As The Portland Hospital celebrates its 30th Anniversary, a mother and her baby return to the hospital 25 years on.
It was a strange sensation for my daughter and me being in the room where she had spent the first eight days of her life.
Room 209 of The Portland Hospital was our home from home 25 years ago after Alice’s delivery. During the day, she was beside my bed in her see-through plastic crib and, at night, in the nursery along the corridor. A tiny bundle wrapped in a pink blanket who, thanks to the support of The Portland midwives, I learnt to bath, breastfeed and care for.
Returning for the first time brought memories flooding back. Alice too was fascinated to see where she had been born, her entry in the birthing book, and to meet distinguished obstetrician and Surgeon-Gynaecologist to the Queen Marcus Setchell, the first person in the world to see and hold her.
We took along Alice’s Portly Panda which she still treasures and were delighted to see that all new babies are still given one, although a slightly different design.
“It was very weird being in the hospital where I had been born and meeting the man who delivered me,” says Alice. “I was most impressed. It isn’t anything like I imagined, not like a hospital at all, no noise, no smells. It all seemed so tranquil. The staff all made me feel I was part of a big happy family and they all seemed genuinely pleased to see a grown-up Portland baby!”
“It was very weird being in the hospital where I had been born and meeting the man who delivered me”.
This year the Portland Hospital for Women and Children celebrates its 30th anniversary. Mr Setchell was one of the founding consultants when the hospital opened its doors in June 1983 and is the only one still delivering babies there.
The Portland has grown in size and dramatically expanded it’s facilities since then. The rooms are very different from 25 yeas ago - they are now attractive, stylish, restful and extremely welcoming and comfortable. All rooms can accommodate partners to stay and there are even double bedded rooms and luxury suites, each with their own sitting room.
Unlike now, when Alice was born there were no operating theatres on the delivery floors and women needing emergency Caesareans, as I did, had to be taken down to the basement. Furthermore, each obstetrician had to bring his or her own anaesthetist if a woman wanted an epidural as there were none on-site. Today the hospital has a consultant anaesthetist on the labour ward around the clock, the first in the country to introduce this.
Before, ante-natal care was non-existent except for classes in a sparse room opposite the main building. There was no obstetric ultrasound scanning equipment, no facilities for screening or diagnostic tests, and no doctors’ consulting rooms. Pregnant women saw their obstetrician independently in his or her rooms elsewhere and the first encounter with the hospital was when she gave birth.
Today the newly opened and very impressive Maternal and Fetal Wellbeing Centre provides all the pregnancy and gynaecological checks under one roof. In a private, relaxed and stress-free setting, women can have specialist screening to identify pregnancies at high risk of complications or abnormalities as well as routine scans to watch their baby grow and develop. Ante-natal classes are provided at times to suit each mum-to-be’s individual needs and there are even specialist antenatal and postnatal exercise classes including yoga and Pilates.
“The Portland was only five years old and had yet to hit the headlines with celebrity births when I stayed there”.
Back in 1988, there was a special care baby unit for babies born small or early or simply needing extra attention but nowhere as high-tech as the current neonatal intensive care unit. Parents can now be confident that should their baby need extra care, they could not be in a better or safer place. Mothers are in equally safe hands with a high dependency unit and intensive screening to ensure that all high risk pregnancies are flagged long before labour and birth.
Children’s healthcare services at the hospital have grown just as dramatically and can offer everything from tonsillectomies to brain surgery.
The Portland is now the largest private children’s hospital in the country with a new ultra-modern paediatric intensive care unit which includes special care, high-dependency beds and a dedicated day case unit for more minor procedures.
The Portland was only five years old and had yet to hit the headlines with celebrity births when I stayed there.
Today, everything about it exudes an aura of confidence and professionalism, but it hasn’t lost that friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Having a baby should be the most wonderful moment in a woman’s life and all the staff at The Portland make sure it certainly is.
By Jill Palmer