Making new Europeans comes with many challenges as the birth rituals of a small European country can be quite mysterious from an outsider’s perspective. For example, most Dutch women prefer to give birth in the comfort of their homes. With the husbands running around with pots of hot water, like its a spectacle about life in 1211 AD (luckily, I was spared this barbarism). Or what to think of the maniacal fear of revealing the upcoming baby’s sex, that dominates the lives of most parents-to-be in Holland for months? Some even go as far as avoiding knowing themselves whether its a boy or a girl.
The real challenges, however, begin once a new European is made, as within hours of its birth the new citizen is confronted with the most dominant feature of the European continent – the all-pervasive bureaucracy. The newcomer has to be properly registered, listed and categorized, and mine is already receiving more mail than I do.
Fortunately, there are also positive sides to the story. Like the health insurance coverage of pretty much everything concerning birth and the availability of doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and best of all – the kraamzorg. Kraamzorg has no proper English equivalent – even the English Wikipedia lists it as Kraamzorg. Its best described as postnatal assistance, and it consists of a lady (though its technically feasible, I haven’t heard of men doing this job) who comes by the newborn’s house to provide the mother and child with an extra pair of skilled hands. For several hours a day during the first 10 days after birth these hands do the laundry, help changing diapers, assist with breast-feeding, vacuum and basically do their best to keep mother and child clean, safe and well-fed.
I think kraamzorg is a great Dutch invention and all my friends outside Holland who have children agree and are rather jealous at me (and mostly at my wife). And I’d like to thank our kraamverzorgster Serena, who’s been a calming factor in what would otherwise have been a rather stressful week. Thanks!