First published on NPR's Baby Project
NPR, I haven't been completely honest with you, and feel like I need to get something off my chest.
A couple of weeks ago at my husband's family reunion, I noticed that I was really swelling up in my hands and feet. I thought it was best to try weighing myself to see how much water weight I had actually gained: 14 pounds. In two weeks. This is one of the warning signs of pregnancy-induced hypertension, which could lead to pre-eclampsia, possible induction, and completely ruin my chances of a home birth.
I immediately finished working and took it easy for a couple of days. I went over to the hospital on the mainland and had some blood taken to check if my liver and kidneys were working properly. I also collected my urine in a jug for 24 hours (fun times, let me tell you), to test for protein. If all of the above came back positive, I would be diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.
Needless to say, I was devastated, which I don't think did much for any hypertension I might have been experiencing. However, it all came back negative, and my blood pressure went back down to normal. I was given the OK to go ahead and birth at home again, and that was that.
Or was it?
Last Friday, I was getting significantly high readings on the blood pressure monitor I had borrowed from my aunt, and my midwife recommended that I go over to the hospital again to test my blood. My midwife also mentioned that if tests came back positive or if my blood pressure continued to remain high, we would have to transfer care to a doctor at the hospital. Already in the pretty emotional state of being almost 37 weeks pregnant, I was angry and distressed and feel very sorry for the people who were on the boat with me as I sniffled my way across Penobscot Bay on the ferry.
Once I got to the Women's Health Clinic at Pen Bay Medical Center, I was feeling a bit more put together and was very taken with the nurse-midwife to whom my midwife has recommended me. She put me at ease and explained my options, but didn't beat around the bush when we talked about my birth plan basically going down the tubes.
After what could only be described as a pretty perfect pregnancy, I was losing everything I had worked for because of my stupid blood pressure. I was assigned to bed rest the following day, Saturday, to see if my blood pressure would go down and if we could lose some of the swelling in my ankles and feet. If I could, there was a chance that a home birth could happen.
The next day, I took her advice very seriously, lying on the couch all day watching TheNext Food Network Star and eating massive amounts of protein. By the end of the day, my feet looked normal for the first time in weeks, and my blood pressure was down again. Things were looking up!
When I woke up on Sunday morning at 3 a.m. with mild cramping, I chalked it up to gas and went back to sleep. When I woke up again at about 4:30, and started having regular tightening in my lower abdomen that encircled my low back muscles, I began to be curious about whether I was in labor. By 6:30, I was pretty sure and woke up my husband and told him I was in early labor. We both expected it to last for a while, so he said, "I'll walk the dog, then I'll vacuum." I love his priorities.
After calling my midwife and our other birth attendant, we thought it would be best to hop on the boat after all and go for a home birth at our midwife's house, over an hour away once we reached the mainland. However, my blood pressure decided to throw another snafu in the course of things when it decided to read particularly high. We made the difficult choice to meet at the hospital, but the contractions were starting to come a bit faster, and I realized in that moment that the only thing that mattered was that at the end of the day, I was safe and that the baby was safe.
Needless to say, the hour and 15 minutes it took to cross the bay seemed like an eternity, though I'm pretty sure it seemed even longer to my poor husband — thank goodness for NPR, which took my attention away in between contractions!
By the time we got to the mainland, the contractions were coming about three minutes apart, with about a minute of rest in between. I think it was about then that I closed my eyes and don't think I opened them again for about three hours. The rest of the time passed like a dream. I was admitted to the hospital and brought to a palatial labor room. Chris, our midwife; and Hope, our friend and a midwifery student, met us there; and the nurse-midwife I'd met the previous Friday was our attending.
From the moment we had entered the room, I was dying to get in the birthing tub, and at 1:48, after about half an hour of pushing, Finnley James Crossman-King came into the world and changed it forever.
The team of nurses and our birthing team came together in such a seamless fashion that it seemed to have been planned that way. As soon as he was out, Finn was placed on my chest and stayed there until his cord stopped pulsing, at which point the cord was cut and he was given to my husband. Finn stayed with us constantly throughout the first several hours of his life, and began to nurse almost instantly. He wasn't bathed, and soaked up the vernix on his skin by the next morning. When we finally did have him weighed and measured, it was on our terms, and the staff was completely respectful of our wishes.
In the end, I do have some guilt about having had a hospital birth since Finn was supposed to be the home-birth poster child for this blog. I'm sorry if I let you all down, but I think we made the right choice for us at the time, and could not be happier with our decision.
After the birth, we were all completely sure that Finn's birth could have happened at home with no unforeseen consequences whatsoever, but if anything, these past few days have taught me how unbelievably precious life is, and what I would do for this little person.
So here he is: Finnley James, 6 pounds, 12 ounces, 19.5 inches, 3 weeks early, and totally perfect.