Thanks be to God, I've had very little experience with hospitals, Catholic or otherwise. And speaking frankly, I hope not to have much future opportunity, either.
But should God deign otherwise, I pray that the experience is similar to the one my wife and I had for the birth of our first child nearly 11 years ago.
We were living in Rome and I was employed by Vatican Radio, meaning we were covered under the Vatican's (comprehensive) health insurance plan and could look forward to delivery at a private hospital on the Janiculum hill in Rome called Salvator Mundi ("Savior of the World") run by Salvatorian nuns. It is the same facility where Mother Teresa was hospitalized for a few days in 1992.
My wife went into labor at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 6, 1998. I threw on some clothes and called a taxi. The driver raced us through the sleepy Sunday morning streets.
Once arrived, we took the elevator up to the maternity ward, where we were greeted by a hidebound old Irish nun, Suor Magdalena, who was in charge of the floor.
My wife and I had prepared for this big moment -- our first baby! -- by reading several books on natural childbirth, in which the husband plays a coaching role.
Suor Magdalena adhered to the older school approach -- men should stay out of the way -- and looked disapprovingly down her nose at my engagement in the process.
No matter. We stuck with it. But as the hours went by, and no baby came, we lost our nerve. And the doctor, who finally showed up, was impatient. So he demanded an emergency Caesarean section, citing fetal distress.
I will spare you the details of the operation. Suffice it to say, there were some anesthesiologist mistakes, the relating of which once made one of our dinner guests so queasy that he had to lie down on our couch to recover.
So I was a nervous wreck once our daughter was pulled from my wife. Suor Magdalena insisted I accompany her to my daughter's initial exam, and then let me return to my unconscious wife's side in the operating room.
Minutes later, as my wife was being wheeled to her room, Suor Magdalena pulled me aside.
"Mr. Norton," she said, "you'll be happy to know that I stopped in the chapel on the way to the nursery and held up your daughter to introduce her to Jesus in the tabernacle."
I was stunned almost to tears. Her words brought me back to my senses. (And I was very grateful when she offered me lunch, with wine, at my wife's side.) I knew I was in a Catholic hospital.