospital visitors, as my family is in California and Chris’s family were all at the hospital with their mother, as well they should have been! But maybe a fancy-looking grandparent in a chic ensemble would have garnered some respect?
  • I was not wearing my wedding rings, leaving them at home for safe-keeping.
  • I had chosen a pediatrician sole practitioner who performed rounds at Holy Cross, but she was out on vacation. Thus, a staff physician at Holy Cross was assigned to perform all of Charlie’s pediatric examinations. (I have since switched to a larger pediatric practice that will always have a doctor on-call.)

The nurse commented on a few things when she came to the room.

  • “Are you SURE you don’t want to circumcise? That’s what all the good families do. Think about it!”
  • “You know, you are going to need to find a pediatrician! That is what mommies do!”
  • “You look so young.” (Gee thanks, but I was 28. Definitely not a teen mom. And my birthdate/age were written all over my chart.)
  • “Is that guy your boyfriend?” (referring to Chris when he returned.) At the time Charlie was born I was married, had legally changed my name in most forums of my life, but had not changed my name at work or through my work’s health insurance. So Chris and Charlie had one last name, I had another, and Charlie was referred to as “Baby Slovak” in order to match mom to baby. But um, last time I checked, lots of women keep their names.
  • The nurse also treated my roommate similarly, while speaking twice as loudly to her, since she spoke an African language and therefore, could clearly understand English better when the volume increased.  I imagine that my roommate’s experience with this nurse was much worse than mine, due to the language barrier.

After these eye-opening comments and assumptions, I decided to buzz the nurse every couple hours and remind her that I had reserved and paid for a private room if one opened up, mainly for the chance to be moved to another floor that was outside her assign…and also in the hopes that the room would again become a private room for my roommate.

OK, this was one bad apple. She may have been a temp, and not a staff nurse at Holy Cross. She could have been very over-worked for a variety of reasons. And I was a very healthy patient, with a healthy baby, and so if triage were in place, I should have been at the bottom of the list.  I was also very comfortable taking care of my baby, nursing exclusively and not wanting him out of my care, so I didn’t really need her for the main part of her job – making sure baby is doing well.

Her assumptions and lack of care only reflect poorly on her, and not on the hospital as a whole. Most of the other nurses I have experienced at Holy Cross have been INCREDIBLE, caring and proactive.

Including the nurses I met once Charlie and I were moved to our own room for the second evening of our stay.

I was assigned one nurse.

And another nurse was assigned to Charlie!

My nurse took one look at my gown and gasped at the gore, and brought me two clean ones.

I was brought tons of personal sanitary and soothing products not yet offered to me, to make my below-the-belt healing from the 9 and a half pound baby delivery and episiotomy more comfortable.

I was asked about how well Charlie was nursing and eliminating waste.

Charlie was given as many wipes as his little butt desired.

I was offered a lactation consultant, either via a group class or private consult.

I was offered various pain medications and urged to take them so my body could heal and rest.

I was given a menu from which to order meals of my choice, rather than simply a delivery of whatever was available.

I was given the option of having my husband stay overnight with me, if I wished. However, no one asked us about our marital status, as this truly should not be a factor in a mother’s health care post-baby.

I was given the option of stating that I would prefer no outside vendor-type visitors.

I was treated with dignity and tenderness and professionalism…and asked questions only related to my and my baby’s health!

Of course this is all very dramatic because I was assigned such a ditz the first time.

And I am blessed to be able to obsess about these details because I had a healthy baby, and a healthy birth. That’s all that really matters.

But it was mind-blowing to me the difference of care a woman could receive, just by the chance of having an extra $100 for a private room!

Thankfully, this is now the care that EVERY woman who delivers a baby at Holy Cross Hospital receives since the hospital’s Maternity Center expansion. All women and babies receive private rooms, and I assume, the same standard of care.

This fine level of care existed when I had my second child, and I am confident that it will occur when I have my third.

I also am much more comfortable being my own advocate. And I probably radiate more experience and authority. And since I’ve been through births before, I know now the type of care I should expect, and if necessary, demand next time.

I know that at several other hospitals in the area, private rooms are not available or must be reserved.

