Friday, June 26, 2015

Maternity & Parental Leave in Sweden - As Amazing as the Facebook Articles Say

I could have given this post the title "We Aren't in Kansas Anymore" but I could say that about a lot of things.  I feel like I should have posted about this sooner so I could have lured  encouraged some of you to move here while we were living here and then we could experience the amazingness of parental leave together.

Maternity/Parental Leave
If you are on Facebook much I'm sure you've read/seen the articles about paternity leave in other countries and how the US has nothing to offer parents (other than unpaid leave for 12 weeks with a guarantee you won't get fired - go us).

Here is a map I found on Google showing maternity/parental leave.
 In Sweden you get 480 days of parental leave. Yes, 480 days but wait . . . it gets better.  You get 480 days of PAID parental leave.  You get 80% of your salary (there is a limit if you happen to make a lot of money but for most people they get 80% of their salary).  There are some rules/regulations:
  • 60 days before the baby is due you can start taking pregnancy leave.  You can stay home and get paid 80% of your salary while you finish out the end of your pregnancy.  (When I first told my coworkers I was pregnant they asked me when I was going to start taking off for pregnancy leave.  I was so confused by the question.  After being asked several more times I finally asked what most people do and that is when I found out about the 60 days.  I guess most teachers take off about four weeks early and teachers of really young children take off even more because it is hard to pick them up and get up and down from the floor with them.)
  • The 480 days are 480 work days.  You can choose to get paid 5 days a week at 80% which means you get about 80% of your normal salary each month or you can take 3 days a week and have a lower monthly income but stay at home longer.  You can also take 7 days a week (including weekends) and get paid almost your full salary.  You can also take parental leave in  parts of a day (50%, 75%, etc.)
  • 10 Days after birth - The first 10 days (or 2 work weeks) after the baby is born the dad gets 100% of his pay to help take care of the new mom and baby or the other children in the household.  This is almost "mandatory" it seems.  You use it right away or lose it.
  • Each parent has 60 days reserved that cannot be transferred or shared but the other 360 days can be shared between the two parents.  
  • If you split your time almost equally you get a bonus on top of your regular 80% pay.  Sweden is big on equality.
  • You get 30 double days (6 work weeks) during the first year that you can both be home taking care of the baby at the same time and both be getting paid.  After you use those 30 double days only one of you can be paid at a time.
  • Most moms stay home for the first year and then the dads stay home the next 6 months or so.  Which is why if you are visiting Sweden you might see dads pushing a 1-1.5 year old in the stroller by himself in the middle of the day.  Sometimes you will see a few days pushing their 1 year old in a stroller because they are hanging out during papa leave.
  • You can also save days because you have until the child is 8 to use them.  Most people save some to use for family vacations until the child turns 8.  Then you can take time off at any point and call it mama leave or papa leave and still get paid.  (Swedes also get 5 weeks of vacation so there is a lot of potential time home with your family.  #getonboardAmerica)
  • If you have a second child you get 480 days for that child as well.
  • If you adopt a child you get the same benefits for 8 years after the child is adopted until the child is 10 and then the days can no longer be used.  (So if you adopt a newborn you get the benefits until they are 8 but if you adopt a 4 year old you only get the benefits until they are 10.)
  • If you have twins you get an extra 90 days plus you get more double days.  
  • If you have triplets or more at one time you get 180 days extra for each child after the first two.
  • You get the parental leave if you are married or if you are a registered partner of the child's parent.  (In Sweden, marriage isn't as common as it is in the US.  Couples might be together and committed for years and have several kids together but not get married.  Your sambo is what you call the person you are in a serious dating relationship with but you aren't married.)
  • There is a website you go to to request your parental leave and to plan your leave so you know how much you will be getting paid each month of your leave.
  • You can also spend 6 months of your parental leave outside of the country.  I've heard of several people going to another country for several months and still get parental leave pay.  This happens quite a bit since usually one parent is Swedish and the other isn't so they go to the other parent's country for 6 months or so.
To Receive Parental Leave
You have to fill out lots of forms to sign up for parental leave.  I sent in a pregnancy certificate that my midwife gave me proving that I was pregnant.  I also had to give some forms to my school to have them fill out how long I had been working there and what my salary was.  It seemed like I filled out forms for the same thing a few times but I'd rather fill out a form and get paid than not fill out a form and not get paid. (*Even if you are unemployed you can get paid for parental leave.  It isn't much but it is more than nothing.)

Benefits of Parental Leave
Other than the obvious one of getting paid to stay at home with your child it seems that parents are much more involved here than they are in the US.  It makes sense really.  If you are able to spend so much time with your child without the stress of working or staying home without pay why wouldn't you be more relaxed and happy about life?  

When we first moved here we often saw parents walking with their child and then standing around waiting patiently as their child explored whatever caught their eye (a bug, grass, the sidewalk, a tree, etc) on their way to wherever they were going.  The parent didn't hurry them along, grab their hand or tell them they didn't have time to explore.  The mom or dad just stands there patiently, not just faking it, waiting for their child to make the discovery and the child decides when it is time to move on.  Parents don't seem as stressed or frazzled here since they have so much time to devote to their children.

I've also noticed that kids are more affectionate with their parents much later in life than they are in the US.  It isn't uncommon to see older kids, up to middle school age, holding their parents hands or giving them hugs or kisses at school.  I had 6th graders last year, the age of 7th graders in the US, hug and kiss their parents when they stopped by school to drop off something they forgot at home. 

Daycare or Dagis
Kids can start at daycare, dagis, when they are one year old but most don't start until they are 18 months.  When the child is 6 months old you can start putting them on waiting lists for the preschools you would like for them to attend.  Some waiting lists are really long.  (One of the schools I subbed at had a 6 year waiting list to go to the school.  Some parents contacted the school shortly after they were born to add their name to the list.  Since that school started in grade 4, age 10, they could get on the waiting list as soon as they wanted where as preschool waiting lists start at 6 months.)  You can have your name on 5 preschool lists and apparently the government has to give you one of your five choices after you've waited at least 3 months.  Day care varies in cost but I have heard it costs about 1500-2000 kr ($180-$240) per month.  That price is for 5 days a week, full time and it includes all meals and diapers.  *I could have gotten some of these details mixed up since I haven't been through the process yet but I've heard lots of moms talk about it at my Mommy fika get togethers.

