WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU GIVE BIRTH

And then it arrives: that day, with emotions you will forever carry within your heart. That day, when for the first time you lay your eyes upon your child. That day, when you realize the meaning of the word ‘miracle’. That day, when you realize, my baby is so much me, but she is just as much my partner. She is us, she is the force behind our connection for a lifetime.

Be in the moment

In that magical moment I invite you to pause, and just be. Be in that moment together with your child, with your partner. Request to postpone anything that’s not urgent, so that the magic of that moment is not taken away from you. Look at your child. Memorize consciously how she opens her eyes to meet you for the first time, how she follows the familiarity of your and your partner’s voice. Observe her in all her perfection, noticing your and your partner’s threads.

It is easy to be distracted by all the non-urgent procedures when you are birthing in a hospital. However, be aware, if you ask your birthing team to pause, to slow down, to give you time to be just with her for few precious peaceful moments, you have a chance to create a conscious snapshot of this most extraordinary moment in your life. A visual, emotional and spiritual snapshot of becoming a mother, of becoming a parent. Claim that right. I am promising you, you will not regret it.         

Coming home

If there are no medical reasons keeping you or your child in the hospital, you will be released to your home care a few hours after the birth. In the Netherlands, postnatal home care is provided by a maternity nurse (kraamzorg). It might feel intimidating to host in your home someone who you have never met before. Someone who is there to take care of you, your child and the rest of your family. At least, that was my feeling before I gave birth in the Netherlands. But with one son already and no family at hand to support me, I felt if nothing else there would be someone to clean and cook for us. I did not really think of myself. However, looking back on that time, I know it was so much more than that.

EASING THE TRANSITION

I needed someone to take care of me too. In fact, kraamzorg made my postpartum transition without my family and friends so much easier. I had someone to address my concerns to. Someone to care for my first born so I could rest and dedicate my attention to my second born. Someone who took care that the house was clean. And someone who was around so I did not feel alone while my husband went to work.

I was lucky that my kraamzorg was an older, very experienced lady, just like having my auntie around. If you do not feel connection with your kraamzorg or she does not speak English or another language in which you can communicate with each other, know you can always call your chosen kraamzorg company and kindly request for someone else more suitable. Be conscious about addressing clearly your needs. In fact, many cultures around the globe have deeply rooted practices revolving around the 40 days after the birth. This time includes support for the new mother so that she can rest, preparing her nourishing foods and performing specific hygiene practices such as vaginal steaming. It is a time when the mother heals and the child adjusts to life outside of the womb.

The first few weeks

In the weeks that follow, your only task is to fall in love with your child and, in case you would like to breastfeed your child, to learn to breastfeed. Yes, you read it right, for most mothers breastfeeding does not come easily. A new mother needs time and dedication over those first weeks to establish breastfeeding. If doubts or problems occur, do not hesitate to get a lactation consultant on board, instantly.

Further, give yourself permission to spend time in bed or on your couch and just be with your child. Turn off your phone, the world can wait. Our children thrive on connection, they thrive on our love and attention. However, we need time if we want to tune into them and their needs. Massage her, talk to her, sing to her, communicate with her using baby sign language. Enjoy your little miracle, they grow too fast.

The baby blues

Observe your feelings, observe your moods

and ask yourself “How do I feel?”

While connecting with your baby and learning to breastfeed if you so wish, observe your feelings, observe your moods and ask yourself “How do I feel?”. If you observe that the connection with your baby is not establishing, if you are continually low in your moods, you need to reach out to your general practitioner (huisarts) for support. Be aware that experiencing postpartum baby blues is common for a few days after the birth. In fact, it occurs in 70 – 80% of women and passes within hours or days.

However, 10 – 20% of women develop postpartum depression. And half of the men with a partner with postpartum depression will develop depression themselves. Postpartum depression symptoms are similar to any other type of depression, but with additional specific feelings towards or about the baby, such as an inability to bond with the baby, unwillingness to care for the baby, or not wanting to be alone with the baby. In the case of such feelings it is important to reach out to your huisarts for help. Don’t let any lack of understanding or support put you off. Be aware that, as an expat, you are out of your ’village’ and thus more vulnerable while adjusting to a new life phase.

Supporting our partners

And it is not only us mothers who need to adjust to new a life phase, but also our partners.

In Western society, the feelings of men transitioning into a new phase of their lives are commonly overlooked. Men do not share their emotional challenges often. Most of them have in fact never learned to share them. More often than not, we do not ask either. We already battle our own feelings and we believe, since they do not express their emotional challenges, our partners must be doing just fine. But most of the time, they are as overwhelmed as we are. Ask your partner how they manage without a proper sleep, or go to work while they are leaving you and your baby behind, or not to be able to talk to their male friends and family that they left behind in their country, and you might be surprised how challenging it is for them too.

Thus, I am inviting you to create a ritual of talk. A ritual where once a week you take time with your partner and talk about challenges, about emotions you are experiencing daily and about solutions that will propel you both further to being not only fulfilled parents but fulfilled partners as well.  

About Nina

Born in Slovenia, Dr. Nina Bogerd lived and worked in Switzerland before moving to the Netherlands. She now lives in the Delft area with her sons, Neo and Njal, and her husband Niels. Nina has a curious mind and a compassionate heart. She is an outdoor enthusiast and philanthropist. Nina’s scientific research background is in physiotherapy, physiology and human movement science. She is the owner of Birth Your Way, where she provides doula and birth education for expats. Visit her webpage to gain more information on how she can support you and your partner through pregnancy, birth and beyond in the Netherlands.

Dr. Nina Bogerd wrote a series of posts about birthing in the Netherlands during this year. If you are interested in this subject, check it out her other posts: Pregnancy, birth and beyond: Preparing yourself for birthing in the Netherlands, Should I give birth at home or in a hospital? Unlike most countries, you have a choice in the Netherlands and Nina Bogerd: The remarking of my professional career and life in the Netherlands.

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Nina Bogerd

Nina Bogerd is contributing to the Delft MaMa blog writing a series of posts about birthing in the Netherlands.

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