Category Archives: My Parenting Journey

The Second Ultrasound: A Scary Proposition

In Sweden you have one ultrasound, typically around week 18 to 19 (see my previous post about that experience here). We were told that you only have more than one ultrasound if there are potential complications.

Yesterday we received news that our baby did not appear to be growing, although our midwife said that it was possible the baby had just shifted position; thus resulting in the uterus appearing like it wasn’t growing (read that story here). We were scared, I cried, Lisa comforted me, and off we went to see what the hell was going on.

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Quick Background on Uppsala:
Thankfully, we live in a city with a hospital. Also, we live in Sweden–where health care for pregnancy is completely free. So we didn’t need to ask ourselves if it was worth the money to get the check up. We didn’t need to consider the expense of another ultrasound. We could totally focus on our family’s health.

That was more than enough to focus on.

Even though we had time to walk to the hospital (20 minutes), we were too anxious, and called a taxi to drive us there (5 minutes).

The Visit:
Once we arrived and checked-in, there were two main tests that would be performed: 1) check the baby’s heartbeat over a period of time and 2) get an ultrasound.

Lisa was in the bathroom when they called for us. I sauntered over to let them know.

“Hi, she’s currently in the bathroom,” I politely and semi-quietly said. “Oh wait, here she is.”

The midwife popped out of her chair, walked immediately passed me and greeted Lisa.

Checking the Heart Rate:
She then said, “come this way Lisa” and led the way to a private room complete with a bed and a heart rate machine. It had two circular sensors that would be strapped onto Lisa: one to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and the other to monitor the number of contractions. Lisa also had a joystick-like object, where she should press the top button with her thumb whenever she felt the baby move.

Lisa was all strapped in, and I sat on a chair next to her bed.

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“Oh, I forgot to introduce myself,” the midwife said. We shook hands and quickly exchanged names (my name was never spoken again).

I miss my prenatal midwife! I thought.

“How long will the heartbeat be monitored for” I asked. After all, we had just heard the baby’s heartbeat at the prenatal clinic, where they said everything was fine.

“It’s different. It could take 10, 15, 20+ minutes. Just look for a check box to be on the machine, and then you’re done,” the midwife reluctantly replied.

“You said the number of contractions will be counted. Is there a number or range that’s good?”

“Everyone’s different.”

I prodded her more to get more specifics. “So should we expect to see 5?”

“Yes, that’s possible. It’s also possible to have 0. Anything is possible.”

“So we could have 100,” I asked, looking for a limit to the number of contractions.

“No, not 100. That would be too high.”

No more was discussed on this or any other topic, since she decided to leave the room. The language that the midwife used was always non-helpful, even with multiple questions.

Lisa and I continued to talk, hold each other’s hands, and tried to relax. Meanwhile, I sent out texts to different parents letting them know what was happening–I always need a support network.

I buzzed for the midwife to come back after the “check-mark” was on the screen. She then informed us that the doctor would look at the output and then determine if an ultrasound was needed. She failed to ever mention how our output looked. I still have no clue if Lisa had any or several contractions while the baby’s heartbeat was monitored.

Thoughts on the Support the Midwife (Didn’t) Give:
It was clear that the midwife made no decisions and could provide few answers, as she placed the results on the doctor the way a guy places his results on his wife–“aw guys, I want to come play poker tonight, but I’ll have to check with my wife first.”

There was clearly no accountability to be had via the midwife. She was there to perform the tasks instructed and to not provide us with advice or support or results.

She could however explain what different machines do or what she’s currently doing–although these responses often left more questions than answers.

Nevertheless, we figured the baby’s heartbeat was good, since we had just had that test completed, and we knew how to interpret the results (this time, the baby’s heartbeat was often around 140-150 compared to the slower 130 heartbeat 30 minutes earlier).

The Second Ultrasound:
We were then taken to the ultrasound room.

“Lisa, please come this way,” the midwife said walking us down the hallway.

“I’m not going to measure the baby,” the midwife said after laying on a thick layer of jelly on Lisa’s belly. “Are you ready Lisa,” she asked.

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She then studied the baby, mainly measuring the baby’s head, stomach, and femur. She was silent, clearly focused on her work. This ultrasound was a lot different than the first. The first time we felt a great joy in seeing our baby on the screen. This time, we felt overly anxious, concerned, and in constant wonder of what was being found as the midwife measured these areas.

Brief side note: The stomach was measured twice, from NW to SE and NE to SW, making an X pattern on the screen.

“Did you also check the umbilical cord?” Lisa asked.

The midwife then checked the flow (of blood or nutrients???–this was never explained, but the answer was simple–after hearing a few beeps and seeing wave-like formations show up on the screen, the midwife announced–“looks good.”

The midwife seemed to remeasure the head, stomach, and femur two or three times, and then called in a second midwife to assess her assessment (although leading questions were asked).

“I measured from here to here and I got a normal number. Do you see that?” she said to the second midwife.

We were then abruptly told that everything was normal. No pomp, no circumstance. It was just black-and-white with no explanation.

I prodded.

“How do you know?”

The midwife then when into a litany of how numbers are calculated based off of the mean size for a baby in the week you’re in (e.g. week 36) compared to the size our baby is.

