Author Archives: Ameena GORTON

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

This week I talk to Claire who is English and has 2 daughters, both of which, were born in France as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your daughters and where did you have them?

Hi, my name is Claire, I am currently 45 years old. I moved here with my then-boyfriend at the end of 2004 with no idea we would still be here and married in 2021! I had my children a while ago they are 9 and 11 now, but they were both quite different birth experiences that might be helpful to share. We are both English and have been living in France for 16 years now, 5 years at the time of our first child. Both of the girls were born in France and have always gone to the local school in the village so are bi-lingual.

I studied embroidery at university and create beautiful (if I say so myself) felt wall hangings. As these sadly don’t pay the bills yet I am also a chef for private clients, weddings, and large corporate events. Since last march and the ‘new-world’ we now find ourselves living in where events don’t happen I have had to get creative and diversify so I have started a sock website.

Why did you have your children abroad?

We were living here, and it never occurred to me to go ‘home’ to have them.

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

I have never had children in another country, so have nothing to compare it to. After talking to friends back in the UK and their experiences I would say the postnatal care in France is better. I was surprised there were no NCT equivalent groups here, I thought this would be a sure way to meet some local people and integrate more, but all the prenatal appointments were one on one with a midwife. My postnatal care was good, there are midwives for the mothers and separate ones for the babies, you have your own room so you can recover with the ‘peace’ of just your own baby (this was not private care). I was also given a prescription for 10 sessions with a physio to re-train my pelvic muscles…so can now jump on a trampoline! The other benefit, well hopefully for them that is although they have English parents they are bi-lingual, surely that can only be a plus?

Not benefits as such but a little history… with both of my pregnancies I had gestational diabetes that I had to control with insulin, but it led to very different ends….

My first got too big so they decided to induce her 2 weeks early, this, in turn, led to an emergency cesarean. At the time they kept the emergency bit from me and in-fact I only found out 2 years later during my first appointment with my second! Perhaps they didn’t want to worry me? Apparently, she was having breathing difficulties so they wanted to get her out, I figured it was 18h and the surgeon wanted to get home for dinner, well it is France after all… Something perhaps to be aware of is fathers are not allowed into the theatre for the operation, so you are on your own. I stayed in hospital for 7 days after, and the midwives were fantastic especially in the first few days when I was struggling to walk.

With my second she was smaller, so they left her to term. She was born very quickly 20 mins after my waters broke at home in a building site with no water into the arms of my husband! The pompier eventually turned up and then the paramedics. I was sent to hospital as a precaution…thank god! My stomach was very sore and a 6 km journey took us 40 mins as they had to go so slowly. My experience with the midwives here was not so good, but I discovered my French is quite good when in pain and angry. I was told off for not having delivered the placenta already (what did I know), surely the pompier/paramedics should have done this? Luckily however that they didn’t, I was in severe pain, worse than the un-expected drug-free birth. The midwife was very un-caring telling me not to be so pathetic, anyhow digress. Long and short of it is that I had haemorrhaged internally as she came out so quickly and I had a thin layer of skin literally saving my life. I was rushed into the operating room and stayed in hospital 10 days recovering. Said midwife did apologise a few days later saying in her career of 30 years she had never seen that before, well hopefully she has passed on her newly gained knowledge/experience to others.

I guess I just wanted to share that no two births are ever the same, but it is so important that you believe in yourself and what your body is telling you and to make yourself heard even if you shout it in your own language until they understand.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was always terrified of giving birth, and I guess my main frustration was with myself not being able to communicate properly my feelings to the midwives and doctors.

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

I have no experience with my own country, so can’t really comment. Only real observation was after the births, it turned out my second was blw (I had no idea what that was before her), which they just did not understand at the creche so insisted on feeding her puree that she continued to spit out.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

As I said above, listen to your body, and make yourself heard. For example, with number 2 I knew I was diabetic again but they wouldn’t listen to me before 5 months so I did the best I could to control it with diet before they would test.



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Why my daughter’s photo is now online

When BiP was born it was decided that she would remain anonymous to the outside world. She was given the pseudonym of BiP (Baby in Provence) – she’s been anonymous for almost 9 years. BiP is Ziva.

For a couple of years Ziva has wanted her own YouTube channel where she wanted to do bilingual French and English toy demonstrations. It was her who wanted to be on the internet, so I said no.

It was a genius idea at first, but I was always too scared to release her to the the whole social media world where she would be torn down for everything. I also never wanted to use her for my own professional gain.
Social media is a thing, how we use is it key – kids have no place really but they have eyes and ears everywhere!

Every school and after-school activity asked for permission to share her photos and I said “no”…. I never realised that she would be singled out when it came to certain group photos because I’d ticked that box that said NO to photos.

