Category Archives: Global Differences

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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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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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

This week I talk to Jennifer who is English and has 3 children, 1 of which, was 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 children and where did you have them?

jennifer cracknell lullabebe franceBonjour! I am Jennifer and from the UK. In 2012 my husband and I decided to move to sunny Provence with our family. Since my husband’s business was in London he would commute to Provence every 1 to 2 weeks whilst I stayed in our town of Saint Remy de Provence to look after the children. The plan was to establish a business in Provence but what with his work picking up in London this did not happen in the end. My daughter now 6 and first son now 5 were born in London and my second son, aged 2, was born in Avignon, France.

The whole experience was inspiration for my new business, Lullabébé, our first product being large muslin squares, which as a mother of 3 children under the age of 4 in Provence I simply could not be without.

Why did you have your children abroad?

What with having no family around and my husband away a lot it might not have seemed the easiest of choices to some to have another child abroad when I already had a 3 and 2 year old to look after. However, we had always dreamed of a large family and I was determined not to let that dream go. I had also heard such wonderful things about the French healthcare system and this was encouraging and comforting. It didn’t disappoint!

having a baby in France Lullabebe

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Overwhelmed at times. Our living arrangements weren’t ideal whilst I was pregnant. Since we had no tax status in France when we first arrived we were very limited as to what we could rent and although our first house in France was spacious with stunning views over the Provencal countryside, the rain would seep through the windows when it rained, there were no shutters to block out the biting winter Mistral wind or hot summer sunshine. The tiny electric heaters were literally hanging off the walls and so what with no insulation we were blowing ‘smoke’ during the winter months. However, one of my favourite memories of that home was bringing my two children into bed with me during those winter nights so we could all stay cuddled and warm together.

In terms of my care whilst pregnant I could not have felt in better hands. With a dedicated midwife who was so warm, caring and friendly and with such attentive and thorough care despite it being my 3rd baby it was a dream to be pregnant in Provence.

And then there was the spotless cleanliness of the hospital, being allowed to rest for 4 days in my own private room and the yummy hospital food – truly I was a happy mummy!

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

The midwives seemed to find my natural approach to childbirth quite enlightening. With epidurals being commonplace when I simply requested gas and air at the end of my labour I believe it may not have been used for some time on that ward!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Stay strong and reassure yourself with the fact that no two days are the same when you have children. Trust your own instincts and don’t be afraid to voice them. Be comforted by the fact that however hard things get sometimes, there are wonderful people out there who can support and guide you.

About Jennifer:

lullabebe logo

Jennifer is the founder of Lullabébé, company which creates beautiful and versatile muslins, which are inspired by life in Provence.
You can connect with Jennifer via her online store, Facebook and Instagram.



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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: USA & UK

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Katie who is British and had her first son in the USA and her second in the UK. 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?

Hi, I’m Katie. I’m originally from the UK although I have lived all over the place! I have been living in Marseille since September 2014 with my husband and two children. We moved here for my husband’s job – he’s an astrophysicist working at Aix-Marseille university – and are planning on settling here permanently if all goes according to plan. My older son, Jack, is 6 and a half and was born in the USA and Oliver is 1 and a half and was born in the UK.

having a baby abroad US and UK Katie PieriWhy did you have your children abroad?

My eldest son was born in the USA because that’s where we were living at the time and the same goes for Oliver and the UK.
What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

Jack is eligible for a US passport which, having been through the process of trying to get a job in the US when not a citizen, is certainly a bonus! Other than that, I don’t think there were any ‘benefits’ to having him in the US over the UK. It was certainly a lot more expensive!!

Now that we are raising our sons in France I would say that the major benefit is that they will grow up to be bilingual. I think that this will give them great opportunities in life. The lifestyle in the South of France is much more laid back than in the UK or US as well and the weather obviously is a bonus 🙂
As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was a first-time mum in the US, so language wasn’t a problem luckily. I think that the biggest thing for me, was being so far away from family. However I had friends that kind of filled that gap and helped out when I needed them.

With regards to the healthcare, it was completely doctor-led which is very different from my experience the second time around in the UK. As a first time mum I personally found this reassuring, although if I had been in the US for my second pregnancy I don’t think I would have wanted it this way. I also appreciated the 2-day stay in hospital, in my own private room, before I had to go home and face ‘reality’. Also, did I mention the cost??? Even though we had insurance we still had to pay a LOT of money!!

