Thursday, 22 March 2018

Nina Sophia


What a different birth this was, compared to my first one. After Naomi, I was in an arrogant disbelief that epidurals are all that necessary. This experience made me seriously question my assumptions. Of course I did not get one -- you renounce any pain relief when you sign up for a home birth. Anyway, here’s the birth story of Nina.

The birth:

I was 39 weeks pregnant with Nina. Naomi was born at 37 weeks, so at 39 I felt very overdue. I tried to encourage that baby to come out. On Tuesday, two days before birth, I biked around 20km (170m elevation): took Naomi to daycare, then went to work and back, then took Naomi to swimming (on my new shiny Specialized Vita). Then in the evening I went to a ballet class, which I’ve been attending regularly throughout pregnancy 2-3 times a week.

Ok, I know, these “natural methods of labour induction” don’t really work. So, the following day at the midwife’s office I said: Let’s do the membrane sweep. Laura was on duty that day. She did the membrane sweep for me when I was pregnant with Naomi (Naomi was born a day of two after). She has a magic touch or something. Membrane sweep is a very safe procedure that may reduce the course of pregnancy, but it’s not a guaranteed labour induction, and the magnitude of its effects measured in clinical trials is not that big (one small study found no effect at all). So Laura has something going for her.

The following day I was supposed to take Naomi to daycare early. I woke up before the alarm, at about 7:20am from mild cramping. I thought it was from the membrane sweep (an expected side effect), so I just kept on going with my morning. The cramps got stronger, so I began wondering -- are these contractions? I hurried up with my makeup routine. If these are contractions, I’ve got to make sure that I look good on the after-birth pictures!

Ten minutes later I realized that I was not in any shape to take Naomi to daycare. It was Anton’s morning to sleep in. Too bad for Anton, had to wake him up. Texted my doula. Then everything went on autopilot. I realized that my water broke: there was this funny smell of bleach and amniotic fluid smells like bleach (thank you, Internet, for all this random information that ends up being useful one day). I asked Anton to page the midwife.

Contractions are easier in the water. I get into the bathtub. Jill, the midwife, arrives. Contractions are getting serious. Based on my memories of my previous birth, I don’t expect them getting that uncomfortable that quickly. Thank God, Lolli, my doula, arrives. She puts her hand on my back, tells me to release my shoulders and forehead. The level of pain goes down by about 40%. The best $1300 I ever spent. Lolli arrived with her own little stool to sit on next to me. A true professional!

During my last birth, contractions felt like they were several minutes apart. When one came in I had to focus on it, but the thought of a pain relief never occurred to me. Not so this time. At one point I remember thinking: If I were in the hospital and someone came up to me with a needle in their hands, I would have trouble saying “no”. I was squeezing Lolli’s hand really hard. I ask Jill: Can I take Tylenol or something? To this ridiculous request Jill responds calmly: You can, but it won’t do anything!

Then I stopped getting any breaks between contractions. They came every thirty seconds and each one lasted more than a break between them. Lolli encouraged me to vocalize (this did help). But I couldn’t help thinking: I am probably scaring the hell out of Anton. During another short break I ask Jill again: Is there anything we can do for pain? She looked at me ever so calmly and said: “Give birth”!

During my previous birth, I remember a distinct break between the first phase of labour (painful contractions) and the second, ready-to-push phase. I remember absolutely no pain during the second phase, just the feeling of intensity. I was waiting for the same to happen this time, but apparently I wasn’t going to be so lucky. Just more contractions and a feeling that my body is opening up. At some point Lolli and Jill started telling me that the baby is coming out. I had to believe them. The second phase has arrived.

That made me feel better, because I realized I had some control over the situation (I can push!) and that I can make this whole ordeal end sooner rather than later. So I gave my first big push.

Jill and Lolli are asking me to get out of the bathtub (impossible for them to catch the baby in our small tub -- no access). Jill asks me: Can you feel your baby’s head with your hand? I do. Damn, it feels so big and hard!

Out of the bathtub, on the same bed where Naomi was born. I am not willing to put up with this any further, so I engage whatever is left of my abs (only obliques and a bit of transversus abdominus at this point, thanks to ballet) and push push push, contractions or not. I really want to get this over with. Laura, the second midwife, has arrived too at this point. There are supposed to be two of them during a home birth. The bedroom is set up with a metal oxygen tank, two matching midwives’ Dutch bags and other trinkets.

