Welcome to Tuesday’s Traveller
Here’s this weeks travel/expat story written by Diana Lubbers.
Braving Babies Abroad
By: Diana Lubbers
‘We are having a baby!’ The moment I found out, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! My husband was on a work trip so I wanted to tell him, face to face, when he returned home a few days later. I had a wine and cheese girls night planned with my best friend, in The Netherlands, the day after I found out I was pregnant. I knew she’d figure it out if I passed on wine and a good brick of blue cheese so I called her and told her. After I hung up, I jumped on Google and started researching having a baby in The Netherlands. Good idea, yet bad idea at the same time.
That morning, I woke up at 2:00am with so many thoughts, questions, concerns and well…fear. I had only lived in The Netherlands for, not even, a year. I was in the process of learning the language, doing your grocery shopping and having basic conversations in Dutch are one thing but, having a baby and communicating in Dutch while in labor sounded pretty crazy to me! What happens if my husband is away for work? Why do I have to see a midwife and not a doctor? What if, gulp, something happens to me? What about the language barrier? And my family. My mom. What if she can’t be there? Baby’s come when they want. What if she can’t get enough time off of work? Questions started coming at me faster then the poopy diapers I have encountered as a mom. I, eventually, cried myself to sleep.
I went to work that day and then headed to my friends house with some snacks and ready for a good girls night. She was armed with a warm cup of tea and an even warmer hug, which is exactly what I needed. We chatted and laughed and she gave me a beautiful book to read about pregnancy. I tore into it as soon as I got home.
My husband came home, I presented him with a book on becoming a dad, and a six pack of beer to calm him down. He was so excited he was shaking. I watched him just stare at me, the book, the pregnancy test and pat my belly with tears in his eyes. Then a bit of panic set in. He’d never done this before either. He is from The Netherlands but had never been around kids except his younger brother and a few cousins. He called the midwife the next morning and we made an appointment immediately.
We were both very anxious the day of our appointment. We came armed with questions and they immediately made me feel comfortable. They spoke Dutch to my husband, which I actually understood more of the conversation then I thought I would, and English to me. Throughout our pregnancy they made me feel comfortable, confident and completely at ease. They focussed on our family history. One in five babies, in The Netherlands, are born at home and I knew, because of family history, that was not an option for me and I had to have our baby in the hospital. They respected it and noted it immediately. I left our appointment confident and comfortable. I knew I was in good hands and I knew that I could do this!
I am very close with my family. My dad is unable to travel, due to medical reasons, and my mom pushed to get time off of work but it was limited. They live 8000 kilometres away so it’s not exactly an easy trip. If she arrived early and left before our baby was born it would be a shame, if she came a few days after our little one arrived our one and a half bedroom apartment would be super cramped with us, a baby, my mom and our nurse, kraamzorg, that assists us for a week after the birth. We talked a lot, thank you technology, over FaceTime and decided that my mom would try to get time off of work a few weeks after our baby arrived. It still was extremely hard for me and her.
There were a lot of tears knowing my family would miss the beginning of our baby’s life. It ate away at me, daily. It hurt when people asked. It hurt hanging up on FaceTime. We talked, almost, everyday. We showed them our baby’s room and all the essentials. We included them in everything. It was, still, too hard. My husband booked me a flight to visit my family before I hit the point of not being able to travel. I spent an amazing month with them. I’ll cherish it forever.
My due date arrived, nothing. Contractions began the following day, my husband stayed home from work, and that same day our beautiful 9lb 5oz ‘little’ girl. My husband instantly called my parents and we jumped on FaceTime so they could see their granddaughter. There were tears of joy but an empty feeling. I wanted them there.
The weeks following were joyous but tough. Tougher then I ever anticipated. If it hadn’t been for our nurse being there my mom would have been on the next flight to The Netherlands. I cried everyday for the first weeks. We would FaceTime with my parents, no less, then once a day. Every time we hung up I sobbed. My husband went on a work trip a few weeks after our daughter was born, I sobbed. My mom joined us when our daughter turned six weeks. They had an instant connection. The moment they met will be etched in my mind forever. When she turned three months we went to Canada, for three months, to meet the rest of the family.
Watching our daughter interact with her grandparents, watching her meet them for the first time and recognize their voices from our hours of FaceTime dates, seeing her snuggle into the arms of her Uncle and fall asleep within minutes of meeting him, made the wait and visit just that much more special. I look forward to our FaceTime dates and, most of all, our next trips to Canada!
I look back, over six months later, and after speaking to so many couples that have been in our situation I realize how normal it is in ‘our’ expat world. My non expat friends call ‘us’ brave. I didn’t think much of it. It’s not that big of deal. I’d packed up and left for the past nine years like it was nothing. Since having a child my view has changed! It is brave. It’s brave to venture into the unknown. It’s brave to be shoved outside of your comfort zone. It’s brave to pack up everything and go. It is brave to learn a new language and experience a new culture. It is brave. We are brave.
Diana Lubbers, a former Event Manager for a major cruise line, was born in North Vancouver, Canada and raised on beautiful Salt Spring Island. She grew up with a desire to see the world! She jumped on her first flight at 18 to Maui, Hawaii where she would be a live in au pair for a expat family. At 21, she packed her life into two suitcases and began working on cruise ships where she would spend the next 7 years. During that time a handsome Dutch man swept her off her feet and the rest is history. Engagement, marriage, travel, land life and a baby. Diana, currently, resides in Rotterdam, The Netherlands with her husband and daughter. Diana is a stay at home mom with a passion for photography, travel and a true lover of life.