Viewing: Pregnancy

Tala Sabine

The birth may have been less than ideal, but the result is absolute perfection.

Tala Sabine is born

Tala Sabine came into the world on Friday, March 15, at 12:57 p.m., after 20 hours of labor and an emergency Cesarean section.

“You can say that your daughter was born on a day when it snowed,” said one of the operating room staff, when I woke up at 3:00 p.m.

“She’s perfect,” said my husband, who stood at my side with tears in his eyes. “She looks like you, but brown. She’s you, with my skin!”

Tala means “star”, and this one has been the star of the show even before her birth. Marlon and I are her biggest fans, and we are in love… with her, with each other, with our new family.

Thank you to everyone who waited (patiently or impatiently) with me for Tala’s arrival. Thanks for all the prayers and good vibes you sent for the birth. They worked—although my daughter and I need to stay in the hospital for four days, we are both safe, healthy and happy.

There are stories to share and things to do, but savoring all of this comes first. Thank you all, and see you very soon!


Today I’m sharing my pregnancy journey over at Glam-o-Mamas!

Glam-O-Mamas was founded by model, TV host, entrepreneur and mom Amanda Griffin-Jacob together with Nicole Jacinto in 2011. Now run by Glam-O-Mamas CEO Amanda Griffin-Jacob, the site is a go-to reference for like-minded, modern and eco-conscious women who want to strike a healthy balance between the various roles that mothers take on today.

Martine de Luna, who blogs at Dainty Mom and handles editorial duties for Glam-O-Mamas, got in touch with me a few months ago about contributing to the site. It took me a while to get into the right head space (read: somewhere between doing a million things or snoozing for hours on end) to think about the last nine months as a whole, but I finally did… and the article is live on the Glam-O-Mamas site today.

Check it out here!

Well, I’m officially on a mommy site. Now all I need is a baby!

Waiting game

Hello, I’m still alive. And still pregnant… very pregnant. I don’t know how much more pregnant I can get. Is there such a thing as too pregnant? Because I think I’m just about there.

Baby belly week 13 vs week 39

Marlon and I took photos of my baby bump yesterday to mark Week 39. (See above, in comparison to Week 14. Can’t believe I thought I already looked pregnant then!) You can’t imagine how fervently I’m hoping this will be the last belly photo. At this point, I feel like I’ve been pregnant forever.

“Just think,” Marlon said happily, “by this time next week, we could be parents!”

I stared at him. “By this time next week, if we’re not parents, I will be climbing the walls!”

How I feel about being pregnant has dramatically changed. Two weeks ago, I would get weepy in yoga class at the thought of my pregnancy coming to an end. I’d feel teary-eyed on the tram when I realized how much I would miss having my daughter inside my body, where protecting her and caring for her was something my body just naturally did.

I ran around like a maniac trying to get things done because I really believed Little Mango would come early. I lovingly caressed my bump with a beatific smile while telling everyone who would listen, “I think she’ll be early. I just have this feeling.” Well, so much for my motherly intuition. Just goes to show how well mothers think they know their daughters.

Now most of my to-do list is done. And waiting is all that’s left.

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Test driving the birth pool

When you’re pregnant, about to pop, and planning a water birth at home, there’s one thing you absolutely must do: take your birth pool for a test drive. And that’s just what Marlon and I did last weekend.

I had the option to buy or rent a birth pool. Buying an inflatable pool (“birth pool in a box“) would’ve been cheaper, especially if I rented it out or resold it, but we just don’t have the storage space. Instead, I chose to rent one from De Oerbron, which offers a selection of pools for rent or sale, for a period of five weeks: three weeks before my due date and two weeks after.

Marlon and I went through the entire kit from De Oerbron bright and early last Saturday. Being mostly useless in the heavy lifting department, I played the role of translator, running four pages of Dutch instructions and tips through Google Translate while Marlon grunted and puffed away. “In two weeks, I’ll be really, really, really useful,” I promised, as a sort of apology.

Birth pool assembly

So, how does one assemble and fill a birth pool? Here’s how we did it.

