Saturday, 16 June 2012

What If My Kids Had Been Born in England?

I've been thinking. How different would my children already be if they had been born in England instead of the Netherlands. So, instead of three little Dutch boys with a British mother, they were three little English boys with a Dutch father.

The most obvious different is that their first language would be English, and not Dutch which is the case with my eldest. My school going 5 year old speaks better Dutch than English (whereas it was the other way round when he was a toddler because he was home with me) and now has a Dutch accent when speaking English. In England, they would not currently be bilingual.

But what about culture things? Or experiences? How would they be different if my children had been born and raised in England?

Well they certainly wouldn't have eaten sprinkles on their bread had they been born and raised in England. They wouldn't have eaten so many pancakes, and certainly not under the label of "dinner". They probably would have a better selection of healthier meal choices (read not everything fried with chips) whenever we eat out had we been living now in England.

My boys would know what a crumpet was without a lengthy explanation about a bread type thing with holes in it. Scones would be second nature. Hot cross buns at Easter time would be taken as a fact and Christmas crackers wouldn't be such a novelty.

Had they been British born, they wouldn't have had such a fine collection of orange shirts between them. They wouldn't have a clue what a Beesie was, seen an orange German helmet or seen a prince throwing an orange toilet. I can't imagine I will live to see the day that Prince Charles takes part in a toilet pot throwing competition, and I guess the real question is this: why on earth would he?

They wouldn't have scouted around flea markets on Queen's Day. Sinterklaas would have stayed a stranger.

None of my kids would have experienced being transported around on the front or back of my bike as past age eleven I cannot even remember owning a bike in England, let alone thinking about ferrying kids around on one.
Jip and Janneke would be an unknown couple. Dikkie Dik would never have become a familiar feline face and Nijnte would be called Miffy. They would have grown up with the bird on Sesame Street coloured yellow going by the name of Big Bird, instead of a blue bird called Pino.

Education System
My eldest would probably be wearing a school uniform (thus saving the knees on his day to day trousers) and I would likely be transporting him to and from school in a car. In England, he also wouldn't have already been a fully fledged member of the local junior school at the tender age of four.

They would be addressing their teacher as Miss Smith instead of Juf Krista if they were in the English education system and they would be unlikely to see their teacher in jeans unless on a school trip.

I'm going out on a limb to say that I assume my sons would not be so exposed to poop humour in England as they are in the Netherlands. They would know the voices of famous actors such as Tom Hanks from watching children's films in their original language, instead of Dutch dubbing which is (rightly) used for kid's programs. They would never have heard of Bumba, K3 or Kabouter Plop. They would never have seen Charlie and Lola speaking Dutch or Makka Pakka singing in Dutch.


This is what I call hills - something my Dutch boys are not familiar with
If my boys had been born and were being raised in England, they would most certainly know what a real hill looked like. As it is they think a speed bump is "high".

For my little Dutch boys an old, traditional windmill is commonplace, not something special. If they had lived in Watford like I did, a windmill sighting wouldn't be a weekly occurrence.

I am not convinced my eldest would have already had ice skates on and been on natural ice had we been an "English" family. And they wouldn't have been ferried around on bikes as babies.......

As my boys are still only little, there are lots more things we will come to experience that will make their lives here in the Netherlands different to the one they would lead in England. Some are positives (after all, Dutch children are the happiest in Europe), and a few are negatives.

But sometimes I wonder what impact being born in England would really have had on their lives, their personalities, their youth, their memories of growing up. Would their lives have taken a different path? It's an interesting train of thought!

What differences would have been evident if your children had been born in your birth country instead of the country you now call home? 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Strange Begin: Sleepless Nights and An Ambulance,

Photo: (c) The Writing Well
When my youngest son (our third) was born last October, the kraamweek (the week after the birth) didn't quite go as planned. We came back from the hospital on a Friday morning and our interim kraamzorg was stood at our front door to meet us. The first day home went as planned. Lots of rest, help, and time for my eldest two sons to meet their new brother.

