In praise of my Dutch midwives – the whole team of them …
I now realise, prior to actually being pregnant, that I was clueless about most of the finer details involved. For example, when friends first starting asking me if I’d made a decision about ‘baskets’, ‘buggies’, ‘cribs’, ‘pushchairs’, ‘strollers’, ‘prams’ or ‘bassinets’ I had to furiously Google what they all were so I looked less horrifically hopeless as a future parent.*
(*For the record, it turns out different people, countries and companies use these names interchangeably. It’s very confusing. I still like using layman’s descriptions – e.g. ‘the thing they’ll sleep in when at home to start with’ or ‘the thing they lie down flat in when you push them around outside.’)
Another area of naivety was the role of my GP vs. midwife. I knew midwives were an essential part of the birth, but I didn’t realise they were the vital source of all information and care throughout the pregnancy. In fact, I’ve seen my GP for about ten minutes in 28 weeks – the appointment when I was first pregnant where he told me (kindly) to go away and find a midwife.
With that in mind, as parents-to-be in the Netherlands, picking a good midwife is absolutely essential. Charlie and I have only been to one but we love them – and here’s why.
Image: Geboortecentrum, Amsterdam
They’re a short walk away
I had some pre-conception that seeing a midwife meant trips to a distant hospital, waiting among assorted sick and injured people. Seeing a midwife in Amsterdam means strolling five minutes down the road to my dedicated midwife practice and waiting for a few minutes with a magazine by the window along with one or two other expectant couples.
They come as a team
You could see this as a pro or a con. Instead of a single, dedicated midwife, we have a team of five. By now, we’ve met the majority of them at regular check-up appointments. This might mean we miss out on the close personal relationship some people develop with one individual but, when it comes to the birth itself, one of our team will be on call. This avoids the unsettling prospect of a brand new face at the critical moment. And, as we like them all, we’re very happy with this set-up.
They tell it straight, but they make it special
The Dutch are a notoriously straight-talking nation. My colleagues will tell me if they think my work is terrible, as directly as they’d tell me they love it. For all things pregnancy, I like this approach from our midwives. There’s no awkwardness or embarrassment and you know you’re getting all the information. At the same time, they also seemed genuinely thrilled for our specific pregnancy and the joy of baking a new life. I’ve been complemented on everything from my ‘beautiful bump’ to my ‘beautiful blood pressure’. And, importantly, they never try to rush us out the room.
Charlie comes to every appointment with me. He describes the moment in every visit when we hear our girl’s heartbeat as one of his highs of the pregnancy experience. They’ve also helped show him, by prodding my belly, how he can identify the baby’s head, feet, etc. One midwife appointment coincided with my Mum visiting, so we brought her along too. Having had my brothers and I at a time before scans existed, her wonder at hearing the heartbeat loudly filling the room brought tears to all of our eyes.
I have enormous respect for midwives. What a beautiful job it must be to help couples bring their babies safely into the world. There must also be times when it’s incredibly hard. I’m thankful that ours help us feel secure and confident on our journey.
How does the Netherlands midwife experience compare to yours? Or perhaps you live locally and want to share your recommended midwife practice?