hospitals, birth, and haunting

My husband and I recently took the maternity tour of St. Luke’s hospital to see what we’re in for when the bundle of kicks and jabs now occupying my uterus decides to make his appearance. Although the more I read about homebirth, the more intrigued I am by it, I am a worrywart and feel more secure about delivering in a hospital (especially when I’ll be attended by one of the excellent midwives at Women’s Specialists of Houston, who will not press any interventions upon me), and I have to say that I’m pretty excited about St. Luke’s.

Another popular hospital (which shall remain nameless here), where an acquaintance is planning to give birth, is rumored to have two “hidden” labor & delivery rooms with hot tubs (a proven way to soothe labor pains without medication)–but you have to know some kind of secret handshake or have your doula raise a ruckus in order to get one. According to this acquaintance, the very existence of these rooms was denied while she was on her maternity tour–it was her doula who tipped her off about them.

I was incredibly happy, then, to find that the St. Luke’s maternity tour proudly revealed that half of its labor and delivery rooms have hot tubs–and that they try to keep these rooms open for women (like me) who plan to have a drug-free labor and birth. Odds are, I’ll be able to soak away some of the pain!

The one drawback of the tour was the (to my ear) excessive focus on epidurals. The tour guide mentioned epidurals at every opportunity, and only occasionally tossed out a reference to natural childbirth as an afterthought. Of course, I’m sure that any hospital makes more money from an epidural than a natural birth, so there may be a connection there. Still, it would seem to be in the best interest of potential clients to give equal coverage to all the options available, without making the assumption that an epidural is the best choice for everyone. The brochure about pain management in labor that was provided during the tour was much more equitable in its approach.

One feature of St. Luke’s that took me by surprise is the Terrace Suites, a special floor of hotel-like suites available to recovering patients. These rooms, which feature cable modem docking stations, brass fixtures, massaging recliners, guest rooms, real wood furniture with decorative inlays, brocade bedspreads, a special menu from which you can order steak and lobster, and daily “high tea” with cheesecake, are available for about $1000 per night. That’s $1000 per night over and above all other hospital costs, mind you. This is the first time I’d heard of such high-falutin’ hospital service! I’m trying to imagine the sort of fancy folk who might be able to afford to stay in these suites–society matrons recovering from facelifts, or pro sports athletes nursing torn ligaments, perhaps? As for me, I’ll have to settle for bleeding all over the (certainly not 200+ thread count Egyptian cotton) sheets of the regular old $70 per night private room in the maternity ward.

As a stark contrast to such service, I thought of the old Jefferson Davis Hospital, rumored to be the most haunted place in Houston. Having lived for a few years in a very haunted house in Lindale (just outside the Heights), my research into other hauntings in H-town invariably led to stories of this now-abandoned building, which is built over the site of the oldest cemeteries in the area (one dating back to the 1600s).

Supposedly, over a year ago the property was bought by a company who intends to turn it into “affordable” loft-style apartments–yet there seems to be no indication yet of actual renovation or construction taking place.

An interesting note: the maternity ward and the psychiatric ward (complete with padded rooms) were on the same floor of the old Jeff Davis hospital. Coincidence? You new mothers out there can be the judge…

Today, this building is of course strictly private property and legally off-limits to would-be ghostbusters, though that doesn’t deter the squatters, junkies, and thrill-seeking teens who continue to hang out there. As far as I know, the only legal way to get a closer look at the place is through the High Spirits tours of haunted places in Houston.

Back on the topic of birth, the newer Jeff Davis Hospital, built in 1937 (the older one no longer functioned as a hospital after 1938) and demolished in 1999, was a community hospital serving Harris County residents, many of lesser financial means. Interestingly enough, it was also the site of some controversy around the hotly debated issue of routine infant circumcision, as it actually stopped performing circumcisions on newborn boys in its care in 1983. What happened next? A clinic entirely dedicated to providing circumcisions opened nearby. No word on whether the clinic survived the destruction of the hospital providing its business, however…

1 Comment so far

  1. katya (unregistered) on September 23rd, 2004 @ 2:08 pm

    Oh my…. I am fascinated by the idea of going on a ghost tour. Thanks for the link.



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