April 4, 2014

Labor in Norway

Like my pregnancy in Norway post, I'll blab on about my labor experience.

Of course this is solely my experience and I can't speak on behalf of anyone else's as I'm certain everyone's perception and experience is different. 

September 17, 2013 - that's a day I'll never forget. I was so excited the night before I could barely sleep. My induction appointment was at 8:30 that morning. I woke up quite early, took a shower, skipped my insulin (thank goodness), ate a nice breakfast at the table with my cat sitting across from me and finally woke the husband up so he could get a move on! I was ready! :-) 

I was excited to meet my little girl and I was positively looking forward to bringing her into this world. 

I was told previously by many American "veteran moms" that I shouldn't and wouldn't be allowed to eat anything that day. However, I was encouraged to eat by my midwife as I was being induced (which could take some time to even jump start labor) because of having gestational diabetes and they didn't want my sugar to drop. I enjoyed eating. 

A couple of hours later I was induced by balloon, which takes longer, but from what I was told and read, it's one of the safest methods of labor induction. It was painless for me despite what I read on the internet - which not knowing what to expect, everything scared me, but I was ready. 

I was encouraged to walk A LOT after it was in place. So Arild took me on a tour of the hospital and we also walked through some underground tunnels of the hospital, outside, everywhere. I had no idea what a real contraction would feel like, but we had to stop a few times on this walk so I could cuss under my breath.  A few minutes after we returned back to the room, the balloon fell out. Which meant I was at 4 centimeters. I was excited. I was hopeful that labor would pass quickly as the induction was faster than predicted. The midwife and doctors came in to break my water. Again, I thought this would be painful, but it wasn't. 

After returning to the hospital, I was strapped to a machine which monitored Pia's heart rate and my contractions. Everything was fine. The contractions hurt of course, but they weren't unbearable at this time. My midwife placed IVs in my hands. Now THAT was just enough pain to make me irritated.

Hours passed. I was having some contractions, but for the most part Arild and I were calling family and updating on Facebook. Everything was fine.

They decided to get things going a bit more with Pitocin. That afternoon we were moved to a birthing room where they gave me the drug. I was ok the first 20-30 minutes, but then they increased it.  The contractions started increasing in strength and coming sooner. Soon, I was having 2 contractions every 3 minutes. I stayed as calm as I could, but I didn't want Arild to touch me. I just told him to distract me and talk about ANYTHING but the labor. So he recapped news articles for me. My midwife came in to put a pink blanket and warmer in the baby bed in my room and that was my distraction. I was so excited to finally meet my little Pia. Finally, I was crying. Arild asked if I needed an epidural, I nodded yes. By the time the anesthesiologist  came in with the drug, I couldn't talk from the pain, but I was still calm at least. I sat on the bed leaning on Arild as that dreaded needle and tubing was put into place in the lower-middle of my back. 

I was STILL 4 cm.

Before the current midwife's shift changed, she told me some good news, we finally progressed to 6 centimeters. Shift change happened and I was feeling like myself again with the epidural. Absolutely no pain. It was wonderful. :-) However, the current midwife came on duty and told me some bad news, the previous midwife was mistaken, I was STILL 4 cm. She brought in a doctor for reassurance. 

The pitocin was then making me have 2 contractions a minute. I was STILL 4 cm. My body wasn't having contractions as the pitocin took over, so my midwife slowed it down and began talking to me about preparing for a C-Section. This was 15 hours into labor. I stayed calm through the whole labor which surprised even myself because I figured I was bound to panic at some point, but that didn't happen.  My midwife on shift brought doctors in again, who assured me, we were still at 4 cm. I needed a C-Section. Arild wasn't allowed to be in the operating room though as we were told there was no time to wait on him to get dressed. They said that even though this wasn't urgent, they always reacted like it was to be prepared for the times when it is.

So I was rushed to the operating room and explained what would happen. I already knew this, when Pia stayed in breach position I watched several videos on C-Sections and had friends who've had them explain to me in detail what happened. It was ok. More IVs were in place, I was introduced to the surgeon and anesthesiologist and given an extra dose of the epidural. I was numb up to my arms. All I felt was the pressure and tugging and pulling on my lower abdomen, which I was watching in the reflection of the light above me out of stupid curiosity. And finally a huge tug and a cry. :-) My little Pia was born at 02:49 the morning of September 18th, weighing 3,2 kg or 7lbs. 02 oz. I was adamant on skin to skin care regardless of the birth I had. Pia was placed on my chest. All I could do was tell her she had such dark hair and long fingernails. She was so little. I knew newborns were tiny, but it took me by surprise how small a 7 lb 02 oz human is. Finally the most dreaded part, they took her away from me. I went to the ICU and Pia went to NICU. Me for recovering from the C-Section and her for being checked and monitored to assure my gestational diabetes didn't harm her. 

