Woman’s Hospital educator Heather Bull sat at the top of a circle of 15 excited students ages 4 to 8 on Dec. 6, holding a baby doll in her lap.
Bull was teaching “A Baby is Coming,” a class for children expecting siblings offered every month at Woman’s, and “Tyke Hyke,” a similar class for children younger than 4.
“How many of you are having a baby brother?” she asked. Just a couple of hands popped up.
“OK, we’re going to need more baby sisters,” Bull said to her co-workers, Amie Williams and Dana Sunseri, who took several of the dolls wrapped in blue off of the table at the front of the room and talked to the children while they went to the doll supply closet. “We want everyone who’s having a baby sister to get a sister doll,” Bull said.
When everyone was settled in with the right gender, all eyes were on Bull as she explained “the rules” of handling newborns at home.
“It’s her first time to become a big sister,” said Latrinka Cook of her daughter Auna, 7. Cook is due “one day this month, but I’m hoping for 12-13-14. It’s easy to remember.”
She was glad the course was available to Auna as a refresher, in kids’ terms, that was easy to digest. Auna paused to place her palms on her mom’s baby bump, giving it a quick kiss and hugging her mom.
“The baby responds to her voice already,” Cook said. “She’ll be a good big sister.”
Children learned how to swaddle, how to safely hold the baby — in a cradle made in the lap by sitting “crisscross, applesauce” —and how to safely touch and play with the baby.
“Always wash your hands before you touch your brother or sister,” Bull said.
That, Cook said, is the part she hopes Auna remembers, but there are two other important rules — always ask an adult before picking up the baby, and touch with the palms; don’t poke with the fingers.
The siblings and parents also went on a tour of the private delivery rooms upstairs, saw where their moms would be when the big day comes and learned all the features of the hospital, including the family rooms with a clear view of the lake and its ducks.
The hospital’s design is meant to mimic nature — walls are curved, rather than straight and squared, said Dana Michell,who works in public relations at the hospital. “It doesn’t feel like a hospital, more like a hotel.”
And that is intended to make the whole family feel at home, especially children, though they won’t be able to spend the night.
“Mommy needs her rest, new baby needs rest, and you need rest,” Bull said.