Family Centered C-Section: Erin’s Story

by GfG on June 4, 2012 · 16 comments

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The first part of  this post is written by Erin (edited a bit by me) who is a sweet sister in the faith and friend of mine.  Be blessed by her story!    At the end is a brief interview about details of her family centered c-section experience.  While Erin’s journey to this type of birth is not typical, any woman who would like more of a birth experience in the operating room would benefit from this post. 

My first child was born on October 18, 2010.

Our daughter Gwendolyn was born via an emergency c-section because after 24 hours of perfect laboring, our daughter’s heartbeat plummeted. While enduring contractions, I was hurried through to the emergency room (from a birthing center), signed papers, was prepped for surgery by a team of people, and was told by the head of the LDR to “be prepared that your child might not be alive when you wake up.”

By the grace of God, our daughter was revived but she had no brain activity and her organs were shutting down. After many blurry, confusing and heartbreaking hours, we decided to give  the order to DNR if her heart crashed again. Thirty-six hours after she was born, our daughter Gwendolyn Hope fell asleep in the Lord.

Our journey through the shock and grief of losing our perfectly formed baby girl is a long story (though a good one, in my opinion.)  The Lord proved himself faithful to “bind up the brokenhearted” and by the time our daughter’s first birthday arrived, we were able to rejoice in her Heavenly Home, our confident hope that we WILL see her again, and the compassion of the Lord through the presence of His Church.

The Lord had also blessed us with a new pregnancy with a scheduled due date of April 27, 2012.

I would be lying if I told you this pregnancy was anxiety-free.  The idea that I could be again told to “not expect my baby to be alive”, that I could be rushed to a surgery and put under anesthesia, that I could be separated from my husband during the worst experience of my life deeply scared me.

My husband, Blair, and I decided to have a scheduled c-section to avoid the possibility of enduring an emergency cesarean. Blair found a video that depicted a “family centered cesarean”: a revolutionary idea on how to make a sterile, impersonal surgery revolve around the family unit and begin the bonding process with baby and mom immediately.

As I watched the video, I sat in awe thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could have that kind of a birth. With a lump in my throat, I sent the link to Mindy asking her, “Do you even think this would be possible at PRMC??” She encouraged me to try; so try we did. Blair and I decided we would ask our doctor and the head of the hospital to view the video and consider giving us this kind of a birth. Unbeknownst to me, Mindy had passed the video on to a midwife, Niessa, in the same practice as my doctor, who  then did an amazing job of lobbying for us.

When Blair and I had our 34 week appointment, our doctor surprised us by bringing up the family centered cesarean then we were shocked by the eager excitement of the staff at the hospital to try this different cesarean. Where previously I had dreaded the surgery, I now was excited to think that it could be what we wanted: a birth experience.

The unique aspects of a family centered cesarean include having the curtain dropped so the mom and dad can see the baby as he or she emerges, having skin to skin contact with mom right away, letting the dad cut the umbilical cord, and having the baby stay with you the whole time – all the newborn checkups would be done at the mother’s chest.

It only took a few short moments for them to have me prepped for surgery, and while Blair and I were praying, the doctors had already made the first incision. It was only a few moments before they dropped the curtain, and I saw my beautiful baby pulled from my womb. It was a boy! Both Blair and I were crying as he was handed to me, very much alive, warm, and screaming. You would have had to experience the silence of a dying baby to understand how indescribable it was to hear my son, and feel his arms and legs flailing about.

I did get slightly nauseated in the surgery, which is very normal. Malacai had already been born and was sitting on my chest, so they transferred him over to Blair until I was ready to hold him again. It was so precious, seeing my husband hold his baby boy.   It only took a half hour or so for them to sew me back up and as a family we left the operating room.

How did it feel, both physically and emotionally, to watch your son come out?

I started crying the minute I could see his head. To see him squirm and hear him scream was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. Physically, I couldn’t feel a thing – there was so much happening at once, and I was so excited and anxious to see him that I didn’t even notice them pushing on my uterus.

How did it feel, both physically and emotionally, to have him on your chest while they sewed you up?  

I honestly can’t imagine having him anywhere else. The fact that so many moms are not able to hold their child after a c-section is horrendous to me. It just seems like the natural thing to do – of course he should be with me. I think if he hadn’t been, there would’ve been a bit of an emotional drop in excitement. It was a challenge physically to hold him, since I was numb from the anesthesia up to my chest, but I didn’t mind at all.


Did the c-section hurt?

The only painful sensation I had during the whole process was the numbing shots they gave me in my spine BEFORE they put in the spinal block, and those were more of a “regular shot” type pain anyway. It was a bit weird, feeling my whole body go numb, and trying to move my toes when they couldn’t. But not painful.