Summary for Parental Leave
The US needs to get on board!  When people take parental leave it is no big deal.  That is right, telling your boss you are pregnant and therefore will be gone for about a year on maternity leave doesn't even make them sweat.  This is normal.  When I told my boss I was pregnant his response caught me off guard.  He was very supportive and told me that this time was about the baby and me being healthy and taking care of myself.  If I needed anything I could just let him know.  It helps that the government pays for the parental leave so then the school (or other businesses) have money to hire someone to replace you for the year you will be gone.

Everyone is used to this but it is also serious in that if you try to email someone on parental leave you will most likely get a response that says "On mommy/daddy leave until ______ (6-12 months from now), if you need something before then contact so and so."  I feel like it would be hard for people in the US to just leave their job for 6 months to a year and actually stop answering emails or being involved.  I'm sure we could figure it out eventually given the opportunity . . .

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Prenatal Care & Giving Birth in Stockholm, Sweden

Overall, the prenatal care, labor and delivery seem pretty similar to what I am used to hearing about in the US.  I will say that for a girl who likes to have a solid plan and know what is going to happen . . . Stockholm is helping me learn how to give up that control :).  The level of care here really is excellent but the way they do things is a bit different.  If you think of any questions after this post leave them in the comments and I'll see if I can answer them!

Prenatal Care
Our First Appointment
For your prenatal care you see a midwife, not an OBGYN unless there is something wrong with the pregnancy.  My first visit with the midwife was at 8 weeks and 5 days which is pretty early here.  They usually like to see you around 10 weeks.  Since we did IVF to get pregnant she didn't do a pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy at my first appointment.  Instead, I handed her a paper from the IVF clinic that said when they transferred the embryo and that at the 7.5 week ultrasound they saw a heartbeat.  At the first MVC (mödravårdscentral - Mother's Care Center) appointment we gave her some paperwork that we filled out with our medical history and we talked about what questions I had and kind of what to expect from the appointments.  The first midwife appointment was the only one Jake went to because we quickly figured out there wasn't much happening at these appointments.
After giving her our medical history she took my blood pressure, took some blood and checked my urine for something and sent us on our merry way.  She said around week 12 we could do the CUB test which is a blood test and ultrasound looking for abnormalities.  At first we thought we would do it but after talking to some friends and thinking about it more we decided to skip the blood test and just have the ultrasound.  We wanted to see the baby but we didn't want to worry about false positives with the abnormality screening.

*It really helped that my friend Lisa went through her pregnancy and delivery in Stockholm while we were friends so I knew what to expect.  Her advice was "don't expect much" and that actually helped!

Ultrasound
We had the ultrasound at 12 weeks and 2 days at a different office so I never saw my midwife during that time.  It was great seeing the baby moving all around.  I also gave blood before the ultrasound to check different things (like my rubella immunity which I failed when we were doing infertility testing).

Appointments
My MVC appointments with my midwife over the entire pregnancy were at: 8 weeks, (12 week ultrasound at a different clinic), (18 week ultrasound at a different clinic), 19 weeks, 25 weeks, 29 weeks, 33 weeks, 35 weeks, 37 weeks and 39 weeks.  I have one scheduled during week 41 but I'm hoping I won't need it :).  They let you go 42 weeks before they induce you in Stockholm.  In the southern parts of Sweden they let you go to week 43 before inducing you.  All of the medical records here are electronic so when I do have something done it goes to into my file and any medical professional can pull it up.  I think this is really great but I know others might disagree.

Almost every midwife appointment followed this order: Do you have any questions? How are you feeling? Are you still taking your vitamins? Then she checks my blood pressure and listens to the baby's heartbeat.  She also pricked my finger to get my blood sugar and iron levels at several appointments.  At week 33, she started poking around more to see if the baby's head was down.  She did this again at week 35 and then at week 37 she has to make sure it is down.  My overall opinion was that she didn't have a clue so at 37 weeks, after she asked me if I thought it had moved, she checked with a ultrasound to make sure it was down and it was.

Birth Plan
The midwife you see for your prenatal appointments is not who delivers the baby.  I feel like this could have gone on the list of "things that freaks Kara-the-planner out but it really hasn't.  (This freaks some people out since in the US you go to the same doctor for your prenatal care and delivery but I know that most people don't actually have their doctor deliver the baby.  It all depends on if they are working when you go into labor.)  Since the person delivering your baby doesn't know you or how your pregnancy went they will read the notes my midwife gives them along with anything I want to tell them in my birth plan.  At my 35 week appointment, I helped my midwife write my birth plan.  She included general things about my pregnancy and if it was normal or if I had any complications.  The birth plan also includes some of my medical history and medical allergies.  She asked me a few questions about how I was feeling about giving birth and what medication I might want during labor.  I didn't have her add much other than I'd like for them (the midwife and the midwife/nurse's assistant that will be assigned to me) to speak English to me and to each other if possible so I know what is going on.  I also said I might want an epidural so I'd like to know if I'm getting too close to not being able to have one.  Short and sweet because if I've learned anything through this whole "let's have a baby adventure" it is I am not in control so why try now?

Giving Birth - Labor & Delivery
Where do you Deliver?
You get to pick which hospital you would like to give birth at and then you register with that hospital around 25 weeks.  If you have any complications after 25 weeks or so you call the hospital not your midwife.  Once you are in labor, you call the hospital and answer some questions (so they make sure you are actually in labor).  If they think you are far enough along with your early labor stage then they will check to see if they have room for you.  If they do have room you get to go there but if they don't they will send you to another hospital. You could say that is a bit different than what happens in the US and could be added to the "freak out list."  The good news is that whenever I've asked which hospital people have delivered at and what they thought they've had all good things to say.  I'm hopeful we will get our first choice but if we don't we should be in good hands regardless.  Again, I am trying to go with the flow which isn't always easy but I have made a lot of progress!

