I am so honored to have supported this family in achieving this beautiful expat birth story.
They attended my Hypnobirthing meets What To Expect When You Birth in Sweden workshop (click for more info about upcoming workshops) and as their doula, we prepared together during their pregnancy. I am very grateful for this guest post written by the mother.
Chris Patrick’s Birth Story by his mother, Rebecca Blanchfield
May 2015 was an eventful month for our family. My husband, two young sons and I
moved from the suburbs of Boston, MA, USA to the city of Stockholm. It was also the
month we learned we were expecting our third child. While we were excited about
our expat adventure, we were also a bit apprehensive about birthing in a foreign
My desire for all of my births was for them to be as natural as possible, but with our
first two births in America we faced some adversity trying to achieve this. We were
concerned that we might be up against similar obstacles in Sweden, as well as the
added challenge of a language barrier. It was for these two reasons that we decided
to hire a doula, who we were hoping could be instrumental in our goal of an
empowering, natural birth on our own terms.
My parents arrived in Stockholm from the states on Sunday, February 14, 2016 in
anticipation of the birth. My last day of work had been Friday, February 12 and my
due date was February 21, but I knew from experience with my first two that this
date held little meaning. I expected to go past my due date as I had with my first, so
I’d compiled a list of errands and to-dos as well as some Stockholm sightseeing to
accomplish with my parents in my final days of pregnancy.
During the first two days of their visit I was experiencing sporadic, mild waves. I
recognized these as my body practicing for the big day, but knew they weren’t actual
labor. I enjoyed these waves and was appreciative of my body’s preparations for
what I hoped would be an easy, natural birth. On the afternoon of Tuesday, February
16 my usual energy and desire to be out and about was curiously absent, and I opted
to rest for a few hours instead of running the errands I’d planned.
On Wednesday, February 17 we awoke to a chilly, cloudy winter day.
My husband took my older boys to school and I devised a plan for my parents and I to walk 15
minutes to a baby store in the morning and pick up some last-minute items and then
stop for brunch on the way home. On the walk to the baby store I experienced
another wave, but this time with increased intensity, where I had to pause on the
sidewalk and breathe through its peak. When we arrived at the baby store and
started to browse, another wave hit and I had a sudden and strong desire to be in a
cozier environment closer to home.
I decided we should head straight to the brunch restaurant, which had a warm,
peaceful atmosphere and was only three blocks away from our apartment. I
reasoned that if I had more waves during brunch and felt like I should be home, it
would be an easy and fast exit. But another wave gripped me as we approached the
restaurant, and I sat on a nearby bench and informed my parents that perhaps it
was best to just go home so I could greet any more waves in a familiar, relaxed
We arrived back at our apartment and I parked my birth ball in the kitchen and
began to time my waves as my mom prepared lunch. They were eight to ten minutes
apart and about one minute in duration. I rotated my hips slowly on my birth ball as
each wave came, and met the increasing intensity with feelings of relaxation and
I felt a strong hunger in between waves
and when my mom served me a grilled cheese and apple sandwich, I devoured it while perched on my birth ball.
At about 12:30pm I called my husband at work and told him my waves were starting to come
with some regularity and perhaps he should come home. I then called our doula and
described my current state, indicating that although I wasn’t sure this was it, I did
have a strong feeling that “there was nothing false about this labor.”
While waiting for my husband I decided to move my birth ball to our bedroom and
shut the curtains, dim the lights and turn on my birthing meditation tracks. I started
with the birthing affirmations track, and rode out each wave feeling confident that
my body was doing what it was designed to do and that each wave was bringing me
closer to meeting our baby.
By the time my husband got home around 1pm my waves were ranging from two to
six minutes apart and over one minute in duration. I felt peaceful, relaxed and happy
as I continued to rotate my hips on the birth ball, listen to birthing meditation tracks
and signal my husband to massage my lower back during waves. He called our doula
and reported that I was comfortable and happy, but felt it was time for her to come.
She had an hour’s drive into Stockholm and said she’d be in touch as she got closer
to see whether she should meet us at our place or at BB Sophia, which was the
birthing center we’d chosen for our baby’s birth.
After speaking with our doula, my husband called BB Sophia.
He described the situation and they simply asked that we let them know when we were ready to
come. This response was in stark contrast to my previous birth experiences in
America, where the hospital requested every detail and urged me to come in
immediately. Having the choice to listen to my body and come to the birthing center
when it felt right was refreshing and liberating.
At about 3pm my parents left to pick up my boys at school, and I instructed them to
bring the kids back to their hotel so I could continue to labor at home until I felt I
was ready to go. Around the same time, our doula was approaching Stockholm and
asked whether she should come directly to us or meet us at BB Sophia. After a brief
discussion my husband and I decided we were comfortable and content at home.
While waiting for our doula, I decided to take a break from the meditation tracks
and birthing affirmations, and requested that my husband play Joni Mitchell. He
turned on Both Sides Now, and her smooth voice guided me through my next wave,
melting the tension and easing the intensity. This song segued into her more
modern, jazzier pieces and I suddenly felt strongly that I needed to hear her Greatest
Hits album instead, firmly insisting that I wanted “folksy, not jazzy!”
