Keeping little kids busy: “play-room” edition

Finding things to do with the little ones can be tricky, particularly during the week when the majority of kids younger than school age will be in nurseries or kindergartens. If you have your kid at home during the week, consider visiting one of Odense’s legestuer (“play-rooms”). It’s a great way for your kid to interact with other kids and you might get to drink a cup of coffee with other grown-ups.

In Denmark, legestuer are run by churches (kirke). They are literally safe play-rooms, filled with toys. Sometimes there will also be some joint activities like games or songs. Participation is free or for a small fee. Everyone is welcome. 

Below I am listing Odense’s legestuer, they all vary a bit in when they are open and how they are organised. Therefore, I am also providing links to more information for each legestue. 

Legestue Fredens Kirke
Open: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9.30 – 12.00
Address: Fredens Kirke, Skibhusvej 162, 5000 Odense C
Price: 10kr per family
Find more information here and here

Bolbro Legestue
Open: Monday, 10.00 – 12.00
Address: Sognehuset of Bolbro Kirke, Stadionvej 68, 5200 Odense V
Price: Free
Find more information here

Legestue Munkebjerg Kirke
Open: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9.30 – 12.00
Address: Munkebjerg kirke, Østerbæksvej 87, 5230 Odense M
Price: 10 kr.
Find more information here

Legestue Lumby Sognehus
Open: Thursday, 9.30 – 12.00
Address: Lymby Sognegård, H.C. Lumbyes Vej 40 B, 5270 Odense N
Price: Free
No further information online

Legestue Sankt Hans Kirke
Open: Thursday, 10.00 – 12.00
Address: Sankt Hans Kirke (in the menighedshuset), Sct. Hans Plads 1, 5000 Odense C
Price: Free
Find more information here

I only ever went to the legestue at the Fredens Kirke. They had so many cool indoor toys that I hoped they would run evenings for grown-ups to come and play. Let me know if you find out more useful information about legestuer. Happy playing! 

From Denmark with Love, 

Julia

Guide to Danish Health Care during Pregnancy

For most of us, it begins with a home pregnancy test. That second line on the stick heralds changes to our lives to profound to fathom. To help with the practical steps, here is a short guide to Danish health care during pregnancy. Please note that this is only a summary and your personal care will depend on your health and pregnancy.

During your pregnancy, you will be offered a range of free examinations performed partly by your doctor (egen læge) and partly by midwives (jordemoder) (find an overview in Danish here). Regular midwife appointments are likely to take place at a health center where midwives hold office hours, while the ultrasound scanning appointments tend to take place at local hospitals.

The first step is to call your doctor to make an appointment. Have your CPR number ready and an idea of when the first day of your last period was. They will use this information to find the right time for your appointment. The doctor will likely want to see you from week 8 of your pregnancy onwards, and pregnancy weeks are counted from the first day of your last period.

During this first doctors appointment, your pregnancy will be confirmed through a urine test. Your general health condition will be examined (blood pressure, weight, etc.) and it will be established if there are any risk factors for your pregnancy (e.g. a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes or unfavorable work conditions). The doctor will also take a blood sample to test among others for Hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis. She will also calculate your due date.

During the first appointment, you will further be offered prenatal screening for the chromosomal abnormalities trisomy 13, trisomy 18, and trisomy 21. If you agree to this, then they will test your blood for specific markers (called double test). Some woman might not have thought about whether or not they want to have prenatal screening. I recommend saying yes at this first appointment because you can still decline later on to hear the results. However, the blood test for the prenatal screening has more reliable results if blood samples were taken early during pregnancy.

Eventually, the risk for these chromosomal abnormalities is determined statistically based on three different sources of information. First, the results of the blood test, second, known risk factors (e.g. advanced age of the mother), and third, fetal measurements made during the first ultrasound screening.

The first regular ultrasound scan occurs between pregnancy weeks 11 and 13. During the scan, the due date will be confirmed based on the development of the fetus, and it will be checked if the fetus develops normally. As mentioned above, for establishing the risk for chromosomal abnormalities, the nuchal fold (the neck fold) will be measured and the risk for the chromosomal abnormalities will be calculated and shared with you immediately. It is, therefore, a good idea to bring a support person and no other children to the scan in case you will receive negative news. If the calculated risk is deemed too high, you will be offered further invasive tests to establish a diagnosis with certainty. These tests occur later in the pregnancy.

When and how often you will see a midwife depends on, among other factors, whether you are pregnant for the first time and whether your pregnancy is considered low or high-risk. Most women will visit a midwife about 5-6 times during pregnancy. The midwives will take some measurements and talk to you about all topics related to pregnancy and birth. They will furthermore share with you which options of prenatal classes are available to you. In Odense, from the public sector, there is unfortunately only one short course in English at the OUH (Odense University hospital) available. All other classes are in Danish. Promisingly though, a hypnobirthing instructor has recently started to offer classes in Odense (find her webpage here).

Additionally to the midwife appointments, you will be asked to see your doctor in pregnancy week 25 and 32. These appointments you have to schedule yourself. It is noteworthy that you will not receive any internal gynaecological exams, unless it is medically necessary, until the very end of your pregnancy, when the question how far the neck of your uterus has softened and shortened becomes important for further decision making.

Another exciting event occurs around pregnancy week 20, your second ultrasound scan. During this scan, it will be checked again if your fetus develops how it should. And you will learn the sex of your baby if you choose to.

Approaching your due date, the frequency of midwife appointments will increase. If you pass your due date, you will at some point be asked to come into the hospital for scans and CTG readings to monitor the baby and contractions. In Denmark, the recommendation is that babies should be born between 37+0 and 42+6 weeks of pregnancy. Accordingly, you will be offered to have labor induced between 41+2 and 41+5. You do not have to agree to this as you have medical decision power over your body unless you are deemed a medical emergency.

