LETTER: ...for many of us the choice to deliver our children here in Ely is personal

Dear Editor,
Child birth is quite possibly the most natural and personal experience a family will go through. Of course, women have carried and delivered babies since the beginning of time. Sure, things have changed; medications, techniques and medical procedures have changed bits and pieces of the birthing process, but overall the way in which a child is created, develops in the womb and enters this world has not changed throughout history.
In Ely we are blessed with a hospital and clinic filled with brilliant and caring staff. And for many of us, the choice to deliver our children here in Ely is personal, a way to connect ourselves deeper to our community. Sure, another hospital is a quick trip down the highway and the staff there is capable of bringing a child into this world safely, but no staff member of that health community would have a son on the same Little League team as my son; I won’t bump into those doctors in Zup’s and reintroduce my children to them as I do now.
My first son, Jacob, was born at a larger hospital in Fridley, MN. The doctor had to look at my chart to remember my name and commented that my Jacob was her third Jacob delivered that day. The care was fine, Jacob and I were both fine, but it wasn’t personal. Today, I wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a small crowd and, of course, she wouldn’t remember a single moment of that experience – just another patient, just another baby, just another delivery, just another mom, just another Jacob.
My second and third children, Robert and Macy, were delivered here in Ely and the experience was completely different than my first. Everyone knew my name, some nurses have known me most of my life, the entire hospital was prepared and excited for a baby to arrive. My husband and family were treated with compassion and respect, not just as visitors. Robert’s delivery almost nine years ago and Macy’s delivery this past spring were chock full of people I’ve known in and out of a medical facility and that’s something special.
I’m not naïve, I know there are complications. I know there are risks. I know it isn’t easy to be on the medical side of the childbirth experience, especially in our little town with our little hospital with limited resources. I know things can happen and decisions need to be made quickly – I was at the receiving end of exactly that with Macy – things didn’t go as they had with her big brothers, and more than 17 hours of labor later, she was delivered via C-Section by the same staff that hadn’t left my side all day.  
Macy and I were both well taken care of and safe, that was the one thing I was confident about as they wheeled me from the birthing suite to the operating room.
There are also risks of sending a laboring woman an hour away to the nearest delivering hospital. Forcing women to travel to deliver may increase the number of planned inductions and C-Sections and possibly deliveries along the side of the highway. Robert was in my arms 28 minutes after my first contraction. Add in inclement weather and nervous dads and this could be a recipe for disaster for many families.
I know for some families, delivering at a larger hospital with more resources is more important than a personal experience. I understand that. However, for some of us, personal care is a top priority, knowing that if things need more care than available we will need to go to another facility. Ely families deserve to have that choice.
It’s a tragedy that our local hospital will no longer provide services for labor and delivery, not only for the families here, but for the future of Ely’s population in general. You want young people to move to Ely, to raise families in Ely? Then the local hospital needs to provide the service for those families to grow.
Right now, why would a family want to move here? Why do young families want to stay here? Ely has very few good paying jobs that never seem to be hiring. The school is full of excellent teachers but enrollment is nearly half of what it was just 20 years ago – finally hitting bottom after years of steady decline. The school struggles to support extra-curricular activities and many of them are subsidized by independent booster groups. And now we can’t even deliver a baby. This is another nail in Ely’s coffin.
There’s more to the childbirth experience than logistics, dollar signs and bottom lines. It’s human, it’s raw, it’s emotion, it’s family. It’s personal and it needs to stay that way. Ely families deserve to make this choice on their own, not by some suits in a board room.
We are all connected in Ely. I appreciate being connected to our medical staff on levels outside the walls of a building on West Conan Street. We bump into each other at baseball games and grocery shopping We share a friendly smile or a quick conversation – this is special, something that isn’t done everywhere and that needs to be celebrated and held on to.
Hollee Hartshorn Coombe
Ely, MN