As you might have guessed, my silence this last week has been due to the fact that the baby has arrived! In fact, she came just a few hours after I published my last post.
She’s nearly a week old, but she doesn’t have a name yet. Here in Sweden, you have three months before you’re required to name a baby. Thank goodness, or her name would officially be Baby Girl. We have some idea but aren’t ready to choose anything yet, and we’re still open to suggestions (hint, hint).
In Sweden, citizenship is not granted upon birth, so until we name her and get all of her paperwork and passports in order (American and British), she is also stateless. Of course she is officially registered here in Sweden and covered in terms of health care, etc., but she has no nationality yet. I find this fascinating in ways I can’t explain: our little girl is nameless and stateless—two of the most important identities a person has—and yet she is decidedly here and decidedly herself.
If you’re curious, my labor was quick and intense (about five hours from the beginning of active labor until she came out). For a while the contractions came so frequently, one on top of the other, that I was unable to relax between them or find any sort of rhythm to help me through. James felt the same, that he couldn’t get into a rhythm of helping me because everything happened so quickly. When we got to the hospital, I labored in a warm bath for about 45 minutes, until the urge to push was irresistible and I crawled out to sit on a birthing stool. Although the midwife coaxed me to take it easy and go slow, my body refused and I pushed her out in about 4-5 pushes, holding her head as she arrived.
Perhaps because the labor was so quick, I had a postpartum hemorrhage after pushing the placenta out. The baby was on my stomach, and while I cooed and oohed and aahed, the midwife pushed the emergency button and several midwives, nurses, and a surgeon showed up to attend to my bleeding. (Thankfully, the surgeon only had to watch for a few minutes before leaving). The baby was given to James and I was given some injections while the midwife “massaged” (it certainly did not feel like a massage!) my tummy and uterus to get it to cramp and staunch the bleeding. Ultimately I lost more than 1.5 liters of blood, but the midwife team acted so quickly and competently that everything was fine in the end. We had to spend an extra night in the hospital to ensure my blood numbers stabilized before we were able to come home. (The neighbors looked after August and Leif while we were gone, and brought them to see us in the hospital.)
When she was born, I was shocked at how small she was, and I repeated “she’s so tiny!” over and over. So we were shocked when she was finally weighed a couple hours later to learn she was 8 pounds and 11 ounces—my biggest baby yet!
It’s funny, we didn’t know the gender of the baby for at least an hour after the birth. I asked James immediately after she was born what it was, but because she was placed on my stomach and covered with a towel, and then the midwife began her work to stop my bleeding, we couldn’t tell. And that was okay—we were in no hurry to find out. In looking at her I thought she was a girl, but of course with newborns it’s so hard to tell. It wasn’t until we were moved back into the labor room (I gave birth essentially on the floor of the bathroom, right next to the tub) and had settled in for some time that I finally turned her over and looked. I know some people would want to know immediately, but to us it didn’t really matter: we were content just holding her, smelling her, listening to her, stroking her—learning her essence, I suppose—and learning her gender just didn’t seem important in those moments.
The boys have taken to her quite well, and they both seem smitten in their own way. She’s usually still asleep when we all get up and moving in the morning, and August likes to go lie next to her in bed and just gaze at her. Leif likes to pet her head and bring her toys, and is fascinated by the fact that she is a girl who doesn’t have a penis! They both definitely miss alone time with their mama, though—these first weeks of adjustment are quite tricky. But that’s a matter for the next post (which I hope to get up by the end of the week).
All photos by me and James.