So I’d love to hear from you guys:

  • Did you have a private room hospital room when you had your baby? Do you feel it mattered?
  • Do you guys think private rooms and perceived income or health insurance situation have a bearing on a patient’s birth and recovery experience?
  • Do you believe some women are treated differently than others at hospitals when they have a baby? Do you think experience, confidence or other external factors contribute to better care?
  • Did any of you opt for a birthing center or a home birth after a experiencing a hospital birth?  Why?

I’d love to hear your experiences!


  1. Jennifer Powers says:

    Oh wow, this post is sure touching a nerve for me! First off – congratulations on the impending birth!! So exciting.

    I delivered my daughter at Holy Cross in December 2006, after the expansion of the Maternity Center. My nurse in the labor and delivery room was a nightmare – similar to the one you initially had on the maternity ward. She urged me to have an epidural several times, even though I said wanted to try without. She even went so far as to tell me that when the woman she worked with (who didn’t get an epidural) started screaming she had to go in the other room to do paper work so she didn’t have to listen to them. All this while I was in active labor.

    She never checked me upon my arrival to the L&D floor, only going by the report from the nurse in triage that I was one centimeter dilated. So when she came in three hours later and I was, ahem, screaming that I needed to push, she told me I couldn’t possibly need to push because I was only one centimeter. Turns out I was fully dilated and effaced and, in fact, it was actually time to push. My doctor missed the delivery because she hadn’t been keeping track of my progress.

    My nurse on the maternity ward, in my private room, was fine, but nothing to write home about – although not much could have been worse than my L&D nurse.

    After this experience I switched to Sibley for my son’s birth in 2009 where my experience was the complete opposite experience. 

    I had some professional experience at Holy Cross as well when I worked in the adoption field. There were some horror stories reported by birth mothers we worked with  – related to income and insurance issues as well as the fact they were doing an adoption plan for their babies. But this unfortunately tends to be universal – some hospital staff have difficulty with patients who choose adoption.

    I am glad for you that yours was an isolated experience. Good luck!!!

  2. Roberta Stewart says:

    I’ve only had one birth, but have plenty of opinions – ha! I chose to give birth with midwives in a freestanding birth center. My baby had other plans, as she flipped breech during labor after being head down in perfect position for weeks on end. So, I ended up in a hospital for a medically necessary c-section. After planning to be home in my own bed within hours after birth, the hospital experience was pretty shocking, and I can’t think that a shared room would have improved it. The hospital gave you a private room if one was available – no reservations or extra charges. I was almost sent to a shared room, and I just cried at the thought, because it meant my husband could not stay. I got a private room at the last minute, thankfully. I’d just had unexpected major surgery, had a newborn, and I could not do anything for myself. I was drugged and hormonal and traumatized. I NEEDED my husband. I guess I would have had to buzz a nurse for every single thing for 3 days if I had been in a shared room and my husband could not have stayed. Hospitals are terrible places to get rest and get better. I was woken up/disturbed CONSTANTLY by someone taking my vitals, the baby’s vitals, by new nurses coming on shift, by noise in the hall, by food service, by cleaning people, by the photographer. I can’t even imagine having double that traffic with two people in the room. I can’t sleep if I don’t feel like I’m in a private, safe place. I slept very little in 3.5 days at a hospital in a private room – it would have been so much worse in a shared room. It confirmed my personal feeling that hospitals are not places people get better. Women who have just given birth need security, comfort, privacy, and support. They’re a mess – hormonal, in pain, tired, confused, unsure, worried. They need their husbands and family with them. No hospital should make you pay for that necessity. Even if there are shared rooms, they need to allow family members to stay, IMHO. Also? Completely appalling that someone may have treated you differently b/c they didn’t see wedding rings. Uh, almost no one can wear their rings at the end of pregnancy! The hospital where I was sees a lot of teenage minority mothers, and I do think that affects how they treat all pregnant women. I felt unnecessarily harassed by OBs within 24 hours about what birth control I was going to use. BF-ing support wasn’t that great (fortunately, I didn’t really need it), because they all seemed surprised I was nursing, since few of the teenage moms do, which seems quite backwards in terms of supporting breastfeeding. I wish that next time, I could opt again for a birth center, but I’d be trying for a VBAC, and that won’t be an option. So, I’ll be back in a hospital, and you can bet I will do everything in my power to have a private room, since it’s the lesser of two evils.