One day Ziva turned to me and said “Mummy? Do you not share my photo because I’m not beautiful?” – I died.

I’m not a crazy poster, I guess that working in social media will kill your appetite for it, but when Ziva asked for the 100th time after knowing all the implications and still be ok I had to honor her request. She’s still not allowed to have her own social media accounts but I’m going to stop telling her to turn around every time I want to share a photo with her in it.

So this now you can all see is my greatest achievement, my biggest challenge and my best teacher xx


A Unique Gift: Modern Map Art

BiP recently received a customised star map with her name, birth date, GPS coordinates of her birth place and a star map! The print is really stunning and is printed on nice thick paper! Can’t wait to get it framed! BiP was fascinated by HER star map.

Modern Map Art is a great gift idea for pretty much any occasion! On their website you can customise any aspect of the piece you want to design and you can see what the final product will look like straight away!

Check it out!
Modern Map Art’s Website
And follow them on Instagram @ModernMapArt, Facebook and Twitter


Disclaimer: I received a personalised star map in return for my review.

Confessions of first time mother: Body Image

Today – 11months post partum

Today was an event! I got back into some pre-pregnancy clothes (admittedly stretchy ones as I am still a little way off my pre-pregnancy weight)!

It made me think about how depressed I have been about by body since giving birth 11 months ago – I am by no means happy with my reflection now but I am happier than I have been.

Realising that I am not alone I thought I’d share some of my true confessions relating to body image in the first year.

40 weeks pregnant. 4 days before I had BiP (I was so tired)

1. My  bump was flattering! My bump was so huge that the rest of me looked small. I was really pleased with myself that I had only gained about 12kgs/26lbs – now I say about because in all honesty I had no idea how much I weighed when I got pregnant so I rounded up a few kilos as I was a bit over my normal weight to start with (don’t judge me) and then stopped weighing myself at around 8 months. So the exact figure is probably considerably higher.

2. Breastfeeding does not always help you lose weight! Contradictory to popular belief and propaganda available in midwives offices around the world, breastfeeding may burn 500 calories a day but if you were like me it makes you hungry and it is possible to consume that in one meal! I clung on to stories of people who’s weight melted off like the butter they enjoyed consuming during their pregnancy. I however, clung to every damn kilo – losing at the same rate as BiP gained. It was incredibly frustrating as I was yet to find a 12kg/26lb 6 month old baby anywhere on the growth charts at the pediatricians office.

3. I wish I’d bought nice “fat clothes”! As soon as BiP was born I rushed to try on some of my pre-pregnancy clothes – WHO was I kidding? I got depressed and put my maternity stuff back on. Then the weather warmed up and I had nothing appropriate for summer in my size so I went shopping. I bought myself cheap ugly clothes that were comfy because I kept telling myself “I’ll be back in my old clothes before the summer’s end” – ummm …roll on autumn and I had to go get yet another new fat wardrobe – I did the same thing again because I was convinced that by 6 months I’d have lost the weight. Reality bites! Most of the clothes ended up in the bin because I wore them so much and some I am STILL wearing. Massive fail on my part. Now I am planning to get myself some nice clothes so at least I can embrace (or at least try to) my current shape.

4. I avoided skinny mother’s but stalked them online. I made the fatal mistake of stalking facebook photo’s of friends who had babies before and after me in the hope to find a chubby mother, ANYONE who was still in the same position as me … instead I found them in bikini’s with their 3 month old babies … A BIKINI!!!! If I was to put on a bikini at 3 months post partum Greenpeace would have been alerted that there was a beached whale an hour inland.  These images made me green with envy. They clearly had surrogates I told myself.

5. I spent a fortune on make-up! Mascara and lip gloss can make you feel a lot better about yourself even if at times I felt like putting make up on was like putting lipstick on a pig. Don’t forget the concealer.

6. I avoided the camera for months and regret it. I have to admit that I hated having my photo taken – I didn’t want BiP to have this fat mother in her album. I was so incredibly stupid. I’ll never get those days back. Get creative with camera angles and CROP is the most important part of any photo editing software.

7. I sold (almost) all my pre-pregnancy clothes. I couldn’t take seeing the clothes that I used to fit into in a previous life, ok, I hadn’t worn them in the year before I got pregnant but still they were an evil reminder of what I once was so I sold them. I decided that, if, I ever get back to that size again they will be out of fashion – or maybe that was a bad move and they could have been considered vintage. Anyway, I hated the reminder so they’ve gone.

8. I played with the bathroom scales. I’d get on the scales and be horrified at the number that appeared so I’d shift my weight around and try again with my heels hanging off the edge. Of course, they’d rarely change and sometimes I’d just get a big E signally an error. I then would try to convince myself that because I was breastfeeding each breast weighed 5kgs (10lbs or so) … whatever!

