Little Company of Mary is truly “The Baby Hospital” of the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and we have been known as such at least since the Baby Boom. In fact, the number of births at the hospital grew from 230 during the hospital’s first year open in 1930 to an average of 5,000 births per year during the 1950s and 60s.
5,000 births were recorded in 1956, which made the Hospital second only to Cook County Hospital in the number of babies delivered. And in 1957, when births were decreasing across the country, Little Company of Mary births were on the rise. In the first three months of 1957, the hospital delivered 1,517 babies, an average of 16 per day, and this was 13.5 percent more than the same time in 1956.
Around this time, the hospital saw a lot of repeat business. When mothers would leave after delivering their baby, as a running joke, nurses would often say, “See you next year.” And the moms, knowing this was often a good possibility, would respond, “Okay.” Little Company of Mary saw so many mothers have babies in rapid succession that the Hospital decided to play off their reputation as “The Baby Hospital” and offer a special discount: Have 11 babies at Little Company of Mary, and the 12th is free.
We don’t know how many large families were made because of this offer, but we do know why people delivered at Little Company of Mary time and again. Rooms at the Hospital were always full, and moms lined up in the hallways and solarium until they delivered their baby. Many women considered their time at the hospital a 5-day vacation and a time to meet new friends, as Sister Bernadette O’Hara and Sister Rita Bracken provided a wonderful environment to have a baby.
Even with so many births at the hospital, every birth was treated with great care and excitement. Read the following excerpt from a Chicago Tribune news article about the Hospital’s birthing unit, and pay special attention to the description of the Sister: “Men whose children have been born at Little Company of Mary are grateful for the warmth and special attention given to their wives. No matter how late the hour, no one arrived to meet a sleepy admitting clerk in a bank-lobby atmosphere. A cheery Sister rushes down the steps, her blue veil whipping in the wind, to greet the prospective mother. The night policeman is frequently so busy wheeling those new arrivals in and out of the elevators he has to take care of his watchman’s work on the run.” Who wouldn’t want to give birth at a Hospital where the nurses and staff care so much about your baby’s birth?
Although the “12th baby free” offer no longer stands, Little Company of Mary’s Family Birth Center remains a great place to have your baby. Little Company of Mary currently boasts more than 200,000 “baby alumni.” Learn more about the Family Birth Center here.
Little Company of Mary offers an array of classes for expecting and new parents, including Infant Massage, Birthing Basics, Happiest Baby on the Block, Breastfeeding, and more. View information on upcoming classes.
Information and Photo from A Healing Presence: The story of Little Company of Mary Hospital’s Journey of Unconditional Love, by Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers, Maurice Possley, Editor