  3. ambermccann says:

    Excellent post and truly important.  Birth and Hospital practices can have a HUGE impact on new mom’s confidence heading into this new area of their lives.  As a lactation consultant, I hear mom’s stories of their hospital experiences and unfortunately, I often have to help “pick up the pieces.”  A part of the Surgeon General’s new “Call to Action for Breastfeeding” is urging hospitals to become “Baby Friendly” (  It will benefit us all (breastfeeding or not!) to have these improvements in place.

  4. WOW. What a traumatic experience.

    I do have to say that when I went into labor on my own for my first birth, I was urged by both doctors and nurses at Holy Cross to have an epidural. I gave in to them.  But I was very frequently checked on dilation progress.

    What a nightmare!!

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can only imagine how tough it would be for a mom recovering from major surgery – a C-section- to have to be her own advocate AND not be allowed to have a loved one stay with her to help!

  6. After hearing so many bad experiences about Holy Cross, I drove to Shady Grove for delivery even though I live in Silver Spring. I’d heard that Shady Grove was awesome and new and comfy and amazing.

    I was so thankful after having a c-section and stayed for 5 days  All rooms are private.  I got anything I asked for.  Nurses came whenever I buzzed.  There was sitting area that turned into a private bed for my wife so I was never left alone.  Food was great and plentiful and I was able to order from a menu. Lots of nurses looking after both me and my babies, answering any questions I asked.  Unlimited supplies (we went through lots of baby wipes and diapers).

    People tried to convince me to go to a birthing center.  SAid I would get no rest at a hospital.  I never understood what people hate about hospitals because I thought it was amazing.  After hearing your experience, I now know why.  And this reinforces my desire to go to Shady Grove for my next birth.  You should really consider it.

  7. Thanks for the link!

    And everyone, be sure to check out Amber’s business and website, Nourish Breastfeeding Support – right in Columbia MD and serving the DC area!

  8. I’m glad you had such a great experience at Shady Grove!  It’s wonderful to hear that a DC-area hospital is serving its moms and babies so well!

  9. I used Holy Cross in June 2007 and had an emergency C-section.  The labor and delivery nurses were great, but all the nurses after that were awful.  One took my baby to be weighed and forgot to bring him back.  When I buzzed an hour later asking for my baby they didn’t know what I was talking about.  Luckily some friends were visiting just then and had to help find my baby when the nurse was non-responsive.  I did participate in their Doula program which was great, but I had such great L&D nurses that I would have been okay without her.  This was over the weekend – they say weekend nurses aren’t as good as weekday nurses, so maybe I can plan my next for a weekday.  

    Thank you so much for writing about this topic.

  10. Mama Marchand says:

    I, too, delivered at Holy Cross last year with my daughter. My experience there was a like a roller coaster ride for me of emotions. Some parts of my stay, I had fabulous nurses. Other parts, awful nurses that barely spoke English and actually could not understand what I was saying/requesting! 

    The private room was nice albeit small (and we didn’t have to pay since this was after the reno was done and it’s now normal to have a private room there). I do NOT think any perception of the mom and her child should make a difference in the level of care you receive! That’s discrimination and it’s uncalled for ANYWHERE.

    Truthfully, I would consider driving to Virginia for a birthing center after my experience at HC. I don’t believe they’re legal in Maryland, which is sad. I may even consider Shady Grove, too, because I’ve heard good things. I do think if I had known that I could request certain things that it would have made my stay at HC better but then again, I should’ve been offered them as well. 

  11. Elin,
    While no one took and forgot to return my baby, I second your sentiments about the wonderful support and care from the Holy Cross L&D floor and the lack of anything gentle, caring, or supportive from the postpartum floor.  My daughter was very jaundice and, as a result, lethargic.  A nurse came in to my room at 2am and said with a raised voice “your daughter needs to eat more!” and left.  Yes, I knew that.  Yes, she had to eat to help flush things out.  But I couldn’t get her to stay awake.  And I had been a Mom for all of about 11 hours.  I could have used help and being reprimanded was not that!  My heart goes out to the lactation consultants (things have changed some since I had my daughter 13 months ago, but I haven’t heard any stellar reports yet).  The one that visited us could have been wonderful, but she was spread too thin and had too many babies and mamas to visit to give anyone enough time to really be helpful.  
    I am expecting my second this summer and hope to check myself out a day early.

