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 have a baby while living overseas: Doula and mother of three, 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.
The Pros and Cons OF BEING A FIRST TIME EXPAT MOM
When I found out I was pregnant on a dark grey Monday morning, I was both elated and mortified. I held onto that pregnancy test for a few minutes as if it were Luke Skywalker’s sabre and wondered what my life would be like from now on. We had recently moved from Athens to the beautiful city of Vienna and I was still getting used to the city when I found out a tiny blob of DNA was growing inside me. I had 8 months to prep for a lifetime of motherhood ahead in a city where I was a foreigner and was still in the beginner German class.
No busy bodies
Not having family and friends around means you are not served with unwanted advice about stretch marks, the nutritional values of Spirulina or what to name the baby.
No peer pressure
There’s no pressure from your social circle as to which kindergarten or school to enroll your child. If my child ends up being a genius and obtains a scholarship at Cambridge University it’s not because of the school you take your child to; it’s because I passed on some incredible genes.
Greater paternal responsibility
When there is no family around to act as on-call babysitters, your partner is empowered / forced to take a more hands-on role in raising a child.
No smothering mothering
Your mother does not end up moving into your place to help with the children (unless you want her to!). She’ll visit once or twice a year but you can choose how long she stays by booking her tickets yourself.
Do it your way
Your single friends will not make you feel terrible about yourself when on a Saturday night they are all glammed up and ready to hit the town and you just want to put the kids to bed early so you can soak in a bath, finish the Ben & Jerry’s hidden in the freezer and watch the first 15 minutes of a film before nodding off on the sofa.
Finding a Paediatrician
If you are not confident with your language ability it can be hard to find experts who you can communicate with. Every time my paediatrician explains to me in German that my child has a light cold I think I think it is some rare disease and my anxiety goes into overdrive!
Finding a reliable babysitter
Hard at the best of times, you don’t even have family and friends you trust with your offspring which can mean even less escapes, date nights, self care breaks than you would if you were not overseas.
Cost of air tickets
Visiting your home country can end up expensive when you have children. It’s not like you can take the red-eye to save money.
Navigating motherhood in another culture
You will have to discover societal opinion or even the legality of breastfeeding in public, the attitude towards crying babies, the best products, remedies and alternatives available where you are.
Becoming a mother for the first time abroad is overwhelming no matter where you are in the world but there is the added challenge of navigating motherhood in another land. The pros and cons vary for each one of us as our situations are unique and we all live in different countries, but the greatest thing about having a baby abroad that we can all agree on is that your child will grow to become a very open minded individual because of their exposure to different languages and cultures which is the most beautiful gift a mother can give to a child.
By Natalie Rogers
If you are pregnant overseas, join your local Girl Gone International group on Facebook and say hi, ask for recommendations on the best doctors, hospitals, childcare etc in your city, connect with other pregnant women and mothers, meet for coffee and make new friends on the same journey as you!