Alta Bates Birth Stories from 1998


Parent Reviews

Parents, Sign in to post a review on this page.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

February - March 1998

From: Naomi
I had my little girl at Alta Bates 4 years ago but my experience was largely very positive. The anesthesiologist was incredible! (I've heard this from others as well). He was on the floor the entire time and adjusted my epidural at least 8 times, while being incredibly warm and sensitive to our needs. The nurses were also great and the rooms were nice. So much depends on your doctor, but as I understand it Alta Bates is still considered the best place to have your baby in the East Bay, if not the Bay Area. We walked in with a birth plan that went out the window in the end, but the nursing staff and doctor were very accepting of our preferences. The only word of warning I would give is to make sure the personnel you are talking to after the baby is born are indeed nurses and not physician assistants or temp nurses. They had a record number of births the day we were there and the nursing staff we had post-delivery were temps and didn't know anything about hospital procedures, breast feeding, zip! We finally received assistance from a regular RN and the difference was amazing. In sum, our experience was positive enough to convince us to drive to Alta Bates from Benicia, if we can make it, for our next child due in May.

From: Allison
I had a baby at Alta Bates on December 6. All of the more laudatory responses to that person's question about Alta Bates seemed to date from before this, so I thought I would add my two cents. This was the first week they had merged their OB sections with Kaiser, and it showed.

There was no private room available, so after giving birth at about 7:30 p.m. we slept in the labor and delivery room until all of a sudden they made us move (to a semi-private) at about 2 a.m. Of course before the move they took all of our vitals. Then once we were in the recovery room, the nurses there took all of our vitals again. Then it was only two hours until they wanted to check our numbers all over again before the next shift came on. Et cetera.

Nursing staff was spotty -- some excellent, some pretty bad, actually. All totally harried. Kaiser had apparently sent their patients but not their nurses over to help. One woman (who was great) was a temporary hire from hawaii on her 12th day of double shifts, or something like that.

They laughed when we wondered aloud whether a private room might become available later on. The combination of the new 48-hour law and the Kaiser-Alta Bates merger meant that there was just not enough space.

We decided to leave that day, about 15 hours after birth. (We totally would have stayed if there had been a private room.) But even then, it took us two hours to leave because they didn't have anyone to review the mandatory baby-care checklist with us.

This was my second at Alta Bates, and the first time was so great it was as if it was a different hospital.

From: Mary
I had my daughter at Alta Bates nearly two years ago. I echo some of the other responses in that I found the care during labor and eventual C-section to be wonderful. The nurses were very supportive, caring and knowledgeable. The time after my daughter was born until I left was anything but ideal. I found that I couldn't get a nurse when I needed one. I was particularly frustrated because I wanted help with breastfeeding. I don't think I ever saw the same person twice. Sometimes the nurse was in such a rush she didn't even let me convey my concerns or questions, I would just be assured that everything looked fine. Another nurse promised to take me under her wing and help me --- she was supposedly the 'expert' on breastfeeding --- I never saw her again. I hadn't slept in the 60 hours before Claire's birth and was completely exhausted from the process and surgery. I needed to sleep. The nurses would appear at 2 a.m., unannounced, flip on the lights, talk in loud voices --- I just wanted to cry. I was there one night after my C-section. It was very rough. Before I left I was handed a form which asked for feedback about my experience at Alta Bates. I told them how I felt. I received a phone call at home a few days later asking for more details. I really hope that whatever feedback we can give them will truly make a difference in the long run.

From: anonymous
I had my baby at Alta Bates in November 1994. I went in at 9:30 pm and gave birth at 2:30 am. For some reason I don't understand to this day, no doctor from my practice of four showed up. A brusque doctor from Alta Bates popped in and out a few times and then stayed for the delivery. I'll never know if when she said: the baby must come out now it was because of fetal distress (he'd had a little two times in the labor, but an oxygen mask on me fixed that), or if she had another baby to deliver (the woman with whom I shared a recovery room had hers shortly after mine!!). The doctor gave me a giant four- way epesiotomy and I got the baby out. Healing from the epesiotomy was just awful, because all the recovery nurses gave me unlimited codeine for the epesiotomy pain (which didn't help one bit) and no one thought to give me a stool softener, so my first bowel movement three days later ripped out every stitch. The good news is that the doctor honored my request to do everything she could to avoid a C-section.

