A new normal

I don’t know how to even begin to describe the last 12 days. But I just wanted to say hello, and let you know how we all are.

Tala is thriving, and I am thankful. She wakes up every three hours like clockwork to be fed, and hasn’t given me or Marlon any problems other than, I suppose, normal newborn sort of things.

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The times when she’s awake, my field of vision narrows to just her. My world shrinks to the size of her little fingers and toes, and I am totally in the moment with her.

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Do you know what it’s like when you’re deep into a sport or a creative activity like painting, and your world becomes intense and hyper-focused for a brief period of time? That’s what the new normal is like for me. When she falls asleep, my world expands again, like an exhale, and for an hour to two hours, I return to the “old” normal. Sometimes all I can do during these “old” normal lulls is rest and catch my breath; sometimes I’m so busy doing little inane things that it’s almost easy to forget there’s even a baby in the house.

I savor both the old and the new normal equally.

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So, Tala is perfect, thriving and healthy. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for me. The new normal is not completely normal… yet.

I suffered a complication during the last few minutes of my 20-hour labor that sent me to the operating table for an emergency Cesarean section. That complication—for now, let’s call it The Situation—kept me in the hospital for longer than I expected.

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The Situation kept me from getting up from bed to pick up my daughter for the first six days of her life. It put me on a catheter, peeing into a bag that’s strapped to my leg, for the last 12 days. And it is something that no one—not my midwives, not the nurses, not the endless parade of gynecologists at the hospital—had seen in their 10/12/15-year career of being a midwife/nurse/gynecologist.

It was that bad. Thankfully it only happened once; I only need to cope with the aftermath, and recover.

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I’m still thinking about how much I would like to share about The Situation. I consider myself a positive person, and I believe my blog reflects that. This is the first time that anything really negative has ever happened to me, and I am struggling a bit with how to deal with that negativity on a public platform. I know I need to write about my birth for myself, but I don’t know how much of that will make it on here. But I blog primarily for myself, to remember things about my life—and I feel if I gloss over what happened, I’m not doing what I intended this blog to be.

So you may read about The Situation in a few days, or maybe not. In the meantime, just know I’m enjoying my daughter as much as I can, and that my search for a new normal continues. Wish me luck!

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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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