I distinctly remember feeling the head moving through my body. “I have to get it out, the rest will be easy”, I remember thinking. Laura asks me to slow down, because the head is about to come out. I have a choice: if I go too fast, there could be tears, if I slow down I have to tolerate these contractions for longer. I opt with the first option. The head is out! No tears.

Baby Nina started saying something while she was still half way inside my body. She probably also wasn’t thrilled with this whole birth procedure. I kept wondering why human birth hasn’t evolved into something more refined during millions of years of evolution. One last push, the body is out! And there she is: Ninocka! So pink and alive and so vocal. She has so much to share and she keeps on telling us something… Anton is in tears.

It is 10:05am on March 8. The day has only just started and we already have so much accomplished! The midwives are thanking me for not giving birth in the middle of the night.

After birth:

Apgar score 9/9. 3050g, 48cm tall, 35cm head circumference. Nina clears the 34th weight percentile. She needs to be above 10th to avoid a hospital trip. Phew! She gets the breastfeeding right away, while still attached to me with a plastic-looking blue amniotic cord. The cord is cut, out comes the placenta. The midwives are fascinated by it. Anton and I don’t find it so exciting, given a living and breathing wonder of a baby in our arms. Lolli gets the bathtub cleaned and starts the laundry.

The comatose fatigue that pursued me through the last 2/3s of the pregnancy has vanished along with the birth. Sooo good to have my body back. Back in my pre-pregnancy weight ten days after birth, the stomach has imploded too. I can wear normal clothes. I still need to rebuild my abs: ballet will take care of that. Amazing how quickly the body recovers.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

On PhD Qualifying Exams

At some point in their career PhD students have to take a qualifying exam. The exam takes a different form in different universities. In some places you have to demonstrate the breadth of knowledge in your field via an oral examination, in others you have to take a written exam. Yet in others you have to present a piece of independently carried out research. In my university students have to present a completed piece of research along with a thesis proposal: a clear plan of what they are going to do to finish their PhD.

Qualifying exams are hardly “fun” for anyone. I remember my own qualifying exam at Harvard. I passed, and according to my advisor did so “with flying colours”, but the experience was understandably stressful. It would be unusual for it not to be when a young inexperienced researcher is being questioned by gurus in their field. And yet the exam at Harvard was not the most difficult kind. There we had to present the work that was already done, not our plans of the future. It is much less difficult to present work that has already been done, and possibly published, than defend something that you plan to do, given all the unknowns inherent to a research project.

At my current university the students have to present to a committee their research plan. They have to define the problem, motivate it, describe the methodology and the evaluation metrics, in addition to demonstrating some pieces of the work that have already been accomplished. In other words, they have to present everything that researchers usually present about the project with the exception of complete published results. They have to do this after having spent two years in the PhD program.

I have been through several of these qualifying exams for my own students, and even though I never expected them to not be “fun”, I keep being surprised that even my strongest students, with solid publication records and top-notch presentation skills, never “pass with the flying colors”.  That is, they do pass, but not without substantial debate among committee members and often with a condition to perform additional work before a final “pass” is given.

I deeply care about my students and I have spent a long time thinking about what I can do to help them through this experience. We put a lot of effort into preparing for qualifying exams. We do many iterations over the proposal and practice the presentation endlessly, about 15 times with each student (I’m not joking, just ask my students). And yet, the “flying colours” are just not there when I expect them to be. I have never seen the committee unanimously and enthusiastically vote for “unconditional pass” without any discussion.

After giving this some thought, I came to a conclusion that “flying colours” are neither reasonable nor desirable to expect in most realistic situations. Instead, a qualifying exam that involves a thesis proposal should be treated as a learning opportunity for the student, and the success should be evaluated not with the “flying colours” metric, but with something else.

