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Thanks a lot H1N1: Limited Visitation by children at area hospitals

We delivered a little guy about three weeks ago at Legacy Emanuel Hospital.  The one night we spent at the hospital, we spent in our room along with our two other children to allow our new family of five to begin to get to know one another.  A couple of nights later, another friend of ours delivered their second child at Legacy's Good Samaritan Hospistal.  They, too, spent the night at the hospital as their new family of four.

When visiting together earlier today, my mama friend reported to me that Legacy would have a new rule in effect: no children under 18 may be visitors in the family birth centers because school-aged children have higher rates of exposure to the flu.  In addition, only two immediate family members or support persons could be present at the birth and during the mom's stay.

Apparently, Legacy isn't the only one.  The Providence Health System is also instituting the same policy at all of its establishments, effective October 9, 2009.  An urbanMama recently emailed:

I am heartbroken!
 
I'm due to give birth on October 26th with baby boy #2 at St. Vincent.  I've been so looking forward to my 3 year old son getting to meet his brother for the first time at the hospital.  For the entire 9 months, I've had this vision in my head of my husband bringing my son into the room and being able to show him his brother for the first time.  I want "that picture" of big brother holding little brother at the hospital, like almost every other mother in America has.  Now, because of concerns over the Swine Flu that will not happen.  I'm just sick with disappointment.
 
Don't get me wrong, I don't want to put anyone at risk and I think it important that everyone is kept healthy, especially in the hospital environment.  But I wonder if there is a place on the maternity ward floor where babies could meet their siblings?  I've already called St. Vincent to ask, but so far there is nothing.  I will call and talk with the head nurse on Monday.
 
Are there any other urbanMamas struggling with this new "visitation restriction" policy.  I understand that every hospital in the metro area has adopted it including OHSU.  I would love to hear what others have to say.

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We are facing that same restriction in January, and it does feel harsh on the personal level. But then someone told me that this flu is pretty much flat out deadly for newborns, so that sort of changed how I look at it. It still seems a little over the top, and I am REALLY hoping I don't end up in another c-section. I was in the hospital pushing 5 days last time around, and can't imagine being away from my girl for that long. BUT. Hard to fight this one, this year, I am afraid. It is easy to see how they got to lock-down mode on this one.

Seems like a very reasonable precaution to take for the health of everyone involved...newborn infant, recovering mother, etc.

I saw signs about this up at OHSU, too, and I reeled at the thought of not letting my two children meet a our third one (if I was having one) at the hospital. The policy at OHSU is no children under 12 in the mama/baby or Labor and delivery. I asked the receptionist about it and she seemed to think it would last for about 6 months. Huge bummer :-(

I get the concern but my son is going to be mighty disappointed. He is 4 and #2 is due in January - he has asked if he can be there to see the baby being born and I told him no but that he can come to the hospital to meet him/her. I didn't go to the hospital to meet my brother when he was born but my parents hadn't set up any expectations that I would, I guess I spoke too soon. Maybe we will come up with some special way for him to participate in us bringing the baby home. I'll be interested to see what others come up with.

KateC I love the idea of including the older kids in a homecoming. I think that is brilliant. I know that when I came home with my first, the tone that my sister and mom set in our house made all the difference in the world. If you can find someone to work with your son to make that special for you, it could make all the difference in the world. What preschooler doesn't love being in on a conspiracy of surprises!

We switched to Kaiser Sunnyside after hearing the news from St. Vincent. Seems they are the only area hospital that is taking it day by day.

I'm sorry for this sad outcome :( So I say walk through that disappointment, feel it... then be flexible and invent your own cherished "pictures" of first moments. I've had 5 babies and once I forgot the camera, once the stupid nurses were standing in the way of every shot... I would be a devastated heap if I let my scrapbook dictate my happiness. You'll have tons of cherished memories-- congratulations! :)

As doulas, we are also working to support our clients and their families through this challenging time. There of course is no easy or simple answer. (We haven't heard yet for example what single mamas are to do?) We have however come up with a few ideas to share with our clients and are eager to hear what mamas have to say here.

1. Communicate closely with all of your support team. Be as truthful (as age-appropriate) to your child about the changes explaining that their health is of your utmost priority.

2. Have a close family member or friend on call for you or hire a sibling support doula to make sure your child is well cared for. Someone the child adores is always a nice thing to look forward to.

