a transatlantic mommy / mummy blog – my kids say "tomato" & "to-mah-to"

Review of The Kensington Wing, Private Maternity Ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

So as you already know I’d decided to have the baby privately. To Americans reading this – this may seem an odd statement, so do please refer to my past post about this. In deciding to have the baby privately in London I had pretty much narrowed down my choices between the Portland Hospital and the Kensington Wing at Chelsea and Westminster. My Consultant would deliver at either.

I read as much info and talked to people who had been at both and for me the Kensington Wing won out due to it’s proximity and that they had a NICU and adult trauma center. I could be moved from private to NHS if an emergency merited. I had friends who’d been in the Kensington Wing, all of whom had a positive experience. Most private maternity wards and hospitals allow you to visit if you’re interested in seeing them before booking – you’ll generally need to call ahead though to book a tour.

When I first decided to go private (vs NHS) I was told to book my private place ASAP. For the Kensington Wing, they only have 16 rooms and can be booked up if you wait too long. They take the booking via your Consultant’s office. Mine delivered at both The Portland and Chelsea Westminster, Kensington Wing. I decided on the Kensington Wing as Chelsea Westminster is close to my home, has emergency care for both babies and mums. Further, I had friends who’d had positive experiences there.

When looking for more info and reviews, while I did find a few on Mumsnet.com I didn’t find as many as I’d like – as an info-mongering mum-to-be, so I decided to help others by writing about my personal experience there.

hallwayWhile we did have a c-section scheduled I ended up going in early for an emergency c-section. If you’d like the delivery details I’ve written of those previously. For this post we’ll continue on to the experience of the Kensington Wing. While vaginal deliveries do occur in the birthing rooms within the Kensington Wing (I’ve heard the birthing pool is lovely!) c-sections are performed outside of the wing in the surgery theater also used by non-private deliveries. You are wheeled on the gurney out of the wing and down the hall and back again. Not a huge deal as you’re generally more focused on baby in/out than who you might meet in the hallway. Further, its not a hall full of people but still worth noting.

When it comes to the rooms in the Kensington Ward itself, and the patient care – I found these to be very good.  Each of the rooms has windows, either facing outside, or the internal atrium and lavender walls. The rooms that face the internal atrium have baths with showers, seem a bit more spacious but require a sleeping cot to be brought in for husbands. The external facing rooms, while narrower – have built in murphy beds for hubs and only a shower not a bath.

I did have a Diva moment and ended up trying out both room types. As long as they aren’t full they are ok with asking for a room change (within reason of course.)


When I toured the ward before my stay I had liked the exterior facing rooms because of the sunlight. So, when I arrived on the ward I requested one of these rooms. Living nearby, city streetnoise doesn’t bother me and the windows are fairly thick so while there was some noise I didn’t hear it as I’m used to filtering it out. It was handy having the murphy bed (pull-down bed) for hubs and just having a c-section, the walk-in shower was much easier to navigate. It was a bit cramped for space with my hospital bed, baby bed one side and hubs bed on the other but we managed.


Layout of the Kensington Wing

Each room also had a chair, a small desk, flat-screen tv and fridge. They’ve replaced the usual tv remote with these mini remotes. I found this annoying as mine would stop working all the time, I’d ring the nurse and they seemed to be aware of the issue already as they’d often bring a larger remote to change or reset the tv then `i’d use my small one again until it would malfunction again. While they do provide meals, each room also has a mini-fridge for snacks or drinks. Mine in my first room wasn’t working. They kindly offered to keep my drinks and yogurt in the staff fridge, and that worked for about a day. I got tired of having to ring for someone to come, then me to ask them to go get a yogurt at 4am. It seemed like a really annoying thing for me to do to them, as if they didn’t have more pressing things to do – so I asked to move rooms, as most at that time were empty.

I decided to try out one of the internal rooms which faces the atrium. They wheeled in my bed while hubs and my Mum trailed with my stuff (and baby of course!) The room was larger, but being in there for just a few minutes I could already hear shouts and sounds echoing through the atrium. While perhaps the volume wasn’t as loud as street noise, for me – it wasn’t one I felt I could easily tune out, so quickly asked to be moved to another external facing room, this one with a working fridge. It was a total Diva moment – my entourage and I moving from room to room to room. Finally I settled in the room next to my original which was a bit disconcerting at first as it was the mirror opposite of my previous room.

