August 11, 2014

Taking A Break: A Post On Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

It has only taken me nearly 8 months of denial to come to terms with having Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. The depression part is diagnosed, but anxiety is only self-diagnosed as of now, but I'm sure my therapist will say the same. Generally, I think people should be more open about mental illness. There's a huge stigma surrounding mental illness. There's nothing wrong with speaking aloud about diabetes or high blood pressure or cholesterol, so why does a chemical imbalance in the brain have to be so different?

I believe this stigma also prevents people from seeking out the help they need and prolonging their treatment. However, I am a HUGE hypocrite. I've been scared to tell anyone. I have been in denial for several months. Even after my doctor suspecting me having PPD and referring me to a midwife who works with PPD in women, I was still in denial. I mean, I absolutely love and adore my baby. I feel connected and bonded to my baby, how could I possibly have this, right? I felt like I didn't "belong" in that category because I love my baby, I enjoy being with her, I've quickly and easily bonded with her.

The signs have been here all along. I've just been denying them. I've only been getting worse and worse since November because I've been so reluctant to get help. To even prove my anxiety point even more, I didn't want to go to my doctor and make it sound like I have postpartum depression because I was so scared they'd take Pia away. I would cry and cry over this worry and prolong seeking help. I'd try to reassure myself it was either the lack of sunlight in the winter or I was just in a funk I'd break out of at some point. I convinced myself I'd just try harder to be happy because you know, happiness is a choice according to some. I started reading books on happiness. I've signed up for one of those classes you can audit for free in Positive Psychology. I started my own Happiness Project where I'd make goals for myself, rate how well my day was and write one good thing that happened everyday in a gratitude journal and take a picture everyday of something I'm grateful for. Anything just so I didn't have to come to terms with PPD/A.

When I was pregnant, I read and read and read anything and everything I possibly could to prepare myself. I've never had much experience with babies or small children and never really had much interest in having my own family until meeting Arild. As much as I tried to prepare myself to make up for lack of experience, I wasn't prepared for this. Not in the least bit.

Now I'm putting a pen, well keys to it and writing about it. My thoughts are always so unclear and scattered, it's hard for me to verbally describe all of this. My doctor received a similar list of written symptoms from me as well. 2 months after Pia was born I started feeling so angry towards my husband without any good reason. I cried and still cry a lot, started worrying about everything, mostly worrying about not making this mistake and that mistake because anything could make Pia into a maladjusted adult who will grow to hate me. I am so incredibly terrified she'll grow up and not feel loved or like she doesn't have someone she can depend on.

 Arild and I both agree to not have any more children, partially because of this, partially because we feel our family is complete and partially because he and I really never wanted a large family. I will not get a second chance or a time to do things differently next time. I have this time and this time only with Pia. Most of the time when Arild leaves for work is when I get worse. I begin to feel so overwhelmed I have panic attacks, but it's not always when he's away, I also sometimes have them when he's home with me as well. The panic attacks are only getting more intense and I am always so scared when I'm having one I'm sure it only makes things worse. I'm so scared Pia will see me unraveling and get scared so I try to go into another room, but I've slipped up a few times. I call him often at work and he leaves to come back home and continue his work here at home with me.

My thoughts are completely scattered, irrational,  unclear, I'm completely exhausted, I'm angry, anxious, sad, guilty. I can never relax. I often feel like Arild and Pia don't deserve to have a wife/mother who can't even keep herself together. I feel like this isn't fair to either one of them and I always end up thinking I am ruining their lives. I am angry with myself because I just don't understand why this is so damn difficult. I knew it wasn't going to be a cake walk, I knew that. I was prepared for that. This is more difficult than I could ever imagine. I just don't understand why I think this is so difficult or why I can't get a grip and handle things. I am angry at people who don't have children because they have no idea, so I try to keep a distance from childless friends now. I am angry at women who do have children who just don't understand. I am mostly angry at myself for not fully enjoying this time and because it's impossible for me to describe motherhood as blissful. I am angry with myself because I just don't know what to do.

I feel like when she cries and cries she's trying so hard to communicate to me and I just don't understand. Is she eating enough or not enough? Why is she not sleeping? Is she too hot? Too cold? Is her development going to be harmed because she doesn't sleep 15 hours throughout the day? I am angry with myself because I feel like I can't be a good mom. There's just something I'm missing. I feel like I can't raise her on love alone. I always doubt myself and wonder if I love her enough. If I loved her a little more would I still feel like this? But how can I love her anymore than I do? I am angry at myself for not being grateful enough. I have a healthy baby, I stay at home with my healthy, happy baby and yet I feel like this. I feel so, so incredibly guilty. I am so livid with myself that I can't just be happy with that. I feel like this isn't fair to Pia or Arild and neither of them deserve this. After all, neither of them asked for this.

