A little card is poking through the letterbox. Hurray, I have arrived! Friends announce the birth of their child. At the bottom is a reference to the birth register. A baby shower will soon follow. The most common first names in this country are Emma and Lucas, Mila and Mohammed – no longer Godelieve or Jozef.
The message on the card reflects the way we look at birth. It’s a party, that’s for sure. Champagne is popped in the maternity ward. Cake is shared out. The traditional candies known as suikerbonen (literal translation: ‘sugar beans’) are available in all shapes and colours.
Our habits with respect to pregnancy and birth change from generation to generation. Baby-filled bellies are shown off with pride today, not hidden away like they used to be. There are fewer taboos surrounding pregnancy and sexuality than there used to be. In the Islamic tradition, children are ritually washed on the seventh day after their birth. The baby’s head is often shaved, too. For Christians, the christening ceremony is no longer a given. With the decline in church attendance, the practice of this sacrament has largely disappeared.
The protective roles of godfather and godmother remain, however. Certain other traditions persist or are slowly but surely returning. The tradition of giving a new mother and her family freshly-prepared food or kraamkost has become popular again in recent years. Furthermore, mothers are increasingly choosing to give birth at home. This being said, most people still prefer to receive maternity assistance in the medical context of the hospital.