In our first series on Pregnancy and Motherhood, we present Dutch mom, Kari van der Heide, who shares her journey exclusively with the readers of theParentVoice, Magazine. Get to know Kari and her family as they prepare to welcome Baby # 2.
Kari is a thirty-year-old mama, who grew up in the Caribbean, but now lives in the Netherlands with her family. Her family consists of her wife, with whom she’s been married for 3.5 years, their daughter, Isaya (2.5 years), and their grumpy cat, John Irving. This summer they hope to welcome a fifth member to the clan. Kari is pregnant with baby number two and will share her journey of being pregnant and giving birth, in Dutchieland, on theParentVoice,. You can also get to know Kari and her family better by reading her blog, Columns by Kari and following her on Instagram.
As I’m writing this, my 2.5-year-old daughter is asleep next to me. I look at her rosy cheeks and blond hair and can’t help but wonder if there is another rosy cheeked baby girl growing in my belly right now, or if it’s a boy this time. We will find out soon and I cannot wait. Either way, I will be over the moon – I just want this baby to be healthy.
We are doing an extra ultrasound, to determine the sex of the baby. In Holland you get two ultrasounds, through your insurance. One at 12 weeks and one at 20 weeks. If you are a healthy mama and baby, you will then either need to curb your curiosity until birth or – as we are doing – book extra ultrasounds.
Booking private ultrasounds is part of a change in how women think and feel about pregnancy and birth, in the Netherlands. It is less and less perceived as a natural part of life, but becoming something “medical” instead. In a world where we leave nothing to chance or in the hands of a God many of us have lost a long time ago, exercising control through the medicalization of pregnancy and birth is quickly becoming the norm.
Because, under normal circumstances, when you find out you are pregnant in Dutchieland, you call a midwife or midwife collective of your choosing. No doctors, no gynecologist. Unless something is wrong, you will be in the care of your midwife until a week after you give birth. Preferably in the comfort of your own home, without drugs. All of this care is covered by your basic (mandatory) insurance.
In a world where we leave nothing to chance or in the hands of a God many of us have lost a long time ago, exercising control through the medicalization of pregnancy and birth is quickly becoming the norm.
If your pregnancy does become “medical” somewhere along the way, due to complications, your midwife will refer you to a hospital where you will schedule regular visits and ultrasounds with a gynecologist. At that point, you have no saying in where you give birth: it will be a hospital birth. This is also covered by your Dutch insurance. If you choose to have a hospital birth, even though there is no medical ground, you need additional insurance or pay the hospital bill.
But the medicalization of pregnancy and birth isn’t the only wind of change that has left its trail in the Netherlands over the past decade or so. We are now also enthusiastic throwers of baby showers (which, for lack of an existing Dutch word, we also call “baby showers”) and gender reveal parties (again, no Dutch translation available as of yet).
A lot of Dutch people think all of this is baby madness is very “over the top” and “American”. It’s probably because the Dutch are considered “sober”. They value things like commonsense, restraint and moderation. The actual Dutch word for this – “nuchterheid” – can’t even be properly translated into English. A very Dutch saying is: “Just act normal: that’s crazy enough”.
Even their sense of humor is super dry. When you are pregnant in Dutchieland you can pick up a free gift at the drugstore. It’s called “De Blije Doos”. Translation: “The Happy Box”. And yes. “Doos” also means vagina. And yes. Every mom knows your “box” is the only part of you that’s not happy, at all, when you (are about to) give birth.
If you ask me, even “the baby shower type” pregnant Dutchies are still pretty “nuchter” (sober/normal). They calmly continue to ride their bikes everywhere, big belly sticking out, often with a bag of groceries on either side of the steering wheel and a toddler in the back seat of the bicycle.
A very Dutch saying is: “Just act normal: that’s crazy enough”.
But, you know, I am not a proper Dutchie, so I love a good over the top party or two to celebrate the most miraculous thing in life. We even did a proper babymoon to the Caribbean when I was pregnant with Aya. And I’m always looking for a good excuse not to have to ride my bike. I will pick up my happy box some other way…
To be continued…