20 March 2014

Halfway to titanic 2.0

we really have no nicknames as of yet. in my head, its still a boy, so im mentally calling it either 'him/he' or 'boy' or sometimes by the name ive already chosen (nope, im not sayin). daves nickname of occasional use seems to be '2.0'. also, once i started feeling the kicks, i started thinking of the (twilight) nickname of 'nudger' again. sue me, its a highly suitable name to what the early kicks feel like.

first glucose test (between 12-16 weeks): i made an 8:30a appointment at our health centers lab. i had a blood draw first and then had to drink a nasty super sugary raspberry liquid (in my opinion, much worse than what i had to drink in canada). while trying to gulp this stuff down, i was warned that it would likely spike my blood sugar so high i would get dizzy and barf, even while just sitting in the waiting room. sweet. enter panic attack. luckily i was able to lie down for 1.5 hours of the test. they took another blood draw 1 hour after drinking the stuff, and 2 hours after drinking it. thankfully, i passed the test, but i do have to do another one in 8 weeks.

-panic attacks (these started before florida actually when X was sick, i thought they were just related to that, but they havent disappeared). in the last several weeks i havent had hardly any challenging ones though, so maybe they are going away.
-im not as strongly nauseous anymore, but there is still a mild, persistent and irritating nausea coupled with the feeling of never being satisfied. its rather wearing down my patience, i dont remember it being like this for X for so long.
-ive noticed im not as much of a late night snacker as with X, though im hungry ALL the time during the day.
-i felt the first movements around 16 weeks this time. that was nice to break up the discomfort from the nausea, constant bloating (its here every day and has been since about 5 weeks, i think this ones sticking around), and the sore pelvis that have taken up residence on my permanent frustration list.
-arriving around the same time as the kicks, the braxton/hicks contractions. i get a few each day.

doula: i met with the coordinators of a volunteer doula program in the city. one coordinator was a good friend of one of my finnish friends. we spent a long time talking about my needs, my previous pregnancy, and what i know of canadian and US maternity care and doulas. i found out that all normal pregnancies in finland get a midwife at the hospital. no nurse(s), just your midwife and she is only assigned to ~2 women at a time. there are always doctors waiting in the wings in case a labor becomes more risky.

also, because normally your prenatal care is done at your health center by a public health nurse and sometimes a general practitioner, you arent getting the experience that many north american women have to get to know the person who will (likely) deliver your baby. so, the maternity hospitals have these things called 'fear clinics' where moms who are very anxious about the pain of labor or fear of complications, etc can come to these clinics and have one-on-one appts with the midwives at the hospital to help calm their fears and get to meet a potential person who would deliver their baby. otherwise, you normally only get the chance to tour the hospital before birth. further, once you are in labor, you call your hospital of choice and they tell you if they have room for you to come to that hospital (if yes they hold your spot until you arrive) or, if they are full, they suggest another hospital for you to try (im told that march and april are the most popular months to give birth here, so hopefully i'll be avoiding a 'sorry, we are full' issue).

also, one of the citys maternity hospitals is currently under renovations so hospital rooms are pared down at this time, but im told that the goal is to get all post-delivery rooms to be 'family' rooms where each family gets their own room to adjust to each other. this literally means 'family'. they said the rooms had/will have king sized beds, and you are welcome to have not only your spouse with you, but also your other children stay the night. what!? sweet. however, during the renovations its likely that you would share a room with another mom and spouses might not have the chance to stay. im told that each evening you stay in the hospital is 40 € (out-of-pocket, those who have mentioned it seemed somewhat offended that there was this cost), and usually you stay about 2 nights, though it depends on which pregnancy this is and how babe is doing of course.

side note: my assigned doula (a retired midwife) also volunteers for a group that supports single mothers, as well as for a group that provides counseling and help to women who have had abortions. she told me that 1 in 11 pregnancies in finland ends in abortion, and in estonia its 1 in 3!