Hospitals 
There are what I would consider "regular" public hospitals, private clinics (some located inside hospitals) and birthing centers where you can choose to give birth.  I think there is only one private birthing center that doesn't have the ability to do c-sections or complications so if something does come up you have to be transported by ambulance to a hospital.  All the other birthing centers are located in a hospital so if something does happen and you need a c-section or have a medical emergency you should be fine.  You can pick a public or private hospital/clinic and they both cost the same, nada.  I haven't paid for a single prenatal or ultrasound appointment.  You do pay a small amount for your partner to stay with you after the birth but it is $60 a day or so and that is it.

We are registered at Danderyds (which is where the Swedish Princess just had her baby).  However, like I said before if they are full we could go to BB Stockholm (which is a private clinic located in Danderyds Hospital), Huddinge, BB Sofia, SÖS, Söder BB (private clinic at SÖS), and Karolinska.  (I might have missed a few or mixed them up but I think that covers the choices.)  I asked for advice about which hospital to pick on a "Moms in Sweden" group that I am a part of on Facebook and everyone had a great things to say about where they delivered so that is reassuring.

It seems that all of the hospitals and clinics seem to be geared more towards what we could consider birthing clinics in the US.  They try not to induce you, do c-sections or use a lot of medical interventions unless it is absolutely necessary.  Laboring on a pilates ball or a birthing stool is very common.  They don't really want you to labor in a bed or on your back.  One big difference is that you can eat during labor.  Obviously you probably won't want a normal sized meal but you can eat small amounts of food.  They suggest eating nuts, dried fruit, chocolate or another sugary treat to keep your energy up.
Starting on the left: The blue thing on wheels is a gåbord (walking table) so you can walk through the halls and then brace yourself during a contraction, pilates ball, labor bed, and a birthing stool.

When to Go to the Hospital
Before you go to the hospital you are supposed to call when you are having regular, painful contractions each lasting about 60 seconds and you are having 3 or so in 10 minutes and this happens several times.  You can also call if you think you need help, if your water breaks without contractions or if you are bleeding.  When you call they will ask you questions to find out if you are in active labor and to make sure there is a place for you.  The goal is for you to go through the early labor stage at home as long as possible so when you arrive at the hospital you are dilated to 4 cm or so.  Once you get to the hospital they will check to see if you are dilated (which is the first time during your pregnancy that they will check you), check your vitals and then you will be admitted and assigned a midwife and an assistant.

Pain Relief
You can get an epidural but it doesn't seem to be as common here as it is in the US.  The epidural they typically do here is called a walking epidural.  They numb you but you can still feel your legs, walk around and go to the bathroom.

The most popular choice of pain medicine is gas and air, like what you can get at the dentist office.  In our birthing class we learned that 91% of women use gas and air during their delivery.  Some women really like it.  Others don't because it made them feel too loopy, like they've had a glass or two of wine.  Considering I've never had enough wine to feel loopy I'm hesitant to try this.

You can also use a TENS machine during early labor which sends shocks to your body during contractions (you can control the intensity with a remote) to help counteract the painful contractions.  I've used a machine like this before on my knee and shoulder for therapy after I injured them.

Another form of pain relief is called sterile kvaddels which is when they inject water just under your skin.  They say it feels like a wasp sting for 20-30 seconds but it can provide pain relief for an hour or so.  The idea is to fight pain with pain so if you shock your system with the water injection it will "forget" about the painful contraction.  I'm just not so sure about that one . . .

Postnatal Care
Delivery & Postnatal Care
After delivery they want you to do skin to skin with your newborn for the first 2 hours.  They don't take the baby right away to weight it or do any tests.  They strongly encourage breastfeeding instead of using formula.  They wait for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing before they clamp it and then offer to let the dad cut it.  None of this has to be in the birth plan because it is standard protocol assuming everything was fine with the baby and the mom after delivery.  They do give the baby a vitamin K shot to help coagulate the blood.

You usually stay in the hospital for 2 nights.  There is a patient hotel at the Danderyd hospital that we can move to if we don't have any complications.  Then it feels more like a hotel and less like a hospital.  They still have midwives working at the patient hotel to check on you and the baby.  There isn't a nursery where you can send the baby to let you get some sleep.  Once the baby is born you are responsible for it.  The nurses will come in to help you and give you tips for changing the diaper and breastfeeding but you will be the ones doing all the hands on work which makes sense since you will be leaving in a few days and will be responsible for another human being!

Co-sleeping seems to be pretty popular in Sweden.  Lots of babies also sleep in something called a baby nest.
You either put the baby nest in your bed between the two of you or inside the crib/bassinet.  The American in me just can't go there.  Seems like the opposite of what they encourage babies to sleep in in the US.  I'm assuming we will have a hospital bassinet on wheels and the baby can sleep there while we are at the hospital.  

BVC - Barnavårdscentral - Baby Care Center
You pick a BVC or Baby Care Center where you will take the baby for checkups.  I think these check-ups are also done by midwives.  A midwife from your BVC should come visit you at your home within the first week of coming home from the hospital.

I'm sure I'll remember something else I wanted to include but for now this is all I've got.  Let me know if you have questions!  I'm interested to see how I feel about the whole system after I give birth.  I have a follow up post to this about maternity/parental leave (that I've already written) but I didn't want to put them all in one long post so check back for that soon!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bumpdate Weeks 34-38

I haven't been very good about doing bumpdates or taking notes about each week on my spreadsheet, yes, I have a spreadsheet about the baby. #ilovespreadsheets  This bumpdate might be missing some answers but I posted lots of pictures and I tried to write what I could remember :).