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Battle of the bunnies

Now that the more complicated choices are out of the way, I love thinking about the cute, fluffy, totally non-critical parts of having a baby. Like bunnies.

Let me explain. Until a few weeks ago I was obsessed with buying a Nijntje lamp for the nursery. Nijntje, known to the English-speaking world as Miffy, is Dutch author and illustrator Dick Bruna’s most famous creation. Adorable, simply drawn and omnipresent, she’s like the Dutch Hello Kitty—you can’t be a child in the Netherlands and grow up without Nintje.

I had my eye on the 50cm (20 inch) Nijntje lamp, put it on my baby shower wishlist, even got Marlon onboard. But everything changed when a friend told me that her baby twins were terrified of their Nijntje lamp. They would start to cry every time she brought them near it, making diaper changes impossible.

Looking at Nijntje again, she did seem kind of… forbidding. (Must be the X that she has for a mouth.) Then I remembered a lamp I had pinned to my Baby Room board on Pinterest: the Trousselier Rabbit Angel lamp. This one is about half the size (and half the price!) that Nijntje is.


Bunny battle

So now I have a bit of a dilemma. It’s a cute one, exactly the kind I like to have. You could say I’m torn between two rabbits: quintessentially Dutch but possibly terrifying, or more generic but kind, smiley and welcoming?

What do you think?

Baby room basics

In a blogger’s ideal world, by this time I would be posting pictures of my beautifully styled, meticulously arranged nursery. It would have everything my baby could possibly need, plus a few (dozen) things that she actually doesn’t. It would be perfectly color-coordinated with a carefully curated selection of quirky little touches and charming little toys.

Well, this is reality. And in reality, there is no nursery… yet. That’s because Little Mango isn’t the first occupant of this space… Grandma is! My mom arrived this week and will stay until Easter, so our second bedroom first needs to be a guest room before it can become a nursery.

That hasn’t stopped us from laying the basic foundations for our future nursery. The first step: tearing down the huge built-in closets that took up nearly half the room.

Baby room-before

Marlon and I agonized for weeks over whether or not to keep these closets. It just seems funny to me now! And when I remember how these closets became the subject of a hormonal meltdown (“That room is practically a closet! I don’t want our baby to grow up in a closet! Sob sob sob”), it’s even funnier.

Baby room-before2

In the end, we chose space for our daughter over storage for our things. Because our daughter is our daughter, and things are just, well, things. So out went half these closets, as well as the recycled train tracks that the previous owners used as shelves.

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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!

Pregnancy in the Netherlands: Home or hospital?

This next installment took me a while to write. There’s so much to process! I also stumbled upon what seems to be a hot debate between hospital and home births, and it rattled me a bit. Let me say that I’m not taking sides on a big debate, but simply trying to make a personal decision about what I believe will be best for me and my baby.

So, giving birth in the Netherlands will come in two parts—how the system works, and how I made my choice. Later on, of course, there will be an epilogue: my actual birth story!

With the highest rate of home births in the industrialized world, it seems the Netherlands is the land of home births. Early on, I thought everyone gave birth at home. The Dutch seem proud of this fact, and I could definitely see it being a point of pride among the strong, sturdy Dutch superwomen.

In reality, 75% of Dutch babies are born at a hospital. Still, a 25% home birth rate is way higher than in neighboring countries—for example, just across the pond, the U.K. has a 2.7% rate for home births.

After a home birth (1948). Photo by Ad Windig, from the Amsterdam City Archives

After a home birth (1948). Photo by Ad Windig, from the Amsterdam City Archives

I get a “go directly to hospital” card if my pregnancy or labor “goes medical”—meaning factors that require medical intervention come into play, such as preterm labor, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia or a host of other possible scenarios (even uber-itchy feet, as in the case of this Amsterdam-based Pinay mom). Insurance will fully cover the cost of the hospital birth if this happens.

I also go to a hospital if I want any kind of pain relief, such as an epidural. This is because midwives, not being doctors or anesthesiologists, aren’t licensed to administer anesthetics. (This makes me think that an anesthesiologist who does house calls could make a killing in Amsterdam.) In this case, my insurance will only cover part of the cost.

