Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Bebe! Bebe!"

For the past many months I've been asking around to various "mom-friends" about how best to help my toddler transition to having a new baby sibling in the house. I've gotten not so much advice as much as horror stories about the insanity the introduction of new siblings sometimes unleashes. My favorite one involved a toddler who acted out by taking off his diaper and rubbing poo on every imaginable surface including in between his board books. So it's not without some measure of trepidation that I await John's reaction to his new baby brother.

One hopeful sign though - yesterday we made a stop at a children's second-hand store in our neighborhood. Michael took John down to the basement to play with the toys and when I followed I found John parked in front of a child-sized stroller pointing excitedly at a baby doll.

"Mama! Bebe! Bebe!"

He pointed our the "bebe's" eyes and, at our suggestion that he give the baby doll a hug and kiss, he carefully picked the baby doll up by the neck and planted a big wet one on the doll's head. From there he continued to carry the baby doll around by the neck looking for the noisy toy telephone he remembered playing with the previous week.

So the upside is he apparently likes toys that look like babies though we will have to work on his handling technique.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fake It 'Til You Make It

It's been a quiet few days here on the blog this week. I had some unexpected time and energy on Monday that I used to do a number of things around the apartment. If you had stopped by around 10:30 Monday morning you could have seen the comical sight of a very pregnant woman crouched in her tiny bathroom scrubbing a toilet. Or later on, making chicken and dumplings, wiping out her microwave and mini-fridge, cleaning her coffee maker, adding things to her hospital bag and, later, buying a carrycot that a friend found on a local Internet re-sale site so her baby will actually have his own place to sleep. There is actually a special name in Pregnancy World for this phenomenon: nesting.

So I'm worn out Monday night and head to bed. And then wake up around 2:30a having contractions. These peter on for a few hours - just strong enough and just often enough to prevent sleep. And I blearily made a made a couple of deals with God at various points in the night. How about these stop for now and then come back after I've had a good night's sleep? Please? Please please please?

And they did eventually stop. Though not before they had thoroughly convinced Michael that a taxi ride to the hospital was in our immediate future. And led to some frantic Man Nesting: filling out a Fulbright form with a 31st deadline, renewing library books and Mr. Cleaning our living room and kitchen. This is one of those times I'm really glad to be married to an academic and his flexible schedule.

I'm 39 weeks tomorrow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Photo Friday

Preparing for Baby, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My 38 Week Crash Danish Prenatal Class

My midwife double booked an appointment with me today so she could take some extra time to answer any questions I might have about birthing under the Danish system. I wasn't able to take any Danish prenatal classes since they are all in Danish, so this was quite thoughtful of her. Michael was there with me to listen in and ask any follow-up questions thought he primarily held a recuperating John during our visit.

I had already asked my most pressing questions related to childbirth in Denmark at my first appointment back in October. Besides delivering a healthy baby, my two main goals in any childbirth are to avoid a c-section and avoid undo trauma to nature's intended exit for the baby. Those goals ultimately led me to train for an unmedicated childbirth with my first, American hospital birth. (And believe me, you do have to "train" for labor just like you would train to run a marathon). So early on I had some specific questions answered about standard Danish hospital policies regarding such things as second stage labor and episiotomies.

So today's questions were more about just figuring out basic practices, a What To Expect When You're Delivering in Denmark. Here are a few highlights:

