Pregnancy and birth have been regarded as difficult for most of human history. In fact, until the middle of the twentieth century in the western world, they were regarded as out-and-out dangerous. This meant that birth was surrounded with the sort of ceremony and superstition that make homeopathy look like it means something. Infant mortality was so common that living or dying were regarded with the same fatalism that we regard changing weather patterns.

We now have several professions that specialise in managing aspects of that process. Many still exist, including the oldest, the midwife [link], but there are plenty of others–paediatrician, wet nurse, gynaecologist, obstetrician. Not all of these are still in common use today (spot the odd one out in the list in the previous sentence). One that is very much in use is that of the obstetrician. However, we have not seen an obstetrician.

It is not because the healthcare in the Netherlands is so terrible that there are no obstetricians of which to speak. There are probably as many as in Britain–more, maybe. The difference between The UK and the Netherlands is the process by which one gets to see one. Just like anyone who owns a car in Britain is legally obliged to buy motor insurance, it is a legal requirement to purchase private health insurance in the Netherlands.

Sadly however, one cannot opt out of having a body in the way that you can opt out of having a car, for example if one cannot afford it. Retired people get healthcare that is free at the point of use. So, when I started my current job, I took out the insurance I was legally obliged to purchase, and insodoing choose the injuries I wanted to insure myself against. To add insult to financial penalty, what I was charged was back-dated to the moment I arrived. I also had to use my crystal ball to check what amount I would need for dental treatment for the proceeding two years.

This might be the moment for me to make the transition into a rhapsodic hymn of praise about the NHS. But I have used it, so I am not going to do that. Actually, that is unfair, but it hints and what most of the talking about it seems to be–complaining. New Labour, still broadly fetishising left wing ideals, responded to this complaining by promising, and then delivering their promise, to plough billions more into the health service. I do not really know whether the health of the nation has improved, but certainly the level of complaining has not fallen. Throughout my lifetime, people have been saying the health service is on its knees, and then after another glass or two, that conservative governments are to blame. The fact is, it is not, and they are not. And, I think thankfully, it is not dominated with private health insurance in the way that the healthcare in the Netherlands is.

I have found the comparison of Dutch and British healthcare a bit pointless in the light of recent events in my life. The Dutch system means that I am dissuaded from using healthcare generally because it is complicated an annoying. If I believed the complaining about NHS I would be dissuaded from using that because it is crap.

Now, I feel dissuaded because there are others, or at least one other, whom I think needs it more than I do. I am not in any danger of keeling over any time soon, and hopefully neither is she, but the fact is, there is someone a lot more vulnerable who needs help and attention more than I do. I want the focus to be on that person, or more practically, those two people. Mother and child.

The same feeling also has a shallower effect. I can miss a meal pretty easily these days–partly because a weight loss drive over the last year or two has included eating less, but also because I can make up for it at another time if I want to. So, when Eva suggested that that we might eat together a while after the birth, although I thought this would be a nice family moment with our new arrival, I also paused for thought. It occurred to me that there might be someone along the corridor who might need the meal more than I.

We have not seen the obstetrician. I am glad–partly because needing to would be worrying and inconvenient, but also, I hope, someone who does need to see one has been able to. Let us hope that that couple does not go into the room thinking the doctor will be crap and/or expensive.