  12. i also live in silver spring but opted to deliver at howard county (twice!) and had a wonderful experience.  i also used the midwife practice of esposito, mayer and hogan up in columbia and they were a great, more natural alternative to the traditional OB experience.  highly recommended!  🙂

  13. Sue @ Laundry for Six says:

    I had 4 babies at Holy Cross. My L&D nurses were all excellent. My mother/baby nurses were hit or miss. I only shared a room one of the 3 times and I would pay whatever it cost not to share if I had to… it made a big difference to me.

    I also felt that the more babies I had, the less help I got from the nurse. And although it was true, the deliveries were less traumatic and I was more experienced with newborn care, the 4th time, I was stranded on my bed for hours with an empty IV, the call button on the floor and no way to get myself to the bathroom. Hours. It was ridiculous.

    The only negative about my HCH experience was the inconsistent care post-partum. And now that I’m much more experienced, I would complain and ask for the charge nurse, but I didn’t know enough then. (Call me if you don’t get a good nurse! I’ll come get you a better one!)

  14. Also, I believe moms brave and strong enough to choose adoption for their babies should be shown even more tenderness, attention and care, for their bodies and their psyches.

    And I do not believe insurance status, perceived income or anything related to this should be a factor in a woman or a child’s care!

    I hope that most hospitals address those special needs, but I have no idea about the protocol.

  15. Sue @ Laundry for Six says:

    Also, to answer the original question, I don’t feel like having a private room got me better care. It was really all about which nurse I had. And I would go to Holy Cross again in a heartbeat – you can’t beat their expertise in L&D – but that is an area that could definitely be improved.  (Also – tell your OB/GYN if you have bad experience because they have the power to initiate improvements.)

  16. thank you for sharing…i’ll keep you posted on care after baby #3, and parents are sharing their experiences at hospitals throughout the region in the comments here and also on Facebook – friend me to take part in the convo there!

  17. *furiously scribbling down the term “charge nurse” to use if necess!*

  18. ohhh, good to know of local midwife practice options and a thumbs up for Howard County

  19. I agree – my L&D were excellent, and my OB/GYN practice has been wonderful through all of my pregnancies (including those that didn’t make it), so my priority is going to the hospital where my doctos deliver. And that’s HC.

  20. Great to hear that another mom had a super L&D experience at HC.

    Crazy to hear that they “misplaced” your baby, even for a moment.Taking notes to have baby weighed in the room!

  21. I had Reagan in Oct. 2007 at HC … had similar experience to you and needless to say with baby boy due in May I’ll be going to Shady Grove this time around. My experience was yuck (to be PC) … induced am Mon morning (8 days late at this point) & after 14 hours of labor with no change – C-section time! which turned to a hurried one once they realized she was stuck – they finally got her out am tues (those nurses were great – except for the woman who did my eppi – she screwed it up and i had to get a second).  When i finally got to my room around 5am the nurse i had first was completely useless and if i didn’t have to stay there i would have just walked out. i was in my own room and like you, wouldn’t come when called, late on meds (C-section! Hello!) took my catheter out way too early and almost had some issues (thanks to a hubby who was an EMT and realized something was going on). we complained about the first set of nurses and the HR etc. person came up to chat with us. I got the head nurse from that point on for my stay and had a much better experience (brought meds before asked etc.) that first set of nurses after the c-section also had this attitude about them like “i can’t believe you didn’t deliver that baby and had a c-section instead” hum hello! didn’t have a choice!
    But … I’ve also had a not so great experience with SG. After a miscarriage at 12 weeks back in June, I needed to get the Rhogam shot (I’m RH neg) within 48 hours of the D&E (which at this point i was at – since everything had gone down on Friday). After getting blood and waiting for the results the head nurse won’t come “down” to give it to me and told me to come back on Monday. I told her doc said 48 hours – after fighting with the woman on the phone she told the tech at the lab to give me the shot (yes, i walked through the hospital with a full needle) and send me “up”. Found out “up” was the labor and delivery floor when i got off the elevators. Needless to say – second worse day in my life. got the shot and left – cried the whole way home. I’ll never forget that woman’s name (Pam) or what she did to me (she actually didn’t even give me the shot in the end, another nurse did – in the room where all the moms to be that have just come in are being monitored). So needless to say i’m hopeful Pam isn’t my nurse when i go to deliver little boy … but at this point, its the lesser of two evils.

