Navigating faith, love, and life in the Netherlands

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Baby!! (Geboortekaartjes and Kraambezoeken)

On February 20, I gave birth to a cute little boy named D.  (Perhaps one of these days I will write his birth story.)

Hanging out with Papa - age 5 weeks

Baby showers are not a Dutch thing.

Our church did not plan a baby shower for us.  Nor did my in-laws or friends.

"GASP!" Some of you might be wondering how this can be.

They're at least an American thing.  I've heard of them in Ukraine, but I think that might be the American influence as well.

"But how will people give you gifts? How will you have what you need for the baby?"

Oh, and the only reason we made a baby registry was for gifts in the US.

Baby showers might be just an international/foreigner thing.

A shirt for a math teacher: "50% mom + 50% dad = 100% me!"
My colleagues at school threw a surprise baby shower for me in early February.  I really appreciated the surprise gesture, and the nice gifts for baby D, but my favorite part was the cards signed in multiple languages!

Afrikaans - something like "a beautiful future for you as family"
Thanks to my colleagues for the beautiful spread and arranging everything!

Geboortekaartjes are for sure the Dutch thing.

Following Dutch tradition, we sent out geboortekaartjes - literally, "birth cards" - in the week after his birth.

Some examples - I'd rather not publish ours online
Like other birth announcements, these will have the name, birth date and time, weight, and length.  We included both metric and US/imperial measurements in ours, since some of my family can't convert between the measurement systems.

Some - but not all - parents will include a photo of their new little one.

Another option is to include a Bible verse, poem, message from the older sibling, etc.

The poem at the bottom says: "Do you want to come count the little fingers and toes? Then please just call first."
Once these cards make their ways to the four corners of the country (and also the world, as we sent some to some of our international friends), cards of congratulations start pouring in.

Besides the many from the Netherlands, we've gotten one from France, one from the UK, and one from the US.  (During this time, I especially wished Mom-Mom was still living - because we would've gotten a beautiful handwritten card from her, expressing her joy at a great-grandchild and looking forward to meeting him.)

The Kraambezoek - a multi-day, non-cheesy baby shower 

"Then please call first," as our geboortekaart said.  And call they did!  To give you an idea of how many visits we've had -- 21 or so different visits with 37 adults total in the past 7 weeks. We've still got a few more to go, including extended family members.

Rather than a themed baby shower with lots of food, friends and family members come with a small gift.  Nothing fancy or huge.  They're assuming we already have what we need for the baby to manage from day to day - a stroller, bed, diapers, etc. These gifts are usually clothes or toys - and we've gotten some books too!  These gifts are nowhere on a registry, and baby D will just have to wear whatever we put on him.  :)  Most people will not come empty-handed and perhaps wait until they have a gift to plan their visit!

Dutch people also keep asking what baby showers are like, but I have such a hard time explaining something I haven't experienced recently!  For me, these visits aren't as overwhelming or tiring as a baby shower might be in the first weeks of parenthood.  No awkward games, no cheesiness in large amounts, and not lasting more than an hour. 

Generally, these visits have all followed a certain script, and now I'm fairly proficient at answering the questions:
"How are you doing? How are you adjusting?"
"Did the birth go well? How was it?"
"What time was he born?"
"Oh, you had to stay in the hospital for a few days?  But everyone's doing fine now?"
"How often does he wake up in the night to eat?"
"Do you think you'll go back to work later?"

I can now very easily say that baby D was born at 4:20 - "tien voor half vijf," or, "ten before half-five."  (Unfortunately, saying it as "four-twenty" is not commonly done in Dutch.)

Beschuit met muisjes - 100% Dutch

Would you like a "biscuit with little mice?"  American family reading this, you will be sampling this when you are here!  (And if you're not able to visit us here, then hopefully you can try some when we are stateside!)

The "biscuit" is a rusk, almost like toasted dry bread, and has no particular flavor.  They are spread with butter to make the "muisjes" stick.  This bread is crunchy and crumbly.

Squeak, squeak! These sprinkles are called "little mice" because some look like they have little tails on them!  They are about the size/texture of Nerds candy, very hard and also crunchy.  These "little mice" are very likely to run across the floor - we've had at least 3 visits that involved picking up the pieces off the floor!

Admiring the Munchkin 

Who doesn't like looking at a (happy, peaceful) newborn baby???

Our little guy is cute (but we're biased), generally content except when he's hungry, and overall calm.  Lately he's begun making different noises and staying awake longer to "play" - though he hasn't quite figured out playing, I think.

Your Turn

What are some common traditions in your culture surrounding the birth of a baby?  Have you ever gone against the grain of your culture's expectations?

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