After the ultrasound, we found out that our baby was -6 on their head size and -3 + -3 on their tummy = -12 overall. Of course these numbers meant nothing to me, so I inquired further.

I can’t remember how long the femur was except that whatever the average was for a 36 week baby, ours was one (cm, mm???) longer.

Turns out that there is a scale for the average head, stomach, and femur (for some reason the femur length isn’t calculated, but is still measured. This was never fully explained to me).

Great, the one part that’s above average isn’t calculated into the proper growth of our baby’s size, I thought.

Then they take how long our baby’s head and stomach are, and those numbers are subtracted from the average baby at our week.

You’re considered “normal” or “healthy” if you’re between +22 to -22.

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Meeting the Doctor
We then met the doctor. She had only one agenda–to reassure us in as many different ways as she could that there was no problem. Again, without going into as many (apparently needless) medical details as possible.

“Do you know why you’re here?” she asked as an opening statement.

“To check on the growth or lack of growth of our baby,” Lisa quickly responded.

“Yes, that’s right. Well, this is as perfect as it gets. You’re great. You fall within the normal range. Everything is fine. You have nothing to worry about,” she said.

“You can go home and enjoy your New Years,” she continued.

Again–I had lots of questions, but clearly could see that those were not welcomed. In fact, at one point I even called her out saying “Yes, I get the point that you clearly have one job–to make us feel calm and safe, but…” and then I continued asking several questions of things to look out for or how to prepare ourselves should this arise again, and what to do at our next prenatal meeting.

Conclusion: The doctor could only guess like our original prenatal midwife–that the baby had just shifted position in the body, making the uterus appear as though it’s not growing.

I told her I was quite interested in what was happening with our baby, which is why I had so many questions.

Rather than finding it beneficial to have involved parents seeking answers from a professional, her response to me stating my interests was simple, but dumbfounding.

“Google it,” she said.

“Really? We come to the hospital seeking answers from a professional and your response it ‘Google it’?”

She then argued why Googling was a good method, but that people can’t interpret the results well.

Well no shit! That’s why we’re talking with you right now. We want to be informed parents and understand the potential situation our baby may or may not be going through. Plus it just doesn’t hurt to know more, in case this same thing happens again in the future with another child, I thought.

We left the hospital feeling glad that nothing was wrong with the baby (as far as they could tell). The first baby scare was over. For now.

But I also left the hospital with a pain in my stomach, knowing that I could have a midwife as inattentive, unsupportive, and unwelcoming as her when we give birth.

Fingers crossed that we have one like our prenatal midwife!

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Tried to go into town to enjoy the Christmas lights.

PS–Interesting side-note, the midwife said it wasn’t a problem to take pictures during the ultrasound, despite the first ultrasound midwife saying that we weren’t allowed to take pictures. Of course, no explanation was given on why it could or could not be ok to take pictures during the ultrasound.

PPS–This has so far been our fifth midwife, and we haven’t even given birth! Talk about a lack of continuity of care, as well as trying to develop trustful, stable relationships! Not ideal, Sweden!

First Parenting Scare at the Prenatal Clinic

Yesterday I had my first real parenting scare. I cried. Several times…

Side-note 1: I say “real” because twice now Lisa has felt quite dizzy, with a palpitating heart, forcing us to quit our dinner outings and take a taxi home–presumably due to low blood sugar (or so thinks the midwives who answer the phone at the hospital).

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Laying on the couch after a bad dizzy, racing heart, low blood pressure, spell.

Side-note 2: We’re in week 36. At this point, several people have already gone through miscarriages, pre-term births, or know that they are awaiting various birthing complications. This has not been our case, so far. Despite the fact that we’re currently in the norm, we still feel quite lucky and thankful that no major problems have arisen.

Side-note 3: Our biggest pregnancy problem thus far has been acid that continuously disrupts Lisa’s sleep, often starting in the evening and continuing throughout the night. Even though she stays away from acidic foods, like apples and oranges, especially late at night, she still routinely gets acid, causing her to miss out on plenty of sleep, and subsequently myself as well. A prelude of things to come.

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Helpful acid relief that’s supposed to reduce acid, since the medicine that should hold the acid back didn’t help much.

My schedule for the day: The day started out normal–I was to clean out my old desk, since I will start a new job in the new year. Then I should get a new haircut; a courtesy for the new job. Then I should meet Lisa at the prenatal clinic for our normal two-three week check-up. Then after-Christmas shopping should ensue 🙂

Routine Prenatal Visits: The visit to the midwife was standard and routine. Read my previous posts about these visits here and also here. Therefore, I have not continued documenting every visit (although currently, including the present visit, we have gone to the prenatal clinic post ultrasound 6 times, with two more times scheduled before the birth [since we had two visits pre-ultrasound, we will have a total of 10 visits to the prenatal clinic + 1 ultrasound)–every two weeks, we arrive, the midwife greets us, we swap slightly personal stories about the goings-on in our lives (aka small talk), we ask semi-anxious prenatal questions, and then proceed with checking the blood pressure, occasionally checking the iron levels via a finger prick, and measuring the size of the uterus (a subjective measuring, but still, fun to see the results charted out on a graph). Overall, it’s a fun time, because we like our midwife’s personality and get along well with her (aka–she laughs at my jokes 😉

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In fact, the last four visits to the midwife have been so mundane, that I, a fatherhood researcher of child health care, have questioned if I even need to show up. I figure everything will be normal and if not, then my partner will inform me if anything is abnormal (e.g. iron levels are low; solution = take an iron pill more frequently). So, unless I have specific pregnancy questions, there’s little reason for me to attend–accept that most of our visits have, so far, corresponded with the prenatal parent education classes–and since those go over different information at each meeting, I may as well come 20 minutes earlier and still participate in the routine meetings with the midwife. Plus it’s fun!

