I moved to Sweden with my husband when we applied for asylum on the 9th of March 2015. Later, I got pregnant with my first baby. It was mixed feelings between happy and worried, happy to start our parenting journey and worried for his destiny with us as we are still not settled and waiting for our approval to stay in Sweden.
Luckily, the migration office in my municipality provide apartments to the families who are expecting a baby even before the delivery. I wish that there will also be an exception to speed up the process for pregnant women to avoid the depression and stress that I had to face during my pregnancy and delivery.
The first time I had the chance to touch the snow was during my pregnancy, it was nice to play with but very quiet, too. Quiet, empty, clean, cold and gray and I didn’t want to have my baby in such miserable dark winter. My due date was the 27th of March and I was happy that the weather would be warmer and we could enjoy the sun that stays up so long.
The thing that I wasn’t aware of is that I’m entitled to enjoy the maternity care exactly the same as the Swedish citizen. Even though I don’t have the residence permit. It is also free, you only need to pay small fees for medications.
Most women will never once see an obstetrician during their pregnancy. Almost everything is done by midwives in medical centers called vårdcentralen where you get all needed laboratory tests every month in the first 7 months and then every two weeks for the remaining time. My midwives was very helpful and gave me lessons on breathing techniques and coaching sessions with my husband.
You will also get only one ultrasound in a hospital unless there is a need to transfer you to a doctor or do an extra x-ray. This happened to me when at the end of eight months, my baby wasn’t growing normally. I was then transfered to a hospital to do an extra x-ray and they found that my baby was only 2.400 kilogram which was too small compared with the Swedish standards that must reach at least 3.200 kilogram.
You will be also invited to visit the hospital where you will have your baby to prepare yourself and become familiar with the place.
On giving birth
The hospital will get your file that is already registered by your midwife. They have made notes on everything in terms of the way you wish to deliver your baby, what language you speak, if you want an epidural or not…etc.
After my baby was born, there was a meeting with a nurse who taught the best way of breast feeding and lots of other tips and tricks. There is also a nurse who visits your home after 3 days to your home to measure the baby and give you advice and free Vitamin D drops that is provided until the age of two.
Swedes are not usually very open and hardly ever start a conversation with strangers. But after I had my baby, every time I go out while pushing my baby stroller, I found that strangers would smile at me, offer to help or hold doors.
On maternity leave
For me as an asylum seeker, I still don’t have a job. But the Migration Agency provides my baby with financial support even though I’m unemployed. One of the things that really distinguishes Sweden and gives it a high international standard in terms of work–life balance, is that parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born.
Finally, we feel very lucky to get the chance to have our little Josef in Sweden, while countless Yemeni infants have died due to the war siege that’s devastated the health structure and the lack of medical aid.
Written by Wafa Said
Wafa is an asylum seeker from Yemen who arrived in Sweden with her husband in 2015. They were forced to flee their country as her husband was a human rights activist and his actions against the Houthi rebels put them in an dangerous situation. Now she has had her first child and is discovering the Swedish language and culture.