Bonnie Bibeau lay in a hospital bed on April 8 with tears in her eyes and her newborn daughter's tiny, warm frame on her chest, just minutes after her delivery.
Although the 32-year-old stay-at-home mom had given birth three times previously, this was a new experience.
Her other daughters were born by Caesarean section, known as a C-section. In each case, the baby was whisked away immediately while doctors stitched her up. Her only contact with her newborns was hearing their cries after delivery.
This was the first time she could hold her child right after the delivery, the first time she could watch her baby's face go from blue to pink, the first time she could feel her breathing next to her.
"I saw the most beautiful moments that I've never gotten to have with any of my children," Bibeau said. "It was magical."
Bibeau's baby, Julia, was delivered by a relatively new approach - called a family-centered C-section - in which physicians mimic a vaginal birth with options such as allowing mothers and newborns to have immediate contact.
In traditional C-sections, the baby is taken to a warmer while the surgery is completed on the mother. The two may not have contact for at least 30 minutes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 32 percent of all births in the U.S. are done by Caesarean.
"Given the high rate of C-sections, this is a good thing," said Dr. Barbara Held, an obstetrician/ gynecologist at Methodist Hospital who performed Bibeau's C-section. It was the first family-centered C-section she'd performed.
"It tremendously improved my patient's experience and mine," said Held, who has since performed a few more C-sections with the family-centered approach.
Texas Children's Hospital's Pavilion for Women also offers the approach. Dr. Audra Timmins, an OB/GYN and medical director of inpatient services there, said the hospital studied the issue last winter to test patient satisfaction and safety.
"Generally speaking, patients were very happy, and so were their husbands, who were in the room," Timmins said. "There were no issues from either side."
Another difference in the family-centered approach is that doctors lower the drape across the mother's tummy so that she can watch the delivery.
"For me, when (Held) dropped the sheet, it was exciting," Bibeau said.
The father or another support person also can attend the procedure. The umbilical cord is made a little longer, so it can be cut by the support person, Held said.
In Bibeau's delivery, her husband, Brian, cut the umbilical cord. "He's never been able to do that before," she said. "It was a great experience for him, too."
The key component of the approach is physical contact.
"From vaginal deliveries, data shows the sooner the baby has skin-to skin contact, a higher percentage of those mothers have a higher success rate with breast-feeding, in some cases better bonding," Timmins said.
A nursing doctoral student from University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston is conducting a study at Texas Children's that looks at the effects of immediate skin-to-skin contact between mothers who have C-sections and their newborns.
There are no completed studies about the approach and what it does for bonding. But physicians say their patients have been happy so far.
"It's really about improving the patient experience," Held said.
She stressed that the family-centered C-section would not be performed on mothers with serious health conditions or those needing emergency procedures.
For Bibeau, it was the best she could have asked for. She said using the approach made her feel more a part of the experience of giving birth for the first time.
"Even though I wasn't able to have her the natural way," she said, "it was as good as it could get."