Did they have to give you any extra meds for anxiety?  (My theory is that they will not have to do this for family centered c-sections because of endorphins and more bonding)

No. This is one of the major benefits to a family centered cesarean, and one that the Anesthesiologist was amazed by. Because of the rush of endorphins from seeing the baby and having skin to skin contact right away, there was no need for additional medication to supplement for the typical drop in hormones leading to depression or anxiety. I think our Anesthesiologist was amazed by how such a simple “fix” in the process of a cesarean can alter your biochemical reactions and remove any need for additional drugs!

I cannot begin to express how privileged I feel to have had such a surgery. It is my earnest hope that every mom who has to have a c-section would be able to have a family centered cesarean, and that hospital staff and doctors would realize the huge difference a few adjustments in their procedure makes for the parents. I’m honored to have been one of the first at PRMC to have this procedure and I love knowing that the hospital will now offer it to other women.     ~ Erin

Coming soon: a doctor’s, a midwife’s and a head nurse’s perspective of the family centered c-section!  Spread the news so other women can be blessed by this alternative kind of c-section!

Doesn’t this kind of c-section sound precious?


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan June 4, 2012 at 6:40 am

WOW! God is so good. First of all, I did not even know that women had an anti-depression medication after a c-section, I guess I was a bit clueless on the whole c-section thing because I always prayed I would never have to go through that. I find it absolutly amazing that she did NOT have to have those meds. What a testimony to God for the natural order of child birth. I am so happy to hear this story. I hope that more people are able to hear stories like this and the United States begin to see the wonderful effects of having baby not being seperated from mom. thanks for sharing.


Katie June 4, 2012 at 7:28 am

I would loved to have had this experience. It has always bothered me that I couldn’t deliver my children and have that experience of holding them as soon as they came out. 3 c-section later and no skin contact untill recovery. I recently read about family centered sections and I am presenting it to my OB if we decide to have a fourth baby. Thank you Erin for sharing your experience. It gives us fellow sectioners a new out look. God Bless your beautiful family <3


Blair @ The Straightened Path June 4, 2012 at 7:37 am

My second child was a c-section baby. It was totally unnecessary and I was very happy to go on and VBAC two more babies. However, if I had to have a c-section at some point in the future I think it is so wonderful more doctors are becoming comfortable with this type of delivery and are seeing the benefits of it!


Jan June 4, 2012 at 9:37 am

Erin, yea! Praise God…such a beautiful story. I’m so happy for you and Blair.

If God blesses me with more pregnancies, I hope to do this…and I am C-H-I-C-K-E-N about surgery! If they won’t do it in the big city, then I’ll travel to the little burg to have such a birthing experience.


AnnetteQ June 4, 2012 at 10:58 am

Ok. As a L&D nurse in the burg, I have to say that this is awesome when all is well with the baby. Too many times, c-section babies require a little more intervention and often require additional oxygen and suctioning as they do not get “the squeeze” that rids their lungs and tummy of extra fluids. We do strive to have as much bonding time with mom and dad while still in the OR, and the babies who are doing well from the start stay with mom and leave the OR in her arms. We also do not routinely give new moms antianxiety meds in the OR, and never give antidepression meds in the OR or even while in the hospital. It is difficult to do any real skin to skin contact as the OR temp is kept around 67 degrees and babies will cool too quickly and can become very sick if too cool. Our hospital is blessed by some FANTASTIC family practice and OB physicians who believe in promoting the best L&D experience for all our moms.


GfG June 4, 2012 at 11:09 am

You know I love you and that I’ve had all my babies there. I adore Dr. Ramsay, Dr. Stafford, Dr. Eden, and Dr. Hoermann (I know not all of those do OB anymore).
The burg needs to catch up though… the research is showing all of your concerns are do-able (unless there is a problem, of course!). The slower removal time helps with “the squeeze” (see the original video that shares that they take longer pushing the baby out so that it duplicates “the squeeze”), the skin on skin with blanket on top keeps the temps good, skin on skin is a challenge, but can happen.
Most women I talk to have gotten something to “help them relax”.
With 6 deliveries there, I’ve never, ever left the OR with a baby in my arms. Only once was an emergency problem (#6).
I know most hospitals have the mom leave the OR with the baby in her arms, but it’s after the checks, after time in the incubator, after being swaddled, etc.
This kind of c-section is do-able, when all vitals are good (as compared to a crash c/s) and as long as the baby’s stay good.
I hope more hospitals start doing them.
I’ve forwarded the video to Dr. Ramsay. I was hoping to meet with Vanya before the move, but it just couldn’t happen.
Thanks for chiming in, even if we see it differently. 🙂



