Ode to The Baby Place | Pekin Memorial Hospital
Evening descends and I come to a slow stop at the intersection of 14th and Court Street. The fountains in the lagoon are still lit up. A light wind breezes through my car. The stoplight twinkles a little. I look up to the 8th floor of Pekin Hospital and search for a light on in a window. I think of being me, a laboring mother glancing down to the tiny cars below, darting onto their business. A baby is being born here. Do they know a miracle is about to happen?
As I search the floor for a light, the thought hits me. Again.
There are no more Pekin Hospital babies being born. The lights are all off, the doors are locked. Dust has settled into those labor tubs and the comforting in-room blanket warmers are cold. The phones do not ring. The gift shop display just outside the elevator of the 8th floor will become as dated as the portraits of children long grown up adjacent to it.
The light turns green. I move on. The nurses have moved on. Some became midwives in the last years. Some are transferring to Peoria facilities. Some are just … done. Amanda’s giant hands. Laurel’s …well, she’s Laurel, amirite? Renee who became one of my own clients. They moved on.
I get a little weepy as I pass the hospital quickly now. I am flooded as I always am now with the memories of my birth there. Just past 37 weeks, nearly out of amniotic, a high risk pregnancy. I chose Pekin because it gave me the best opportunity to have the birth that I want. 17 hours of pitocin. 12 hours of Laurel. 2 welcomed meals. Viola, Amy and a few others circled around me waiting for a maternal ejection reflex to happen before Dr. Reinertson could arrive. A fast couple of pushes. A baby in my arms. All six pounds of her. Covered in vernix. There are no more sweet six pound, cheesy babies being gently lifted into a reaching mother’s arms there anymore.
And just an hour later I got up and I walked a few rooms down to my postpartum room. I woke the next morning to snow flurries drifting past my window. My sweet baby’s vernix nearly completely absorbed. Lactation came into my room and was able to jump right into helping us. She had taken a full history while I was still laboring. It felt like I knew who was sitting with me, teaching me how to put my giant boob into a teeny tiny 6lb baby mouth. Laurel came back to us and got to bathe our baby. She bathes the babies at Pekin.
Did bathe the babies at Pekin.
That night my husband went home to care for our son and a nurse stayed in my room and held my baby while I showered. She just could. So she offered. And I think I spent more time crying in the shower that a nurse could just sit with me when no one else could than I did relaxing. But maybe that’s what I needed.
The Baby Place boasted “personal size, personal care”. They weren’t wrong. Pekin felt like the world’s best kept labor and delivery secret. And while my nursing care was still good across the river… it wasn’t Pekin.
I live in Pekin. I drive past that hospital every morning heading to Parkside. I see the window I looked out before leaving at 24 weeks after staying awhile to be monitored following an abrupt illness. I see the window I watched snow flurries fall from. I hear my little Lanna Bear making those tiny little baby squeaks. I remember birthing a posterior baby with ease. I remember the months and month and months of lactation visits with both of my girls, crying in that tiny little office. Triumphing in that tiny little office. I attended a few groups lactation meetings in that basement. My kids found secret toys that were supposed to have long been removed.
And now those toys will sit in a box, collecting dust. Just like the entire 8th floor. I birthed here. I was born here. This is the end.
My last Pekin Hospital birth
It was everything I loved about my own. Nurses that had the time and sincerity to help mothers. A little 18 month old, soon to be big brother, welcomed and accommodated as much as at any home birth. Respect. Informed consent. Choice.
I am going to miss this.