Being abroad during this new chapter in my life, motherhood, has been a whirlwind of emotions. I have experienced new highs and deeper lows in such a short period of time. I know that I would’ve experienced these emotions whether I was living at home or in a foreign country but at some point all this did made me feel very scared and overwhelmed.
Luckily, I have really awesome people to look up to in this community. I thought it would be a great idea for us to get together and share some of the insights we have gathered during our experience of being knocked up abroad with 5 awesome expats!
I hope that hearing other moms going through a similar situation such as yours makes you feel a little less alone and more confident of the path you are in. I know it made all the difference for me.
Finding support – Pregnant in Australia
Our daughter, Leighton, is the ultimate global child, she was conceived in Bali (sorry for the TMI), found out about her in the US and born in Australia. When I first found out I was pregnant I had no idea what to do first. In Australia you just see a GP for your womanly checks so first thing was to find an obstetrician. Luckily one of my friends had a baby recently and recommended her doctor. He was the ultimate Australian, laid back and witty and made me feel so comfortable my entire pregnancy. Unlike my pregnant friends in the US, I only saw him every visit (no nurses) and I got to see Leighton on the ultrasound every week. When it came to trusting him to deliver my little bundle in August via cesarean I knew that I was in good hands.
The other important part of my pregnancy was finding my tribe. I already had a supportive group of girlfriends in Brisbane and one of them happened to fall pregnant not long after me. It’s been so fun to share this journey with her. I also went to prenatal Pilates classes in my neighborhood where I met another friend due around the same time. It was through her that I became involved in a local mothers group and met so many other friends with babies Leighton’s age. Motherhood can be lonely at the beginning so community is key. Finding friends in the same stage of life and with little ones the same age is so important!
“THE FIRST MONTH ARE THE HARDEST!” – Pregnant in Germany
You will be so overwhelmed, and so tired, and so confident one moment and insecure the next, and also so tired tired tired. The thing is, babies don’t smile on purpose until around one month. And so for that first month you are giving your child everything and in return it is like a cute squishy digestive system that eats and poops and sleeps and eats and poops….. but once you get past that first month, it gets much easier. And it’s still hard, but everything that happens is usually a phase that will end, and then another phase will come…. and so on. Each new period of your child’s life will be a new challenge, but I find that it only gets more and more fun (though ask me again when Björn is a teenager, ha).
So connected to the above, I would say to be kind to your partner! He is going through this with you. So try to remember that you’re a team (hard to do when you’re sleep deprived).
Another thing people say is sleep when the baby sleeps, and then people say it’s crazy because it’s impossible, but it’s not. If you don’t have enough maternity leave, then maybe. But because I had 11 months off, I had the freedom to do it. And yeah, I wasn’t getting great sleep most nights but I survived because I napped with my baby… this was not only good for me getting extra sleep but it helped him sleep more soundly when I was right next to him. So if the choice is to wash dishes or sleep, choose sleep (and if you really can’t deal with dirty dishes, ask M. to do them for you).
“Does he have a name?” – Pregnant in Ireland
This is the first question the midwife asked me, shortly after I gave birth to my first son. What an odd question. Of course he had a name! The idea of us, as future parents, not picking a name for our baby was completely crazy. As a matter of fact, I had picked a name long before I even thought of having children, and my only worry was how to convince the husband it was the perfect one. In France, the first question you’re asked is “What’s his/her name”, but in Ireland, it’s very common for parents not to have names picked before the birth. Sometimes a baby can go days without being named! I’m not kidding. For my 2nd son, I was in the ward, just in front of another mum who hesitated between Emilie or Juliette for her newborn daughter and she was going arouns, asking the other moms for their opinion… She was still at the maternity by the time I was discharged and poor baby still didn’t have a name. I even heard stories about parents picking a name, then looking at the baby and decide it doesn’t suit him/her: “Naa, she doesn’t look like an Emma / Niamh / Sophie…” Let’s take another 2 weeks before finding something else. It only took us 8 and a half months to come up with that one!!
Back to School Traditions – Raising a child in Germany
She was really excited for her first day of preschool and had been since the Wednesday before. When Friday came around I told her she just had to sleep two more times and then it would be time, she was ready to go Sunday morning saying “today is the day.” I told her she had one more to go and the next day I woke her up and made her breakfast, the three of us ate together then we got ready and watched TV until it was time to go. Her first day of Kindergarten only lasted around an hour. We start in the auditorium, they introduce themselves, then the older kids sing for the new students. The new students are called up and introduced to their teachers and then they go to their classroom. While the parents waited in the auditorium. They do this so that the kids can meet their teacher, see their new classroom and not be overwhelmed. This might be good for some kids, the ones that are going to school for the first time, but Avi wanted to spend the whole day there. There is also a cute German tradition to celebrate a child’s first day of school with a giant paper cone, called a schultüte, full of treats (small gifts, candies, etc) that the children get to carry with them throughout the first day of school ceremonies and instruction and open it at the end of the day. I made one for her two years ago because I didn’t know it was mainly for first graders, but she opened it at home and was really happy with what was inside.
Getting closer to my mom, despite the distance – Pregnant in Slovenia
One of the things that made me the saddest of being abroad during my pregnancy was not being physically closer to my mom. I was optimistic about the fact that we could pay a visit to Mexico in December but given the situation that arose with my placenta, it was quickly discarded as an option. Flying such a long distances is quite risky and, even though the placenta looks okay at this point, we don’t know if the issue could resurface or not. So I had two options, let myself feel defeated by the distance or learn to embrace it better and become stronger because (and in spite) of it. Luckily, now that I am embarking on my own motherhood journey, a new layer with my mom’s relationship has surfaced. She is my treasure chest of wisdom, love and understanding. I know that all that motherhood knowledge was there before (because she is the best mom in the world, duh!), but it is probably until now that I am expecting a child myself that I am really listening. Our phone calls have been more frequent and our conversations have gone deeper. I am slowly understanding through her, all the things that come with being a mom. There might have been a time in my life (hello teenage angst!) that it was just too easy for me blame my parents for all the things that were wrong. But the cliches turn out to be all true, our parents are and ALWAYS will do their best. She has opened to me in ways that were not possible before. Simply, because I probably wouldn’t have “get it”. Now I understand a lot of why she did what she did particularly about the context in which some things happen. It is been such an amazing thing to be discovering all these new-to-me things about her and motherhood. I feel truly blessed to have her in my life, even if we don’t live in the same continent together.
What did you find the most touching or fascinating?
For me, it was awesome to realize that despite cultural differences we are united in this together!