When I was in Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) in 2000 I had gotten a kidney stone, it was the worst most nagging pain of my life and I was in the hospital for two days. However, when the contractions started on October 4th, 2016 that pain paled in comparison to labor. Now you’re asking yourself HOW I was able to go 72 hours with labor without having an induction or a C-section, the answer lies with how Sweden approaches pregnancy. With one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world (half that of the US), surprisingly the pre-natal care is very non-invasive. In Sweden pregnancy is monitored by mid-wives, most of whom are mothers, and is considered a normal human condition vice an affliction requiring copious amounts of doctor care and comes with half the rules and regulations recommended in the US (for the record, we had been pregnant in the US, but lost the baby, so I had a pre-natal experience to compare with).
So when we got to the hospital on around 6AM they were able to verify that yes, I had started labor and had contractions every 10 minutes, but I was not dilated enough to be in active labor. The mid-wife recommended we leave, got get lunch and then come back in a few hours. Obviously I wasn’t able to eat, the contractions were so painful I just felt like puking if I tried to eat. So we headed over to our restaurant in Visby, Bad Wolf BBQ, where Erik had a meeting planned, and I just hung out trying to nap in the back office.
We headed back over to the hospital in the late afternoon, with the same status, and not yet dilated enough. They asked us what we wanted to do (i.e. induce), and both Erik and I were wanting to let nature take it's course as long as the baby was in no danger. So she recommended that we go home and then come back in the morning, earlier if my waters broke or the contractions got worse. In the US in most hospital births after 10 hours of labor they recommend induction. Induction of course can cause additional complications including emergency C-section so we really wanted to hold off as long as possible. Of course sleep was impossible, every 10 minutes I would wake up from contractions.
So now over 24 hours of labor and back to the hospital. Unfortunately, there was no change to the dilation and my waters had not broken, but baby was doing ok, so they gave us a room and recommended we try the jacuzzi tub to help with labor. We were in the tub for a bit, when I felt a sharp pain and thought maybe my water had broke. We got out of the tub and she checked and indeed one of the waters had broken. But now that means we would be on borrowed time. They decided to keep us overnight and Erik even got to stay the night too! I even got the option to get acupuncture to help with the pain. However, now 48 hours of labor was starting to wear on me, but we were still steadfast in wanting to wait as long as we could. In the morning we met with the Gynecologist, the first doctor I had spoken to the entire pregnancy. He mentioned that now that one of the waters had broken the longest we could wait before inducing was another 24 hours. So we planned to be induced on Friday October 7th (which ironically was the baby’s original estimated birth date). We stayed the night and continued to wait for the baby to arrive on his own being checked regularly for the baby's heart rate and lactic acid.
On the day of the induction we went in and I got an epidural, although after the last 72 hours of labor, it really didn’t help at all. I was also allowed to use laughing gas (nitrous oxide), but that just made me woozy and I still felt the pain. Finally after a couple of hours of active labor I was so exhausted that they had to give me a shot of glucose since I had no energy left to get the final pushes out. The baby was also getting pretty tired so they finally used the forceps to get his head out.
Finally at 7:41pm weighing 3.6kg and 51cm our son, Einar Karl Svensson was born. They laid him directly on my chest, barely wiped down, and then Erik cut the cord. It was a beautiful and magical moment, but after 30 minutes and the placenta not yet delivered they called the OBGYN to come in to help remove it, by hand! I got to use the gas, but then there was no other pain meds and boy did that hurt. Being fisted to get the placenta was worse pain than the actual birth! Unfortunately it wasn't able to come out that way so I was going to need to be knocked out and they wheeled me up to surgery.
Just before they put me under I looked around the room and asked who would be doing the placenta removal and the original OBGYN held up his hand and I turned to look at him and jokingly said “you hurt me Johan, you hurt me real bad” all the surgical staff just laughed. Around midnight I got to finally get back to the room and see Erik and the baby. They had given us apple cider and some sandwiches and it was super sweet, but boy was I tired. Erik got to stay in the room with me and it overlooked the Baltic Ocean.
In general the average couple stays in the hospital after the birth for 3 days, to get help from the midwives and allow the parents to adjust in a safe environment. After two days though it felt too "safe" and we were ready to get home and start trying out our new normal with our son. The weather was sunny and warm when we first arrived at the hospital and Erik wore shorts and flip flops, but when we left it had already turned to fall. My father and his partner, Dana, came to visit two weeks after the birth so it was really nice to have family around. That year however in late October early November there was an early winter storm and we got about a foot of snow.
With the generous maternity leave benefits in Sweden both Erik and I got to be home with our son together throughout the fall and early winter (over three months!). I would go into the restaurant weekly to check on the staff and operations and prepare for the fall events. It was a bizarre period where time just disappeared and revolved only around Einar and our dogs; all sleeping, eating, pooping and peeing. But it was such an amazing opportunity to spend together and created memories that I believe very few parents get. The most shocking thing though after our delivery was when we received the bill, about a month later. The whole labor and delivery, including the stay in the room for two days, cost us $54, and that cost was only because Erik ate the same food as I did and his food wasn't covered!
This time however, would also be marred by the real world of our business, things were not going well at the restaurant. Despite having popular events like Thanksgiving and an American Christmas buffet, the winter months in Visby were not to yield the volumes we would need to survive til the next summer. We would have to take a loan. This was a significant challenge for us because, up until this point, we were self sufficient, self financed and owed nothing to nobody. It felt like we were having to sacrifice our freedom to keep the business going and maybe it would never be successful enough. We both believed strongly in our concept, however and the Molino (corn mill) was ordered so it was full speed ahead for La Cantina Tortilleria! To be continued...