So much to catch up on!

 

Oh it’s been a busy few months!  I feel like I am emerging from hibernation/maternity leave, and spring arrived just in time.  Here’s what’s been happening…

Fastelavn…oh, the strange little holiday that comes in February.  The closest descriptor for Fastelavn is Carnival, a big party before Lent starts.  So the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, children dress up in costumes and bash a wooden barrel (like a piñata).  Traditionally, the barrel had a live cat (!) in it, and whoever broke the barrel and let the cat out ‘won’.  Hmm.  Thankfully, nowadays they just sell cardboard barrels with pictures of cats on them.  So the stores are filled with dress-up costumes, and G had a costume day at school.  Now, my boy is not one to dress up but I told him about it and suggested he could wear his Halloween costume (he was Jordan Speith 😉 ).  And he emphatically said “no mama, I’m going to be a Batman”.  Whaaa?  Commence my panic to find a Batman costume.  ‘Just look online’, you say…but that’s not how it works.  I did find one online, and had it shipped to the store and I thought it would be there the next day.  Oh no.  It ships to the store with 2-5 business days and then you can pick it up.  It ships to your house in the same 2-5 business days.  Not helpful when your kid tells you on Wednesday that he wants to be Batman Friday.  So I managed to find a costume, bring it home and he staunchly refuses to wear it.  Ugh.  I sent it in Friday morning, guilt-ridden that if I didn’t, he’d be the only one without a costume.  Well go figure, he put the cape on the minute he got to school.

Well, didn’t he win the barrel bashing and be the kattekonge (cat king)?  He knocked down the barrel, and his classmate broke the bottom out so she was the kattedronning (cat queen).  Needless to say, he loved it!

Another big happening was the Grand Opening of the school.  While we have been attending the new campus since January, there was an official ceremony in early March. This was a very big deal, and was attended by the Board, local politicians and Her Royal Highness, Princess Benedikte, sister of the Queen.  Apparently, the Royal Family is quite involved with opening the International schools throughout Denmark, and Princess Benedikte was also present at the opening of a new building at the old campus.  So about a week before the opening, G’s teacher pulls me aside and tells me the G has been chosen (along with another little girl) to present the Princess with flowers, would that be ok?  OF COURSE!!!!!!  So the day comes, we had been telling him about meeting her and giving her flowers and we get him all dressed up for the big event.  Well, we didn’t prepare him for the swarm of photographers that were present and our little guy got a little overwhelmed.  So he hid behind The Hubs, but what can you do?  He was none the worse for wear though.

And lastly, we had our 1 year Denmark Anniversary in February!  I still can’t quite believe we are here.  So much has changed over the last year, but I continue to believe we made the right decision in coming here.  Of course we miss our families and friends, but we are thrilled to have this opportunity.

Daynish Check ups

As we are settling into our new life with 2 kiddos, I want to reflect a little bit on how awesome postpartum care is here.

When I was pregnant, everyone told me that because it was my second child, I would be leaving the hospital within 4-6 hours of delivery.  That terrified me at the time.  However, I did have some complications with delivery, and we ended up staying for almost 24 hours after I delivered.  And at that point, I was begging to go home.  So I guess I was worried about nothing.  As we were being discharged, the nurse was telling me how giving moms the opportunity to talk to someone about their birth reduces the incidence of postpartum depression. We were given multiple phone numbers that we could call, in case we had any questions.  We were given a card with all of the birth details (weight, time, etc) as well as the full name of everyone who worked with us, in case we wanted to call and talk to anyone.  Well done, Denmark.

After we got home, I got a call from the home health visitor.  This is my favorite thing about having a baby here…the nurses come to you.  A nurse comes to the house to do the post natal check ups for the Daynish, and he didn’t need to go to the doctor until 5 weeks.  Genius!  So basically, a lovely woman comes to the house, checks on him and checks on me.  On her first visit, she asked to see where he sleeps, how G is doing with him, how we are adjusting, etc etc.  She gave me her cell phone, her email and her office number if I had any questions.  I really like the idea of this totality of care.  He won’t go back to the doctor until he is 3 months, and will get his vaccinations at that time.  The home nurse has been several times, and now won’t come back until he is 5 months.