Our doula arrived at 3:30pm while I was riding my waves to Joni Mitchell’s folksy
By this time the peak of each wave was becoming more heightened
and prolonged, and I was so grateful to have our doula there to help guide me
through them. She took deep breaths with me as each wave hit, and gently
whispered “open” as the wave swelled, both of which made me feel more relaxed.
These cues invoked the color meditation track, and I pictured a beautiful blue flower
opening as my waves surged through my body.
I’d remembered we’d bought two spray bottles of Flower Emergency, a natural elixir
our doula had recommended during her birthing class, and suggested we try it for
my next wave. I signaled as my next wave approached and our doula spritzed the
herbal remedy in my mouth, and my body felt immediately relaxed as my husband
massaged my lower back and my wave peaked.
I mentioned to my husband and doula that I was feeling pressure in my lower back
during my waves and was concerned the baby might be positioned with the back of
his head aligned with my back. Our doula suggested a position to help him turn, and
I experienced my next several waves standing up with one leg up on the ottoman at
the foot of our bed. When I resumed my position atop the birth ball, the pressure in
my back had indeed disappeared.
With my back pressure at last relieved,
I spent my next several waves identifying
tension in my body and consciously relaxing those tense areas. Specifically, I noted
tension around my eyes and jaw, and rode my subsequent waves with my entire
face in a loose, fluid state. I continued to tune into my doula’s whispers to “open”
and imagined the blooming blue flower.
At 4:45pm I decided that although I was very comfortable at home, perhaps it was
time to head to the birthing center so my parents could bring the boys home for
dinner. My husband and I had toured the birthing center a few weeks prior, so I was
aware that I had many options for a continued relaxed, enjoyable labor. I envisioned
experiencing my waves in one of their birthing tubs or clutching one of their
squatting ropes hanging from the ceiling.
My husband called a taxi and helped me get my shoes on, which suddenly felt like a
herculean task. I had been in such a relaxed, blissful state in our bedroom that I
wasn’t aware of my diminished capacity to complete simple tasks.
I walked down the two flights of stairs with our doula, and we joked about how my
two sons had already named their unborn baby brother “Hoobiebatch” after a frog
in one of their storybooks. We shared a laugh and she headed to her car to meet us
at the birthing center.
The cab arrived at 4:50pm and I was suddenly seized by an intense wave
as my husband opened the door for me. I clutched the door and bent over to ride out the
wave while my husband massaged me, and then we climbed in the back seat. As the
cab pulled away from the curb, another wave struck with even greater intensity, and
knowing I no longer had the luxury of changing positions I buried my face in the
crook of my husband’s neck and moaned in his ear. He offered me the Flower
Emergency, which had been so helpful with my previous waves, but since these
waves had changed in shape and intensity I decided it was no longer needed. I flatly
refused it, bellowing “NO!” when my husband asked for the second time if I wanted
We hit some rush hour traffic and the driver took a wrong turn, so the cab ride to
the birthing center took 15 minutes. My waves throughout the ride offered me little
break in between, and I felt a great urgency to no longer be forced into a sitting
position. When we exited the cab at BB Sophia, I immediately slung my arms around
my husband’s neck and experienced another strong wave standing outside the
My husband then guided me inside and I was surrounded by midwives coaxing me
to sit in a wheelchair so I could be taken to my birthing room. I was incredibly in
tune with my body, and it was telling me that I couldn’t be in a sitting position again,
even for a short wheelchair ride. One of the midwives suggested I perch on the
wheelchair seat on all fours, which felt more natural and comfortable.
When we arrived in the birthing room seconds later,
I immediately stood up and leaned over the bed. My body was telling me that I needed to start using the strong
waves to push, and when this became clear to the midwives they quickly helped my
husband remove my pants and set up a nest of towels on the floor between my legs.
I channeled my waves to power my pushing and instinctively made deep, guttural
noises with each surge. I imagined myself as a child swimming the length of a pool
underwater, proud of the stamina of my lungs. I felt a mild burning and then a gush
of warm liquid on my legs as my water came out first as a bubble and then burst.
Each successive wave resulted in a push longer than I thought I was capable of, and
by my third push I felt my baby’s body sliding from my own and knew my labor was
over and it was time to meet our new son.
According to our cab receipt, we had arrived at BB Sophia at 5:05pm and our son
was born at 5:16pm. Chris Patrick had entered this world just 11 minutes after
arriving at the birthing center.
I craned my neck around in an effort to see my baby and heard my husband
murmur, “he’s beautiful.” The midwives urged me to climb on the bed and remove
my shirt, and I immediately put our newborn son to my chest. He was indeed perfect
and we enjoyed our very first cuddle time while I delivered the placenta in one easy
While we were marveling at his tiny fingers and toes, his flawless, vernix-covered
body and his thick, beautiful cord, our doula arrived. Although she had missed the
actual arrival of the baby, we were grateful she had played such a key role in
enabling our amazing, empowering birth, and we were happy she could share the
euphoric post-birth experience with us. The midwives delivered a celebratory tray
of sandwiches and non-alcoholic champagne, and we recapped our birth story with
great joy and wonder.
My husband and I spent Chris’ first night at BB Sophia, with our new baby nestled in
the bed between us. We headed home the following morning less than 18 hours
after Chris’ birth. Chris Patrick met his older brothers the following day, who
immediately offered hugs and kisses to welcome our precious fifth family member.