Back to the prenatal parenting scare: Yesterday’s visit was not completely routine. Beyond the trivial routine measurements and tests, we were to also talk about how we wanted to give birth. The midwife would then notify the hospital of our requirements–epidurals, laughing gas, sterile water, etc. Do we want things in succession? Do we want a completely natural birth? Do we want a midwife who’s good in English? Yes, that last one is a definite yes! Do we have any special needs, especially dietary?

Lisa was already at the clinic when I called her from the elevator asking where she was. I hadn’t worn a hat, despite the Swedish winter in bitter December.

“Oh, I love your new haircut,” Lisa responded when she first saw me. “She does such a great job, and great job styling it. You need to buy whatever product she puts in your hair. You look so good!”

That felt amazing. I can’t wait to get another haircut! I have the best girlfriend, I thought.

We hadn’t really discussed this at home to any great extent. So we went into the prenatal visit saying “we don’t know, what we don’t know,” and sought out a few more answers–why get laughing gas over the epidural and vice versa? What are the pros and cons of both? And what point are you beyond the point of no return when it comes to getting these?

Prior to having the birthing discussion though, we decide we would go through the normal routine. Lisa’s blood pressure was perfect. Her finger was then pricked, and her iron count was 130; a very healthy iron level, just like every other visit.

Then she went to lay on the bed so that her uterus could be measured and the baby’s heart rate could be measured. Knowing Lisa loves video of the baby’s heart rate, I started video recording with my phone. While the last few times we had visited the baby’s heart rate was always around 150-160 (dropping below 150 and occasionally going above 160), this time the heart rate was around 130.

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“A perfectly normal heart rate” the midwife responded.

I replied back, “ya, but normally it’s around 150-160, because [the midwife] is pressing so hard on Lisa’s belly, forcing the baby to stress out and move around; so maybe the resting heart rate is closer to 115 or 120?”

No one seemed to care about answering that question, including myself. It was just an automatic statement that blurted out, since we had always seen the baby’s heart rate rise (to 160-170) and then drop after thirty seconds to two minutes (to 140-160).

The uterus was then checked. I was so excited. Since the start of the pregnancy, the uterus has been about one standard deviation below the mean, but over the weeks, had been inching itself closer to the mean. I was hopeful that we would be directly on or even just above the mean line this time.

“There is no growth since the last time you were here,” the midwife said in a slightly urgent and bewildered tone.

She appeared confused and re-examined the size. Then she called in another midwife to confirm her findings.

The room wasn’t filled with jokes. The cheery feeling had left. Silence took it’s place, as Lisa and I wondered what all this meant. Especially having just seen a “perfectly normal heart rate.”

The second midwife came up with similar results. Lisa then reannounced that the baby had, starting a day or two earlier, started to move a lot less. This  fact was stated at the beginning of the meeting but was quickly dismissed as “normal” and “anything can happen during pregnancy”. The sentence was not dismissed this time. This time, it was taken seriously.

“The baby not moving much, coupled with no uterus growth–I recommend you to go to the hospital and get another ultrasound,” the midwife strongly urged us.

Thoughts rushed through our heads. What does this mean? How bad is this? Will we give birth today via a C-section? Can something bad happen to our baby? Can we lose our baby!? I want answers, and I want them now!

She then immediately called the hospital to arrange our visit. We found out we could go as soon as our routine prenatal visit ended.

The new chart was created. We weren’t near the average growth anymore. We were on the second standard deviation line below the mean.

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Joking time was over. I didn’t give a shit about my new haircut. I was, for perhaps the first time of my baby’s life, completely focused on whatever might be happening in Lisa’s belly.

Lisa and I didn’t speak to each other, but it was clear that we both just wanted the meeting to end at that moment. We wanted to know what was wrong with the baby’s growth. Answers were needed; were needed quickly; and we were quite done at this meeting.

“Do you want to talk about how to give birth,” the midwife inquired.

Lisa didn’t immediately talk. I spoke up.

“Honestly, I don’t really care. I don’t know if we should reschedule or if we should just decide quickly. Lisa, maybe you have some quick thoughts and then we can go to the hospital,” I said.

“I agree,” Lisa responded.

Even still, we continued on, and made some decisions, asked a few more questions related to the birth….and took a few more deep breadths. Lisa and I were clearly more worried than the midwife was about our situation, but even still, she made sure to know she cared.