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The Daynish getting weighed by the home nurse

The other wonderful thing here is the nurse asks if you’d like to be part of a mothers group.  The kommune organizes a meeting of moms who had babies all around the same time.  There are groups for Danes as well as international moms.  The first meeting was held at the kommune building, and a nurse facilitated the meeting.  We all talked about our backgrounds, our birth experience, and questions or concerns we had.  It was really quite nice and I am glad to have the opportunity to meet other moms outside of school.  The group has met up since then, I just wasn’t able to go to the last meeting, so hopefully I will get there soon.

Becoming a US Citizen

Shortly after G was born, we could pop him in the car and take him anywhere.  We drove to Connecticut, we went to Vermont, off we go!  So when the Daynish arrived, and everyone asked if we were going anywhere for winter break, I said “we haven’t gotten his passport yet!”.  So let me share that process….

The United States is amazing in that it has ‘birth right citizenship’.  If you are born in America, or if you are born to an American parent, you are automatically a citizen.  However, if you are born to an American parent outside the US, you have to claim your citizenship.  Now, the Daynish will not be a Danish citizen because in Denmark, you have to have at least one Danish parent to become a Dane.  So for a little while, our little man was a man without a country.  While we were home over the summer, we compiled the massive pile of paperwork that we needed to show to the US Embassy in order to prove that we were, in fact, American citizens.  We filled out a million forms to secure a passport, a social security number, and a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, which we will eventually need to get an American birth certificate.  I scheduled an appointment for the Embassy months in advance so when our baby did finally arrive, we would already have everything ready.  But we still had more hoops to jump through!

Within 30 minutes of the Daynish’s arrival, he had a CPR number, the Danish equivalent of a social security number.  So he was automatically entered into the Danish system. The Hubs and I both noticed while we were in the hospital, no one ever asked us our baby’s name.  Which we thought was odd, but we chalked it up to a cultural thing.  It turns out that it is!  It is not uncommon for a child to go unnamed for awhile, to give the parents time to ‘try out’ a name.  You get 6 months to formally name your child, and then the government will name your baby for you!  What will they name them, you ask?  Margrethe for a girl, as she is the current queen, and Frederick for a boy, as he will be the next king.  Can you even imagine that happening in the US?!

The most challenging thing was getting a birth certificate.  They are not automatically generated, as they are in the states.  Here, you have to request one from your local (assigned!) church.  So I contacted the church, and requested a birth certificate.  The lovely man I spoke to called me back a few minutes later and said “I will get you a birth certificate, but I think what you really want is a navngivning“.  Huh?  He went on to explain that a birth certificate just reports that you had a child (it literally just says “boy” on it) while the navngivning would have the child’s actual name on it.  Well then yes, I want that. So the navngiving (literally ‘name giving’) involves going onto the kommune website and filling out another form, which both parents have to electronically sign off on.  So after filling that out, and multiple trips back to church to pick up the form, we had everything we needed.

The trip to the Embassy was relatively uneventful.  It’s like going to the most well-guarded DMV you can imagine, except everyone was pleasant!  We had some minor issues, most importantly that we didn’t have the navngivning paper yet, and our passport photo was the wrong size (who knew they come in different sizes?).  But luckily we were able to mail those items in and not have to go back.  Several weeks later, the passport arrived!  As I write this we are still waiting on his social security number, but hopefully that will arrive soon.  In the meantime, let the traveling begin!img_1629

Winter time

When we first moved here last February, I said I would hold my thoughts on winter until we had experienced a ‘full’ winter in Denmark.  Seeing as it’s the end of January, I now feel like I have been through a true Danish winter.  And my overall thoughts?  It’s not that bad….but holy crap, it’s dark!

Temperatures stayed consistently in the high 20s to mid 30s, although we did have a few 40 degree days in there.  Seeing as I am used to New England and mid Atlantic winters, that’s a pretty ‘mild’ temperature.  And the temperatures don’t vary as much as they do on the East Coast; there’s maybe a 5-10 degree difference between the overnight low and the afternoon high.  Now that being said, it just felt constantly cold, with some days being a little warmer, or a little colder.  I basically feel like we live in a refrigerator.