3.Make Plan B exciting! Making a "surpise" birthday party for when baby gets home. Include big sibling presents, art projects, decorating and cake making as possible activities. Making the birth memorable now matter what form is likely a good goal for everyone involved.

4. Use technology: Skype and video chat is available on most laptops and mobile phones. See if a virtual meeting is possible. WiFi is possible in some areas of the hospital.

5. Video or photograph the birth if appropriate or possible for a post part sharing.

6. Consider your postpartum plan carefully. If you are healthy, how quickly can you return home? Discuss options with your provider. Family members, friends and postpartum doulas are all solid options for filling in when parents can be there.

7. For those that are significantly impacted or feel they have options, consider your place of birth. Even though it is likely that your sibling will be still under-age, there are some differences in the policy from hospital to hospital and there are home birth or freestanding birth center options that may not have this exclusion.

8. You have the right to express your thoughts and concerns regarding any issue about your patient rights either in person or letter format.

9. Recognize that this was not an easy decision for anyone involved and that creative dialogue may bring about continued positive solutions and safe measures with our community as a whole.

10. Love your family and recognize that any challenge can be turned into a positive memory with a little creativity.

Again, we recognize mamas are the most creative people on the planet so we're looking forward to hearing your responses!

Warmly,

Jesse Remer Henderson, BCD, PCD, BCDT(DONA), LCCE, AVIVA
Mother Tree Doula Services

we are super sad to not have number one up at the hospital to meet number 2. big disappointment! but we reassess, get out of the hospital as quickly as possible and make coming home more special somehow. i think it is good to keep the germs away from the newborns. i hate the sickies! i am so sick of preschool germs already!

i'm in the same boat, about to deliver in the next couple of weeks - likely via c-section and i feel so sad that we'll have to be away from our little guy (just 22 months old) for potentially 4 days and then suddenly come home with a baby. he's not old enough to comprehend what's happening, so it's definitely not ideal...but i also get it. so it is what it is. i'd love to hear any suggestions on what people might have for involving an almost 2 year old in a special homecoming or how to make the transition easier.

Having not had the option of giving birth- I may seem insensitive, but can't you be happy that you're a. having a baby b. understand that the hospital is doing this for your (and their) benefit and c. snap your pic in the waiting room or elevator? A nice way to involve your youngster might be to let them participate in putting together the crib or swing or have a before and after photo shoot with mom?

I know I will probably get flack for this one. But as a provider in the hospital. You don't want your kids in the hospital with H1N1. At most of the Portland/Vancouver hospitals we have already seen a dramatic increase in this nasty virus. I have personally taken care of three patients so far. All young and otherwise healthy. Our ICUs have very sick young patients with this virus. I am less worried about your children getting others sick, but rather that your own children will get sick while visiting. Our kids at this time are safer at home!!! I have a two year old and both my husband and I have been vaccinated to prevent spreading this deadly virus to him. It is unfortunate and for those that are switching hospitals . . .be assured that Kaiser Sunneyside has H1N1 patients.

This wouldn't have affected me at all. I gave birth naturally and was home each time within 14 hours of giving birth. The sibling reunion takes place in my own bed.

And I have a long standing policy of NOT traipsing up to the hospital to see a friend and her newborn... you do not need my kid's school germs near your new baby.

Out of curiosity, of those of you having newborns in the coming months who have older children at home, how many of you are planning on vaccinating your older children and/or yourselves to protect your newborn/pregnancy when the vaccines become available? Have you already gotten regular seasonal flu shots for your family?

i am due in a week and have not yet, because i dont want to, but will get both the regular flu shot and H1N1, JUST to protect the new babe and my 2 year old.

I know everyone thinks their kid is OK to come in, but if you were the one with the newborn and/or premature infant in the ward and you found out that kids were visiting who had cases of swine flu at their school, I'm sure you'd flip out. I would. It's contagious before symptoms show.

I honestly don't think it's that big of a deal for the kids to see the baby in the hospital anyway, especially for kids who are 2-4 years old. We have kids wait for all kinds of things, and I just don't see the difference between seeing the baby in the hospital one day, and seeing the baby the next day at home. Maybe someone can explain it to me. I don't care if I see a new baby in the hospital at all. The only way I would visit, regardless of pandemics, is if I were asked. I know it's different for everyone, but after I delivered, I didn't want to talk to or see anyone in the hospital, I just wanted to rest, recover, and get fed.

