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So what is being pregnant all about in Finland?

February 25, 2008
Awhile back – probably close to a year ago already I promised to write an entry about being pregnant in Finland. It was an interesting experience and overall quite positive. Finland is a very baby-friendly country. I definitely appreciate the check-ups for my little one. I am not even sure the health officials in Ontario follow the growth and development of children as they do here in Finland.
Prior to the arrival of my little one last March, my pregnancy was followed by a midwife at the Espoon Keskus terveysneuvola. Unfortunately I was not always happy with her, as sometimes she was just distant, cold and it felt like she didn’t care. On top of that, I was assigned to the only one who didn’t speak English, so I had to drag the Mr. to every single one of my appointments just to make sure I was being informed about everything I needed to know. She was nice, but I always felt negative after visiting her. After the birth of my baby, we saw her one more time and then we were transferred over to a new midwife. (She speaks English and she’s very nice.)
A pregnant woman in Finland must apply for benefits from the Social Services Institution (KELA) in order to receive said benefits. We opted to get the “mother’s box” instead of the EUR 140 cash option. You can see what you get here. This was a great thing to get because it had all sorts of stuff we needed in it – fingernail scissors, a sleeping bag, a brush… It eliminates having to buy a lot of things that’s for sure. Some of the clothes were quite big and my baby didn’t actually wear a lot of them until she was almost two months old. But people here in Finland tend to borrow a lot of newborn stuff to avoid having to pay for stuff that will only fit for a couple of weeks. It’s a great idea and we also did that.
When you’re pregnant in Finland everyone cares about your well-being. It was very easy to get in to see a public dentist (i.e. working for the City of Espoo) for a check-up for example. Now that I am just a “non-prego woman”, I have fallen back into the ranks of “we don’t care about you, you’re not pregnant” and it will be virtually impossible to see a dentist – even in an emergency. So private is the way to go – though you have to pay more.
I gathered a few books in English and avoided pretty much all websites and discussion boards dealing with pregnancy and birth, which made my life a lot easier. I took the advice of a couple of friends here and it was really helpful. Though my mom doesn’t remember anything about me when I was small, her advice from afar was also welcome. My mother-in-law (who is a pediatric nurse) was a worry wart through my entire pregnancy, she just didn’t seem to understand I was, and still am a healthy an strong person. Anyways… you can get scads of information from the terveysneuvola and from different magazines, etc. here in Finland, so the information is not lacking. It might be tougher to get the information in English however – so it’s a good thing if your partner is a Finnish speaker. The Mr. spent many an hour reading and translating for me. I also learned a whole lot of new words – so being pregnant was a learning experience in more way than one. 🙂
When the time came to have the baby, we headed to the biggest hospital here in Espoo. We had taken a tour of the obstetrics ward and the maternity ward beforehand (I highly recommend it), so it influenced our decision to go there. Many of the staff spoke English as well so that was a good thing for me. Our first midwife didn’t speak English, but she spoke “selko suomea” to me and that was just fine. Despite a small language barrier, she was very sympathetic and understanding as I laboured my way through. Then came an early-morning shift change and the next midwife to come in spoke English. She was very good and very nice. My baby’s birth was normal and uneventful and she was healthy. Girl
We stayed at the hospital for four days and the experience was very positive for me. The staff were nice and they answered any questions we had. A couple of times we had nurses who didn’t speak English, but they too spoke selko suomea. If I were to have another child, I would go back to that hospital.
My biggest concern was breastfeeding, but we muddled our way through it. I was really frustrated at the beginning, but the bumps smoothed out at some point and everything was okay after that. Diaper changing also seemed really ominous too – but we had some diapering “adventures” Open-mouthed and now the Mr. and I are old pros at it. We still have the occasional “adventure”, but we take it all in stride and laugh our way through it now. We’ve swapped lots of poo stories with other first-time parents! Open-mouthed
The only thing I have been disappointed with so far is being shafted by the tax authorities (TWICE!) because someone at Kela gave the wrong figures to the tax office and twice I have received much less money than I was expecting. Baring teeth I am no longer on maternity leave, but this “hoito vapaa” (free care) for a few more months. It’s great to be able to stay home, but the pay is lousy – especially if you have a mortgage and car payments to attend to. I can understand why some women go back to work when their maternity leave is over – I bet it is purely for economic reasons!… I also travelled home last year in the summer and while I salute the help I got from people on the plane, changing terminals in Toronto was a real nightmare and Air Canada’s and Air Jazz’s service SUCKED. Don’t travel alone with a small baby if you’re planning to use either of those airlines in Canada. Angry
Overall the past year has been a learning experience through and through. My little one’s birthday is coming up soon and this chapter of her life will soon come to a close… On with the next adventure please! Sun
february_ahhhhhhh
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