Ellen Witkowski’s family always chose “Saint Mary’s” for their health care needs from the time she can remember. So when she returned to Grand Rapids as an adult and was expecting a child for the first time, she returned to Mercy Health for her care.
“My family members and I have had surgeries at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, and all have had very good experiences with our care,” she said. “I know there is a larger hospital in town, but for me, it was never a consideration. The new birth center was a major bonus.”
In March 2018, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s recently earned a designation as a Baby-friendly Hospital. In the recently renovated birth center, Ellen and her husband Gary welcomed daughter Anna into the world.
When she and Gary arrived at the hospital, Ellen was not in active labor. “My water broke during the night,” she said. “When I called the doctor’s office, they said we needed to come in to the hospital so they could check the baby.”
Ellen had a birthing plan that she shared with staff, and “they couldn’t have been more respectful of it,” she said. Yet in the end, it wasn’t exactly the labor or delivery Ellen was hoping for.
“I wanted to labor at home as long as possible and have limited intervention,” Ellen explained. “But I ended up needing both Pitocin and an epidural. I ended up okay. I was flexible with it.”
In the birthing room, Ryan Kuefler, MD, delivered Anna, who weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. A resident, a privately hired doula and various nurses attended the Witkowskis during Ellen’s labor as well.
“Everyone was excellent, and Natalie — our nurse during the toughest part of labor — was incredible.”
Mom, Dad and Anna stayed together for two nights in their private recovery room. This arrangement allows for nursing on demand and better bonding. “The room was very spacious, almost palatial,” said Ellen.
The Witkowskis were grateful for the staff who helped them during their first hours as parents. “They asked if we planned to nurse the baby. I told them that I always planned on nursing, so I met with two lactation consultants, which was very helpful.”
The nurses were great too. “I was initially using the cross cradle hold,” said Ellen, “and I wanted one of the nurses to show me the football hold, which she did. It was wonderful,” she added.
“The biggest isn’t always the best in terms of your medical choices,” Ellen insisted. “I like the idea that Mercy Health is a smaller hospital. I felt that the personalized care and attention we received was top notch.”
Ellen’s advice to new moms is this: “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. It made me feel good that the nurses cared about my birthing plan. Moms can be proactive, and they should ask for what they want. Mercy Health will respect that.”
Learn more about Mercy Health Birth Centers
Photos provided by Abby Jayne Photography