I'm pregnant and planning on getting the H1N1 vaccination for myself and my son (we already got the regular) ASAP. I know someone who got this flu this spring and it was very harsh on a healthy, non-pregnant woman. I'm already hearing of many cases, and a co-worker is getting tested.

I'm sad that my sister will not be able to be with my at the birth and that I will be away from my 3 year-old for 4 days, but ultimately I am thankful that the hospitals are taking these measures. My sister works at a hospital and the stories of H1N1 and little ones are scary! I do not want to take a chance on my newborn catching H1N1. And frankly, I don't want my 3 year- old (who has asthma) at the hospital where there is a chance he could catch something. Four days away from my family is, in my opinion, a small price to pay.

I have no doubt that the first time my son meets our new baby will be special, whether it takes place in a hospital room or in our home.

Based on the advice of our pediatrician and my OBGYN, my husband, 3 year old son, and I have all had our seasonal flu shots and will get our H1N1 shots as soon as they are available.

e- I have a three month old baby and am planning on getting myself and my three year old vaccinated against H1N1 when the vaccine becomes available. Unfortunately Kaiser does not have it yet, nor do they have an ETA. Not sure about getting the seasonal flu vaccine. I feel less pressure to get this just because the seasonal flu season isn't really going yet but it sounds like there are a lot of H1N1 cases out there already.

I'm sorry that your sweet picture of what you wanted won't come to pass at the hospital! I really understand the desire to have your closest ones around you.

Have you considered that a home birth or birthing center birth would allow this to be possible? Home births are safe, particularly given the proximity of good hospitals that are available if necessary.

Blessings on your birth, wherever and however it happens!

jd- I'm also a Kaiser member and myself and my OB are pregnant. I asked her yesterday about the vaccine and she said the last she heard it will be available at Kaiser on 11/2. She said if I think I've been exposed (see previous post) we can talk about tamiflu.

Not to hijack the conversation, just want to make a comment to "w"--I take offense at the "stupid nurses" comment. Sorry that they were in there trying to do their job-- make sure you and your baby were healthy and safe, which ended up interfering with your photo shoot.

I'm giving birth via c-section at St. Vincent's at the end of November and I concur with being heartbroken to be caught up in the H1N1 restrictions. My son is almost 4 yrs. old - so just at the age where he is well aware of his sibling's impending arrival but will have trouble fully understanding why he's not allowed to be a part of the process or see me for four days. Besides that, while I know that I have another baby on the way, he's my cherished only baby/child right now and besides my husband, there is no one in this world who I want to be the first to meet our new family member and be involved in the process from Day One. He's been fairly enthusiastic about the new arrival and it breaks my heart that we'll have to tell him anything that might break his enthusiasm or ability to feel involved. I do understand the public health issue but it doesn't change the fact that this is a huge bummer for those of us affected like this. I also had visions of those hospital family photos I've seen so often from others...

We also have no family in the area (or that many support people in general as we haven't lived here that long) and my parents are flying in especially for the birth and to take care of our son. Luckily he's in full time care right now so they will be able to visit during the day while he's in school/care (though now not for the actual birth because it's scheduled for early in the morning before school is even open). However, what I don't want to happen is for them to be talking in front of him at night about how they saw the new baby that day. And, what I'm also not clear on is the exact policy regarding adult visitors. The way I read it, it seems like if both my mom and dad come into the room together to meet the baby, then my husband has to leave? I have a tour scheduled for next Saturday, so I'm sure like everyone else, I'll be asking them a million questions about these policies.
I appreciated the list of tips given above. In particular, I like the Skype idea. I didn't think of that but will consider it.

When my second son was born, my oldest was 2. He and dad came to visit little bro in the hospital. Big bro: "Oh. So that's a baby." Me: "Can I get a picture of you next to the baby?" Big bro: "Daddy, more pretzels?" (I did end up getting a picture, but it was such a close-up, it really could've been taken anywhere.)

A few minutes later, DH and I were cooing over the baby and we hear this odd mechanical noise. Apparently, those up-and-down beds will only go so far in any direction, no matter how hard a determined little hand presses the button. Who knew?

Needless to say, big bro stayed home with gramma the rest of the time we were in the hospital. I think it worked out that he was already on "his turf" when the baby came home. Big bro gave the baby the home-coming tour ("So he knows where the potty is." Tee-hee.).

