Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finnish Father’s Day or Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!

The news has been slowly making its way over the phone lines and the interwebs, but for those of you we haven’t connected with, we’re pleased to let everyone know that we’re expecting a baby boy!  At least, according to the note we received from the doctor, “Male parts were seen.”  I had an unexpected ultrasound a few weeks ago and Mike was not able to attend.  The doctor was able to see the baby’s sex and I asked that instead of telling me, he writes it down on a piece of paper. It seemed like he wrote forever, not just a 3 or 4 letter word.  And sure enough, when Mike and I opened the paper at home that evening “Male parts were seen.”

Today is Finnish Father’s Day.  Yesterday, in order to prepare us to be a mother and father (Finnish or American), we attended birthing class in English.  We are a little on the early side, but considering the next class is scheduled for the day AFTER I am due, we figured we should probably attend, now!  The class was like a mini-United Nations meeting, if the UN was comprised of a bunch of preggy ladies!  I was expecting a bunch of Americans and Brits.  I could not have been more wrong.  Of the 25 people (one husband couldn’t attend), the following countries were represented (and remember, they all spoke English):

US – there were a total of 4 of us, making us the largest country population. Go Team America!!

I may be missing one or two.  It was really interesting to see how similar many people’s thoughts and feelings towards pregnancy and giving birth are, regardless of from where you come.

We covered a number of topics including birthing positions, what to take and when to go to the hospital (apparently, hospital food is pretty bad no matter in what country you give birth), and both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches to pain relief.  The class was given at a yoga studio by two midwives.  Though they discussed the pharmacological approaches, they are definitely pro-skipping the drugs and pro-breastfeeding.  Not militant about either, but you knew where they stood.  I am pro getting an epidural next week if it means it will hurt less in March!!

Speaking as the voice of non-authority on this topic, some of the differences of giving birth here compared to the US, a few I have mentioned before:

1)  The person who delivers the baby is someone you have not met.  You get assigned a midwife when you show up for delivery.  We also found out yesterday that shift changes every eight hours, so the odds of having two or three different midwives are probably pretty good.  As a result, Mike and I are considering using a doula.  You typically meet with a doula a couple of times before the birth to develop the birth plan, the doula then attends the birth, and then also does some follow-up care.  I heard a great explanation for a doula from a friend.  She’s focused on “the belly button up” while the doctor (or midwife) is focused on “the belly button down”.  I feel like using a doula here would allow us to have someone we have 1) met before and established a relationship with, and 2) someone advocating on my/our behalf in Finnish.  At the end of the day, the midwives all speak some level of English and we’ll tell them when we arrive we need a strong English speaker, but I think having someone there who is working for (and paid by) us who speaks the language will be a plus.  If you want to learn more about doulas, especially in the US, read here.  I have several friends who have used doulas in the US and have been very happy with their experiences.

2)  They strongly encourage you to stay out of the bed.  Walking, sitting on or leaning over an exercise ball, sitting on a horseshoe shaped stool, standing, sitting in a bath tub, etc., all seem to be very much encouraged.  It was explained to us that they encourage this for two reasons; the first is that you may as well let gravity help pull the baby down, and the second, if you are lying down on your back, your tail bone is compressed.  By being in an upright position, your tail bone is able to expand back (which it was made to do) and can give you at least another two centimeters of space.

3)  The midwives told us to eat a good meal before coming to the hospital and to bring our own food.  And of course, there is a microwave for your use!  This one really surprised me, so much so that I asked a question confirming it.  My thought, and I could be totally wrong on this, is that you don’t eat a lot in the U.S. in case you end up having a c-section.  Well, in Finland, last year 60,000 babies were born.  Only 16%, so we’re talking less than 10,000, were born via c-section.  The percentage in the US is about exactly double.  The expectation is that you won’t have a c-section, so you don’t need to worry about food and aesthesia issues, and you need your strength, so eat up.  I wonder if it will finally be OK to eat soft cheese, deli meat, Diet Coke, and some wine, then??!!  Just to round out the c-section stats, the 16% is comprised of 6% that are planned, 9% that are urgent, and 1% that are emergency.

4)  The use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is very popular here, with 49% of last year’s birthing moms using it.  It is used as the first round of painkiller instead of any type of intravenous pain killer.  It is key to know when your contraction is going to start because you need to take it 30 – 45 seconds before it happens.  If you wait until the contraction starts, too late.  In the US, because often times you get an IV with painkiller in it (e.g., Demerol), you don’t have to manage this as much.  I think the IV has to be MUCH easier. 

5)  The epidurals here are much weaker than the US.  They are meant to ease the pain, but the expectation is that you are still able to have use of your legs and move around a bit (e.g., in order to be in the upright sitting positions).

