Patient Story: Capability and Compassion at the Anna Jaques Hospital Birth Center

March 25, 2022

Laura Burson and family

In April of 2019, Laura Burson, a healthy, 34-year-old from Newburyport, was 35 weeks and 6 days pregnant when she noticed her feet were more swollen than usual and she wasn't feeling well. Burson, a school behavioral consultant, decided to visit the nurse to have her blood pressure checked. After the results came back abnormal, the nurse recommended she call her doctor right away.

Her doctor, Jane Kerr-Fernandez, MD, OBGYN, requested Burson come to the Anna Jaques Hospital Birth Center for evaluation. She had been a patient of AJH Women's Health Care even before her pregnancy and there had never been any cause for concern in her appointments. However, when she checked in that evening, her blood pressure was extremely elevated at 180/120. Despite attempts to lower it using medication, it was continuing to climb. She was experiencing preeclampsia.

The team took her in for an emergency C-section. About two and a half hours after Burson checked in, her son Angus was born.

'They later explained just how dangerous it was for my blood pressure to be so high," Burson remembered. "But they weren't frantic. They thought of everything to keep us calm. What could've been really scary and upsetting, they made seem normal. They were very good about explaining the reality of the situation and what to expect in really simple terms."

Angus was immediately taken to the Neonatal Care Center (NCC), a Level 1B nursery in the Birth Center, to begin to learn how to eat and breathe on his own. He spent about two weeks in the NCC with Burson nearby the whole time thanks to the "rooming in" program offered by AJH for parents with children in the NCC.

"I was able to spend almost all of that two weeks in the hospital after I was discharged. I could spend the night there knowing he was right down the hall. It allowed me to pump and to try to nurse him and I didn't feel like I had to be away from my baby."

During her two week stay, Burson also learned a lot from her Birth Center care team.

"Having a baby need advanced care is not easy at all, but the nurses are incredible. They take care of the kids, but they also do a lot for the parents, both emotionally and in my recovery from my C-section. [My husband and I] basically had two weeks of education on how to have a baby - how to change diapers, how to give baths, that they aren't as fragile as you think - all the things that first time parents are scared of."

However, Burson and her husband wouldn't be first time parents for long. About two years later, they would find themselves back in the NCC with their daughter, Sophie.

After having preeclampsia with her first birth, the AJH team monitored Burson closely during her second pregnancy. There were a couple ultrasounds and nonstress tests that weren't perfect, but after follow-up exams, they determined everyone was healthy and there was nothing to worry about.

At 35 weeks and 1 day, Burson's water broke unexpectedly while she was at the gym. She checked in at the Birth Center and met with Dr. Kerr to discuss her delivery options. A few hours later, Sophie was born via C-section.

The neonatologist and an NCC nurse spent time with Burson and her newborn to determine if Sophie would need extra care. In the end, they ended up moving her into the NCC - just like her brother.

"It was honestly very familiar for us to be back in the NCC. We ended up in the same little corner we had been in with Angus and a lot of the nurses were actually still there. It was nice to see some familiar people and know that we were back with people we knew."

The team also helped Angus adjust to his role as a big brother. While he wasn't allowed into the NCC with Burson due to COVID-19 protocols, the nursing team would bring Sophie to the window so he could see her and blow her kisses through the glass. With the "rooming in" program, he also didn't have to be far from his mom as she remained at the hospital to help care for his new baby sister.

After three weeks, Sophie was discharged and the Burson family was able to head home. Now, both Angus and Sophie are doing well and growing stronger every day.

Learn more about the maternity services and high-risk pregnancy care offered at Anna Jaques Hospital.