My birth story…by Frankie Rees
The only certain thing about my long awaited babies’ birth in Amsterdam was that it would not be a home birth. My GP told me this as though it was the saddest news she could bestow… I was secretly relieved but reality soon hit. I was expecting twins in a foreign country and I was the only person I knew allowed to give birth in hospital. All my pregnant girlfriends were unbearably envious of me. But I felt like an outcast.
Even our antenatal teacher who had three children had never been near a hospital. She concluded her classes with a “typical Dutch birth” video. This showed a rosy cheeked girl wailing through her birth, on her houseboat, accompanied by her gnarly partner on his guitar, a howling Rotweiler and a mother singing Greek folk songs. Oh yes and a glamorous midwife who filed her nails and lay out a cushion for the baby as it plopped out. I resisted the urge to rush home and throw myself at the mercy of the NHS.
It became my personal quest to discover what would happen to us. My mature gynecologist Doctor Pynbroek – which, incidentally, translates as “Doctor Trouser Pain” – comforted me with the words I dreaded …….
“Pregnancy is not an illness!”…“No we don’t offer gas and air here….“You may get an epidural but the anaesthetist may be on an important job.”…“If both babies are breech we might allow a cesarean “
and a concilliatory “Don’t worry – It will be fine “
My anxiety and bump grew in unison. It was fuelled by my only source of information, a programme on Sunday evenings called “The Birth” which showed handsome Dutch women going through extreme torture, mostly at home unless giving birth to triplets.
Luckily my babies sensed my terror and refused to turn for delivery. Finally at week 37 when I was no longer able walk and had my own trouser pain, the Doctor conceded that I had to have an ‘emperors cut” – (a c- section!) I was ecstatic.
So on May 21st 2001 I was hoisted onto a huge trolley and surrounded by a mélange of nurses, doctors, hangers on & probably the production team of “The Birth” as well but I couldn’t quite see to the back of the crowd. I was introduced to everyone in traditional Dutch manner – a firm handshake followed by name and position.
Lastly I met my surgeon who on discovering we were from England became overexcited, told me he loved Cambridge and adopted a plummy English accent which he maintained throughout the operation. My husband suddenly appeared beside me fully gowned up. To be honest I only recognized him from the terror in his eyes and our CD player which he was clutching. He pushed the play button and our music and our twins’ birth began
As the spinal block was administered a burly, handlebarred mustached man stroked my hand… he reminded me of the camp Fast Show Policeman .Luckily we bonded immediately as he was my designated nurse
My hairy carer produced a blue Vicks jar. It was enveloped in a thick vapour. He proceeded to run it over my body -I felt nothing. I was momentarily pleased but then saw him motion to his colleague with a “chopping head off” motion.
I grabbed my husband and declared – I can’t breathe!!!
Our music – the theme music to the film “The Straight Story” was now in full flow and I accompanied it with a mantra of “am I still breathing ?” directed at my poor husband who kept pointing out that I was still talking so I was definitely OK.
The word Surreal does not come close to describing the scene.
I was so preoccupied with my mortality that I had not noticed that the operation had begun. I became aware of the sense of anticipation and the stillness in the theatre –The dazzling lights, the curtain screening my open tummy and the music which blared forth with discordant violins. The only other sound was the surgeon in his affected accent as he asked incredulously “Is this the sort of Music you listen to in England?”. God I wished we had listened to that CD before choosing it.
“I see a leg” shouted the surgeon and we tensed …and then he proclaimed
“en Jongen” ( a boy ) and I shouted ”My Erik “ Tears welled up and my face felt like it was exploding with the emotion . Erik was promptly rushed to me to be kissed and then whisked away.
3 minutes later – but it felt like forever – the surgeon called again “I see a foot”
I started praying. I was convinced I would have 2 boys – but had secretly wanted a girl to dress in stripy tights.
The anaesthetist turned to my husband – did he want to see baby 2 come out? Paul debated then rose to look, the anaesthetist pushed him down realizing the error of the idea.
“en Meisje” ( a girl ) proclaimed the surgeon – like Hugh Grant.
“My Lily “- I called back – as tears pooled around my neck creases. Lily was kissed and my new gorgeous family disappeared with my husband to be cleaned.
I was left bathed in ecstasy and love to be sewn up. The room gradually emptied. and I suddenly felt like I was going to be sick. My nurse rushed to my aid. Afterwards my surgeon appeared around the curtain. We congratulated each other on a job well done .To say I was over the moon was an understatement. I loved that surgeon – I loved my fey hairy nurse, I loved Dutch hospitals – I loved my husband and I adored and LOVED my Lily and Erik.
“Did you feel sick at the end there? Asked my fabulous surgeon suddenly
I nodded. “Sorry “- he concluded – I was lifting your womb out and vacuuming underneath it.”
Ugggh!. Nobody could have prepared me for this day – the weirdness, the pain and the joy and the exhilaration. Old Dr. Trouser Pain was right – everything was fine.