Week 34, May 20th-May 26th, 2015
How I am feeling: I was pretty tired this week.  It was my last week of school before taking pregnancy leave the last 3 weeks of the school year.  I had a lot of last minute things to wrap up like grades, student comments, packing up, etc.  But overall I felt pretty good considering the long week.
Funny Jake Moments/Commentary: 
Size of the Baby: Cantaloupe, 17.75 in, 4.75 lbs
What the Baby is up to this Week: The waxy protective coating, vernix, is becoming much thicker this week as the lanugo continues to shed and may be almost completely gone by now.  Inside my body, the lungs are continuing to mature in preparation for breathing in the outside world.
Best Moment of the Week: 
Food Cravings: 
What I Miss: 
Most Looking Forward To: Pregnancy leave!  I am hoping to write more about the pregnancy/maternity/parental benefits you get while living in Sweden but if I don't have time I wanted to talk about pregnancy leave.  Sixty days before your due date you can start taking pregnancy leave.  The days come out of your total 480 days of paid leave that you get to share with the baby's dad over the first 8 years of the child's life.  Obviously, if I was in the US I would have finished out the school year since not only do we not get paid maternity leave but there is no such thing as pregnancy leave.  Since I had the option here I took it.  I was starting to get more uncomfortable, my legs were swelling during the day and I had zero energy to work out, make dinner, or really function much after teaching.
Thankful For: Pregnancy leave!  (Notice a theme?)
Weight Gain/Loss: +1 lb (18.6 lbs total)
Clothing: Maternity Clothes.  I have a pair of black maternity pants that I wear on an almost daily basis.  They are really comfortable and they still look nice.  They are black skinny jeans which is a staple in Sweden's unwritten uniform :).
Sleep: No complaints here.  Still sleeping great.  Usually get up around 4:30 to go to the bathroom but I can fall back asleep just fine.
Exercise: None this week that I can remember.  Maybe once but it was a long week at school so I didn't have much energy left for working out.
Movement: Still lots of moving, especially at night.
Gender: We still don't know but I can't wait to finally find out!


Week 35, May 27th-June 2nd, 2015
How I am feeling: I felt great this week.  I took a birthing class this week.  We paid for one birthing class at the hospital I am registered at for the birth around week 30 and that was good.  It went through the labor stages and what pain relief is available here.  The class this week was free through my midwife's office.  The first session was about the steps of labor and pain relief so I didn't make Jake go to it since we just did it about 5 weeks ago.  The second class is in two weeks and that is what happens after the baby arrives so he will go to that one.

My Aunt Carmen and Cousin Holly were in town visiting which was a lot of fun.  They were probably our most laid back visitors and I really appreciated that since I was 35 weeks pregnant and not up for all the walking we would normally do.  The first day they were here we walked about 19,000 steps from 2 pm until we went home for the evening.  That was a lot of walking and I was a little worried but the rest of the week was a lot more relaxing.  That first day we were just trying to keep them awake :).  The rest of the week we slept in, had breakfast between 9:30-10:30, left for the day after that and then had lunch out, had an after lunch activity and then came back to relax/nap before dinner.

Here are a few fun pictures from our time with Holly & Carmen.
Hanging out in Gamla Stan.  My cousin Trenton responded to this picture and I said I was bumpin' which just made me smile!


 Jake took us on a boat ride from our apartment to City Hall and then dropped us off at Drottningholm.
 Almost to City Hall
 I got a note in the mail saying I had a package to pick up at the grocery store, bigger packages won't fit through our mail slot.  So we stopped by on our way to the boat and it turns out the package from a beautiful blanket from my Aunt Carmen!  Perfect timing since she was here to see me open it.  The blanket is from the same company that made the blanket that was wrapped around the new Princess Charlotte when she made her debut!
 We had dinner at Gondolen which is a restaurant up pretty high above Gamla Stan and Slussen.  We tried to pick a clear night so we could see the sunset.
I think we did a pretty good job!
This was after we went to the Fotografiska (Photography) Museum which was a lot of fun.

We had a great time with my aunt and cousin and it was a great excuse to go to some fun restaurants and museums before the baby arrives.
Funny Jake Moments/Commentary: 
Size of the Baby: Honeydew Melon, 18 in, 5.25 lbs
What the Baby is up to this Week: At this point, all of the baby's major organs should be nearly complete.  The baby's kidneys are completely developed and his/her liver is functional and capable of processing waste products.
Best Moment of the Week: We bought a STROLLER!  Buying a strollers in Sweden is like buying your first car (both in price and in the way they advertise them).  We went back and forth with what to buy for a long time.  We knew that what we would need in Stockholm (big wheels, easy to push, bassinet, big basket for carrying groceries, good suspension) wasn't necessarily what we needed in Kansas (easy to fold up, lighter weight, easy to push, could hold a car seat).  We thought about trying to find one that would work for both places but we decided to just buy a used one that would meet our needs for Stockholm with the intention of selling it before we moved back and then buying a different one that would meet our needs for Kansas.  After LOTS of shopping and looking we decided we wanted either a Brio Smile or an Emmaljunga Viking or Super Viking.

Once we started looking on Blocket.se (similar to Craigslist) we started leaning more towards the Emmaljunga Super Viking with the white chassis.  You could say we started to get picky which didn't surprise either of us.  I looked every day, multiple times a day, for a long time and then we saw an ad for one.  It was actually the floor model from a baby store so it isn't as "used" as most strollers on Blocket but it wasn't being sold for the brand new price either.  I went with my aunt and cousin to buy it and before I bought it I got cold feet!  It was just a big purchase and we had talked about it for so long.  Thankfully my aunt stepped in a played "Mom" for a few minutes and asked me what my hesitations were.  She should be pretty good at playing mom since she has five kids :).  After talking with her I decided to go for it.  (I had already called Jake and he left the decision up to me knowing it was the exact thing we were looking for and that he could trust my decision . . . probably assuming I would be an idiot not to buy it.)  After I decided to buy it and we were heading to the register my aunt told me that she talked to my uncle Brad and that they wanted to help pay for part of the stroller as a baby gift.  I was so surprised.  My face turned red and I tried to talk her out of it but she insisted.  It was such a blessing and so awesome that she offered.  Thanks Brad and Carmen!  Can't wait to send you a picture of the first family outing with the baby in the stroller!
Food Cravings: 
What I Miss: 
Most Looking Forward To: Taking the baby on a walk in the new stroller!
Weight Gain/Loss: +1 lb (19.6 lbs total)
Clothing: Maternity
Sleep: Great!  Including a few naps!
Exercise: Lots of walking around with my aunt and cousin!
Movement: Still likes to move and be awake in the evening and at night which is fine by me!
Gender: Only 5 more weeks until we find out!


