On Monday afternoon Mr KE and I went on a tour of the hospital's maternity wing. We waited there with a few other couples...and waited ...and waited. The tour was supposed to start at 4pm, then at 4:40 a doctor popped her head round the door and told us that all the midwives (who normally give the tour) were busy. So she would give us a short tour instead, in a little while.
Fair enough, in a busy hospital, us "tourists" are not the priority. So it was 5 o'clock before we actually had a look a round the delivery suites.
The delivery rooms themselves were OK, you get a private room with en-suite bathrooms, armchairs, birthing balls and CD players. Some of the rooms had facilities for water births. We were advised to bring pillows (!) because there is chronic shortage in the NHS...people steal them apparently. Even so, they are still hospital rooms with lots of medical equipment in the room eg resuscitation equipment, monitoring equipment. So not really an environment where you would to spend a lot of time.
You are only allowed 2 people in the suite with you, for security reasons, infection control and also out of respect for the other people giving birth. It made me smile thinking of the Brunei hospitals which are over-run with visitors.
We also found out about admission procedures. When you come in, you get assessed by a midwife and there is a triage system (like A&E) where the more serious cases get prioritised. So there is no point going in too early as you will just have to wait in the corridor. As the doctor said, there is nothing more annoying than seeing someone else walk straight in when you have been waiting with contractions for 2 hours. But they will just take the person who is more advanced in labour, regardless of how long you have been waiting.
After watching lots of movies where someone starts contractions, and it's quick quick get to a hospital; it's quite reassuring to find out that it's more like start contractions, go the hospital, the midwife will probably send you home and say come back when you are really in labour. Like in 8 hours time.
So the lesson of the day was: stay at home as long as possible. That's what I'm going to do (hopefully).