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Former Arts and Culture student Frouke Verhagen: delivering 265 babies in seven years

Former Arts and Culture student Frouke Verhagen: delivering 265 babies in seven years Former Arts and Culture student Frouke Verhagen: delivering 265 babies in seven years

Photographer:Fotograaf: Observant

Alumni about their dreams: did they come true?

She was eighteen years old, a first-year student of Arts and Culture and already quite domestically inclined, by her own account. “A white-picket-fence kind of person.” She wasn’t overly ambitious and she wouldn’t mind becoming a housewife, provided that her husband earned enough money to support their family. Fifteen years later, not much has changed. Frouke Verhagen (33) is married, drives a Skoda and lives in a cute, decent house in a “quiet, family-friendly neighbourhood” in The Hague where the streets are named after fruits. Inside, toys are scattered everywhere. There’s an Ikea play kitchen and a large finger painting above the fireplace, presumably made by her four-year-old son Fedde.

Although much of her life went as hoped and expected, certainly not all of it did. Fifteen years ago, she dreamed of working as an on-the-scene reporter for the largest news organisation of the Netherlands. Instead, she delivered 265 healthy babies in seven years. Arts and Culture wasn’t the degree for her. “No one in my family understood what I could do with a degree in Arts and Culture.” Frouke didn’t, either. After four years of studying she decided that “I wanted to do something practical”. She switched to training as a midwife. Suddenly, her fellow students were seventeen years old. “It felt strange, but it did a lot for me.” Those few extra years of life experience would later come in handy in her work. “Childbirth is a life event. It’s different every time.” As a midwife, she witnesses a lot of joy (“the birth of my best friend’s baby was a highlight”) as well as profound sadness from time to time. When she’d just completed her training, she performed a 35-week ultrasound scan. There was no heartbeat. It was indescribably sad. And yet this experience, too, was fulfilling in a way. “A midwife provides intensive guidance and emotional support. It definitely isn’t the doctor with the vacuum pump the patient remembers afterwards.”

She didn’t become a housewife, then. Her husband, a graphic designer, doesn’t quite make that amount of money yet. They met in Maastricht. Frouke worked at Café Zuid and Jaring stopped by suspiciously often. Their relationship seems like it was meant to be: they both have a Frisian name, but grew up in Venlo. “His childhood home actually later became my best friend’s house.” They never met in Venlo, which might be for the best. “He was quite alternative back then. I don’t think I would’ve fallen for him.”

At the time of the interview, they’ve been together for eleven years to the day. They don’t celebrate their dating anniversary, though. “We switched to celebrating our wedding anniversary a couple of years ago.” Their wedding wasn’t at all what you might expect. They tied the knot in A Little White Chapel in Las Vegas (“Robbert, an American stranger, was our witness”). The ceremony took a grand total of three minutes. “The couple before us had to go again. They’d forgotten to turn on the video recorder.”

Meant to be as they may seem, the beginning of their relationship was rocky. After six months of dating on and off, Frouke found out she was pregnant. “We didn’t have room in our lives for a baby at that point in time.” The day before her appointment at an abortion clinic, it went wrong. “I never thought I’d ever be grateful for having a miscarriage.” Oddly enough, it cemented their relationship. “He was so sweet to me, I thought: this one’s a keeper.”

Unfortunately, she suffered two more miscarriages after her son was born. “Very, very awful.” Their now nine-month-old son Junn completed their family. “For sure. We’re done.” Sweet as they are, her children aren’t the easiest. “The newborn phase wasn’t what I’d expected.” The babies cried a lot and were ill a lot. And the sleep deprivation just about killed her. The solution: sleeping in the guest room. “It wasn’t the most romantic period of our lives.” Frouke hastily adds, “My life may not sound like it’s always very exciting, but I’m very happy with it most of the time.”

Fifteen years from now, she sees herself still working as a midwife. Her sons will be teenagers and they’ll live in a slightly larger house with a garden (“we can’t afford a larger house just yet”). Hopefully, they’ll also have more time to travel; she misses the sense of freedom it provides. “But I wouldn’t want to do it now, with two young kids.” How will she prevent herself from being swallowed up by domestic life in the coming years? “A friend and I are going to Defqon in two weeks. I definitely don’t feel too old for festivals like that yet.”

Niels van der Laan

Read here the article of 2003


(Un)fulfilled dreams

In 2003 we interviewed UM students about their dreams for the future. Now, in 2019, it’s time to check in with them and see where they’re at. They’re about forty years old now; did their dreams come true? We’re using this special year (Observant is celebrating its 40th birthday!) as an opportunity to find out. Former student journalist Niels van der Laan, who wrote the majority of the interview articles in 2003, is writing a fair share of this year’s articles as well. In addition to the previously interviewed alumni, we’re interviewing former Observant student journalists about their fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams.



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