It was the opposite of what she had expected.

After 43 hours of labor, Laura Horton’s first child was born in a hospital after an emergency Cesarean section — not the natural birth in her home she had planned. 

“It was really traumatic. I felt like I failed,” said Horton, 29, of New Berlin. “I didn’t get to see him being born, and he was immediately taken from me.” 

Horton’s ordeal left her determined to create a better experience for the birth of her second son. She wanted to try for a vaginal birth after Cesarean, or VBAC, but feared a similar scenario. Eventually, she opted for a scheduled C-section. 

“But I didn’t like the way routine C-sections were done,” Horton said. “I wanted to be able to hold my baby as soon as he was born.” 

That’s when Horton’s obstetrician, Dr. Sheldon Wasserman of Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, discovered the Clever Medical Drape.

“We knew there were clear drapes out there, so she could see the baby being born — somewhat,” said Wasserman. “But this takes it to another level: The mom can hold the baby immediately.” 

In February, Wasserman became the first doctor in Wisconsin to use the Clever Medical Drape during a C-section. 

The drape allows the physician to transfer the baby to a nurse, using a sterile portal. The nurse then gives the baby to the mom, without compromising the surgical environment. 

In routine C-sections, a basic drape is used as a barrier between the mom’s head and her lower body. This ensures a sterile surgical area during this major abdominal surgery. 

“That’s the way it has been done for years, and it’s sad because the mother has been deprived of that experience,” Wasserman said.

But it not only limits the mom’s ability to see her child born, the basic drape also doesn’t allow for early skin-to-skin care, which involves placing the naked newborn belly down on the mother’s bare chest. 

Several major organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth to help regulate the baby’s temperature and stabilize blood glucose levels. 

Research also has shown that babies who spend time skin-to-skin with their mothers breastfeed better. 

“It happened so fast. He was screaming, and the nurse passed him to me. He fell asleep on my chest. It was so surreal to see him, vernix covering him,” said Horton. “And he started to latch (to my breast) right there in the operating room.”

The drape was created by three nurses and is used in seven hospitals, with several more requesting samples, said Kim Jarrelle, a co-creator of the drape and director of Women’s Health at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Virginia. 

“Moms should always be the first to hold her baby — a Cesarean section is not the exception,” said Debbie Burbic, another co-creator of the drape. 

One-third of babies in the United States are born by C-section. This new drape has the potential to revolutionize how doctors, moms and babies experience the birth process, Wasserman said. The more women request this option, the more commonplace it will become in C-sections, and he hopes the experience with Horton will not be the last time he uses this drape, he said. 

“It puts the focus back on what the day is really about — the birth of a child,” said Horton. 

Liz Paulsen is the editor of Metroparent and mom of three boys.

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