  • They recommend you call the hospital or birth center (which ever place you plan to birth) when your contractions are about five minutes apart and lasting about 60 seconds. At that point they will ask questions about the progress of your labor, listen to you have a contraction over the phone and advise on how long you should likely wait before you come in.
  • Labor tubs are available in the birth clinic and some midwives are willing to allow you to proceed with a water birth. I gathered that there is some internal controversy about water birthing and it is neither encouraged nor discouraged.
  • The standard post-birth is for the parents and baby to be left alone to rest in the birth room for an hour or two following delivery of the placenta, any necessary stitching and confirmation the baby is fine. If the baby has trouble getting started post-birth, it appears that they go to some length to insure that baby and mother are not separated. If the baby requires transfer to the NICU, the father goes with the baby and the mother is encouraged to follow the baby as soon as possible.
  • The minimum stay post-birth is six hours. If you opt to leave at that point, your midwife will do two home follow-up visits. If you opt to leave after 12 hours, your midwife will do one home follow-up visit. The normal stay is two nights though that can be extended if you are having trouble with breastfeeding.
  • At 11:30a (during weekdays?) a physical therapist from the hospital holds a meeting with new moms demonstrating postpartum exercises.
  • I was given a booklet outlining various pain relief options available including: the labor tub, massage, happy gas, acupuncture and, way at the back, an epidural.
There were a few other questions related to where the taxi should drop us off and what time the kitchen closes so we can be sure to order food if it looks like the baby won't make an appearance before then.

After today's visit, I feel like I'm ready to have a baby again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Trial by Up-Chuck

Today my little blond toddler is 18 months old and today he came down with his first 24 hour stomach flu. We spent a lot of time sitting on the floor this afternoon, alternately cuddling and my attempting to shove a plastic bowl under his chin at the increasingly familiar sound of approaching up-chuck. I ended up batting .250 for the day.

I'm not the most patient person but for some reason taking care of my sick child - even a vomiting one - isn't such a chore. He's still just a baby and he feels bad. And there is something a teeny bit gratifying about the fact that just being there can make him feel that much better.

And a big kudos to Michael for cutting his day of dissertation writing short to pick up supplies on his way home, holding John until he fell sleep and then heading out in the rain with a IKEA bag full of soiled laundry. He's a keeper.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

La Glace

My fellow American expat friend Robyn treated me to an outing at La Glace - a famous Danish confectionary shop just off the main walking street in Copenhagen. I had a delicious piece of "Karen Blixen cake" - coffee mousse, mocha truffle with roasted hazelnuts, and a chocolate bottom - with the most amazing hot chocolate. You can see the hot chocolate in the picture with the fresh whipped cream on the side.

It was like heaven.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Uterus Yoga

Paul Michael (age 5): Why is your stomach so big?
Me: There is a baby inside of it.
Paul Michael: Must be crowded in there.

Yes, yes it is.

For the past few nights, as soon as my weary head hits the pillow, my child has started doing what I can only describe as uterus yoga. His favorite move seems to be downward facing dog with his feet firmly planted in my diaphragm and his little bum pushing out uncomfortably against my belly. This has produced repeated nights of absolutely fantastic heartburn.

Here in Denmark they have a very limited amount of over-the-counter medication. But after Night 5 of sitting up to sleep it was time to find the Danish equivalent of Tums. So off I go to the apotek (pharmacy), punch a button for a number, and wait for my turn. I thought for sure I'd have to go to my GP to get a prescription, but the pharmacist asked a couple of detailed questions about my symptoms and fixed me up with a box of antacid tablets from behind the counter.

I wanted to hug her.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Photo Friday

Boots Made for Walkin', originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Curried Tomato Soup

One of my favorite lunches is half a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato soup. One spring I was flipping through a magazine and found this recipe for curried tomato soup that is really delicious and easy to make. I’ll usually make a batch at the beginning of the week and lunch on it for at least three or four days.

And a quick story about this soup: I come from a large family – I’m the oldest of eight – and when I was engaged to Michael my Dad thought it very important that I practice cooking as much as possible before we got married. (Because mass-producing food for 10 people will put you on the road to proper food portions; it led to things like cooking two boxes of spaghetti for two people as a newlywed.) Overtime I became a pretty decent cook and believe I convinced my parents of this one Saturday afternoon when they dropped by unexpected and I served them this soup alongside a simple cheese sandwich for lunch. It’s the little victories.

Curried Tomato Soup
From Martha Stewart Living (I think)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon curry
1 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon baking powder
1.5 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and sauté onion for five minutes. Add curry and cook for one minute. Add canned tomatoes and baking powder. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and heat partly covered about five minutes. Stir in milk. Pour soup into blender and puree until creamy. Return to pan and reheat. Season to taste.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Home Health Nurse

Remember my great home health nurse postcard? I did send it in just before Christmas and on Monday received a call from Helle (Hell-uh) scheduling a meeting this morning for a prenatal home health nurse visit at the apartment. Over tea, she explained how she would be doing what functionally are well-baby visits in the States – weight checks, general newborn assessments and breastfeeding support – no later than eight days after the baby is born.