pregnancy stages as parenting: during this pregnancys discomfort a thought occurred to me...the stages of pregnancy kind of mirror the stages of parenting (at least in my opinion/experience/understanding). in the beginning, both are mostly hard and physically/emotionally/mentally warping, and youre tired, and the rewards are minimal. in the second trimester (or toddler and young kid stage), you are mostly feeling good, feeling lucky, feeling happy. you feel the gift of life, you feel a part of something bigger. when you feel the kicks, you savor that special connection that only you and the kiddo share. in the third trimester, you are getting uncomfortable, your body (home) is too crowded to hold both parties happily. you and the baby (ahem, teenager) are prepping to physically separate and go your separate ways in the world. this process likely involves pain and yelling, but ultimately relief and the knowledge that this is what is meant to happen. and, if you like, the fourth trimester (or the empty nest)...this involves readjusting your life, from the one you knew before to what life looks like now...balancing the positives and negatives, redefining relationships with both your spouse and your kiddo(s).

celebrity babies arriving around the same time as me?: its hard to say, but it looks like maybe there will be babies arriving around my due date from these people: actress scarlett johansson, singer christina aguilera, host carson daly, model doutzen kroes, and susan sarandons daughter eva amurri. interesting to note, the three celebs who had kids around the same time as me last time (amy adams, tiffany thiessen, and paula patton) have not (yet) gone on to have another child.

dreams: i havent had another one that was baby related, but i did dream that dave got a job offer at USF (university of southern florida). apparently, i had allowed him to apply for the job when i was pissed i wasnt finding work here. then he accepted the job and i remember (in the dream) being somewhat okay with it at first because we would be closer to friends and family and travel for visiting would be easier and i could hope to find a job more easily. then, as the dream went on i got more and more panicky about the cons of the move. i suppose it actually turned into a nightmare. it was nice to wake up and remember that it was just a dream but that i had had the chance to dream-change our lives for a short while, and i didnt want to. kind of a re-affirmation of my desire to be here.

ultrasound: so, this was our second and final one. it was done at the hospital i hope to give birth at. its much closer to home and not under construction. it was clean and quiet, just the right kind of place. it wasnt high-tech or fancy or updated to the gills with modern furnishings, but everything we saw was functional and well taken care of. we waited a short time and then were taken into the room. the lady who did the ultrasound said she was a midwife. cool. i didnt know they did all these jobs. and she was very efficient (we were only there 20 minutes) but thorough. i felt like she gave us a very personal and detailed session, taking time to go slow and explain what she was looking at and for: the chambers of the heart, the veins in the umbilical cord, etc. it was a nice experience. not so business-like as it was in canada, and we even got two pics to take home.

she also said the baby was still about one week larger than the original due date of august 13 (they 'adjusted' my due date after the first ultrasound to august 7), and that perhaps the head was even a bit larger than that. so basically im at week 19 or 20...depending on what you believe. that is basically the same ultrasound 'finding' we had for X, according to the monster blog entry. so i would love to think that maybe this kid will come 2 weeks early too.

 (19/20 week fetus face-off; current pregnancy on left, X pregnancy on right)
(dont get too excited, the top left structure is a leg, kiddo was sitting cross-legged)

End of winter 2014 - City summary

'end of winter' (according to the calendar. today is the vernal [spring] equinox). i'll just do these new-experiences-in-the-city updates once a season i think. and im adding a 'weather' summary section, not to bore people to death or register early for geriatric benefits, but to be able to remind myself of the changes and weather conditions from year to year so that i can stay motivated if it seems like the grey will never go away.

in early january, it decided to go from grey, wet, and warm to changing overnight to sunny, (sometimes) snowy, and frigid. it snapped and held strong for over two weeks straight. im not sure when it broke but we left for florida in the frigid temperatures and came back to at-freezing mush weather. it then decided to return to the previous grey poop of a winter. did halifax follow us here? was there some kind of weather exchange program? both halifax and the north-eastern US had unusually cold and snowy winters. so weird. silver lining: i need to remember that daylight hours get noticeably more plentiful starting as early as the middle of february.

(our only two real fun-outside-in-the-snowy-winter days)

-kaisaniemi botanical gardens. we just did the indoor green houses on the grounds of the outdoor gardens. there is a fee for adults, but its a rather large and varied collection so its worth it, for those interested. the palm room and waterlily rooms were especially lovely. when we went in late february almost nothing was in bloom, but it was still nice to see leaves and green in the middle of winter.

(waterlily room)

-etelä haaga library. this one is on the west side of the city, but we managed to visit it because we were early to a birthday party nearby. its a nice library near a school and fun playground in a quiet part of town, the childrens section was a cozy and inviting place and there was a small but decent english section.