Second time around, although I was in the UK it was my first experience of having a baby there and things were very different. The only reason I saw a doctor was because I had a low-lying placenta, otherwise everything was handled by a midwife. I was able to give birth in a birthing centre, rather than a labour ward, and things were much more relaxed and laid-back. I was more relaxed anyway due to previous experience and laboured at home for the majority of the time but once in the birthing centre my midwife spent most of the time in the corner of the room observing and letting me do my thing! Incidentally, she was French and even offered to let me practice my French – I didn’t take her up on the offer! My son arrived at about 7.30am after a 5 hour labour and I was home by lunchtime! I can see how the speed of this discharge would daunt a first time mum but as I wanted to be home when my older son cam e home from school I loved it. Plus I could shower in my own bathroom!

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

The only main difference was the hands-on ‘medical’ treatment of the pregnancy and delivery. In the US I definitely felt like my pregnancy was treated as a medical condition whereas in the UK the attitude was quite the opposite. Otherwise attitudes towards our parenting choices are much the same in the US and the UK. I breastfed my older son for a year, which is quite a long time compared to most women in both countries, I suppose. I am still breastfeeding my second son, who is 20 months, which is definitely quite unusual for both countries and even more so now I live in France!. Information and services about breastfeeding and help with breastfeeding were much more readily available and advertised in Portsmouth, the city I lived in in the UK compared to where I was in the US. I am sure the information is available in the US too, but it wasn’t made as easily available. In Portsmouth there are free support groups every day of the week that mums can attend and peer supporters who will come to your home to help, if necessary.

Second time around we have been much more laid back but most of our parenting style is the same as when we were first-time parents. I don’t know how my ‘style’ compares to that of French mothers really, but I don’t seem to stick out like a sore thumb too much – other than the fact that I am the mum yelling in English to her kids outside school rather than French! I still carry my, admittedly rather large, toddler in a sling sometimes and he still ends up in our bed at night but they are not things that make big differences in the grand scheme of things.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I would say do lots of research, meet as many mums and expectant mums as possible and follow your gut. Listen to everyone’s advice and use all of it, some of it or none of it depending on what works for you and your family. There is no ‘right’ way to prepare for a baby or parent a child – do what feels right and always push for what you want.

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Asha who is British and had her daughter in France. 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?

having a baby abroad asha bhatiaHi, my name is Asha, I am a mother of nearly 2 and have just started my online baby shop, Bebe-Monde. I currently live in Marseille near the Vieux Port. I moved to France from London 3 years ago with my husband who is French.

I was born in England and of Indian origin. I have a baby girl called Kiara and we had her in Aix-en-Provence, she is 17 months old and I am expecting our second child in mid-July 🙂

Why did you have your children abroad?

I moved to France with my husband a few years ago, we were both working in long, stressful jobs in London and one day decided that we wanted a different lifestyle. We wanted to set up our own businesses and live in the sun. As my husband was originally from Aix-en-Provence, this seemed to be the perfect choice. even though I did not speak a word of French!! We then decided to start a family and Kiara was born and now we are waiting for our second child.

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

I found that I had more confidence in the French health system compared to my experience of my friends in England. It is also quite common to stay in the hospital 4-5 days after you have had your baby which I found quite convenient as I had time to recover and support with our new baby unlike in England where it is usually 2-3 days.

Also if you have a good mutual even your private maternity care can be covered whilst in the UK usually going private is quite expensive.

However for me the most important benefit has been that we can bring up our children as bilingual. I have struggled so much to try and learn French and I am still not there but our children have a wonderful opportunity to speak 2 languages fluently, It is also the best age to learn a language when you are a baby and far easier than when you are an adult:)

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I tried to be as relaxed as possible but it was not easy as French is not my first language and every time I had to get my tests done or visit the gynacologist I was frustrated that I couldn’t express myself in my own language and had to rely on my husband to make the appointments and to be with me to translate what was going on. I also found the French public and admin side so confusing!! too much paper work and everyone telling you different things. Luckily I found (with a lot of difficulty) a mid-wife who spoke a bit of English and I felt more comfortable at this stage. There is not much of a support network for english expectant mothers , or if there is, it is very difficult to find.