The labor nurse who stayed with me till the heavy labor was nice, and basically just sat there. I got a late epidural and the anesthesiologist was very nice and gentle.

But recovery was awful. There was no lactation nurse, only one nurse ever paid attention to me and she was a hired contract nurse from Tennessee. No one helped me learn to nurse, and no one told me that the smell I was smelling on my body was a good lactation smell...I thought I needed a shower. Later, over the months, as I breastfed my baby, I loved the smell of the milk.

Even three years ago, it is clear, looking back, that Alta Bates was incredibly understaffed in terms of recovery nurses. Everyone who flitted by me complained about the layoffs and doubleshifts, which were beginning even then..and not due to nursing shortages. I'm glad I got in and out when I did.

I've lived here for nearly 30 years, and I, too, always cherished the reputation of Alta Bates as being the best place to have a baby. In terms of recovery, the management should beef up the staff considerably, and do it right now. I totally empathize with the nurses, and had there been one person in charge of coordinating my recovery care, it would have been a lot more pleasnat, informed experience.

From: Laurie
I just had my daughter at Alta Bates in October of 1997, after they opened their new birthing rooms. I found that the staff was very helpful, attentive, and readily available....I agree that during one's stay, you will see numerous nurses...their shifts are not all that long, but you do get a feel for who is on when. The labor and delivery nurses were fantastic and comforting. I was wiped out by delivery and the nurses cared for my baby through the night, and brought her to me the next morning when I requested her. I was able to stay two and a half days after a vaginal delivery, because we were having problems breastfeeding (latch on problems)...everyone was very helpful, kind and sympathetic. We requested a single room, but none was we were put in a double which was fortunately only occupied by us. I was very impressed with the Alta Bates staff...I am concerned that they are overworked and understaffed, however, a problem that will only increase as Kaiser sends its patients to them.

From: Linda
I had my son at Alta BAtes almost three years ago. On the whole the nurses were okay during delivery, but there were some problem moments. The nurse filling in while my main nurse was on break couldn't find the heart beat and was going to put an internal monitor on. I was insissting on her getting another nurse before she did that when my main nurse came in and found the heartbeat in half a second. When I wanted an epidural, they said I couldn't have one because I told them no drugs (I told them I would try no drugs and see) My husband was ready to kill when they finally gave me the epidural.

My real complaint was care afterwards. I wanted help with breast- feeding. I never saw the same nurse twice and each one gave me contradictory instructions. I was exhausted from complications and stayed in the hospital an extra day. What a mistake! I asked them to take my son to the nursery for a few hours so I could sleep, but they told me there was no room! Why dod I have to pay for nursery facilities when they wouldn't let me use them? I hated it. Finally in the morning my angel of a nurse showed up said I looked terrible, took the baby for a while and put a 'DO NOT DISTURB' sign on my door and I got some rest.

I wasn't asked for comments, but I sent them a letter complaining about the care and got a call a few days later. I guess they didn't improve right away given some others' experiences.

From: Suzanne
Regarding Alta Bates Hospital: My daughter was born there 18 months ago, and my experience was rather neutral. My biggest complaint was my final L & D nurse, as I had many throughout the course of the evening. I was not fond of her at all, and did not find her helpful. We had some concerns due to some distress my daughter was having because she was overdue, and the only thing the nurse would say was there's no point in worrying about it, there's nothing you can do. Which I found to be obnoxious. However, I had both my mother and husband with me, and my mother is an RN, and she feels as though the nurse pulled back knowing that my mother was experienced, and that she did not give us the same help as she would if my mother was not there. I don't find that to be an excuse .... for many of our pushing contractions, there was no one in the room except my mom, myself, and my husband. I found that odd ... I only had to push for like 30 mins.

For recovery - I did not have any bad experiences. The nurses I had were kind, friendly, and responded quickly when I called. I was breastfeeding, and did have someone come in to watch (I did not request this) to make sure we were doing well. That went smoothly for us, so she did not have to help us out.