All women in Denmark have the right to give birth at home. That means the Danish Health Care system has to provide you with the support of a midwife to give birth at home. In Odense, you will be sorted into a specific scheme for home birth, run by a small circle of midwives. This increases the chances that you will know your midwife and you will also receive a home visit before to help you set up the logistics for the birth.

I have spoken to many international women who have given birth in Denmark. One observation I often hear is that the coverage of care can appear low with appointments few and far between. In my opinion, this is a cultural misunderstanding. Where some cultures take the route of frequent appointments and tests, the Danish system places more responsibility on the woman to monitor her health and to contact the doctor or midwives if there are any problems. The moment any problems are flagged, the density of appointments and treatments increases to a much higher level. During my two pregnancies, at no point did I have the impression that any risks were taken with my baby’s or my health. Speak up! Change your doctor if you don’t feel heard. And get in touch with me if you need help.

From Denmark with Love,

Julia

Health care during pregnancy and birth is included in general health care accessible to foreigners in Denmark. It is a combination of doctor and midwife appointments and includes prenatal health tests for both the baby and the mother. Pregnancy care can appear low with long waiting times between appointments but this is a cultural misunderstanding. Woman are tasked to report any problems or irregularities, triggering an immediate increase in the density of care. No one takes any risks with the health of the baby or mother. Speak up and make yourself heard by both your doctor and midwife.


Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming

Our 2-year-old has been going to baby swimming since he was a few months old. He recently started a class for older toddlers and now he is totally terrified to go. On this week’s drive to the pool, the conversation went, “Mami, home”! To which I answered, “No, Sammy, we are going swimming”. Only to hear, “No, Mami, home”! Repeat that about 30 times on a 15 min drive. Oh dear.

Baby swimming is a family event for us. Both my husband and I are joining the boys for back to back baby and toddler swimming classes. So my husband was with me in the car on the drive. Suddenly I hear myself saying to Sam, “I know you want to go home. But we are going swimming because Daddy and I know something that you don’t know and that is that sometimes, we have to do scary things. Otherwise, our world remains very small.”

That didn’t help Sam but it helped his Dad and me because we felt horrible to force Sam to go swimming against his will. It was also therefore that I was determined to keep swimming classes all light and fun this week. I was prepared to have a little monkey clinging to me for the whole time and to just try to make him feel safe in the water.

But then, suddenly, a few minutes into the swimming class Sam started to be interested, joining into some of the songs and games, and even hopping from the edge of the pool into the water! Who’d thought? So I had to chuckle because he reminded me that my words were actually true: we often have to push through the scary things to get to the fun parts!

If it’s a scary prospect to settle in Denmark, keep pushing. The fun parts are waiting around the corner. Until then, stay well.

From Denmark with Love,

Julia

Baby swimming is a popular activity with babies and toddlers in Denmark.  It strengthens motoric development and teaches them basic survival in the water from a very young age. There are public and private baby-swimming classes all over the country. In Odense, there is baby-swimming in two public swimming pools (Bolbro and Højme, offered by different providers). Those classes usually have a start and end date. Furthermore, there is a private swimming pool in Bullerup, where classes run continuously. All pools can be reached by bus or bike, depending on where in Odense you live, but given that one drags about half the household to swimming, a car makes life easier.

Mothers’ Group

Today I sat on the floor of the café of the local Ungdomshuset (literally “the youth house”) while our mothers’ group “INMOTION” was in full swing. Moms from all over the world chatting, eating food, nursing their little ones. Older babies crawling all over the place, younger babies sleeping oblivious to the beehive buzz around them, my own one happily munching away on his toy. Chaos but pure bliss, in my opinion.

For me connecting with other parents is an integral part of parenting. And because I am “an international” in Denmark, I take part in both a Danish and an international mothers’ group. The Danish mothers’ group are organised by the health nurse, who is in the Danish health system in charge of some of the early health monitoring and advising of new mothers. International moms, who do not speak Danish, are often not offered to take part in a Danish mothers’ group due to the language barrier.

But of course, international moms also have a need to connect with other moms. The informal exchange among international parents of child rearing knowledge is crucial because international families often lack the large family and friend network that conveys in Denmark so much of the information.

Having a newborn is hard at the best of times, and health challenges of either the parents or the child aggravate feelings of helplessness and despair. Just sharing a cup of coffee with another mom in the same situation, and hearing an empathetic “Me too!” relieves some of the pressure a new mom can feel.

However, it’s scary to go out with a newborn. Depending on which culture you are from, breastfeeding in public might be something you are very reluctant to do. Or your baby might have problems with sleeping, feeding, or digestion that you fear will get worse if you are not in your normal surroundings at home.

Most moms agree, however, that they really want to leave the house because we do go a bit stir-crazy cramped up at home. A mothers’ group is perfect training grounds for starting to get out of the house with the little one. They are all moms there, they have all been there and done that, and will very happily lend you a helping hand if you need one.

Maybe see you there one day. Until then, stay well.

From Denmark with love,

Julia

In Odense, there are two international mothers’ groups. The MammaMia group is organised by Folkekirkens Tværkulturelle Samarbejde. It runs twice a year for about 8-10 weeks, has limited spaces, and costs 50kr for the whole period. The INMOTION–International Mothers in Odense Meet-up is open to all moms (and despite the name dads, grandparents, and friends). There is no sign-up and there is no end date. This group was started by me. We currently meet every Thursday from 10-12 at the Babi Brunch in the Ungdomshuset. It’s a lovely brunch with coffee and juice included for 60kr, but if you are not hungry, then you can also just join us to hang out. Everyone is welcome, with or without babies, older kids, and partners.