Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: HOLLAND

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Lynn who is American and had her first daughter in the US and her second in the Netherlands. Here is her story:

having a baby abroad in hollandTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

I am American and my husband is Italian. We have two daughters, ages 3.5 and 1.5. We had our first daughter in San Francisco and then moved to Delft, Netherlands when she was two months old. Our second daughter was born here in Delft.

Why did you have your children abroad?

We had been living in the Netherlands for a year when I got pregnant with our second child. Thanks to my wonderful local mom’s group (DelftMaMa) I didn’t have any concerns about having a baby here and I never thought about going back to the US for the birth.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

One of the great things about having a baby abroad is that it gives you the chance to question the status quo in your own country and think about what kind of care and support is important to you (versus what everyone tells you that you need). The medical staff in the Netherlands had a much more laid back approach that resulted in fewer tests and less invasive appointments. As a second time mother, I appreciated the hands-off attitude.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Overall, I felt positive about my experience as an expat expectant mother. My main concern was that my requests for pain relief would not be honored. The Dutch have a history of denying requests for pain meds (although this is changing), and the midwife and doctors all told me that it might not be possible to get an epidural if the anesthesiologist was not available.  That certainly added some stress to my pregnancy! I was lucky in the end to arrive at the hospital right before the anesthesiologist left for the evening…I hate to think about how my delivery would have gone had I shown up an hour later!

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

A major difference I encountered was opinions about how postnatal care should be handled.  In the US I spent 3 days in the hospital and then went home. The medical staff encouraged me to get up and moving and I was back out walking around the neighborhood within a few days. The Dutch believe that mothers and babies should stay at home and do the minimum possible for at least the first week. Mother and baby are sent home as quickly as possible (as soon as a couple of hours after the birth) and once home, a special care nurse (kraamzorg) comes and helps you at home for the next week. The nurse handles all of the check-ups, appointment scheduling, cleaning and chores so that you can focus on yourself and your baby. While I loved having the kraamzorg nurse come to my house (every country should have this system), I did have a disagreement with her over whether or not I could leave the house. She did not even want me to walk one block to the grocery store. I had to get the midwife to give me medical permission to leave.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I would suggest that mothers connect with a local mother’s group and get to know other women who have given birth in the area. They will help you get answers to all of your questions, give the best advice and support you (and your new baby) through every step of the way.

About Lynn and Nomad Parents:

Find out more about Lynn on her site Nomad Parents. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Nomad Parents is the online community for expat families in the Netherlands. The site is full of helpful information, real stories and regular articles from experts relevant to parents with children ages 0-4. Come and visit us to find out what parenting in the Netherlands is all about.

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3 Responses to Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: HOLLAND

  1. Maryjane Dale says:

    I also had the Dutch birth experience (I am Australian married to an Englishman) Our daughter was nearly born at home, as was the plan – most births in Holland are at home, attended by a midwife whom I had got to know well throughout my pregnancy. Due to the labour slowing down we did end up in hospital, but literally only for the delivery – then it was home to our lovely Kraamzorg, who had been present at the birth. I could not fault the entire process. Within the same month of my daughter being born, my sister gave birth in a Sydney hospital and my sister in law in London. Our experiences were so different! I had consistent advice, in my own home. I loved the hands off approach during pre natal care (when I went to my GP to tell him I was pregnant, he said, “Congratulations! What do you want me to do?” which at the time was slightly disconcerting, but the attitude was that I was a healthy female and that my body was totally designed for what was to come!)
    Pregnancy yoga and gymnastics were all part of the prenatal care.
    The Dutch all know not to visit a new mum at home between the hours of 1pm & 3pm. The first week of my daughters life was one of the best weeks of mine. She was a relaxed and content baby and I am sure it was because my entire pregnancy was handled in such a relaxed (but competent) way.
    I did find some aspects of life in Holland a bit of a trial – but definitely not the having a baby part!
    Your article has brought back so many happy memories. Thank you. Congratulations on your new baby Lynn, and I hope you are enjoying your life in beautiful Delft.

  2. Hi MaryJane,

    Thanks for sharing your story with me. I had to laugh at the doctor quote – that is so classic!

    I think that giving birth in the Netherlands can be very beautiful as long as you are comfortable with your midwife and willing to ask all of the questions yourself. They don’t “hold your hand” through the process (part of that “pregnancy isn’t an illness” mentality), which has both positive and negative aspects. I said it before and I will say it again, having local support (whether it is an expat group or local Dutch moms) is key to having a positive experience. They can fill in the gaps and answer all of the questions (some that you don’t even know you have).

    The kraamzorg is amazing and that alone should be justification enough for a woman to give birth in the Netherlands.

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