Today’s visit was primarily a chance for us to meet her and ask any questions we had about newborn care, how the system works, etc. She let me know that the home health nurses also play an active role in setting up groups of other young moms in the area – an interesting role for a health care provider – playgroup coordinator.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


When I was small, I had a blue "blankie" which, by the end of it's life, had lost all the fuzzy middle and was reduced to knots of blue satin. Before John was born I wondered which of the 178 stuffed animals and soft blankets he would ultimately become attached. I was secretly hoping that he'd latch on to the adorable Ugly DollI bought for him shortly after we found out about the pregnancy. That green monster has been his constant travel companion for the last 17 months, he's in his crib right now, and other than occasionally using him as a convenient pillow John's never said boo to him.

That pretty much sums up John's attitude toward all potential "blankies," "binkies," and "softies." My son the Lone Toddler. In need of no pacifiers. No stuffed animals. No blankets or other objects of comfort.

But now there is "Tuck-Tuck." The mini-down comforter I purchased back in October when I was concerned about John getting cold at night. The Danes know how to handle the cold weather and the baby down comforter is part of the ensemble for any proper Danish child. John's is like any other - the down comforter covered by it's mini damask stripe duvet that I found on sale. At bedtime we started getting John to lie down for prayers by tucking him in. We'd take the comforter and say, "Tuck tuck tuck tuck..." and "Tuck-Tuck" was born.

Now he'll randomly run to his room looking for "Tuck-Tuck!" and the other day when I hung Tuck-Tuck out the window to air, he got very upset and started crying. The Lone Toddler found his Silver.

Apparently the problem was we hadn't bought John the high-end stuff.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Baby Shower!

I remember after my final baby shower during my first pregnancy telling Michael that it was "my last shower ever" because I couldn't think of another life event that would warrant another such party. So I was really surprised and excited when two families from our church here in Copenhagen decided to throw a shower for baby James and the second child of another couple in our church. We all had such a great time and it was wonderful getting a head start on the things that parents of newborns always need - diapers, wipes and non-slobbered-on teddy bears.

I mentioned this at Christmas but the baby shower reminded me again of how thankful we are to have found the church we attend here in Copenhagen. It has made so many things about moving to Copenhagen so much better and easier - and nothing more so than the assistance with and celebration of our newest addition.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Photo Friday

Bathtime - Danish Style, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I’ve Got Friends in Small Spaces

A friend of mine pointed me to an article in the New York Times recently about post-Christmas organization driven by the need to find a place for all the stuff we accumulated over the holidays and the year in general. The most interesting part to me was this line: "It isn’t a house problem... [i]t’s a person problem."

Most of the people I know from the expat community here had to go through an extensive household purging when they moved to Copenhagen. When you’re faced with the huge cost of shipping or storing all your earthly possessions it causes you to take a long hard look at how attached you are to all those Waterford crystal picture frames you received as wedding gifts and have never opened. And while there are a few comments along the lines of, “I probably should have held on to my fantastic milk whipper” the overwhelming opinion is that it was an incredibly challenging yet therapeutic and cleansing process.

We were lucky to find a great, furnished apartment and somehow figured out a way to only bring with us the five suitcases and John’s portable crib we checked as luggage for our flight over here. This was a little challenging given that we brought clothing for two children in five different sizes, early maternity/transition clothes, maternity clothes and two standard adult wardrobes including the sweaters, shoes and water gear made necessary when living in Copenhagen. This in addition to deciding what of all the great piles of baby gear were absolutely necessary to pack along with us (which, when we thought about it, was surprisingly little).

So here we are, in our small but adequately sized apartment, patting ourselves on the back for living on the bare essentials, when we face the question: where is our new baby going to sleep?

Hello, my name is Rebekah and I wasn’t Dr. Sear’s enough to co-sleep with my first child.