“I’ll be off the rest of the week, but I may still check my email. In fact, I will try to check everything before I leave today to see how it went at the hospital. If anything comes up, please let me know. And feel free to email me the results and any questions you have,” she said while we were shaking hands goodbye.

As we walked down the stairs, scared and filled with questions, we easily decided we would take a taxi (5 minutes) rather than walk to the hospital (20 minutes). We wanted answers, and we wanted to make sure we did everything we could to be seen sooner.

Off we went!

The exciting conclusion can be found here.

 

First Prenatal Parent Group Meeting: Importance of Breastfeeding

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I was quite nervous about my first prenatal parent meeting. Would I understand everything? How many other parents would be there? How many other expectant fathers would be there? Would I make any friends? Would I like the midwife?

The questions were about to be answered as we approached the doors to the clinic around 3pm. The meeting would last for two hours. We were one of the last couples to come in.

Couples were sitting in a U-shape, with the midwife’s chair at the top. We took the last two seats and quickly realized we needed to write our names on a piece of paper. Lisa chose green–surprise, surprise.

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Being ever analytical, I had to observe everyone’s name. Notice anything in the above picture?

There were nine expectant mothers present; eight of whom were with their partner and one who was with her mother. All couples were Swedish, except one couple, where both were from Belgium, and of course myself.

We started off the first meeting by having the midwife tell us to be seated in our birthing order. We quickly discovered that we were the second youngest couple, with birthday’s ranging from around the 10th of January to the 27th. Ours is on the 25th.

After that,  everyone started introducing themselves one-by-one. To do this, we were instructed to come up with one word that describes themselves based on the first letter of their first name.

I said “mouth” for “Michael” since I like to talk a lot. After me was a woman who’s name started with an E. I’ll call her Elin. Elin said “ensam” (alone). Elin was the one person in the whole class who didn’t have the expectant father come with. It was a bit heartbreaking to hear her say ensam, and I immediately thought that the course could have had one course for couples and one course for people who will come alone.

This thought proved to be very true as the course progressed, but I’ll come to that in later posts.

After introducing ourselves, the midwife told us what to expect regarding the course and then we delved into the importance of breastfeeding. After the midwife spoke about breastfeeding for a while, we took a fika. No course can happen without a fika break!

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During fika we divided into groups–four groups of four, basically. Two groups of expectant moms and two of expectant dads. We were to talk about the lecture and our thoughts on breastfeeding.

The guys in my group were all pro-breastfeeding and all wanted to encourage their partners, but felt like the choice was really their partners and not there’s.

I discussed alternatives if our partners didn’t want to breastfeed, such as breast pumping and purchasing breast milk from others–the guys were less enthusiastic about this and some didn’t even know it was possible. The overall consensus from my group was that it was mostly the woman’s decision, although they liked the idea of breastfeeding.

After 10-15 minutes, we digressed into talking about who we were. So far, we hadn’t even done introductions of each other. All of the guys were professionals, and most commute to work (e.g. Stockholm), and not all live in Uppsala (e.g. one was living in Örebro, while his partner lived in Uppsala). And here I thought it was tough for me to come to a 3pm meeting. Others were traveling hours to make it to this course. One word: dedication!

We then met back up to go over our breastfeeding discussions. Turns out the other groups did similar things–talked about breastfeeding before digressing into getting to better know each other.

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There were several books a person could check out including a book on sex, on fathers, on breastfeeding, and on baby swimming

I didn’t make any friends, per se. But I did have a fun time.

Prenatal Parent Group Meetings: Background Information

I will have to attend a Swedish-speaking prenatal parental course. They were supposed to offer an English version, but the person who runs that course is on parental leave, so I am left to attend the Swedish version. Yikes!

This version is presumably better in some ways, as there are a couple of extra classes that you don’t get in the English version–apparently a couple of times, people from the outside (e.g. non-midwives) will come to discuss certain topics with the class. For example, we will have one class on relationships. That course is taught by two people from the Swedish church, rather than from the midwives at the clinic.

The course meets 6 times over a 1.5 month time period. And then a seventh visit about 1-1.5 months after we all have our babies (the first baby is due to be born a bit before mid-January, while the latest is the 27th of January….but who knows when they’ll actually all pop out 😉

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We have also learned that the midwife leading the class is from the same location as our midwife (Hjätat), but sadly is not our midwife 😦 They do rotations. This means that this is our fourth midwife so far (first midwife = first prenatal visit [she didn’t like father involvement so we discontinued seeing her], second midwife = current midwife at the MVC hjärtat, third midwife = ultrasound midwife).

This continuity of care is a bit annoying, personally. You search for a good midwife and make a connection with her, but meanwhile you’re just tossed from one midwife to the next. But I digress.

Anyway, at Hjärtet, they have several other ways to be involved while you’re pregnant.

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For example, the profylaxkurs is a type of massage class for partners, vattengympa is doing exercises in the water, pappaträff is for expectant dad’s to meet each other, väntabarn igen-träff–not sure what that is (maybe if you’re waiting for your second [third, etc] kid and want to meet other parents), regnbågsgrupp could maybe be for same-sex couples, and baby massage is just like it sounds.

Well, here goes nothing!

