Baby Cecelia is born in Denmark

 

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Charlie and Cecelia. Photo: Fun Love Photography

Five weeks ago, our beautiful daughter, Cecelia, was born at Herlev Hospital, outside Copenhagen. Her arrival has been long awaited and we are delighted that our Danish adventure has also brought a new life into the world.

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Charlie meets Cecelia for the first time

She is six years younger than her brother, Charlie. He has been wonderful – despite wanting a brother! It’s lovely watching them together – already she responds to his voice and presence.

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Photo: Fun Love Photography

My experience of giving birth here in Denmark couldn’t be more different from back in London. This time I had a c-section, after a ‘traumatic’ natural birth at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, in 2010. I won’t go into the detail but suffice to say the whole experience was stressful and involved me going back into hospital six weeks later to have an operation under general anaesthetic, followed by countless procedures.

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Cecelia at 8 days old

This time round, there was no hesitation about me having a cesarean. It meant we knew the delivery date and were able to have family out here to look after our son. Once in hospital, my husband and I had our own room in the Patient Hotel, next door to our own bathroom and close to the canteen. We quickly realised that Nick had to stay with me because there simply aren’t enough staff to deal with patients who need help moving and walking. This may be a highly taxed country, but like elsewhere, resources are tight. Anyway, I was very grateful that he was with me throughout.

The delivery itself was extremely professional and very quick. The Danish staff all spoke perfect English and couldn’t have been more pleasant. I was particularly pleased that one of the doctors was called Cecelia. Despite the horrendous pain I suffered following the c-section, it was very straight forward.

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Photo: Fun Love Photography

Like her brother, we quickly realised that Cecelia was tongue tied (which is very painful for breast feeding mothers). Unfortunately doctors at Herlev refuse to perform the simple procedure to snip the frenum that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. So when she was just 18 hours old, my husband bravely left hospital with her, drove to a clinic in another town where they performed the procedure. It was not an ideal situation.

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Cecelia in hospital

Our baby then lost weight and developed jaundice, both of which are very common in newborns. But the staff were worried and we were moved from our room, upstairs into what can only be described as a broom cupboard. We had no window or running water and had to walk through another family’s room to get to ours. My poor husband had to sleep on a padded bench and wasn’t allowed to leave me alone. It was a difficult 48 hours. But thankfully, five days after giving birth, we were finally allowed home.

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On the beach at Kronborg Castle in Helsingør

Danish friends say the second half of our hospital experience is more common in Denmark than you might think. But overall, I found giving birth here much better than in South West London. We’ve also been extremely lucky to have a wonderful health visitor, Kirsten, from Gentofte kommune (our local council) who is always ready to help or offer advice via phone or text. Staff at our local doctors’ surgery have also been supportive.

So now our family of three has become a family of four, and things are noisier in our house (especially at night!). But boy, do we all love our little girl!

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Photo: Fun Love Photography

With thanks to Heather Davidson-Meyn at Fun Love Photography for the great photos.

 

Copenhagen: The Pregnant Mermaid

 

If all goes to plan, two weeks today I will be having a baby here in Denmark. It’s our second child and, to put it mildly, has been a long time coming.

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I think the Bump enjoyed it.

 

Over the past eight months, I have kept up my swimming – averaging between one and two kilometres a week. As the bump has grown, this is the one sport I have felt able to do that hasn’t put too much strain on my body.

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Feeling weightless

 

 

Today, thanks to my Monday swimming group led by an inspirational woman called Sue, I became a mermaid. OK, so I’m not exactly Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, but a Pregnant Mermaid, yes.  The weightlessness of swimming under water with a tail is just magical. Obviously I didn’t try all the moves the other mermaids were perfecting but I gave it a damn good try!

So with just 14 days to go until delivery day, I intend to keep up the swimming. And I hope I will be able to return to the water as soon as I’m allowed. I took my son swimming from just a few weeks old and I hope I can do the same again.

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Charlie the Waterbaby!

** With thanks to Sarah-Jane Elsey and Elisabeth Godin for the photos and video taken today.**

Why Denmark’s health service needs treatment

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A leaflet explaining the emergency phone line

At the beginning of the year, Greater Copenhagen brought in a new health rule.  It decided that patients needing emergency care shouldn’t just turn up at hospital.  Instead they should call a helpline number – 1813 – where trained staff would access the problem over the phone and decide whether or not the patient needed to go to accident and emergency.  If they felt the person did they would book him/her an appointment at either the local hospital or the one with the shortest waiting time.

The system hasn’t proved popular.  Danish news has been full of stories about people waiting in endless phone queues to speak to a health professional.  Others have described being turned away from hospital because they didn’t call the helpline first.  Then in March a woman suffering with chest pains called the hotline and was advised by the on-call doctor to take two painkillers and go back to bed.  An hour later she was dead.

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Information in English about the emergency phone line

On the fist day of my four-year-old son’s summer holiday, he managed to fall out of a tree house.  He was in severe pain and his arm looked very red and blotchy.  My husband called the 1813 number and a nurse called me back so that I could describe his symptoms.  By then Charlie was calmer and the nurse assured me I did not need to take him to hospital because his arm wasn’t broken.  How did she know when she hadn’t seen him?  She told me that because he could move his fingers it couldn’t be broken.  So we followed her advice and found ice from the freezer and gave him some calpol.

The next morning he seemed happier but was still in obvious pain.  A friend of mine who was a GP back in Ireland said she’d take a look at him.  She told me that she thought he had a fracture and that I needed to get him x-rayed.  Half an hour later and I was still waiting to speak to a nurse on the 1813 helpline to book an appointment.  When I finally did get through she told me she couldn’t guarantee he’d be x-rayed but I could go along to hospital and wait.

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Charlie following surgery

We were finally seen – almost 24 hours after the accident.  The doctor, who was both friendly and attentive, agreed to have him x-rayed and guess what, his arm had two fractures – one big, one small.  He was put in a plaster cast up to his shoulder by two more doctors who again couldn’t have been nicer.  But the cast was fairly soft and when my husband took Charlie back for a check-up six days later an x-ray showed the bone had set incorrectly.  Charlie needed a full operation under general anaesthetic to re-break the bone, insert two metal pins and then spend another five weeks in plaster.

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Charlie with his nurse after his first op

Thankfully the op went well and the staff at Hvidovre Hospital couldn’t have been more professional, friendly and caring towards Charlie – they even gave him a teddy bear.  This week he underwent his second op to have both the pins and plaster cast removed.  Again the staff were fabulous and so too were the facilities.

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Charlie after his second op with another great nurse

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Danish health care system got it wrong.  In the UK the health hotline has also been criticised.  But members of the public can still turn up at A and E at any time of the day or night to see a doctor – even if the wait can be long.

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The metal pins inserted into Charlie’s arm

There’s no denying that once in the Danish hospital system it was impressive – clean, lots of attentive staff, state-of-the-art equipment.  Sadly, despite the enormous tax Danes pay, accessing those services isn’t easy.  I hope politicians and bureaucrats see sense and sort it out sooner rather than later.