Laura MacNeil and her husband Dan prepared for what would be one of the best blessings in life; the birth of their first child.
Laura, a psychologist (candidate register) at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, had a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy. She and Dan eagerly awaited the arrival of their new addition and were thrilled when baby Rose finally started making her way into the world at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in late April 2012. Unexpectedly, Laura had to have a caesarian section. “Although we were both in excellent condition following my daughter’s birth,” explains Laura, “she was immediately taken, along with my husband, to the mother-baby unit while the surgery was completed and I was moved to the recovery unit.” Laura’s wish to breastfeed right away and perform skin-to-skin care with Rose was not granted due to the caesarian section, which left her feeling disappointed by the whole experience. “It was monumental life event, but there was something so unnatural and upsetting about being separated from my baby during the first few hours of her life.”
In 2013, Laura and Dan learned the wonderful news that they were expecting their second child. Anticipating another cesarean delivery, they took action to ensure a different birth experience. Laura wrote to hospital management at the Cape Breton Regional describing, from a mother’s perspective, the experience of being separated from her healthy newborn. She advocated for a change in policy that would allow mothers and babies to stay together after cesarean sections. She emphasized the benefits of performing immediate skin-to-skin care, also known as kangaroo mother care, with newborns: “Research shows that infants who receive kangaroo mother care have more stable temperatures, heart rates, respiratory rates, and gastrointestinal adaptation than babies who do not have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers. They also have more restful sleep, cry less, grow faster, breastfeed longer, and go home from the hospital sooner.” Mickey Daye, Manager of Maternal and Newborn Services at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, agreed that a more family-centered approach to cesarean section deliveries was needed. Together, Laura and the management at the Regional created a new policy that would allow mothers and newborns to stay together during the “golden hour” following birth. Assigning a nurse from the mom and baby unit to monitor the mother-baby pair in the recovery room would ensure better care for newborns and a more positive experience for families. The new policy was put in place just days before the birth of Laura’s second child.
In March of 2014, baby Ewan was delivered via cesarean at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. He was immediately placed on Laura’s chest for skin-to-skin care and stayed there while his mom recovered from the surgery. “Being able to hold and nurse my child right away was an amazing, blissful experience that allowed us to bond instantly. I also had a much faster recovery than I did with my daughter, which I attribute to the more positive birth experience and immediate skin-to-skin care.” Thanks to the efforts of Laura MacNeil, Mickey Daye and other hospital staff, babies born by cesarean section at the Regional are now welcomed into the world in a more family-centered manner. Laura reflects on that day in March with a smile on her face. “It was absolutely incredible. I would like to thank the staff of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital for making this important change and for providing such exceptional care to mothers and babies. I am so grateful that my son was born here, my way.”