Readers of last week’s blog will know that last Tuesday me and Alex attended a three hour antenatal class conducted exclusively in Swedish. Well this week we got to do it all over again. Joy!
To add an extra level of embarrassment around my complete lack of Swedish language skills, at the end of the class there was a 30 minute breakout session where the group was split into men and woman and charged with discussing each other’s roles and responsibilities in relation to the birth. I of course was left in the corner of the women’s room on my own like some lost child at a Women’s Institute meeting whilst 10 women discussed, in Swedish, childbirth. In fact, what you are reading right now was written on my mobile during that time in classic, ‘I’m going to do something other than just sit here looking bored if it kills me!’
Once again the class didn’t disappoint with highlights including:
- The return of the oranguatan impression workshop. Always a crowd pleaser this one. As discussed last week , apparently in Sweden (though I’m no doctor dear reader, I suspect it also applies elsewhere) the optimum position for a woman to adopt in labour is ‘the oranguatan’, an impression of which the midwife simply can’t get enough of. In fact she must have spent a good quarter of the class slowly waddling around the room, arms swinging from side to side, low growling sound coming from her mouth… seriously if you’d just walked in you’d have been calling for the strait jackets.
- Not content with just rolling out her impressive repertoire of giant monkeys impressions, the midwife also did a frankly staggeringly realistic impression of the later stages of childbirth. It was so good I almost stood up and applauded. As I said last week there has been a certain element of ‘Am Dram’ about her work so far but this was truly impressive improv… I spent a good 20 seconds wondering about the location of the nearest hot water and towels, the irony of giving birth in an antenatal class lost on no-one.
- Apparently towards the end of labour the role of the partner really comes to the fore. As they have, let’s be honest, done very little of the heavy lifting to that point it is only right that they get involved. According to the midwife, or rather ‘Meryl Midwife’, there are three key elements:
So at the point of maximum exhaustion, the critical stage of the game, Alex is going to have to rely on my coaching skills to get her over the line… Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
To say I have a chequered past when it comes to coaching is a little bit like saying FIFA’s ethical practices could do with a bit of a spruce up. My Head Coaching experience in terms of football teams extend to one (yes one) game for the team I helped set up in Manchester – TUFC. The teams FIRST game in fact. It was such a disaster that I actually sacked myself straight afterwards as it had quickly become apparent that my ‘Genghis Khan might argue that’s a bit much’ approach to man management was perhaps not the best way forward. Needless to say I appreciate a more encouraging approach might be required in this instance.
Another odd part of the class was when Alex had to practice giving me a shoulder massage. Now I’ve never personally been through a birthing before but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that giving me a shoulder rub is going to be very low down on Alex’s list of priorities. But hey, this is Sweden so what do I know?
So last Friday was a very big bank holiday over here in Sweden as it marked the start of Midsummer. Midsummer for Swedes equals to, if not exceeds, Christmas in the social calendar and for many also marks the start of their five-week annual holiday. Yes, you read that right, five-week annual holiday. To be fair summers here are short and people do everything they can to make the most of them – one other strange by-product of the geography is the fact that it only gets properly dark for about 2 hours a day, which is very strange.
In terms of Midsummer, you can really notice the difference in Stockholm as it’s traditional for most people to evacuate the city and escape to the countryside. But whilst the city is definitely quieter, I don’t think it’s as bad as it was back in the day when every shop/business was apparently closed all weekend. I suspect the advent of increased tourism and perhaps a generational cultural shift (not necessarily a good thing by the way) has resulted in things being more likely to be open when historically Stockholm would have looked like a ghost town.
What you do see is a lot of people walking around with hats made out of flowers. As per my previous blog on Swedish graduation, they do love a good hat over here to mark the advent of something. In fact, they seem quite serious about the symbolic elements of these events. For example Midsummer apparently kicks off with people picking flowers and making wreaths to place on a maypole that is a key element of the celebration. Because that’s right you’ve guessed it, once the maypole is raised, traditional ‘ring-dancing’ ensues…
And you thought it was just the Brits who went in for a bit of weird countryside dancing routines?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not got a problem with people dancing round a pole… that came out wrong, dear reader you are terrible!… What I meant was that I understand these traditions are important and should be preserved but as a fully signed up ‘city boy’, I appreciate I will never truly understand the attraction of this type of thing. But then I think of the countryside as purely being a ‘nice place to visit’ so could be missing the point.
Of course as with all great traditions of its ilk, it’s really just an excuse for an almighty piss-up with friends and family. And whilst Alex is somewhat curtailed on the old ‘piss-up’ front these days, it still didn’t stop her getting involved by making an excellent traditional Swedish Midsummer cake (midsommartårta) for desert at a friend’s Midsummer dinner,
Swedish Strawberries, ‘The Envy of the World’. Apparently it’s all tied into all the amount of sunlight they get or something. I don’t know its countryside stuff!
Hard to believe it’s still over four weeks till the official launch date, the amount of movement and continued growth would suggest a much earlier appearance which wouldn’t be ideal as we still have a number of items to obtain including a cot, pushchair, moses basket… you know, nothing too important. Good news though, said items will be in our possession within the next week on the off chance of an early appearance.
Picture of week
This lot really don’t like fruit.
Track of the week
Salt-N-Pepa – Push It
Fraser ‘Coach’ Hynes