I feel like I've lost myself. I am so angry because Arild suggested I let go of some pride and tell the people I'm closest to about this. I know everyone is just trying to help, but I feel like all the wrong advice is said. I convince myself if I don't straighten up, Arild will divorce me or Pia will be maladjusted as she grows older. The rational side of me knows I am married to the one person in this world who will never divorce me. He thinks the thought of it is just absurd. The rational side of me deep down, or my former self knows I'm giving Pia the best childhood. How could she possibly grow up troubled? The rational side of me knows I'm a great wife and I adore and am adored by my hubs and I am a great mom, though most of the time I second guess myself. This is a vicious cycle because obsessing over these irrational thoughts sends me straight into a panic attack, which only reinforces the anxiety. My chest and throat already constantly feels squeezed, but then I feel restricted even more. I panic even more because I can't breathe and then Arild comes in to help me through it, reminding to to take deep breaths. I will have a panic attack if Pia cries and I can't figure out what is wrong after a prolonged period of time. I never realized until she came into my life that her cry would be the worst sound in the world to me because I just want to fix any problem.

More than anything, I feel overwhelmed, this is the predominant feeling I have. Like I'm just drowning and I can't get up for air. I just feel like I can never be a good enough mom because I have no frickin' idea what to do even 11 months into this. I feel completely defeated, helpless and like I just can't do this. On my really bad days I apologize to Arild over and over and over again for ruining his life. I do have good days and I do have several good moments throughout the day on my bad days, but all of these feelings are very intense when they are present.

I've wondered if a lot of how I feel has to do with Pia being a difficult sleeper, I don't think so. Even if she is sleeping, I'm often awake with worry or can't sleep for any particular reason. There are nights she's difficult and I'm very ok and can function on little sleep. There are nights we both sleep well and I'm very not okay. Of course I do think a good night's or a good month's rest would help tremendously, but I really don't think this is the problem. I think the problem is a bit beyond sleep deprivation.

I know this is temporary. I know it will pass at some point. The only thing is, right now, the past 9 months have been extremely difficult, more so than they already would have been. I know a lot of these feelings, the thoughts of second guessing myself and some of the stress is just a normal part of adjusting to motherhood, but a lot of it is very abnormal. I know what the problems are, I just don't know how to get out of this rut. This is why I'm going to therapy and hopefully with the therapy and medication, I can just get on with my life and be a better mom and wife. And who knows? Maybe Arild is right and by me putting aside some pride and being open about this, someone, somewhere might just say, "I was there too and it does get better."

With all of this being said, I'm taking a break. I've thought to myself, "If I just force myself to do this and do that, I'd feel better." I now know this is the wrong mentality. So for now, I'm taking a break from blogging among a few other things and putting my focus into being calmer and getting better.

June 23, 2014

Labor In Norway Part 2

I was exhausted and only wanted sleep which made me feel so terrible. I didn't want to want sleep. I wanted to want to hold my baby. Shortly after entering the room, I was sick. I craved water, but was only allowed tiny amounts. I slept. When I woke up Arild was beside me. He told me Pia was fine and he was being sent home. He said he had skin to skin care with Pia which I think he enjoyed because he said she kept sniffing at him as he was cuddling with her. He said it felt so strange and wrong to be in the NICU with Pia when there were premature babies, babies with cleft lips and other health problems in there. Our baby just had a mother with gestational diabetes and was probably very healthy, though she did have to stay a while because her glucose level was very low - 1.7 in European terms and 31 in American terms. Finally a midwife brought Pia into my ICU room. I had skin to skin care with her and this was our first attempt at breastfeeding. The midwife just laid her on me and she ate. I was shocked! We had no problems on the first try - or any try for that matter. This is why we call her a boob monster. I could only be amazed at how tiny she was. :-) I kept looking at her and back to Arild and all I could talk about was how tiny she was and try my hardest not to fall asleep.

Neither me or Arild feel cheated of our birth experience. Of course I wish he were there with me and of course I wish I could have had Pia with me at all times after she were born, but that's how labor is, sometimes things don't go the way we plan. 

Early the next morning, I was awoken and given oxycontin. As much as I hate pain medicine - narcotics especially, I did want to heal faster and I wanted to do as I was told, so I took it. I was reunited with Pia and called Arild to come back to the hospital. 

I think what I hated most about having a C-section wasn't the pain of the recovery, but that wasn't the worst pain I've ever experienced, though it wasn't unbearable, it was not being able to move around and being more dependent on others to help me. 

