Happy end-of-the-week, my friends. We’ve been enjoying a snowy week here in Moscow – yesterday was all blizzards. I only have a few more days of work left before I start my maternity leave, and it’s a good thing too, because I’m starting to get to that uncomfortable stage where all I can think about is how ready I am to get this baby out!
Have you seen it? What did you think? If you haven’t seen it yet, will you watch it? In principle, it’s a fantastic story, and says so much about modern Russia. Also, I personally think the band members are extraordinary – very intelligent and thoughtful. I wonder if the film managed to capture all of this well…
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I hope you had a good day yesterday, filled with some sort of good food, celebration, and reflection on the year’s blessings.
We had a fantastic turkey dinner with friends in southern Moscow. Thanksgiving in this city is such a production. The friend who hosted has been preparing his party since January – slowly bringing over cans of pumpkin in his suitcase, scoping out stores that sell sweet potatoes, and asking a friend with a car to help him purchase and taxi the all-important turkey from a store back to his apartment. It’s so much more complicated than it is in the U.S.!
All that to say that we were very thankful for, among many other things, the chance to enjoy a traditional American meal with dear friends this year.
A few links for your holiday weekend:
Now that Thanksgiving’s over, you can officially put up your Christmas decorations! Here are some ideas for a simple advent.
It’s becoming more real now, friends – the baby’s kicking, growing (so heavy!), and has even started responding to noises, movement, and our voices. It’s incredibly exciting, as well as terrifying to know that a new family member will be with us in just a few weeks. I’m so in love with this little person already, and also a bit in awe of him/her.
Being pregnant has been amazing – something I’m surprised at. I thought you might like to know the ups, downs, and surprises of pregnancy (as I’ve experienced them) in Moscow:
KINDNESS: I have found people in Moscow to be incredibly kind to me. Once I started showing, people started going out of their way to make things easier for me. In the metro people leap out of their seats to give me a spot. At work, people go out of their way to be kind to me, and make things easier – I’ve actually heard them tell each other, “Be nice to her, she’s pregnant!” or “Don’t ask her to do that – she’s pregnant!” It’s nice to get so many congratulations, and to be treated so nicely. I think, to be honest, that people are nicer to me here than they were when I visited the U.S. in September. Maybe it’s because pregnant women are all over the place in the U.S., but you seem to see them less in Moscow…
MATERNITY LEAVE: In Russia (according to this article) women get 140 days of maternity leave at 100 percent salary, and another 1.5 years of leave at 40 percent salary. Then, after that, they’re allowed a total of three years leave without losing their jobs. Sadly, since I’m currently working as a freelancer, this doesn’t apply to me, but that sort of maternity leave is pretty incredible compared to what the U.S. gives you.
CHEAPER INSURANCE: I didn’t feel comfortable going to a regular Russian clinic here, and neither of our places of employment provided insurance at a clinic I wanted to go to, so we went ahead and purchased individual insurance through CIGNA. From what I can tell, the rate was about two times cheaper here than it would have been for the same coverage in the U.S.
DECENT HEALTHCARE: More on this later, but there is only one clinic I’ve felt comfortable with in Moscow, and that’s the European Medical Centre. They’re not great for everything, but I have loved having my prenatal care there. Some of the appointments are a little rushed, but we always look forward to them – the doctors are experienced, totally calming/reassuring, have great bedside manners, and there is always a 4D ultrasound, which means we get to see incredible real-time images of the baby! I wouldn’t like going to a regular Russian polyclinic, but the EMC has been a great experience so far.
AWESOME IN-LAWS: Of course, this won’t apply to everyone in Moscow, but I’m so thankful for my in-laws, who have been really supportive, and respectful of their crazy American daughter-in-law. They’ve offered to help in so many ways, and are always coming up with sweet ways to bless us – anything from bringing over homemade jams and pickles, to calling around to help us with paperwork. Plus, they’re super careful to avoid criticizing or second-guessing our choices, or even offering un-solicited advice. They’re great!
AFTER CARE: Did you know that after you give birth in Russia, they send a doctor to your house every week for the first month? To your house! Every week! For the entire first month! This is something we learned about just the other week during our hospital tour. You can have someone from your local government clinic come for free, or you can choose someone from your private clinic (covered by insurance). Why don’t they do this in America? It’s so wonderful, and practical – no need to drag your exhausted self, and your new baby out into the winter cold for doctor appointments.
