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November 4, 2009 > Having a Baby?

Having a Baby?

Get to Know Your Hospital with a Birthing Center Tour

When big events happen in our lives, generally it's a good idea to be as prepared as possible - because preparation promotes confidence and reduces jitters on important days.

This is especially important when having a baby. Accordingly, in order to help familiarize expecting parents with the place where their little one will make his or her entrance into the world, Washington Hospital offers regular tours of its Birthing Center.

"It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the hospital before your baby's birth because you're likely to feel more comfortable and relaxed when the time comes," says Karen Smith, R.N., coordinator of the hospital's Maternal/Child Education Department. "If you know where you're going, you're going to feel less rushed when the time comes. And familiarity cuts down on your anxiety and nerves.

Everyone is a little anxious because they want the birth to go smoothly, and it helps to feel comfortable and relaxed by knowing all the important details."

Smith says with all the medical shows on television these days, it's easy to get a highly skewed view of what's it's like to be in the hospital.

"In reality, giving birth is such a normal process," Smith says. "Every attempt is made to make it a positive experience for everyone."

Get to know your hospital

The free tour of the hospital's Birthing Center is one more way to prepare for the big day. And an often-overlooked advantage of attending a tour is that expecting parents will have the opportunity to fill out a pre-admittance form.

"This is a major benefit because by doing this in advance parents won't have to sit filling out the form in admitting when mom is in the throes of labor pain," she says. "Going into labor doesn't always happen during the daytime, and when you wake up in the middle of the night and it's time to go to the hospital, dad may have big-day jitters of his own. It's good to be prepared in advance."

The tour also offers expecting parents the chance to find out important information about hospital services and have a chance to ask questions of the trained hospital volunteers.

"Expecting parents who take the tour learn more about how the hospital actively supports mom/baby coupling, and that dad is expected to be part of the process and spend the night with mom to foster the family's bond," Smith explains. "Dad is there to be her partner and this a good time for him to learn to hold and diaper the baby."

Common questions

Smith says that one of the common questions new parents have is: Who can spend the night? She says while this is an optimal time for parents to get to know their new baby, older siblings cannot be accommodated overnight, adding that this is a good opportunity for them to spend time with the grandparents in preparation for meeting their new baby sister or brother.

"New dads can visit anytime, but there is a little more rigid visitation schedule for relatives," she says. "But if dad is unable to spend the night, then he can designate someone who can."

Another common question that expecting parents have is about food, Smith says.
"Many times people want to bring their own food, and they can, but the hospital cannot store it for them," she points out. "If a new mom has special dietary requirements, family members may bring food but there is no way to heat it and the hospital cannot store anything onsite."

For those who are simply wary of "hospital" food, Smith says not to fear.
"Washington Hospital still cooks all the meals; we don't use prepackaged meals," she says. "The food is prepared to be appetizing and nutritious, but if you want to bring your own food for cultural reasons, that is perfectly acceptable."

Easing anxiety on the big day

During the tour, it's a good idea - for dads, especially - to make note of the entrance and parking so it's not a concern when the big day arrives.

"For new dads who are anxious to get the mother of their baby-to-be to the hospital, they can go through the emergency room entrance, drop mom off, then park the car, being careful to park in visitor parking," she says.

Parents also find out more about the Level II Nursery on the Washington Hospital campus, which is staffed by physicians and nurses who specialize in prenatal care for infants that have any special health concerns at birth.

Registration for the tour, which should be scheduled for the last trimester of pregnancy, is required since participants will be walking the halls of an active nursing floor.

To register for a Free Birthing Center Tour, call (510) 791-3423.

After baby is born

The hospital also offers a number of services to help new parents once their baby is born. Some classes and services are specifically geared to providing vital support to new moms.

One of the most popular post-natal programs is the Free Baby 'n' Me Support Group that allows new moms to trade tips and trials of new parenthood in a comfortable, supportive environment. The group is ongoing and meets on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12:30pm to 2:30pm at Washington Hospital Childbirth and Family Services, located at 2299 Mowry Avenue, Suite 2-C in Fremont.

New moms also can take advantage of Breastfeeding and Lactation Support facilitated by certified lactation educators and consultants who provide support to breastfeeding and back to work moms with low cost private visits by appointment, classes, clinics and a free advice line.

To make an appointment with an internationally board certified lactation consultant, or to access the free advice line, call (510) 494-7013 Monday through Friday.

Learn more

To find out more about Childbirth and Family Services at Washington Hospital, visit, click on the "Services" tab, scroll to the bottom of the page, click "Women's Health" and make your selection from the drop-down menu.

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