The other day, I read a post on Babble which touched on something that happens to many new moms: they’re released from the hospital shortly after giving birth, and find themselves struggling at home, alone with a new baby.
In her article, Chaunie Brusie talked about how lucky she was that her sister was able to come over nearly every day after the birth of her second child. “Looking back, I can’t help but see what a difference having help in the postpartum period made … But what if we all had that kind of support that I experienced as the norm, and not the exception?”
I immediately wanted to tell her: “There is a place where what you imagine is not a dream but reality!”
I live in the Netherlands, a country best known for tulips, windmills, and old picturesque houses alongside the canals. However, not many people know that the Netherlands is also the country with the highest rate of homebirths in the industrialized world, with around 25 percent of women giving birth at home.
Here, pregnancy is considered a natural stage in a woman’s life, not an illness to be managed. If all goes according to plan, pregnant women see midwives, not doctors for the whole of their care, and the birth is managed by midwives as well.
Personally, I would have preferred a doctor, myself. I think it would have made me feel safer during my pregnancies. However, the best thing about the Dutch maternity care system is what happens after the birth: the so-called kraamzorg (pronounced “KRAM-zorg”).
New moms in the Netherlands leave the hospital only a few hours after giving birth, but they are not left alone. They have a special maternity nurse who comes over to their homes for up to 8 hours a day, for eight days.
This nurse, called a kraamverzorgster (kraamzorg means postpartum care in Dutch) checks in to see how mom and baby are doing. Her job is to weigh the newborn as well as monitor the mom’s postpartum progress.
The nurse’s duties don’t end there, though. She can also give advice on feeding and sleeping, fills in a kind of diary where she describes how the day went, and remains in contact with the midwives.
But wait until I tell you the absolute best part: for eight days, she cleans the bathrooms, makes the beds, and does the laundry. She makes sure mom is rested and showered. She prepares light meals (sandwiches, salads etc.), keeps enthusiastic visitors at bay, and sometimes even runs errands or takes care of older siblings.
Depending on the family’s needs, she can even stay longer than that, for example when the mom is single and has no family to help her out or after a long, difficult birth. My husband and I got more kraamzorg hours because we have two other kids to care for and because we’re expats.
And she was basically the guardian angel every new mom needs.
I don’t know what I would have done without my kraamverzorgster. Two of my three children were born in the Netherlands, and I had kraamzorg both times. Needless to say, it was amazing. She was always telling me to rest, taught me how to breastfeed properly, prepared delicious and healthy fruit salads for me, and soon knew which tea I liked best. She took my two older kids for walks and went shopping for me.
Of course, the system isn’t perfect. For example, I found that my nurse was way more nervous about my ability to breastfeed than I was, and for some women, it’s hard to get used to the idea of a stranger in their house at such a vulnerable and intimate time.
But if you ask me, I think kraamzorg is awesome. When my nurse left after those eight days, I missed her. In fact, I still miss her.
I’m very lucky to live in the Netherlands, where it’s widely understood that new moms need so much support in the early days. I wish women all around the world had access to kraamzorg: someone who can recognize an emergency, but who also takes care of mundane chores so that the mom can focus on her baby and especially, on herself.
After my experience with the kraamzorg system, I can only join Chaunie in wishing that someday, this dream could be a reality for every mom.