Otherwise, where I give birth is my choice. The Dutch culture won’t push me into having a home birth; it’s simply that if I want a home birth, there’s a well-oiled system in place that could let me have it. So in my fourth or fifth month, I began to look into the reasons why I might actually want it.

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Pregnancy in the Netherlands: Midwives & me

I’ve been meaning to blog about what it’s like to be pregnant in the Netherlands. With just 4.5 weeks left until I’m due (!), I figured I can’t—and I shouldn’t—put it off much longer. So this week, I’m writing a series of posts on pregnancy in the Netherlands—not a comprehensive guide, just my own personal experience.

There’s a lot to write about, so be prepared for long posts! That’s because the Dutch system is so different from what I learned to expect back home. I get mixed reactions when I tell people how my pregnancy has been handled here so far (not to mention what awaits me at the actual birth). Some call me brave, others say I’m lucky, and a few just stare at me, looking positively freaked out.

For starters, most people can’t believe I stopped seeing my doctor eight months ago. Or that I’ve seen an ob-gyne a grand total of… once. Yes. Just once. That’s because in the Netherlands, pregnancy and childbirth are the domain of the verloskundige, or midwife.

"Ine's Childbirth" (1957) by Kors van Bennekom, from the Amsterdam City Archives.

A Dutch woman in labor with her midwife (1957). Photo by Kors van Bennekom, from the Amsterdam City Archives.

The logic: hospitals and doctors are for sick people, and pregnant women are not sick. Pregnancy is not an illness, but a normal part of life. I find this very Dutch, since the Dutch would be the last to treat their women as weak, fragile creatures. To be sure, pregnancies considered high risk (due to factors like previous miscarriages, gestational diabetes, and more), are handled by ob-gynes. But the vast majority of low-risk pregnancies, such as mine, are handled by midwives.

A midwife isn’t the hippie-dippie, Earth-mama choice. It’s not the lesser-chosen alternative that it would be in, say, the U.S. or U.K. Nor is it for rural women who live hours away from the nearest hospital, as in the Philippines. Here, a midwife is just… normal.

In general, this means midwives have far more experience with actual childbirth than doctors do. I’ve heard women say they feel safer with a midwife than with a doctor (as in this compelling account).

So how do I feel about it?

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Maternity style: Tropical edition

By the time I flew home for the holidays, I was tired of piling on ten million layers before going out. So I was looking forward to wearing my “real” clothes (which is how I think of my summer clothes) and feeling like myself again for three weeks.

What I loved about dressing for pregnancy in the tropics:

  • Getting to wear sandals. Pretty toes, yay.
  • Packing only two pairs of shoes, because staying with my mom and sister means a bottomless shoe and accessory closet—and a trip to Landmark means shopping for cheap flats!
  • Putting away my thick, woolly maternity tights and seeing my legs again

What I didn’t love:

  • THE HEAT. OMG. Being pregnant, your body temperature is already higher because of increased blood circulation and being plunged into tropical heat does not help. At all. On my last few nights, I couldn’t sleep unless I had both the aircon (set to 21 degrees) and the electric fan on. December showed no mercy to this pregnant mama.
  • Bloating and expanding because of said heat. I didn’t go up a shoe size, thank goodness, but I gained FIVE POUNDS of water—which I lost the day I returned to wintry Amsterdam.
  • Humidity-triggered frizzies. Good thing there’s The Twist!
  • Sweating your way to that dewy (read: oily), no-makeup look. I found myself quite startled to see how much makeup women pile on in Manila (some women really need to lay off the foundation!) until I remembered that it melts off in minutes.
  • Being forcibly reminded of how everyone dresses in the same preppy/simple girl uniform. I lost count of the number of neat ponytails, Longchamp Le Pliage bags and round pearl earrings I saw in my two weeks back home!

All that aside, what I loved most about dressing for the heat was getting to dig out some of my favorite outfits from storage—like the printed vintage shirtdress I hadn’t seen since August…


and being able to wear my normal, non-maternity clothes… even in my third trimester.

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