-pacifico brunch. a good price (15 euros per person) and lots of food choices (mexican inspired or traditional finnish food). the restaurant (which doubles as a bar/club at night) is spacious and accepts reservations but its definitely a hipster, young person in-the-know kind of place and i wasnt totally enamoured of the food. i still like our 'dylan' restaurant better. but it was nice to try this with friends for daves birthday.

(couch cuddles at pacifico)

-chicos. this place is a wanna-be generic american fare restaurant. the puddles of mayo and weird black (cola bbq?) sauce on my cajun burger were not inspiring however. the fries, while tasty, were not in any shape (canoes?) ive ever seen in america and Xs meatballs were swimming in the typical thousand island dressing/sauce they use on just about everything meat related here. its not a terrible place, just nowhere i would choose to eat, unless we were caught hungry and this was the only thing nearby.

finn notables:
-the few days when we actually got snow, you could see all the kids flow out of their homes at the same time. it was like someone pushed a button and all the natives, attuned to this signal, immediately obeyed and came out to frolic and play and FINALLY enjoy themselves at the same moment.

-while signing my work contract, i learned that finland actually has three health system choices: the general (free) public health service, the private health insurance sector, and, every employer is required to provide occupational health service (this can be organized by the employer if they are large enough, or contracted to private health insurance).

-in looking for new housing (our current landlord is finishing school in england this spring/summer and will be moving back into this place with his wife) we found out that the city of helsinki owns many apartments in various neighborhoods. these are need-based apartments, i guess youd call them, but anyone can apply for them. the list is long of course but if you are chosen to get one of these apartments the rents are lower than your neighbors (though not in a drastic way) and you are able to stay in these leases indefinitely. we have gotten on this list. however, in talking to some neighbors to see if they knew anyone who was moving out soon we got a lucky break. in the building behind ours, on the first floor, a slightly larger apartment (81 m2) is becoming available at exactly the right time. it is owned by a nice finnish family with three boys who will be moving away to their familys farm this summer. we are going to move in. X will get to stay at her daycare, we will get a bit more space and still have access to all the same stores, playgrounds, and friends as we did before. while its not a move to our favorite neighborhoods (vanhakaupunki or arabia), this is a great second choice because it means an easier transition for X and the apartments here are better priced. perhaps one day, when we both have steady jobs, we will get to move to our number one choice area.

a few more notes on finnish cuisine: so, they typically sell their ice cream in these rectangle boxes that need to be unfolded basically completely flat each time you want to get in them. they arent like the buckets with a lid sold in the US. and its amusing to see how ice cream is served at finnish functions. instead of an ice cream scoop, finns open up these ice cream boxes and cut slices for serving.

(opening the box; opened box)

also, weve been trying our hand at making more of the traditional finnish foods. i like the desserts, because they arent as sugary as north american sweets, but the savory dishes can sometimes be a bit bland. however, ive really come to love the reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. the salmon potato soup is a great cold weather comfort dish. and also, their cabbage/meat/rice casserole is surprisingly simple but tasty, with lingonberry sauce as well of course.

05 March 2014

First finnish employment!

so, i managed to get some interesting work in exactly the length of contract i need to fill the time between now and the baby arriving. im pleased.

after more emailing around the university, i was able to meet with a researcher in the public health department of university of helsinki. she met with the head of her research group and they decided they had a small and focused project for me, that included some money. yay i will to it! this means i am putting the unpaid research i was trying to start up on the back burner (thankfully with no hard feelings from the other researcher) and will be focusing on this until the new kiddo decides to make an appearance. this is a 4 month contract, technically starting april 1, working on replicating an already published dutch study on early adolescent tobacco and alcohol use and its influence on later use/abuse of cannabis. i get to do analysis as well as be first author on the manuscript, and i can do many parts of this from home. so that is very cool.

also, while speaking to a doula program leader (more on this in a later entry), i found out that her non-profit does lots of public health research and has like 80-100 researchers in contact with or working for them. they work on pilot projects to implement into finlands health and welfare systems. i asked her to spread the word about me and that im open to paid or unpaid work of whatever kind. this sounds like my most interesting lead outside of academia yet.

however...the long term prospect of jobs in the public health field looks spotty at best. an article in the major finnish newpaper 'helsingin sanomat' noted more federal budget cuts for public health jobs and research, and that even european health funding is focusing on ever smaller topics of interest. not sure what the future holds, but at least im flexible. trying to stay positive.