Let’s go through a mental exercise. When would a student be in a situation where the committee overwhelmingly approves the proposal without major questions or criticism? (A) The student has already published the work, so they had a chance to actually make sure that the methodology is working, that the ideas would bear fruit and the evaluation metrics are appropriately selected. The work would have been vetted by experts in the field, and the shortcomings already addressed. (B) The student has not yet published the work, but it is so close to completion and publication that the above properties have been satisfied. (C) The student has not yet completed the work, but has a tremendous insight and experience that has enabled him or her to think of all different ways that the ideas may not work out and has thought of all potential applications of the ideas and the evaluation metrics, as well as different measurements and experiments that would be necessary to convince the committee that the work will be solid and completed on time. (D) The supervisory committee is not rigorous enough and they give the student an enthusiastic pass regardless of deficiencies in the work.

I don’t want to have colleagues in scenario D, so let’s discard this scenario. On the contrary, my colleagues have been very attentive, caring and rigorous when it comes to evaluating my students’ work, and I am extremely fortunate to have such colleagues.

If we are in a scenarios (A) or (B) then it would be disingenuous to treat the work as a “proposal”, because most or all of it is complete, so it has moved far beyond the proposal stage.

This leaves us with option (C), where the work is not close to being done, but the student has had a tremendous insight to think about all the risks, methodologies and evaluation metrics to defend the proposal in front of much more experienced colleagues. And this is where I see an impossibility. If a student has indeed been able to foresee all these aspects of research, then either (1) the student is brilliant or (2) the research project is too dull and predictable. I would venture to predict that (1) happens a lot less than (2). But (2) is not a good situation to be in, at least not for me. I want to see my students do research that is risky and exciting, not dull and predictable.

So where does that leave us? Of course we should keep working on brilliance. We should keep asking our students hard questions and encourage them to think about applicability of their research, the hidden stones, the metrics for success and the broader impact. That said, I do not think that expecting perfection is realistic or useful.

Even experienced researchers struggle with writing grant proposals, which is the closest equivalent to a thesis proposal for an experienced researcher that I can think of. While some proposals get rejected despite the excellence of the proposal, simply because there is not enough funding, a fair number get rejected for the same reason that a student would not get an unconditional pass on a qualifying exam: the methodology is not sufficiently detailed, the outcomes and metrics are not well defined, etc. In other words, grant evaluators want to see a low-risk path to the completion or a project, but if the research project is risky, which I argue is a good thing, it is very difficult to present a well-defined and predictable path to its completion. To give an extreme example, imagine that Einstein were asked to write a proposal about his research on special relativity theory much ahead of when the theory was actually completed. Provided that Einstein would succeed in precisely formulating what exactly his theory would accomplish, I would expect that many of his colleagues would find reasons to believe that what he set out to accomplish had problems or was unrealistic until he actually proved otherwise.

To escape this conundrum, some of my colleagues confessed that they write proposals about the work that has already been completed, because that’s easy to explain in a low-risk way, and “tag on” the really exciting and risky items as icing on top of the cake. As we discussed earlier, that would be equivalent to scenarios (A) or (B) in the qualifying exam case, and does not really serve our purpose.

If even experienced researchers struggle with consistently “passing their qualifying exams with flying colours” by way of having rejected grant proposals on the grounds of insufficiently predicting the future, is it reasonable to expect this from the students who have been in the program for two years?

I think the answer is “no”. That being said, I don’t think that a qualifying exam in a form of a thesis proposal is a bad idea. On the contrary, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity that pushes the student to take a huge leap on the learning curve as they are forced to think and to write about their work and to present it to the committee of experts. It is a unique opportunity for the students to receive deep and meaningful feedback about their work early on; the feedback that comes much quicker than via paper rejections.

I don’t think we should eliminate or reduce the rigour of this experience. I think we should change how we treat this experience and evaluate its success. Occasional students, who happen to be brilliant or who happen to have completed most of the proposed work by the time they are presenting it would get a unanimous unconditional pass. Other students should be given a variety of options to address the feedback of the committee (this is exactly what happens in my university). Some students could be asked to rewrite the proposal, if writing were the problem. Other could be asked to revise the presentation. Others could be asked to search for answers specific questions or to conduct specific experiments. And it is more helpful for the student if he or she is required to have the committee approve the new writeup/presentation/answers/results before they are given a final pass. Without that requirement, a student would have little motivation to take the committee’s feedback to heart.

