Dossier: Pregnancy

Family rooms: tackling the first few days together

These days most fathers are present at the birth of their children. Many of them don't want to miss the first few days with the baby either. Family rooms are designed to make their wish come true.

Interview: Helwi Braunmiller; Photo: Marco Rosasco

Mariel Meyer, age 27, was really looking forward to the birth of her son Jonas nine months ago. But as so often happens, the birth in Zurich's Hirslanden Clinic didn't go as planned, and an emergency C-section was required. When Mariel and her 31-year-old husband Jonas found out that she'd then have to spend a week in hospital, they spontaneously decided that they wanted to spend the time together in a family room. They were fortunate, and shortly afterwards were able to move into their home for the week.

Mariel, nine months have passed already since the birth of your son. Do you still remember your first impression when you moved into the family room?

Everything we needed was there: two hospital beds, a baby cot, a changing table and even a small eating area, a niche to sit in and our own bathroom. But most importantly, we had the room to ourselves - plus a great view of Lake Zurich.

At first my husband did everything, and I simply breastfed my son.

Was it important for you to have your husband with you around the clock so soon after the birth?

Jonas is our first child, so everything was new for us. It's easier if there are two of you. Not only that, but because of the caesarean I had problems getting out of bed, and only became more mobile the last two days in hospital. In other words I only had to breastfeed, and my husband did everything else. At first I couldn't get up if my son started crying. So I was glad that my husband was constantly nearby and that I didn't have to ring and wait.

We really enjoyed the service: A paper in the morning, breakfast, lunch and dinner were all brought to our room. That makes everything much more relaxed, especially when it's your first child. That was important to me. I had some difficulty with breastfeeding. This meant the breastfeeding counsellor was with us the whole time. It was a lot more relaxed to be able to be together.

But many women like having another new mother in the next bed to be able to share what they're going through.

I had a real bout of the baby blues, because it was so difficult to come to terms with the C-section. I think that after an emergency caesarean I'd have been even more depressed if I'd been in a bed next to a woman who'd given birth without complications.

If you have another child would you take a family room again? After all, it does mean you may both miss out on sleep.

You could have the child looked after during the night if both of you needed sleep. But for me it depends on the birth. Couples who've had a smooth birth probably don't really need a family room. In most cases they're out of hospital within three days in any case. But I met various couples in the hospital corridor who had treated themselves to the luxury anyway. Of course the service doesn't come for free. We budgeted for our cost share as if it were a week's holiday. And that's actually more or less what it was: the three of us on holiday.