Becoming a mom is life changing; it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful, and it is incredibly tough. So much is expected of you from the baby, your partner, and society in general, and it can quickly become overwhelming. This is not a Danish thing, it’s global. And even though becoming a mom can be a lot for Danish women, there’s one group of women, who are even more exposed: the expat mamas. Living abroad can be challenging (and wonderful!) in itself, but being pregnant, giving birth, and having that post-partum experience away from your home, your family, your tribe, is something else. Everything is different, and all those pieces of advice you got from your friends back home do no longer apply. You feel alone in your thoughts, and you need assistance. But mama’s, I’m here to tell you: There’s help to get. Denmark is one of the best countries in the world to start a family in. Not only do you get a long maternity leave, you also get regular check ups from ‘sundhedsplejerske’ (a kind of pediatrician) who will help you with everything from breastfeeding to the baby’s growth, to your own mental health. And when they are not visiting, you can call and ask questions. Furthermore giving birth in Denmark is free, and so are the appointments with midwifes and the before mentioned sundhedsplejerske. The Danish system is here to help you if you need it, and we take family planning very serious – don’t hold back on asking questions. Outside of the healthcare system there are a lot of resources that Danish mama’s tell each other about, and that we use quite a lot. So pretend I am that friend from back home giving you those advice. Here are 7 things international mom’s should know:
- Baby boxes
Having a baby in Denmark is a rather expensive experience, so why not save money where you can? Did you for instance know that you can pick up free baby-boxes in different shops? Some of the shops are Ønskebørn, Matas, Babysam, Føtex, Rema1000 and many more. What the boxes contain might differ from year to year, but when I for instance got my package from Fakta, it was with samples of baby lotion, a pacifier, wet wipes, diapers and much more – and let’s face it, you are gonna need lots of that stuff in the coming years! If you’re pregnant, google ‘gratis babypakker’, and go ‘shopping’ for free – what’s not to like? And if you’re concerned about waste if you’re not using everything in the boxes, donate the un-opened products to thrift shops like Mødrehjælpen, which to be honest you should also visit and shop in for your own family – you will find amazingly cheap clothes, toys, strollers etc. while supporting the Danish organization Mødrehjælpen who helps families in overcoming crisis’ and navigating family law among others.
Another way of saving money when becoming a mama, is to buy second hand. You might think that going to the thrift shops and visiting all those flea markets takes too much time, but fear no more. I present to you: Reshopper. Reshopper is an online marketplace, kind of like DBA which you might already know, but Reshopper is only for items for children (well, it used to be. Now there’s also a category for mom’s and housing). On Reshopper you find everything from clothes, strollers, and toys. The prices are reasonable and sometimes even negotiable. Some people offer to send you the product, other than that you pick it up at the home of the person selling. I’ve personally both made purchases and sales from the app with huge succes, and you know what, I even got a new friend, when a fellow mom came to my apartment to pick up a book I was selling. Win win!
Visit Reshopper here
- Jeg er mor
Now for something completely different, but absolutely amazing. When I was a new mom two women started a business called Jeg er mor (I am a mother). The aim of Jeg er mor is to help new moms transition into their new roles, while being heard and acknowledged for their feelings and their needs. Jeg er mor consists of a series of podcasts, a facebook page, and an amazing network of mom’s on Instagram. One of the founders, Laura, is great at asking open ended questions out into the SoMe sphere, and women answer, and support each other in the answers. It is very therapeutic, and I myself used it quite a lot when I once in a while was struggling a bit during my maternity leave. I still follow Jeg er mor closely, and I truly enjoy witnessing women being there for each other in the most supportive way. FYI: Jeg er mor is in Danish, but could be really great for you, if you are actively learning Danish.
