Upon finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Portland, I was accepted into a teaching program which first took me to California (the Bay Area), and that is where I actually had my first date with my now husband (Ethan), even though we had met a year prior at Nordstrom while I was working there during my senior year of undergrad and he was there for work. He had left the Netherlands (where he was born and raised) to study in the states when he was 18 and was living in Southern California for 14 years when we met. We dated briefly but then I moved to NYC to attend Graduate School and teach at a high school, but we then reunited a year and a half later and began dating again. After dating long-distance for over a year, he asked me to move to Amsterdam with him where he had been living for almost a year already (but flying out to NYC to see me every three weeks). And I said Yes! Only a couple of months after moving to Amsterdam, I felt a strong desire to start a family and I knew that Ethan was who I wanted to do that with. A year later we had our first daughter Maxine.
Both of my pregnancies were great, and I felt extremely healthy during both. While pregnant with Maxine, I took a birthing course which made me feel excited and empowered about the birth, and I was 100% certain that I wanted an “all-natural” birthing experience. The night before Maxine was born my water actually broke while Ethan was massaging my feet on the couch. I ran to the bathroom as quickly as I could and just stood in the shower (it was actually pretty funny now that I think back to it). I labored at home until my contractions were pretty close together, and when my midwife came to check on me, I was already 7 cm dilated so we had to leave for the hospital right away. My Mom had actually flown in a week prior in the hopes of being here for the birth, and because she had three very quick births with my brother, me, and my sister, she was pretty anxious about how everything worked here and why we had to wait so long to go to the hospital. I wanted a water birth and chose a local hospital where they have birthing rooms with tubs, but upon arriving there I wanted nothing to do with getting into a big tub of water. Looking back now, I have no idea why I even wanted that. I’m not a bath person and I actually despise hot water or being super warm, so it’s funny that I had this “vision” that was totally unlike my personality and I still have to laugh about it now! After pushing for 5 hours in the birthing center (yes, 5 hours), the hospital staff were a bit worried and had decided that it would be best to move me to the hospital side. The only problem was that the hospital side was full, so it took about an hour and a half before I was actually moved. This was all in the midst of me still pushing. Maxine was for some reason stuck and not moving down, so they needed the help of the doctors and other nursing staff which were only available on the hospital side.
8 hours of pushing later (and yes, at this point I was really wishing I could have an epidural which was obviously not possible), Maxine was born. And honestly, once she was here, I really felt like that 8 hours was nothing. I ended up going home 7 hours later, and that’s only because I had lost quite a bit of blood or else, they had wanted me to leave sooner, and I remember feeling extremely anxious and scared to already be going home so soon. Part of me really wanted that “American experience” of being able to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours. BUT I went home with my tiny new baby and felt this extreme sense of pride that I actually gave birth to my child. My Kraamzorg (a postpartum nurse who comes to your home as a standard service after you give birth in The Netherlands) who came that next morning was AMAZING, and I literally cried on her last day. I can honestly say that having a Kraamzorg here in the Netherlands is the best thing every, and I really believe that every country should be offering this type of invaluable support to new parents.
Fast forward to 18 months later, I was giving birth to our second daughter, Sloane. Once again, I had an amazing pregnancy, and actually went into labor with Sloane on her due date. I was very excited to start in the hospital and have an epidural (I wanted all the drugs for this go around because hey, I already did it once without, right?). When we arrived at OLVG West after being in traffic for 30 minutes and me actually thinking that I might give birth in the car, the nursing staff and my midwife informed me that I was already 10 cm dilated and an epidural was not possible. They needed to break my water right away so that I could start pushing. I remember feeling so disappointed and upset, and literally kept asking for it while I was pushing (I know, it was pointless, but I still tried!). An hour and a half later Sloane was born and I remember thinking about how much easier it was compared to my birth with Maxine, and how I wished that every Mom could experience a birth that went that smoothly compared to the 8 hours of pushing that I had experienced 18 months earlier. We were back home 3-4 hours later, and I felt so much calmer and at peace with it all the second time, which was an amazing feeling.
Maxine is now 3 years old and Sloane is 21 months old. My husband grew up in the Netherlands and was asked to come back for the company that he worked for, and I followed him here (almost 5 years ago). I now have my own business as a Baby and Toddler Sleep Consultant and work with families here in the Netherlands, as well as, families in the US and UK (I can really work with anyone anywhere, but for now this is where most of my clients live). I had a really difficult time when it came to sleep with Maxine, so I am super passionate about what I do and can always relate to the families that I work with, in the sense of knowing that feeling of being exhausted and trying to be a great parent at the same time. Much of my work is done 1-2 days a week, nights, and weekends, and I try not to work more than 20 hours right now since the girls are still so young and I am home with them.
On March 16, 2020, schools and daycares closed in The Netherlands, businesses which were able to have employees work at home did so until further notice, and strict social distancing rules were put into place. For our family, the closure of schools, the gym (where I also took advantage of their childcare center), and not being able to have play dates (also with their Grandparents) had the biggest impact on our daily life. Pre-COVID Maxine was in school three days a week, and my in-laws would come over twice a week to care for our other daughter Sloane for two of those preschool days, and the other days we would go to the gym every morning where I could drop the girls off at the daycare and take some time for myself and get my exercise in. It was a sudden change from having more outside support with the childcare to managing two young kids, my husband’s busy job and my own business every day on our own.
Despite the changes though, I can honestly say that our routine now is better than it ever was before. Since the new regulations were put into place, my husband is no longer traveling for work (which he did a lot of before), and is home all day, so it has really given me an opportunity to do a bit more within my business and actually work with more families at a time which has been great. Without his usual commute and travel commitments we are able to balance the load between the two of us at home much better.
We each give each other an hour every morning to exercise and just have time to ourselves (we both cherish that one hour so much!). Because he is working from home, he gets to take breaks and hang out with the girls. It’s so nice that they are getting to spend so much more time with him. We have dinner every night at 5/5:30 together, which wasn’t the case before Corona. I am able to do more work now because he is able to help more. We are actually really enjoying the opportunity to spend more time together.
My husband is also extremely involved and helpful, and we definitely work together to manage the house and routines. For instance, we always alternate nights on putting the girls to bed and doing their bedtime routine. While one of us is doing that, the other one makes sure the apartment is cleaned and dishes are done. It’s really about working together and always making sure that we are communicating during the day about what needs to get done.
The biggest positive(s) I have been able to focus on during this time have been exercising daily, de-cluttering our home, learning to embrace motherhood and being in the present moment. I also started a podcast called, The Diaries of a Sleep Coach, finally which is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now and I am really having a great time doing it!
I was actually supposed to go back home to the US this month, and I think the main thing that I am struggling with is not knowing when I’ll be able to see my family again or when we will be able to go back for a visit.
This might sound extremely odd, but I feel like this entire experience has impacted our work, parenting, relationship and even mental health in a positive way overall. Although, I will say that I have felt a little bit more stressed out when it comes to the parenting category just because we are home a lot more and having two toddlers running around is bound to make any Mom feel crazy once in a while!