Giving birth while living in a foreign country presents its own set of challenges. In this multi-part series we talk to several moms who decided to give birth while living abroad: Doula and mother of two, Australian Emma Vassallo in Germany offers tips on how to create a positive birthing experience overseas while Irish Lizzie in Jamaica and Greek Nathalie in Vienna share their stories.
An Island Baby
I arrived in Jamaica 7 ½ months pregnant. My husband had been offered a 2-year contract here and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ditch gloomy Ireland for a while to drop a few kittens in the sun! I never thought twice about giving birth in Jamaica. Thousands of Jamaicans are born here every year, so I would just go with the flow. Staying home would have meant being apart from my husband for the last 2 months of my pregnancy, and he might have missed the birth.
When I arrived, I rang a recommended Obstetrician and asked about the possibility of having a homebirth. The receptionist laughed and said, ’No man! We don’t do homebirths no more. We got hospitals now!’ The doctor was lovely but old-fashioned in his approach. In forty years, he’d only ever attended women lying on their back with their feet in the air! At home, I’d been planning a homebirth with midwives. Now having to go to the hospital, I thought I could at least deliver the baby kneeling, but he said he wouldn’t be able to protect me from painful tears that way. Then I found out the hospitals only offer Pethidine or epidurals as pain relief. As in the US, gas and air is not available, which seemed crazy to me.
Despite this, I felt confident in my own ability to give birth, no matter where or with whom. My main concern was staying in control, not being overly interfered with; arriving at the hospital 6cm dilated certainly helped! I gave birth to my baby boy an hour later, lying on my back in a drug-free, normal delivery.
4 Top Tips for Giving Birth Abroad
1. YOU are the one giving birth; if you know you can do it, then the rest is just details. Try Hypnotherapy CDs.
2. In your first weeks, say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity to meet people and build your support system.
3. Join a baby group before you give birth.
4. Look into the passport implications of your child being born abroad. Our son is entitled to a UK passport, but we just found out his children won’t be unless they are born back in the UK.
Follow Lizzie’s blog about life in Jamaica at www.hotexpatmummy.com
This article first appeared in Issue 2 of GirlGI Magazine.