Five Star Babies

Alexandra in the safe hands of the NHS.

Alexandra in the safe hands of the NHS.

Did anyone watch Five Star Babies, the two-part programme on BBC recently about little ones born at the Portland Hospital? (Still available on iPlayer for the next couple of weeks – you can find it here) I have to admit, it was one of those programmes I watched kind of knowing I would get angry about it!

Some of it wasn’t too bad. They focused a lot on how they tried to provide a five star hotel experience as well as their apparently world-class medical side of things. Some of the couples were shelling out tens of thousands and in return for that, they were getting champagne, afternoon tea and pretty much any fine dining ingredient that tickled their fancy.

In one way, it all made complete sense to me. These aren’t the kind of people who are going to go for a weekend away camping, instead they’ll be jetting off to the latest ‘designer’ holiday location and living in complete luxury. They’re not raking the rails of Primark to find a new dress to go to Wetherspoons in, they’re off to a designer boutique to be fitted for a little number for some ball or other. So why wouldn’t they use their money to get the very best birth experience (in their opinion)? Why would they ‘slum it out’ on the NHS and be sat eating toast sharing a room with a few others new moms when they can have their own luxury room and 24/7 room service?

The part which annoyed me much more than the general idea of the Portland was the nursery. Women could choose whether to send their newborn off to the nursery to be looked after for them. Some of the tiny babies were only sent back to be breastfed (and some even less if they were formula fed). This I can’t get my head round. You’ve carried a baby inside of you for nine months, given birth and now you’re going to let a stranger spend many of its first hours in the world with it instead of you? Yes you might want a sleep and yes you might be exhausted from birth but I just can’t fathom farming such a tiny, new baby out to someone else at that stage. I guess some of these women will have nannies and various other staff members to see to baby’s every need when they get home, so that being the case in hospital isn’t odd to them, but to me it just completely goes against any sort of mothering instinct.

There was one aspect of the care at the Portland which I did think was fabulous and that was each woman essentially ‘hired in’ their consultant who would be there for every appointment, scan and crucially for the birth as well. The idea of getting to know someone who would then guide you through one of the most important things you’ll ever do is incredibly appealing in a world where most women have never met the doctor or midwife who delivers their baby before the day itself. It must be massively reassuring, especially if there are complications, to have that one point of contact and that one familiar face all the way through.

While some of it was ridiculous (the woman wanting a C-section because she’d heard it would hurt to give birth *massive eye roll* – plus she’d seemingly not caught on to the fact a section is major surgery and would be painful afterwards? And she didn’t seem to understand the concept of picking her son up when he cried), I actually didn’t hate-watch it as badly as I thought I was going to!

Harriet and Alexandra x

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