Story to be continued... :-)


Welcome to the world, Pia!!! :-) 
She didn't let me hold her like this very long.
Maybe 3 weeks. :-(
Sometimes I miss her being this little.
But mostly I look forward to raising her into a sweet little girl. 
And here she is today! :-)


February 24, 2014

Would you give your coat to this boy?

Recently, hidden cameramen captured an actor child shivering at a bus stop just to see if strangers would give him their coats. Of course they did! That's what any decent human would do. The point of this being, don't let what's out of sight be out of mind. There are others in this world who need help. Short update, but enjoy! :-)

What's the difference between giving your coat to this boy or a child in Syria?

January 30, 2014

Norwegians: Cold People, Warm Hearts

Arild and I rarely encounter cultural differences within our home. Outside the home, interacting with other people, oh yeah, sure. Tons. But within our marriage, rarely. We expect this is because he isn't a complete full-on snow-loving Norwegian and I'm not a gun-toting American. (Sorry, couldn't think of another stereotype quick enough!) We love our homelands, but we're just not over-the-top wishing to fulfill every stereotype of our nationalities. And that's perfectly okay. We think it's okay because had we been both extremes on the spectrum, we would make a very poor couple.

Except there is this one thing where we clash culturally, but it's not a huge problem or anything. We deal with it effectively. It's just enough to at times make me walk away mumbling to myself, "Ugh you are so Norwegian sometimes!" He doesn't speak to strangers. Of course, this is alright at times, but if I need to ask him to ask another person a question for me if I'm unsure about my norsk, I can usually forget it. It just ain't happening. He can give me a translation and I will do my best to have a working conversation. The problem is, we often run into a situation where I'm talking to a stranger in my lovely broken norsk and they start answering back a mile a minute and I'm totally lost in conversation, so the language part of my brain does what it does best and shuts down. This only means one of three things will happen. 1) I continue the conversation in broken Norwegian and hope on my lucky stars I'm going to come out understanding something 2) If alone, I ask to speak English. Or 3) If I have Arild with me, I throw him under the bus and make him help me with communication. I think part of this is deep seated culture and part of this is him being quite shy as to his reluctance of speaking to strangers.

It's not that this is a huge cultural difference I feel the need to complain about, but I do hear of other immigrants often complaining about this certain aspect of Norway. I can understand expats complaining over this, though I may not necessarily sympathize. I'm perfectly okay most of the time going about my day not having to worry about superficial small talk with a person I'll never see again. In fact, when I first moved to Norway, I kept asking Arild what to do if I don't know what to say to a stranger when they come up to talk to me. This was a bit of a worry for me in the beginning, but I've learned since, no one will talk to you unless they're drunk or crazy. I'm much happier and content with my small group of friends and family and having conversations with them which go beyond small talk. I don't mind speaking to strangers, but I just don't prefer it. This is something deeply embedded in my personality and this is also how Norwegians view outsiders.
An oldie, but goodie!
(found at: http://www.memecenter.com/fun/1327447/want-to-learn-norwegian
The husband, however, will go through great lengths to avoid contact with strangers. When I ask him about this he not only points out that he's shy, but he also says there's something very Norwegian in him that says he should be this way. It's just part of the culture. That's all. While at times I may be frustrated with him avoiding contact with people, I just have to accept the culture I live in, the husband I married and remember that the world doesn't adapt to me, I have to adapt to the world.

There is a cultural difference here, but I think the thing to remember is, not speaking to strangers is not a measure of a nation's kindness. I do think a mistake many immigrants make when it comes to this one cultural aspect is they assume friendliness of strangers is associated with measuring a nation's kindness. It's important to remember, it's not a bad thing either way. The kindness of strangers can go a long way, but so can a handful of very deep, committed relationships. 

December 29, 2013

Being pregnant in Norway

I am here! Just a little busy these days with the adorable, chubby person I fell in love with from the time she was the size of a rice grain. Some days can be overwhelming and frustrating. The vast majority of days are exciting and I really look forward to waking up to my daughter smiling at me when I'm too tired to hold my eyes open. I learn a lot from Pia, she teaches me something new every day. Many days I am taught patience. I completely enjoy being a mom to my wonderful little girl.

