Category Archives: Italy

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 I was sure that becoming a SAHM would leave me frumpy, outdated and with no reasons to dress!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: ITALY

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Kate who is American and had her daughter in Florence, Italy. 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?

Having-baby-abroad-in-Italy-Kate-HashI am 29 years old and I live in beautiful Florence, Italy with my husband Rob and our sweet little bambina Livia (6 months old). I am originally from Philadelphia, my husband from Indiana and we met in Washington, D.C. and have lived in Louisville, KY. This Harvard Business Review article basically describes us and our expat challenges. We work for ourselves designing + developing websites and blogs. We help our clients translate their business goals into success online. It’s fun and we have a blast working together.

Our daughter was born here in Florence in September 2012.

Why did you have your daughter abroad? What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

We were living in Italy for about a year and just really loved the role that children play in the culture here. They are adored. Loved. Appreciated. I felt like having a baby here would be a super positive experience. Plus, if I’m to be honest, I loved the idea of having a baby for “free.” Yes, I pay taxes here, but as a self-employed person in the U.S. medical insurance that covers maternity is just simply out of reach. It was reassuring for me personally and professionally not to have to worry about that aspect of everything. I felt like I got to focus on my pregnancy and my baby and not so much the silly financial logistics of it all.

Healthcare in Italy varies quite a bit and in Tuscany we’re very fortunate to have amazing maternity care. As a first-time mamma-to-be I loved the libretto di gravidanza we got — essentially a little booklet with appointment sheets for everything I would need over the course of pregnancy. My husband and I referred to it as “The Idiot’s Guide to Pregnancy.” We are conversational in Italian, but not fluent, so what the booklet allowed us to do was research each test well in advance and learn necessary vocabulary.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Calm! I was never asked about my birth plan or parenting style or any of the really crazy things people ask about in the states when your baby is still only the size of a peanut. It all felt very laid back and natural. Of course there were times that I wished I was closer to my family (my sister was pregnant at the exact time as me), but in the end I felt like my husband and I got to have a very intimate experience with the pregnancy of our first child. We were in a sort of cocoon and it was nice.

Having baby abroad Italy

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

Haha, yes! My doctor asked me point blank if I planned to gain weight like an Italian or an American. They are strict about weight gain here and do not like it to get out of control. There is less of an interest in being PC (politically correct) here. They just tell it like it is — even to a hormonal pregnant lady!
Also, back to this idea of a birth plan. On one very popular U.S. pregnancy site they had a 15-page birth plan PDF that they told you to download and fill out with your doctor. I laughed when I saw it — if you tried to show that to someone here they would just laugh at you. In their minds, there is really only one way to have a baby.
In terms of parenting choices, they are really big on bundling kids up here to a degree that is a little ridiculous. If Livia goes out with anything less than 8 scarves and 5 pairs of pants on under a huge down coat all of the nonni go crazy. Our little girl hates being bundled and we prefer our baby to be happy, so naturally we get the side eye a lot. Thankfully, spring is almost here!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

When you decide to have a baby abroad, embrace the culture. I see a lot of women here that complain about everything and/or worry to an unhealthy degree. I think it creates a toxic environment on so many levels. We kind of just dove into the deep end and figured out how to swim. I’m really glad we did because the pregnancy experience in Florence was very positive for us.


Want to share your story? Get in touch

About Kate: 
kate hashKate is the marketing and design guru of Hash Consulting. If you’re looking to create (or revamp) your organization’s website, she’s your gal. She enjoys developing organizational structures for websites that make them user-friendly and intuitive. What’s more, she also loves doing the design and coding work for sites, too. Kate has a BA in Journalism from The George Washington University and a MA in Higher Education Administration from The University of Louisville. Her professional background includes three years at one of the leading b2b publishing companies and one year in higher education marketing. Before founding Hash Consulting with Rob, Kate worked as an independent consultant for four years. Kate loves writing about travel, Italy, blogging and Italian dual citzenship, and has previously written for Design*Sponge, Travelated and Southern Flourish.