There is one thing that I do think needs to change. And that is how we define the success of the qualifying exam and how we set the expectations for our students. Setting the expectation that the student must “pass with the flying colours” or else they have not reached the bar is not helpful. Sure, if the student does pass with the flying colours they will feel good about themselves, but they will miss an opportunity to learn, which is the whole point of doing the PhD. I think it is more healthy and helpful to the student if we teach them to embrace the opportunities for learning, rather than gathering medals for accomplishments.

I think it requires a certain culture in the department to impress it upon the students that while they should be extremely well prepared for the qualifying exam, the metric for success is not whether they pass without much criticism, but how much they learn in the process. 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

What if each of us passed on a few flights per year?

According to this document from IATA, civil aviation is responsible for producing 689 mln tons of CO2 a year, which constitutes 2% of the world emissions. Climate scientist estimate that we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 8-10% to avoid a climate disaster. Governments are not doing much to avert this threat. So I decided to make a few simple calculations to see whether we as individuals can do something that’s in our power to make any tangible contribution to these 8-10%. I wondered whether we can make a dent in the universe simply by flying less than we do.

Let’s do the numbers. Like I said earlier, we are looking at 2% of the world emissions. According to this and this source, that’s 33-37mln flights per year, including cargo. However, looks like cargo contributes only 10%, so most of these are passenger flights, carrying around 3 billion passengers a year.  Given that cargo planes are such a small fraction, only 10% of the 2% and in the recent years this fraction has been declining thanks to a slowdown in global trade, let’s make a simplifying assumption that civil aviation is responsible for the entire 2%. Let’s make another simplifying assumption that if the number of passengers dropped, the airlines would eventually reduce the number of flights proportionally. Then the math becomes very simple. If each of us gave up half of our habitual flights, then we could in one swoop cut 1% of the world emissions. Just like that.

What would this mean for us as individuals? If you are taking a couple of flights a year to visit your and your partner’s family, you tell them that from now on you will visit only one family every year, because you have to save the planet. If you are frequently flying for work meetings, you would join half of them via WebEx, Hangouts, Skype, BlueJeans or whatnot, explaining to your colleagues that you need to save your children from natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes and whatnot. If you are a scientist and you attend a bunch of conferences, you just pick a couple to which you will travel and you pass on the rest. Your fellow scientists will understand. If you travel on vacations, you take half of them locally.

This view is certainly optimistic or even utopian. It takes a huge collective conscience to make this change. Most of us either don’t believe in the climate change, don’t realize the gravity and urgency of the situation, or choose to not do anything about it. Further, if people actually started flying less, airlines would go out of their way to make flying more attractive by lowering prices, etc; aviation is a $2.2 trillion business with 57 million jobs. (And somehow we still believe that making money is more important than preserving life.) Oh and we must assume that if we are flying less, we are not making up for that with other bad habits, like driving a lot more. The list goes on and on...

Still, it gives hope to see that we as individuals can do little things, like flying a bit less, to contribute 1% to the 8-10% that we need. If we all did that and then we also found another 7-9 things that had a similar effect, we could actually save the planet!

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Sleep Odyssey. (Or why it takes a village to raise a child).

Our journey from 18 wake-ups per night to sleeping through the night. 

Before my baby was born, I was already concerned with sleep. I am not someone who does well on little sleep, so I read all popular literature on baby sleep. The key idea that these books seemed to convey is that if you do everything “right”, in terms of the baby’s routine, they baby will sleep well. Routine? Routine is my life. I thrive on routine. I am the queen of routine. So that sounded very good to me. I was confident that I will do everything “right” and my baby will sleep. 

Fast-forward a few months. After the first few weeks post-birth when all babies do is sleep, Naomi wakes up many times per night. Routine to the rescue, right? I find the sleep routine rather easy to follow. Except that Naomi is not good at falling asleep peacefully. Every nap time is accompanies by loud and prolonged crying, and the only way we can calm her down is by bouncing on the exercise ball while holding her in our arms. After enough bouncing though, she falls asleep, so this way we can follow her sleep routine. Unfortunately, once asleep, she doesn’t stay asleep for too long. She is usually awake again half an hour later. And since it takes 20-30 minutes to bounce her back to sleep, it doesn’t even make sense to get off the ball at all. So for a few months we simply held her in our arms during her daytime naps. Thank you, our dear hard-working nanny Simone, for agreeing to do this hard job. 

