Giving birth in Skellefteå: a tale of twins

Ex-Londoner Donna Richmond recalls the birth of her twins in Skellefteå, praising the Swedish healthcare system's balanced approach that provided comfort, safety and expert advice amid complications.

A happy Donna and her newborn twins, Leila, left, and Cailtin, right.

A happy Donna and her newborn twins, Leila, left, and Cailtin, right.

Foto: Paul Connolly

Engelska2023-08-28 09:00

I became pregnant with twins shortly after moving to Skellefteå. It was a fairly uneventful pregnancy, but with seven weeks to go until their due date complications suddenly arose. 

We were out celebrating my birthday with friends when my feet almost instantaneously started swelling to colossal proportions. One of my friends suggested it might be pre-eclampsia, a condition that can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby if it's not monitored and treated. 

We went home and checked my blood pressure. My usually low blood pressure was soaring.

My partner, Paul, swiftly drove me to the hospital. We were ushered directly to the maternity ward, offered private rooms, and advised to unwind. A thorough testing process shed light on my condition - it was pre-eclampsia. 

After an overnight stay, two doctors, Rolf and Hannah, visited our room with the news that they would perform a Caesarean section the following day to deliver our twins seven weeks early.

The experience was overwhelming, but by 1pm the next day, I was cradling our beautiful twins, Caitlin and Leila. Perhaps a tear or two were shed. Maybe I embraced a few puzzled doctors, some midwives, and even a passing cleaner. But none of that mattered. It was, in every sense, astonishing.

The care, from the beginning, struck a perfect balance – just the right blend of hands-on and hands-off. Before the complications arose, my pregnancy was smooth, and we mostly saw our wonderful barnmorska (midwife) and a doctor for an occasional ultraljud (scan).

The hospitals up here left me in awe of their efficiency and lack of overcrowding. The neonatal staff we encountered were born to work in healthcare. They were compassionate, knowledgeable, caring and their interpersonal skills were consistently top-notch. Three years later, one nurse approached us in a supermarket and asked how the twins were getting on - she even remembered their names!

We did meet one nurse who was a rather over-enthusiastic proponent of breastfeeding. She even recommended using breast milk as a treatment for skin issues and backaches.

Her fixation on breast milk knew no bounds. During a chat about our ongoing house renovation, I half expected her to suggest it as an exterior paint substitute. However, the doctors were more pragmatic – they advised breastfeeding as long as the mother was comfortable but no more.

We spent a month in the hospital's family unit. Our room came equipped with a TV, DVD player, and private bathroom. The staff aimed to ensure our twins were ready to come home while also allowing us ample bonding time.

We also gathered valuable childcare tips from the professionals - they drip-fed us advice at just the right pace. Our month in neonatal was priceless.

I had a friend in the UK who gave birth prematurely around the same time I did. Her experience was completely different. 

"I had my c-section on Monday and stayed in the ward until Wednesday," she emailed me. 

"My son was in the neonatal unit and I had to navigate two corridors and walk through the maternity ward to see him. The first day I was wheeled in a chair, but after that I had to walk. Then I had to leave the hospital because they needed my bed. I deliver his breast milk twice a day and then go home. I hardly ever see him. It's heartbreaking." 

Thank you, Skellefteå - I really know how lucky I am to live here.

This is a column and the views are the author's own.

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