  22. Dawn Courchaine Mooney says:

    Wow- having had only one personal hospital experience in my life (for an appendectomy a few years back- I was home after just one night’s stay), this is all so unfamiliar. I gave birth to my first two kids in a freestanding birth center, which sadly was closed by the time I got pregnant the third time. My third baby was born at a different birth center in a medical building adjacent to the hospital, but still privately owned and managed. So, I had very different experiences– only seeing the midwives and nurses who assisted during the deliveries, had a few family members come and visit, and had a beautiful, large bedroom space for our family. For our first baby who was born just after midnight, we didn’t leave until the next afternoon, but by my third baby, we were heading home about three hours after delivery. It might not be for everyone, but it worked for me and my wishes, personal needs and resources.

    Best of luck to you, Jessica, for a safe and healthy delivery! 🙂

  23. I had my kids at 2 different hospitals…one in Virginia and then Shady Grove.  The experiences were like night and day.  My birth was very fast with my first (2 hours from time of check in to baby, and that was with an induction!) and they didn’t have any rooms avaliable for me after she was born.  So we stayed in the big labor room for a few hours.  They came and cleaned up while we were there.  NOT pleasent.  When a room was ready, I was wheeled down the hall, into several elevators, full of people.  Just to get to the postpartum area.  I HATED that.  Strangers tried to touch my baby and were coughing and sick while we were wheeled around.  Plus, I felt like crap and didn’t really want to see anyone.
    I was put into a shared room.  My first night, my roommate left around midnight when the nurses firmly and sternly told her to go home.  She cried and bawled in Spanish and was finally ushered out the door.  I slept for about an hour, when I got a new roommate around 1:30am.  She flipped her tv on right away, ignored her crying baby and talked loudly on the phone in French.  Worst night ever.
    My hubby had finals that night and couldn’t stay with us.  By the time he was able to come see me the next day I was exahausted, stressed, and upset.  The nurses ignored me (I was in the back of the room) but my doctors were very supportive.  They tried to get me into a private room but no such luck.  They also shooed out the MAITENCE guys who wanted to fix the bed I was laying on.  They complained loudly to the HR people outside my room and I had the staff personnel person come and formally apologize to me.  My new roommate had tons of people in the room at all times, bringing awful smelling food and talking late into the night.  I was SO happy to go home.
    When I had my twins at Shady Grove, it was a wonderful experience.  I actually came home with my nurse being my friend.  We still keep in touch.  I had my boys right when the construction was going on for the new private rooms.  They put me in a shared room by myself in the old area of the hospital.  I think because of that, I had no vendors or visitors.  I think I was the only patient of my nurse’s because she spent a lot of time with me and my family.  She got extra dispoable doctor stuff for my daughter and welcomed her, and my husband, in the room as much as possible.
    I’ve heard good things about HC.  Lots of good baby pushing thoughts headed your way! 
    PS- are you going to be at Momzshare this weekend?

  24. I am also set to deliver my baby at Holy Cross next month and, coming from a different state (Missouri), I had little information about the hospitals in the region. The fact that pursuaded me to choose this hospital, besides the short distance from where I live, is having a private room. Now reading the comments, I am having doubts. We are in such a vulnerable state after the birth, and the least thing we need is bad care from the nurses. It seems that we have to be constant advocates for our care. Sometimes I forget about that. Thank you so much for this post and for the others who are sharing their stories.

  25. I had my first two kids at the Maternity Center, which was a freestanding birth center that is now closed.  It was a great experience, and I felt totally supported by my doula and the midwives.  For my third, I used the Maternity Center midwives at Shady Grove.  I was a bit leery about it, and I even thought of bringing my own lamp so I wouldn’t have to suffer through Shady Grove’s flourescent lighting.  Ironically, my total labor time at the hospital was about 40 minutes, as I was 10 cm when I arrived.  Afterwards, I was given a nice private room, with lots of support from the nurses.  I don’t recall being woken up in the middle of the night at all. 

    I found the lactation consultant pretty useless, though.  Even though it was my 3rd time giving birth, I still needed help because my daughter wasn’t latching on correctly.  She kept falling asleep, and the lactation consultant tried to wake her up by putting her cold hands on my daughter’s face…not a very nice memory.  Also, there were some annoying vendors dropping by.  But, all in all, it was a nice, restful experience.

  26. Renata, so many of my friends and online parent pals have had GREAT experiences at Holy Cross. Including me. I look forward to delivering there again.