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

There are a few things I experienced which were quite different to the culture I am used to. When it comes to pregnancy and parenting most people anywhere you live have always got an opinion. One thing that struck me most and until today I struggle with the choice that we as parents made was not to use a “dummy” for our child. Although there are some people who decide not to give the dummy, there is a large marjority who choose to give one to their child. We decided to try without one and as Kiara didn’t have the dummy, naturally she started sucking her thumb:) and till this day I always get comments that I should give her the dummy and that she will be sucking her thumb till she is 18 years old or even worse I once was told that eventually Kiara’s thumb may have to get amputated!

There is also one thing about French people and food. They have a very set structure for food which structures the whole day, at first I found this a bit rigid for example, you wouldn’t see anyone in the restaurant before 12.30pm and at 12.30pm you get a huge rush of people all wanting to eat their lunch at the same time. Also most restaurants would close after 2.30pm.
However when I had Kiara, I found this structure to be very advantageous as it gave Kiara a good eating habit. The food habit also helped her in the rhythm of the day, for example the nap was always coming after the lunch, the bath after dinner and sleep after bath. In England you don’t have this strong structure for food and snacking is very usual which can interfere in eating, sleeping and general habits.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I was very scared about being pregnant and thats why I did a lot of researching and reading about other people’s experiences (this is not a technique for everyone) but I felt more prepared and relaxed when I knew what could happen in different situations.

In fact on the day of my contractions I shocked myself at how calm I was. I remember the night very clearly where I wanted to make sure the christmas tree was decorated before I gave birth and I started having contractions regularly but not very strong. I sent my husband and his mother to bed and I stayed in the living room. By early morning my contractions were every 5 minutes and I was still calm but wondering if anyone was going to wake up:) My husband woke up in a panic saying he was only supposed to sleep for a couple of hours:) thats when I said ok I think it is time so we called the hospital – they told us to leave straight away as there was going to be a big lorry strike starting in 30 minutes on the road we needed to take. I was so calm, in fact, that I told my husband I really needed to go to IKEA to return something! he just looked at me with his mouth open, then he laughed 🙂

So my advice stay as relaxed and prepared mentally as much as you can. When it comes to fear and pain, breathe in and out calmly all along your pregnancy, it will eventually help you on the day of the birth. It is good to talk to people, get people’s advice but remember that everyone’s birth is different. And at last, when it comes to the baby, you are the mother, not the doctors nor your friends or relatives. Nobody can force you to do something you don’t want for your baby. It is your choice and the fathers on how to bring up your baby.

So now I have to start all this preparation again:) good luck to me 🙂

About Asha and Bebe-Monde

Asha bhatia bebe monde (2)Asha is the founder of Bebe-Monde where you can find gorgeous, great quality and original clothing and accessories for babies between 0-4 years. Check out the new organic baby clothing range on Bebe-Monde.

Find Bebe-Monde on Facebook
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bebe-monde asha bhatia


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Mother’s Day Around My World

Mother’s day is always a challenge for me! Which one do I celebrate?

A few years ago I posted a letter from her to me – an amusing projection from my side – but you can read it here!

My Mummy is Egyptian, I was born in Dubai, I am half English, living in France, and I have my gorgeous Mamas all over the world!

Celebrate them all I guess!

mothers-209x300Mother’s day has a few different dates and traditions across the world.

Here are a three that I mess up all the time!:

1. France: Mother’s Day/Fête des Mères

Napoleon tried to make Mother’s Day a national holiday at the turn of the 19th century but it didn’t happen!  More than a century later, Lyon had its own Mother’s Day celebration to honor women who had lost their sons to the First World War but it was not until May 24, 1950 that the Fête des Mères became an officially decreed holiday. The Fête des Mères is the last Sunday in May but if that Sunday is also the Pentecost, then Mother’s Day is pushed to the first Sunday in June.

2. Middle East: Mother’s Day/Vernal  Equinox

Apparently it’s the story of an Egyptian journalist called Mustafa Amin who introduced the concept of a Mother’s Day to Egypt after retelling a story about a widow who was ignored by her son. Amin and his brother Ali then proposed a day in Egypt to honor all mothers, and it quickly spread throughout much of the region. The story spread and they decided the first day of spring, March 21, was most appropriate day of the year to celebrate Mothers.
Mother’s day was first celebrated in Egypt in 1956, and is still observed throughout the Middle East.

3. United Kingdom – Mothering Sunday

Did you know that it was the Church of England that created Mothering Sunday to honor the mothers of England?
A few hundreds of years ago, Christians were were meant to go to their church each year to give respect to the woman who gave them life.
The 4th Sunday of Lent was the go-to day and it’s become the holiday to celebrate Mummies today!

