Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making we are in Ireland. Here is Tahera’s story about having her daughter abroad, even if it didn’t feel abroad to her. She talks about the challenges of having a premature baby, being away from her family and feeling isolated. 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?
Hi, I’m Tahera Khorakiwala. I’m 30 years old. I’m Indian but I grew up in the Middle East. Initially Saudi Arabia until I was 8 years old and then Oman until I was 18 at which point I moved to Dublin, Ireland for college. I met my husband in college. After graduation we were both offered positions in Dublin and we took advantage of these opportunities to further our post graduate training. We were married three years later and in June 2009 our little girl arrived nine weeks early.
Why did you have your daughter abroad?
Leila was born in Dublin, Ireland for no other reason than this is the country where both my husband and I resided at the time of her birth. I’m not the kind of person to live in one country where I get all my medical consultations and travel to a second country to give birth. I firmly believe that my medical care and the place of my delivery should be the same. Ireland is a pioneering centre setting the standards in modern obstetric care around the world. I had no problems giving birth here. I would do it again.
What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
My child was premature and sick for most of her first year necessitating repeated hospital admissions, multiple surgical operations with multidisciplinary care and medium-term follow up. I’m not sure she would have received this level of care in a country where the healthcare system was less sophisticated or in fact even have survived her birth.
As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
I didn’t feel I was abroad. I’ve felt at home in Ireland for a long time now; having said that, it would have been nice to have my family nearby to share the exciting milestones of pregnancy with. In the time the followed her birth, again it would have been lovely to have my family here every step of the way. I must confess though that my family has been superlative in their commitment to my and my daughter’s welfare and they have travelled numerous times to lend support during Leila’s stormy first year. Once Leila had recovered and it was possible to participate in group baby activities, I did feel isolated. There was no one to cushion the daily blows of our situation. People would stop us on the street regularly and comment on how tiny she was. They would point at her and exclaim to each other. We couldn’t participate in many activities that babies her age were participating in because she was so far behind. It was lonely. Sadly while Ireland has excellent doctors and healthcare workers it didn’t have much in the way of community support for parents of premature babies. This is changing now and there is an excellent group called Irish Premature Babies doing some wonderful work.
Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
I don’t think so. I believe that around the world people are misinformed equally about what it means to be born premature. There is an impression that premature babies are simply small but they will all turn out just fine. This is not true. The possible outcomes for premature babies range from death to long term chronic health issues such as cerebral palsy, medium term health issues such as cardiac defects requiring surgical intervention, short term health issues such as dependence on oxygen in the first few months following discharge to no difficulties whatsoever.
My parenting choices have been governed by her health issues. I do not believe these would have been questioned anywhere under the same circumstances.
What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
You don’t have to do it all on your own. Help and support can come from anywhere. It may be your neighbour asking if there is anything he or she can do for you. It may be an internet group offering you a forum where you can vent and be heard. It may be your parents or your siblings. It doesn’t matter. Help is help in whatever form or language it appears. You need every single last bit of it you can get. Don’t turn any away. You don’t have to do it all on your own. They may not understand what you’re going through exactly but they still want to help. Let them.
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