And then there’s the sunlight, or lack thereof.  For the people who asked if we get daylight, yes we do.  Just not a lot!  Currently the sun is going down around 4:30pm, which isn’t too bad.  My problem is, it doesn’t come up until almost 8:30am.  Around the solstice in December, the sun came up around 9am, and was down by 3:30pm.  Ugh.  Thankfully, we had a newborn so I didn’t know what time of day it was anyway, but it sure makes mornings difficult.  The morning school run happens in complete darkness, which is not my favorite way to start the day.  Fortunately, G loves his high-vis vest (one of those bright yellow construction-type vests) which all the kids (and parents!) wear.   I’m pretty sure he is visible from space.  The other funny thing about the sun is that it doesn’t rise overhead.  It stays closer to the horizon, so even at noon, you get the long shadows of afternoon.  But if the sun is out, who cares how high it is?  The Danes seem to have a different definition of what a ‘nice’ day is.  It generally seems to be ‘if it’s not pouring or gusting wind, it’s a nice day’.  When my mom was here and we were out exploring, she noted the boat tours going in and out of the harbor and said ‘this is not a good day for a tour, it’s so cold!’.  I pointed out to her that it was relatively sunny and in the 30s, so to the Danes, that’s a gorgeous day!

The other big happening this month is G started at his new school!  Well, actually it’s the same school but just a new campus.  We knew when we were moving here that the school would be relocating, so no surprises there.  The new building is beautiful, but the new commute is a challenge.  We still take the train every day, but we go a few more stops, and we have a longer walk once we get off the train.  The bigger issue is the school is now located in a construction area, which makes it more interesting!  The whole area is being developed, a new train stop is being put in, apartment buildings are going up….so it will be beautiful.  Eventually.  In the meantime, getting G to pass all the construction equipment everyday is a hilarious endeavor.  Also, his classroom overlooks a ship yard full of cargo ship containers…his poor teachers!

God Jul og Godt Nytår!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What a whirlwind few weeks it has been…shortly after my mom left, The Hubs’ parents arrived.  It was fantastic to have more help, and G will never say no to full on grandparent time!  I was feeling a little bit better, so we were able to go out and explore a little bit more.  We took everyone to Tivoli for the Christmas lights, which were amazing.  We got some walks in, but also did a ton of relaxing.  I am so grateful that they were here!

On to Christmas!  Christmas is a big holiday for the Danes, and there are all sorts of traditions.  Advent calendars and candles are a big deal.  The calendars may or may not have little gifts in them for children.  Advent candles can either be 4 large candles for each week, or one candle numbered 1-24.  The idea is you burn the candle a little bit every day to burn through the number.  G LOVED lighting the ‘number candle’, as he called it, every day and was sad when it was done.  They also celebrate on Christmas Eve, with a family dinner and presents that night.  Christmas Day is traditionally spent with the family or enjoying the outdoors.  December 26th is also a holiday, who knows why, so there’s no mad dash to the stores for post Christmas sales.  Of note, stores are closed December 24-26 so I was in a panic making sure we had enough food and diapers for the weekend! We ended up getting a tree at a local shop and really the only thing we were missing were stockings (they don’t sell them here! ) and a star on top.  There were plenty of stars to be had, but we couldn’t agree on one.  Namely because I wanted the glitter-iest, sparkliest star imaginable and The Hubs rolled his eyes.  Oh well, next year!  Santa came and was very good to us, our gnome and his gnome door went home with Santa, and we had a great dinner with friends.  So overall, a great day!

Shortly after Christmas, we started noticing tents going up all over in parks and parking lots.  Turns out, they were selling fireworks.  Now, obviously fireworks are a thing in the U.S. and you can get various different kinds.  I remember my dad would always set some off in the backyard every 4th of July and we thought that was the coolest.  Fireworks are a THING here!  As in, massive displays of fireworks from about 7pm to 1am.  And I am not talking about town-organized events.  No, no.  I am talking about individual citizens setting off hundreds of fireworks!  It was amazing!  G was alternately fascinated and frightened, the Daynish didn’t notice, and poor Hayden was about to have a stroke.  She refused to go outside and we basically had to hold her so she would pee!  Poor girl!  There is a small park behind our house, and the amusement park near us (which was closed but has a massive parking lot)  each had fireworks going off so we could literally see fireworks from every window in our house.  We are going all in next year!

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Merry Christmas!

Grammy Sue’s World Tour

As soon as my mom told me she was going to come to Denmark, I was psyched!  Of course the whole point was to meet her new grandchild, but I was so excited to have her be here, and see our new home and our new life.

