The 13 rooms are spacious, sunny, well-appointed, and call to mind a perfectly chilled mimosa and a properly aged Camembert.
This is the newly renovated maternity ward at WakeMed Cary Hospital, scheduled to start delivering babies on Tuesday. At a construction cost of $3.9 million, it’s designed as a resort-like getaway, with a deep soaker tub, showers for hydrotherapy, le Naturel soap bars and muted floral imagery decorating the walls.
“More and more people want to feel like they’re checking into a spa,” said Thomas Gough, the Cary hospital’s administrator. “It is sterile but doesn’t feel sterile.”
Cary is the last of WakeMed’s three maternity wards to be remodeled to meet the exacting expectations of today’s pampered mom, who spends months planning the perfect childbirth experience and has ample choice of hospitals and birthing centers.
WakeMed delivered 8,032 babies last year in Cary, North Raleigh and at its flagship hospital on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. That’s more than any other health care system in Wake County, which is one of the most competitive areas in the state for new births, accounting for 10.6 percent of all new births in the state last year. WakeMed is not only competing for moms with its cross-town rival UNC Rex Health Care (5,456 babies delivered last year), but also with the expectations of transplants coming from Boston, Philadelphia, Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
Gough and Seth Brody, WakeMed’s chief medical officer, gave a tour of the new facility this week, proudly pointing out the amenities that will make the new rooms not only more comfortable for new moms but also less congested for doctors and nurses. There’s a self-administered breathing tube for nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) for moms who don’t want epidurals, and an overnight area with a pull-out couch for dads, mothers-in-law or best friends.
Laughing gas was once a rarity in maternity wards but is becoming more common. Rex Hospital was the first in the county to start offering it in 2014.
Contemporary maternity wards are much more accommodating than several generations ago, when dads were shooed off and moms delivered in a clinical environment. Today moms can bring their doula and their own recorded music. But there are limits: WakeMed does not allow families to light mood-enhancing candles or to videotape the delivery.
The 9-month-long renovation of the Cary maternity ward, originally built a quarter-century ago, is a major outlay for WakeMed and won’t pay for itself until next week’s newborns are in kindergarten.
“These are heavily used places,” Brody said. “They start to look worn. At some point you have to renovate.”