99th or the 1 percent, we all have babies. But when Beyoncé, an elite member of the "one percent" club, gave birth at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City this weekend, the economic divide became achingly apparent. Though the ward is normally open to the public, the New York Daily News reported that the superstar couple spent $1.3 million to redecorate and close off their birthing area inciting ire from at least one fellow parent. Neil Coulon claimed he couldn't get to his sick twin due to velvet rope treatment of the superstar couple.
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If only Jay-B ventured further uptown they could have had all that prime birthing real estate without the backlash. At Mount Sinai hospital on Manhattan's upper East Side, an elite labor and delivery service affords all the amenities of a five-star-hotel for $4000 a night. Here well-to-do patients don't just get private rooms, they get multi-room suites, with Italian tiled bathrooms, three-course catered meals, mommy and me massages and bedside mani-pedis— all overlooking views of Central Park.
"Rich wood paneling conceals medical equipment that lends to our commitment to creating an ambiance for wellness treatment," according to Mount Sinai's resort-worthy brochure. Come 2pm—ring, ring—it's tea time, as volunteers stop by with a tray of crumpets and tea, to relax the new family for a private in-house photo-shoot. If this all wasn't first class enough, the hospital has it's own equivalent of a sky mall. A "bedside boutique cart" swings by with specialty baby soaps and designer swaddling wraps for a shopping fix more relaxing than a Percodan.
In recent years, hospitals around the country, and the world, have upgraded their maternity wards to attract a higher end customer wary of factory-like delivery wings. A smattering of bad press bashing under-staffed, over-crowded maternity wards have more parents rethinking their delivery plans. Between 2004 and 2008, home births increased by 20 percent. As a result hospitals have stepped up their offerings to cater to a wealthy clientele who can afford the highest quality of neonatal home care. That means providing personal assistants and one-to-one nurse-patient ratios for paying customers. It also means calling a decorator.
"Hospitals recognize that not only is artwork a necessary part of interior finish but they also understand that it's a marketing expense," Jan Marion, a hospital decorating consultant, told ABC News earlier this year. "A new family makes healthcare decisions that will have long lasting impact on a healthcare provider."
On the West Coast, the other harbor for high-profile parents with cash to spare, there's Cedars-Sinai's birthing center. For $3,784, celebrities like Victoria Beckham can rent out a three-room, two-bath suite to keep the riffraff out. "These rooms are exceptionally designed with hardwood floors, elegantly coordinated bedding and drapes and recessed lighting. It is the perfect setting to bond with your newborn baby," according to the hospital's site.
Outside of celebrity-land the clamor for high-end maternity wards is also being heard. In Madison Wisconsin's St. Mary's Hospital, maternity suites are more like spas. Double beds come standard in exclusive suites, so do massage shower heads. The French brand L'Occitane provides the bath products and a team of custom framers have installed psychologically relaxing pastel paintings for peace of mind.
On the other side of the planet, the luxury maternity movement is already seasons ahead of us. At the Waverly Private hospital in Victoria, Australia, moneyed moms-to-be enjoy in-room flat screen TV's, dining tables, custom-made feeding chairs and a specialized menu that includes wine and beer with meals. There's also a private café just for new moms to mix and mingle.
In Sydney, The Prince of Wales Private Hospital has taken their staff off-site to the Crowne Plaza, a five-star-hotel providing a birthing experience on 300 thread-count sheets. Pregnant guests arrive via limousine and are set up in an ocean view suite for about $400 Australian dollars a night. Similar set-ups at leading hotels in Melbourne and Adelaide also feature blocked-off rooms for delivery.
Back in the states, Connecticut's Greenwich Hospital may as well function like the Plaza for high-paying patients. Their "Tender Beginnings" maternity program, which is not covered by health insurance, provides the requisite massage, as well as deluxe robes, gift baskets stuffed with bath products and a gourmet champagne dinner prepared by a team of chefs after delivery. It's almost enough to make you forget you just had a baby.