Well, she’s half a Fejes, anyhow!
If people are wondering why Fejes.ca has been way off topic for so long, a good part of it has been that I’ve been pretty preoccupied with getting ready to expand the family. This week, we’ve welcomed our daughter Amelia into the world – and she’s a cutie! She’s already let us know her favorites are: sleeping, eating, having her fingers played with and long walks in a bassinet.
However, because I’ve been blogging all about our experiences in Denmark, I thought I should share a few of the surprising events we discovered for those ex-pats who might be having a child in Denmark. If you’re not interested, I suggest you stop reading here.
First off, the whole thing went well – Overall, it was a pleasant experience and the hospital staff was always supportive. And, we only met one person who didn’t understand English – a member of the cleaning staff. People always went out of their way to be helpful, regardless of what else was going on.
The biggest issue we had was communication, however. Like every other experience in Denmark, people feel awkward communicating in English, so they rarely go out of their way to explain what will happen, or what should happen. Thus, I spent a lot of time “taking control” of the situation by asking questions – constantly. I often had to pin down a nurse and say “Why are you doing this, and what do you expect to happen?” Once I realized that the only way to make sense of things was to insist the staff take the time to explain things, our experience became infinitely better.
Also, learning a few words of Danish made all the difference. Staff frequently spoke to each other around us in Danish, and just being able to figure out what they were talking about in vague terms was sufficient to make me feel a bit more part of the process. Considering I only recognize a couple hundred words in spoken Danish, it’s not like I could have communicated – but knowing the words for simple concepts (like nurse, newborn, mother, father, etc) was a great big help in not feeling so isolated.
Beyond communication, there were a few other surprises. We had attended a class on childbirth education in English, where they explained what we should expect during labour. The first thing that they explained was that the process would be nothing like the movies, where the mother’s water breaks, then the rush to the hospital, followed by a lot of drama. Actually, it was EXACTLY like in the movies – including the speeding cab ride at 1:30am. The biggest difference was the final stage of labour, where there were only 3 of us in the delivery room – including the midwife who was shy about speaking English. That left me to do all of the coaching and communicating – a task I was utterly unprepared for, and had to learn “on the job”. My wife was very patient about it, all things considered.
We did have a few communication breakdowns as well – such as the discharge from the maternity ward to the patient hospital. The midwife sent us away too soon, before the IV port was removed from my wife’s hand and before they had checked to see if my wife was ok. (She wasn’t.) They sent us to the patient hospital, where we sat for a few minutes, before a nurse discovered us and realized we’d been sent to the wrong place. While she did identify the problem, her solution was to have us walk to another ward – about 400m away, (a 12 minute walk in my wife’s condition) where it was discovered that my wife wasn’t doing well. She wasn’t supposed to have been walking and she shouldn’t have been allowed to walk that far so soon after delivering a child. After completing all the checks and finally having been treated for pain, swelling and completely crashed blood pressure – 4 hours later – we were allowed to return to the patient hospital by shuttle.
Once in the patient hotel, we were provided with pamphlets (in Danish), brochures (in Danish) and a kind nurse tried to accomodate us by passing some of the information on the web through google translate. ( It was completely unreadable.) Despite being friendly, the information wasn’t particularly forthcoming, and we failed to understand the purpose of the hotel, which turned out to be nothing more than a space in which families can relax, the mother can learn how to breastfeed and to make sure that the parents have some indication of what they’re supposed to do with a child before leaving the hospital. It wasn’t until I asked on the second day that they explained it to us – and that we discovered those are the criteria that you must fulfil before they let you go home.
In any case, the nurses were incredibly helpful and came immediately upon request. They were surprisingly non-challant about the child’s health, however, claiming that weighing the baby should only be done if they think there may be a serious problem with feeding – because all babies lose weight the first day, and it is too “depressing” for the mother. (They weighed our daughter in the evening on the second day, anyhow) A healthy baby will only ever be “eyeballed” by the nurses to make sure that they’re doing well.
Fortunately, my ability to read Danish has improved by leaps and bounds since we arrived, so I started reading through what I could in the brochures. By about the 28 hour point, however, the lack of information was overwhelming and frustrating., and I ended up compiling a full page of questions that hadn’t been addressed, such as
- Am I going to have to pay for staying here with my wife? (Yes, and meals are extra for the father.)
- Is there an internet password that we can use for the wifi (Yes, but only if you specifically ask for it.)
- How do we get a birth certificate for our child (no one knew, but I found it later online, through borger.dk)
- Can you give us the information on how to care for your child that you provide to Danish speakers in the course offered in the afternoons, to which we weren’t invited? (Yes!)
and so on and so forth. It was much like playing 20-questions, however, as you might miss something by asking a question that was close, but insufficiently accurate.
For the first 24 hours, our best lifeline to information was our smartphones – and thank goodness for them! Email, Google searches and advice all in English. Without it, we would have been lost and uncertain about a lot of the little trivial things that we didn’t know, and that no one had volunteered. (For instance, letting a newborn baby suck on your thumb is a bad idea, because the child is supposed to be learning how to breast feed and it will develop bad habits if the thumb is offered – no soothers for 2 weeks! Who knew?) Once we became much more aggressive about demading information, our stress level dropped considerably, and things became quite a bit easier to deal with.
The other fascinating thing about the patient hotel was the room we were put into, which was on the edge of a rennovation zone for the hotel. At times, there was a backhoe that was litterally 3 inches from our window, moving dirt, breaking up concrete and separating metal from the construction debris… and despite that, we managed to rest, learn to breastfeed (well, I didn’t do much on that front personally) and stay comfortable for 48 hours.