PAPERWORK: This is the absolute worst thing about about having a baby as an expat in Moscow. The paperwork involved in obtaining passports and the documents required to take our baby out of the country will be a big pain, I think. Dealing with immigration paperwork has so far been the most stressful part of our marriage, and it is stressing us out more than any other aspect of having a baby here.
EXPENSIVE BABY GEAR: I haven’t done a ton of shopping around for baby stuff here, but everything I’ve seen is significantly more expensive than similar products in the U.S. As with all our shopping, we’ve just found it easier to buy everything on trips to the U.S.
LESS OPTIONS: While we have been very happy with our healthcare so far, it does seem like there are, in general, less options for healthcare in Russia than there would be in the U.S. I have had recommendations for things like doula’s, and alternative birth centers, but I am less comfortable with checking those sorts of options out here than I would be in the U.S. The clinic we are going with doesn’t really offer things like water births, etc. to my knowledge. The healthcare route we are taking is one we are happy with – I’m not looking for more options, but I think, if we did want to do something differently we would, in general, have more options in the U.S.
DISCOMFORTS: Moscow, in general, is a less comfortable place than suburban Minnesota. The air is more polluted, there are lots of smokers (although, of course, people are careful not to blow smoke in my face if they see I’m pregnant), lots of steps, hard-to-navigate sidewalks, and crazy construction projects all over the place. This hasn’t been particularly hard for me to deal with – it’s more an issue for those who are wheelchair-bound, for example – but it’s something I know I wouldn’t have to deal with in suburban MN.
EXHAUSTION: I’ve been blessed with a really healthy, normal pregnancy, but the thing that’s been hardest to deal with is how tired I’ve been, especially the first trimester. From what my sister tells me, this is only the beginning – having kids entails a minimum of 18 years of exhaustion!
FUNNY ADVICE: I thought that I would start getting loads of strange advice from people, but actually, there have been only a few slightly funny instances of this. I actually think I’d get more unsolicited advice if I were in the U.S. The funniest advice has been not to have anything (like salad dressings) with vinegar, because “it will hurt the baby.” And also, I had someone tell me that alcohol was totally fine for pregnant women, as long as you only had it in your last trimester. Again, though, I think I’d get more of this in the U.S.
NO OWNERSHIP: This has nothing to do with being in Moscow, but I think the most surprising thing I’ve experienced during the past few months, is how little a sense of ownership I’ve felt in this whole process. I’d always thought I would feel more of a sense of ownership of this little person inside or me, or more in control of this whole process. Really, though, I basically do nothing. I eat, sleep, work, and go to doctors’ appointments, but this little human grows and lives on their own. They are such a miracle that I have very, very little to do with. I feel a lot of responsibility to take care of them and be a good parent, but I don’t in any way feel that this person is mine, the way I thought I would with my child. Instead it feels like this is a completely separate person, created by God that we have the privilege of knowing, and welcoming into our family. It’s a bit of an alien experience.
Anyway, that’s been my experience so far. What about you other mothers out there (living in Moscow, the U.S. or elsewhere)? What has been good/bad/surprising about being a mom, or an expectant mom?
P.S. the above cartoon by Cathy Thorne made me laugh, and was taken from her website.
It’s Thanksgiving week, friends! Snow is falling outside the window here in Moscow, and we’re making plans for an expat holiday to include turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing with friends on Thursday.
In honor of the season, in no particular order, are some things I’m particularly thankful for this week:
fresh library books on my Kindle
a healthy little baby to arrive in our family in just a few weeks!
My amazing husband – always cheerful, always kind, always smart, always there
roiboos tea – a pregnancy-friendly, no caffeine brew for cozy mornings
A mild November thus far (long may the mild weather last!)
gorgeous interviews with incredible, inspiring people
working only two days per week
Dear friendships that make Moscow feel more and more like home
Thanks so much for your kind comments and emails this week, and for continuing to come back to this blog. It’s been another crazy week – full of good work, and loads of grace, but not enough time to do everything I wanted.
In any case, there were a few things that caught my eye this week that I thought you’d like to see. Happy browsing to you all, and a happy, restful weekend (congratulations all around, by the way, for making it to Friday!)
Speaking of having loads to do, I’ve been using this productivity tool this week, and found it to be incredibly helpful and encouraging. High recommendations (and best of all?? It’s free!)
It’s been a crazy week here. I worked on a few posts to share with you, but just didn’t get them finished. There is so much to do before the baby comes! Hopefully I’ll be able to get them up here next week, though.