My sweet baby. 

She's a very cheeky little girl. 

I guess I should have written this a few months ago, but oh well, better late than never! To be perfectly honest I've been working on this post for about a month, but it's been stop and go. I think I'll make this a 3 part post. One on pregnancy, one on labor and one about how huge breastfeeding is here in Norway.

With Pia being my first child, the only experience I have with being pregnant is from Norway. I really have no complaints about all the prenatal and post-postpartum care I received during that time. This isn't a bias towards Norwegian vs. American healthcare, while there are differences I think the quality of care is basically the same. This is based on the care I received. My pregnancy wasn't hard, but it wasn't by any means a walk in the park. I tried and tried not to complain. Even though there's plenty to complain about during pregnancy, it just feels wrong to complain about growing a child. Growing a baby is hard work!

During the course of my pregnancy many small weird little problems popped up. I feel like a poster child for prenatal Norwegian healthcare. To be as clear as possible with my experience of the healthcare I've received during my pregnancy I can take you through the 9 months to properly explain the prenatal care I received in Norway. I should also add, no two women are the same, no two pregnancies are the same, no two babies are the same. My experience with pregnancy and birth isn't going to be like the next woman's just as her's isn't going to be like another woman's.

Month 1: I had a gynecologist appointment for something completely unrelated to pregnancy. During the ultrasound the doctor discovered a baby. :-) Pia was a nice surprise, but considering I had already been feeling sick, "off", and "different" (though at the time I just thought it was jet lag), it didn't surprise me too much to find out I was 4 weeks pregnant. I was especially impressed that during the time a woman is pregnant her already cheap universal healthcare is free. That is, of course, unless she were to go to a private practice. Since this was a specialist I went to, the cost would have been around 400 NOK, but only cost 100 - or roughly $17 USD. I was then given a prescription for folic acid, blood tests to ensure my HCG levels were normal, which they were. In fact they were a bit higher than normal, but still within the normal range. I was then told to come back for a follow-up at 6 weeks for another ultrasound and to *gulp* make sure there was a heartbeat as the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy is quite high. Let's just say the next 2 weeks were nerve-wracking.

Month 2: Okay, the heartbeat was clearly visible and quite high. If I remember correctly it was in the 140s.
I began my monthly check ups with my regular doctor. Forget seeing an obstetrician in Norway. You see your regular doctor and/or a midwife. I was given a "Helsekort for gravide" (health card for pregnant) which I was going to post, but realized there's some very personal info on there like mine and my husband's person numbers. Just a basic check up was given at my 11 week appointment and an ultrasound and blood test, which also included testing for toxoplasmosis and sadly, Down's Syndrome. I'll just go off on a bit of a tangent and say I think it's a bit pathetic on society's part for even doing Down's Syndrome testing - and during the first trimester. It gives off a vibe that people with Down's Syndrome are unworthy of love and even life. Anyways, even if the test were positive, I wouldn't want to know. The child would be loved regardless. Rambling tangent off now... my doctor took her time with me to discuss anything and everything with me. She gave me a couple of books to read and she took the time to answer the questions I had written down. My doctor loves ultrasounds, so she offered one, but only if I wanted it and of course I said yes. We went into a small room outside her office to check on the baby who was doing just fine. :-) I was also given some medication to combat the morning sickness, which was all day sickness really, but the medication didn't help much.

Month 3: At 14 weeks I had another appointment. My general physician wanted to do another ultrasound and of course I wanted to see the sweet baby. I was told by a friend who shares my doctor to bring the hubs with me for this check up because she will say the sex of the baby at the first chance unless I didn't want to know. The ultrasound was good and she told us she was 60% certain we were having a girl. Those aren't too great of odds considering a guess is 50% sure. At 16 weeks my nausea and morning sickness was gone.

Early in the 1st trimester - Around month 1-2.
Month 4: I think it was somewhere around 18 weeks we went to the gynecologist for a more in depth ultrasound. We got to see the baby's organs and how they were functioning, their size, her size and we got to know the sex of the baby - a girl.

"A person is a person no matter how small." - Dr. Seuss

Month 5: At this month I started having hip pain. It hurt to lie still, it hurt to walk, it especially hurt to walk up and down stairs and hills. At my next doctor appointment I was told it was "bekkenløsning" or pelvic girdle pain and was sent to a chiropractor as well as a physiotherapist who specializes in prenatal and postnatal care. She also encouraged me to go to her water aerobics classes, which I did. This was another thing free of charge. The chiropractor appointments however, were not.

