michelle with her newborn baby

Michelle Shares Her C-Section Birth Plan Focused on Bonding

By Stacey Feintuch
November 22, 2023

Michelle Marshie, 34, of East Hanover, New Jersey, gave birth to her first son in 2019 and was unhappy with her delivery experience. For her second baby’s birth, she was determined to do things differently, and writing a birth plan was a big part of that.

Michelle shared her birth plan with us, as well as how things went when she delivered baby Rogan via c-section.

Why Michelle Wrote a Birth Plan

For Michelle’s first baby, she didn’t have a birth plan. Because she went past her due date to 41 weeks, she was scheduled for labor induction at her hospital. Before the induction was to begin, Michelle was given an ultrasound, and the medical team discovered that the baby was breech. That means he was positioned feet-down, which can cause complications during a vaginal delivery. Michelle was told she needed a c-section.

“I was totally unprepared [for a c-section] and had no idea what to expect. I was a passive participant in the birth,” she says. “I didn’t even know if I was allowed to hold my baby in the operating room. They held him up to my cheek and then my husband, Kevin, disappeared with the baby for 45-plus minutes, and I was left in recovery alone, wondering where they went and if everything was okay.”

In the end, Michelle was happy that her first son was born healthy. “Still, it was a traumatic experience for me,” she says. “I felt sad and guilty when I saw all the signs in the postpartum room talking about the importance of ‘the golden hour’ and felt like I had already failed somehow.”

The golden hour is a name for the hour immediately after a baby is born. Parents are encouraged to hold the baby close to them, as skin-to-skin contact has been shown to benefit the baby’s health and well‑being.

Doing Things Differently the Second Time

After Michelle became a mom, she connected with other parents online and in person. She learned from them about delivery procedures and what can happen after a c-section birth.

Michelle learned it’s possible to have skin-to-skin contact in the operating room. She also learned from a mom friend that tests could be done in the same room as the birthing parent if she requested it. This was helpful information to her because she worried about the baby’s safety when she was separated from him. “With our first baby, the nurses kept taking him for tests and I made my husband follow them everywhere,” she says.

Those conversations motivated her to change her own birth experience for baby number two.

Special Considerations for Her Baby’s Health

For her second baby, Michelle had a 20-week anatomy scan. Since Michelle herself was born with a heart defect called VSD (ventricular septal defect), the baby was at higher risk for heart problems.

Because of the higher risk, she was asked to follow up with fetal scans of the baby’s heart and brain. The tests ruled out any problems, but this baby was breech too, so she was scheduled to have another c-section.

“I was determined to research as much as I could and think through how I wanted to handle as many different scenarios as possible,” says Michelle. “My best-case scenario was that I would have a healthy delivery and do skin-to-skin in the operating room this time.”

Michelle’s Birth Plan

To create her birth plan, Michelle did online research and used resources from Instagram accounts that she follows for birth plan ideas and templates.

Michelle’s birth plan included everything she wanted to happen before, during, and after the baby’s c-section birth. The plan outlined her most important goals including:

  • Time for skin-to-skin contact in the operating room
  • Breastfeeding support
  • In-room testing as much as possible, and minimal separation between her and the baby after delivery

She included her pre-delivery and delivery requests such as:

  • No sedatives without consent
  • All monitoring devices be placed on her left arm in areas that wouldn’t affect her ability to hold the baby or breastfeed

She also discussed her preferences for postpartum care for herself and the baby including:

  • Breastfeeding within one hour of birth
  • Daily visits from a lactation consultant
  • No formula given to the baby without her consent
  • Close monitoring of the baby’s heart, due to the higher risk of heart problems
  • Keeping the baby with her in the recovery room. If the baby had to go to the nursery or NICU, she wanted her husband to go along.

Michelle spoke to her doctor during her final prenatal visits and asked him to put a copy of her birth plan in her file. But she panicked a bit before delivery. She worried that the staff at the hospital wouldn’t be prepared for her to have skin-to-skin contact in the operating room or that someone would tell her she couldn’t do that.

So she contacted the labor and delivery department in advance to ask for permission to do skin-to-skin in the operating room. “It’s something they normally don’t do but they were accommodating,” she says.

Michelle’s Birth Story

When Michelle was admitted to the hospital for her scheduled c-section, she tried to share her birth plan with a nurse. But the nurse didn’t seem interested in it. Things changed though.

“The more people that started prepping me for my surgery, the more I felt empowered to take control of my situation,” Michelle says. “I started asking every person what their name was and what they were doing as they prepared me. With research and experience, I felt more confident to ask questions and make specific requests.”

A Best-Case Scenario Birth

The delivery went according to Michelle’s best-case scenario version of the plan. Her husband was in the operating room with her along with a nurse named Kathy, the doctor, and a resident assistant.

This time, she says she felt much more relaxed. She was talking to everyone, even joking with the doctor during the surgery. The anesthesiologist honored her request to put the IV on her left wrist too.

Then, baby Rogan was born. “I am beyond blessed that my second baby was also healthy, and I got to have my dream birth,” Michelle says.

A Close Bond

Michelle got her wish to have skin-to-skin contact with Rogan in the operating room “It was by far the happiest moment in my life,” she says. “I was so relieved that my family was healthy and complete, and that I got to have that special moment this time around.”

After a little bonding, nurse Kathy took the baby to the nursery for 10 minutes for newborn procedures. “She knew how important it was for me not to be separated for a long period of time,” Michelle says. “I trusted her, and she and my husband went to the nursery and returned quickly back to me. It was so much better.”

Michelle continued to communicate her wishes during her hospital stay. “As I moved to recovery and postpartum rooms, I requested each new nurse that was assigned to us to read the birth plan,” she says.

The postpartum nurses performed all the other screenings in the hospital room, as she requested. She says, “I was proud of myself for taking control and advocating for myself and my baby.”

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