Until then, a few links for your browsing pleasure:
The cold, gray, and dark are moving in to Moscow – it’s a good time of year to think about vitamin D deficiency.
I’ve been doing a lot of spying/surveillance stories at work recently. Here’s a good NYT article on the subject. (“There’s no question that from a capability standpoint we (NSA) probably dwarf everybody on the planet, just about, with perhaps the exception of Russia and China”)
Did you have a good weekend? Welcome to Monday morning!
It may not be difficult for you to tell, seeing that this blog has the word “breakfast” in its title, but mornings are my favorite part of the day. I don’t particularly like waking up early, but I DO like having enough time for breakfast, and a calm start to the day.
My morning rituals in Moscow usually include:
hitting the snooze button once or twice
listening to a 5-min NPR newscast on my iPhone
reading 1-2 chapters from the Bible (I’m trying to do this plan at the moment, but pretty much never make it to 4 chapters a day)
scanning any Russia and CIS-related headlines from the day before on Google alerts
checking facebook and email
dressing/showering while listening to music
rushing out the door for a 7-min walk to the metro and 20 min ride to work
There are three things I’d still like to add to my mornings:
a top-of-the-hour newscast from Эхо Москвы (if I drove instead of taking the metro it’d be easier to tune in)
I read a blog post the other day that had a great, simple idea of how to start your morning out well, and I think it could work for my journaling/writing ritual. Read it for yourself here.
What about you? What is your morning ritual? Have you found anything that works well here in Moscow to give your day a good start? I’d love to hear about it.
P.S. what about at work? Do you have any morning rituals that help you get started at work?? Or mid-day rituals that help wake you up, and keep you energized?
How was your week? Isn’t it exciting that it’s Friday? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? Economist husband and I have had a crazy, activity-filled month, so we’re planning to take it easy this weekend. Sleeping in, cleaning, lazy breakfasts, tennis games (for economist husband), and reading (for me!) are on the agenda…
I started reading this book this week, based on a friend‘s recommendation, and am really liking it.
One of the perks of being a journalist is that you sometimes get into fun press events like film screenings for free. I had just such a privilege the other week at the Moscow screening of The Fifth Estate.
Economist husband and I have been wanting to catch this film since we saw a preview for it this summer. The movie is a thriller based on the real-life story of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. I’m totally intrigued by Wikileaks, Assange, and Snowden – even more so as so much of my job this summer was spent chasing Snowden in the Moscow airport. There have been some stories in Russia (like Pussy Riot and the U.S. adoption ban) that I’ve had a pretty easy time figuring out where I think the moral lines are, and what my personal opinion is. Not so with Snowden or Wikileaks. Is Snowden a hero? A fool? A traitor? What about Assange? What about Wikileaks?
I thought the film did a good job of exploring both sides of the story, and giving you a basis to at least have a conversation on some of the issues like privacy and security, or send you looking for more information.
In any case, I really enjoyed the film (in the same way that I enjoyed The Social Network), and thought it was well done. Benedict Cumberbatch did a fantastic job playing Assange (unlike, for example, Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal of Steve Jobs in Jobs). It was entertaining, informative, and I can highly recommend it.
If you want to catch the movie in the original English here in Moscow (it opens in Russia on Oct. 24, 2013) there are a number of theaters showing it:
Формула Кино «Сити» – Москва
Мытищи «Мори Синема»
Also, just for fun, here’s a great Russia moment in the film:
I have some exciting news to share with you. Economist husband and I are expecting a new little baby in a few months!
We’re very, very excited, and (of course) a little bit nervous about becoming parents, and welcoming a new little person into our family. At the moment, we’re taking one day at a time, and trying to enjoy couple alone time and sleeping in while it’s still a part of our lives.
I’ve been debating for awhile about whether or not to blog about this, but I think if I were reading a Moscow expat blog I would definitely want to read parenting, pregnancy, and birth-themed posts. SO, you can expect plenty of baby topics in the following months and I would love to hear from any other parents here – especially on healthcare or Russian parenting.
Until later, though, here are a pair of articles on pregnancy and birth in both Russia and the U.S. Very interesting.
Friends (*cue rock music*), it’s officially Friday!
Congratulations for making it to the end of your week – I hope your weekends will be full of fun, relaxation, and good memories (or at least a good nap).
Economist husband and I are hoping to get out of Moscow for a few hours this weekend for a dacha Bible study, and some fresh air. We hear the weather’s supposed to be cold, but we’re packing our warm socks, and hoping for the best.
Here are a few links for your Fri-Sat-Sun browsing pleasure: