Please note:
After long debate, I decided to include some of the more unfortunate events surrounding the birth of our wonderful daughter. Please keep in mind that these incidents are very rare. However, if you intend to have children in the near future, you might prefer not to read on.
For millions of woman living in silence with incontinence: You are not alone and help might be available. Do not feel embarrassed to ask your doctor or midwife!

As our firstborn turned into an enterprising toddler, Antje kept thinking that it would be rather nice to have another one of those around. Eventually, she even managed to persuade Edwin that it might well be worth another year of sleepless nights. A week before Robin's second birthday, Antje's parents kindly offered to baby-sit. So off we went on our first date since the birth of our darling son and it turned into a rather romantic evening ... ;-)

A few weeks later, Antje was facilitating usability tests at Rabobank's usability lab. She was feeling rather queasy and had to sprint off to the restroom quite a bit. The running joke amongst the project team was that she must certainly be pregnant again. Antje denied that vehemently; after all, what were the chances?! - But of course they were quite right, as Antje & Edwin found out shortly afterwards.

As customary in the Netherlands, Antje went to the local midwife practice ("verloskundige"). Once again, the midwives were rather skeptical when told the date and time of conception, but an ultrasound quickly confirmed the expected birth date.

In autumn 2004, while we were still somewhat mobile, we decided to visit our friends Vina & Ernest in California, as we unfortunately could not attend their beautiful wedding ceremony in Thailand. During the journey, everybody was very friendly and helpful, though Antje did thoroughly regret having to spend 12 hours in a tight airplane seat with a sleeping toddler on her arms. Once arrived in San Francisco, we had a wonderful time; Robin loved taking the cable cars into the city center and playing with Kar's lovely little dog; Antje & Edwin went down memory lane along our former hunting grounds in Japan Town; Jeff & Maria spoiled us with gorgeous food and showed us their new home in the Berkeley hills; Ernest & Vina introduced us to the delights of Berkeley; ....

Back in the Netherlands, Antje was unfortunately not doing so well. An ultrasound confirmed that the baby wasn't growing as well as expected and Antje was forced to take things more slowly again. She decided to take up pregnancy-yoga and it helped her relax and focus. The baby caught up and progress of the pregnancy proceeded well, closely monitored by our local midwives. Robin quite enjoyed walking with mommy into the village, along the beautiful river Vecht, to listen to the baby in mommy's belly. He did wonder, though, how it could possibly all fit in there, and when it would finally come out.

Considering Antje's high loss of blood after Robin's birth, Edwin would really have preferred to go to hospital this time. However, the midwives eventually persuaded him to try another home birth, as they thought Antje might feel more relaxed in her own environment.

The majority of births in the Netherlands are at home, supported by a midwife and a 'kraamverzorgster' (= specialized nurse). Most Dutch women do not see a gynecologist during their pregnancy, unless there are serious complications. Pain medication is generally only administered if deemed medically necessary. Nevertheless, giving birth in the Netherlands is usually quite safe with relatively few complications.

Just as with Robin, a few weeks before due date the baby still hadn't turned. The midwives considered whether they should attempt to turn the baby by hand, and discussed the possibility of a c-section. However, after an hour of 'zwemmen voor zwangeren' (= swimming for pregnant woman), as Antje was relaxing in the whirlpool, there was a big upheaval in her belly and indeed the baby had turned itself. At the time, Antje was relieved that she would not need to give birth in hospital, and would not have a c-section. As it turned out, she later regretted this very much.

Shortly afterwards, Antje started to have 'fake' contractions. They were rather painful, but subsided under a warm shower. Despite all our anticipation and several sleepless nights, nothing much seemed to happen.

On March 3rd, around 9pm, Antje started to have contractions again. She didn't take them very seriously at first. However, when the contractions became stronger. Antje decided to call Edwin's sister Helma, to help us look after Robin, as well as the midwife practice in Maarssen, to let them know that she was going to give birth soon. As the midwife on duty was still occupied with another baby, she asked us to call back later. In the mean time, despite one of the worst snow storms in Dutch history, Helma started to make her way down 60km of dark, snowy, slippery motorway.

Robin was still awake and getting quite upset. He wanted to sit on mommy's lab, but Antje was in a lot of pain and could not give him much attention. Edwin asked our neighbor Tessa for help. During her training as a medical doctor, Tessa had attended several births. She took one look at us and told Edwin to call the midwife and kraamverzorgster immediately. While Tessa was tending Antje downstairs, Edwin managed to put Robin to sleep upstairs.

By then, Helma had arrived, followed shortly afterwards by the midwife. She quickly realized that we would not be able to reach the hospital on time and proceeded to set up everything in the bedroom. As the kraamverzorgster hadn't arrived yet, Tessa assisted the midwife and Helma was asked to start boiling big pots of water in the kitchen. With the snowstorm raging outside, it felt just like a Hollywood movie.

Antje had barely made it up the stairs, when she got the overwhelming urge to press. Nevertheless, labor took another half an hour. Thanks to her yoga exercises and breathing techniques, Antje managed amazingly well, but she kept complaining that something didn't feel right. As soon as Natasha was born, she was placed on her mommy's belly. At first, Natasha was not moving. As the midwife seemed rather panicky, Antje thought for a heart stopping moment that the baby had been stillborn. Then Natasha took a deep breath and started to cry. Antje was deliriously happy and relieved. Then she heard the midwife call hospital for an ambulance, and request them to urgently get the OR ready. The baby was taken from Antje, pain kicked in, and everything started to feel rather like a bad dream.

As we learned later, Natasha had not been positioned properly and had gotten stuck in the birth canal. This is usually solved by an emergency caesarean. Unfortunately, we wouldn't have been able to reach hospital in time. Often this complication results in brain damage or worse for the baby. Amazingly, Antje nevertheless managed to push the baby out on her own accord, and miraculously Natasha was fine. However, in the process, Antje got very badly torn ('totaalruptuur').

After an ambulance trip that seemed endless, crawling along a motorway that all but disappeared under snow drifts, followed by Edwin and the newborn baby in our own car, we finally arrived at the hospital past midnight. Unfortunately, they did not have a resident gynecologist on site. While he was called in, Antje had to wait another hour before she could be seen. She wasn't allowed any drink, food or painkillers. Once arrived, the gynecologist decided not to use general anesthetics or an epidural, so Antje could hold & feed the baby sooner. Despite the maximum dose of local anesthetics, the operation was extremely painful and unpleasant. Antje and Natasha spent the rest of the night in maternity ward for observation, before they were sent home with Edwin the next morning.

As Antje's muscles and nerves had been severed, she had no more control over her pelvic floor (i.e. bladder, vagina and anus). Over the following year, Antje managed to restore and recover to an amazing extend, with the expert help of specialized physiotherapists. Though unfortunately, she will always remain incontinent to some degree. She is also not allowed to have any more children.

Antje found it very difficult to deal with the emotional effects of the operation and her incontinence, and she is still working on regaining her self confidence. Shortly before Natasha's second birthday, we went to visit our friends in California. It was the first time that Antje dared to go on such a long trip. Luckily all went fine (thanks to Tena) and Antje felt very proud of herself.

We're still taking things easy and slowly pick up normal live again. Natasha is an adorable little toddler and we treasure every minute with her!