28 August 2008

Nurses, Moms, and Culture?

The thing about having a baby is that in addition to the getting big and having to buy get the house ready (read: buy bunches of stuff), there is a lot to learn. In addition to books, here in Holland, information evenings are the way a lot of this information is transmitted. Of course, they don’t do many (any) in July or the beginning of August on account of summer vacation and if you’re not Dutch, you don’t think about these things! So, by the time it was time for us to start attending these things, we had to wait six weeks. But we’ve done well and gone to a couple so far. Imagine a room full of a hundred pregnant ladies and their partners. It’s a bit overwhelming.

This week, we attended an information evening at the hospital where our baby will probably be born. The "probably" because there seem to be no absolutes with births, not because of the hospital. One of the interesting things about giving birth in a hospital here is that their policy is to get you home ASAP. If you have a normal birth, that’s usually within two hours of baby being born. They say it’s because you’re so pumped up on adrenaline at that point that going home is easier to manage than after you’ve calmed down, slept a bit, etc.

One pregnant lady asked the nurses giving the presentation for advice about being sent home possibly in the middle of the night with a baby if the baby had problems breast feeding. The answer was a fairly abrupt version of, "Suck it up, you'll be fine, and baby will be fine without food for a night." Needless to say, the mom didn't look too reassured. I could only laugh to myself. What an answer to give a nervous new mom! No alternatives, no suggestions, just a fairly abrupt “stop fussing” and “next question.”

So my question is this: is this a nurse thing or a Dutch thing? I’m tempted to think it’s a nurse thing. After all, these ladies have seen it all. If you’ve been a nurse on a maternity ward for 20 or 25 years, the idea of a healthy mom and baby going home and worrying probably seems pretty silly. You’re healthy! Be happy, go home, enjoy. Any of the problems you run into are minor and can be taken care of later. No danger.

Clearly, this isn’t the way a potential new mom thinks. Of this, I can speak from experience. My latest panic is going to the grocery store for the first time with our baby. Insignificant in the scope of life, I’m sure, but in my mind: huge. More than anything, this is a story of how difficult it can be to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, especially the shoes of someone younger or less experienced than we are. I may teach, but do I really remember what it was like to be a 20 year-old study abroad student? This is something other than empathy or compassion, it’s understanding and responding to another human being’s frame of reference. Hopefully we all know someone who can do this. But learning it… that’s a real challenge!


  1. Well, I think it's a maternity-ward-nurse type of approach! when I was pregnant and "almost there" I decided to drag my husband to the hospital to have a look around (of course, I did make an appointment with the nurse)...I looked at the delivery rooms, the bathtubs...everything, but when I asked what happens if the baby is born during the night, they told me "you go home, dear". When I said that the kraamverzorgende won't visit at night, I was told "well, of course you are on your own!".
    my daughter must have sensed it: she was born at LUNCH TIME...so mommy didn't have to risk feeling lonely...or abandoned.

    grocery shopping with the little one? mhmm...can be challenging, because you are used to shop by yourself, not with a little one on wheels!!!! oh: don't forget, there will be shops where the pram WON'T FIT! and you'll see Haarlem with different eyes (mum's eyes?). I spent the first month figuring out where I felt comfortable breastfeeding and which places in Leiden had a changing room!!
    so much has changed! now the little one decides where to go, when to sit to have a drink, what to buy at the supermarket (she is two...)
    Don't worry (too much): it's going to be FANTASTIC!!! I promise ;-)

  2. I remember posing for this photo when I was born, where did you find it?

  3. As a recently new mum I can't imagine going home within 2 hours...but then again I didn't stand up after giving birth for at least 24 hours! (not a normal birthing experience)

    The baby will eat when she is hungry. The trick is to keep her awake long enough to finish the feed! Riley ate wonderfully in the hospital, but our first night home he kept falling asleep while eating, so I would put him down and he would start crying he would eat for a bit and then fall asleep.
    make sure you have some lanolin cream (works great on bum rash too) I used it and never had dry cracked chapped anything!

    I used to take Riley out to the mall (I live in Canada) at 2 weeks old. All the ladies in the stores thought I was so brave....I couldn't understand why. It was alot easier to take him out then than it is now. I just planned my trips around his feedings. Made sure I was ready to go, fed him, and then knew I had 2-3 hours before he would need to eat again. Getting dressed and getting out of the house is the best thing you can do for yourself. Even if you just go to get a cup of coffee or something, you will feel a million times better.

    Make sure you have ice and ziploc baggies at home, make a donut to sit on out of a towel and put the bag of ice in the center. Sit on this when you are feeding :)or driving, or reading.....


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