As a foreigner living in the Netherlands, probably you’ve heard all the “horror” stories about giving birth in this country in where women HAVE to give birth without drugs, or that there are barely any prenatal check-ups (what do you mean only two ultrasounds?!), or the fact that here is almost the norm to give birth at home, and if you are in a hospital, you are returned home immediately.
Funny enough, one day in your pregnancy you’ll receive your kraampakket from your insurance company to find out it’s a complete home-birth kit, with lovely gadgets – such as those mummy diapers. Charming.
But I guess it’s normal. Horror stories spread faster and easier, so I thought about adding a good experience to the mix. Because three weeks ago I gave birth in this country – and it was BEAUTIFUL.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying it was easy. OH GOD, NO. It wasn’t easy. It wans’t painless. And it certainly wasn’t quick. Actually, the first thing I said after I felt Mia coming out was “I am never doing this again”. But still, it was beautiful, and more importantly: at every moment, I felt that my baby and I were in good hands.
1. Prenatal care and check-ups are fine.
I chose to be checked by a midwife throughout my pregnancy (a friend of mine chose a gynecologist during hers, so you can get that option as well). Even with the midwife, at some point they asked me if I wanted to have an additional check up by a gynecologist for reassurance, but to be honest – I couldn’t be bothered.
Also, two ultrasounds are just enough if your pregnancy is going OK. I actually had four. A genetic test on week 13 (this is optional), and one on week 41 (my LO was a bit late) to make sure placenta and amniotic fluid were still OK.
If you or your baby are having any health problem, you will get more. And if you want, you can also get more. But if you are not getting enough black and white photos of your baby, be happy! It only means both of you are doing fine!
2. You don’t have to have a home birth.
If you still think that home birth is a rule here in NL, don’t.
You will be asked many times, and you will be told that at last minute you may change your mind. But at the end, it’s your choice (unless it becomes baby’s choice – I also heard about these super intense, quick labours that by the time the midwife arrives it’s either at home or in the taxi), but if that’s not your case and you want to give birth in a hospital or birth centre, you can.
3. Epidural was an option!
I swear I kept hearing stories that “it wans’t an option” (but wasn’t it really?). Well, I am not sure how my friends and friends of my friends did it, but for me it was. I wrote it down in my birth plan and when I was 4cm dilated, the midwife came to my house and told me “this is the time we can do it, and we would need to go now to the hospital”. But of course, at that time that big needle in my back seemed much more terrible than those contractions that were just starting to get a bit more painful – so I decided to be brave (ah, Daniela…) and chose not to get it. But hey! It WAS an option.
Later that day, when I was stuck on 8cm and they were giving me hormones to accelerate the process, they also offered me a type of morphin to help me deal with the pain. Here I wasn’t trying to be brave, I just really hate needles (but if I had known how those next contractions were going to be…) so again I said no. But again: I had the option!
4. And it felt safe all the way.
My labour became medical when I got stuck on 8cm and had to receive hormones. As I already was in the hospital, I got connected to all the additional machines to check my signals, the baby’s, and the contractions. I got a medical midwife and they even called the gynecologist to the room – just in case.
If you believe that in NL they are all pushing for natural regardless, rest assured: this is not true. When it became medical, doctors were involved. My midwife had to step to the side as she wasn’t on the lead anymore, and that was also OK. What matters at that moment is for baby and mummy to be OK, and after a few more hours: we were.
Mia had to receive some oxygen for a few minutes after she was born, but right after that she was brought to my arms and immeditely to my boob for her first meal outside the womb. She stayed with me for a long time until she had to get other controls. Everything happened swiftly, in the same room and in a positive atmosphere. So there: beautiful.
5. Yes, I went back home that night – but my kraamzorg also arrived
Mia was born at 18:38 and once she had all her tests and they knew I was OK, we were released. We got home at 11pm, only to meet our kraamzorg (the nurse who will take care of you and baby for the first week) at the door. She stayed with us until 1am to help us get set up and ready to sleep. This woman was an angel. I was lucky to have my mum around as well, but this woman was also great.
Since that I had already the huisarts visiting my home, the midwifes visiting for the follow ups, my fabulous kraamzorg that helped me on the first week and the consultatie bureau coming to do the needed tests. So for me, the system worked. No horror stories to tell 🙂
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