A pregnant woman can be a little crazy, but if you add being an expat with no family around on top of it, she can turn into Pregzilla! That was me, a little more than one year ago. I always knew I wanted children someday, but when the day came and I found out I was pregnant, my great joy was overshadowed by this terrifying thought: How is this baby going to come out of me? You can tell I was not ready for the big horror experience I had only watched on youtube until then. (By the way, if you are pregnant with your first child, it is best to stay away from the birthing videos. I can say now that they look way scarier than the real deal.) Living in The Netherlands, one of the safest places in the world to have a baby, I quickly got advice on all the steps I had to take in order to prepare for the D-Day. (Thank you, Sharon!) How my experience went and what surprised me, next!
Surprise #1: No Obstetrician
It turns out, in The Netherlands, your prenatal care is provided by a midwife unless you suffer complications which require the attention of a specialist (OB). So, I went to my GP and told him I was pregnant and he referred me to a group of midwives I got to LOVE! They periodically checked me and the fetus, gave me advice, and recorded everything in a booklet (including my fears and concerns).
Surprise #2: Maternity Nurses (Kraamzorg)
Once I registered with the midwives, I had to go find a maternity nurse and introduce it to my health insurance company. The services of this specially trained nurses are unique in the world and they are covered by the Dutch mandatory basic insurance package! Once you are home from the hospital with your baby, someone will come to your house and take care of you 8 (eight) hours a day! And when I say “care”, I mean taking your baby’s temperature (and yours) every few hours, changing diapers, checking your stitches, scrubbing your toilets, vacuuming, making you tea and sandwiches, and so much more! I have to mention here that my sisters would make great maternity nurses! Thank you, girls!
Surprise #3: Intake Interview
I always thought people who wanted to have children should be given a test beforehand. Well, this was ours. Around 6 months of pregnancy, a maternity nurse came to our house for an “interview”. Scary, right? It felt like our new family parenting skills were being evaluated. The maternity nurse gave us a list of all the things we need to prepare for the baby, myself and the hospital bag. I was surprised to learn that the mattress for the crib needed to have a certain hardness and thickness (7-10 cm) and the bed had to be made in a very specific way. The nurse inspected our house to make sure the new baby will arrive into a healthy environment and family. She asked dozens of questions from family health history to very personal ones about how we were raised as children (if we were spanked, abused in any way, etc).
Surprise #4: Birthing Centre “Evacuation”
We were interviewed and passed the test, we took mindfulness classes (that I have to say worked wonders), so we were ready to meet our baby! I started having strong contractions 5 minutes apart, from the start, around 11:30 at night. My husband called the midwife at 2 am and when she came I was already 4 cm dilated. I opted for a 100% natural delivery, so the midwife made arrangements with the birthing center we chose and she met us there at 5 am. All this time, my husband and I were by ourselves in this beautiful cozy room with aromatherapy, jacuzzi and a beautiful view over the city (not that any of these mattered). Our beautiful 4 kilos (I know! Right?) baby boy was born at 7:30am! It only took 8 hours for the miracle to happen! After a couple of hours, while I was lying in bed next to my baby, all stitched up after a natural delivery, I was asked when I will be ready to go. A nurse offered to help me take a shower and before I came back, my bed was already made. So, an extremely slow drive later, before noon, we were home!
Surprise #5: The Newborn
My life with a baby was different than anything I thought I knew! Everything was new and exciting and I had so much adrenaline in my body I could not sleep for two days and I did not feel tired at all! I would just sit there staring at my newborn incapable of comprehending what just happened to me. He was going to be mine forever! The changing diapers – taking temperature – feeding cycles every 3 hours were exhausting, but I felt so complete and happy, it’s impossible for me to describe! Many things did not go as I planned or how I envisioned (especially breastfeeding – ouch!) but, Lord, was I the happiest mom on planet Earth!!! And I still am! There is nothing more beautiful to me than being a mom! In this busy world, I try to be the best urban mom I can be!
In which country did you have your babies and what surprised you?