Heleen van Royen about giving birth: Did I cheat?

In 2020, Heleen van Royen is a writer for twenty years. She celebrates it with the bundle Mother, Daughter, Mistress. This book contains both columns and personal, long stories. Heleen shares a sneak preview with Vrouw-readers about the violent birth of her daughter Olivia. After reading this chapter, do you have a taste and would you like to get the book handed over personally by Heleen van Royen? Then read on quickly!

โ€œ Hi, Mom,โ€ says Olivia with a thin voice. It‘s 7:30 Tuesday morning. My daughter has been giving birth since Sunday night 3:30. Thirty-one hours on the road and still no baby. โ€œHow’s it going?โ€ I ask. โ€œThey just made an epidural,โ€ she replied. โ€œI didn‘t hold it anymore. I was so tired. I was in so much pain.โ€ She sounds apologetic.


โ€œAh, little lady, you don’t have to explain,โ€ I say. โ€œYou‘ve been at it for so long. Do you feel better now?โ€ โ€œIt’s incredible,โ€ she says. โ€œThe pain is gone. I can breathe again. I‘m gonna try to get some sleep.โ€ She’s breaking the connection. I sigh deeply. Hopefully there‘s a shot in now. Somehow I expected my daughter to have as easy births as I did.

Olivia came into the world in seven hours, Sam in three hours. Both times I immediately had powerful contractions from the beginning, the unlocking went smoothly. The pressing took a relatively long time at Olivia, more than an hour and a half. Sam had the advantage of the beaten path and slipped after less than half an hour. Both babies came into the world without cutting or tearing. No interventions were necessary.

With Olivia

, the placenta was incomplete, which was the only flaw of beauty. She was born at home, but we had to go to the hospital to remove the remnants of the mother cake under anesthesia, because they could start to ignite. When my bed was driven to the operating room, I got a little anxious.

I had never been under anesthesia before, and just as I had become a mother, it had to happen. What if I didn’t come to? My daughter would grow up without a mother. A horrible thought. The nurse who laved my bed down the hall said, โ€œMay I ask you something?โ€ โ€œOf course,โ€ I replied.

I suspected she wanted to know my last wishes in case I didn‘t make it. โ€œYour husband, he’s from television, isn‘t he?โ€ Sobering. But also reassuring. She probably assumed I’d leave the operating room alive again. โ€œThat‘s right,โ€ I confirmed. โ€œI thought so!โ€ she said radiantly. โ€œThat curly ball from AT5, can’t miss.โ€

Natural childbirth

A childbirth is always exciting. โ€œIt remains a matter of life or death,โ€ as Grandma Van Royen, the late mother in law, always said. I agree with her heartfelt. Thinking lightly about a birth and assuming that it will go well by itself, because it is a natural process, is naive and unwise.

In my debut novel The Happy Housewife, the birth of Lea is described extensively, something that had never been shown in a Dutch novel before. The scene covers 39 pages and protagonist Lea fulminates against the Dutch birth culture: โ€œI gave birth to a son. I brought him into the world in 1998, although I might as well have done so in 1698.

Since that time, obstetrics in the Netherlands have not changed significantly. The ‘natural childbirth’ is still in vogue.โ€ Lea is not a fan of nature: โ€œNatural childbirth is the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was a massacre. Not for the child, just for me. That seems to be supposed to be.โ€

Pain and toil

In 2020, twenty years after the appearance of my debut novel, my daughter gives birth to a healthy son after a 36-hour delivery.

Olivia, before you gave birth, you and your friend made a beating plan. You had a preference for a home birth with dimmed light, possibly quiet music, no clock. How did it actually go?

โ€œ Quite different. Giving birth at home was not possible because of my high blood pressure. Afterwards, I‘m only happy about that. On Sunday night the contractions started and they kept coming and going all Monday. At nine o’clock in the evening we went to the hospital. At midnight, two centimetres of unlocking was measured, a big setback, because I felt I had been busy for almost 24 hours. I was allowed to stay in the hospital.โ€

How did the night go?

โ€œ From a quarter past four, the contractions really hurt and they came very frequently. At six o‘clock, I had four or five centimeters of access. The water was broken. I was in so much pain after that and I was so tired that I occasionally got away. My friend kept encouraging me, but I couldn’t get through to it anymore.

All I wanted was for it to stop. AndWhat I found super annoying was that everyone told me all the time that I had to breathe quietly. You try and breathe quietly when it feels like someone‘s sticking six knives in you. At half past eight, five centimetres of dilation was measured.

The realization that I was only halfway through, after so much pain and more than a day of toil, broke me up. โ€œWould you like to take a bath?โ€ asked the doctor. โ€œI’m asking this because you have indicated in a call plan that you prefer not to relieve pain.โ€ ‘I’ve already let go of that plan, ‘I replied. โ€œI want an epidural.โ€

Huge relief

After an hour and a half, the anesthesiologist came. Were you happy?

โ€œ It was a difference of day and night. It’s like I was walking around Disneyland without a queue anywhere. A tremendous relief. The rest of my birth went perfectly. The pressing went very smoothly, that only took half an hour. The epidural just stayed. Spencer came into the world unscathed or surgeries. He weighed 3500 grams and was 50 centimeters.โ€

How do you feel about the epidural?

โ€œ It feels like you cheated a little bit. When I tell my birth story, I always say it: I did have an epidural. But the more I think about it, the angrier I get that the prevailing birth culture has given me the idea beforehand that childbirth without epidural would be better. While I would recommend it to everyone. Now I say to my friends: you have to know it all by yourself, but if the pain gets too much, I would do it.โ€


Do you want to get the collection Mother, daughter, mistress personally handed over from Heleen van Royen? That can be! Respond now via Facebook or Instagram, mention your hometown and tell you why you want to win. Who knows Heleen van Royen will be at your doorstep on November 17th to hand you a copy. Participation is possible until November 9, 2020. When you participate, you automatically agree to the promotional conditions.

This piece is in the new WOMAN Magazine (every Saturday at De Cceit).