In my birth plan, I had written if I were unable to make any informed decisions about the labor or birth, Arild is to do so. Pia needed to be fed, she also was required to be in NICU. The midwife asked if Arild wanted Pia to receive donor milk until I was around to breastfeed. Of course in Norway, they encourage breastfeeding above all else, but there is donor milk to fall back on. They also encourage using this on infants than formula , but I will blab on about breastfeeding in Norway in another post. Arild signed a waiver to use the donor milk. Pia was given a tiny cup to sip the donor milk from. They also use cups rather than bottles on newborns as a bottle may cause nipple confusion. So a tiny cup is best. Even though this was the right thing to do in this situation. I just wanted to be with my baby. 

I counted my lucky stars we had no visitors and I was laboring in a hospital with strict visitation rules. There's no part of wanting visitors or having a mini family reunion while  being in pain I want a part of. ;-) I also think this helped me stay calm as I wasn't focused on other people, I only focused on this little pink blanket the midwife had warmed up to wrap Pia in. Telemark Hospital also has siesta, where even dads are made to leave and the mother's are encouraged to nap. There were visitation hours for immediate family (anyone else has to be approved) to visit and meet the newborn baby. Visitation hours were only an hour long. When I was pregnant and doing the hospital tour, we were told they thought of having longer visitation hours, but wanted the mothers to vote on it. The mothers wanted to keep an hour visitation. I am with them. It was very nice of course to have my husband's family visit us and a friend on another day, but I liked keeping it to an hour. I enjoyed having early bonding time with Pia without having to pass her off to everyone and I do think we bonded very quickly. 

After having a c-section, I was supposed to stay in the hospital for several days. The first few days were fine, I had my room to myself. Finally I got a roommate. We were going to pay for a private room during my stay so Arild could spend the night with me, but all the rooms were taken. So, I met new roommate. Pia's first month of life was very quiet. I have no idea what's happened now. NO IDEA! I was so convinced we were going to have a calm, quiet child. I was so so so wrong.  But my roommate's newborn was not so quiet and cried often. What's worse is,  she talked to her baby like a cat to calm he or she down. I don't think I'm an easy person to have a roommate to begin with, but the whole talking to a newborn like a cat thing all hours of day and night really got under my skin. I never asked a midwife to take Pia out of the room. I was hellbent on making sure she stayed with me, but it did cross my mind to ask the midwife to take my roommate away. That's awful, I know. 

After a couple of days of my noisy roommate talking to her baby like a cat and her equally loud crying baby, I asked if I could be discharged early. I figured I could rest, though not much, but at least better at home than in the hospital. This was day 5 of me being in the hospital and they were wanting to keep me 2 more days. I was told to walk around and be more active, also, I was reminded I'd have no pain medication to go home with. Fine by me. I walked and walked though I was shaking from the pain, but bullheaded me wanted to go home so badly, I rested when needed, but kept walking as much as possible, carting little Pia with me. 

Pia's first walk at 5 days old. :-) She has still continued to
have a love for going on walks. 
I was discharged the next day. 

A few times after I began breastfeeding Pia, a midwife would come in with a tiny cup of donor milk. I didn't quite understand why, but I didn't ask any questions either. The first 2 times it happened, I was ok, but the 3rd time, I told her no. I am supposed to breastfeed, so that's what I'll be doing from here on out. And that's what I did. 

Another pang of jealousy hit when Pia had to meet with a doctor as he was checking her out to see about the mass which was detected inside her lower abdomen when I was pregnant with her. The doctor asked me if she had peed in a while. I had printed off a checklist to bring with me to the hospital so I could monitor how often she was breastfed, peed or pooped, etc. I told him no, she hasn't in several hours according to my chart. The nurse in the room said, yes she did. I changed her diaper just a bit a go. I have never been so jealous in my life and it was over a diaper. I was upset, but I did try to remind myself so many women want someone else changing their baby's diaper. That didn't help much though. I love taking care of Pia though it is overwhelming at times. I didn't and still don't mind diapers. 

We were home on a Saturday and we were out taking Pia on a walk the next day on Sunday. She has since become very dependent on these walks and will definitely let us know when it is time for her daily walk. Rain, snow or shine I'm facing the weather while she's cozy in her pram being walked to sleep. :-) 

I was so happy I had thought to make a month's worth of freezer meals after coming home. Mostly because otherwise I would have been dependent on the hubs making me dinner - and that can only go one way and that way is disastrous

I was surprised at how normal and how much better I had felt after Pia was born. Even coming home I was still hurting and only taking Paracet, but I did do domestic chores like laundry. It was also pretty great that Arild, though because I don't work, he isn't allowed the 4 month daddy leave, he did get a 2 week daddy leave and this helped me so much. Arild took the night shift with Pia and I took the day.  I was never moody until 6 weeks after Pia was born and that still hasn't passed. I'm certain lack of sleep has a lot to do with it. 

The following Tuesday from returning home, I went back to the hospital so they could undo my bandaging and take out my staples. This was completely painless and in fact, I still have 0 feeling around my C-section scar. 

