There are a ton of things I’ll never forget about the first time I gave birth—showing up with a Donny Hathaway CD in one hand, a beautiful pink and white-striped “going home” dress and a white blanket handpicked special for my Mari in the other; being scared to death of the epidural needle but grateful that it smoothed me out almost immediately; waiting for what seemed like an eternity to see my baby’s beautiful face; how I seriously believe I saw a white light over my OB-GYN’s head when she entered the room to help me deliver the love of my life. Mari’s baby soft skin against my breast—her breath as sweet as Heaven. I imagine Beyonce, who gave birth just a few weeks ago to Blue Ivy Carter, her baby with husband Jay-Z, will have these memories, too, when the R&B superstar thinks back to the day she had her most incredible performance yet: giving birth.

But that is probably where our memories of that special day part. What I most remember? That the hospital and workers where I had my first daughter sullied what should have been one of the most amazing days of my life.

I gave birth at a hospital in upper Manhattan—a renowned teaching hospital that, because of where it’s situated, caters to a poor, uninsured community, but, because of its leading specialists, modern facilities and state-of-the-art technology, also is frequented by well-to-do patients who consider it one of the best hospitals in New York. They made it very clear in the brochures and birthing plans that a regular ol’ birth there was neither more nor less than what a pregnant women could get elsewhere, but if you were willing to fork over an additional $800 or so, you could get the Cadillac birthing experience: a private room, extra personal time with your significant other, a special waiting room for family members replete with free refreshments, and a complimentary congratulatory meal—two steak and lobster (!) dinners and champagne for two—for the new parents. I promise you this: the words were so pretty I was convinced I was about to give birth in a posh hotel.

I did not.