Though the vaginal birth she had wanted was no longer an option for Allison, a simple plastic surgical drape helped her to see her newborn son the moment he was delivered by c-section in last month.
Natural birth is considered the safest option for both mothers and their babies, but Allison’s placenta grew abnormally, making a caesarean section necessary for her.
But with the help of their birth doula and their hospital in Alabama, Allison and her husband, Brent, came up with a plan to be able to welcome their son, Bennett to the world as a family, and with as much immediate skin-to-skin contact as possible.
Stunning photos reveal the moment that the pair laid eyes on their son and embraced him for the first time.
Allison had to have a c-section birth due to a placental abnormality, but thanks to a plastic curtain she was still able to see her son, Bennett, the moment he was pulled from her womb
Allison had a natural birth for her first child, a daughter born three years ago, and had hoped for the same when she delivered Bennett.
But 20 weeks into her pregnancy, her doctor explained that she had a condition called placenta previa.
The placenta – the tissue sac that encloses a fetus during pregnancy and from which it gets nutrients and oxygen through the umbilical cord – is supposed to attach to the tops and sides of the mother’s uterus.
But in Allison’s case, the organ had grown over her cervix, the opening at the bottom of the uterus that a baby is delivered through in natural child birth.
Placenta previa affects about one in every 200 pregnancies. Sometimes the condition will cause a woman to have bright red vaginal bleeding in the latter half of their pregnancy.
While they were making an incision into her abdomen, the blue curtain was kept up so that Allison would not see any blood or cuts and get nervous
Allison puts her hand to her mouth at the moment she first lays eyes on baby Bennett as her doctor cuts the umbilical cord
Because the delicate tissue is closer to the opening of her vagina, it is liable to be damaged during delivery, causing serious bleeding that can endanger both the mother and baby.
Allison and Brent knew they needed to take the extra precaution to make sure this didn’t happen when she delivered, but the diagnosis threw a wrench into their plans.
They did not want to give up the intimate experience – and health benefits – that come with a natural birth, and consulted their doula, Tracy Abney to devise a plan B.
Abney, the couple’s doula (who doubled as the family’s photographer on the delivery date), recalled that during her own c-section, she felt like ‘the very last person in the room’ to see her baby.
‘Our goal was to not miss out on any part of the beautiful birth experience just because we were scheduled to have a C-Section,’ Allison wrote on Love What Matters.
Traditionally, during a c-section, a tall blue surgical curtain is hung above the lower half of a woman’s body to keep her from getting anxious or light-headed at the sight of incisions and her own blood.
Often, there is a significant time lag between when the doctor removes the baby form the womb and when its mother gets to hold it for the first time, as the infant is rushed off for examination and care, and the mother is stitched closed.
Keeping a mother calm during childbirth is important to make sure all goes smoothly, but there are also well-documented health benefits to a mother’s involvement in her own delivery.
Women who give birth naturally are less likely to bleed out from surgery – although Allison’s placenta previa put her at risk for bleeding any way – and are more likely to be able to bond with and breast feed their baby’s earlier, which is good for the infant as well.
In her ‘family-centered’ cesarean birth, Allison’s husband, Brent, was able to be part of the delivery, but the blue curtain kept her incisions from his view
It was important to Allison to have the health benefits of immediate skin-to-skin contact with Bennett as soon as he was born
As a compromise, Abney, Allison and Brent decided on an increasingly popular ‘gentle’ or ‘family-centered’ caesarean delivery.
The practice is a relatively new one in the US, but more and more hospitals are beginning to offer it as a simple but meaningful compromise between the medical necessity of a c-section and the unique and emotional experience of a birth.
The main differences are that the mother is draped with a clear plastic divider instead of the opaque plastic one, her partner and, if she chooses, birth coach can be by her side, and the baby Is placed immediately in its mother’s arms.
Typically – as was the case in Allison’s surgery, the blue curtain is kept up in the beginning of the procedure, so that the mother does not have to see the incision.
This also means the cloth can be brought back up if the mother – or her partner – gets nervous.
‘At the moment the doctors were ready to pull Bennett out, they lowered the blue drapes so we could watch our baby boy being born,’ Allison wrote.
‘For the squeamish types (like my husband) the drapes were arranged to hide the operation site and just provide a view of Bennett being lifted out of my belly,’ she said.
On March 29, Allison and Brent watched as surgeons lifted Bennett from his mother’s womb. Allison had a clear view of the moment her son took his first breath, and, moments later, he was cradled against her chest.
‘We are so thankful we got to witness this moment. Just like with our first child, seeing our baby for the first time will be cherished forever,’ said Allison.
‘Thanks to our amazing doctors, nurses, and doula, we had an amazing and beautiful birth experience,’ Allison added.