03 March 2014

Oscars 2014: A pleasingly traditional affair

this oscars seemed more even-keeled and traditional than most years, i liked it and hope they can stop switching it up and stay with this vibe, although, the fashion could be punched up a bit.

what i could get from youtube and people.com showed me lovely emotional speeches (jared leto, lupita nyong'o), a beautiful 'in memoriam' tribute complete with a song from bette midler (love her), some fun, warm humor from ellen, and basically some good, solid (albeit a bit tame) old hollywood fashion. i didnt expect to see so many neutrals and black dresses after the rather neutral and black golden globes, but at least there were some fun, rich colors out there and the neutrals that some people chose were so intricate and gorgeous that i was pleased overall. there really werent any 'worst' dressed people either, some were clearly just either not on their game, or were trying to stand out, but nothing i could give a whole-hearted 'worst dressed' to. so heres the summary...

best dressed standouts:

 (bette midler; cate blanchett; portia de rossi...i LOVED these embellished dresses. several others had them and they looked nice as well, but these were my favorite. i love seeing bette more and more as she ages, and cate had the perfect earrings to go with that dress)

 (kerry washington; lupita nyong'o; gabourney sidibe...while i havent followed the work of these ladies much [ive seen 'precious' and some movies where kerry was a bit player] i have taken note of them on the red carpet. kerry always chooses well, but compared to her fellow pregnant red carpet oscar walkers, this dress impressed me. it could have looked like a wrapped towel after getting out of the shower, but she carried it off. and lupita has been on FIRE with fashion. her orange leather dress at the NAACP awards was stunning. and this one is certainly befitting an oscar winner. congrats to her. and gabourney...with her weight it seems its been hard to find things to work for her, but this hits the mark perfectly for me. the color, the style, the fit, it has all the right notes.)

 (jennifer garner; kate hudson...definitely the best 'old hollywood' looks of the night. while there are elements of both dresses that are less than totally appealing to me, its their hair that really sells it. great choices ladies.)

 (jennifer lawrence; julia roberts...these mini skirts at the hips surprised me. normally i would hate them, but these were fun, simple, flirty. and the ladies who wore them looked youthful, fresh, and like they were having a great time. i think that helps sell it too.)

(jared leto; joseph gordon-levitt...the dudes. nailed it. handsome, young, fashionable. these guys are awesome.)

(harrison ford & calista flockhart; channing tatum & jenna dewan; brad pitt & angelina jolie...the classy couples. i love couple shots. this year there werent many that stood out, and honestly if you separate jenna from channing or angelina from brad i wouldnt even mention these people, but for me calistas dress was stunning. perfect for her petite body, embellished in the most feminine ways, her hair was just right...i think she might be my favorite of the night.)    

questionably dressed:

(kelly ripa; pharrell williams & wife helen lasichanh; liza minnelli...first: kelly is getting dangerously thin, shes in danger of being invisible soon. i think people should stop complementing her on her abs. second: pharrell and his so called 'bermuda tux' and his matching strangely attired wife just bug me. they are the embodiment of the music artist who gets to come to the oscars but is really just wildly out of their league. even lady gaga managed to control herself. come on. and third: liza minnelli is usually quirky, so i know she really just gets a free pass, but the pajama-style look, the bold color and the hair were a bit too much to go unmentioned.)

(olivia wilde; elsa pataky [with chris hemsworth]...the preggos. again, being pregnant myself and just imagining trying to outfit myself for an internationally scrutinized infamous award show canNOT be easy, so i shouldnt point fingers. but, well, these ladies just made me wonder. i mean there have been so many ways weve seen to beautifully cover a bump [one summary article, and another] and these ladies are gorgeous. olivias dress just has weird creases around her boob and belly area, like the dress wasnt fit properly and elsa [who is pregnant with twins] went with a weird v-neck, tight cinching seam under the belly, oddly bejeweled dress. sorry, i just didnt like these choices.)

after-party fashion:

 (emma heming & bruce willis; leslie mann & judd apatow...partying couples. bruce is just too cute, and he seems so happy with his new [growing] family. congrats to them. and leslie mann often looks nice but not always note-worthy. this dress was so fun and colorful with its polka dots. i love her lipstick and hair too. a big win for her after-party dress.)

(evan rachel wood...ive really taken a liking to her style in the past few years. this one looks great on her, as does the hair. kudos.)

**bonus: if looking for more fashion fun, a friend sent this along to me...a sketched list of the dress choices made by all of oscars 'best actress' winners. pretty neat.