Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: ITALY

This week I talk to Angie, a Canadian who had her son in Italy as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about experience of having a baby abroad!

Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself?

unnamed-4Hello, I’m Angie from Reasons to Dress, my lifestyle blog. I work in fashion for my husband’s exotic leather belt brand, but decided to stay home and raise my son 2 and a half years ago when he was born so that he could be bilingual. I still work part time from home, but without any of the special events, traveling and glitz and glamour of working in Fashion. I was sure that becoming a SAHM would leave me frumpy, outdated and with no reasons to dress! I couldn’t have been more wrong. Italy is filled with reasons for moms to get dressed up and go out on the town WITH THEIR KIDS!

I’ve blogged about going out for “aperitivos” as a family, the Italian ritual of the “passeggiata” and the importance of Saturdays for Italian living (and fashion!)

This is a country where any occasion to be seen is taken and neither moms nor kids get left out. I blog about what I wore, where I went, expat stories, travel and what life is really like in Italy. I also feature real stylish moms that I encounter while I’m out and about as part of a Real Mom Street Style Series.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and have been living in Italy for about 6 and a half years. I am now living in Modena, Italy which was Pavarotti’s home town and also home to Balsamic vinegar and the Ferrari! If you are interested in knowing more about Modena, I’ve done a whole series about it here.

How old is your son and where did you have him?

I have one 2 and almost a half year old. He is a feisty red head and I had him in the Italian town of Sassuolo (A Series for soccer fans), which is about 20 minutes away from Modena where I live.

Why did you have your child abroad?

There was no way I was going to take a flight back to Canada while pregnant (even though I did contemplate it)! I had already made the decision to live in Italy so I try to rely on the Italian health care system, Italian government (scary I know!) and soon the Italian educational system for my son.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

It certainly wasn’t easy, but then again I don’t think having a child anywhere really is. I have to say that overall I was quite pleased with my experience. Well, not ALL of my experience. In Italy there is a public health care system that supplements most of the cost of care. You pay a “ticket” for whatever portion you are responsible for, but in general it is all very affordable. The problem is, that in a country with 60 million people the public health care system is often really back-logged and it can take months to get an appointment. This is actually not new to me, since in Canada, where health care is also publicly funded, this is often also the case.

I had some really bad pains in the beginning of my pregnancy and since the public doctors were giving me appointments for three months down the line we ended up going to a private gynecologist. He was VERY OLD. I think he helped give birth to the entire city of Modena! His office was FILLED with pictures of babies that were ranging from the 1960s to last week!

His wife was his assistant (not a spring chicken herself) and their views on a few things were very old and set in stone. How do you argue with a man who has helped give birth to literally THOUSANDS of babies?

Each time I went for an appointment I would wait for close to an hour and a half in the waiting room (standard Italian wait times), I would pay between 100 and 130 euro for a visit (standard Italian gynecological visit prices) and often I wouldn’t get a receipt (it’s also standard practice for EVERYONE to work under the table!

He wanted to know EVERYTHING. What was I eating, drinking, watching, wearing? At one point I would have to call his wife every single night with my blood pressure reading!

I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy but I was not alone. I felt cared for, and that’s what counted.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I know first hand that giving birth in a country that is not YOUR country is very scary. Apart from the language barriers that can occur when you are unable to describe something or unable to understand something being described, you are often treated as a foreigner. I think the best thing to do is to go online and seek out the appropriate communities and associations that may exist to help get you informed.

For example I had no idea how the system worked in Italy. You can’t just go to a specialist, for example, you need a “ticket” and an “impegnativo” which is like a request. Plus you must pay this ticket in advance and you can pay it at a grocery store! There are all kinds of roundabout ways for getting something simple like blood work done that it is enough to drive anyone crazy, let alone a pregnant woman.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

Of COURSE. I wanted an all natural birth, my gynecologist suggested a C-Section! I wanted to do cord banking, my gynecologist said it was a waste of money. I wanted to keep the placenta attached, my husband, gynecologist and just about EVERYONE I told this to got totally grossed out and asked me if I was getting enough sleep!

There is a whole world of differences between how Italians wean and interact with children as well….but that’s another story!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. To everyone and anyone that will listen and answer you. If you want to get information and understand how the system works you need to ask questions, know that they aren’t dumb and get answers. Don’t be afraid to speak up if there’s something you don’t understand and don’t be afraid to stick up for your ideas.

At the same time you must remember that things really are different here and if you are not getting the support or information you need from one hospital / doctor than try out another. Instead of giving birth in Modena’s hospital, which followed a very traditional birthing policy, I went to the neighbouring town which was much more natural and supportive of mother’s choices. They offered bouncy balls, a water birth option, music therapy, no epidurals, lactation consultations and a huge birthing shower. You can read all about my birth story here.

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You can follow Angie at Reasons to Dress on her blogFacebook, Google +, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Bloglovin’! I love hearing your comments and suggestions, please feel free to share any of my posts with your friends and don’t be a stranger!

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