Prenatal Visits: Measuring and Testing

Three weeks after our last appointment, we met our prenatal midwife.

This visit was basically a repeat of the previous visit.

She answered our questions, did a iron-level blood test, measured the belly to see how the baby was growing, monitored the baby’s heartbeat, and took Lisa’s blood pressure.

 

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Since we knew the routine, this visit went a lot faster than the previous one–mainly because I was so curious and asked a lot of questions at the last visit. But since there was nothing new, I had little new questions to ask.

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The baby grew as expected. They have three lines on their computer chart–and upper limit, mean (or median [not sure]), and lower limit. Both measurements of the size of the baby is right below the mean (median) level.

 

However, Lisa’s iron levels were apparently “off the chart”–not literally. This must have been about week 29 (this may be off by one or so weeks). Lisa’s iron level was 137, but 110-120 is considered to be the average iron level for that week in her pregnancy. This was kind of funny too, because the baby’s heart rate was at about the same number.

Side note: I noticed on the first visit that I saw numbers of the baby’s heartbeat to be between 140-145, but the midwife said it was “140.” And then on the second visit, the heart rate jumped around from 134-141, and again she wrote 135. So I’m now wondering why they pick basically the lowest number, rather than the average number that they witness?

 

Prenatal Visits: Every Two to Three Weeks

A few weeks after our ultrasound, we visited the prenatal clinic.

We walked in and took a seat, genuinely interested in what the next steps were. After all, the pregnancy was all real now! The belly is growing. The baby is moving! We’ve seen the baby!

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Now what?

While we waited, our midwife popped from around the corner.

“Hey! How are you guys doing?” she said.

“Fantastic. Looking forward to the visit,” I replied without missing a beat.

“I’ll be with you in just a minute.”

Looking over at Lisa I said, “Wow! Can you believe she remembered us? And remembered that I’d prefer English?”

“Ya, she has a great memory,” Lisa replied.

#impressed

Sure as the morning star, a minute passed, and she whisked us back to her office. We could then ask any and all questions on our minds, while she had a few topics up her sleeve.

She showed us the “chart” that would be used every three weeks from here until the baby is born to measure things like the amount of iron in Lisa’s blood (via a simple blood test), measuring her blood pressure, measuring the size of her belly, and checking the baby’s heart beat.

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Inquisitive as I am, I had to ask how she found the uterus–the place where they measure from. I couldn’t feel it with my hands, but clearly she felt something and the measurement took place.

 

Then we waited and listened for the heart beat. That was almost as cool as the ultrasound. Hearing your child’s heartbeat was a great and euphoric feeling, especially for Lisa.

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Meanwhile, I started asking questions: What’s the heart rate? What’s a normal heart rate? What do we do if the baby’s heart rate is too fast?

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Answers: Around 142, 130-150, if it’s above 150, then they would make us wait and remeasure to see if the baby’s heart rate calms down. If it doesn’t then they would send us to the hospital to monitor the heartbeat for a longer time period to see if the baby’s stress level can go down or not.

She then took Lisa’s blood pressure and did a blood test to check for the iron levels. Her iron was right in the middle, which apparently meant that she should take one iron pill every second day from now on.

 

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The midwife then reminded us about the prenatal parent education classes that would be starting soon, and we started booking all of our prenatal visits between now and our baby’s due date (25th of January 2016). We will visit the midwife every three weeks (the normal routine for all parents in Sweden).

All of the midwives at the location we visit
All of the midwives at the location we visit

All in all, a great visit and great information.

Second Antenatal Visit: Equality, long office hours, and welcoming of non-Swedish speakers

After our first prenatal visit, we decided to look up online what other clinics we could go to. Not missing the irony of trying to be an involved expectant father, Lisa types into Google “MVC Uppsala.” MVC standing for mödravårdscentral (maternity center–with a name like that, why would fathers ever feel like they’re not welcome?).

The first Google hit was Barnmorskemottagningen Hjärtat (Midwifery Clinic Heart). It happened to be a private antenatal clinic (not sure if that’s relevant).

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We quickly noticed on their website (here) that they have longer office hours and have parenting classes in English.

“Yes, let’s go there. That sounds good,” I said to Lisa. She called and booked an appointment, since we were supposed to have a second visit anyhow, before the ultrasound (I later learned that sometimes midwives have one visit, while others have two, before the ultrasound at week 18-19).

Immediately upon entering the clinic, we were both happily stunned.

“It’s so big and nice,” Lisa said. I concurred. We walked around a little before taking a seat. They had some special extras, like lemon water and some cookies in the waiting room, along with the staples like Mama, Vi Föräldrar, and other magazines more aimed at a female audience (I can’t escape my research background when I enter a waiting room environment [see my previous blog post here about child health waiting rooms]).

The midwife greeted us, without hesitation, shaking both of our hands and making eye contact before moving on to whatever we would do next.

Oh man, I feel so appreciated! I thought. This is the place we’ll come for all of our visits.

She then took us on a brief tour, showing us where they have parenting classes, their balcony that overlooks parts of the city, bathrooms, etc.

What a wonderful welcoming and great first impression of the place and the midwife. 

And out of the six other couples there, only one person (expectant mother) was there by herself.

