Both of my pregnancies in Sweden were uncomplicated, nearly text book. My general experience of mother and baby care is very good, especially when compared with the over medicalised, doctor led experience I had in Singapore where child number one was born in 2015. What I particularly liked in Sweden was how I was cared for. In Singapore, I was only receiving raw healthcare as a patient in a brightly lit, sterile hospital. In Sweden, I was warmly taken care of as an individual with her own will, needs and fears. This was true all across my pregnancy but more particularly so during the birth part of it all and my homely experience at the maternity unit.
Both times, we came to BB Stockholm (Danderyd) in the middle of the night and were met by calm, friendly staff who helped us settle in our room and explained what would happen. The room was a very welcoming, ‘mysig’ one with dimmed lights, a sofa and cushions waiting for us – it felt more like a cosy hotel room than a birthing room and we could nearly have forgotten what we were there for. For child number one (born in 2012), I was home 24 hours with regular, strong contractions before I was admitted at the hospital, while the second time (child number three, in 2017) I was asked to come in right after my waters broke for a check up and as contractions slowly started then I was transferred to a birthing room. In both cases, the midwife and nurse came and introduced themselves with a hand shake, explained the routines and procedures they would perform (foetal monitoring, blood pressure, etc), what the next steps would be and made sure to review my birth plan with me. They knew I wanted a natural birth, with as little drug and intervention as medically possible.
Communication with the team was very easy, all in Swedish, and we chit chatted during contractions as we would have done during a fika – something my husband found amazing and a bit strange. They made sure we had everything we needed (pillows, blankets, pads, Pilates ball), checked I was eating and drinking enough and that we were doing fine. I liked the way they set milestones (eg ‘you should try and pee in 15 minutes’, ’I’ll come back in 30 minutes, press the red button if you need me before that’, ‘I’ll do a vaginal examination again at 2.30am’ etc) as it helped time fly faster and made it easier for me to focus on the moment and be more mindful of what was going on at each particular stage. It felt like having a good roadmap and travelling down that road with a trustable and reliable co-pilot.
The midwife’s coaching and advice made a big difference to me, especially for child number 3 (thank you midwife Ellinor!). For my first child, I came in a bit tired, scared -who would not be, giving birth IS one of the biggest adventure of one’s life, and an unpredictable one at that. I was rather tensed, so Maud, the midwife, suggested some ways for me to relax – taking a warm shower and trying to lower my shoulders for instance. Since I was still afraid I asked for someone to be by my side pretty much all the time as a reassurance, so Maud made sure either she or a nurse was there with me. For child number 3, I felt calm and in control until the pushing stage, so the midwife did not have to be as present, she was there when we needed her and checked on us on a regular basis. I was able to stay off any pain killer (other than TENS) until right before the pushing stage. Ellinor and I had mentioned using ‘lustgas’ earlier and I told her I would try to do without, but when the pain became too intense she suggested I started inhaling lustgas – that was about the right time, and I was able to shift my focus from pain for a while. Combined with her massaging my back, pressing my hips and verbally supporting me, telling me I was strong and doing exactly the right thing, I felt safe and thought ‘I can really do it!’. And I did. I would not say that was effortless and painless but that is (nearly) how I felt. With the baby out and on my lap, the midwife and nurse warmly congratulated us, helped me to bed, took care of the placenta, discreetly cleaned up a bit and brought us a tray with drinks, sandwiches and a congratulations card. They told us they’d leave us alone and in peace for a while, so we could enjoy our first moments together and bond with the little one. We were then transferred to a hotel room where we were taken care of another day or two before the paediatrician’ check up – it was time to check out and go home. We were somewhat slightly scared to leave the comfort and support of BB Stockholm, but also very eager to start real life as a family.