The night however was a different story. Our new addition cried a lot at night. By that I mean unless he was being held upright he was crying. As soon as we laid him down his eyes sprung open and he began to scream. That meant, with labour and the birth included, I hadn't slept at all for three nights. I was a little tired to say the least.

Saturday night was a repeat of the night before. Four nights without sleep.

Then on Sunday morning I felt a little strange. It felt as if I was on the verge of slipping away into a dreamland, whilst lying in my kraambed. My kraamzorg (a trainee) came to bring me breakfast, was shocked by how I looked and flew back down the stairs to alert the experienced kraamzorg that all was not well upstairs. They both came charging back upstairs. I was conscious of everything that was going on around me but could not respond. No words came out, my head wouldn't move. My blood pressure was high and I had what I can best describe as the shakes. The kraamzorg called the midwife, who arrived quickly but then struggled to get an accurate blood pressure reading. Due to my unresponsiveness she called an ambulance, informing them not to come with sirens and lights.

A few minutes later I heard a siren getting louder and louder and my insides curdled. My eyes told those in the room that I was horrified with the arrival of an ambulance with "bells and tooters" blazing.

The next fifteen minutes were amongst the strangest of my life. Two ambulance personnel, a male and a female, began loading equipment on the bed. The room was a hive of activity with 2 maternity nurses, a midwife and my family milling around trying to help and get a grip on the situation.

After tests and questions the decision was made to take me to hospital in the ambulance, back to the maternity ward for checks. One of the ambulance crew said it seemed like I had gone in to shock. A birth and four nights with no sleep seemed a viable reason for this....

Somewhere amid the commotion I began to return to the land of the living and could communicate once more.

And so I made it downstairs with help from the ambulance personnel and my husband, and I was loaded on to a stretcher outside our house. Which is when I noticed that the arrival of the ambulance had attracted a sea of onlookers in the street and surrounding houses...... My husband took the baby in the car, as he would stay with me in the maternity ward to ensure that the breastfeeding could continue. My eldest sons stayed with kraamzorg until friends got there to look after them. It was chaotic, upsetting and stressful - for us all.

It was only the second time I had ever been in an ambulance. The first time was to accompany my brother when he had a serious asthma attack when we were out in Watford, England one night. It was certainly the first time I had ever been in a Dutch ambulance. By the time we were driving to the hospital I was compos mentis again, and well aware of the drama of the past half an hour, hour - who knows how much time had passed.

Photo: Pam Roth
Once we arrived at the ambulance entrance of the hospital we seemed to whizz through corridors, past a sea of faces waiting their turn in queues in various departments, until we arrived in the maternity ward. Familiar faces came to help me from the stretcher to a bed and started hooking me up to an array of machines.

Lots of tests ensued from a gynaecologist and a neurologist and I had a few more 'attacks' like I had had that morning. The result was that I had to stay overnight in the hospital. I was devastated - it wasn't how the kraamweek was supposed to be! The kraamweek following the births of my first two sons are etched on my mind as wonderful weeks, a treasure trove of precious moments. And this time I ended up separated from the rest of my family, my husband home worried sick looking after our eldest sons who didn't understand anything that had happened, and me unable to properly care for my newborn.

Aside from a near collapse (luckily a nurse was holding on to me) walking back from the bathroom, the night passed without incident and the next morning I was allowed to return home. Kraamzorg returned. The kraamweek recommenced. The rest of the week passed without incident, but the sleepless nights continued.  So we turned to an osteopath.

He diagnosed our little one as suffering from silent reflux. He was having a rough time of it, hence the sleepless nights. I'd like to say that we got referred to the paediatrician, given medicine and all was well but the reality is that we struggled at night for many months and have only really had peace at night during the last month.

We've come through the other end - and the most amazing thing about all this is that our youngest son is a smiley, giggly, happy little boy - despite the less than easy start in this world.

Photo: (c) The Writing Well