by Mary Ann Toman-Rowe
Few steps are more famous than those at the Lindo Wing of London’s St. Mary’s Hospital where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge proudly displayed their third-born child today. But what’s it really like inside those iconic doors that have hosted the births of two future kings and countless princes and princesses?
A few weeks ago at 2:30pm, I was in labor in that same Lindo Wing, having just climbed out of a classic black cab that my husband had hailed to whisk me to what is widely perceived to be the Buckingham Palace of birthing.
The press has breathlessly speculated about what the Duchess experienced in the world’s most famous maternity hospital. But while the images of champagne contractions and caviar dilations may make for entertaining reading, they are far from reality.
If truth be told, my initial impression was that the Lindo Wing was pretty much like most other hospitals, but I soon realized that it deserves every bit of its reputation as the finest medical center in the world. Arriving mid-contraction, I dashed straight into the elevators that took me to the 4th floor where the births occur. The Lindo Wing is actually quite petite, which I preferred because it rather felt like being at home.
The delivery room was far from regal. Functional would be a better adjective. There was a regular hospital bed, bathroom and a TV. The birthing room was similar to a normal bedroom, with a relaxing shade of green and some yellow hues.
There are no crowns or scepters here. Not a crown jewel in sight. And the closest thing to a throne is the sofa a soon-to-be father can lounge on.
I wanted to deliver my baby at the Lindo Wing because I had heard that all the midwives there are fantastic, and it’s true! I had a calm and friendly midwife who gave me help when I wanted it, but otherwise stayed back when I was doing fine.
I didn't want to take any drugs or medications, and the staff never pushed me to take them. I wanted to feel the birth and not have anything artificial to pass to the baby. Plus, the hefty epidural cost seemed like a waste of money. I also needed to be back on my feet fast as I wasn't taking any maternity leave.
Women are known to fly in from overseas to give birth here, and it’s easy to see why. It’s spotless, efficient, and a safe environment that makes you feel at home.
Next door to the birthing rooms is an absolutely state-of-the-art operating room with the latest technology and gadgets. The expectant mother can be taken there in seconds if any complications arise.
I had two doctors along the way, both well worth their fees. One was Kate's English doctor, the other was French-Swiss. At the Lindo Wing, both a doctor and midwife oversee the birth.
My midwife was introduced to me and installed a monitor to watch my baby’s heart rate and to monitor the strength of my contractions. I continued to move around as my body told me to, despite the monitor. When the midwife first checked my progress, I was already 5 centimeters dilated. Such relief! My midwife announced she was already calling my doctor, who arrived promptly.
Packed away in my suitcase was, amongst other items, an exercise ball with a pump, an inflatable mattress, and a TENS machine. These remained packed, so when my doctor walked in, I was laboring on the floor! Within minutes of his walking into my room, he announced I was 10 centimeters dilated and predicted my daughter would be born in the next 30 minutes. He was remarkably accurate.
Two hours after being admitted my daughter was born. I celebrated with nothing more than a sip of Gatorade.
After relaxing in the delivery room, we all moved up one floor to another single room with a television, a fridge which was so useful, a window which looked out over a tall brick building, and an armchair that extended out for my husband to sleep on. I had a private en suite bathroom with a shower, too, which came in handy. Sociable midwives came in to check on me and baby, as well as a pediatrician.
Someone from the kitchen came around to take food orders. I can assure you that lobster and crêpes suzette are not even on the menu! We ate a simple breakfast of croissants and tea and a lunch of grilled salmon with steamed vegetables and mushrooms.
The nursery was dimly lit, so none of the babies startled. It felt like a nursery, not a hospital. The Lindo wing doesn’t have a medicalized feel as machines aren’t beeping. The rooms are beautifully soundproofed, so all things considered, it was restful.
When it was time to leave, no discharge bureaucracy, no push to leave by a certain time. The Lindo is all about choice, not pressure of any kind.
Would I use the Lindo wing again for my next birth? Absolutely! The Lindo layout made me feel like I had the ward all to myself. Plus, you get a 10% discount for your second child. That’s what I call an incentive to have more kids!
So I emerged from the experience with no royal title, but with a new title far more important and meaningful – Mom.
Our warmest wishes to new parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as our dear friends the Toman-Rowes. Thank you for sharing!