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Marisa Mackle: Private and public both need a clean up

Imagine giving birth in a broom cupboard? I met somebody the other night whose daughter recently gave birth in the cupboard of a well-known maternity hospital. I thought the woman was joking as she handed around the photo of her daughter and her new grandchild.

"Aw, how cute," but, once the cooing was over and done with, I had to ask again about the broom cupboard, so convinced I was that I'd misheard.

"Well, there weren't enough beds and she couldn't give birth in the corridor, so they brought her into the broom cupboard. And then, after the baby was delivered they found her a nice private room, so everything worked out alright in the end," said the grandmother in a calm voice.

I was gobsmacked. Truly, I was. What next? Deliveries in the toilet cubicles? Or outside in the car park?

Another woman who was sitting at our table laughed at my shocked face.

"It's not that unusual," she said. "In fact, I myself gave birth in a hospital broom cupboard as well, and I was a private patient."

My head swivelled. "Really?"

"Yes," she said, "I can remember looking at the mops and buckets and bottles of detergents when I was pushing."

I thought back to when I was trying to decide between being a private or a public patient. In the end I decided to save the €4,000 it costs to go private -- but at least I gave birth in a delivery room.

"And what's more," said the lady next to me, on a roll now. "Some woman who was positioned between my legs, and I'm still not sure whether it was a doctor or a nurse, was texting somebody on her mobile phone throughout the delivery."

"And you a private patient?" I reminded her.

"Exactly. I had my own consultant gynaecologist, only he wasn't there, because unfortunately he was away on a golfing trip."

I cast my mind back to when I was expecting. Some women would ask me who my gynaecologist was. As though they were enquiring about a designer handbag. An awful lot of snobbery goes hand-in-hand with having a baby.

"Well, I was a public patient," I said cheerily. "And I didn't see as much as a J cloth!"

There was a moment's silence. But then the former private patient found her voice again. "Well, I have to say the ante-natal visits were great, and I could get back to work quickly as soon as they were over. I didn't have to queue all day. That's the great thing about being a private patient."

I didn't get it. She gave birth in a broom cupboard and she's still using the story to let people know she was a private patient. Jeez.

Marisa is the author of Along Came A Stork