We’re crib people. We like our bed space. Back in the States our queen-sized bed was barely large enough for Michael to tolerate sleeping with me (I have the undeserved reputation of a “cover hog” and a “midnight cuddler”). But we’re faced with (a) not having space for another crib, (b) not wanting to buy a bed or crib that we’ll have to get rid of in five months, (c) our first child isn’t old enough to handle the transition to a trundle-bed or pallet that could be stored under the bed.

For those keeping score at home, we’re left with the following two options: co-sleeping and possibly making a bed for the baby out of a dresser drawer that may or may not be wide enough and deep enough to hold an infant from birth to five months (the age James will be when we plan to leave Copenhagen this summer).

And that’s the story of how I have suddenly found myself pouring through the Internet reading up on how to safely share a bed with a tiny baby – no blankets, the proper placement of pillows, and reminding myself how to side nurse. Because it's a people problem not a house problem.

Any recommendations from my co-sleeping readers?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

I've been under the weather for about a week now - just the standard Copenhagen Cold. It's put me in the mood for comfort food and I went hunting for a somewhat simple recipe for chicken and dumplings. I say "somewhat simple" because I boil my own chicken to cut costs and that doesn't allow this recipe to truly be simple by American standards.

This recipe is something of my own creation. I poked around looking for a good recipe and ended up piecing together a few I found. You'll notice this isn't a "pure" chicken and dumplings recipe since I include vegetables, but I found it to be easier to add vegetables to the one pot than to make separate vegetable sides.

Chicken and Dumplings

1 (3-pound) whole chicken
2 small onions studded with whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, pealed and left whole
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4-5 carrots, pealed and sliced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, washed and quartered
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
(corn starch as needed to thicken)

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 cup shortening
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk

Place whole, defrosted chicken (giblet bag removed), onions, bay leaves, carrots, celery and salt in enough water to cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove chicken; cool. Discard onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Skin and bone chicken. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces, and add chicken and pepper to broth. Return to a simmer. Add carrots, mushrooms, parsley and basil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add peas.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and dill in a bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Add milk, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened.

Bring broth mixture to a boil. Drop 8-10 spoonfuls of dumpling dough directly into the broth. Reduce heat and simmer, 20 minutes. If the broth is not thick enough to suit, you can add a spoonful or more of corn starch.

6 to 8 servings

Monday, January 7, 2008

Oh, and A Baby On the Way

It's been over a month now since I last referenced my pregnancy on the ol' blog. We are one month and counting from the estimated arrival of sweet baby James and I've had two midwife appointments over the last many weeks and a general practitioner appointment this morning that I've neglected to mention.

Both my midwife visits were fairly routine. One was on Thanksgiving Day and the other a few days before Christmas. The office does not have a nurse staff so the midwife does all procedures for the visit - blood pressure taking, fundal height measurement, palpitations for position and checking the fetal heart rate. In the four appointments I've had, I've been impressed by how they always start on time if not ahead of schedule, how technically detailed the midwife's questions are regarding how I've been feeling and despite being on a 20-minute per appointment schedule how I've never felt rushed through my visit. A student midwife has assisted at two of my appointments and I got to see her practice using a wooden Pinard Horn to hear the baby's heart beat. It reminded me of my uncle who would teach his nautical students to use the old school nautical navigation tools less their electrical navigational equipment ever gave out.

Certain things are interesting regarding the standard of care. Testing for gestational diabetes is not part of the standard prenatal screening process. At the midwife visits (but not the general practitioner visits) patients perform their own urine tests for protein and sugar and are instructed to relay abnormal information to their midwife if the color strip is off. My midwife has never asked me to step on a scale at any of my visits, though my GP today gave me the option if I wanted to be weighed. Because I'm Rh blood factor negative and Michael is Rh-positive, I had blood drawn today by the GP to check for antibodies; in the States I believe they do this test earlier. And testing for Group-B Strep is not standard. I asked my GP about it today and she said it was elective. I elected to be tested because it takes 10 seconds, is hardly invasive and if there is a problem I'd rather know about it up front and deal with it. And while in the States I'd be seeing my doctor every week from here on out, my next midwife appointment isn't until week 38 (I'm 35 weeks plus three days as of today) and I'm not sure when the next visit after that will be.

