Jessie Piacenza, HR manager for Kitty Hawk Kites, grew up mainly on the Outer Banks — but she and her husband had been away in Kansas City, MO, her husband’s hometown, for some years. After the birth of their first child, they decided the Outer Banks was the place to raise their growing family. “I love the culture — it’s a laid-back lifestyle,” says Piacenza. What she didn’t realize at the time was how the move would impact her next childbirth experience for the better.

In Kansas City, Piacenza felt she was “pushed through the system” during labor and delivery. She wanted to be up and moving around, but a misplaced epidural left her bedridden and in a lot of pain. And then there were the balloons. After Piacenza and her family left the hospital room, her mother went back up to grab the balloons from the room. “They had already popped the balloons and thrown away everything,” says Piacenza. “We’re talking five minutes.”

For the birth of her second child, Piacenza couldn’t have had a more opposite experience at The Outer Banks Hospital. “A whole reception wanting to talk with you and chat with you…was so much more personal,” Piacenza says. The Labor and Delivery area was another pleasant surprise. “They showed me to a room that almost seemed more like a hotel,” says Piacenza. The nurses encouraged her to sit down and relax while they brought her refreshments and assessed her progress.

Piacenza was having Braxton Hicks contractions and wasn’t in labor yet — so the nurses sent her home to rest, joking with her that the next time they saw her, she wouldn’t be smiling. “Lo and behold, when I came back, I was crying…and laughing…because they all smiled at me and said, ‘Now that’s what you should look like,’” Piacenza says. “They were real, and I appreciated it.”

Piacenza also appreciated how the nurses answered all of her questions and helped keep her standing and moving during labor as she’d hoped to do this time around. The nurses treated each other well, too, Piacenza noticed. “You could tell they enjoyed working together and communicating,” she says. And she thought her delivery doctor, Dr. Dwyer, was amazing. The baby “really came out in a welcoming way,” says Piacenza. “Having the small-hospital experience, but knowing there are some great specialists there, just really changed the whole thing for me — and my comfort level.”

Back home with baby, Piacenza realized she’d left her nephew’s drawing in the hospital room. Did it end up in the trash like those balloons? Not a chance. “They mailed it to my home with notes saying, ‘Thanks for delivering here,’” says Piacenza. She couldn’t believe it. She says it’s those personal touches that made her second labor and delivery so exceptionally different. “I realize it sounds cheesy to say it was an amazing experience,” says Piacenza, “but hands down, I would recommend The Outer Banks Hospital to anyone.”