Category Archives: Global Differences

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Kathleen who is Canadian and had her son in France. Here is her story:

having a baby abroad in FranceTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

My name is Kathleen. I’m 45 years old and I’m from Canada, although I spent part of my childhood in Japan. My husband is French. Our two children are 5 and 3 years old. We currently live in Toronto, Canada.

My husband and I met in Kuwait in 2003 and after getting married in 2005, we moved to Algeria, then the next summer to Vietnam with plans to stay for a couple of years. However, after about 7 months there, I got pregnant with our daughter, so I went ‘home’ to Regina, Saskatchewan to have her. We were living in a very remote and rural area of Vietnam at the time.  

When our daughter was 2 month’s old, we moved to Qatar for the year. Then, next stop. France.  I got pregnant within a couple of months of arriving in France and our son was born there.

Why did you have your children abroad?

We had my son in France because we were living in my husband’s home country at the time.  

Having a baby in FranceWhat do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

My experience with the French public health care system, though sometimes confusingly and extremely bureaucratic, is that it is excellent.  I was pleased with the care I received during my pregnancy.  I also liked that we could stay at the hospital after the birth a bit longer than you would in Canada. I realize that’s not for everyone, but I sure did enjoy the rest. And surprisingly, the food was yummy. At a public hospital! 

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I had a frightening second pregnancy. It started out fine and as it was my second pregnancy, I didn’t have all the anxiety and nervousness of my first. I was much more relaxed, even in dealing with doctors in another language.

My only anxiety was dealing with all the paperwork and trying to find a hospital.

However, by the 8th or 9th week, we  received the scary news that I had contracted toxoplasmosis and would need to see a specialist plus have monthly ultrasounds.  I was immediately prescribed antibiotics, which I took for the remainder of the pregnancy.

After that, I’d say I was alternately zen and stressed. We had to wait until the 18th week to have an ultrasound that would show how the baby was developing.  After getting good results, I chose not to have an amnio which would have determined 100 percent whether the toxo parasite had tranfered to our son. I had expected my OB/GYN to disagree, partly due to my age as well (I was 42 at the time) but he accepted my decision. (My OB/GYN in Canada was not happy when I said no to an amnio at 39 years old.)

You may not want to hear that there is more, but there is indeed more…while things were looking good as our son was developing, I ended up with a twisted ovary at the 7th month mark. The pain was excruciating and due to a slight infection and the location of the pain, my OB/GYN thought I might have appendicitis.  No tests could prove otherwise and the pain was intensifying.  I had to have an abdominal laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). Both my son and I were put under general anesthetic and I was warned by my OB/GYN that there was a possibility that our baby would also be delivered by c-section if there were complications (but that our baby would be ok, but have to be in NICU).  

The operation was a success and my baby stayed put. Then I was faced with the decision of whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine as the virus was in full force in the Ile de France at the time. The maternity wards were not allowing any visitors, including children, during check ups and after the birth except the pregnant woman’s partner Since I was put on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy, I decided against getting the vaccine. There was a lot of hysteria at the time and the media was reporting that pregnant women who got the flu were badly affected, so it was a tough decision.

In any case, a few days after I got the official ok to move about, our son was born, 3 weeks early, but healthy.  My mom, who had come to take care of me, got to meet him right away (she received special permission from the hospital to visit) so that was pretty special.  

My delivery was quick and uneventful, for me. The OB/GYN wasn’t there, but the midwives were supportive as was my husband, who rushed out of the delivery room to get the midwives to come back sooner than expected. They felt it would be ages before I delivered. They were wrong and I knew it.  I could tell my son was coming fast.
Post-pregnancy, we were back at the hospital a few times so my son could get his eyes tested and his brain scanned. Tests later showed that he had not been infected by toxo, to our relief.

