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Pandemic Parents

In the second quarter of 2021, Iceland experienced a Covid baby boom, with births up by 16.5 percent on the previous year. One theory to explain this phenomenon is the Nordic countries' generous parental leave and child benefits which take the financial pressure out of having a child.

All five Nordic countries - Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland - provide paid parental leave for at least 11 months, with payments based on the previous year's income. From 53 percent in Denmark to almost 100 percent in Norway, new parents can enjoy their young children without the usual worries of lost income. In Iceland, parents receive 12 months of paid leave at 80 percent of their usual salary, or up to a maximum of $ 4,500 a month.

By the summer of 2021 there were so many women giving birth in Iceland, a country of only 367,000 inhabitants, that midwife reinforcements had to be brought over from Poland, Australia and Germany. Retired midwives in their 70s living in Iceland were encouraged to come out of retirement and help out at maternity clinics. In some clinics, when maternity wards ran out of beds, pregnant mothers had to be shifted onto emergency wards.

Drifa Hrund Gudmundsdottir, 38, is a molecular biologist doing her PhD a the University of Iceland. She and her husband have two daughter aged 15 and 17. In the spring of 2020 they decided to have another child but got more than they bargained for. Drifa gave birth to twins Brynja, a girl, and Baldur Logi, a boy. To their surprise what could have been a stressful time turned into domestic bliss. "During the pandemic, in the middle of lockdown, things just kind of slowed down a lot" says Gudmundsdottir. "I think that was the tipping point for me. I realised I wasn't ready to be done with the mum thing yet."

Nora Lorek travelled to Iceland to document this peculiar phenomenon.
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