Friday, February 08, 2008

"Dutch Story of the Month"

During my midwife appointment this week, I believe my midwife was having an off-day. In the practice I use, there are four midwives, and the one I saw this week was one I hadn't seen before. The appointment was rather unusual. At every other appointment, they check my blood pressure, do a dipstick in the urine sample, and then I hop up on the exam table (clothed) for a touch exam of the belly to check baby position and response before they listen to the heartbeat. That's it. It's gloriously brief and non-medical. They've been telling me since 30 weeks that this baby's head is down, and as you already know, at week 36 the midwife told me that the baby's head is WAY DOWN and in take-off position.
So here we are at the week 37 appointment with a different midwife than the others I've seen, and she can't tell if the head is down or not. "Oh, you're engaged all right, but I just can't tell if it's the head or the behind." Hmph. People, I can tell that the head is down (when I reported this to my girlfriend here, she said even she could tell just looking at me that the head is down, so what the???). When the feet are in your ribs, it's a good hint; an even better hint is a soft bumpy mass (butt) up near your ribs instead of a hard round mass (head). But then she proceeds to acknowledge the elbows as the feet (um, wrong end, wrong side) and says she's not sure of position even though my belly is lopsided with the baby's back clearly on the left. Her exam continues with enough pressure to be mildly painful, and still she can't tell. So now comes the joy of an internal exam. This is really not fun, and after that, she STILL can't tell. Now I have to get an ultrasound to be sure the baby isn't breech. Of course, they don't have ultrasound equipment, so I have to make an appointment somewhere else and it must be done this week (if you know anything about life in the Netherlands, getting an appointment for anything straight away is a laughing matter). All this, and she doesn't even check the heartbeat. I just have to go with the she-was-having-an-off-day assumption, because otherwise I will hate her and she will be the one to show up for my delivery. Despite the large inconvenience of all this to me, I can't blame the midwife practice for insisting I have another ultrasound. After all, it IS important to be sure the baby isn't breech. Although I'm convinced there is no problem, it would be rather awful to be wrong on such an important issue. If the butt was indeed wedged in take-off position instead of the head, it could be an emergency situation calling for a C-section and risking the baby's life if we didn't know until pushing started, so being sure with an ultrasound is a good thing, though in my opinion completely unnecessary.

Well...the ultrasound was today, and here's where the good story begins.

Due to the "emergency" nature of my ultrasound, the midwife practice had to make the appointment for me. They insist on using my maiden name on all my records (standard practice in Holland) although my name is legally changed and I don't use the maiden name at all. They made my ultrasound appointment at the Westeinde Hospital rather than Bronovo, which I can only assume was done because it would have been TOO OBVIOUS to use the hospital close to my home where I'm already registered (okay, it's possible they were booked, but really it was very silly). The only appointment they could get this week was for 10am. I drop Ellie off at school at 9am in another part of town. It took me 50 minutes of nothing but red lights to reach the hospital, where I still had to register before my appointment.

The registration process hands-down wins my "Dutch Story of the Month" award.

When I was called up to the desk, I told her I have an appointment made for me by my midwife but I need to register with their system, as I've never been to their hospital before. The registration lady asks for photo ID and my insurance card; I hand her my Dutch drivers license for ID and my health insurance card. She starts typing in info. She looks at her screen. She looks closer. Then she looks at me and asks the street name where I live. When I tell her, she tells me I have been to the hospital before. Surely I would have remembered this, but somehow I don't. I say cheerfully that I'm sure I haven't been there, but then she tells me in a voice dripping with annoyance that indeed I have or I wouldn't be in the computer. I ask if it's possible my midwife gave them that information to make the appointment, and she doesn't answer because now she's glaring at my driver's license. "What is your name?" Ignoring the fact that she's staring hard at a photo ID of me with my name in bold type, I tell her. She says, "No, it's not." Apparently, I fail the pop quiz on my own name. Stubbornly (while trying not to giggle), I insist that I'm pretty sure that's my name. "No." Hmmm. How to respond? Finally, she looks up, glaring at me with total annoyance and sharply demands my family name. I give it to her. "NO." Grasping at straws for the right answer, I offer my maiden name and hit the jackpot. "Yes, IN HOLLAND, we use our father's name, not the husband. Your driver's license is wrong." She looks at me hard, but I just don't know what response I'm supposed to offer here. Getting a driver's license in this country is no walk in the park and requires excessive documentation, so surely someone at City Hall would have caught my error had I made one. I told her that none of my legal documents (passport, residence visa, etc.) use my maiden name, but she is still holding my license hostage. "Well, your license is wrong." She won't give it back.

Am I confused? Did I have a traffic accident and wind up in traffic court with my license being legitimately questioned, or am I just registering for an ultrasound appointment?

At length, her colleague decides to jump in. She has an apologetic tone as she explains that in Holland, they do indeed use the father's name, but they know that "in America AND Turkey" (with emphasis, so I know this insanity isn't limited to one country) they don't use it after they marry. She tries explaining to the peeved registration lady that it's okay that I don't use my maiden name and that it's all right to enter my married name in the system. Peeved Registration Lady is having none of it. She holds my license in her colleague's face and insists that I have a DUTCH license so it should be the DUTCH WAY. Again, Colleague Woman is apologetic. She explains gently to me that they believe this practice of changing names is "ridiculous" and "cannot understand it." After all, people get divorced and then women still have their husbands' name and then what are they supposed to enter into the computer?! At this point, all I can think about is blogging the whole encounter as a way to suppress my giggles. Could this have gotten any less relevant to reality, I ask you? At least Peeved Registration Lady decides that calling me "ridiculous" (however indirectly) is satisfying enough that she returns my "wrong" license.

The ultrasound was fine, by the way. The man looked stupified that I was even there. At the end, the best he could offer was maybe the midwife just couldn't tell because the head was "so far down. This baby is really engaged!"
Yes, I know.

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