Since its opening about four years ago, the Northside Hospital-Forsyth Women’s Center has delivered some 8,000 babies.
That’s an especially impressive number for Melissa Sugg, the center’s manager.
“The town I grew up in only had about 8,000 people,” Sugg said. “So to think that we’ve delivered my entire hometown in the past four years, it’s pretty exciting.”
Sugg said the center, which officially opened in August 2008, delivered about 1,700 babies in its first year.
“We’ve gone up each year,” she said. “This year, we’ve got a couple more weeks in this fiscal year, but we’re going to be right at a little over 2,300.
“There are a lot of community hospitals that have been opened for a long time that do that many, so that’s a good solid number. Of course, we want it to be bigger, but we’re proud of what we’ve done.”
The center, which is two stories with labor and delivery areas on the first floor and postpartum and nursery areas on the second, has also added staff members over its relatively short history.
“We’re right around 200 and that’s not support staff … that’s just Women’s Center techs and nurses and secretaries,” Sugg said. “I think it was around 130 or so when we first opened. So as our deliveries have increased, our need for more staff has too.”
The physical facilities have also seen expansion.
“We’ve been able to add a couple more postpartum rooms up on the second floor and our special care nursery has continued to expand and we’ve been approved for more and more beds there,” Sugg said.
“We’ve also been able to build out a really nice educational area.”
According to Sugg, that area is used for an array of classrooms for staff and families.
“Through our Mothers First program, we have a lot of classes that are offered,” she said. “It’s everything from daddy boot camp to mommy and baby yoga to baby classes and sibling classes, and we do everything in both English and Spanish, so we really have dedicated space for those classes.
“Since they’re going to be coming to the Women’s Center to deliver, we wanted them to have class space in the Women’s Center.”
The center also has dedicated space for lactation services to help moms with breastfeeding.
But, Sugg noted, the center’s staff are trained to help new moms learn more about that.
“We continue to realize how important breast milk is for babies, so we really have done a lot of training with our staff to help new mothers breastfeed and be able to answer their questions,” she said.
“We try to encourage people, even if they’re not going to continue to breastfeed after they go back to work, to at least try it for the first few weeks to let the baby get those benefits.”
One of the staff members who works with new moms is Julie Christian, one of the center’s “anchor nurses.”
She explained that anchor nurses work with full-term babies as soon as they are born, completing health assessments and tasks such as giving the babies their first baths and helping moms with first feedings.
“I love working with the moms and the babies and getting the babies with the moms as much as possible,” Christian said. “Long ago, we used to whisk the babies away and now I just love to promote that bonding and to have [moms] with the babies and see everything we’re doing.
“We like to help people feel like it’s a good transition from the anxiety of a new baby coming and then they have say, ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad,’” she said.
For some babies, the stay at the Women’s Center can be longer than expected.
That’s where the nurses in the special care nursery come into play.
The facility is for babies born premature or with other health problems.
Sugg said the nursery opened with just four beds and has grown to include 17.
“We’re capable of handling any sort of emergency that comes in, any type of delivery,” Sugg said.
Special care nursery clinician Dana Gopal said the facility has many features families appreciate.
“The main thing is private rooms,” said Gopal, explaining how each baby has its own room rather than an open nursery area with other babies. “So a lot of times here, our parents can room in. These moms can stay here 24 hours a day and be with their babies, so it’s very comforting.”
The babies, who can sometimes stay in the special nursery for up to several months, also have full access to any sort of care they may need, Gopal said.
“We have all the specialties to follow up with these babies, in case they need services like physical therapy or feeding specialists,” she said.
Whether a baby needs special care or is perfectly healthy, Sugg said she’s proud of the center and her staff.
She fondly recalled the opening of the center.
“We laughed and compared it to the gestation of having a baby because I was offered the position in the end of ’07 and then came in January and we opened in August ’08, so it was right around nine months,” Sugg said.
“We had drill after drill after drill to make sure we were prepared for anything that came along and so then when … that first healthy baby was born, it was very emotional because we had put some much into it.
“It was a very emotional time for all of us.”