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Word of the Day: kraamzorg (maternity care), geboorte part 3

Marloes, our colleague and ‘new mother’(in Dutch KRAAMVROUW) posted the following question. As you know her beautiful new baby girl Maya inspired the two previous posts. ‘Do you have room for another baby related word this week? I was wondering about the prefix KRAAM in words like KRAAMZORG (maternity care), KRAAMKLINIEK (maternity hospital) and KRAAMAFDELING (maternity ward). Is it in anyway related to the KRAAM we know from the market (stall) in the sense that they are both giving shelter?’


Thanks Marloes for this interesting question. The answer is YES! In the Middle Ages the word KRAAM referred to a tent or to tent linen. On the market products were protected from rain and wind by tent linen and that’s why Dutch stalls received the name KRAAM. And a KRAAM also became the name for the sheltered place where a woman could give birth. The word KRAAM as a name for a place of delivery has now become obsolete. But the word is still used in combination with other nouns. A KRAAMVROUW can be either a woman about to give birth or a new mother. A KRAAMVERZORGSTER is a maternity nurse.

Sixty years ago, my mother kept a diary in the baby journal that she dedicated to her first born child i.e. me! Her recordings give a fascinating insight into the practices concerning care of mother and baby of the fifties. Can you imagine, in those days women had to stay in hospital for at least ten days after delivery! These are her first journal notes.

20 mei 1953 – Op een snikhete dag ben je geboren in de KRAAMKLINIEK Frankenslag in Scheveningen. Het was een erge verrassing dat je zo’n flinke, gezonde, rose baby was van bijna 9 pond. Je zag er schattig uit. Alleen begon je niet te huilen toen je het levenslicht aanschouwde. Dat was een zeer angstig moment voor ons. Maar Bep, de KRAAMVERZORGSTER was erbij en heeft je net zolang geslagen en gekieteld tot je geluid gaf. Wat waren we blij. Je eerste pak slaag heb je van Dokter Knoop gekregen. Oma Hisgen mocht je al meteen zien en was erg trots.
30 mei 1953 – Eindelijk zijn we thuis en lig je in je prachtige wieg. De tien dagen in de kraamkliniek zijn voorbij en nu kun je thuis rustig opgroeien. Je was een beetje dom om niet te kunnen zuigen. Wat een getob was dat. Maar nu is alles vergeten.

(20 May 1953 – You were born on a sweltering hot day in maternity hospital Frankenslag in Scheveningen. It was a great surprise that you were such a big, healthy, pink baby of nearly five kilo’s. You looked cute. You only did not cry when you saw the light of life. That was a very frightening moment for us. But Bep, the maternity nurse was present and she beat you and tickled you until you made a sound. How glad we were. Your first good hiding you received from Doctor Knoop. Grandma Hisgen was allowed to see you immediately and was very proud.
30 May 1953 – Finally we are at home and you are lying in your splendid cradle. The ten days in the maternity hospital are over and now you can grow up calmly at home. You were a little stupid because you could not suck. What a struggle that was. But now everything has been forgotten.) 

As for the ‘sucking problems’ you may be glad to hear that I have improved enormously since then… This was my last post on GEBOORTE. From tomorrow on I am going to look into diminutives: NOPJES, DUTJE, ZOETJE, ZOUTJE. If you’d like any belittled words explained please tell me.