Those are the 3 countries that most relate to me as far as mother’s day is concerned! !

When I was little I would always ask to get my mummy Thorntons chocolate and candles that smelled yummy!

In France it’s more flowers and but chocolates are always appreciated! I have had gorgeous drawings and cute little craft projects from BiP for Mother’s Day, but nothing beats a hug!

What do you do for mother’s day?

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Phoebe who is a British/Australian TCK and had her sons in France. 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?

I’m a British/Australian expat since birth currently living in France. I’m really not « from » anywhere having lived in 9 countries, I’m what’s called a TCK (third culture kid). I have 2 boys aged 15 and 9.

having a baby in france

Why did you have your children abroad?

I had my boys in France as it’s where I was living. It didn’t feel like « abroad » as I don’t have a « home » other than where I’m living in the moment !

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

As there was nowhere else I’d go to have my kids I can’t really say what the benefits were over anywhere else. But I can say that France has excellent medical care and everything to do with maternity and childbirth is 100% reimbursed by social security making it completely free. As I was considered an older mum for my 2nd baby I had a higher risk of certain problems and I really appreciated all the extra tests/ultrasounds etc I was given throughout my pregnancy. I was massively in pain towards the end of my 2nd pregnancy and hugely appreciated having my baby induced 2 weeks early to end my pain. This pain wasn’t life threatening for either me or the baby but my comfort and ability to function was considered important. My sister had exactly the same thing at the same time in UK and had to persevere till the end. I know which option I preferred and certainly felt the benefits of a more medicalised approach in France at this stage. For the births I had a double room for my first child, though there was no one else with me for most of the time I was there and a private room for my 2nd child. Both had private bathrooms. My babies were with me in the room but could be taken away and looked after if I wanted to rest. In France you stay in hospital for longer than in many countries and for me the benefit of this was that I felt rested and confident handling my newborn by the time I went home.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

For my 1st baby I’d only been in France for a couple of years and my French was OK but not great so I chose to give birth at the Franco-British Hospital in Paris as I thought there’d be more anglo influences and some English spoken. It turned out the only English thing was a portrait of the Queen Mother in the lobby!! At the time there were no parenting blogs or online help so I relied on English books on childbirth/pregnancy etc. All my influences and ideas were very British, not French; things like birth-plans & pain relief differed hugely and I went into the birth process feeling disappointed that nothing was how I wanted it. For my 2nd child 6 years later I was much more confident and my French heaps better so I chose the local “clinique” which turned out to be way nicer than the Franco-British Hospital! I also chose to go with the flow and do it the « French way » not fighting every bit of advice I was given and in doing so had a much happier and satisfying birth experience. « When in Rome and all that.. »

having a baby france

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

If I take my « home » country to be UK then yes I continually came up against differences of opinions, particularly concerning what was OK to eat and what wasn’t during pregnancy, drugs during birth and the whole medicalisation of pregnancy. However, unlike many of the others talking about France in this series, I was fully encouraged to breastfeed and continue as long as I wanted. Yes, many health professionals were surprised to hear I was still breastfeeding at 8,9, 10 months but they were impressed and encouraging not negative. And as I mentioned above, once I’d accepted more of the French way of doing things I was much more relaxed. Differences of opinions continued throughout babyhood and toddler years (and still continue now I guess), I had the French side saying things like put shoes on very early to encourage walking, and the English side saying wait till the baby can walk before putting shoes on so as not to harm the feet ! Let’s face it, in the end all French and English babies learn to walk at pretty much the same age and neither has obviously more or less feet problems when older, so many of these things are just cultural differences, neither better nor worse.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I would say go with your gut feelings but try not to fight the host country’s ideas too much as it’s likely to all work out all right in the end. Stand up for what you believe in but listen to professional advice too. (I’m referring to pregnancy and birth here rather than parenting choices). If you don’t speak the language of the country you’re in do your best to find an English-speaking doctor/midwife as it’s hugely important to feel like you can communicate properly. Try not to assume your way is « better », learning to accept other cultures is enriching and if you’re like me at all then ultimately it’s more relaxing!

Find out more about Phoebe here: 



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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.


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!

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: AUSTRALIA

Having a baby abroad AustraliaThis week I talk to Tasmin, an American who had her baby daughter in Australia as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about the benefits of being raised as a dual citizen, the challenge of getting affordable baby stuff and the importance of getting professional baby photo’s done. Here is her story:


Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her?