Week 36, June 3rd-June 9th, 2015
How I am feeling: Great!  It turns out when you don't have work or visitors and you can just do whatever you want during the day you have a lot more energy.  Weird, huh?  Most days I would sleep in a little (8:30-9:30) and then eat breakfast, work out, run errands, go to a few Mommy Fikas (to meet other moms or moms to be) and most days I threw in a nap for good measure.  I have noticed that the key to how I'm feeling directly correlates to whether or not you can see my ankle bones.  If I'm able to keep my feet up most of the day or go on walks I'm good but if I have them down for too long they start to swell.

I started eating dates this week.  My cousin Holly read a study that showed that women who started eating 6 dates a day at 36 weeks had a higher percentage of going into spontaneous labor, higher cervical dilation upon hospital admission, and the one that helped me push through the first few dates was . . . they were in labor on average for 7 HOURS LESS!  I tried eating two with each meal but it turns out I can't really do dates at breakfast.  They just didn't really go over very well so now I eat 3 at lunch and 3 at dinner.  We bought several different kinds and I think I finally found some that I don't mind eating.  I sure hope it works :).
Funny Jake Moments/Commentary: 
Size of the Baby: Romaine Lettuce, 18.75 in, 5.75 lbs
What the Baby is up to this Week: The baby is still gaining weight and becoming rounder in appearance.  By the end of this week, the baby will be just three weeks away from being full term.  The presentation of the baby is likely head-down.  The baby will start hiccuping more in preparation for breathing outside the womb.
Best Moment of the Week: 
Food Cravings: 
What I Miss: 
Most Looking Forward To: 
Weight Gain/Loss: +0 lb (19.6 lbs total)
Clothing: Maternity
Sleep: No complaints.  I've been trying to take naps during the day which has really helped.
Exercise: Worked out 4 days this week!  Two days at the gym and two at home.  At the gym I've been doing 5 minutes of walking on the treadmill to warm up and then 5 minutes of walking incline intervals before moving to weights.  Most of the weights (both free and machines) I've been doing towards the end of the pregnancy include: inner and outer thighs, chest press, rows, biceps, upright rows, walking lunges forward and backwards, and squats.  Then I usually move to a mat and get on all fours to stretch out my back and do some back exercises before doing planks.  Yes, I have been planking while pregnant.  I asked my doctor and she said it was fine.  Her only concern was that I would fall on my stomach if my arms couldn't hold me up but I wasn't worried about that at all.  I usually hold a normal plank pose for 10 seconds before taking a break and repeating it 2 or 3 times.  I also have been doing side planks for 10 seconds once or twice.
Movement: Typically pretty quiet in the mornings with a little bit of moving but most of the movement is in the afternoon and evening.  Baker usually calms down again by the time I go to bed (11:00-12:00).  I started feeling hiccups more often.
Gender: Still a surprise!


Week 37, June 10th-June 16th, 2015
How I am feeling: I still feel great.  There were a few times this week when I started to get a little more uncomfortable but I honestly can't complain.  I think if I was still teaching I would be telling a different story.  It is amazing how if you listen to your body and slow down how much better you feel.  I feel like the baby might have dropped at some point in the last week or so.

We had visitors again this weekend.  Jennifer, a friend from high school, and her parents, Mike and Debbie, who are family friends of Jake's parents were in town.  Mike and Jennifer did the Stockholm SwimRun which included a half marathon of running and an iron man swim by alternating running and swimming.  It was really fun watching them.  Here is Jennifer's blog if you want to read more about the SwimRun and their time in Stockholm.
We had dinner with them in Gamla Stan their first night in town.  We also had them over for Thai food and a walk by our apartment before they left.  It was so fun having visitors.  It was a little strange because I knew that they would be here towards the end of the pregnancy so the baby would be coming soon and then when they were here it seemed like they were early.  There was no way the baby could be coming already!


Since they were alternating between swimming and running they had to swim in their shoes and run in wet suits.  I cannot imagine doing either!
Funny Jake Moments/Commentary: 
Size of the Baby: Swiss Chard, 19.25 in, 6.3 lbs
What the Baby is up to this Week: This week the baby is just two weeks away from being full term.  That means all of the baby's organs are nearly fully developed and prepared for the outside world.  If I am having a boy it's likely he'll weight more at birth than a girl of the same gestational age.
Best Moment of the Week: Maternity pictures!  When we were home in April I had one of my really good friends take our pictures.  I wanted to document the belly but I didn't really want to have someone in Stockholm do it because photographers are so expensive here.  Well, after coming back to school one of my coworkers asked me if she could take our maternity pictures.  She has a photography business but hadn't taken pictures in a while so she was hoping to get some new ones to help advertise for more business.  I am so glad we said yes.  The pictures were taken about a 5 minutes walk from our apartment which makes them extra special.

Here are a few of my favorites!

I love this man and I can't wait to see him as a dad! 





 I love this bridge, the metro and the water.  When I picture our apartment this picture pops into my head.
Food Cravings: 
What I Miss: 
Most Looking Forward To: Seeing Jake as a dad.  He has been so great throughout this pregnancy but I can't wait to see him actually holding our baby.
Weight Gain/Loss: +2 lbs (21.6 lbs total)
Clothing: Maternity.  The skirt in our maternity pictures is from Old Navy.  It was on sale for $0.50.  50 CENTS!  I bought two of them :).
Sleep: Still sleeping pretty well.  Waking up one or two times to use the bathroom but I'm able to fall back asleep.
Exercise: Worked out 4 days again this week :).
Movement: I usually feel hiccups once a day now and continue to feel and see lots of moving.  I love watching Baker's feet moving around.
Gender: Another picture from our maternity shoot . . . I wonder which outfit we will be putting on Baker for his/her coming home outfit?


