A special place…

This is a newspaper column that I wrote a couple of years ago when our local maternity unit was in danger of closing – thankfully the unit remained open and continues to welcome women and allow them precious time with their new babies.

Affectionately nicknamed the Honiton Hilton it is a place of great comfort to many new – and experienced – mothers. It is somewhere that holds a special place in my heart…and this is why;

“Like many mothers in the area I am sad and angry to hear of the proposed changes to aftercare at the maternity unit in Honiton Community Hospital – affectionately known as the Honiton Hilton.

The unit is set to be downgraded to a birthing unit from April 1st this year meaning new mothers will not get the aftercare that the unit has previously been famed for.

I myself was lucky enough to experience the wonderful care that the midwife team at the unit provide and I am certain that without them I would not have breastfed my first son, Charlie.

After a straightforward birth at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital the experience quickly went from joy at delivering my first son to chaos and hysteria – not something you need as a first time mum trying to grasp breastfeeding. Charlie was born at a low birth weight and to top it all off was reluctant to feed at first.

After two stressful nights in Exeter I managed to persuade the hospital to let me transfer to Honiton.

On arrival the atmosphere was noticeably calmer with plenty of friendly midwifes on hand to help me settle in – and there was even a menu to order my meals from!

Straight away I felt at ease. Here my family were allowed to visit and my husband able to stay with us until late evening – something I think is really important in the first few days.

At about 3am on the first night of my stay at Honiton I had woken to Charlie crying and taken him out of the ward – a rule that allows other new mums to rest more peacefully – and desperately tried to get him to feed.

After 10 minutes of ear-piecing cries – from me – a lovely midwife came over and asked if she could help.

We sat there until the early hours and slowly but surely my beautiful little boy started to feed – cue more tears!

From that moment Charlie and I did not look back. I stayed for two nights and left feeling confident and rested – something that every mother deserves after the birth of a child.

I was unlucky not to be allowed to deliver either of my sons at the unit on the grounds of medical reasons but have friends who have had the chance and they only tell of a wonderful experience backed up by the aftercare that the midwives are happy to dish out.

The ladies who work there are helping mothers to settle into their role – whether it is the first or third time – and allow them the opportunity to get some rest and most importantly TLC.

The key is that the midwives have the time to help and that is exactly what they do, whether it is with breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, changing a nappy or bathing a slippery newborn – they are giving women the chance to adjust to a job that comes without a manual.

The aftercare service is also a vital tool in the recovery for women who have undergone a caesarean section and require much more looking after following the birth. Women from all over the area can come back to the unit for a period of recuperation and much-needed help after such a major operation.

I am appalled that the much-loved unit may be forced to alter its aftercare and even more disappointed for the thousands of women who may miss out on the experience. I cannot understand why there is need to change something that works so well?

We are extremely lucky to have this exceptional service on our doorstep and the help and support offered by the midwife team at the Honiton maternity unit is second-to-none.

I, for one, will always be grateful to them.

I know that I am not the only mother to feel this and I would hate to think I could be one of the last.”

Thank you for letting me share this with you.

L xx

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