    The majority of my experiences with the nurses of Holy Cross have been fantastic. ESPECIALLY on the pediatric floor where my daughter had to stay for a week as a baby. Those nurses were incredible and ministered to both my daughter and her scared out-of-their-gourds parents!

    I agree with you – empowering yourself as your own advocate for care is the main thing to remember. And if you get a nurse who is not meeting you needs, speak up!  I didn’t. I should’ve!

  27. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I love that you are still friends with your nurse after the birth of your twins!!

    I think Momz Share has been post-poned until further notice and is no longer this weekend.

  28. I hear you on going home early – with my second I only had to stay one night. Loved going home to my own bed, a quiet house AND esp. my other kid who I missed so much!

  29. That’s such a traumatic story! I too have had miscarriages and one D&C, and the thought of having to enter the maternity floor in the midst of new grief would be unbearable.

    I hope that your L&D and recovery experience this time will be trauma-free and beautiful!

  30. Glad to hear you had a good experience at Shady Grove. I have too heard great things about the now-closed Maternity Center. My nephew was born there too!

  31. I had a wonderful group of L&D nurses at Holy Cross in July 2008, through a day of labor ending in what became an emergency c-section.  Sadly, my experiences with the nurses on the maternity ward were largely negative ones.  In spite of this, I am scheduled for a c-section at Holy Cross in about a month.  I did not want to change my OB (who only delivers at HC), and so I’m hopeful I learned enough in my previous experience to be a better advocate for myself and my baby this time around.  I do think it’s all about the nurses you happen to have working with you.  I myself am a physician, but all the medical knowledge in the world means little when you have no clue about being a 1st time Mom!

    PS- Jessica, I notice your hair looks great in that photo of you and Charlie.  This time around I have an appointment with Jillian five days before my scheduled c-section :*

  32. I worked as an RN at HCH for many years. I mainly worked on the antepartum unit, but did sometimes float to the mother baby unit and L/D. I also had 2  children of my own born there. From my experience the way in which you were treated in the private room was not related to your ability to pay the $100.  Your second nurses care was how all patients should be treated regardless of their ability to pay, marital status etc. I agree your  first nurse was a “ditz”  Sadly, in any profession there are people who care about doing a good job and others who just go thru the motions. I’m sure that nurse who treated you well in the private room had other patients in shared rooms she treated the same as you. Just my 2 cents. 🙂  Best of luck to you , what an exciting time!

  33. Jessica, thanks for sharing your experience. I am planning to give birth at Holy Cross in August, and it is wonderful to go into the situation armed with knowledge of what to expect!
    This will be my 2nd child.
    My first child was born in a hospital in southern California. Overall, I feel positive about the experience; empowered because I was able to labor without medication. However, the L&D nurses had just changed shifts when I needed them most, and no one came to check on me for over an agonizing hour of me feeling really ready to push. When my OB finally arrived, my son was in distress (his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck) and the OB performed an episiotomy to ‘help me out’. 
    Honestly, after delivery it was all a blur! I was in a shared room: plenty of interruptions, little sleep, etc., but I don’t remember the postpartum nurses being condescending or anything. I really don’t remember them much at all! That is probably a good thing in comparison to some of your experiences.
    I’m so pleased to hear that HC has private rooms for all. Can’t wait to hear how the whole process turns out for you and your new little one, Jessica!   

  34. I also delivered my 3 children at Holy Cross.  At the time I had my first, in 2003, I reserved a private room, and didn’t get it.  I ended up sharing a room with a teenage mom, who demanded a lot of attention.  It was aweful sharing a room with her, but I felt that the care I received from the staff was great.  They even let me check out early because they knew that my roommate was terrible, and it was so full, they had no where else to put me.

    By the time I had my 3rd, in 2009, things had changed quite a bit.  I had my own room, and they never took the baby away.  All of the testing was done in my room.  They did not bother me during the night, and the nurses that I had were great.  I did end up asking them to take my daughter to the nursery for a few hours one night because she was so noisy, and I hadn’t gotten any rest.  They took her willingly, and brought her right back when I asked.  The only complaint that I have (and it’s silly), is that they assumed that since I was a 3rd time mom, that I knew what I was doing.  Oh how much you forget!  Luckly, it comes back quickly!

    I think SO much of the experience depends on your nurse.  I hope you get a great one.