At nights Naomi slept for slightly longer periods. That is, until we hit the 4-month-old sleep regression. At the peak of it, Naomi woke up 18 times per night! You read it right. EIGHTEEN! My life was pretty miserable despite having a full-time nanny. If anyone asked me how my baby was sleeping, I’d start to cry. My day looked as follows: Simone comes at 7am. Exhausted, I go to sleep. I wake up around 11-12, ravenous. Go eat the entire fridge. Then go outside to get some fresh air and coffee, and to boost my morale by positive self-talk. And I also used that time to search the Internet for solutions. 

There were two schools of thought: The first was the cry-it-out school. Just leave your baby to cry and she’ll sleep through the night.  The second was the “survival” school: just do what it takes to survive; eventually all babies begin to sleep. I just couldn’t leave my baby to cry. I was afraid that her brain would pop, that we’ll inflict some serious mental damage. Just couldn’t do it. So I went with the second idea. I started putting Naomi to sleep in the bed with me and gave her breast every time she woke up. At first this didn’t work, but very quickly she learned to fall asleep with the breast. That went against every advice is every sleep book, but this enabled me to survive. For the first time I started getting rest at night, I didn’t need to sleep half a day when the nanny arrived. I could get back to work. I started “living” again. 

Daytime sleep was still a disaster, and at the same time Naomi was getting heavier. Nanny started having shoulder pain as she held her in her arms during daytime sleep. I had to put an end to it. I told the nanny to put Naomi in her crib and let her wake up whenever she does. Gradually, daytime sleep became a lot better. Naomi fell asleep within minutes (still bouncing on the ball), and stayed asleep longer and longer. By the time she was 14 months old her daytime sleep extended to 1.5-3 hours. That happened naturally, with no sort of “sleep training” on our part. At the same time, Naomi got better at falling asleep on her own. She often fell asleep in the car, in the bike carrier, in the stroller. 

Our night-time routine remained unchanged. I still slept in bed with Naomi and she still fell asleep with the breast every time she woke up. However, the number of wake-ups was gradually reducing. We went from 15-18 to ten, to seven, to five and then to three-four. I was hoping that by 18 months we’d be down to 1-2 wake-ups per night, but that didn’t happen. We hovered around 3-5 awakenings per night, and as Naomi grew more mature, falling asleep with breast became more difficult. While before breast-sucking calmed her down, now it seemed to wake her up. Occasionally she’d be hanging on my breast for as much as an hour trying to fall asleep! And towards the morning (5-7am, when my sleep is the sweetest), she’d be awake every 40 minutes, tossing and turning, and hanging on the breast. I started complaining to Anton. 

You have to understand something about Anton. He is a great Engineer. He has this bright engineering mind, which I think he inherits from his mother. He’s good at building things (our house is full of them), fixing things and solving problems. So he decided to interfere and approached our sleep situation as the “problem that needs to be solved”.  At the time I was getting pretty tired. I was back at work at teaching, doing research and consulting, and dancing ballet three times a week. So my sleep situation did not at all contribute to my well-being. I still couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving my baby to cry alone, but I was ok to allow some crying, especially when the parent was not far and the baby knew that she is safe and not abandoned.

First Anton started to put Naomi to sleep at night. Like me, he got her to fall asleep while lying on the bed next to her. But, due to a natural limitation, there was no breast. So the important pre-requisite was that Naomi already learned how to fall asleep on the flat surface without bouncing (by falling asleep with me and the breast). And Anton removed the breast dependency. That was crucial. 

Then Nataly (Anton’s mom), who was putting Naomi to sleep three times per night when I was at ballet classes, somehow managed to get Naomi to fall asleep in her crib. She did the same things as Anton: patting her on her back (plus whispering songs), but Naomi was in the crib. She removed the co-sleeping dependency. That was another major break-through.

The next crucial step was for me to replicate Nataly’s success. This wasn’t trivial, because Naomi was still used to falling asleep next to me, with the breast.  So I gradually taught her to fall asleep in her crib. We’d start on the big bed, then I’d put her into the crib, where she’d try to fall asleep on her own. If she asked to go back to the bed, I agreed, but after some time on the big bed, we had to go back to the crib. Back and forth, back and forth, many times, before she eventually fell asleep in her crib. Eventually I established the rule that cuddling on the big bed is done once in the evening, then she goes into the crib and stays there.  