Week 38, June 17th-June 23rd, 2015
I feel like I look tired and a little rough in this picture.
How I am feeling: Overall, still feeling good.  I have moments, anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour long or so, when I feel uncomfortable but it usually goes away.  I haven't hit the "I'm so uncomfortable that labor sounds better than this" which I can't decide is a good thing or a bad thing.  I am nervous about giving birth and how I'll handle the pain and then the lack of sleep but I'm excited to finally hold this baby and see his/her face.
Funny Jake Moments/Commentary: I was doing laundry this weekend and when I went down to move things from the washer to the dryer I apparently took longer than Jake was expecting.  By the time I got back up to the apartment Jake was on his way down to the laundry room because he thought my water broke and I didn't have my phone to call him and I had no way to get back up to the apartment on my own.  It was cute.  Really cute.  He doesn't panic or overreact or worry about things like I do but he did this time and has a few other times and it just makes me smile.  I love it!

The morning after bowling before Jake left for work he asked me if I still had a baby in my belly . . . I pulled back the sheets and said yep.  Like I would let him sleep through me giving birth.
Size of the Baby: Leek, 19.75 in, 6.8 lbs
What the Baby is up to this Week: Although the baby is just a week away from being considered full term with fully functioning organs, his/her brain and nervous system will continue to develop well into childhood and his/her teen years.
Best Moment of the Week: We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary this week!  We have been through a lot in our 7 years of marriage but I have a feeling this next year is going to be one we never forget.  I can't wait to see Jake as a dad.  He is going to be awesome!
Food Cravings: 
What I Miss: Being able to tie my shoes.
Most Looking Forward To: Seeing Jake holding the baby and knowing how our birthing experience went because that would mean we had the baby!
Weight Gain/Loss: +2 lbs (23.6 lbs total)
Clothing: Maternity
Sleep: My left hip is starting to tingle sometimes and hurt after I've been sleeping on it for a while.  I have to adjust more than I used to and switch to my right side which isn't as comfortable.  I'm still waking up to once or twice to use the restroom.  I think it could still be a lot worse.
Exercise: The last time we went bowling when one of us was pregnant . . . her water broke a couple hours later.  You could say that the person whose water broke might have wanted a little bit of pay back.  In my defense, Lisa's sister was in town and she wanted ideas of things to do with here so I suggested bowling.  Lisa was 36.5 weeks pregnant and a few hours after bowling her water broke and then Gray was born the next day.  Lisa is in town for about two weeks and her main goal is to convince Baker to arrive on or before his/her due date since she flies out on the evening of my due date and she wants to meet this baby in person.
Movement: Lots of moving.  The other day Jake wanted to feel Baker move and I told him not to wake him/her up but the next thing we both knew Baker said "Hi" to his/her dad.  Jake could feel both feet about an inch apart.  I tried to feel it but Jake pushed me away.  I have a feeling we might be fighting over Baker time in the near future!
Gender: Hopefully we will find out soon.

This post ended up being pretty long with lots of pictures but I want to make sure I remember all these fun moments before Baker arrives!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Teacher in Sweden

I always enjoy reading other "Day in the Life" posts and I thought it would be fun to do one while I was teaching so I could compare teaching in Sweden vs the US.  At the end of the post I added a few thoughts on things that I noticed were different in Sweden versus the US so if you want to skip down to that you can.  But first, here is a typical teaching day:

Monday, May 18th, 2015
During the week I wake up about an hour or an hour and half before Jake. (Don't worry, I make up for it on the weekends.)
Cheerios and my Beth Moore bible study help me start my day.  The picture in the top right hand corner is the calendar hanging in our room.  Each month I get to see new pictures of some of my favorite people.  The bottom two pictures: When I was home in April I had my mom make a jacket expander for my coat so my belly would fit.  It is starting to get a bit tight but I have another one that is bigger that I can zip in when this one won't work anymore.

It takes me about 35 minutes to get to school.  In the mornings I take the metro and then a bus and then walk about five minutes for my morning commute.
The metro runs every 1-2 minutes during rush hour so I don't have to be too picky about which one I get on but the bus only runs every 15 minutes so I have to get there one time or else I'll have to take another bus plus another metro.  The bus on the morning I took picture had an awesome Garmin advertisement on the back of it :).  There is a pretty long escalator that I walk up every morning which wasn't that hard when I wasn't pregnant but then it started to get a little more challenging.  I do enjoy passing people who are just standing there knowing I'm pregnant and they (usually) are not :).

The bus ride goes over several bridges and one of them is really pretty but this day it was rainy and cloudy.  The last picture was from a different day but I wanted to show the bike path.  There are lots of cyclists during the morning commute.
My coworker Chelsea is awesome!  More about her later :).  We usually catch up about what we did over the weekend before our meeting starts.


Here is my schedule for the week.  Most days I have three one hour lessons but my long days include four one hour lessons plus lunch duty, mentor time or tutorials.  It is nice having a ten minute break in between lessons to just decompress, sit for a few minutes or pee :).

7:40-8:10 - I usually get to school around 7:40 am which gives me a few minutes before our 8 am staff meeting.  Every Monday we have a 10 minute long staff meeting.  It starts at 8 and actually ends on time.  Swedes definitely value punctuality and I appreciate it.  The principal talks and then any announcements from the heads of departments and then we are done.  Did I mention that is starts on time? And only lasts 10 minutes?

8:20 - Department Meetings.  After the staff meeting we have department meetings.  We meet back downstairs in the staff room.  Unlike the US where each teacher has their own classroom (in most cases) we have a staff room where each teacher has their desk.  Some teachers teach in the same room all day long so they technically have a room to call home but most still keep their desks in the staff room.  I like it because then I can hang out with my colleagues and get ideas or talk through things when I need to without running all over the school trying to find people.
Our department meetings are supposed to be 30 minutes long but they don't always take the whole time.  We talk about upcoming projects, lesson plans, etc.