Month 6: At month 6 I had gained 42 lbs or about 18 kilos. Sure, I was eating everything in sight, but I was beginning to get curious about gestational diabetes. While in America, I checked my blood sugar level when I could and every time I checked, it was a high reading. Upon returning to Norway, I visited with my midwife and told her my concern. My urine test only showed very little sugar, but she sent me to the hospital for glucose testing first thing the next morning. I wasn't happy because I had to fast and not drink anything the night before. Being pregnant and not able to eat for 8-9 hours was enough to give me those terrible pregnant mood swings I never had unless lack of food was involved. I drank the glucose drink, which was bad, but not that bad and waited 3 hours. All 3 hours of waiting for the glucose to take effect, I felt nauseated, shaky and sick. I finished my test, then received a call later that day confirming gestational diabetes. I was then referred to my regular doctor, who then referred me to an endocrinologist.

Wearing both pink and blue the day we found
out the sex of our baby. Of course the most
important thing was knowing she was doing good and well. :-) 

Month 7: I had my first few appointments with my endocrinologist, was told all about the diabetic diet (I wanted to cry at first, but really it wasn't as bad as I first thought), I was given insulin (which I did have to purchase at the pharmacy - about 400 NOK for many insulin pens) and had weekly appointments with the endocrinologist. When I was told about the insulin, I left his hospital office crying. I was so scared and thought I was sick. I was reading horror stories about huge gestational diabetic babies and the effects it can have on both mother and child. I was scared, but was eventually eased with every doctor, hospital, endocrinologist appointment. I was given weekly ultrasounds to monitor Pia's growth and to ensure she wasn't growing too large.

Somewhere around week 32, in the mix of all of this, we had an ultrasound which was worrisome. The midwife performing the ultrasound found "something" in Pia's pelvic region. She sent a doctor in and he was concerned it was some sort of dilation in her urinary tract, but he sent us for a more in depth ultrasound to Rikshospitalet in Oslo, or translated to English, the national hospital. Upon having a thorough ultrasound - they were even counting tiny fingers and toes, the doctor at Rikshospitalet presumed it was an ovarian cyst in Pia and assured us it is somewhat common in baby girls as they share their mother's hormones. The view in the ultrasound wasn't completely clear enough, so we were rescheduled the following month.

Month 8: Week 35 we discovered Pia was still in breech position and this concerned my midwife because considering my height, she didn't think it was likely Pia would turn around on her own and I was unwilling to let anyone externally manually turn my baby around. No thank you! So instead, I was lectured on C-sections as this is the best and safest route to go with a breeched baby. I went home and emailed friends who I knew had C-sections asking them for all the details. I watched videos on C-sections. I prepared myself for it. I didn't need for my midwife to tell me Pia was breech positioned. It felt like something the size of a grapefruit was in my diaphragm - her head. Trust me, the heartburn was a nightmare during this time!

I believe my biggest fear of having a C-section wasn't being cut open, though that scared me as well. It wasn't the recovery, but that did scare me before I found out all about it. It was the fear of losing my moment with the sweet baby I'd been carrying for 9 months. When my midwife explained how they would do the C-section, she told me they would show Pia to me, but hand her to to my husband, Arild, and they'd go into another room as the operating room was kept cold. I can understand that, but I feared I'd miss out on the skin-to-skin contact, every motherly instinct I have craved and I feared I'd miss out on immediately breastfeeding my little girl. I feared Arild would get those first moments with her and of course I'd be jealous, but there'd be no other person in this world I'd want to have those first moments with her if I couldn't.

Week 37 I went back to Rikshospitalet where my husband and I were comforted in knowing that the "growth" or cyst inside Pia was shrinking. What a relief! Around this week, I also woke up one morning and called Arild when he was at work to tell him I couldn't find Pia anymore. He laughed at me! I was completely serious. I didn't know where she went to. I couldn't feel the grapefruit anymore. My regular weekly hospital appointment later that day confirmed that she did turn. My fears of having a C-section were over.

During month 8, I completely finished my Birth Plan. I highly recommend any woman, especially first time mothers, to bring a written birth plan with them to the labor and delivery department. Looking in hindsight, I know nothing really went planned with labor and a lot of this is completely out of a woman's control, but all my wishes and requests were respected concerning Pia's postpartum treatment.

