Tag Archives: birth story

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: BELGIUM

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making we go to Belgium to hear Yvonne’s story about how she had her son abroad. She highlights the differences between the care and practices in Belgium vs. her native country, Germany.


Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your son and where did you have him?


Yvonne and her husband with newborn Lennert

After having a long distance relationship for about 4 years, I moved to Belgium in 2001 after having finished my studies in Germany. We moved in together and despite all warnings everything went very well. We got married in May 2009 and I got pregnant a little bit later. I gave birth to a wonderful baby boy on October 8th 2010 in Veurne, Belgium. So Lennert is now 7 months old.


Why did you have your son abroad?

I’ve lived in Belgium for the last 10 years. My life has pretty much shifted to here. I still visit my parents and friends a lot. We travel to Germany at least 5 times a year and with the baby even more often. Still, the fact to have my baby in Belgium was never questioned. I have a gyn that I trust a lot, I wouldn’t want to go back to Germany to deliver the baby with a complete stranger. Furthermore, I didn’t want to quit my job earlier, just in case. I worked until 2 days before I delivered Lennert (I was induced due to high risk of pre-eclampsia). Also, my health insurance is in Belgium and wouldn’t have paid for a birth abroad, if deliberately chosen.


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

Lennert with Yvonne minutes after being born

As opposed to Germany, I had an ultrasound every check-up. My friends tell me that in Germany they do only 3 ultrasounds during the whole pregnancy. Furthermore, in Belgium measuring the neck transparency is standard whereas you have to pay for a supplementary examination in Germany, which isn’t covered by health insurance. This was in the end extremely important as the gyn measured a thicker neck transparency during my 12-week check-up. He immediately took action and 2 days later I had a Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) which turned out to be just fine! Until this point in my pregnancy I had never heard of CVS.


A huge advantage of the Belgian system is that the health care providers pay prenatal and postnatal counseling by midwives. So I found a wonderful midwife who came to our house a few times when I was pregnant. I wanted to stay at home as long as possible when going into labour before going to the hospital. She was supposed to be around and tell me when I should go to the hospital. In the end, I was induced and this part of my birth plan did not happen. Still, she came regularly after I’d gone home and checked the wellbeing of the baby but also mine! I don’t think anything like this exists in Germany.


As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I don’t think I would have felt much different than being in Germany. Everybody was positive and as I’m fluent in Dutch I didn’t have any language issues either.


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


In Belgium your maternity leave is 15 weeks. You have to take at least one week before your due date and maximum 6 before your due date. Every week left, you take after delivering. So I opted to work until the last day and stay at home for 14 weeks before returning to work. In Germany things are very much different. Pregnant women stay at home at least 6 weeks before the ir due date and don’t return to work for ONE YEAR! At least, most of the time it’s more like 2 or 3 years. So when I told my family and friends in Germany that I would return to work after 3 months, I got a lot of eyebrow raising and that look that tells your “what kind of mother are you anyway”. Well, I didn’t have much choice. Although some friends told me to just quit my job. It was my time to raise my eyebrow then. I really love my job, I couldn’t imagine just stopping my career and being a stay-at-home mum. Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with stay at home moms. It’s just not right for me! And yes, it tears me apart every single day when I bring Lennert to daycare. And getting home or picking him up is still the most favourite moment of my day. And I see that the cultural difference makes me look like a bad mom in my friends’ eyes, but I know that I made the right choice for me.


Returning to work so early makes it sometimes difficult to keep up breastfeeding. Most mothers stop breastfeeding when they return to work after 3 months although you are entitled to pump until your baby is 9 months old. I chose to pump. Which made some of my colleagues and friends raise their eyebrows (again..). Why would I do that, they asked. Well, because although I’m a working mom, I’m committed to give my boy the best I can. And if this means sneaking out twice a day to pump for half an hour, planning pumping time around meetings, pumping in the car when I have a meeting elsewhere, well then it is like that. I had to contact the HR department several times as the lactation room was not what it should be in the beginning, but now I’ve got a fridge, a light sign when the room is occupied and an agenda to “book” my pumping times. I hated to be the nagging pumping mom, but I hope that with the alterations, more moms will stay breastfeeding after they return to work. Obviously that are issues I wouldn’t have encountered in Germany as I would be home with my baby.


