On april 5th 2017, at 19:30, my son was born in the Bronovo Hospital in The Hague. We named him Alexander Felix Bethlehem.
We chose Bronovo Hospital carefully. It’s not the closest hospital to our home, but it was the best in the city. The bigger hospitals have a bad reputation, and we personally had some bad experiences. Bronovo has a lot of experience with expats who have different ideas of healthcare, and they work hard to keep the language barrier low. The staff is very kind and helpful; the facilities modern. Also, this hospital has seen the birth of many members of the Dutch Royal Family, so that might have influenced their outlook on patient satisfaction.
It was a hard, though well planned process. Labour had to be induced, and it took two days before it finally started the last stage. At birth, Alexander had a length of 55 cm. The average length of boys at birth is a little over 50 cm. So Alexander was a little longer than the average boy. He weighed in at 3700 grams. The average weight of boys is 3410 grams at birth. So Alexander was almost 300 grams heavier than average. And he’s sweeter than we could ever imagine. He smiles all the time, and is very inquisitive.
Alexander, freshly born
Why did we call him Alexander? That decision was already made quite a few months before his birth. In the first place, it is a powerful name. We had one particular Alexander in mind: Alexander III of Macedon. I thought it was a good idea to give him a name with a lot of history and myths. Who knows, it might kindle an interest in history in the boy. There was a second, more technical reason as well. As we are a multi-lingual family, we really wanted his name to sound the same in all languages; Slovak, Dutch and English. There’s not many names around that have that property. Hopefully his language abilities will raise his prospects of getting a good job in the future.
Alexander is a new shoot on the family tree of the Bethlehem family. He also is the only shoot. Via his father (Hayo Bethlehem), his grandfather (Jelke Bethlehem) and his great grandfather (Jakob Bethlehem) the family tree goes back to a small farm in the Frisian town of Beetsterzwaag (1811). The oldest known shoot in the family tree is Jan Geerts Bethlehem He was born in Beetsterzwaag (1650), and was a soldier in the stronghold Bourtange in the province of Groningen. Most likely he fought in the Second war of Münster (26th May 1672 – 22nd April 1674).
We stayed two more days in the hospital after the birth. Mainly to monitor Zuzana. In that time the doctors also closely monitored Alexander. Fairly quickly they noticed some issues. He developed a yellowing of the skin. This Neonatal Jaundice is fairly common in children and has to do with bilirubin that builds up in the body. When the liver starts working properly, this usually dissipates over time. They decided to place Alexander under blue light. A light with a wave length between 420-480nm usually helps break down the bilirubin so it can get disposed of by the body. After three days however, nothing had changed, and the doctors started to worry. They tried a lot of tests, but still couldn’t find the cause. We became increasingly worried, as days kept getting added to our release date, and anxiety for the well being of our new son escalated.
We started inviting family and friend over to see him, and we asked for better food. My mother brought an amazing fruit basket (Fresh fruit was hard to come by in the hospital). My dad took care of a fabulous birthday cake and my brother brought some pre-cooked meals. Their support was invaluable during this difficult time.
After eight days in the hospital we went home. We would be going to the hospital in Rotterdam next, for further research. From there, we proceeded for further research to the University Medical Center Groningen. This is the expertise centre for children with liver conditions. They would continue the research. They would be trying to verify whether he had Biliary Artresea, a very rare liver condition they found mild indicators of, but no direct proof yet. Further study was needed to prove this hypothesis.