In general the food was very good, someone would bring a menu in the morning so you could choose lunch and dinner etc. Having only stayed at hospitals in the US not UK I don’t have much to compare to here but I’d say the food was pretty good.

The midwives and other people there to care for patients in the ward were very kind and proficient. They were available when required but give you privacy and space to recuperate the rest of the time. That was the biggest difference between delivery in the US and UK. In the US it’s almost impossible to sleep in the hospital after delivery. While in the US you in general almost always automatically have a private room – which is not standard in the UK – in the US you are monitored and managed and interfered with on a regular basis.

I didn’t realize there would be this difference until after my first night stay. In the US there are constant noises – calls over the hallway speakers for Drs etc, beeps from machines, patient noises etc. The Kensington Wing was almost silent – only the very occasional faint baby cry.  In the US nurses come to check your blood pressure, blood oxygen etc every couple hours and if you’re sleeping, wake you up to do it. In the Kensington Wing, they tend to leave you alone at night unless you ask for assistance. No waking you up to monitor you, so you actually get to sleep in the hospital! While like the US they did try and get me up and moving soon after the c-section, I didn’t have to do the hallway laps, and breathing machine exercises that were required in the US following a c-section.

Assistance was on hand whenever I needed help for myself or baby. While they don’t have a nursery like in the US, they were available to take the baby for a bit if required, but as my husband was there, and it was so restful (unlike the US) there was no need to send the baby to the nursery or away to catch up on some sleep.

All in all – my experience was good. While the facilities are on-par or average for what’s expected in the US, the quality of care and service was tops for either US or UK. I’d highly recommend the Kensington Wing to other expectant Mums.

Here’s another review of The Kensington Wing

An American Girl in Chelsea – her review of the Kensington Wing and comparison to the Portland Hospital

and if you need more info or contact details of the Kensington Wing they are available on their website.

Feel free to share your experience or questions on the comments below.

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7 years ago 1 Comment Short URL

The Hospital Packing list – so now you tell me!!

naked baby feet

This being my third baby I pretty much thought I had the drill down by now. But having this 3rd baby in a different country than the previous 2 has really thrown me some curveballs. I’ve previously mentioned my surprise about the differences in maternity wards in the US and UK. I thought I’d figured out all of differences and either planned around them and or made peace with them. That is until yesterday…. 

Ok UK Mums, please humor my naivety for a moment – it’s not based on a feeling of entitlement, rather, in my experience of having babies to date – this is how it’s been done (in the US).

When you pack your hospital bag in the US – it’s pretty much just for you. It’s stuff for the labor and after delivery, change of clothes etc. For the baby, pretty much the only stuff you need to bring is outfit for leaving/and or photo and a car seat or carrier (even then if you can’t afford one generally one will be provided). Everything else – and I mean everything is provided for baby. In fact – so much has been provided, you’re even supposed to pack up all of the extra diapers they give you to take home.

So they provide the little onesie, hat and blankie they put the baby in just after delivery. The nurses make sure you pack up the diapers, the wipes, the pacifiers, and nasal aspirator and comb etc. You seriously need to bring an empty bag to hospital with you for the baby stuff.

When perusing UK baby site yesterday I came across a few discussions about packing the hospital bag and couldn’t believe what I was reading. “You need to bring what? No they must be joking!” So I asked around in my office, and then to some Mum friends on Facebook and they confirmed it for me. You need to bring EVERYTHING for the baby – from the cap and outfit for just after birth, diapers/nappies, and shockingly, maternity pads! (My first thought – isn’t that a medical supply, can people even buy those??)

Seriously, not having discovered this now – I would have rolled up to the hospital with my stuff – nothing for baby and had a naked dirty baby! (Probably closely followed by a visit from family services for my clear ineptitude as a parent).

I suppose it makes sense from the perspective of NHS provided services, this would be a cost saving measure. In the US you (or your insurance) are automatically charged for these items – so if you don’t take them with you you’re leaving something you’ve already paid for. But I just find it so different, and I had no idea about this difference. My friends in Germany and Belgium, also expecting say there it’s just like the US and they too find this surprising about the UK.