This is not the first time I have talked about post partum body distress – here are my tips on how to handle it (even if I don’t always take my own advice!) I’ve avoided talking about diet and nutrition because everyone is different. I personally have a gluten-free diet and watch my carb intake, limit sugars etc … I know what I should be eating and my diet is pretty good considering what most people eat – it’s a whole new ball game when it comes to post partum weight loss so I’ll leave it at that.

So, there you have it – my 8 confessions relating to my body image on the day that I wore some clothes for the first time in 18 months. What are yours?

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: THAILAND

This week I talk to Francine who is Filipino and has 2 children, 1 of which, was born in Thailand as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

My name is Francine. I am from the Philippines. I came to Thailand in December 2004 – when my first child was just 10 months old – upon invitation from my aunt who is an international school teacher in Bangkok. I just graduated from college at the time and was trying to find a job back home. My aunt suggested to try my luck in Bangkok, but to come as a tourist first. If I thought it would be okay to have a job there, then I can make the decision to stay later on. I fell in love with Thailand ever since then. I have two daughters  — the first is now 13, and the younger one is 3. My first child is with my mom back home, who she grew up with. And my second was born and and being raised in Bangkok.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?

I think, I didn’t really have any reason, or choice, for having my second one in Bangkok. It’s just that she came at a time when my partner and I decided that it’s actually time to have a second, and we were both in Bangkok.

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

First and foremost is, that we are able to be hands-on in raising her. With my first one, I didn’t really get to have a lot of opportunities to be a parent to her. My mom filled in that role. We get to see each other on Yahoo Messenger, and then Skype when that technology came, but I didn’t get to have a first-hand experience of actually raising her. Also, raising a kid abroad means I have the chance to be multilingual to her — I speak my dialect, Tagalog, English, and Thai. When you have a kid back home, there is that complacency of not having to speak any other languages to him/her even if you do know some other languages. But here, I already foresee that she needs to be able to speak Thai in the future, so I start early with that. And she needs to be able to communicate in English when she goes to school later on. Also, since having my kid in Bangkok, I found out that processing government-related documents here are faster and more efficient. For example, securing a birth certificate for her. Even though it required three parts – translation, authentication at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and actual processing at the Philippine Embassy – it took me half the time if it was processed back home with a regular birth certificate.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

At first, I was apprehensive. Not with the language barrier, but with the whole having a kid again after 10 years! Filipinos are very superstitious. There are a lot of traditions that you need to go through during pregnancy and childbirth, and I forgot all of them! When our Filipino nanny came, she was the one who was leading us through all of them. But of course, I could have been more confident if my mom, who was a nurse, was by my side. It was a time when there was a barrage of scare news going on that I wasn’t sure which one to believe anymore. So if there was anything I read about or something that I don’t feel right about, I would call or text her and ask for her more medically-based advice.

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

Oh, a lot! Here, I found out that after giving birth, a mother can take a shower. Imagine my nanny’s horror when I told her that the nurse is preparing me for a shower! You see, Filipino women after they give birth, they are not allowed to take a shower — only a rub-down with a warm (emphasis on not cold), moist towel. We have the belief that childbirth is tasking on a woman’s body, that I can agree to, and the nerves will be damaged if you take a shower after. She will end up frazzled for life. Also, back home, women take it easy after childbirth — not a lot of walking around and doing heavy lifting. My nanny and my partner gave the nurse a massive side-eye when she asked me to get up from the bed and walk around, not 24 hours after I gave birth. And here, we are not supposed to buy baby clothes and items before childbirth as that is bad for the child, according to Thai superstition. But back home, having a child means one whole day of shopping spree for the baby’s clothes and stuff. When we came to the hospital on the afternoon that I gave birth, we had 1 big suitcase for the baby’s clothes and a small overnight bag for the mother.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

For them to do a lot of research. Giving birth and having kids abroad have certain nuances that you need to be aware of. Do you want home birth? A doula? Do you need an English- only facility? How much can your budget afford? What birth packages are available to you? You need to read up on them and find out as much information as you can. There are sites like that are excellent resources for expats. Also, you need to find a hospital and OB-GYNE doctor that you trust. Your OB, your husband, and you need to be a team when it comes to the birthing plan. You can’t have someone on your team that is not on the same page as you. And there is nothing wrong in over-preparation. You can even overdo it. And if you can, stay off of social media and questionable health news site. All the scaremongering is hindering you from enjoying this wonderful experience that lasts for only 9 months in your life.


About Francine: 

Francine is an aspiring maternity, newborn and family Photographer in Thailand – you can connect with her on Facebook.

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