After we left, Alta Bates kept trying to send a visiting nurse over to make sure that we were okay - I kept telling them no. I felt like I knew what I was doing, and I had my mother with me (as I said, she was a nurse, and a mother to 3) and didn't feel I needed someone to come over to check and make sure I was cleaning the cord right.

All in all, I found it to be a fine experience, and am not concerned that my next child will be born there in 3 months.

From: Elizabeth
The medical care is great (although I'm suspicious that they purposefully delayed letting me push because the nurses were changing shifts.) However, I found the post-delivery experience less than optimal. I found it very noisy (I think I must have been right by the nurses' station.) One of the nurses was pretty patronizing about working with me on breastfeeding. More than one nurse seemed to be kind of smug about their much greater experience handling newborns. I didn't sleep for the first 24 hours after delivery, due to the stress and chaos of the hospital environment.

Most of this was probably due to not having a single room. Most insurance doesn't cover a single room after delivery. We didn't spring for the extra for a single, and we really regret it. I delivered at 1AM, and my husband was sent home as soon as we were moved to the shared room because of privacy issues. We were totally unprepared for this forced separation. I found it to be highly stressful to be wired on euphoria, unable to sleep, alone with the newborn, with relatively little help from the nurses, and the stress of dealing with the rather depressing situation of my roommate.

Also, they are extremely hyper about making you wake up the baby every two hours to breastfeed. The second night I was there they forced me to wake up Aaron, who as so upset by this that he cried for the rest of the night. At this point, this was the 2nd night in a row that I hadn't slept at all. I finally was able to get the nurses to realize that I was just getting more and more exhausted being essentially left completely alone with Aaron. So one of the nurses took Aaron with her to the nurses' station. When my pediatrician came in to look at Aaron the next day, he said that this forced waking thing was totally unncessary.

But, all of this was balanced out by my unwavering confidence in how they handled the delivery and their attention to Aaron's health at birth.

I've kind of had the feeling all along that my experience at Alta Bates post-delivery was somehow much less positive than the norm. I think it probably had to do with the combination of the ease of my delivery/my objectively low needs, the business the night I delivered (the staff was absolutely frantic), and not springing for a single room. It was interesting that all three people who wrote in with highly positive experiences post-delivery at Alta Bates had very difficult pregnancies/deliveries. I think it is likely (and correct) that the nurses probably focus on more difficult situation. Then, bonded with those families, do more attentive after-care.

Earlier, I had been in Alta Bates for 10 days due to pre-term labor, and my experience was way more positive. It was like a completely different hospital. The nurses were much more sensitive, and I just generally felt much more cared for.

From: Fran
My son is 4-1/2 so my information might be out of date, but it was a pretty nice experience. They had a chair in my room that folded out into a bed so my husband could spend the night with me. The bed in the delivery room had an optional bar you could use for support if you wanted to labor in an upright position. You keep your baby with you the entire time if the baby is healthy. It seems to me that otherwise, a lot of your experience will depend on your doctor.

Alta Bates gives tours for expectant parents and they tell you about the sign-in and parking policies when you take the tour. I highly recommend the tour.

I asked to bring a radio/tape deck and laptop computer (my husband was on-call the day my son was born) into the labor/delivery room, and that was OK as long as the Alta Bates engineering department looked at them and OK'd them (to make sure the plugs were compatable with the wall sockets at A.B.) This has to be done in advance.

From: Debbe
To the person who asked about birth experiences at Alta Bates: I had my son there last April, and all in all I found the staff to be very good. Of course, I have an excellent doctor, Dr. Marilyn Honegger, and it was an emergency premature c-section birth. But, I just wanted to let you know, if you don't know already, that they conduct tours at Alta Bates and answer any questions you might have. You should look it into it..

From: Gail
My husband and I had a wonderful experience with the nursing staff both during and after our daughter's birth at Alta Bates last May. (In fact, we are still in touch with our labor and delivery nurse, a woman whom we met for the first time at our daughter's birth!)