Here’s a list a good friend of mine shared with me after I got over my initial surprise yesterday. I’m not sure where she got it from, so if it’s been copied from somewhere and you recognise it, please let me know so I can credit it.

What to pack for labour

  • Your birth plan and maternity notes.
  • Dressing gown. Hospitals can be very warm, so a lightweight one may be better
  • Slippers / flip flops
  • Socks. Believe it or not, your feet can get cold during labour
  • An old nightdress or a T shirt to wear in labour. It will probably get a bit messy, so don’t buy anything specially to wear in hospital
  • Massage oil or lotion if you would like to be massaged during your labour
  • Lip balm
  • Snacks and drinks for you while you are in labour
  • Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games etc
  • A hairband. If you have long hair, you might want it tied up
  • Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable
  • TENS pain relief machine if you are planning to use one
  • Toiletries
  • Music to listen to. Take a battery-operated machine, as most hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios – again, check first

For the birth partner

  • Water spray, or a hand-held fan to keep cool down the mum-to-be while she’s in labour
  • Comfortable shoes. You may be pacing the corridors!
  • A change of clothes
  • Watch with a second hand, to time contractions
  • Swimwear, if you want to join the mum-to-be in a birth pool
  • Camera or camcorder. If you want to bring a camcorder, check with the hospital beforehand, because not all of them allow them in delivery rooms
  • Address book or a list of phone numbers. You and your partner will be able to use a mobile phone in parts of the hospital, but bring lots of change just in case
  • Snacks and drinks. If you take some with you, they can stay with you rather than leaving the room to search for food!

For after the birth

  • A going-home outfit. You’ll need loose comfortable clothes to wear while you’re in hospital and for the journey home. You’ll still be wearing maternity
  • Nursing bras. Take two or three
  • Breast pads
  • Maternity pads. Bring a couple of packs
  • Nightshirt or T-shirt. Front-opening shirts are useful in the early days of breastfeeding
  • Toiletries
  • Towels, hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Old or cheap knickers, or disposable knickers.
  • Ear plugs, in case you end up on a noisy ward!

For your baby

  • An infant car seat. Some hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one
  • One outfit for the trip home (all-in-one stretchy outfits are easiest)
  • Two or three sleepsuits and vests for baby to wear while you are in hospital
  • Baby blanket. Take a warm one if the weather is cold
  • Nappies and cotton wool
  • One pair of socks or booties
  • Hat
  • Jacket or snowsuit for winter babies
  • Muslin squares
So after perusing the list – and deciding to ignore the first 2 sections since I’m having a c-section, I was still a bit confused when I got to the “For your baby” section – they lost me at “cotton wool” and “muslin squares.”
So I went back to my UK Mum friends and apparently for wiping newborn bums – they use cotton wool here. It seems like it would be a bit awkward and fiddly but apparently it’s the done thing. They use cotton wool and water to wipe the babies.  I’ll be skipping that from my list and instead using wipes. The Muslin squares are apparently used as swaddling or burp cloths – an all purpose type of thing – in the US this would be the equivalent of “receiving blankets” although the texture seems a bit different.
There is a US and UK version of BabyCenter (BabyCenter.com and BabyCentre.co.uk) , it’s the same company but the packing list has been modified for the US/UK check out the differences for yourself on these packing lists.
US BabyCenter Hospital Packing List
UK BabyCentre Hospital Packing List

the essential one bodysuits

But have no fear reader! My baby will not be naked after delivery. I’ve received the most wonderfully soft and colorful newborn set from “The Essential One”  When they originally sent it they said they’d be sending me something for the hospital bag. I was thinking – uh huh, sure, just as soon as we get home from hospital. But now I know – it REALLY IS for the hospital bag! Good thing they’ve got me (and baby) covered!  They’ve sent over these really bright and lovely sets for newborns. Some red, white and blue bodysuits and sleepsuits as well as some matching hatsEach set came in it’s own matching little drawstring bag which will make it handy for packing in my hospital bag. So thanks to the kindness and foresight of some lovely people at The Essential One, my baby will not go nakey in the hospital.