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I always told my husband that I wouldn’t bother standing up for my pregnant belly or my baby. When going into the hospital to have the baby I knew I would have it our way. I wasn’t going there to be everybody’s darling. I was there to deliver a baby the way I believed was best for him (underwater, no drugs). So get as much information as you need and don’t be afraid to stand up! My gyn is fabulous but I would have considered choosing another one if he wouldn’t be alright with my choices.


It doesn’t matter where you are, I think that moms know best what is best for them and the baby. Ask advice if you are unsure about something but trust your intuition. It’s your baby, it stayed in your belly so you know your baby best and you will know what will work for you as a mom and for your little family in general.


You can find Yvonne on Twitter and Facebook.


Want to share your story? Get in touch: ameena@mummyinprovence.com



Everything I never wanted, but it was perfect: A birth story

“If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.” Folk Proverb

2 hours after BiP was born

This time last year I was exactly 40 weeks pregnant with BiP. I was huge, uncomfortable, scared, excited and totally organised. So I thought. As part of this week’s review of the last year I thought I’d share BiP’s birth story.

The best laid plans … My bag was packed, actually my bagS … I had so much stuff it looked like I was moving house. I’d read everything I could get my hands on, I’d done all my classes, the nursery was picture perfect and I’d mentally written my birth plan. My plan? To go into labour naturally, arrive at the clinic, see how far I could go without an epidural (I made sure I’d done all the paperwork to ensure that, if I wanted, I could have an epidural), I’d be moving around the room working through the contractions, I’d give birth in the position that I felt most comfortable in and I would leave with my nether regions intact. Pretty easy going birth plan. I knew that I did NOT want to be induced, be strapped to a bed and deliver flat on my back with my legs in stirrups and I definitely, under any circumstances, did not want an episiotomy.


My huge 40wk bump that had dropped twice and I'd been told I'd never make it term. Well. I did!

The reality… by the time I reached 40 weeks, BiP’s due date I was in agony. The sciatica that had plagued me for much of pregnancy had become excruciating. I couldn’t walk without searing pain, I needed help getting on and off the toilet (nice) and I couldn’t get into the bathtub to take a shower without help. Oh, and I couldn’t sleep. I was miserable.

I’d been prescribed home visits for a midwife to come to my house every 48hrs to check on me (an excellent service provided free of charge in France). My stats were all good and BiP was fine but she could see I was rapidly going downhill physically and mentally. I requested a sweep (stripping of the membranes) at 40w1d as I was already 1.5cm dilated and I spent the whole day doing everything I could to help things along; I walked miles in pain but it was for a good cause, I ate a whole pineapple, aubergine parmigana, had a spicy curry (it just gave me heartburn), bounced on my ball, studded out my poor husband, etc I did EVERYTHING short of downing castor oil and vodka. NOTHING. Not even a promising contraction. She obviously wasn’t meant to come.

The next morning I was a mess – I’d overdone it and I was in agony (something I deeply regret). By Monday morning the midwife arrived to find me in my bedroom, having not slept more than an hour or 2 in 48hrs, crying my eyes out in just a t-shirt – I was in too much pain to get my underwear on. She decided to make the call to my gynecologist and recommend an induction. Her fear was that if I was to wait I wouldn’t have the energy to push. At this point I was 2.5cms dilated and anterior – BiP was ready to come any moment. My gynecologist agreed to the induction the following morning. I cried my eyes out. I had failed.