8:55-9:05 - Mentor Time
Our mentor time on Monday is really short so we usually just give the students announcements or updates that we heard about in our staff meeting and see if they have any questions.  I talk more about mentoring at the end of this post.

9:10-10:10 - 6th Grade Math
We have been working on a survey project where students come up with a survey question, ask a sample group and then make a chart or graph and presentation about their survey question.
My desk set up in the classroom.
10:10-10:30 - Break
I have a 20 minute break before lunch duty.

10:30-11:00 - Lunch Duty
I have lunch duty 3 times a week.  It was a hard transition since our lunches are "duty free" back home.  It isn't so bad but it is a lot louder than the staff lunches I'm used to.  Chelsea also has a lunch duty on Monday so we usually eat together and watch both of our classes.  For lunch duty we are responsible for lining the students up quietly before entering the cafeteria, watching them get their food and then making sure they aren't too loud at lunch and that they clean up their tables when they are finished.
I always get carrots for lunch plus a piece of knäckebröd (hard bread or cracker) with butter and then usually some kind of meat with pasta or rice.  The food is definitely better than what they serve for school lunches in the US but it also gets pretty boring with the same types of food served every day.  We get fruit on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I started drinking milk at lunch during my pregnancy to add a few calories to my daily intake.

11:00-11:30 - Coffee Break/Lay on the couch break :)
After lunch Chelsea wanted some coffee and I decided to join her so I could lie on my side for a few minutes to get my feet up.
This is what I would call the staff lounge.  We meet here for our Monday morning staff meetings and our Thursday afternoon meetings.  Fika breaks are also done here and where the coffee can be found :).

We hung out for a few minutes with Richard and then headed to the staff room to get our things for our next lesson.

11:30-12:30 - 4th Grade Math
We introduce capacity, volume and mass to the 4th graders.  I am in charge of the 4th grade lessons.  George does the 5th and 7th grade lessons and Chelsea plans the 6th grade lessons.  It definitely helps cut down on the prep time which is nice.
It took me a little while to figure out my system of keeping everything organized especially when I was subbing and didn't have a "home room."  I always bring two folders to each class: the blue folder on top has my schedule and then the red one underneath has extra homework copies because students always lose them and then when they stop me in the hallway I can give them a new copy even if I don't have their specific folder.  Then I have a folder for each class I teach.  It has the lesson plan, copies I need for the lesson, answer keys, etc.  I also keep some copies in my classroom since I have a home room.

12:30 - Ten Minute Break

12:40-13:40 - 5th Grade Math
We were working on probability.

13:40-14:00 - 20 Minute break before tutorials
The Math department area.  My chair is on the left with the black coat (and the white chair might be for my feet).  George sits in the chair with the grey jacket and Chelsea is across from me with the tan coat.
14:00-15:00 - 4th Grade Tutorials
Every Monday we have tutorials for an hour with the 4th graders and then with the 5th-7th graders.  We take turns covering the tutorials so once every 3 weeks we get a break from tutorials.  On this Monday we were grading National Math Tests.  Yes, you read that correctly.  We graded our own National Math tests that the 6th Graders took in March.  That is completely unheard of in the US especially since we weren't even really allowed to read the questions on the state tests other than when a student asked for one to be read aloud.  Now we are marking all of the tests.  They get sent in to be monitored to make sure we didn't grade them incorrectly.

 National tests ready to be graded!
 This is Chelsea.  She is awesome!  She started working in January at the same time I took the full time math position.  We have really hit it off.  She makes me laugh and she listens to all my baby/pregnancy stuff which just makes me smile!  She is also quite sassy with me which I enjoy.  She has told me a few times that I have lost my speaking privileges.
This is George.  He is our department head.  He rocks! He does such a great job making sure Chelsea and I are good to go and always offers to help when we are stressed out.  He doesn't get all worked up or try to micromanage us.   Plus, he loves getting his picture taken :).

15:00-16:00 - 5th-7th Grade Tutorials
We helped a few students during tutorials and gave a few math retests while we entered the National Tests into the spreadsheet.
When I went down to the staff room I found these chocolates on my desk!  They are all dark chocolate!
Chelsea was pumped that I took her picture as we were waiting for the metro :).

 I left school around 4:30 pm.  I usually try to leave around 3 pm but with tutorials and entering in the
National Tests I left "late" today.  My first seven years of teaching I never left work right when I could, at 4:00 pm.  I always stayed until at least 4:30 but sometimes even 5:30 or 6.  My first few years of teaching it was much later.  I told myself when I took this job that I would try my best to not get too caught up in work that I forget that we lived in a foreign country.  I wanted it to feel different so leaving early was one way to remind myself to not take the time here for granted.
 Most days I work out before coming home but since I left school "late" I skipped it but I did stop by the store on the way home which is pretty normal.
 Jake made dinner for us which isn't the norm but it turns out growing a baby all day is hard work and pretty exhausting!
 Game of Thrones during dinner!
After Game of Thrones and dinner we both hung out on our computers for a little while before heading to bed.  This picture was taken at 10:18 pm.  I am no longer worried about the darkness that is for sure.

Here are a few differences between teaching and schools in the US versus Sweden that I thought were interesting:

Assessments: In Kansas, we start state testing in 3rd grade and they take tests every year it seems like for the rest of their lives :).  They start with just reading and math in 3rd grade and then add science in 4th grade.  In Sweden, they take national tests in 3rd, 6th and 9th grade.   They are spread out throughout the year but it seems like a lot of testing for that particular grade. They take tests in all subjects (English, Swedish, Math, Science, and Social Sciences).  At our school students can choose to take the test in English or Swedish which I think is awesome.  While taking the test if they get stuck with the Swedish version they can ask to see the English version or vice versa.  They also had oral parts to most of the national tests, even in Math.  If they are absent during the test there isn't a makeup day which seems crazy to me.  The teachers grade the National Tests, which I mentioned above, and then they are sent out to be spot checked.