That was a huge improvement in the bedtime routine. Now, Naomi fell asleep in her crib. But at night the things were still pretty sour. Naomi woke up every two hours.  She took a very long time to fall asleep with the breast, and started sleeping across the bed, so I had to curl in very uncomfortable poses. So at some point I said: “That’s it. Time to put an end to this.” 

At the time Anton was often doing the night duty. His rule was as follows: when Naomi wakes up, if she is trying to fall asleep in the crib by herself, he stays with her patting her back or just being there. But if she screams, demanding that mom comes or to be taken out of the crib, he lets her know that this is not ok. First by talking to her, then (if she still screams) going away from her crib, but staying in her room. Then, if she still screams, by leaving the room and coming back after a while, to see if she’s ready to sleep. Eventually Naomi understood that crying doesn’t get her anywhere and that all she’s got to do is sleep. So she would calm down and Anton would be back with her, helping her to fall asleep. So even though Anton let Naomi cry for some time, he did so in a humane way. He was close by as she cried and offered comfort. So she never felt that she was abandoned. She just understood that this time her wish cannot be granted.

In summary, Anton’s rule was: Have lots of patience when the baby is trying hard to fall asleep on her own, stay with her and support as needed. But if she screams and demands to be taken out, have no patience. Just leave the room for a while, so she understands that this is not acceptable. His other rule was to practice the “French pause” (from Pamela Druckerman’s book Bringing up Bebe). When the baby cries, don’t run into the room right away, let her try and fall asleep on her own. I did not believe this would ever work with Naomi, but it actually did! A few times at night she cries feebly, but then falls asleep on her own. If I’d run into the room at that point, I would only have only woken her up.  

After a couple of weeks of this “training” Naomi went to two-three wake-ups per night. I also changed my routine. I was no longer taking Naomi to bed with me when she awoke. For the first time in 18 months I slept in my own bed! But I still gave her the breast when she awakened. She’d stand up in her crib for some sucking, and then would lie down to fall asleep. It’s a common wisdom in the sleep-training community that night-time weaning improves sleep. I heard about this many times. My friend in Portugal, who hired a sleep consultant to address her baby’s sleep problem, told me that the sleep consultant believed that her baby woke up whenever he wet the diaper, and giving the breast at night made that happen more often. I also noticed that whenever the nanny or Anton put Naomi to sleep, she’d sleep for a very long period, but when I did, the subsequent sleep period was shorter. It was time to put an end to the night-time breast-feeding. Even though the breast-feeding and sleep dependency was anecdotal, we had established that Naomi didn’t need to breast-feed at night, and I wasn’t enjoying it. So it was time to end it. 

One evening, when I fell particularly well-rested and determined, I decided that this is the night to wean. So when Naomi woke up, I went in, but refused the breast when she asked for it. I gently explained to her that she’ll have the breast in the morning, but now it’s time to sleep. Of course, she cried. I stayed by her side, repeating what I had said. To my surprise, the crying was weak, and after a few minutes she calmed down, lay on her pillow, and started falling asleep. I still had to stay by her side about 30 minutes, but she did fall asleep without the breast. Success! I repeated that the next night.  

In the meantime, Naomi was down to ONE awakening per night! That was about three weeks after Anton started doing his night-time parenting. Finally, today, two days after I took out the night-time breast-feeding, she slept through the ENTIRE night! 11 hours 27 minutes!

Looking back at how all this happened, I think Anton’s and Nataly’s involvement was crucial. Especially Anton’s. There were many factors that contributed to Naomi’s improved sleep, but the major contribution was his night-time parenting. I didn’t have the energy or resolve to do that. The first days of the training were physically difficult: Anton had to be awake for hours at night, next to a crying baby. I was so tired, and so well-equipped with my “magic wand” (the breast) that I would’ve given up, just so I could get more sleep. But Anton persevered. And that made the difference.  Now I understand why they say “A child needs a father”.  Moms are often too tried or too “wired” to immediately respond to baby cries to try something radical. All I can say now is that I would do this much sooner if we are ever to have a second baby.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Что делать россиянам с иностранным гражданством

(Читайте до конца, так как именно в конце этого блога самые свежие факты.)

