Thursday, February 21, 2008

house calls

we have been so fortunate to be able to experience a different culture when it comes to health care and childbirth. having a child in holland has completely expanded our expectations and imaginations surrounding this whole baby-making business.

after the birth of the baby, EVERYONE comes to you. visitors and medical staff alike...

for 8 days after gracie's birth, we had our kraamverzorgster, wilma, stay with us and look after myself and the new baby. every day she would check our temperatures, check my pulse, weigh gracie, and feel for the shrinking of my uterus. after the birth, on days 2, 3, 5, and 8, the midwives would come to our home and inspect my stitches, palpate my abdomen, and look over gracie as well. they were never in a rush, and would stay and ask me questions about how i'm feeling and how gracie was eating. they'd take their time in answering questions i had about pain in my pelvis or the status of gracie's healing navel, for example. our general practitioner came over to the house also to look after the baby: she checked her heart and lungs, looked her over top to bottom, felt her sucking reflex, and again asked me if i had any questions and asked me how i was feeling. we also had a couple of nurses come over: one was to do a hielprik, which is when they draw blood from the baby and run tests for various genetic diseases. (the only one i can think of is sickle cell anemia, but there were several other tests that they ran that i can't remember.) and finally there was a nurse from some bureau who came to collect some medical charts we have been collecting on gracie's status, and talked to me about when to vaccinate, who to call if gracie is sick, and even set up an appointment for me at some clinic so as to evaluate gracie and her progress. all of this from the comfort of my own home! i never had to leave with a new baby, but everyone came to me instead! imagine what good we could create in the united states if we cared for our citizens even half as thoroughly as the dutch cared for theirs... amazing!

visitors are also a common occurrence after the birth of a baby in the netherlands. unlike the united states, which has a baby shower BEFORE the baby is born, the dutch prefer to come over after the new arrival to meet the baby and bring gifts for the new parents. this is called a kraambezoek. typically the new parents serve the guests beschuit met muisjes, which are these airy-melba-toast type of crackers with anise-flavored sprinkles on them. pink for girls, blue for boys. and coffee, of course. you must serve coffee! visitors call ahead to schedule their visit, and typically stay for about an hour or so. and everyone says how beautiful the baby is, and they give you a gift, and they eat their beschuit, and then they leave. it's very gezellig. we also received this UBERawesome gift from some friends of ours: i call it the twente-log, but it's really called krentenbrood i believe. it's this huuuuuuge loaf of bread that weighs probably 15 pounds at least, and is a typical gift for an occasion such as this. half of this bread was filled with almond paste, and half was not. we're still eating it, and it was given to us two weeks ago! i looove it! how cool is that!

and another tradition which we do not have in america is the practice of dressing up the windows or yards of a new family. in america, we're told not to do something like this because it just announces to the neighborhood that there is a new baby in the house, thereby inviting kidnappers to come and steal the baby in the night. oh come on! seriously?! how absolutely terrifyingly stupid is that?! but here in holland, everyone dresses up their windows to announce the new arrival. our windows have been dolled up since gracie got here, and i'm planning on keeping it up until bob and rae come for their visit next month. almost always there are baby clothes hanging on a line for people to see, and i've even seen giant inflatable babies (imagine those inflatable frosty-the-snowmans that you see at christmastime) and huge stuffed storks standing in people's yards. we don't have a lawn to speak of, so we just did up our two huge windows for everyone in town to see. every day we will see people walking past and pointing up to our windows, to exclaim to their walking companion how there is a new baby in the neighborhood! how sweet!


teresa said...

oh my gosh, i LOVE the idea of decorating your windows in celebration of the new baby! hooray! and, btw, i often saw people do the same thing at home. down with fear.

it is so nice that you have such excellent medical care in the netherlands.

do you ever feel like your home is being invaded, by all the guests? i have heard, from new mothers, that they don`t like to receive visitors because it is so much work to get mom/baby/house to look clean and decent. of course i know you always try to look pretty, so the social time might not be any problem for you. either way, hooray for community support!

Beth said...

I will reference the briggle blog in my blog on gifts. I will specifically talk about a baby gift.

Stephanie said...

Hi Amber,

The bread we brought is known in Twente as a 'krentewegge' and is pretty much unknown outside this region of the Netherlands. And the Twents word for 'kraambezoek' is 'kraamschudde'

Sadly, talking about a 'kraamschudde' or a 'krentewegge' in Amsterdam labels you as a hick farmer. *sigh*

Angela said...

Exellent care for the healthy but not so good care for anything else out of the norm.
The Netherlands has the highest infant mortality rate in Europe by the way.