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8 years ago 2 Comments Short URL

My first (and hopefully last) experience as a Hospital “Mum”

Yesterday I spent the day with my son in hospital while he had surgery. While everything turned out ok – the experience itself was not one I’d like to repeat. Sitting there waiting for the surgery, then waiting for my son to be returned to me safe and sound and then sitting through the hours of recovery time I had plenty of time to reflect and count our blessings.

As a parent I think there isn’t anything harder than watching your child suffer. Since he was a few months old, our eldest DS (age 6) has had chronic ear infections. Many times our first awareness would be as we’d hold him as he’d scream all night (and not just as a baby). Or having already given him pain meds, holding him as his ear drums threatened to burst and soothing him as they actually did, relieving his pain in one super painful burst. Antibiotics never seemed to help, (and research has shown they only cure ear infections one day faster on average than no antibiotics) and we’ve always tried to treat the pain as best we could. We tried alternative treatments and had him allergy tested to see if that was a contributing factor.

A few years ago we took him to an ENT who recommended tubes/grommets but we decided to wait a few weeks to figure out what to do. As we deliberated the weeks turned into 2 years of no ear infections so we didn’t really think about it again until with moved to London. Once in London the ear infections started up again with a vengeance (I’m thinking because of the weekly swimming classes at school) and we noticed our boy needing to turn the tv up louder and not hearing us so well when not facing us. So again we returned to the ENT and audiologist and found that from the ear infections there was scarring on the ear drum causing him some hearing loss as well as glue ear, thick liquid behind the ear drum that wasn’t draining properly and becoming re-infected.

We had a follow-up appointment with the ENT for 2 months following the first appointment, and during that time our boy had multiple ear infections and an even more significant loss in hearing. It was such a noticeable change, he’d ask us a question to our face while standing 2 feet away, and wouldn’t hear the answer. We’d repeat it 3 or 4 times until frustration set in and we’d shout – resulting in our boys defeated expression and shoulder hunch as he’d slink away – making us feel like rotten parents and human beings. So something had to be done, for his sake and for socialization and learning. He’s starting a new school this fall and this certainly wouldn’t help with trying to make new friends and navigate a new environment.

It took a few hours to get through the recovery period but by later afternoon he began feeling better

Before the surgery I reached out via Facebook and Twitter to see if any other parents of my acquaintance had been through the experience of their child getting tubes/grommets and adenoids removed. While people were nice enough to retweet my query on Twitter I didn’t really hear about anyone’s experience. With Facebook I was a little luckier. Hearing from 4 other parents that while the day itself would be rough, the post-hospital recovery would be quicker than the Dr’s said and also that there would be noticeable improvements in health and hearing. One friend alerted me to an issue I hadn’t really considered – watching my child be put under anesthesia – which she forewarned me would be difficult to watch. I appreciated the heads-up as I hadn’t really considered this.

While I don’t consider myself religious – I have and did and will continue to count my blessings – in the sense of gratitude.

1. I’m thankful for Social Media
Connecting with other parents who’ve been through similar things online via Facebook and Twitter went a long way to relieving some of my fears and making me feel not so alone.

2. I’m thankful I live in this time and place
We live in a country that makes medical treatment widely available, have some medicines to make the procedures less painful, and others to prevent and treat more serious complications.

Before the surgery began, they used cream to numb the areas where they’d insert the IV

3. I’m thankful that it was in the scheme of things, a small procedure
We were able to go in and out the same day – whereas I have friends who are just leaving the hospital with their children after 90+ days

4. I’m thankful that it worked
Although the recovery period was a bit traumatic (although he doesn’t remember it) shortly after he was already complaining everyone and everything was too loud and there were too many noises. Since returning home, he’s gone from watching the television 2ft away at volume level 23 to now sitting back on the couch and watching it at volumen level 6.

So we had one day in the hospital. One day of discomfort for my son, my anxiety on his behalf – and one day of being addressed by all and sundry (doctors, nurses, cleaners etc) as “Mum.” Ok so this was my one pet peeve about the day – it’s a small one but annoying nonetheless, it’s fine if you can’t learn all the parents names, I get it, but I’d rather not be called “Mum” by a bunch of other adults. But in the same respect of counting thanks – I’m thankful that I wasn’t there long enough that they did learn my name. Contrary I know.

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8 years ago 5 Comments Short URL

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