Month 9: All my doctor appointments finally slowed down and my pregnancy seemed somewhat normal for a nice change. I could finally relax at the end of my pregnancy. My doctor at our regular hospital visits decided it was best to induce me due to having gestational diabetes. Pia wasn't a big baby. Her waist size was a tad large, but her weight was completely normal and healthy.

39 weeks. I almost needed a wheelbarrow to cart around
my big belly. :-) 

My last appointment with the endocrinologist was 3 days before my induction date where I was told I could stop my insulin the night before my induction. I was also lectured on staying healthy, not letting myself get overweight, so on and so forth as I am pre-dispositioned for a high chance of getting diabetes later in life. I was also told to come back to the endocrinologist fairly early into my next pregnancy as the chances of having gestational diabetes in a subsequent pregnancy are about 80%.

Overall, I have no complaints with the Norwegian health care system through out my pregnancy. I did make the mistake of asking questions to others working with me who weren't my primary doctor or midwife and that caused me to receive conflicting answers to my questions, but I just decided to keep asking and of course it's best to ask questions to a person you trust and who is experienced enough to properly answer your questions. The quality of healthcare was great in my opinion. I felt like I was cared for and listened to as a patient and my baby was treated as a tiny, but very real person. I, of course loved that I had no outstanding medical costs. All that was really out of pocket was the chiropractor (which my father in law graciously paid for the first visit for me) and my insulin, needles and glucose strips. One difference I have noticed at least in my prenatal care opposed to how things are done in the United States, is I was never checked towards the end of my pregnancy to see how dilated I was. I admired how with my experience in the health system, professionals seem to be more occupied with risk factoring. Of course this may leave a little less room for personal choice. The only thing I wished I had done differently is maybe control my eating and tried to manage my uncontrollable appetite from the beginning of the pregnancy.

At 40 weeks and one day pregnant, I was induced. Pia was born the next day. :-) I will continue in another blog about the labor. Again, I have no real complaints about that either. :-)

October 12, 2013

The New Arrival

She's here!!! She's healthy and cute! Weighing in at 3.2 kg or 7 lbs. 2 oz. and measuring 49 cm or 19 inches, Miss Pia Sand came into the world on September 18, 2013 at 02:49 after about 15 hours of labor followed by a C-Section.




It is such a relief to no longer be pregnant and finally have Pia in our life! :-) And life with a newborn isn't as crazy as I thought it would be, but regardless, we're still pretty busy with her. We're trying very hard to adjust her to a schedule. So far her scheduling is very loose as we're still getting to know and understand this little person. 

I haven't written much about this, but being pregnant in Norway has been an interesting experience at least. Most particularly when it comes to health care. The first time my husband joined me for an appointment, I nudged him as we were leaving the doctor's office to tell him I felt like I was stealing - because being pregnant in Norway I didn't have to pay anything for health care with just the exception of paying to have my insulin prescriptions filled as I had gestational diabetes. 

Some things I think are clear differences in Norwegian pre/post natal health are:
- Norway is definitely a breastfeeding nation.
- Midwives take a large role in prenatal care and labor.

My stay in the hospital was certainly an experience I'll never forget. I really have no complaints over the care or treatment in the hospital. I don't think I've ever felt so jealous in all my life when the midwives would take on the role of taking care of Pia. I refused to let them take her out of the room unless she needed some type of medical treatment.  

Anyways, the most important thing is Pia is here! 


September 12, 2013

Finding a Happy Place

Despite it being a winter wonderland *I'm joking!*, the 5 Nordic countries generally lead the world as the happiest countries. Last week, CNN posted a report on the World's Happiest Nations. Denmark leads the world with 1st place, which isn't surprising. Norway is number 2. Sweden is number 5, followed by Finland as number 7 and Iceland as number 9.

So what makes these nations so happy? Just from my own experience of living here, I can easily say that generally Norwegians at least are a laid-back, easy going group of people. Is this a natural disposition or is it the society that encourages it?

September 6, 2013

The Fox

The latest craze here in Norway, which is making itself international is this video and song. This is from Norwegian comedians Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker, who have a TV show which premiers in the fall here called I Kveld med Ylvis.

Earlier in the week when I first heard it on the radio I couldn't quite understand what I was listening to. At first I certainly didn't realize this was a comedy song and I was under the impression it was just something strange on the radio. I was curious and wanted to google it later, so I wrote down what I thought the lyrics were in a note on my phone. Let's just say I didn't understand the word they were really using was fox!!!

Enjoy!!!! :-)