I do believe that people's experiences vary depending on the delivery and needs of mother and baby post-birth. I had a difficult delivery and some complications in the hours afterwards. With the exception of one nurse, we were quite impressed with the care that both our daughter and I received during our post-partum stay.

Perhaps most relevant here are our experiences surrounding breast feeding. We received excellent, hands-on, yet delicately delivered, advice from a lactation consultant. After an initial lesson, we were given this nurse's cell phone number and told to called her when it was time to nurse. After a few feedings, my daughter and I were pros.

We also felt that the nurses were quite sensitive to both my need to sleep and the baby's need to nurse over the first two days. During the first night, I was not able to breast feed. The nurses taught my husband how to feed our daughter with a syringe and his finger. Between feedings, the nurses offered to take the baby to the nurses station/nursery so my husband could sleep. During the second night, I do not recall being told to wake the baby every two hours to nurse. In fact, we were encouraged let her sleep up to four hours at a time between nursings so I could get some rest.

My husband and I had a wonderful experience with the nursing staff both during and after our daughter's birth at Alta Bates last May. (In fact, we are still in touch with our labor and delivery nurse, a woman whom we met for the first time at our daughter's birth!)

I do believe that people's experiences vary depending on the delivery and needs of mother and baby post-birth. I had a difficult delivery and some complications in the hours afterwards. With the exception of one nurse, we were quite impressed with the care that both our daughter and I received during our post-partum stay.

Perhaps most relevant here are our experiences surrounding breast feeding. We received excellent, hands-on, yet delicately delivered, advice from a lactation consultant. After an initial lesson, we were given this nurse's cell phone number and told to called her when it was time to nurse. After a few feedings, my daughter and I were pros.

We also felt that the nurses were quite sensitive to both my need to sleep and the baby's need to nurse over the first two days. During the first night, I was not able to breast feed. The nurses taught my husband how to feed our daughter with a syringe and his finger. Between feedings, the nurses offered to take the baby to the nurses station/nursery so my husband could sleep. During the second night, I do not recall being told to wake the baby every two hours to nurse. In fact, we were encouraged let her sleep up to four hours at a time between nursings so I could get some rest.

We were able to get a private room, and my husband stayed with me the entire time I was in the hospital. We were given a lot of time alone as a new family, and this uninterrupted time definitely would have been overwhelming if he were not there with me. If it is at all financially possible, I recommend paying the extra money for a private room. Overall, we were very pleased with the post-partum care at Alta Bates.

From: Pamela
I would like to give my own personal input about delivering at Alta Bates Hospital. I had so many medical problems throughout my pregnacny. I had to stay in Alta Bates hospital before I actually delivered and of course after delivery. I was in the hospital on three separate occassions throughout my Pregnancy. I found the nurses to be exceptionally kind, caring and understanding of my condition. My first condition was appendicitis, 2nd condition was gall stones and 3rd time I went to the hospital was for the actual delivery and the removal of the gall stones. Each time I went into the hospital the Doctor's and nurses explained to me exactly what was going to happen and when it was going to happen. My pregnancy was a very hard one, but dealing with the staff at Alta Bates after I had my daughter, who is now 3 mos made the healing all the more special. After my daughter was born, the nurses had taken into consideration the extensive surgery I had, because not only did I have a c-section, I had my gall bladder removed and a tubal all at one time. Even though I had a double room because of insurance purposes, the nurses made I did not have to share a room with anyone on top of that they made sure that my baby was taken care even when I couldn't do it myself. I can go on and on but my delivery experience and postpartum experience was superb.

