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Shrugging off news of my shrinking baby

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Shrugging off news of my shrinking baby
16:02 CEST+02:00
In the first of a new series, Joel Sherwood explains that fatherhood in Sweden is going so well that he isn't even particularly fazed by news that his child is growing smaller.

I found out this week my child is shrinking.

A few weeks ago, at seven weeks old, she was a surging 62 centimetres tall. This week, only 60.

The nurse who took the measurements assured us these things can happen. My wife and I hoped she was referring to the up-down measuring results instead of the prospect that kids sometimes contract instead of expand.

We could see her logic. To gauge the length, the nurse attempts to lay the crying and flailing infant down flatly on a table, tries to get one of the baby's air-cycling legs to straighten, and then goes in that brief instant when the baby may or may not be in full extension for the tape measure to guesstimate how long the kid is.

The technique seemed effective enough during our first visit with the neighborhood baby nurse after the arrival of our first child a few months ago. She handled the visit, and our new baby girl, with trained professionalism and upbeat enthusiasm for the adventure we were all embarking on. We felt in good hands.

In fact, we've felt taken care of for almost every bit of care and attending since the kid-having began about a year ago.

It's been extensive. Increasingly regular visits with midwives as the stomach grew. A long day of labour at the baby ward, and a two-day stay at the hospital's service-at-the-push-of-a-button baby hotel.

The care continues after you leave the hospital. Routine check ups of the newborn. There are hotlines to call, not just for baby emergencies but for the parents if (when) they realize they have no idea what they're doing. The government sees to new parents' social needs - our baby nurse, in addition to her medical duties, is also tasked with forming the local new parents group and with chairing its get-to-know-you meetings.

As a healthy, American first-time father, all this is new ground for me. I've been here in Sweden for eight years now. Until a year ago, my run-ins with the vast health care system amounted to a few painful dentist visits.

The experiences of the past year have me feeling much better than when I was getting a root canal. Attentive, informative, first class, above-and-beyond - these are the ways I describe how I've found the army of baby doctors, nurses and midwives we've encountered as we waded into parenthood in this welfare state.

It's been so nice that when it turns out our child happens to be shrinking, I shrug it off.

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