AnnetteQ June 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm

We don’t see it much differently. We have only just begun to explore family centered c-sections in the burg. Over the last 6 months we have changed policy so as to keep the baby in the OR with the family, and in the arms of the dad and mom together as much as possible. It is going to take some serious culture change in the minds of both nurses and doctors alike. Also, there has always been too much emphasis on “timely” administration of medications and getting weight and measurements on babies. Lots still needs to be addressed if we are going to reorient to family centered c-sections. There is also a large number of patients who do not want to hold the baby until it is cleaned up. I realished my time with all three of my kids in arms at birth and believe in the power of touch and warmth and love. There is nothing like holding a miracle!


GfG June 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Oh, I am so blessed by your comments, friend! Thank you for coming back to share.

I am so encouraged by “The Burg”‘s change and hopeful. YEA!

You are right. It will take a big shift. The doctors at Sid said no when first approached. They mentioned all of your concerns. The midwife waited and held her tongue. It didn’t take long for the doctors to think it through on their own and see the benefits outweighed the normal routine. Now the doctor (I can NOT wait to share her story!) has been so blessed by being willing to step outside her normal way of thinking and treating. Truly a blessing!



AnnetteQ June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm

A great way for families to open the minds of the medical community is by having a birth plan, and meeting with hospital staff in advance of arriving for delivery. The families whom I work with, that show up with a plan and a willingness to share in conversation about their desires are generally much easier to accomodate than those who are unwilling to share their expectations in advance. I LOVE knowing what a mom wants her experience to be like. I doubly love being her advocate. The tide is changing, and women and their spouses should have a voice in their care and in the welcoming of their newest family member.

Hugs back at you! I plan to continue to be a quiet catalyst for change in the Burg.

Nathalee Ghafouri June 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

This is a beautiful story and you have inspired me to try to incorporate aspects of the family-centered c-section into the upcoming birth of my second son. We’ve asked our doctor about placing him on my chest after the birth (I don’t think my husband or I could handle the dropped cloth), and she said that she’d talk to the hospital staff about making it happen. I don’t know if it will actually happen, but I was so glad that she was open to the idea. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention!


GfG June 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I’m so glad to help! I have an ebook in the works for Making the Most of Your C-Section. It should be available in the next two weeks. When is your c-section?

I encourage you to share the video with your doctor (via your iPad or her email) so she can see all the doctor commentary. Also, I’d be happy to give you the name of the OB who has done several now, so maybe your doctor could talk to her about the challenges and changes in the OR to make the skin to skin happen.



Ruby June 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I just have to say that the pic of the baby touching his mama’s face is one of the most beautiful, joyful baby/birth images I’ve ever seen! I haven’t had a c-section before, but anything that safely brings mamas & babies closer together safely is wonderful to me!


jacklyn marie June 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Those are the most adorable pictures!! If I could insert a heart here, I would. 🙂 Praise be to God for such an amazing story. I can’t really comment on the c-section (yet….a few more years…), but, that’s what I’d want to do when I have a baby if I ever need to have a c-section. I love how mommy gets the baby and daddy is there the whole time. I am so grateful that they were blessed by such a wonderful delivery!

I’ve adored Erin forever and ever, and over the past year or so have been stunned speechless by her life. Never ceases to awe me! I wrote this a while ago about her, but I think everyone should have a chance to read it…

A mother’s love is something
that no one can explain-
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain.
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring, come what may,
For nothing can destroy it
or take that love away.
It is patient and enduring
when all may seem forsaking,
And it never fails or falters
even though the heart is breaking.
It believes beyond believing
when the world around condemns,
And it glows with all the beauty
of the rarest, brightest gems.
It is far beyond defining,
it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret
like the mysteries of creation-
A many-splendored miracle
man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence
of God’s tender, guiding hand.

Much love to you!


Erin June 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Jacklyn, that is so precious to me, I cried while reading it! I’m planning on printing and framing that to keep in Cai’s room, and a copy with Gwenny,s things. Thank you sister!


Catherine June 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I really enjoyed this, but I would be interested on how to start the conversation with dr/hospital. Is it the doctor’s call? The hospital? I would guess that most doctors would be governed by the rules/procedures for standard surgeries set by the hospital. After a 5 second glimpse of my 1st born after surgery, the thought of holding my next one close makes my heart smile….


GfG June 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Yes! I totally agree! I’m completing an EBook titled Making the Most of Your C-Sections and I share how important birth plans are! Great tip, Annette!


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