Overall, I'm happy with the way things were. I have no regrets and I think all the right calls were made under the circumstances for the most part. My attitude going into labor was, all that matters is Pia getting here safely. However, I do think being induced caused a lot of the problems we had. (That is just my opinion and an educated guess, I really have nothing against inductions or would encourage anyone to go against medical advice.) I do think though next time, if there is a next time I think I will suggest to my doctors about not having an induction. The induction wasn't bad. The Pitocin wasn't the greatest thing in the world, but my labor didn't really go as I wanted it and I think this was vastly due to being induced before little Miss Pia was ready. Of course at 40 weeks pregnant, I was more than ready to cuddle my little girl, but the diabetes didn't have much of an effect on her, so looking back, I think it would have been best for her to have just come into this world when she was ready. As long as there is no real risk, I will strongly encourage my doctor / midwife to hold off on inducing me next time, unless they can give me a valid reason besides "it's standard procedure with gestational diabetes". I'd much rather go 2 weeks past my due date and have a natural birth when my child is ready to meet me on their own term than to be induced a bit early or on time. I think it would have been great if I spent my early labor at home and just went to the hospital when my contractions were ready enough. Pia wasn't a big baby from the diabetes. Her waist was larger than normal, but that was the only effect it had on her size. What did help me though, was staying calm through everything and just accepting things don't always go as planned. 

As far as my birth plan, most things were used, but some things had to be ignored considering the circumstances. I did ask to donate stem cells from the umbilical cord, but I was uncertain and still am if Norway does this. I was adamant on Pia staying in my room and I got that. I was also very adamant on skin to skin care and she was placed on my chest right after she was born, she had skin to skin 
with her pappa in NICU and then again with me when she was brought to ICU. I asked for Arild to be in charge of decision making if I couldn't and he did and made the decisions I would have if I were able to at the time. 

So there you have it, my labor story on how it was done here in Norway! 

If I could go back in time, I'd grab the pregnant me and tell myself to buck up and put my big girl panties on. Stop having high expectations and just let things happen and deal with it when I get there. The pregnant me was delusional. Just as a side note, this is what I WASN'T prepared for post-partum:

- My moodswings didn't happen until a few weeks after Pia was born. I realized I had no idea what I was doing and this made me sad. Very sad. I kept beating myself up over not knowing how to fix every little problem. I still have days like this, but for the most part, I think little Pia is doing pretty well and she wouldn't be without me. That's my reassuring thought.

- Having no social life. Rookie mistake. My social life has nearly diminished. No date nights. In the beginning Arild and I wanted one date night a week. Just one. It would give her grandparents time to spend with her while he and I had some time together. Several months ago we discovered she has separation anxiety. We recently tried a "date day" and that went better than before, but she still cried eventually. I would feel guilty leaving her to have a good time while thinking she's panicking without her favorite person in the world. Talking on Skype or making a phone call is almost impossible. (I think Pia realizes I'm not talking to her, so she screams. The screaming always stops when I stop talking to someone else. Hmmmm) I meet with friend's for lunch once a month. I have no idea why I thought this was going to be a moderately easy task, but I was so, so wrong.

- Separation anxiety. It happened a little early for Pia. Well, really early at 2 months. I probably made a mistake of trying to go back to norskkurs so soon. On the bright side, it's sadly heartwarming my kid really likes my company. :-)

- When I was pregnant I was idealistic expecting this calm, quiet adorable, cuddly child. She is adorable and cuddly, but calm and quiet? HA! I haven't seen those days since her first month of life. If she's awake, she's "talking." If she's lying on the floor, she wants to sit up. If she's sitting up, she wants to stand. If she's on her belly, she's frustrated because she's not crawling enough. She's a very active and determined baby. I've never seen a baby this hyper before, but then again, I don't have much experience with babies either.

-Sleep. I don't think sleep with babies can ever be figured out no matter what sleep method you go with.

-Teething. I have been warned about teething, but wow, I never knew how much teeth could hurt a baby and  of course, I want to take the pain away as much as I can, but it's an awful, awful helpless feeling when your child is suffering and there's nothing you can do - even if it's just a tooth.

- At one point in my life I must have thought I was invincible. I worked full time night shift and I went to college during the day. I needed an education and I also needed money, so this is what I saw fit at the time. I lived on energy drinks and vending machine food. This did take a toll on me. I thought this was the most tired I once was. I'd doze off driving, I was cranky and moody and a monster to live with, I fell asleep during a test and made my first official F. I am now beyond this tired. I knew being a parent would be exhausting, but again, I didn't expect it to be this exhausting. Most days I find it absolutely rewarding and so worth it. I'd much rather wake up to a little  person who is smiling, ready to start a brand new exciting day and excited to see her mamma, rather than waking up to an alarm clock I'd like to chuck across the room.

Shortly after returning home.

And here she is today! 

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:
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!