She planned her arrival for the day after my due date…G was a week early, so this seemed like a genius idea.  Well, she arrived, and the baby did not.  Nor did the baby arrive.  And when she came to my midwife appointment and they scheduled my induction for 3 days after she was scheduled to leave….well, we both cried that afternoon.  But in the end, the Daynish arrived and Grammy Sue was the first person to meet him!

Before the baby arrived though, we gave her as much of a tour as we could possibly squeeze in.  She arrived on a Sunday, and we kept her moving all day to help with the jet lag.  We took her down to Nyhavn, wandered through the Christmas markets, and strolled the Strøget.  The following day, I showed her the ropes of the school drop off.  G LOVED having her on the train, and showing her his school.  I took her out for breakfast and introduced her to the joy that is a roll with butter and cheese.  We went back downtown and went to The Little Mermaid statue, Amalienborg Palace, the Marmokirken and then walked out to Paper Island for lunch.  It was a beautiful, albeit chilly, day and I am so glad she got to see so much of our city.

Overall, I am just so happy that she was here.  It was fantastic to hang out with her and spend time with her in the same room, instead of over FaceTime!  I was so very grateful for all of her help with school pick up and drop off, and I know G loved having her here.  Another amazing thing that happened while she was here was that friends from school really stepped up and helped her (and us!).  I guess I am a little cynical, because when people say ‘oh, if you need anything..’ I don’t necessarily think they that mean it.  But our friends here did!  Loads of people stepped up to help my mom out (and helped me out after she left), from helping G get suited up in his winter gear at school to taking my mom grocery shopping while I was in labor.  I was amazed, and grateful.  I can’t wait for her to come back!

How to Have a Baby in Denmark, Part 2

At my 40 week appointment, I had a little procedure that had the potential to move my labor along.  The midwife told me it would work or not work in the next 48 hours, and I honestly tried not to get my hopes up.  Lo and behold, I woke up at 3:30am having contractions.  Yay!  Let’s go have a baby!  And 15-plus hours later, we did!

I wanted to focus this on what some of the differences were between having a baby here and in the US.  To be fair, I had a very long labor with G that ended in a C-section, so that in and of itself it different, but there were a lot of things overall that I thought were interesting.  The midwives and nurses knew we were American, and I told them I worked in health care, so I asked a lot of questions about differences, and to me it was very interesting.

  1. A midwife stayed with us for essentially the entire time.  It was nice to have someone there, and everyone we worked with (2 shifts of people) was fantastic.  But I also felt like it would be nice just to have some time with The Hubs.  I also noticed that everyone was wearing some form of whites (but not scrubs),  and lots of people were wearing Birkenstocks!  The midwife who delivered the Daynish was wearing flip flops!!  When I mentioned it to some of them that would never be allowed in the US, they thought that was funny.
  2. They let me eat!  They let me have water and juice during my entire labor, and around lunch offered me some food.  She was confused when I said you aren’t allowed to eat in the US; “how are you supposed to keep up your energy if you don’t eat?”  I am all for that plan.
  3. Once the baby arrived, they put him right on my chest and left him there.  It was a good 5 minutes before we even knew he was a boy!  It was an hour or two before they even attempted to measure him or clean him up.  Once we were both taken care of, everyone disappeared and left us alone for awhile, which was fantastic.  They brought us another tray of food, complete with a celebratory Danish flag and let us enjoy our family time.  However, we realized later, no one offered to take a picture of us.  Oops.
  4. We had been told all along that barring any complications, we would be going home within a few hours of delivery.  That definitely scared me a little, but (as everyone told me) I would have totally gone home if they let me.  I ended up having some minor complications, so they decided they wanted to keep us.  We got transferred to the postpartum ward around midnight and tried to get some sleep.  A nurse explained the basics to us…we were pretty much on our own.  There was a cafeteria where we could get our own food, and we could come and go as we pleased.  She told us if we really needed something, hold the call button and everyone would come running.  The baby never left our room, which was fantastic.
  5. Lastly, I kept asking when we could go home, which really wasn’t a priority for them. I waited about 10 hours to have a blood draw and get the results, and they finally decided I could go home around 7pm.  No mountains of paperwork, nobody checking the car seat, we just packed up and left!

So all in all, I thought it was a great experience.  My ‘assigned’ midwife was coming on to her shift just as we were being transferred out of delivery, but she came in and sat with us for awhile, so I am glad I got to see her.  All of the follow up care is completely different than in the US, so I will get into that in a different post.