A few years ago the local hospital ceased all birthing and maternity operations. They did this in the face of increasing costs and regulation coupled with dwindling hospital births. This is not meant to question or in any way cast doubts on their decisions. I don’t walk in their shoes. But their decision had far-reaching ramifications for young couples planning on enlarging their families. Options as to where to have their children were severely curtailed. It was pretty much like it was when I was born - only more so.
I was born at home, very likely in my parents bed. There was an attending physician, although I’m not certain who he was, but I have never heard of any nurses or other professional personnel. That practice was pretty much in common with many of the Darlington births. Maybe all but the most complicated were done that way. The old Quinn-McConnell Hospital, for many years now home to an insurance agency, was two years in the future when I was born in 1932.
My sister was born in that new hospital in 1938 and many folks still with us today were also born there. It was a boost to the community and greatly needed, although it was never truly equipped to manage the most serious illnesses and surgeries. Even after it no longer served as a hospital, it still served as physician offices for a number of years. It boasted of a larger and more professional staff to serve the community.
The newer, present day hospital over on Clay Street came along several years later when the need for a modern facility became quite apparent. Naturally the maternity needs of the community were in the forefront of that need. I believe that it was erected about 1948-1950, at least in that time frame, and it relieved many trips to Dodgeville, Madison, Dubuque and Monroe. A few patients found their way to Freeport as well. All those communities had modern hospitals with obstetrics as a primary function. Providing modern reliable and nearby birthing facilities was not the only purpose for the new hospital but it was certainly not the least.
Unknown to many persons in town was another facility devoted entirely to delivering new babies and attending to the needs of the mothers. That was the Jenks Maternity Home, located on the north side of State Highway 81, a mile or so east of the city limits. There are a surprising number of persons still in our community who were born in that home. As a birthing center it probably equaled the old hospital, but I don’t know that for a fact. For many years now it has served as the family home to members of the Eugene Thompson family.
These are the centers that have been in operation in my lifetime. There may have been other and earlier ones but they would have had a very short life. There is a small red brick house on the corner of Wells and Louisa Streets that for a short time served Dr. Peck as a hospital. He did do some surgeries there to remove an appendix or some such surgery, then considered major and fraught with uncertainty, but today regarded as relatively minor. I don’t know if any babies were born there. It had no full time staff. I don’t know what level of care was provided to persons needing appendectomies. It must have been Spartan at best.
Today we have come full circle. I don’t know of any home births, although those in the Amish community might practice that. I simply don’t know. What is certain is that out of town facilities have to be consulted for pre- and post-natal care. Likewise with the physicians unless they have staffing privileges at those other hospitals. Again, I don’t know. But I’m surely happy that we had a hospital with birthing facilities when my son was born.