Whether you are seeing a doctor or midwife, regular ‘controls’ are generally the same in terms of check-ups: heartbeat, blood pressure, tummy measurements. However, the experience of going to a midwife for controls in Norway can be very different than seeing a doctor.
Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova – Depiction of Midwife Salome at the Birth of Christ
One of the things I like about Norwegian midwives is that they are very tactile. Normally I just talk about my water retention problems to my doctor but a midwife will actually feel my wrists and hands, ankles and feet, so she can monitor the swelling. Both doctors and midwives feel the baby for a good place to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. However, the midwife will actually feel the baby’s body and tell you where its back is laying, where its head is, and if it is getting into position.
Doctors and midwives both use ultrasound devices to monitor the heartbeat – the ones where they gel you up and listen to a ‘whoo-whoo’ sound. However, I always found it unusual when the midwives would then pull out this old fashioned wooden stethoscope. They place one end on your tummy and bend down to put their ear on the other end to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Why do midwives even bother to use the wooden stethoscope when the electronic one works just fine? My midwife told me today that the electronic one is so mums can hear their baby’s heartbeat but the wooden one enables the midwife to hear other things that are going on inside. It’s like when you put your ear against someone’s stomach and you can hear all the extra stuff – gases fizzing, liquids moving etc. The electronic stethoscope doesn’t pick up those things properly.
I find that midwives tend to give more word-of-mouth advice in tackling some of the obstacles of pregnancy, like: When you get on the bigger side of pregnancy it can be hard to turn over in bed. Today the midwife told me that some women put satin sheets on their bed to make it easier for them to roll over. (For some reason Moose was delighted with the idea…lol.)
Another tip (from my previous pregnancy) was that sometimes women who sleep on their left side get more restless during the night. This is because the heart has to work harder to pump blood up to the right side of the body. Throughout the night it is best to alternate each side to sleep on. This little tip has helped me so much – I often wake up at night and just turning over to the other side helps me fall right back to sleep again.
Another difference between doctors and midwives is the receptiveness to pregnancy needs. For people with a tummy as big as mine sometimes you need a little extra help. (My baby is on the biggish side since Pappa is 6’7″ – and it’s my fourth – the more your have the bigger they get – so I think the midwives feel a little more for me…lol) Just laying on the table with a heavy belly can be a strain. At the doctor and midwife clinics they have the same tables, the same protective paper, the same gel, however, the midwives also have pillows to put under your knees so you don’t arch your back (which can cause backache). The midwives also help you to sit up again so you don’t have to pull yourself up. (For some reason laying on your back can drain your strength.) The midwives will even help you put on your shoes if you find it hard to reach!
There is a little more pressure from midwives to breastfeed. I had softly decided not to breastfeed this time. After three failed attempts I thought to just ‘let it go’. I really tried hard to breastfeed Lilu. The maternity clinic even moved me from the recovery hotel* into the maternity ward so the midwives could spend more time helping me get started. The support was fantastic but I had gotten so used to the pain that one time when I was expressing milk (to get up my milk supply) I looked down and had 10mls of blood in the bottle. Yikes! I stopped then.
This time at the clinic I ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ about trying breastfeeding again (I had felt like such a failure last time) but the midwife said that she will get me into the maternity ward straight after birth so I can get a good start on breast feeding straight away.
Pappa feeding Lilu expressed breast milk. Lilu is 2 days old.
At the maternity ward last time they hooked me up with the Ammehjelpen (a breastfeeding help group). It is a voluntary group run by mothers to help other mothers with breastfeeding. You can call up any time and ask for advice. The link sends you to the main Norwegian page but they have a one page English section. (You can always use Google translate to translate the site into English – or whatever language you like.) This service is very helpful and it was a relief to be able to ring up and ask questions.
That is one of the bonuses of seeing midwives – they are well connected! In fact, all the midwives at the centre are rostered onto the hospital’s maternity ward. It’s nice to have familiar faces when you are going through a major experience in your life. Another thing my midwife did for us was get our labour room number and wrote it down on my pregnancy health card (the one you take everywhere – even the hospital when you’re in labour.) This is so I can visit the room where I will likely have my baby. It’s nice to be able to give birth in a familiar place.
Of course, you always leave the midwife clinic with lots of reading materials. Whatever aches and pains you may have or anxiety, fear or questions about motherhood you can guarantee the clinic has a fact sheet on it. However, most of the information is in Norwegian – but it’s good to learn the language anyway ;D.
One thing that is a little bizaar: even though Norway has less than 5 million people they have an organisation for every ache or pain. As I’m experiencing a lot of pelvic pain I’m not able to do normal daily activities. I was given a ‘fact sheet’ from my midwife with a website address and what do you know – Norway has a Norwegian Association for Women with Pelvic Girdle Pain (LKB) with English pages too – whoo hoo!
As mentioned before, because of the ‘language barrier’ it can be very daunting giving birth in a strange country. Information is key. Resources are always available in Norway but I find midwives are the ones who give them to you or at least show you where they are. Norwegian midwives are very good at explaining how and why things are in pregnancy and birth. Knowledge is power and the more you speak and ask questions the more you will become empowered during your pregnancy and birth.
* Recovery at the Hospital Hotel
I’m not sure about other places around Norway, but UNN (Tromsø hospital) has a hotel for friends and family of patients at the hospital. This hotel is also used for patients in normal recovery after labour. If you have no complications you are transferred to the hotel about four hours after birth. You get your own room with a loungeroom (a sofa bed included) and private shower. This means that your family can stay with you and visit you anytime. It’s very special to be able to have your husband spending the night with you and the new baby. And it helps a lot if you have a squirmy toddler visiting – you don’t have to worry that they will bother the other mothers in recovery. There is a midwife posted at the end of the hall at all times so if you have any complications or needs you can just buzz. You also have your (free) meals at the restaurant (PJs are certainly acceptable attire…lol).