I’m Tasmin and I grew up in Texas, but my dad is from New Zealand so I was raised a little cross culturally (eating lamb, loving to travel). I had visited family in Sydney before and always wanted to live here since it is a big city, but clean with heaps of friendly people and things to do on beautiful beaches. I married another American and we moved around the U.S. a bit after University (where we met studying abroad in New Zealand) and I finally convinced him to sell everything and hop on a plane to Sydney 4 years ago. My daughter is four months old and she was born here.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?

Being raised as a dual citizen allowed me lots of opportunities like studying abroad at a non-international tuition cost in New Zealand, sometimes travelling under the radar in developing nations, and being able to live abroad in Commonwealth countries without prolonged visa applications.  I’ve always wanted my children to have those same opportunities.  Growing up in a small Texas town it made me feel special to have a connection to another country since so many of the people around me didn’t even have passports.  I think it gave me more of an open view of the world and its possibilities from a young age.

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

The U.S. has a certain way of doing things, and when it comes to birthing and raising babies, it’s not usually my personal preference.  Australia is very family friendly and the work arrangements especially appealed to me.  It is very common, if not expected, that you will take a full year off for each child.  Provided you return within 52 weeks, you have full job security at the same position with the same pay. In addition to your employer’s leave payment (averaging 8-12 weeks full pay), you also get 18 weeks paid from the government at minimum wage (replacing the old baby bonus scheme this year).  It means you do not derail your career by spending the first year of their life with your child full time.






Pregnant Tasmin

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was just fine.  To be fair, I had been here for 3 years before getting pregnant, so we had established a solid network of friends, plus I have cousins that live in town along with other extended family in New Zealand.

Our parents back in the U.S. of course would have liked to be more a part of it all, but Facebook status updates daily, photo posts, and Skype calls weekly have made staying in touch very easy.

Getting a hold of quality, inexpensive baby items has been really challenging since Australia is such a small place.  We have been getting most of our essentials from Amazon, sent to parents’ houses, consolidated and then mailed over to us in care packages.  Not ideal, but saves us ridiculous amounts of money.

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

Prior to getting pregnant, I would not have considered myself ‘crunchy’ but as I researched my options for everything on childbirth to child rearing, I kept leaning that way with my preferences.  Australia generally advocates everything that it part of my parenting philosophy, in contrast with the U.S.. Not to say you can’t fight for it there, but you would have to.

Here we have public and private hospital options and it was confusing for me to sort out, but I opted to go public  through Midwifery group care.  It was great because I saw one midwife for all my prenatal appointments (if any issues had showed up making me high-risk I would have automatically seen an OB as well).  She was also part of a small team of awesome midwives who would be there when I actually delivered the baby.  The rooms all had big tubs if you wanted a waterbirth, along with all sorts of other things (ball, mat) for the active birthing they advocated. They tried to keep you on a natural, intervention-free path if possible, but of course if you wanted an epidural, etc. it was available.  Since the birthing centre was within the hospital, any emergency situations could be immediately dealt with.  And it was all free.

The hospitals are also “baby friendly” in that they do not take a healthy baby away from you, they are not put in a nursery, never given formula unless that is something you have chosen (then you have to mix it yourself), and they don’t advocate pacifiers at the beginning as they can interfere with establishing breastfeeding.

Here it is expected that you will breastfeed for a year.  There is a lot of support in the hospital to get you going in the right direction, there are lactation nurses available at the early childhood centres twice a week for drop in help (they will watch you and show you how to improve your issue whatever it might be), and the Australian Breastfeeding Association has a 24hr hotline you can ring along with weekly meetings and coffee mornings with related discussion topics.  Inevitably there are some people who cannot or will not breastfeed, but formula use is definitely frowned upon.

There is great Community support as well.  After I left the hospital a midwife visited me 3 times over the next week to help me settle in, answer questions about bathing, pumping, whatever.  Then there is the Early Childhood centre who you have your well-baby appointments with for 4wks (they come to the house), 8wks, 3mths…etc.  You can attend an organised mothers group for the first 8 weeks hosted there, and then branch out and organise yourselves.  This has been one of the best things for me – weekly lunches with other women who have babies the exact same age to compare notes and commiserate.  It’s a fantastic support network especially for first time mums.  Karitane and Tresillian are also great non-profit organisations of nurses who answer a 24hr hotline on behavioural/sleep issues and you can be referred to them for day or week stays where the nurses actually show you how to fix an issue.  It’s mostly free as well.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Decide what you would like and find a carer that shares that philosophy, then as things unfold on the day of your birth, trust their recommendations.  It will never go as planned and you need to be flexible for your own safety and the health of your baby while still feeling engaged and empowered.  Really take advantage of the resources available to you whether they are hotlines to ask questions or mothers groups.  It helps you stay connected (not isolated in a foreign country with a screaming new baby) and realise what is normal and what is not so you can seek out help.  And take lots of pictures of the baby for your family back “home” including a proper family portrait session – you won’t regret it.

