27 February 2012


I had my glucose-test prenatal appointment this morning, where you drink a very sugary drink and then the doctor takes a blood sample to see whether you have gestational diabetes. In the US, they flavor the drink to resemble a non-carbonated soda, which just makes it worse, but here my doctor stepped out of the room briefly and came back with a beer glass (we are in Belgium, after all!) in which she had mixed up a serving of sugar water. Fancy that! It tasted like...very sugary water. An hour and an ouchie blood draw later, I was set to go. Plus, I got to hear the steady whoosh of the baby's heartbeat, discover that--surprise!--I have gained a few kilos since the last appointment, and see that my blood pressure is perfectly normal.

This appointment, as most of them have been, was with our GP, our family doctor. Her office is right around the corner. She's fantastic, and always listens very carefully to my questions and concerns. She knows Gabriel, she knows the Mister, because she's their doctor too, and I even know a few details about her family as we've discussed toddlerhood and children. The kicker is, though, that she's not the one who will be delivering the baby. I've asked her, only half joking, if she could.

Instead, the doc who will be delivering the baby is someone I will have met only twice before the birth, and that's only if I go into labor during the week. (If it's on the weekend, we get whoever's on call.) We met her briefly for the ultrasound appointment at the beginning of the month, which took place at the hospital. She was very nice, but very hurried, and I wasn't even sure if she was the doctor or the ultrasound tech until close to the end of the appointment. (Previous ultrasounds, both in the US and Spain, involved meeting with the doctor separately from the ultrasound itself, which was handled by a tech.) Because of that confusion, I didn't have the in-depth discussion I hoped to have about our birth plan, instead stumbling over a few questions about the previous labor and birth experience which she somewhat impatiently jotted down. So! I have one more shot at having that discussion, if all goes well, and then will come the day itself.

All of this comes as such a contrast to my great experience in Indiana with our nurse-midwife, who I saw at nearly every appointment and who delivered the baby in the hospital. Here, midwives are not allowed to deliver babies in hospitals, so it's either a home birth with midwife or a hospital birth with OB (who you only meet with three times, twice in my case because she's so overbooked that I have to meet with another doctor for one of those appointments). I wish there was more overlap, that the alternatives weren't so stark. Even if I hired a midwife to meet with for prenatal appointments, she's just replacing the person I really like and feel comfortable with (our GP) and who can't deliver the baby either.

I went to the local birth advocacy center to inquire about a couple of things (one being a post-natal service in which the state sends someone to cook/clean/wash dishes/help with the baby for a few hours every week...sign me up!), and asked a midwife there about how to best communicate to the hospital and our doctor what we want for the labor and birth experience. In other words, how do we tell them our birth plan?

She confirmed what I suspected, which is that the tendency here will be to treat our wishes for a natural birth with a grain of salt and to rush the labor and birth through the normal medicalized protocol. So her best advice was that we should be prepared to repeat OVER and OVER again what we want, and to have the Mister really advocate for those wishes (I, presumably, will be focused on labor and probably a little out of it). We can bring a written birth plan, but we'll have to tell both the doctor and staff midwives again and again what's on that plan, and continue to ask for alternatives. Gulp. I'm a little nervous about all of this. Especially given that as much as I'd like to have a similar experience to Gabriel's birth, who KNOWS how this one will go, each labor/birth being so very unique. And sometimes in the face of medical authority it's hard to know what's an option and what's a necessity. I have no doubt, however, that we will be safe and in good hands, and that's the most important thing. We have a hospital tour this week, and I'm hoping I can ask some good questions then and get a better sense of the midwives and the place. Plus, friends of mine have delivered at this hospital and had very good things to say about their experiences. Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more to say about all of this as we get closer to the due date, and--of course--as we go through the thing itself.

To clear my head of the swirl of these thoughts (and the high from the sugar drink in a beer glass, sadly the only thing I've sipped out of a beer glass for the last five months), I went shopping. I decided to brave the fancy expensive maternity clothes store, and in the end I took the plunge and bought a new pair of maternity jeans. I paid more than I like to pay for clothes (and they were the cheapest choice in the store!), but I think they will be worth it, seeing as I will likely wear them close to every other day for the next months. The shirts, dresses, and skirts, all very chic, were lovely but not too tempting, because of the steep price tag for items that ultimately wouldn't get worn that much. Instead, I went to a store down the street and bought a cheaper spring dress that will work as a maternity tunic. So now I have a new little outfit and that makes me happier about my wardrobe options as my belly expands.

In Dutch class today we did a good little conversational exercise where we had to speak to several other people in the class one-on-one, and then the teacher asked the whole class questions about each person. Where is he from? Where does he live? Does she have a brother or sister? Etc. (Because of the mini conversations, and because of previous days' conversations, we all know a lot of those answers about one another). The focus for questions about me was on kids (I'm one of the few people in the class with children) and pregnancy, and the teacher was very surprised that I told everyone that the baby is a boy. Evidently, in Belgium, that information is often a secret until the baby is born. Turns out I'm not the only pregnant lady in the class, though: a Chinese student is also pregnant (definitely not showing yet). So, as our teacher put it, we have two extra students in the room. Perhaps this little one is absorbing some of the sounds of Dutch already, and I hope so: he'll be that much more ready to face this crazy Belgian world!

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