LINCOLN – Kathy Frodahl gave birth to her first child, her son Andrew, in 1980, but she still remembers that terrible fear of the unknown that she felt when she was wheeled into the delivery room.
“It’s pretty intense because the pain of birth is incredible. It’s torture, really,” Frodahl said Thursday. “The fear of not knowing what is ahead of you is the greatest fear you can feel, and that’s what you feel when you give birth for the first time. You can read books about birth and participate in births as I did as a nurse, but until you go through it, you really don’t know what to expect. It’s pretty intense.
“Plus people tell you all these horror stories about giving birth,” she added.
That’s why Frodahl was especially pleased to help unveil Penobscot Valley Hospital’s new Labor, Delivery, Recovery, Postpartum, or LDRP, suites.
The $55,000 renovation was completed Thursday, Paul Smith, the hospital’s executive director of support services, said.
Unlike the stark, antiseptic fluorescence and decor found in most hospital rooms, the two LDRP suites have a decidedly homey, comforting feel.
Graceful water pitchers and bowls sit on the wood-grained nightstands alongside the single beds, which have quilt comforters and soft yellow throw pillows. Wooden rocking chairs sit by the beds. Wood-paneled cabinets line the walls over the beds, and the walls carry soothing beige and green tones.
Wherever possible, hospital equipment is hidden in wood cabinets.
The floor tiling is bright and cheerful, and light blue checkered curtains hang over the windows near a spread of mother and baby gifts – baby books and magazines, baby oil and knit baby clothes – left on a bed table.
The idea, Frodahl said, is to make having a baby as comfortable and reassuring as possible for mothers.
“Birthing is a natural process, and people are more comfortable doing it in a more natural setting,” she said.
“Especially for first-time mothers,” said Beth Markie, a registered nurse and shift manager who helped design the rooms as chairwoman of the hospital’s Maternal Child Health Committee.
Delivery-room nurses, midwives and other female hospital workers advised the committee on the new rooms design to ensure that the rooms blended practicality with comfort, Markie said.
Another significant advance: PVH mothers can expect to spend the entire birth process in the same room, Markie said, helping them feel more in control of their baby’s birth and helping to eliminate the terrible discomfort of being administered to by strangers.
“When you are in transition and being put in a wheelchair and being forced to walk when all you want to do is get that baby out, it’s cruel and unusual punishment,” Markie said.
Hospital managers also will try to keep the same nurse or nurses with mothers through the entire birth process to help mothers feel less alone or tended to by strangers, she said.
They hope that the new rooms and the hospital’s combination of available family practice physicians, nurse midwives, OB-GYN doctors and board-certified pediatricians – unusual in a small rural hospital – will draw more pregnant women to PVH. The hospital handles 110-120 pregnancies a year, Frodahl said.
The renovated LDRP suites are part of an almost total face-lift and upgrade to the hospital, which will have a new $4.1 million surgical suite when construction is finished in October. PVH saved about $10,000 by using the construction firm and subcontractors on the LDRP rooms that are doing the surgical suite, Smith said.
A $350,000 lobby renovation is also in the works.
Penobscot is a 25-bed critical access hospital that handles about 11,000 admissions and 34,000 outpatients annually in the Lincoln area. It opened in 1973.