Grading: In Sweden, when we grade assignments we are encouraged to use a rubric instead of giving a grade using a number or a percentage.  Percentages are not allowed.  That was hard for me.  Really hard.  Have I mentioned I don't like change?  I like turning grades into percentages because then you can easily compare how students did on different assignments.  If you do write a number on the assignment it needs to be written like a fraction with the total number the student answered correctly over the total possible.  I had a REALLY hard time switching to that grading method.  I always used to write how many they missed at the top and then a percent. (Ex. The top of a paper might say -3, 85%.)  Now I would need to write 17/20.  I think it takes more time to count up how many problems they answered correctly than it does to count how many they missed . . . assuming you are doing your job as a teacher and the kids are learning something.  Some teachers here put a star or a check mark next to each correct answer whereas I would circle wrong answers.  There were some students/parents who really struggled with seeing only circled wrong answers because then it seemed like we were highlighting the negatives instead of the positives.  Can you imagine grading 60 math problems per student and putting an individual mark next to each correct answer?  I understand that it isn't as positive to circle the wrong answers but no matter how I mark their papers if they miss several questions I think the focus should be on relearning the material, not convincing me to change the way I grade :).  #gettingoffsoapbox

Grades: At the school I worked at in Stockholm students don't get letter grades until 6th grade.  They can get anything from an A to an F with F being the only failing grade.  Since students are tested in 3rd, 6th and 9th grade they really have 3 years to grasp a concept.  For example, grades 4 and 5 are concentrating on the criteria for grade 6 so if the student is struggling with fractions in 4th grade no one freaks out about it because they still have 5th and 6th grade to catch on before the national test.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  It seems like kids could get passed on to the next grade without fully knowing the material hoping they get it the next year instead of trying to help them catch up right when you notice they are struggling.

Another interesting thing I learned this year is that once a student achieves a level E, the basic level, in one area you can't take that accomplishment away.  For example, one of the areas we have on our rubric for math tests is basic problems.  If students take a test over fractions and get at least a level E on the basic problems then they will get at least an E on the overall subject rubric at the end of the year in the basic problems category because at least once they met that goal.  So if they fail basic problems in multiplication, geometry and measurement they still pass that section of the rubric because they achieved the goal once and you can't take that achievement away from them.  It is actually a law. #idisagree

Homework: Students get weekly homework which isn't all that different than the US.  There is another law, however, that says you can't assign homework to be due the following day.  You have to allow the students at least two days to complete the homework assignment and you can't assign homework over the weekend . . . that time is for spending with family.  So if you want something turned in on Monday you have to at least assign it on Thursday night.  The students know these laws well and will definitely speak up if you try to go against them.

Lessons: Since this school was more like a middle school or high school setting I had one hour lessons and then at least a 10 minute break before the next lesson which was really nice and different than being an elementary school teacher.  I taught 3-4 lessons a day and then sometimes had extra duties like break (recess) duty or lunch duty.  The prep time for lessons was significantly less than what I was used to since I was only responsible for one subject.  I did have help with lesson planning since we split the grades between all three math teachers so I only had to plan for 4th grade which included 3 lessons a week.  Then my colleagues would share their plans for 5th, 6th and 7th grade.  We used google drive for all of our planning and sharing of documents which was great!

Staff Meetings:  I mentioned this above but we had two staff meetings per week.  On Monday mornings we had a 10 minute long staff meeting that started promptly at 8.  On Thursday afternoons we had a longer staff meeting that went from 3:10 pm to 4:30.  The first 30 minutes we talked about upcoming events and then the last hour or so was usually a presentation by a colleague about some new program or theme week we were going to be doing.  I still can't get over that they started on time every week regardless of who wasn't there yet.  During the Thursday afternoon meeting we usually had fika which included sandwiches and sometimes fruit.  Once a month we also had cake to celebrate staff birthdays.

Mentoring:  Most of the teachers at our school are subject teachers so we see all different grades/classes throughout the day.  In order to build better relationships with the kids we all have a mentor class we are responsible for throughout the year.  Most classes have two mentor teachers so we share the responsibility and the students are split between the two teachers.  There are 30-32 kids in each class which means you are more responsible for 15-16 students on a more personal level.  As a mentor I check in on those students to make sure they are doing what they should be doing and keeping up with their school work.  I made monthly phone calls to parents, help write weekly newsletters with my co-mentor (although to be honest she did 95% of them which I really appreciated) and we have development talks, or parent teacher conferences, twice a year with our mentor students and parents.

Parents in general, seem more involved than what I was used to.  I know parental involvement varies in the US but I felt like parents in Sweden have been very involved.  One really great thing is that education is free in Sweden so responsible parents can put their child on the waiting list at great schools regardless of their income to make sure their child gets a great education.  I love that.  It doesn't matter how much money you make it matters more that your parents were responsible enough to get you on the waiting list of a great school in a timely manner so you can get a great education.

Supplies: At our school students get school supplies for free from the office.  If they need a pencil, ask the secretary.  If they lost their eraser, go get a new one from the office.  It was nice that they never had an excuse for not having supplies since they were free but I feel like they weren't very responsible for their things since they could just ask for a new pencil everyday if they wanted.  Same thing goes for textbooks.  If they lose one they just get another, no accountability, which I wasn't a fan of.

Classes:  Students are organized into classes of 30-32 students.  Then they are assigned a letter and a number (5A, 5B, 5C, etc).  In some schools, students stay with those same 30 students from grades 1-9.  Other schools they are together for grades 1-3 and then switch to a difference class for grades 4-6.  Part of me thinks this is why it is hard for Swedes to make new friends because they aren't really encouraged to do that in school.  We also started a house system similar to what they have in Harry Potter.  I guess houses are pretty common in England.  We just started at the end of the school year but I think it will be really neat.

Hope you learned a few things about the Swedish school system.  If you are wondering about something in particular leave me a note in the comments and I'll see if I can answer it!

If you want to read my Day in the Life post when I was subbing it is here.
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