Visit Jeg er mor here
- Line Jensen
Line Kjeldsen Jensen is a Danish illustrator. She is not only talented in her drawings, but in her text and humor as well. She draws everyday situations that you inevitably will experience as a mom, and she makes people cry from laughing. She has published two books ‘Hver dag starter det forfra’ (everyday it starts again) and ‘Det store regnestykke’ (the big calculation). Both are very popular, for a reason. She recently donated a poster to Mødrehjælpen (Mothers Aid) also with huge succes, and in October she will open her own shop in Nansensgade, Copenhagen. If you do not already know her, do yourself a favor and check her out on Instagram: @linejensen_illu. Her humor is very Danish, and her prints make for perfect presents for new mama’s in Denmark, but also in your country of origin. Line’s texts are in Danish, but her drawings are for everyone, and I am sure that you will recognize yourself in at least one of her drawings – I know I do.
Visit Line Jensen’s webshop here
A webpage that is being visited by Danish mom’s more often than google, is Netsundhedsplejerske. A woman called Helen Lyng Hansen has become the oracle for new mom’s, and people turn to her, as soon as any issue occur – big or small. Want to know how often the baby should sleep? Ask Helen. Want to know whether a two year old’s tantrum is normal? Ask Helen. Want to know why your baby won’t latch on? Ask Helen. Helen is a professional ‘sundhedsplejerske’, and she literally knows everything about babies! If you do not know Danish (yet), try google translating the pages (I know, a Danish teacher should never recommend this, but let’s be honest: new mom’s don’t have the time nor the energy to start taking Danish lessons). If you do know your way around Danish, Helen has also written a few books on sleep, eating, and the child’s development. Personally Helen has gotten me through many crisis’ that otherwise would have made me feel like a failure (probably the most recognizable feeling for new moms).
Visit Netsundhedsplejerske here
- Activities while on maternity leave
As you probably already know, Danes can take one year of maternity leave, and those months can be the most amazing time where you really find peace in being at home with your new baby. But… It can also be a bit boring (am I right??). After some time you need to leave your house, even if it is just for one hour. You need to see other people, and you need to converse with fellow grown-ups, who will actually respond to your questions with words rather than spit-up. But what to do; you have a child! Well, bring the child! This is where Denmark really shines: we have so many offers for new moms with children outside the home. Did you know that you can attend ‘babysalmesang’ in your local church? (Somewhat areligious, btw), and you can swim with your child in the nearest svømmehal? Or maybe you have heard about Babybio that cities with movie theatre’s offer? Basically the concept is that you bring your child and your stroller, and if you’re really lucky the child sleeps through the movie outside the screening room, while being watched by employees. A couple of years ago a new activity was initiated called ‘Leg på plejehjem’ (playtime at a nursing home). This one is my personal favorite. You show up at a nursing home where the event is taking place, and you participate in a musical playgroup with fellow parents and their children, while a musician with strong pedagogical skills plays music and invites everyone to join in the dances. A number of the residents of the nursing home then sits around enjoying not only the music, but the sheere joy glowing out of the children’s eyes. If you only have the energy to participate in one thing, this is the one I would recommend. Btw. This is also the perfect place to make friends with Danish mom’s.
- Smertefri fødsel
This one is more about the time before becoming a mom, but also a helping hand in the first period of time after. Pain-free delivery. It sounds a bit provocative, and utopian. Nevertheless it is the name of the last recommendation I will tell you about. Anja Bay is the name of the founder of ‘Smertefri fødsel’, a book, a seminar, and a life-line to women (and their partners) when they are going to be a parent. It is a method that is supposed to make delivering a child ‘pain free’, and consists of specific breathing excercises, visualizations, and postures. The method is being used more and more by Danish women, and midwifes are getting trained in supporting the woman using this method, while giving birth. I myself read the book when I was pregnant, and it gave me a very useful guide as to how I should prepare myself for the delivery. Let me tell you, it was not pain-free, but there is no doubt in my mind that the excercises made the contractions much more tolerable, and it really helped me to keep my birthing-anxiety at a minimum before the big day. ‘Smertefri Fødsel’ has grown to be much more than a method, with the founder Anja building sort of a community for pregnant women, where they can ask and get answers, and support each other on her instagram profile. It truly is magical, and I will highly recommend you take a look at the instagram page, read the book (in Danish), and if you like it, sign up for a seminar. Anja is a very approachable person, and I am positive that you can ask her questions in English as well.
Visit Smertefri fødsel here