From: Pia
I know there have been numerous comments on Alta Bates for delivery, but only a few recent ones, and I feel that I want to add my two cents, having just had a baby last November. I also have mixed reviews about the care, expecially since when I went into the hospital, the Kaiser nurses were threatening to strike so all of the Kaiser labor and delivery patients were at Alta Bates. It was a mad house! In a way, it was a good thing that my labor lasted over 24 hours (mostly it was painless until the last 8 or so because I was a failed induction that ended up being an emergency c-section due to fetal distress). My biggest complaints are that I have a latex allergy, but it took the second nurse I saw before all the latex materials in the room were finally removed, and not until after the emergency c-section and a trip to the intensive care unit after I went into anaphylactic shock (probably from accidental exposure to latex somewhere) that I got a sign outside of my room warning people of my allergy. Before I went into shock my sister said she overheard some nurses talking to each other and saying that they doubted I had a real latex allergy because I wasn't apparently reacting to the oxygen mask which may have had a latex band (actually I was but no one seemed to believe that I was starting to have problems breathing). I went to the ICU which was at least a lot more peaceful than the labor and delivery floor, but I couldn't keep my son with me, and the people in the nursery somehow didn't read my instructions that I wanted to breastfeed my baby so they gave him bottles of formula (which later the pediatrician said was the wrong thing to do, he should have been getting sugar water). I don't know if those early bottles are why he had such a hard time learning to breastfeed or not, but it took him almost a whole week (very scary for all involved!). Finally, I also have mixed reviews about the breastfeeding help. I saw at least 4 different nurses who each contradicted the other.

So for those of you who felt that having a more complicated delivery led to a better experience, I say that that was not my experience.

On a positive note though, the anesthesiologist - Dr. Goldman - got the most incredible pictures of my son being taken out of my belly.

From: Hilary
I'd like to add my ten cents worth. I delivered both my children there, one in 95, one last June. Both experiences were wonderful, the nurses were helpful, caring, attentive, respectful. The doctors (Laura Stachel for #1, Lisa Keller for #2) were kind and professional. I had a private room each time. It was a great hospital for us.

From: Wendy
The parent who had her child at Alta Bates nearly three years ago was very lucky to have them try to send a visiting nurse after she went home. My son was born only a wee bit sooner, and no one ever called me to check up or offer that service.

The informative posts thus far seem to indicate two things: one, there is tremendous inconsistency at Alta Bates; two, they are definitely understaffed in terms of nurses.

Let's keep the posts coming. This is one of the most fascinating conversations yet. From a customer service point of view, I could only wish Alta Bates would read all this and take it to heart. But if they are really owned by Sutter Health (see the horrific expose in the Bay Guardian or SF Weekly a few weeks ago) we are all in deep trouble.

From: Holly
OK, here's one more Alta Bates story to add to the ever-expanding list, from a new mom who just delivered baby #1 this Saturday, March 14:

My Alta Bates experience was a mixed bag. The labor and delivery nurse assigned to us was horrible (at 3 am while we were in triage, she stood outside our curtain complaining that she had just gotten rid of her last patient and didn't want another.... That was pretty much her attitude throughout the night.) Fortunat ely I had a very quick and easy labor and delivery attended by a wonderful anaesthesiologist/epidural guy and excellent doctor (Elizabeth Kanwit). The recovery team was great, and even though we couldn't get a private room b/c the place was packed, we had great care throughout the day and that night. Things k ind of fell apart again the next afternoon when we tried to check out and leave. Th e nurses were incredibly stressed out, almost all forced to work double shifts, an d were simply unable to accomplish the most basic tasks. It was an administrative nightmare. Many said that the Kaiser merger had really put a strain on their patient care system, and noted that even three (or more?) months after the merge r, the nurses hadn't been asked for any input in to how to improve the system. The re was a lot of dissatisfaction among the ranks, and unless these kinks get ironed out, I think the Alta Bates experience is simply going to get worse.


From: Anita
Our daughter was born in July last year and I had a similar experience to many others here, namely some outstanding L nurses, one very poor L nurse, and inconsistencies from the recovery staff.

My baby was induced as I was 2 weeks overdue and that was my doctor's deadline. It took 2 days from when I was admitted to when the baby was born, so I saw quite a few nurses. The very first one I got was awful. I got hooked up to the monitors right away while waiting for the staff ob to come start the induction. Well, the staff ob was doing a c-section and didn't come for 3 hours. All this time I was on the monitor. Finally I took the belts off myself. Just then the nurse walked in and said, The doctor is on her way. I said (having heard this several times already), well, when she gets here we can hook me back up. The nurse got all huffy and replied, Well, I thought you'd want to know how your baby is doing! (The baby had been absolutely fine for 3 hours)

Anyway, that was the worst of it. The other L nurses were great. We got a private room afterward but my husband decided to sleep at home. There was construction noise in my room, people coming in all the time, etc. so I was really exhausted by the time we went home. The last night there my baby was fussy and one of the nurses was trying to convince me to give her a bottle of sugar water. I was breastfeeding and had been told by numerous sources not to let them do that. This nurse acted like that was a dumb concern.

