Navigating faith, love, and life in the Netherlands

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's a girl! (A Dutch-American birth story)

We've just welcomed baby #2 into the world - a little girl!

Here's the story of her birth, for those of you wondering and for myself looking back at this in the future.

Before the big day...

Labor with our Munchkin (now age 2) lasted only 4 hours, so my midwife/midwives wanted us to make sure we were mentally prepared for the possibility of giving birth at home this time.  I very much wanted to give birth at the hospital, and not at home - especially with Munchkin around - but eventually I warmed up to the idea.  Rather, I warmed up just enough to the idea that it sounded palatable but still not preferred.

In the Netherlands, once you register your pregnancy with the health insurance provider, the provider will mail you a kraampakket which contains everything necessary for a home birth and the time shortly thereafter.  This includes coverings for the bed, an umbilical cord clamp, materials for sterilization (no, not THAT kind of sterilization!), and maternity pads for later.  We were told to make sure we had that ready and in an easily accessible spot.

Labor began - but I wasn't quite sure!

Shortly before finally getting into bed, I chugged at least a liter of water.  So when I started feeling a bit "crampy" in my lower back around 12.45am, I just thought they were Braxton Hicks contractions.  I kept an eye on my watch, went to the bathroom, and Randolf rubbed my back a bit, but to no avail. 

An hour later, they were still there, lasting 2-3 minutes and happening maybe every 6-8 minutes.  (I only tracked them for one round with an app, but this feels like what it was the rest of the time.)  I wondered aloud if this was the real deal, and thought it was better to call the midwife than not.

As Randolf called the midwife just before 2 am, I hopped in the shower, hoping for some relief.  (Result: Not too much, and then I got out and started shivering because I was soaking wet.)  I remember once again thinking that I could really go for an epidural this time - though I even questioned if I truly needed it, considering I'd managed fine last time.  Randolf had also called his parents to give them a heads-up about the likelihood of coming over to stay with Munchkin (they live about 2 miles away).

The midwife arrives

As soon as Maya* (not her real name) arrived around 2 am, it felt like my contractions (since I was now sure that's what they were) got worse.  I laid down on the bed for her to measure me, and I was already at 6-7 cm.  "If we don't leave now, we might not make it to the hospital in time," she said, as the hospital is just over a mile away with a few traffic lights and speed bumps in between.  She asked if we had someone coming to watch Munchkin - who thankfully was sleeping soundly this entire time - and we confirmed that Randolf's parents were ready to come over when needed.

This time we actually had the hospital bag ready to go, unlike last time when it was not at all prepared!

Despite at first thinking I'd ride in our car with Randolf, it was decided that I'd ride with Maya and Randolf would wait til his parents got to the house.  Turns out we got to the hospital at about the same time.

Arrival at the hospital

Last time, Randolf had to pay for parking in the regular hospital parking lot.  But this time, as he was almost right behind us, he was able to follow into the special maternity ward parking area - with a slagboom (those things that go up and down and prevent you from just riding in to a parking lot or tunnel or bridge without paying).  Before we had left the house, Maya had called ahead to ask them to keep it open for us.  This shortcut led easily to the elevator next to the maternity ward.

We arrived there around 2.15am.

I crawled onto the bed and after a contraction or two, my water broke.  

The midwife and attending nurse told me, "When you feel the urge to push, go ahead and push."  Between contractions, I said, "I don't REMEMBER what that feels like.....oh wait, now I remember...."  This time I felt more comfortable laying on my side for a while rather than on my back the entire time.  Eventually I rolled over onto my back - saying that I needed a forklift truck to help me.

A couple contractions after that, her head appeared and then one more push and she was out!  Her birth time was 2:37am.

Staying (or rather, not staying) at the hospital

The midwife or nurse (can't remember now) handed me our daughter to hold skin-to-skin.  Over the next half hour (I suppose - I had no concept of how much time had passed), R cut the umbilical cord and I delivered the placenta.  The midwife showed us how you could still feel the blood pumping through the umbilical cord, but I was shaking far too much to feel it.  She also showed us what the placenta and amniotic sac looked like.  

I was stitched up - and man, the needle for the local anesthetic hurt so much! Maybe I shouldn't have looked at the midwife when she was preparing it...

They offered us something to drink - I just wanted water instead of tea, because I wanted to have some semblance of a chance to fall asleep at home later.  They brought us beschuit met muisjes, a traditional Dutch snack for sharing when celebrating the birth of a baby, and I got a cheese sandwich.

The nurse and midwife measured our baby and dressed her in one of the outfits we had brought in our hospital bag.  (She swims a bit in her Carter's and Gerber's newborn size outfits...)  I also took a shower and changed into clean clothes.  Oh, and these blankets that nearly every American baby has been wrapped in at the hospital? Never have seen one here.

Here's a cultural difference for my American friends and family:  "Once you're able to pee, you can go ahead home.  We'll bring the discharge paperwork for you and then you'll be free to go." After the birth of Munchkin, we stayed for a couple nights because he was born 3 weeks early and they wanted to make sure he could maintain a good body temperature and eat well enough.  We were in the hospital this time til about 6 am - far longer AFTER than we were BEFORE the birth.

Kraamtijd begins!

Today marks one week since we've been parents of TWO kids.  We are of course not getting much sleep, but we definitely appreciated the week of kraamzorg.

We had a nurse come every day for the past week and help with cleaning (dishes, vacuuming, bathrooms, laundry, taking out the trash) and checking on the baby and me.  She even helped with our Munchkin a few times (when he would let her!), getting him dressed and changing his diaper.  The funny thing is that she was also the kraamzorg for my brother-in-law and one of my good friends here!

Our birth announcements have been mailed and we're starting to receive congratulatory cards in return.  On Saturday, 2 sets of friends and their kids came over - thus begins the time of kraambezoeken!  Baby showers aren't a big thing here.  Rather, you have visitors over a little at a time and they bring gifts at that point.  At least it's less overwhelming that way!

The days ahead...

The days ahead will be full of diapers, feeding, playing with Munchkin, watching them interact, and of course sleeping whenever possible!

We are looking forward to getting to know this little girl!