Pregnancy in the Netherlands: Making my birth choice

After my last post, you might wonder if I’ve chosen a home or hospital birth. Until about a month ago, I had zero preference. Both sounded perfectly fine to me and I couldn’t come up with compelling reasons to prefer one over the other. I read about women with detailed birth plans and staunch convictions, and wondered how on earth they came up with such definite, rigid guidelines for their births.

(Slight digression: I especially couldn’t understand how some women can be so against any kind of fetal monitoring during birth. I can see the benefit of freedom of movement and not being strapped to a machine, but could you really not care about how your baby is coping with the birth? I mean, birth isn’t just about us mothers, is it? End of digression.)

I started to feel paralyzed by all my options. That happens when you have a lot of them—which tends to happen in a country like the Netherlands, which is (or at least claims to be) all about freedom of choice. Not having a preference also makes it difficult to plan, because you can’t plan for everything.

I started to get overwhelmed and frustrated, wishing I was back home where I wouldn’t even have to think about these things. I would just be a good patient and do whatever the doctor ordered.

Then I realized that it’s so easy to just be the “good girl.” To follow, to do the automatic thing, instead of taking time to ask yourself “What do you really want?” If you’re anything like me, deciding what you want can be a bigger challenge than actually getting it!

I could just leave it all up in the air, be praised for being open-minded and easygoing, leave everything to my midwives… or I could grow up a bit, take responsibility, and choose.

So I did. I don’t have any research or statistics to back up my choice. I simply asked myself what appealed to me most, what sounded like a wonderful birth, what I would like to have in an ideal world. You could say I went with my gut.

This is how I find myself planning for a water birth. At home.

Unfortunately, Dutch hospitals don’t have water birth facilities. The Bevalcentrum West, a non-medical birth center attached to the Sint Lucas Andreas hospital, has a room with a birthing pool; it would’ve been a great compromise between home and hospital. But I don’t want pin all my hopes on that one room being available when my time comes.

So the best place for this to happen is at home, with a rented birth pool. (See, it helps that I wasn’t totally against a home birth.) I’ve signed the rental contract and paid the fee for a birth pool. All I need is for it to be delivered, for Marlon and I to do a trial run, and to actually get to use it. All of which I promise to share here on the blog!

I’m not ruling out a hospital birth: I might end up screaming for drugs at 3 cm, or Little Mango might have other plans (she’s part of this too). My midwives have been great; they reassure me I’m free to change my mind and go for medication—ideally before 5 cm, otherwise there’s too little time for a hospital transfer.

I like where I am  now: moving forward in a definite direction, without having to oppose my other options. I’ve realized that some things are not about getting it right or wrong, but could simply be about taking action and making a choice. With three weeks to go until the birth, it’s a nice place to be!

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  1. minavesguerra says

    Hi Deepa! I faced those later weeks ready for anything as well. What fascinated me though was the contraption monitoring my contractions, showing like a seismograph how strong they were (and also how painful). When I said I was feeling pain, the nurse showed me the small squigglies and said if it were really close, the squigglies would be “like this” (bigger). Nyaaaah!

  2. Cris says

    I also don’t understand the adverse reaction to fetal monitoring.

    Good luck on the water birth! Hope you have an easy and fast delivery!

  3. says

    Going with your gut is definitely a good decision! Congratulations! 
    I didn’t do that with my first child, I didn’t feel like going to the hospital but all the “worried” people around me put so much pressure on me that I decided to do so anyways. And in the end my son was so quick that he was born at home!  With the second one I planned homebirth right from the beginning. Just a little side note: Giving birth at home doesn’t mean that your child is not monitored at all. Of course they can check the child’s heartbeat during birth, and they do! The midwife arrived at my house with a huge suitcase full of all kinds of medical instruments and supplies. You wouldn’t believe what midwifes who are specialized on homebirth can do. It’s very different from what midwifes at hospitals do, so people who don’t know anything about home birth are always very surprised. 

    • says

      I asked about fetal monitoring during my last midwife visit, so I do know about that. It’s good that it’s a hand-held thing so mobility is not limited.
      About equipment, reminds me of something I heard a midwife say: “Well, we don’t just show up at your house with a towel under our arm!” Haha!

      • says

        Haha, your midwife sounds very cool! I expected you to know about the monitoring thing since you’re getting prepared for home birth, I just pointed it out in my comment for others who might be interested because most people seem to think that midwifes DO simply show up with a towel under their arm for a home birth… 

  4. says

    So thrilled for you and it sounds like you’ve made a wonderful choice for you and your baby!  I think the issue of electronic fetal monitoring is controversial because it has been linked to a higher rate of c-sections.  In U.S. hospitals, they sometimes use internal monitors, which are painful for the mother, and also to the baby, as they are inserted slightly into the baby’s scalp. :(  Intermittent monitoring is usually preferred.

    • says

      Hi Fernanda, depends where you are in the Netherlands. In or near Amsterdam, try De Oerbron or Active Health Center. Good luck!


  1. […] With 23% of babies born at home, the Netherlands has the highest rate of home births in the developed world. Behind this is a philosophy that values the mother’s individual choice and places a high premium on a comfortable, relaxing birth environment, plus a well-oiled system that makes home birth possible and emergency hospital transfers quick and efficient. After much research and reflection, I decided to take advantage of all these and go for what I felt was my ideal birth: a water birth at home. (More on that here.) […]

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