BlondebutBright: The birth of attitude change

BlondebutBright: The birth of attitude change

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“Giving birth in the Netherlands has radically altered my attitude about the Dutch,” says American blogger Janelle Ward (BlondebutBright), who now advocates natural birth.

In my early years abroad I was already hearing scary things about giving birth in the Netherlands. Mostly ghastly things like "You'll never get any drugs, you know." "They'll let you labour for 50 hours and will never even consider a C-section." "You have to give birth at home although women often are rushed to hospital because of complications."

Giving birth in the Netherlands has radically altered my attitude about the Dutch.

Anyone who knows me or who has followed this blog over the years will understand that this was quite unlikely. But having a baby here has opened my eyes to one example of how the Dutch system actually works, and has made me aware of how much I was living on the expat fringe.

My son Adrian arrived on 26 August 2010, coincidentally the nine-year anniversary of my arrival in the Netherlands. As I mentioned in my last blog post, he was transverse and ended up in a breech position, despite my greatest efforts to get him to turn. So the midwife referred me to the hospital, and the LUMC handled the remainder of my appointments.

After one final (and failed) attempt to turn Adrian with ECV, the doctor told me I had two options: schedule a C-section or try to deliver naturally. I did a huge amount of research and was uneasily heading to the conclusion that I should get a C-section. Then I went to speak to the doctor. He listened to my reasoning and then said, "Well, if you really want a C-section, we'll schedule if for you. But if you are interested in a natural delivery - and it sounds like you are - then I want you to know we are fully capable of delivering him vaginally, and all indications point to the possibility of a positive outcome."

I was shocked. In the US - not to mention almost every other European country - such a scenario was almost impossible. And yet the doctor was actually encouraging me to try for a natural birth? I really expected the opposite. After all, isn't it easier for doctors to schedule a C-section? It's half an hour of work, can be done during working hours, and there's no waiting around for nature to take its course. And yet the obstetrics department at the LUMC seemed to want to complicate their working lives in order to provide the best outcome for my baby. Of course, they cautioned that they had a very low tolerance of complications for a breech baby, and if anything went wrong during labour a C-section would be unavoidable.

So we decided to go for it, and waited for Adrian to make his appearance.

He finally decided to grace us with his presence at almost 41 weeks. The natural delivery - performed by an incredibly competent resident - went very well. Breech deliveries require special training and it seems that all obstetricians at the LUMC are familiar with the art. It was performed flawlessly, even at almost 3am when Adrian was born.

Throughout my pregnancy I said that I wouldn't want to be in any other country for this experience. This feeling has only increased after giving birth in the Netherlands. After avoiding everything Dutch for years, I now find myself an enthusiastic advocate for their philosophy - which, surprisingly, seems designed around my wishes. My attitude change also comes from what I experienced after the birth, when a system boasting home visits took over. Visit my blog for details of my experience with the kraamzorg (maternity nurse) and the consultatiebureau (health clinic).

Janelle Ward (BlondebutBright) is a born and raised Minnesotan living in Leiden, the Netherlands. Nine years ago she came to Europe for a brief international experience. Along the way, having acquired a Spanish husband, a PhD and a little one, she has found that observing life outside her comfort zone is a true passion. Visit her blog post here.

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3 Comments To This Article

  • EditorNL posted:

    on 13th November 2010, 14:09:50 - Reply

    I'd like to add that I also had an extremely positive experience of childbirth in the Netherlands. Both my children were born here, at home, and I only have praise for the way the Dutch health professionals handled things. From my experience, I think I would now feel unsafe giving birth OUTSIDE of the Netherlands.

    However, don't forget that this experience is very personal and many factors influence how the pregnancy and birth go; genetic makeup of course, as well as the mother’s attitude, expectations and psychological well-being at the time. Wherever you are, things can go wrong and individuals in whichever country, could, in the mother’s view, take decisions which in retrospect they feel were not the best ones.
  • bevtrek posted:

    on 12th November 2010, 20:11:06 - Reply

    I'm sure you don't. Its mainly because those of us who are positive about living here have learned not to bother voicing it on this site, least we be inundated with crap from the less happy expats.
  • Geoff Naylor posted:

    on 12th November 2010, 11:00:31 - Reply

    I almost had to read the article twice.
    Is it really an unmitigated positive message? From an expat, about the Netherlands?
    Not something you come across very often.