One of the midwives did tell us that if you are into technology, Finland is the place to have a baby!  I knew that about cell phones, didn’t know it about births.  As a result, 45% of women received an epidural, and at the hospital we will be going to which is affiliated with the University and the medical school, the rate is even higher.  The number in the US seems to be somewhere in the 60% - 70% range.

They then had a couple come to speak to us who had participated in the class earlier this year and now have a 6 month old son.  They are a younger couple and she is from Finland and he is from the US.  She did the birth without the use of any pain medication and described it as being the most wonderful experience.  She told us that in the month or two leading up to her labor, she would go to a park and hug the trees (a literal "tree hugger"!) and think about their growth.  And think about the leaves and flowers growing and beginning anew in the spring.  For those of you who know me well, you know my eyes were about rolling to the back of my head, at this point.  She proceeded to tell us about the birth and that after they were home for a week, she saw the midwife and said she was worried because her baby never cried and she thought there was a problem.  By this time, I was waiting to hear about the unicorns and rainbows that were flying out of her you know where!!  Apparently, she had the perfect birth, has the most perfect baby, and is even lucky enough to have the world’s two most perfect cats.  They are so happy and filled with joy, they don’t even want to go out together for dinner without their son.  Gag me.  Call me jaded, call me a woman with too many friends who have already given birth and are raising kids, call me whatever you want, but don’t look for unicorns and rainbows here, I think I am a bit more of a realist!

Image courtesy of Google Images, but now you know what I was expecting!  Look, even a Finnish mushroom in the foreground!

Overall, the class was really interesting and we both got a lot out of it.  We wish there was more face to face education available here, but  in lieu of that, we have books on the way from, we have DVDs, and we have friends who have lots of experience they are willing to share.  We’ll be OK or even better.

ETA:  There have been a few requests from US friends and family to see the "bump."  Here are some recent pictures.

November 7, 2010
November 13, 2010


  1. LOL about your "tree hugger" couple's experience! Of course, they're going to ask a positive couple to come back and speak to the class, but I think some realism would do the attendees some good. After all, birth experiences and babies are SO individual that it's nice for people to know that theirs is still "normal," even if they have tons of pain meds, a c-section or a baby who screams non-stop! I guess it's good you have friends like us who can provide you with the realistic side of things... :)

  2. I totally recommend eating before going! YOu will need that energy! I always ate (except once) and food was all I thought about when I was denied it!

    And again, I never met my docs before going into labor. And they did change on me during the labor due to shift changes. Really, it is not a big deal. They all know what they are doing and you will be in so much pain that you will not care. Just my two cents:)

    And you look fantastic!

  3. EPIDURAL ALL THE WAY!!!! and i never walked around, sat on a ball or any such nonsense. i was on the bed, hooked to my iv, grinning and bearing it.

  4. Tracy you look adorable!!!!

  5. I'm with you on the rainbows and crap. Not jaded at all!
    By the way- I did half of my labor with an epidural and half without for the first two kids. The third and last was an epidural in the car on the way to the hospital :) I like the idea of walking around but gladly gave that up for very little to no pain. It was wonderful!

  6. Uh yeah...I second you on the unicorns and rainbows....maybe we Americans are a bit more jaded (realistic)? But I can guarantee you there is a whole lot of love, smiles and profound happiness to balance out all the other stuff. Thanks for letting me know about this post - I totally missed it! You look great! Squee! So excited for you both! Ok, I'm gonna take my exclamation points and leave now. Love ya!

  7. haha, found your site from a google search for rainbows (I HAD to click on the one with the unicorn!! <3) and I thought it was funny that our names are both Tracy! ^_~

    Congrats on the baby! I just gave birth to my second son last March. I did a lot of research and had a homebirth with a midwife. It was awesome. I also used Hypnobabies, which helped A LOT with the pain. I wouldn't say it was pain-free, but it enabled me to feel pain without panicking which was WAY better than my first birth!! I also hadn't met the person who delivered my first baby (a doctor in the hospital). It was an awful experience for me, but the hospital staff may have been so unfeeling because I was only 19 and all alone. =(

    Oh, and, according to my research, the whole NO FOOD when you're in labor thing in the US is from the times when they used general anesthesias for c-sections (knocked you out); however, over 99% of c-sections performed these days are with epidural anesthesia... and it doesn't matter how much food you've eaten for that. Doctors in the US are so out-of-whack! Eating high-protein and nutrient-dense food will HELP you, especially if you have a long labor. Just be aware some people get really nauseous in labor and all of the food they've eaten ends up in a bucket. =P

    Shoot me an e-mail me if you wanna talk about babies! =)