D-day … I slept all of 2 hours the night before my induction. I cried. I cried a lot. What was I doing? I didn’t want this. I could wait, but no, I couldn’t, the pain was intolerable.  I prayed my contractions would start and my waters would break as I climbed the stairs to the clinic but they didn’t.  We arrived at the clinic at 7:30am and I was admitted. The midwife came and told me to get onto the delivery table and strapped the monitoring belt on to my gigantic belly and they put the needle into my hand. I cried. I wanted to go back, I could, but I couldn’t. Then they started the Pitocin at 9am. My husband was by my side the whole time (except for when he snuck out for a coffee around 10am and a midwife decided to tease him and tell him that his daughter was already here – the look on his face when he saw me still very much with BiP in utero was priceless!) Then the contractions started, mildly at first and then stronger. Then around 11am they came and broke my water. It was the weirdest sensation and my bump became noticeably smaller! All the time I am strapped to a monitoring machine lying on my side.

Umm … someone get me an epidural! After my waters broke the contractions became harder and harder, I was sad they broke my waters but who was I to say anything considering I’d scrapped my birth plan? The midwife kept saying “Oh it’s your first baby, things take time”. I sent my husband to call her back to tell her I really needed the epidural and she reluctatantly checked me and ran out to get the anesthetist – I’d dilated 2 cms in 45 mins!

In comes the anesthetist! A real character who’s favourite sentence in English was “I’ll be back” obviously learnt from the Terminator! He struggled to get the epidural in because my bump was so big I couldn’t lean forward and my sciatica didn’t help. Every time I had a contraction my waters gushed on the floor and I had to laugh! At this point I was cursing the midwives for not telling me that if I sat up my contractions were more manageable!!!! It took a while for the epidural to kick in but when it did it was great! It was the first time in months that I could lie on my back with ZERO pain. I did find it weird seeing my belly tense up with each contraction and not feel anything, it was so unnatural but at this point I was more than ok with it. I had decided that if I did have to have any intervention I would go all the way with it.




BiP and I getting to know one another from the outside just after she was born

Time to push! Within 3 hours the midwife checked me and I was fully dilated. She repeated “Oh it’s your first baby, things take time” and she wanted me to start pushing. I was on my back, legs in stirrups – I pushed twice and she told me to stop! She dashed out the door and 30 mins later my gynecologist arrived. It was showtime! I couldn’t believe that BiP was actually going to be born! In came the midwife, the anesthetist and the puericultrice (I think that is a kind of midwife but don’t know the exact translation, she is responsible for weighing, dressing and care of the baby). So here we go.

We all look at the screen and with each contraction I push. Then I rest. Push. Rest. Then it get’s fun. My gynecologist obviously got a major buzz from deliveries so he started yelling “Poussez! Encore, encore, encore, encore!” (Push, again, again, again, again) but no words would ever describe the enthusiasm in which he yelled it – My husband and I were laughing so hard! In between pushes they were all talking and laughing which made the atmosphere amazing. The anesthestist asked my gynecologist if he was a football fan by the way he was yellling to which he laughed and said he was too busy to follow football – the delivery room roared with laughter once again. Time push again.

“She’s blonde!” The gynecologist cried as BiP was crowing – Blonde? Excuse me? I am dark haired, so is my husband – again, laughter ensued! I pushed again. At this point I was feeling more which was better because I felt I had more control. Next thing I feel is “snip” and then “snip” – OMG – I turned to my husband and said “he just cut me!” I freaked out but there was no time to worry about it as it was time to push and this time BiP was here!

She was placed on my chest the second she was born and she found her way to my breast and immediately latched on. I couldn’t believe it – she was here, she was perfect (kinda, she had a bit of cone head from all that pushing). She was born at 16:55 on the 27th April 2010 weighing 4 kgs (8.8lbs) and 50cms (20in) long.

The proudest Daddy in the world! When BiP was 18 hours old

She spent 2 hours on my chest and my husband cut the umbilical cord.

The end of life as we knew it … but the start of something incredible! So that is the story of BiP’s birth. It was everything I never planned or wanted but it was perfect.