There are pros and cons of having a baby in the Netherlands. In my opinion the greatest thing, which no other country offers, is the confidence-boosting maternity care service from their Kraamzorgs. If only these angels were available all over the world …
Image: Flickr / caliopedreams
Being a new parent is simultaneously amazingly wonderful and absolutely terrifying. My husband and I took childbirth preparation classes. These were mainly geared towards birth, but included some baby basics. As my little girl turns 10 days old, I can confirm that theory provides limited use when it comes to the practical challenges of your own newborn.
In most countries, I get the impression that as soon as new parents leave hospital they’re ‘thrown to the wolves’, armed with only some frantic Googling as a guide to this tiny new life. In The Netherlands, just before you leave hospital, you phone your kraamzorg (maternity care) provider. Within a short time of your arrival back home, your dedicated kraamverzorgster (maternity nurse) is at your front door.
Every new parent is entitled to a certain number of kraamzorg hours. In the Netherlands, everyone pays for health insurance. Kraamzorg care is one of the things covered by this. Although allowed care hours vary by insurance package, the average is about 40 hours. That means, potentially, eight hours of dedicated care at your home for the first five days.
Your kraamverzorgster is more than glorified home help. By the time mine left, I felt ready to be a Mum. My own Mother, who stayed with us from the day I went into labour until a week later, was sceptical of the whole thing. I think she viewed it as an unnecessary Mum-replacement service and an intrusion into the home. But having seen our angel – Toni from the Geboortecentrum Kraambureau, Amsterdam – in action she is now a total convert.
Let me give an example. The first morning Toni was with us, she arrived at 9a.m. The night before she arrived, freshly back home from hospital, we’d had a terrible fretful evening. Our Little V, who fed so well immediately after birth, had gone on some sort of strike. Attempts to feed her were met with crimson-faced screams. We went nearly six hours between feeds and were on the brink of calling the emergency midwife service, but decided it was just a short wait until our Kraamzorg would be here to help. I was practically waiting at the door for her arrival, pleading for help the moment she entered. And, in the space of moments, she’d worked out the problem and started to fix it.
“You were probably very stressed when you were trying to feed her,” she correctly established. “She’ll just pick up on your distress and the more you try the more it won’t work. I’ll spend all of today watching you feeding and helping you relax and show you some different ideas and techniques.”
And within a few hours, I had calmed down and our girl was back to her feeding best.
Towards the end of the day, relieved, but still a little overwhelmed, I mentioned how I was getting a cracking headache. “Would you like a massage, and then to have a sleep for a bit?” asked the kraamzorg. No, I am not making this up. She took me upstairs, gave me a back massage and made sure the environment was sorted downstairs so Little V would not disturb me. When I awoke two hours later I felt ready to take on Mummyhood again. That night, our girl awoke calmly twice in the night, fed, and went back to sleep again without a cry.
If I had been left to work this out armed with only books or the internet, I don’t know how I would have found the way. I don’t know how people elsewhere do it. I’m so thankful for the existence of Kraamzorgs and for the great start it’s given our family. I could give you a dozen other examples from the week, from making sure the house was clean and the washing done, to talking through every ache and pain and how best to handle them and showing us how to bath our baby and make their bed properly.
Dutch maternity leave may be short, they’re too keen on pushing home births and there is a lack of availability of basic drugs. But I would have a baby here again tomorrow if it meant the return of a Kraamzorg.
What’s maternity care like where you are? How did you find your way as a new parent?