I've emphasized the negatives here; on the whole it was a good experience.

From: Jeanne
Here is another war story about delivering at Alta Bates. I am wondering if other hospitals are like this, or if all of our stories are typical of what happens when you enter a hospital to give birth.

I gave birth to my daughter in May 1995. I was late and developed pre-eclampsia, so they induced with pitocin AND gave me Magnesium Sulfate to reduce the chance of a seizure from the high blood pressure. My uterus did not know if it was coming or going. It took more than 24 hours, so I got to see a lot of nurses. I had a Doula and her assistant, my husband and a friend of his helping me. After a lot of pushing with the help of a male nurse applying fundal pressure (What a guy!), I got the baby out. A few hours later, I started to go into shock (who knows why) and I passed out. The nurses stabilized me. Later that day, I was moved to a beautiful post-partum room overlooking the roof garden. After 24 hours, since I had had a vaginal birth, I was discharged although my blood pressure was still rather high (This policy has changed somewhat, fortunately.). Visiting nurses came to check me and by the second day home, my blood pressure was 202/117 and I had to go back to the hospital for 2 more nights for what I called Post-partum phase 2 on Mother's Day, 1995. Fortunately, my daughter was okay, although it took awhile to get going on breastfeeding. My health recovered, but I was traumatized from the experience for quite some time and went through therapy for awhile.

Learning breastfeeding was not fun. Like many of you, I found that many nurses did not know how or they did not have the time to teach me properly. One gal was fantastic, but she did not have much time to spend with us. Breastfeeding was a major contributor to my recovery, so I'm glad we stuck it out and got it going.

So my story goes much like others. Some of the nurses were fantastic, and some were not. I came away from the experience with the belief that a well-trained, professional Registered Nurse is worth their weight in gold and then some. I greatly admire anybody who can work effectively in the health profession. It is up to us as patients to educate ourselves and assert ourselves about what procedures we want done and at the same time trust the medical professionals when we are in their hands. I also think it is important to have someone experienced with birth, such as a Doula, present at all times during labor and after you take the baby home. It is also imperative to have someone around who really knows about breastfeeding. I wrote a very long feedback report to the hospital and received a letter of thanks.

From: Alessandra
After reading about all the negative comments about Alta Bates I feel like I need to mention my positive experiences.

I gave birth to my 2 girls there, one in 1991 and one in 1996 so I can actually talk about 2 experiences far apart and both I can say have been extremely positive.

My first labor was a long difficult 24 hours one and I saw 3 shifts of nurses. They all were very dedicated and experienced. I felt they were very concerned about me in every respect, even emotionally, and more or less all of them. Besides my husband, also my mother and a friend of mine were in the room the entire time. And the nurses didn't seem to be bothered by the presence of so many people, actually they were pleased. After the birth, my husband and I moved to the private room as planned (the extra money is absolutely worth it!) and we could have the baby with us whenever we wanted. Actually after 24 labor and having given birth at 9 pm, I was so exshausted that I didn't mind to leave the baby in the nursery for a few hours during that night. I also think they helped me with the breastfeeding in a quite satisfactory way. But it's also true that it went quite naturally by itself.

