Don’t get me wrong. I have had (and am still having) great support from the Dutch system concerned with pregnant women. And, the kraamzorg (the Dutch service during the postpartum period) is absolutely unique to the Netherlands and basically sheer awesomeness.
This all being said, one thing about it I don’t understand it this. They say pregnancy isn’t an illness. In this period, women are encouraged to basically continue to live as they had before, with minor adjustments for things they’re not supposed to eat and the regular appointments with the midwives (as opposed to a doctor).
However, not all women feel well in pregnancy and what is normal and manageable for one woman can be a problem for another. For example, my acid reflux was so bad that I couldn’t eat and got iron-deficient. Same goes for pain relief during birth- you have to be really vocal about your desire to have it. Luckily, I got my pethidine shot and this was one of the best decisions for this birth-right there with hiring a doula.
This all seems to change once you have given birth. Then, as much can be said for the need to rest and recover in peace, I sometimes can’t help but feel the kraamzorg treats me like a sick person.
Well, first, there is the fact that you’re encouraged to stay in bed, something that usually only happens when… you’re sick! Then, there is a special nurse who comes to your house and performs some tests- on you and your baby (checking the uterus, stiches, temperature and your pulse). There is more medical personnel involved- including the midwives who took care of you during pregnancy. They also do many of the household chores, and prepare your food because you’re obviously too weak to do it yourself! They also frown on you if you want to leave the house.
I have read that in many cultures, women who have just given birth are encouraged to “sit the month”. It means that the month after giving birth (or as we refer to it, the 6 week post-partum period), the mom only cares for her baby. She is not supposed to leave the house, eats special foods that are supposed to help her recover, and is basically doted upon by her family members. She is also, however, put under a lot of pressure from family members if she wants to go outside, or refuses to stay in bed. I am also often told by my kraamzorg to rest, to lie down, to sleep. She was surprised I wasn’t in bed!
But I can’t believe that during pregnancy, when I was feeling pretty miserable, I was told that I was not sick, and that I should wait it out. I often felt alone and neglected because of this, even though I felt well with my midwives. And now, as I’m feeling much, much better, in fact, almost normal, the system finally takes care of me. It’s like just the simple action of having a baby makes me someone worth to care for? If pregnancy isn’t an illness, the post-partum period isn’t either, right?
So why the huge effort that comes with sending people over to my house? Why the additional tests? Why am I being treated like a sick person when I am in fact feeling… quite well? Don’t get me wrong, people. The kraamzorg, as I had stated above, is a great idea, and I wish more women could get it if they don’t feel so well in the hospital. But don’t I have a point?
I love the idea of resting, relaxing and recovering. But I also like the idea of doing whatever I feel like doing, and not being told how I should spend my 6 weeks after birth.