We came to her office and sat down. She was probably in her mid-to-late 30s and had no trouble speaking English. Bright and full of smiles, we continued our visit.

This visit was a bit shorter, since we had already gone over a lot of information in the first session. But since it was a new midwife, Lisa went over her medical history. And of course, we had to go over the usual stuff–who are you? But this time, the midwife actually asked about me immediately after finding out Lisa’s background information.

Now that we had been pregnant for a few extra weeks, we were able to experience more pregnancy-related matters, like morning sickness. So naturally, we took up that conversation with the midwife and received some good tips.

Tips included a morning sickness pill, an acupuncture-type bracelet, and a print-out of various types of food to eat and to avoid.

She then reiterated the ultrasound, and we booked a time for the ultrasound visit.

The only disappointing thing about the trip was that the English parenting classes were going to be put on hold. The woman who leads the class was on parental leave and therefore wouldn’t be available to teach the parenting classes in the fall of 2015. So we’ll see how attending the Swedish ones goes.

Side note–Apparently the English parenting classes are shorter than the Swedish ones. The midwife stated that the same important information is provided in both classes, but in the Swedish classes, outside people from the community are brought in to talk about different services (but those weren’t offered in the English speaking class).

Naturally hearing that we’d get “extra” services, Lisa preferred the Swedish classes, and I couldn’t help but feel like those attending the non-Swedish speaking classes were missing out (even if the most vital information was offered in both). Hmm, perhaps the first clinic was better–at least for me attending parenting classes. Time will tell.

First Antenatal Visit: Gender issues, limited office hours, and language problems

Prior to the first visit, Lisa called to make an appointment at a prenatal clinic close to our home. Since we wouldn’t meet them for two more weeks, she asked them about what types of food she can and can’t eat while pregnant.

They responded by saying to visit Livsmedelsverket to see the latest food recommendations.

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As a fatherhood researcher that focuses on child health, you might be surprised to learn that I never thought about my research when my girlfriend and I went to our first antenatal visit.

All I could think about was how nervous I was, how nervous she was, and what information we might glean from attending.

So, pure usual, I nervously coughed, hacking out a lung, before entering the building and climbing the stairs.

We had picked a prenatal clinic close to our home, figuring that would be the best option–convenience always has its rewards. It happened to be a public clinic, although I’m not so sure how important that is?

We walked in and patiently waiting in the lounge area for our names to be called. Within minutes, we heard the beckoning sounds of an older, albeit experienced, midwife: “Lisa,” she announced.

We sprung up. She exchanged some quick words with Lisa while shaking her hand. No eye contact was exchanged in my direction, so I hopped in and held out my hand. She shook it, while turning her head, preparing to walk back to her office.

She didn’t even ask my name, I thought. My research came flooding into my mind. It was certainly one thing to read about the misfortune of others, and quite another to experience gender discrimination. My first encounter with a medical profession about my changing role from man and partner to father, and I’m met with an abrupt non-introduction. Shit!

I can’t ever be too judgmental though. After all, I don’t speak much Swedish, so perhaps I need to be more engaged in the conversation in order to garner more attention. Fair enough.

We meandered back to her office, and took two seats opposite the midwife. We asked if it was ok to speak in English, but that Swedish was fine, especially for more complicated questions. The midwife happily agreed, and in shyness, excused her “bad” English. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I would call it quite good, and so we both reassured her.

She began typing on her computer before asking “Lisa, can you please tell me your email? I’d like to send you some parenting information and information about your upcoming visits.”

Lisa did so. After a couple of other short exchanges with Lisa, such as, what do you do for a living and other small talk, the midwife looked over at me and asked “And what is your name? And can you give me your contact information?”

“Do you want my email address too,” I asked.

“No, I just need your phone number in case we can’t reach Lisa,” she replied.

What the hell! I thought. Why can’t I also be emailed the same information? Oh well, Lisa will just forward the email to me. I gave her my phone number.

Then she proceeded to ask Lisa several questions about her drinking and smoking habits via completing some survey forms.

While Lisa completed the forms I asked, “what are these forms for?”

“Oh, to see if there are any drinking or smoking problems. If so, then we like to recommend places where people can see support, since it’s not healthy to smoke or drink when you’re pregnant,” the midwife politely replied.

So many thoughts went through my head. So my drinking and smoking habits don’t matter for the health of the baby? What if I was an alcoholic–would it benefit my child and the mother, as well as myself, if I also got some support for my habits? Isn’t second-hand smoke not ideal? Can’t I get support if I need it?

It was hard to raise these issues though, since I don’t smoke and only occasionally drink.

“How much is too much drinking during early pregnancy?,” I asked questioningly. I was actually interested in this answer, because I have heard some conflicting reports on if drinking during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy can hurt the baby (plus I had time to kill while Lisa completed the forms).

“Oh, Lisa’s amount is fine,” she said looking at Lisa’s drinking record (side note–the survey asks how much you drink, on average, over the past year–not specifically on how much you’ve been drinking while pregnant).

Her immediate and thoughtless answer really upset me. She clearly hadn’t listened to what my question was, and instead was just trying to calm me from being worried about drinking while pregnant by giving me a non-descript answer. Now I need to inquire more.