Big bro is now 7 and doesn't remember meeting little (now middle) bro in the hospital. And the pictures taken our first day home are infinitely cuter than the photos at the hospital--the kids are more comfortable in their own environment, no medical equipment in the background.

Don't worry. Wherever, whenever and however your kids meet will be adorable and touching and you will find yourself thinking, "Whoa. I really do have 2 kids."

kmat, your hospital scene sounds very similar to mine! My almost 2 year old was far more interested in the juice dad scored for him than anything else. And I was too sore and tired to really do more than just sit and talk with him for a few minutes. Same thing happened recently when dad was in the hospital for something. Hospitals themselves are much more interesting than the people in them, as far as I can tell.

I think it really matters more to us mamas than the kiddos. While these restrictions are upsetting, in the long run I think it really will be okay. It's like anything else with the birthing process, you can have your plan in your head but you have to always be prepared for that plan to change as you go along.

kmat and mom22,
While I definitely hear what you are saying, for our particular situation, I do think there's a big difference in comprehension between age 2 and age 4 (as you know). Also, since you did have them come to the hospital, what if that option was taken off the table for you before the baby was born? I'm guessing since you had them come you thought there was some importance/significance to them being a part of that event - even if in hindsight you thought it wasn't that big of a deal. Bottom line: I appreciate your thoughts on the reality of the significance of the experience, but I still think it's all a big bummer that we don't even get to choose whether or not we want them there.

You could consider having a home birth, or giving birth at a birthing center. If you do some reading you'll find that it's just as safe as hospital birth in terms of mother and infant survival, and much safer in terms of avoiding unwanted interventions. One advantage that isn't often mentioned is that there are much lower rates of infection for baby and mother when birthing at home because you're not exposed to all of the germs other people bring to the hospital--you're in your own home, so all the germs present are ones your family is used to. And you have complete control over who is and isn't at the birth and the extent of involvement of your children. And you get so much more attentive one-on-one care and TLC, before, during, and after the birth.

Some info on safety of homebirth vis-a-vis germs and infection, etc:

http://www.expectantmothersguide.com/library/newjersey/homebirth.html

http://www.nchomebirth.com/art-safety.htm

http://www.gentlebirth.org/format/myths.html#Germs

We had a great experience through Alma Midwifery in SE Portland.

http://www.almamidwifery.com/

Melinda, I tried to be clear that I can imagine the disappointment of not being able to have the sibs there. I'm sorry if that didn't come through enough. I guess what I'm hoping is that the value of my hindsight might help someone going through it feel a little more okay about the fact that it is an unintended change, but not a change that will take away the value of the whole experience. You are right, it was important for me to consider my oldest when planning the birth. And, as you put it, he was my only baby up to that point so the whole world revolved around him. At that point in time, I couldn't have thought that him not coming was even an option because every decision we made was about him. After seeing how it went the first time he visited though, we just didn't do it again, and I was there for a number of days following a C. In all honesty, I was grateful for the rest and the time to have with the new little one to myself without having to worry about how the older one was experiencing it. I haven't had that luxury since! So, I get that it's a change you aren't wanting. I hope you can come up with an alternative plan that works for your family. A 4 year old has the luxury of understanding what's going on, which hopefully can serve you well. I was so worried that my 2 year old wouldn't get it because I had never been away from him overnight. Once I knew he didn't seem to notice I was missing, I could relax and focus on the little stranger I had in front of me. I hope you can as well.

mom22, Thank you for your last comment. You said what I was thinking, only a lot nicer.

Wow! Glad I saw this post. We are due with no.3 in February, and while I am less concerned with having to delay the first meeting of the sibs until we get home, I am disappointed to see that there will potentially be a limit on who you can have present at the birth. Obv. I want my DH there, but also potentially both G'mas (as this will be our last baby)... I get the reason for precaution, but it kind of feels like your birth experience is being hijacked!

I also wanted to mention that for healthy pregnancies, there is the option to give birth at home with a midwife. A few benefits of having a homebirth are 1)you can have whoever you want present and coming and going during or after birth, 2)you never have to leave your home, so after giving birth you can sleep in your own bed immediately, and 3)you are not exposed to the germs and "sick" people that you may otherwise be exposed to in a hospital. However, homebirth is not for everyone, as you do not have the option of epidural and there is always a chance that you will need to go to the hospital if your birth does not progress as expected. We gave birth at home, and in my opinion, it was WAY better and I had much more freedom than if I had been in a hospital. I am writing this to emphasize the point that if you have a healthy pregnancy, you have other, non-hospital birthing options.