The second labor was different. It was scheduled because I was 10 days late. I entered the hospital around 5 pm. They gave me the drug to induce labor and my baby girl was born at 6 am. Of course I had episiotomy both times becuse both babies were very big: my first baby was 9 lb and the second was 10 lb (yes! it's not a typo). And both by my choice without epidural (yes!). The second time I really wanted to avoid the episiotomy (since the first time I esperienced a terrible infection 2 days after giving birth with very high fever) and the nurse that was assisting me this time worked so hard on massaging my vagina for long time with extreme patience trying to prepare the tissue as much as she could. But at the end the doctor had to do it anyway (10 lb is a huge baby!). I was particularly impressed by the level of dedication of that nurse. I was very tough on her at times (and my husband reminds me of that) but I can't believe how patient she was. Of course, there were also things that didn't go perfectly, like one of the 3 nurses I had during my first 24 hours labor, I thought was a little bit too cold and irritating, but in retrospective, that was also the most difficult part of the labor (when it naturally stopped after many hour and they had to induce it with that nasty drug) so it could well be that I was too nervous and anything would have irritate me (and my mother confirmed that). Or right after giving birth to the second baby I was so hungry and in the middle of my breakfast they wanted me to rush out of the labor room because they needed it for somebody else. Of course, being still very emotional about the whole thing, I got very angry at them. They let me finish my breakfast though.

I think I was very lucky since I didn't have any serious complication but in retrospective I can say that the level of care at Alta Bates is quite high.

I also took advantage of the great childbirth preparation programs they have there. I went to all of them for the first child and for the second I also took my 5 year old to the siblings class. That was so great! I felt really prepared for the experience.

I think that it's very important also who your doctor is. I used (and still go there for the yearly check up) the Sakamoto group. My first girl was born with Sakamoto and the second one with Girard who is another wonderful doctor of the same group. They have a high sense of respect for your decisions while they have an incredible judgement. I highly recommend that group.

From: Laurie
I strongly recommend hiring a doula if you can afford it. We had our son 3 1/2 yrs ago at Alta Bates. We had a doula present (actually 2, because she brought her alternate) and it was incredibly helpful. The doula was there with us through my labor and delivery, while the nurses just checked on us periodically and while they did their procedures. She massaged me, and encouraged me to walk the halls, take a shower, try out positions, etc. She also spelled my husband, so he could take a nap, and brought drinks and snacks for him.

The labor and deliver nurses were wonderfully helpful and seemed very competent. I was not as impressed by the nurses who visited after the birth however. We did not get much help with breastfeeding from the hospital, but the doula was great. She came to our house and helped teach me and the baby how to get started. I got a breast infection on one side, and again the doula diagnosed it and helped me get it cleared up. My husband and I both benefitted from her support. My husband felt strongly that the doula's presence made all the difference for him at the birth.

We were happy that Health Net paid for all the hospital and medical expenses, so we were able to afford the doula.

From: Orit
I delivered at Alta Bates 10 days ago. Obviously, I had been following the comments with great interest, but my experience turned out to be quite a positive one. Having read many of the comments in the digest I have the feeling that those of us who had relatively easy labor/delivery had a much more pleasant experience at Alta Bates.

During the week prior to delivery I was experiencing quite intense 'false labor' contractions, which brought me to the hospital twice (!) only to be sent home both times. I was quite embarrassed, but all the nurses I came in contact with comforted me and made me feel like I did the right thing coming into the hospital when I did. During both these episodes, and when I finally arrived at the hospital for real, I found the nurses professional, kind, gentle and reassuring. I arrived at the hospital at 3 am, and the baby was out at 9:30 am. I asked for epidural when I walked through the door (I was almost 5 cm dilated by then), and as soon as the triage work was over it was administered. The doctor was superb, and managed to get the whole procedure done in between my contractions which were less than three minutes apart by then. I had an angel of a nurse for labor and delivery. Although at some point it seemed that c-section was becoming an option (the doctor suspected fetal distress and he seemed to be moving along quite slowly), and that the baby would need to be suctioned if delivered vaginally (which was the case), everyone kept very calm and somehow all the hubbub around me didn't arise any anxiety in me or my husband.

I do agree that the post partum experience is less than ideal. However, I do not think that the nurses were to blame, but rather lack there of. Granted, not all of them are lactation consultants, and it sometimes took them way too long to respond to our call, but I did feel that the 48 hours I spent at the hospital after delivery prepared me for dealing with the baby at home. Both nights we sent the baby to the nursery and had him brought over for feedings, and that helped us regain some strength before leaving for home. I think that we made a smart choice getting a private room and staying at the hospital for two nights.