I lied (but she doesn’t know that). “Lisa has been doing a lot of drinking since she’s been pregnant. Way more than before being pregnant because of different end of the year parties. So I’m wondering if she has been having too much.”

“No, no, she’s fine,” the midwife answered back quickly.

What the fuck! You didn’t even ask me how much she’d been drinking while pregnant, and yet you can still give an answer basically saying there is no limit to how much she could have drank? I thought, while also simultaneously thinking Oh crap, now Lisa is mad because I just made her sound like she drinks a lot. Maybe I should only stick to issues that actually matter to us, because I’m clearly not getting medical answers.

The visit continued, discussing various issues, like how often we’d come, what week we were in, and other topics we had questions about–like parenting classes in English and their hours of operation.

Around 40 minutes into the meeting, and after me asking several questions to show that I’m engaged in the conversation, the midwife finally asks me “what do you do for a living?”

Now I’m a bit embarrassed. “I research father involvement in the child health field.”

“Oh that’s interesting,” she responded hesitantly. “I have two thoughts about fathers coming here, but maybe it’s because I’m old. Either they need to work and so they can’t come here, or they come here because they are controlling of their partner.”

Wait. What the hell? Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Was she accusing me of being controlling, or just men in general? I can’t be here because I’m interested in my pregnancy? I can’t be here because I want to learn and be involved?  I can’t be here to support my partner in pregnancy? I can’t be here because I want to experience my work first hand? I don’t believe it. Quick, look at Lisa and see if she heard the same thing…..She did, she heard the same thing. 

Well that shut me up. I am no longer engaged in the conversation. I’m not upset, outwardly, but I’ll just want her finish up the visit, so we can get out of there.

The rest of the conversation was pleasant, and we finished about 15-20 minutes later, after talking the ultrasound visit, the various types of tests you could get at that visit, and the prenatal parenting classes.

To their credit, she stated that I could get an interpreter for the parenting classes and that they were going to start up their first fathers’ group class ever, even if she said that reluctantly.

On the way home Lisa started the conversation, “did you hear what she said about fathers?”

“How could I not?,” I replied with disgust.

After a short conversation at home, we decided the closest antenatal clinic isn’t necessarily the best. Not only were there obvious gender issues (especially since both Lisa and me want both of us to be there as often as we can), but there were other problems too–for example, not having parenting classes in English and having limited office hours. Office hours definitely matter for commuting expectant parents, because we need early morning or evening hours. 3pm doesn’t work when you work in another city.

Luckily, this hasn’t deterred me from being involved with my partners and my pregnancy. But it certainly didn’t encourage me to be involved with the child health field. For the record, Lisa didn’t have any problems, and felt ok continuing to go there for her sake, but not for mine. Luckily I have a very supportive partner (plus she would also like a place with longer opening hours).

The Ultrasound

Morning sickness was not an appropriate term. All-day sickness would be much more accurate, as it rears its ugly head morning, afternoon, and night. Not an ideal feeling, especially when you need to compete in a bike race. Incidentally, graviditetsillamående means pregnancy sickness.

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Lisa finishing the Biking portion of the Tjej Swedish Classic.

Nevertheless, the summer had gone by. Lisa’s stomach had grown. But we were still in the beginning phases of pregnancy. In the right light, at the right part of the day, you could still see the outline of her 6-pack!

But we had passed the 12-week hurdle. The Swedish ultrasound typically takes place during week 18 or 19.

We were at the very beginning of week 20, having just come back from a vacation in Croatia. And we were quite eager to complete the ultrasound.

We entered the waiting room and sat patiently, exchanging small dialogue, as we both sat there in anticipation.

“Lisa,” a midwife called. We promptly nervously stood up.

“If you would like to be a part of the study, please come this way,” she said.

False alarm. But we went anyways. Uppsala Hospital is a teaching and research hospital. As such, this was our third research study that we were asked to be involved in. It involved having a sample of her blood taken, although currently there was no purpose to the study–apparently that would be created later. Being researchers, Lisa (we) agreed to partake anyhow.

We came back out to the drab waiting room. A minute later a voice called.

“Lisa.”

After some basic pleasantries, complete with handshaking, name exchanges, and eye contact, we were off and walking down the wall.

I couldn’t help but notice that every midwife was woman.

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We went into the room. It was empty, except for a large complicated-looking machine, a larger flat screen tv, a hospital bed and an extra chair. We quickly assumed our respective positions.

I asked if I could take a picture. “No, not in here,” the midwife said in a stern but soft voice.

The midwife wasted no time and proceeded to check out Lisa’s tummy.

Holy shit! There’s my kid! On that big screen! That’s my child!

Even now, two months after getting the ultrasound, I tear up thinking about it.

Having studied father-child relationships within healthcare for years, I knew what to expect. I knew that most fathers feel their first true feelings of parenthood when they see the ultrasound. I knew that Lisa was pregnant. I knew I was already connected to my child.

But seeing my baby up on that screen gave a whole new sense to being pregnant. And Lisa also felt more closely connected. How could you not? (or at least that’s how we felt).