  35. Oh, and one more thing . . . the lactation consultant that came by while I was in the hospital was OK, but things change so much after you’re home, and the baby is not so sleepy, and your milk is in.  I visited the lactation center that is affiliated with Holy Cross, and I LOVED it.  They were sooo patient, so helpful, and with 2 of my kids where I was having major nursing issues  helped me through it so that I could be confident and comfortable.  I would recommend them in a heartbeat.

  36. Thanks Janel – it’s GREAT to hear from a nurse herself!  I am feeling pretty guilty that the nurses, who perform such a huge, important job, are getting slammed. Sadly, it’s much easier to remember negative experiences than positive ones.

    Again, the majority of my experiences at HC have been superb, thanks mainly to the great nursing staff.

    And it’s GREAT to hear that standard of care does not usually vary from patient to patient, or patients’ circumstances.

  37. Great recommendation for the Holy Cross Lactation Center!

  38. I’ll keep you posted.  I am confident that it will be a good experience, and that you’ll have a great birth and recovery too this summer!

  39. I’ll be crossing my fingers for you for a GREAT birth experience next month and that your healing is quick.

    (And your hair will look great! 🙂 )

  40. Eve- I’ll fill Jess in on our lovely adventure-filled ride up to the hospital on a later date.  🙂

  41. the outpatient lactation center at Holy Cross is now closed.  It’s just the inpatient services as of, I believe, February 1.

  42. I have delivered both of my girls at Alexandria INVOVA hospital even though I live a mile from Shady Grove Hospital (all private maternity rooms) – but this is because I have THE MOST AMAZING OB EVER – Her name is Dr. Tonlinson.  She has a single practice in Alexandria and that is where she delivers.  I would drive to upstate NY to deliver a baby with her and don’t trust anyone else to cut me open for the thrid time (both C-Sections) – but I digress….
    Alexandria hospital is wonderful and i can’t say enough good stuff about the care, attention and kindness shown to me during both of my stays there.  They were friendly, attentitive, compassionate, generous (the RN on night rounds offered to get me a snack and milk etc) and they have a special kitchen for mommies and families stocked with soda – YA for diet coke!!, cookies, juice, a coffee/hot chocolate machine and sometimes soup.  Additionally, there is actually a free parking lot there – how rare is that.  Even the OR was great and most of the staff was there for 10 or more years that were assigned to me. 

    The nurse actually thought it was funny because i didn’t want to go home.  She scared me when she thought I was going home a day before Dr. Tomlinson had me scheduled for discharge.  I said “what’s not to love about being here – you guys take care of me, take care of the baby, take her when I need or want you to, offer to help me shower or dress, feed me, bring me snacks, bring me drugs for pain and have a kitchen stocked with diet coke – I want to stay because all of that short of a fridge of diet coke, I will NOT get at home!!!!

  43. Birth centers are legal in Maryland; they’re just hard to keep open, financially, in large part because of insurance reimbursements being paltry. There is Special Beginnings out in Arnold and there’s one attached to/affiliated with PG Hospital, I think. There’s a full list on the Birth Options Alliance website (just google it).

    I had my first at the now-closed (much missed by me!) Maternity Center, and it was such a great experience that I drove to Alexandria to go to the birth center there, BirthCare, for #2. Both times I had total privacy and tons of attention from the midwives and assistants. Quiet when I wanted quiet; could bring and eat whatever food I wanted; could wear what I wanted; etc. I would recommend midwives to anybody, and birth center midwives in particular!

  44. I live in Takoma Park and delivered at Sibley.   After an unexpected, emergency c-section [I arrived 7 cm dialated after a long back labor; the doctor filling in for my doctor went to a Christmas party, all h-e-(double hockey stick) broke loose, my doctor had to come in late on a Sat night and the emergency c-section went long (too long according to the anesthesiologist who was yelling at my doctor during the procedure) and my recovery very long e.g. months and painful], I was put into a private room (for which we had paid).   It was very small, the nurse call button was broken, and included a tiny TV that one had to pay to use)   Early Monday morning – my first day off of serious pain meds, jack hammers started hammering right outside my window.   Yes, jack hammers.  When we complained to a nurse, we were told that the hospital chose to do construction at this time of year because fewer women were delivering.  The jack hammers went on all day, each day.  Because I could hardly move post c-section and my husband was sent home with the norovirus (apparently this was rampant in the hospital), the inability to communicate with the nurses was incredibly frustrating.  I wanted to have our baby in the room with me, but because of my pain, I couldn’t get out of bed with out assistance to feed her when she wanted to nurse.  No non medical staff ever came in to sell us anything, which to be honest, I was a bit sad about.  We had really wanted a professional photographer to take a picture, but no one ever showed up.  In the end, they took off the cost of the single room supplement to compensate for the problems encountered during the stay.  Obviously, we would much rather have had decent care and a decent place to recover than a few hundred dollars back.  I can’t say that having a private room made a bit of difference.   Sibley was all around awful.

