Read the introduction to this series
The midwives and doctors all hate Delivery Room 1. It’s the coldest in winter, attested to by the unplugged portable electric heaters leaning against one wall, and the hottest in summer, with the window propped open with bits of cardboard. It’s extremely hot today, 12th July 2007.
The room, as part of the Labour Ward, is indeed quite a long way removed from the Bloomsbury Birthing Centre across the corridor. It’s a far more obviously medical space, with multiple large machines amidst the trappings of modern medicine. There is also a beautiful old-fashioned analogue Marsden scale, which come in handy later. The large bed in the middle is an extraordinarily malleable piece of equipment, something like a an early Matthew Barney piece. It’s made by Hill-Rom. Given our surnames are Hill and Romaniuk, I grasp at this as a positive sign.
The room looks out onto an internal light well in the building, the base of which is covered with air conditioning units, which combine to create a ghostly low-volume shriek when the wind blows back through them. It occurs to me that Stockhausen would enjoy the effect; a bit like his ‘Helicopter Quartet’, as it too is rotor-driven, but with an aleatoric element derived from the chaotic patterns of the wind. It also occurs to me that if this isn’t the very last thing a woman in labour would want to hear about, it must be pretty bloody close. So I keep quiet about it.
I won’t go into the details of the labour, but Oliver Kornel Hill is born in this room at 22.47, which is a moment as wonderful and astonishing as everyone says it is.
For one reason or another, we end up sleeping our first night with Oliver right there in Delivery Room 1. Now, in the middle of the night, the warmth is finally welcome.
Other pieces in this series:
A birth, in 13 places
1. Scan; Private clinic, Harley Street, Central London
2. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, UCLH, Huntley Street, Central London
3. Active Birth Centre, Tufnell Park, North London
4. Antenatal classes; 1A Roseberry Avenue, Central London
5. Bloomsbury Birthing Centre, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, UCLH, Huntley Street, Central London
6. Delivery Room 1, Labour Ward, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, UCLH, Huntley Street, Central London
7. A&E, UCLH Main Building, Gower Street, Central London
8. Amenity Room 6, Nixon Suite, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (part of UCH), Huntley Street, Central London
9. Café Deco, Store Street, Central London
10. Transitional Care Unit, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (UCLH), Huntley Street, Central London
11. Home, Gower Mews, Central London
12. Bloomsbury, Central London
13. Registry Office, Camden Town Hall, Central London
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