My husband and I had lived in Holland for almost two years by the time our daughter was born. I was a little nervous about giving birth abroad prior to getting pregnant but really had a great experience.
I was due July 18, 2012. My parents had flown over on the 16th and everyone was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Eleanor Anne. My parents had never been to Europe before so they enjoyed touring our city, checking out Amsterdam, and riding my bike around (that I had only stopped riding two weeks before because I felt like I was sitting on the baby's head!). Pretty quickly though, I became the main focus as my due date came and went without any signs of our sweet Ellie making her appearance. In Holland, they believe in a more “hands off, natural” approach. They had already told me that they would not induce until I was 42 weeks unless medically necessary. This resulted in tears at my 41 week appointment. I was tired of being pregnant, tired of everyone sitting around watching me, and was ready to meet my baby. We encouraged my parents to drive to France and do some sightseeing, as they had already been here over a week and I was beginning to feel that their whole trip was going to be them sitting around looking at my very pregnant belly. We knew that they would be close enough to drive back if my labor started. So they left and wouldn't you know, two days later my labor started, eight days past my due date. My labor really kicked in on a Thursday night when we went out to dinner. I was having pretty regular contractions that were getting stronger. We had to leave right after dinner because I was tired of looking like a freak, grasping the table and closing my eyes while waiting for a contraction to pass. We went home and started to time the contractions. My parents were still in France and waiting to hear if they should head back or not. I was determined not to get my hopes up that this was the real thing, after all the anticipation of the last week and a half. Finally after about 2 hours of contractions that were getting more intense and about 5 minutes apart, we called the hospital and they told us to come on in. It was go time! Fun fact: nearly 40 percent of Dutch women give birth at home. This was not going to be me this time around.
We got to the hospital around midnight and got checked in to our “room”, which was actually just a delivery room. They got Ellie and I hooked up to monitors—her for her heartbeat and mine for the contractions. They had to put an internal monitor on Ellie because the external one kept slipping off of her whenever I'd writhe in pain from a contraction. When they did this, they broke my water. I was only dilated 3 cm at this time and the midwife said she would just let me labor and come back and check my dilation in two hours. So we labored and labored and I watched the clock, waiting for her to come back and tell me that I was already at 10 cm and that Ellie had already magically just slipped out and the worst was over. That is not what happened. The midwife came back about 3 a.m. and told me I was dilated to a 5. I'll take that. At this point the contractions were starting to get pretty intense and they had given me some medicine to speed them up a bit and intensify them. I still have no idea why they did this, maybe because my water had been broken and they wanted to make sure I didn't labor too long, as I felt I was progressing along nicely.
Anyway, the medicine was making the contractions come hard and fast, with no time in between for resting. I also started throwing up after some of the harder contractions because I would get so overheated. I was having flashbacks to the terrible 19 weeks of morning sickness I had (for which they give you nothing and just tell you it's a part of pregnancy) but this time coupled with intense stomach cramping. It was at this point that I asked if I could get the pain pump medicine. This medicine was very nice as it didn't take away the pain completely or even really close, but did take the edge off and made it more manageable the majority of the time. At one point, the contractions were coming so hard and were killing me, even with me hitting the pain button time and time again. We discovered that my IV was bleeding and that the pain medicine was no longer getting to me. So we called the nurse in and she fixed it and helped me breathe through some panic that had set in due to the intensity of the contractions. Once things got back on track, it was about 5 a.m. and time to check me again. I was now at 7 cm!! So we labored on, and at about 6:45, the contractions started changing from intense cramping to intense pressure. I knew we were getting close so we called for the nurse but no one came for what seemed like forever! The pressure was getting so great and even though it wasn't the cramping, it was pretty rough. Finally Dan went out and got the nurse and she came back with the midwife (a new one since shift change, who was amazing!). They checked me again and said I was at a 10 and ready to push!
She explained to me what to do whenever I had a contraction and it was go time. I knew we were nearing the end but this was so hard. I had to stop the pain medicine before starting to push (it goes out of you within 10 minutes) so that the baby was not groggy when she came out. So this part was all completely natural. I pushed and pushed and pushed and burst capillaries in my face and shoulders. I have never been more exhausted in my life. Dan and the midwife were so encouraging but it seemed like this time would never end. It's weird, it wasn't so much painful at this point, just utterly exhausting. The midwife said it would take a little bit since this was my first, despite my hopes that I could push her out in 15 minutes Finally, after a little over an hour, I knew we were close because the midwife had put on her plastic apron and got out the materials to cut the umbilical cord. With each contraction, I would push three separate times. Finally I could feel her ready to come. The midwife had me push, then stop, push then stop, to help avoid tearing too badly. Then I gave one final push and felt Ellie slide right on out and they grabbed her and put her on my chest. She gave one little cry and then was content and wide-eyed the rest of the time. She was born at 8:28 a.m., weighing 8.24 lbs and was 20 inches long, not bad for a baby nine days overdue.
My husband was amazing the entire time. Such an incredible encouragement and support and there's no way I would've made it through without him. He was a very active part when the time for pushing began and got to watch Eleanor being delivered, as well as cutting the umbilical cord.
Eleanor was perfect and healthy in every way. My delivery was great and I only had a minor tear that needed a few stitches. We were both doing well so they let us go home about 4 hours after she was delivered! This is also common practice in Holland. They provide a nurse who comes for a week after your birth to help you take care of the baby. She would come for 6 to 8 hours a day, check me to make sure I was healing, check the baby, help with nursing, clean the house, make lunch, and pretty much anything else we needed her to do. This was so amazing.
It was difficult at times to get used to how they do things, to get rid of certain expectations or things I had read to expect from expecting mothers in America. Overall though, it was a fantastic experience and one we hope to get to experience again before we move back to America.