Prenatal CareBy Lynn Morrison (USA)
Just as I began to get settled in the Netherlands and thought that I knew my way around everything, I discovered that I was pregnant with my second child and had a whole new set of systems to learn. I scheduled my first midwife appointment and starting preparing my list of wants/needs/questions for the first visit. Everything was going well right up until the packet from the midwife's office arrived at my house. I needed to bring hospital stickers and a urine sample to the first visit - what were stickers and where was I supposed to store a urine sample? Thankfully the receptionist at the midwife was kind enough to explain where to get the stickers (and why I needed them) and to direct me to the nearest pharmacy for a sample cup.
My pregnancy got off to a great start. I found an expat-friendly midwife and had my first few appointments. I had my 12 and 20 week ultrasounds at the hospital and everything looked normal. All along I heard comments about the baby being "small" but no one seemed overly concerned. At 33 weeks I saw another midwife in the same practice (mine was out of town) and she felt that the baby was very small and suggested that we go for another ultrasound. My husband and I went straight over to the local private screening clinic and confirmed that our daughter was below the 10th percentile. At that point we were transferred over to the OBGYN at the hospital for the remainder of our pregnancy.
This is the point in the story when things could have gone awry. The medical staff could have been stereotypical (from the expat point of view) and not followed us closely. We could have been lost in a sea of Dutch medical terms that we couldn't understand. Instead, this is the point when everything went right. The hospital staff was incredibly conscientious and took time to explain everything to us and answer all of our questions. We went from weekly appointments to twice a week to every three days by the end, each time with the staff taking great care of us (and not making us feel freaked out or overly worried). When I couldn't fall asleep one night because I was worried that the baby wasn't moving enough, the hospital staff told me to come right down and they checked everything - even though it was 3am. My favorite quote from a midwife at the hospital was, "We would rather see you 100 times with nothing wrong than not see you once when something was wrong." I was encouraged to call anytime I had a concern.
THE BIG DAY
At 36 weeks I told everyone that the baby could stay in me for as long as she wanted because she was so small. By 39 weeks the endless false contractions, cramps and moodiness had me doing anything I could to start labor. Biking? Sure! Running with a giant belly? Why not! My husband wasn't sure whether to take me to the hospital or the insane asylum. At 39 weeks and 3 days I went to the hospital for a second try with the membrane sweep. I was really crossing my fingers that it would work as I was scheduled for an induction at 39 weeks and 5 days and wanted to avoid that if possible. It was a miserable experience but the doctor assured me that his success rate was much higher than the other hospital staff. All I could think was the labor couldn't be any worse than the never-ending minute of the procedure. Yes, it was that bad. I came home and cried through dinner because I just couldn't take it anymore. Little did I know that those tears were the start of my long-awaited labor.
I arrived back at the hospital with my husband at 11pm and debated whether or not to ask for an epidural right away. The midwife on staff made my decision easy by telling me that the anesthesiologist would soon be going home, so if I wanted one I needed to ask now. A couple of hours later I was connected to an IV and I was on my way to an easy delivery.
I will take a moment here for an aside about epidurals in the Netherlands. Yes, once upon a time they were nonexistent and then quite difficult to get. Nowadays, you can get one if you really want one. The trick is to be very insistent. Remind your midwife and the hospital staff at every appointment that you will want the possibility of having an epidural. It may seem like an odd thing to bring up at 8 weeks pregnant, but trust me, it is worth getting it on the record early and often. I had an epidural with both deliveries - one in the US and one in the NL. I found the Dutch epidural to be about half as strong as the US version. I could still feel the contractions and move around, but the pain became very manageable. They wanted to turn off the epidural when it was time for me to push. I told them that I had pushed out my first child with a much stronger epidural and wanted to first try with this one still connected. Three pushes later my second daughter was born. I have heard stories of women who are told that it is "too late" to get an epidural. I can't imagine I would have let anyone get away with saying that. Just be very, very insistent and clear about what you want and ask them to let you try.
I was very happy with the care I received during my pregnancy in the Netherlands. I appreciated the fewer unnecessary treatments (less blood and urine tests) and the close attention when it was warranted. I walked out of the hospital with our second child convinced that I would be back in a few years to have a third - and that is a bold statement to make with a two day old baby in your arms.
Wednesday 15 August 2012 at 07:00 am.