Недавно Россия приняла поправки к закону о гражданстве, которые говорят, что если власти не уведомить о наличии второго гражданства, то будет худо.  Короче, бить будут по второму паспорту.  Несмотря на то, что наказание за непослушание закона уже придумали, то как ему подчиниться еще не изобрели. Я обратилась с вопросом в Федеральную Миграционную Службу (ФМС): что же нужно сделать, чтобы уважить закон? Обращение я послала через очень очень приличный портал, отвечающий на вопросы населения, который обещал прислать ответ в течение 30 дней, что, собственно, и произошло.

Цитирую интересные выдержки из этого послания:

"Такое уведомление [то есть, о наличии второго гражданства - авт.] должно быть представлено лично или направлено по почте в течение 60 дней со дня приобретения гражданином иного гражданства или получения им документа на право постоянного проживания в иностранном государстве, а также со дня вступления в силу настоящего Федерального закона – в случае наличия иного гражданства или документа, подтверждающего право постоянного проживания на территории  иностранного государства, на момент вступления в силу Федерального закона."

Ок, здесь все понятно. Дальше становится немного интереснее:

"В случае если гражданин Российской Федерации считает себя постоянно проживающим за пределами Российской Федерации и имеет в соответствии с законодательством иностранного государства документ, подтверждающий право на постоянное проживание, такой гражданин освобождается от обязанности по подаче уведомления."

Эта выдержки подразумевает,  что чтобы попасть в категорию "постоянно проживающего" достаточно самому себя таковым считать. Тут еще говорится, что надо иметь разрешение иностранного гражданства на проживание в соответствующей стране, но ведь само гражданство и есть такой документ. То есть получается, что если ты сам себя считаешь постоянно проживающим за рубежом, то ты не обязан никому никуда сообщать? А что делать если возникнет разногласие с властями по сему вопросу? Например, власти скажут "нет, мы не считаем, что вы проживаете за границей постоянно"? Если, например, у тебя есть местная прописка в России и соответствующий штамп в паспорте, могут ли власти сказать: "вы не считаетесь проживающим за границей, так как у вас в паспорте, например, Московская прописка"? Какие доказательства надо предоставить, что ты этой пропиской не пользуешься? Водопроводный "bill" из города Кливленд? 

Наверняка у властей нет намерений преследовать с такими придирками "мелких сошек", какими являются большинство россиян, проживающих за границей, но все же хотелось бы знать: как поступить правильно? Ведь последствия звучат угрожающе:

"В случае нарушения сроков подачи уведомления или предоставления неполной или заведомо ложной информации в уведомлении гражданин будет привлечен к административной ответственности, а в случае не направления такого уведомления – к уголовной ответственности."

И вот еще следующая интересная выдержала из письма: 

"Форма уведомления будет определена после вступления в силу Закона."

Закон вступает в силу 4 августа 2014, так что, выходит, до этого дня мы не узнаем куда и чего сообщать. Но, по закону, у нас есть 60 дней с 4 августа, чтобы кого надо уведомить. 

Вот, кстати, если кого интересует, текст закона. 

Дополнительные сведения (6 августа, 2014):

Похоже утвердили форму и метод подачи уведомительного заявления. 

А вот еще очень полезная статья, которая разъясняет несколько интересных вопросов, в частности тот, кто же считается постоянно проживающим за границей, а кто -- нет. 

Вот наиболее интересная выдержка из этой статьи:

"Как разъясняет ФМС, «местом пребывания является место, где гражданин временно проживает, — гостиница, санаторий, дом отдыха, пансионат, кемпинг, больница, туристская база, иное подобное учреждение, а также жилое помещение, не являющееся местом жительства гражданина». А вот «местом жительства является место, где гражданин постоянно или преимущественно проживает в качестве собственника, по договору найма (поднайма), социального найма либо на иных основаниях, предусмотренных законодательством Российской Федерации, — жилой дом, квартира, служебное жилое помещение, специализированные дома (общежитие, гостиница-приют, дом маневренного фонда, специальный дом для одиноких и престарелых, дом-интернат для инвалидов, ветеранов и другие), а также иное жилое помещение».

