Having a baby is a lot of work. Seriously. People will tell you it’s a lot of work, but you won’t truly appreciate just how much until the baby actually arrives. Not to mention all the scary unknowns that come with suddenly being responsible for new life.
It’s one of the many reasons why new moms in the Netherlands get government-subsidized home visits from maternity nurses after having a baby. The nurses answer questions that arise after leaving the hospital, as well as help families with things like breastfeeding and other major physical adjustments that can come after childbirth.
The caregivers are called kraamverzorgsters, according to Quartz, and their number-one priority is offering postpartum aid for the first eight to 10 days after a mother has returned home (and for longer if needed). Not only do they help new parents adjust to having a newborn in the home, but they also care for the mothers themselves, allowing them to actually get a modicum of time for self-care in those first few hectic days.
The service costs a modest fee but is affordable for most. The government once covered the full cost of the care, and it now comes out to about five dollars per hour. This is especially reasonable when we take a look at the support — or lack thereof — that the U.S. provides for parents post-birth.
Back in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act was signed, which guaranteed women at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But these days, when two incomes are crucial for most households, unpaid maternity leave is a struggle for many, if not impossible for some. USA Today reported that one in four new moms go right back to their jobs just 10 days after childbirth, which doesn’t even give them enough time to physically heal. In comparison, women in the Netherlands are entitled to four months paid leave as a base.
According to Time, New York is set to offer paid maternity leave this year, but it’ll only be the fourth state to do so. Individual companies offer their own policies and plans, but this means recovery time for women is literally at the whim of their employers…as opposed to common sense or medical necessity.
The stark contract between post-maternity care for women in the Netherlands versus the U.S. once again shines a light on the fact that the Unite States does place a high value on family — at least not in terms of substantive policy.
Giving birth to human life is no small feat. Perhaps it’s time our government actually recognizes that.