We couldn’t help ourselves from holding each others’ hands. Touching each other, while we stared at this screen showing our baby.

In the meantime, the midwife was performing her exam. Silence fell upon the room.

The midwife was extremely nice and friendly and tried to provide the best answers she could; and she did a good job.

Lisa, I noticed, said a lot of emotion-based statements, such as “oh wow, the heart is beating so fast. That’s so cool.”

While I asked a lot of statistical-type questions: “how many beats per minute is the heart beating?”

We were both concerned–but Lisa made statements as though the glass were half full, while most of my statements were seen as the glass half empty.

I noticed I was constantly concerned about “what if,” as in “how wide should the head be, and what if it’s not that wide, what does that mean?”

The midwife answered my questions without putting either of us into a panic. Without me asking questions though, the midwife never talked, with two exceptions: One at the very beginning: “do you want any of the extra tests?”

“No,” we replied unanimously, having already read a brochure and decided ahead of time that they were not necessary for us.

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Information pamphlet we received before going to the ultrasound, making us aware of the various tests parents-to-be can get.

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And one at the very end: “do you want to know the gender?”

“No, we’d like it to be a surprise,” Lisa replied.

“Well I’d like to know,” I said half-jokingly. “You could just whisper it to me.”

“No I can’t do that,” the midwife replied.

It wasn’t completely clear if she took me seriously and just wanted to respect Lisa’s wishes, or if she thought I was joking and therefore played along.

Either way, we were given a diagnosis of–“as far as I can tell, based off of the ultrasound, everything looks good.”
She continued noting, “But you are actually at the beginning of week 19 instead of the original guess of week 20. So your new due date is the 25th of January 2016.”

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Week 19!

Pregnancy Test

Finding out you’re pregnant is filled with emotions. For some it’s positive, for others it’s negative. For Lisa and me, it definitely was one of the happiest days of our lives!

We had planned to try to have a kid after I graduated with my PhD. But it wasn’t all glorious and fun.

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Getting pregnant was filled with confusion, but not for the usual reasons. See, being an American living in Sweden, I needed to leave the country to apply for a working visa, or in my case, a visiting researcher visa, as soon as I graduated with my PhD. Prior till now, I only had a student visa.

So, while everyone was celebrating my graduation, all I could think about was that I would have to leave my job(s), my home, and most importantly, my girlfriend. I had two job offers, but those would need to have a later starting date. It was time to leave the country.

Luckily, getting a visiting researcher visa went quickly. We were told that it could be as quick as 10 days, but in three days, I had a decision.

I met my girlfriend and another friend (my only [and best] friend with a car) at the airport. We were all eager to greet each other and had a lovely conversation about being reunited (even though it had only been a week).

After that, life continued like normal.

“My butt is too big. My boobs are hurting. I need to go to the gym more often,” Lisa said one evening.

“Yes, let’s do that,” I replied.

Off we went.

We then spent the next few weeks biking around Uppsala. My girlfriend was competing in the Tjej (Women’s) Swedish Classic. Having already finished the swimming, running, and cross country skiing portions, all she needed to do was complete a 100km bike race, and the Classic medal would be hers.

So we started logging the km’s. And getting sore butts.

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Then one day at the end of May (25th):
“Mike, I’m late,” Lisa said nervously. “What do you think we should do? Should I take a test? Should I wait? Should I take a test?”

Knowing that she gets into a panic-like state from time-to-time, I wasn’t bothered.

“Look, if you want to do a pregnancy test, I wouldn’t say don’t do it. But we only had one chance for you to be pregnant–my graduation night. Because after that I’ve been gone.”

“Ya, I know. So it’s probably just the stress I’m having. Or maybe that I just got off the pill three weeks ago.”

Later that night she went off to buy a test. She came back with three. One would not be sufficient, apparently. The box read that you get the best results in the morning.

“Will you take the test in the morning,” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied as she contemplated her options. “Maybe I’ll just wait a bit and see. My cycles are probably just delayed.”

The next morning, I was pounced on. It was 6:15am. It wasn’t that I was half asleep; it was that I was used to Lisa jumping on me in the morning as she gives me kisses goodbye before heading off to Stockholm.

“Michael,” she said cautiously.

I instantly reacted to her tone. It wasn’t the way she’d say goodbye.

“What baby?”

“I think we’re pregnant!” she hesitantly said, while showing off her pregnancy test.

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Words then started cascading out of her mouth. With so much speed and earnestness.  All I remember is that she went into great detail about how quickly the results showed up.

And I just as quickly responded, pointing out to her that she did the testing all on her own. Without me present. I wasn’t included. 

My first experience of becoming a father, and I already experienced the “closed gate” of maternal gatekeeping.

But oh wells–we’re pregnant!

And pictures need to be taken to show how our bodies will change over the next 40(ish) weeks.

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Yes, at the end of May, in Sweden, it is this sunny at 6:45am.
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I love that our “Bike Love” picture, where we keep our racing bikes is in the background.

A couple of weeks later, Lisa went on to compete and finish the biking leg of the Tjej Swedish Classic….pregnant!

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Less than 500 meters left of the 100km race!
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The champion! All four races completed!