From: Annie
I delivered a baby boy on Jan 11, 1998 at Alta Bates and had wonderful care. I was thoroughly impressed by both the doctor on call, the labor nurses and post-delivery nurses. I saw alot of nurses as I had a very long labor and then stayed 2 days. They were all over-worked due to the influx of Kaiser patients but I found them very helpful, knowledgeable and kind. I would highly suggest getting a private room. I think it made the experience much better.

From: Lucy
I too had a basically positive experience at Alta Bates in November 1997. I was 9 days late and my midwife (Lindy Johnson) suggested taking 2 oz. of castor oil. I did this at 10am and by noon was well into labor. We got to the hospital around 2 and I was fully dilated. Our son, Aaron, was born at 3:20pm. Obviously, I don't have much hospital experience with labor and pre-birth stuff. The nurse who attended the birth was okay, but not great. She tried a couple times to tell me to do things I didn't want to do, but Lindy intervened in my favor.

After Aaron was born we moved to a private room. Definitely worth it as others have mentioned. We spent two nights because I was having trouble with urinating and lightheadedness. We only had one dud nurse and some really super ones. The rest were undistinguished. Aaron stayed with us the entire time and the nurses were pretty respectful of our privacy and need to sleep. I had problems getting food, though. I'm vegan and the kitchen didn't quite know how to deal with that. We had a nurse come to the house the day after we left the hospital who was very helpful with breastfeeding issues. Overall, it was considerably better than I had feared it would be.

From: Myriam
I delivered two babies at Alta Bates, one five years ago, the other 21 months ago. The experiences were vastly different, and in some ways the more recent one was much better. More had to do with the doctor than you would have expected... The nursing care that I got was affected by it, I believe. The doctor who was on call at the practice that I went to for my first baby was universally disliked and as a result, registry nurses were assigned to him. It was also the very beginning of the policy that after 24 hours you were sent home. My doctor was horrendous and I got pretty terrible care, including basically being abandoned in the delivery room for hours with my husband and neither of us knowing what was going on. I had a very long labor (one day) and difficult delivery. We had one registry nurse who was rather sweet and one AB nurse who was new. She didn't know how to operate the bed and nearly turned me upside down while adjusting it for the doctor. The computer system was down (the thing that would happen to me as a computer person) and they couldn't put me in a room until 4 hours after the baby was born. I was so exhausted, after being up for a day in real labor that I fell asleep in the operating room where they had stuck me and then they woke me up to move me. I had fourth degree tears and a HUGE epsiotomy. I was put in a double room because they had no singles left, with no room mate. We were routinely and rudely interrupted by housekeeping (yelling at us for sitting on the other bed, or for not filling out the form for dinner. etc). The next day, less than 10 hours after I delivered,they told me that I was going to have to go home. My doctor was not helpful but my pediatrician (Dr. Oken) was wonderful and insisted that we stay another day... We needed it. The following day, I was getting dressed to go home, and the charge nurse walked in without knocking, saw me dressing and said, basically, oh it's ok, I'm the charge nurse. I asked her if that excused her from common courtesy and she did not respond. I was discharged too early, too, since breastfeeding was not established, and I got a very nasty staph infection and had to return to the hospital for an examination.

I changed practices with the next baby, and I had better nursing and a better experience. They were reasonable and pleasant, and except for the somewhat clueless one who didn't get around to getting the fuse replaced in the room so that the bed and the lights worked, it was fine.A lot of this was due to this being a second baby and a much easier delivery (3 hours, rather than 24 hours of labor (read the birth story here: and some of it was that the nurses were working with the doctor. I got a private room, and every couple of hours, they would come and check me, but mostly they left me alone to enjoy the baby, liisten to NPR and talk to my sisters. Since I delivered AFTER midnight, I got two nights in the hospital and the second one I put the baby in the nursery and slept for a good portion. They called to follow up on how I was doing, which would have been nice with the first, and I got a visiting nurse to check the baby and be a lactation consultant. The baby was a champion nurser, so that was somewhat less helpful for me than it would have been for someone else.