Tasmin is a photographer here is her site: Connect with Tasmin on facebook for “lots of mommy related musings”


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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: HONG KONG

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Nicole who is a New Zealander, who grew up in Australia, and had her daughter in Hong Kong. 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?

unnamed-6Ni Hao! Sorry, I’m currently learning Chinese after living in Hong Kong for almost four years, so I’m a tad excited about spreading the oriental love!

So! I am Nicole and I was born in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ (aka New Zealand) but have lived in Australia for most of my life…

A journalist, I’d been working as a television news reader at 24 hour news channel Sky News for the best part of a decade when we decided to do that thing called “live life on the edge” …and make the move to the cosmopolitan capital, Hong Kong.

My husband is a Hotel Manager and when the opportunity came up to move to the so-called ‘City that Never Sleeps,’ we (nervously) jumped at the chance.

Why did you have your children abroad?

Well, funny you should ask – turns out I wasn’t going to get much sleep either! In a twist of fate, that very same week we also found out we were expecting our first baby. Talk about a double whammy!

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

expat baby hong kongNot having had a child in my home country, having Ava (who’s now 3.5) overseas is all I know, but naturally in the lead up to her birth, I was apprehensive about being so far away from home, without family help and support.…

Of course everyone would say “You’re not really having the baby in HK are you, ringing massive alarm bells in my head, but once we arrived in Hong Kong I realized everything was very westernized and the doctors are on an equal par with any in Australia. I had nothing to worry about and it was relatively smooth sailing all the way.

My family were (thankfully) able to come over as soon as Ava was born and that made things much easier.

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

Certainly did! Locals tend to have quite differing views on giving birth in Asia, so I was met with a few unsettling comments in those early days, particularly being so new to the city, I was still so unaware of the culture (which stems back thousands of years)!

In China, it’s status quo to have a month’s confinement when you give birth which basically means bed rest for four weeks and staying indoors, away from cool air and wind, not bathing or washing your hair and eating specific (often medicinal) food, just to name a few things.

Consequently, I would get some strange looks when I had Ava out at the shops at just two weeks old. I started telling people she was older to avoid the wrath! Locals here are not ones to hold back and were always extremely forthcoming about just how I should be holding/feeding and dressing my new baby. I look back and laugh now, but then as a new (very sensitive) mum it was pretty harrowing at times.

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

unnamed-4Ava’s still young so it’s hard to pinpoint what benefits there are for her, but I am sure all of the traveling she’s doing can only be beneficial and she has partially slotted into Hong Kong’s international schooling system which allows her to meet children from all different backgrounds and cultures. Her class is also bilingual with an English teacher and a Chinese teacher.

For me, in Hong Kong I’m very lucky to have a ‘Domestic Helper’ which certainly eases the load! Life here is relatively easy, with a great public transport system to get around and everything you need at your finger tips. There’s also a great bunch of like minded expats which always helps when you’ve got friends to travel your journey with.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Try to take it all with a grain of salt if you are somewhere where the culture is very different. The locals mean well, but always trust your own instinct and do it your way.

Make sure you research well before you choose your doctor and hospital. There should be plenty of forums and online groups to help, if in doubt.

It’s not easy being away from home and family and having a child only highlights that. Make sure you’re prepared and if you can, do regular trips home. (Mind you flying is not easy until they are about three, so deep breaths!)

Hook up with other expat mums in the same boat. They’ll be your life savers.


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About Nicole:

ZbcT71eHNicole Webb is a former News Reader with 24 hour news channel Sky News Australia. Three and a half years ago she took a whole lot of deep breaths and relocated from Sydney with her hotelier husband (and bump) to the city that never sleeps, Hong Kong. The trio has survived and thrived on expat life and as well as being mum to a hyped-up toddler, Nicole works as a freelance writer, presenter, MC, media consultant and blogger.

Find her expat musings on her blog.

Follow her on Twitter and join her Facebook page.