What’s it really like to give birth in a foreign country, especially one which has the HIGHEST rate of home birth in Western Europe and you’re planning on requesting an elective c-section…
When we arrived in the Netherlands back in the summer of 2014 I was around 28 weeks pregnant with my third child. My husband had been signed to a football club in Emmen and we were given a ‘holiday home’ to temporarily live in whilst we searched for something more permanent for our soon to be family of 5.
Why I chose to have a c-section
Due to the nature of my first two birth experiences (10lb + baby, back to back etc etc) I was advised by health providers in England to go for a csection if I ever decided to have a third. Having been scared shitless by stories regarding the dutch and their preference for unmedicated home births (25% of births in the Netherlands are at home, compared with just 2% in the UK) I prepared myself for battle with my hospital consultant but I needn’t have worried! I explained everything about my first two birthing experiences and my consultant was more than happy to schedule me in for a csection on my actual due date- Monday 3rd November.
How the dutch do it
I was monitored every couple of weeks, including growth scans and blood/urine tests. I also had a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) due to my first son being so huge, which luckily came back negative.
I was also visited by a kraamzorg a few weeks before I was due. A kraamzorg is something completely unique to the Netherlands and definitely something the UK could benefit from introducing. She is a cross between a maternity nurse, au pair, cleaner, cook and support system all rolled in to one.
Our kraamzorg came armed with leaflets and advised us that she would be with us the day I left the hospital and would be with us a maximum of 10 days as I was having a csection (normally its around 5 days post birth).
And then the day was finally here! We had luckily just purchased a house 6 days before (great timing!!) which meant that the last few days were action packed, as well as my oldest son starting primary school in our new neighbourhood at the same time.
We were expected at the hospital at 10am and by 1:30pm my baby girl was born. We didn’t know the sex and after two boys I really expected to see another little willy. I had asked for the doctors not to tell me what sex the baby was but to just hold him/her up so I could see for myself. And what a surprise it was. The section itself was totally calm and I was able to cuddle Sylvie straight away, and she was kept with me the whole time.
The nurses who accompanied me down to theatre were amazing and did such a good job of keeping us all calm and also made sure my mother, who had flown over from the UK, was kept up to date as only my husband was allowed to accompany me into theatre.
Soon after the birth I was wheeled back to my private room and was able to tell my mum that the bundle I was holding in my arms was a little girl. A truly priceless moment.
I ended up staying in the hospital for 3 nights, with the nurses making me buzz them everytime I needed to do something for Sylvie so that I could recover as much as possible.
When we arrived home on the thursday we were joined by our kraamzorg, who’s duty it was to take over the household activities such as cooking, cleaning and getting the boys from school, as well as doing regular checks on me and the baby. However as I had both my mum and husband home I didn’t really feel like I needed an extra person in the house and I sent her away after only a few days. My personal experience with the kraamzorg differed wildly to that of my friends, some of whom cried when their kraamzorg left!
Comparing a dutch birth to one in the UK
Overall I was extremely impressed by the level of care offered by the dutch health care system. Everything seemed geared towards making sure that mum fully recovered so that she could take care of the baby. I know that I personally struggled with how quickly I was discharged from the hospital in England after I’d given birth to my first two children, with little to no advice on breast feeding and still suffering from the after affects of a traumatic delivery. I was lucky I had a very supportive husband and my mum looking after me once I was home but for many women I can imagine that isn’t always the case.
A few days after Sylvie was born her older brother Walter got to carry out the first of many dutch traditions- bringing ‘beschuit met muisjes” to school to celebrate the birth of his sister. They are a sort of rusk with a sprinkling of either pink or blue aniseed balls and are traditional to eat after the birth of a child (I actually ate one of these in the hospital!) the idea being the aniseed stimulates milk production!
So there you have it, my first (and only!) experience of giving birth in the Netherlands, any questions please ask!