  45. They have expanded the inpatient services and are trying to find a way to continue the outpatient services.

  46. I live in Silver Spring and delivered my first at Holy Cross, who had to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital (something we expected and were as prepared for as could be).  I was assigned a private room so that I wouldn’t sink into depression while my son was receiving care at Children’s.  Sadly, the first nurse that was assigned to me must have assumed that I either was making up the story, or crazy, or had broken into the hospital and assumed the room for the night, because she kept coming in the room asking me where my baby was and when I wanted him brought in for breasfeeding, even though it was clearly printed on my chart that he was at a different hospital being cared for!  My husband spent the night with my son each night and my mom stayed with me….and (I assume) those factors and possibly my race (black) and appearance (fairly youthful, at the time, despite being 35) led her to make some assumptions about why my baby wasn’t with me.  It was awful.  My mother finally had enough of it and had my nurses switched, and I didn’t have another problem…although I checked out a day or two later to be with my son (who is a very healthy 4 year old now!).  My second (9 months) was delivered at Sibley and I insisted on a private room, and the experience was much better.  Even though I had a period there where it seemed like every one but Oprah had stopped by to say hi or offer help, the nursing was good and they kept me, my hubby and baby boy very comfortable. 

  47. OMG, I think this takes the cake for “READ THE CHART” horror stories!!

  48. I just talked to a friend today who says that the renovation that made your stay a nightmare makes now for an AWESOME place for babies and moms, if that is any comfort!!

  49. I love this love letter to your doctor!  Everyone should adore their OB/GYN like this!

  50. Sounds like the third time was a charm at HC!

  51. I cant believe your first nurse told you you used up your alloted # of wipes! HC buys them in bulk and def overcharges your insurace for them.

    Cost is always an issue for me. But now all hospitals have private rooms so we ahve no choice.

    It would be great if you could do a cost analysis of the bills from your 1,2,3 babies births.

  52. kirsten: Did HCH refund or credit the $100 against your bill?

  53. Wow. Kitchens in Alex Inova. That is nice.
    Did you go in early? Bc SG to Alex VA is gettng on 270 and 495, that is 1hour on a good day!

  54. Good that they refunded the private room fee but where is the comp for the jackhammering?

    Why didnt they move you while the jackhammering was going on? They were so in senstive. Not only did you have a baby, you had AJOR SURGERY! Hello?
    I wish you called the charge nurse or called HR and demanded a chenge.

    Why wouldnt they have the call button repaired ASAP?

    Pay TV? Wow, were the toilets free or you had to use a coin?

  55. Thank you so much for your commentary I am 7 months as of today and had for the most part considered changing my OB just so I could change hospitals. (they wanted me to have my first child at PG Hospital… Ive heard stories and NO THANKS!) I called around to other providers in my network and looked all over the websites and fell in love with Holy Cross. I loved the tours, prep classes, (this isnt my husbands first child), and the sibling classes (so cute!). But, I was struggling to find a webpage that spoke specifically about the over night stays and the comfort for the men involved. (Call me a baby but knowing my over night guest would be an issue could have been a deal breaker… DONT LEAVE ME ALONE!!!! lol) I truly appreciate the in depth information and will be selecting an OB today as well as putting down whatever the cost for a private room! You are amazing… thanks 🙂

  56. I can’t speak to Holy Cross’s high-profit high-volume Maternity Mill, but in my experience the rest of the hospital is very sub-par, with floating temp nurses (wearing vacuous looks) filling many of the nursing slots. Holy Cross Hospital allowed my father to be euthanized by the withholding of treatment, and falsified records to cover it up. I kid you not (see Please steer clear of this place for birthing or anything else.


  1. […] as with birth itself, everyone’s story is different. (I was reminded of that recently with this post and its comments — several women had very different experiences even at the same hospital.) So, here’s […]

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