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.
In case you missed them, read Part 1 Baby Bellies on Bikes: I’m Pregnant in the Netherlands, Part II Baby Bellies on Bikes: I’m Missing the Caribbean
and Part III Baby Bellies on Bikes: Gender Reveal and Gender Neutral Parenting in the Netherlands.
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 mentioned in one of my previous posts, the medicalization of pregnancy and birth is very common in a lot of countries, even as it is still a highly discussed topic in the Netherlands. I am somewhere in the middle in this conversation mostly because I think women should do what they think and feel is right for themselves and their babies. They are the ones that are carrying a child for nine months and they are the ones that need to give birth.
I always tell my friends: You are the one that’s pushing a watermelon out of your vagina, so you need to feel in control. Figure out what you want and ask for it. In my experience, Dutch midwifes understand and facilitate this really well.
You are the one that’s pushing a watermelon out of your vagina, so you need to feel in control.
Women should not feel pressured to have a medicated hospital birth, just because they are scared. But they also should not be pressured into a natural (home) birth, just because they are afraid of what some people may think of them if they don’t. Women should feel empowered to trust their instincts and make their own, educated decisions.
Giving birth is a huge and often traumatic experience. Every mom I know, myself included, is still haunted by moments they felt they had no control over what was happening during and after the birth of their child. When other people made (the wrong) decisions for them, their confidence began to waver and they regretted it (years) later.
Part of the reason so many women are having hospital births nowadays is the fact that epidurals are becoming more popular.
Having said all that, more and more Dutch women are actually choosing hospital births. Only 29% of the pregnant women stay in the care of a midwife for the entirety of the pregnancy and birth – 13% of these women have home-births. The other 71% of women who give birth in the Netherlands, fall under the responsibility of a gynecologist.
Part of the reason so many women are having hospital births nowadays is the fact that epidurals are becoming more popular. Another important reason is a mortality rate of 1 in 100 babies, in the Netherlands. This is a rather high baby mortality rate, compared to other European countries. Women feel safer in a hospital.
During my first pregnancy, I had the same idea. I didn’t grow up in Holland, so I always thought home-births where borderline insane. Even though I wanted a natural birth – no drugs – I wanted there to be doctors, ten feet away, in case something went wrong. Something did go wrong and I was glad Aya got all the medical attention she needed.
But now that I’m pregnant with baby number two, something has shifted in my mentality towards hospital births. First of all, I have another child at home and I want to have her near me for as long as possible and soon after I give birth. I don’t want her to have to come to the hospital and feel intimidated, scared or left out. A hospital bed immediately sets a vibe: “there is mommy with the new baby and I am going home soon”. I want her to feel included from the beginning and, in my opinion, a hospital birth is interfering with that.
The second reason why I am starting to consider having my baby at home is because I absolutely mortality rate. I hated that they overruled me the first night and gave Aya formula against my explicit wishes, when instead they should have helped me pump milk. It infuriated me that they woke us up every three hours, even though I was feeding on demand and had just fallen asleep because my baby wasn’t watching the clock.
I turned into a tiger every time a nurse entered my room, burdening me with yet another protocol. Don’t get me wrong: I have immense respect for how hard nurses work and I am very grateful for how well they took care of us. But it is incredibly harmful to undermine new moms like that: to tell them to ignore their instincts for the sake of protocol. And I understand that feeding on set times is way more convenient for hospital staff, but hey, news flash, there is nothing convenient or structured about having a baby. I know it’s way worse in other countries and that possibly makes me even more angry.
So, if I can, I want to have my borderline insane Dutchie home-birth with my midwife by my side and then have everybody leave, thank you very much, so I can enjoy my family.