In general I'm feeling fine. This has been an even easier pregnancy than the first one. I'm starting to get the standard tiredness, swelling, heartburn, trouble sleeping and self absorption that tends to come this late in pregnancy. And every day I am increasingly taking on the shape of a water barrel. At least this time I know that post-birth I'll shrink back down to normal compared with the first time around when I had the serious suspicion that was just a comforting lie people tell huge pregnant women.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It’s a Decadent Life We Lead

As much as I’ve posted about our standard bean, carrot and potato menu, I really ought to talk about the other side of shopping and cooking in this country that was only recently introduced to ready-made-meals and cake mixes.

We live a Velveeta-less existence here in Denmark, so instead I make macaroni and cheese with melted Gouda and Brie. Per pound, these cheeses are just as inexpensive as cheddar and, wow, mixing them with your standard elbow noodles make you feel like you really ought to rename it to something more snotty-sounding than "macaroni and cheese."

We also are able to access things like Greek yogurt and Häagen-Dazs ice cream a little more readily and affordably than in the States. On the other hand, the Danes just started importing Ben & Jerry’s. I know this because on every bus they have a sign advertising a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked for only $11.86 USD. I find myself staring at that sign on a regular basis; somehow always putting a firm end to the wistful thoughts with, "Holy crap! I can’t spend almost $12 for a pint of ice cream!"

And then there is Nutella, in all it’s chocolate-y, hazelnut glory. I held off on buying any until last week. You can buy Nutella in the States at most grocery stores, but there is something about eating it here in Europe that seems very decadent and high brow. “You Americans with your pea-nut buttarh thinking you are the equal of Nuu-tella! I laugh through my nose in your general direction!” I offered Michael some on a graham cracker and he looked at it warily, channeling his inner 4-year-old who still suspects that a piece of broccoli is somehow cleverly hidden in all offers of new food. It's been five days and we're already on our second jar.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Photo Friday

Kitchen Computer Time, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year - Danish Style

My Dad is one of those "safety Dads" which meant (a) we never had a trampoline, (b) always wore our seat belts, (c) had to learn to swim before we were allowed on a boat, (d) always locked our doors, and (e) never had fireworks bigger than sparklers. I called my Dad on the First to wish him a happy New Year and informed him that a Danish New Years celebration would turn his hair white.

We were invited to a friend's house for New Years where we ate grønlangkål and brown potatoes - two traditional Danish dishes. At 6:00PM we watched Queen Margrethe give her annual New Years speech. At this point fireworks were going off at regular intervals - enough to keep my toddler's nose pasted to the fifth floor apartment window narrating the display from time-to-time with a "BOOM! BOOM!"

Just before my friend's daughter went to bed, her Dad mentioned that he wanted to do the "champaign bottle" with her. He set a sheet of foil on the coffee table, placed a plastic champaign bottle on top of it and lit a fuse. I was sitting about a foot away from this indoor firework, contemplating my mortality, when it went off with a BANG sending confetti, noise makers and small poppers flying all over the room.

From what I can gather, there is no distinction between legal and illegal fireworks in Denmark. Anyone can buy whatever kind of fireworks they want and Danes spend a significant amount of money every New Year on them. After the clock at City Hall struck midnight (the Danish version of the ball dropping in Times Square), the entire city erupted all around us with fireworks. All along the skyline, in the parking lot of the apartment building we were in, as far as I could see in both directions was the largest fireworks display I have ever witnessed. And it went on for a solid 30 minutes.

Around 1:00PM when John and I were dropped off at our own apartment, there was a group of four guys with champaign bottles setting off their last remaining fireworks and at the other end of the street an ambulance packing up someone. The streets in our neighborhood were littered with broken bottles and the remnants of fireworks. Michael had arrived back from the APA around 9:30PM and was jet lagged just enough to sleep through the fireworks being set off in front of our building.