UGH! You people exhaust me. It is posts like this one (and others) that make myself (and several other mothers) not want to to read this site. Get over yourselves. Your precious angel will survive not going to the hospital. In fact, he or she will likely not even remember this time.

Why don't you take three minutes to think of other people - everyone risks flu exposure and you're perfect little 4-year-old could expose a newborn or other child - the potential for serious harm or god forbid, death to a child.


News flash: there are actually other people in the world.

I agree with So over Portland parents. Please think about other people. While I love my child to death, I certainly wouldn't want her coming to the hospital and possibly infecting a newborn or adult with her germs. I think the new visitation policy is much needed. I'm only in my first trimester, but certainly hope that if the H1N1 is still going strong when it's my time to deliver, they continue to implement the visitation policy. Seriously, a few days away isn't going to break apart our new family. I should also add that during this season if your child is sick and you know it, please please stay home despite how stir crazy you think your child is going. You never know if you might infect a child or adult with underlying health issues at the grocery store or wherever you might go.

Yep, I'll add another nod to the last 2 posts. I sometimes wonder how saturated with privilege we are that delaying people from seeing newborns gets us all riled up. Sounds like some people need to spend a little bit of time in another country, preferably a developing one, to get a glimpse of what real problems are. Then come back and get riled up. Sheesh.

another nod here to HOMEBIRTH! Camellia, thanks for providing that info. i gave birth at home and i wouldn't have it any other way.

FYI, i am STILL not buying the flu hype. build your immune system, don't get sick.

From what I've read, the normal seasonal flu kills about 46 to 88 kids every year. But according to the CDC, it's already killed more than 80 kids (about 39 of those in the LAST SIX WEEKS), and flu season won't be over for months.

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/update.htm

Sorry. That should have read, "But according to the CDC, it (the swine flu by itself, not the seasonal flu) has already killed more than 80 kids ...)

Update! This thread may be dead, but in case anyone's still looking for info, a certain hospital (Leg. Eman.) will be changing the visitation requirements pretty soon. It's going to allow family members (all ages) to visit the new mom and baby, as long as they've had an H1N1 vaccine (and proof of it) at least three weeks prior to the visit.
While that still doesn't make for the ideal situation, it's better than excluding siblings from meeting their new brothers/sisters altogether. Supposedly, this will take effect around January 1st.

I totally understand the logic behind the CDC's reccomendation, however, I will be giving birth on the 22nd of December, and since it is via C-Section, I will most likely still be in the hospital over Christmas... the idea of not being able to see my other 2 children on such an important holiday breaks my heart! My kids are both vaccinated, as I am, and my husband will be once the baby is born (he isnt considered high risk until then). I would never want to put anyone in danger, and I understand keeping those most likely to get/spread the virus to certain areas, like not in the birthing center, or ICU, surgery etc... I would be happy with just seeing my kids in the waiting room... it doesnt matter where, I just wanna see them on Christmas! Even if they cant meet their brother right away, it sucks, but thats how it was back in the day, and this way my husband and I can bond with new baby just us... but I really hope they lift this restriction in time for Christmas. :)

M.T.-
I feel you! I'd be heartbroken to have to be away from one of my kids on Christmas. I've arranged to borrow a laptop that I can use to video-conference with my family members who won't be in the hospital when I give birth, which will make it just a little easier. Just a little. It may be that the nurses would allow you to meet your kids in a different part of the hospital on Christmas, or outside, even if you aren't being discharged yet. What else are all those wheelchairs for? :)

Thank you for the update, Kate! I've been searching the internet trying to find the latest info on the hospital restrictions and couldn't find anything until now. I'm not due until March so I'm hoping the ban on visitors will be completely lifted by then.

As for the visitation update, it would appear to apply to the whole Legacy system, and it is in effect now at Legacy Salmon Creek up here on the other side of the river...

As a home birth midwife, we're definitely getting calls from families who'd planned a hospital birth but who don't want to be separated during or shortly after birth. It's certainly an option, even if you find yourself with not long to go before your due date.

www.nwmidwives.com

Legacy Health Systems lifted all visitor restrictions today:
http://www.legacyhealth.org/body.cfm?id=1135

Kate, you are awesome! Thanks for the update!!

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