Исходя из этого, постоянно проживающим в России можно считать гражданина, у которого в паспорте на листе «место жительства» стоит штамп о регистрации. И именно в этом случае возникает обязанность сообщать о наличии иностранного гражданства или вида на жительство. Если же в паспорте последним стоит только штамп о снятии с регистрационного учета по месту жительства — это подтверждение, что такой обязанности у вас нет.

Заинтересованные граждане много обсуждали, можно ли считать отметки о выезде и въезде, проставленные российскими пограничниками в загранпаспорте, доказательством постоянного проживания за границей. Их действительно можно рассматривать как дополнительные свидетельства того, что на вас новый закон не распространяется. Но есть и более надежное доказательство — отметка в загранпаспорте о консульском учете в качестве постоянно проживающего за границей. Ее, кстати, консул может и не поставить, если у вас нет отметки во внутреннем паспорте или листка убытия.

Конечно, возможна и ситуация, когда гражданство России получено в российском посольстве или консульстве за рубежом: тогда у граждан вообще отсутствуют внутренние паспорта, и в этом случае заботиться об уведомлении ФМС тоже не нужно."

Дополнительные сведения от 8 августа:

Новая информация по поводу одного из самых непонятных вопросов, поступившая из этой пресс-конференции ФМС России, кто же обязан уведомлять о наличии второго гражданства, а кто от этой обязанности освобождается? Закон говорит, что гражданам, "постоянно проживающим" за рубежом, уведомлять никого не надо. Но кто считается постоянно проживающим?

Согласно начальнику управления по вопросам гражданства ФМС В.Л. Казаковой, уведомлять обязаны только те граждане, у которых есть российская регистрация, т.е. прописка. Если прописки нет, то есть вы снялись с регистрационного учета, то уведомлять вы не обязаны.

Так что же делать тем, у кого все-таки есть российская регистрация, но кто живет за рубежом? Согласно Казаковой, граждане России, находящиеся за рубежом физически не могут уведомить никого о наличии второго гражданства, так как это уведомление должно производиться гражданином лично: в службе ФМС или в почтовом отделении, начиная с 17 августа 2014. Так что граждане, находящиеся за пределами России, от этой ответственности освобождаются. Тем не менее, как только гражданин, обладающий вторым гражданством, ступит на родную землю, он обязан в течение 60 дней уведомить соответствующие органы.

Конечно вопросы все равно остаются: Например, если человек приехал в Россию, но еще до того, как он успел пойти и сделать соответстбующее уведомление, его уже пытаются привлечь к уголовной ответственности, как доказать, что он раньше уведомить не мог, так как физически не был в России со времени принятия закона? Штампы в паспорте? А если паспорт новый? Носить с собой старые паспорта?

И еще попутный вопрос: допустим россиянин, постоянно проживающий за границей, но имеющий российскую регистрацию (прописку), хочет от нее отказаться. Как это сделать? Согласно информации на сайте российского консульства в Канаде, необходимо заполнить следующую форму и отправить ее по почте.

При этом, обратите внимание, что подпись должна быть заверена консулом. Я позвонила в посольство, чтобы этот вопрос разъяснить. Мне там сказали, что подпись заверяется только лично, и что скорее всего, с этим заявлением еще надо послать справку о проживании за границей, которую бесплатно представляет консульство. Как получить соответствующую печать во внутреннем паспорте о снятии с регистрации -- неизвестно. Постараюсь узнать в ФМС.

Еще такой интересный факт: раньше человек считался постоянно проживающим за границей, если он был снят с регистрации в России, поставлен на консульский учет, и у него в заграничном паспорте имелась соответствующая печать. Теперь порядок постановки на консульский учет упростился. По крайней мере в Канаде, встать на учет можно по Интернету, и никакой печати не ставят. Но зато, можно попросить у консульства выдать справку о постановке на учет. 

Раньше у граждан, зарегистрированных таким образом на постоянное проживание, был особый заграничный паспорт, и продлять его из-за границы было проще, чем загранпаспорт простого смертного россиянина. Теперь такого разграничения нет -- паспорт есть паспорт, и все тут.