Having a baby abroad franceDid you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

I didn’t gain as much weight in France as I did in Canada with my first so I wasn’t ‘harassed’ about it. I had heard that could be a problem if you don’t stay within the recommended weight guidelines.
The only other opinion I heard that was different from what I experienced in Canada was that my OB/GYN said that if you are still pushing after half an hour, they will intervene (ie with forceps, followed by c-section.) I pushed for nearly 2.5 hours with my daughter in Canada and he was shocked by that. He felt that that could have caused me/my pelvic floor irreparable damage. Fortunately, my second labour and delivery was super fast so I didn’t need to test this.
Regarding breastfeeding, I had had a very difficult time breastfeeding my daughter in Canada, but the support there was stellar, including home visits.  I expected to have a hard time with my son too and did worry about support, but both the nurses and the lactation consultants who visited me on the third day were very helpful and supportive. Fortunately, my son latched quite easily and breastfeeding him wasn’t as hard.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

If you’re in a country where you are recommended not to eat certain foods that would be no big deal in your own country, maybe listen to the advice. We have no idea how I contracted toxo, but I didn’t worry too much about eating salads nor pinkish (not rare, but pinkish) meat. I should have been more careful.  
And if you have a diagnosis of toxo or some other medical issue that is more common in the country where you are pregnant, read up on it in both your own language but also read the stats, information and tips from the country you’re in. I found the French websites dealing with toxo much less scary and more factual and hopeful. If that makes sense.
Finally, it really helped to belong to an Anglo parenting group in the Paris area. I had a lot of support and help, both IRL and on the forum during my pregnancy.


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About Kathleen: 

Kathleen OmalleyKathleen is a teacher and co-creator of, an online resource inspiring expat trailing/accompanying spouses to tap into their creative sides, their passions, and their interests to better learn the local language.  
Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Maha who is half English, half Egyptian and had her children in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Here is her story:

having a baby abroad Dubai little farasha mahaTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

I’m 28, half English half Egyptian born in Dubai, lived around the middle east but went to school and University in England.

I have a 4 year old daughter. I had her in Dubai at a private hospital. My 23 month twin boys were also born in Dubai but at a Government pediatric and maternity hospital.

Why did you have your children abroad?

My husband is from Dubai and my family live here also so with my first delivering here was the obvious choice. Also I didnt want to be away from my husband who wouldnt be able to travel because of work.

My experience delivering my daughter was not one i look back on happily.My doctor was an older indian woman who was quite a ‘hard’ person and always very rushed. I was put on bed rest at the beginning of the pregnancy due to bleeding so I just wanted a good and experienced doctor. I guess thats why i over looked her harsh nature. I enrolled in antenatal classes at her recommendation and when the midwife heard who my doctor was she told me “you’ll by induced my 39 weeks and be strapped to monitors” – not what i wanted at all! I used the guide from those classes to draft my birth plan and insisted we went through it together. I didnt want anything unusual. Majority of my requests were simply “to be informed before rupturing membranes / performing a sweep / starting internal monitoring” etc and also for internal examinations to only be performed by the same person (subject to shift changes – i was being realistic). In short, not one of the points on my birth plan , that she even signed off on, was followed. From the start i was told they were just going to “check” me and then i had excurciating pain… because she performed a sweep. The next time she just wanted to “check” me I burst into tears because I thought I lost control of my bladder. In fact she had burst my water. And did i mention this happened at 39 weeks because she told me that if i didnt let her induce me then my baby would be too big to deliver naturally and i’d have no choice but to have a csection. I also requested that only the necessary staff be in the labour room and guests be limited to immediate family but 18 hours into my labour i noticed random nurses coming in and out of the room. They would stand, look at us, smile and walk out. My husband ask why they keep coming in and out and the midwife giggled. Her answer? “They’ve been told you are a cute couple. they wanted to see”.

After the birth I was very happy to see that the hospital listened to my request that my new baby be exclusively breastfed and they put a big sticker on the bassinet. On day 2 they gave her a nice warm bath and she slept and slept…and slept! After 3 hours i tried waking her for a feed but she was too sleepy. An hour later we stripped her off and tried again but still she slept. They told me that they would need to check her blood sugar level to make sure she wasnt sleeping because of low sugar levels. I agreed. They pricked her heel and of course she cried. While they tested the blood i tried to nurse her but she didnt want to latch on and the blood sugar test was fine. Since the test was fine I refused the nurses suggestion of a “top up feed”. 20 minutes later another nurse walked into my room and in front of my guests announced that i was starving my baby and that i was cruel. she said that they would need to give her formula with a syringe. I was so upset and very embarrassed. In hindsight i wonder if i was alone in the room if i would have stood up to her. But i gave in. Tears streamed down my face while they gave her the formula not because it was formula but because I was worried about the knock on effect – her full tummy means she wouldn’t nurse for even longer and i was desperately trying to establish my supply, and most importantly my wishes were unnecessarily disregarded yet again. Thankfully we were able to figure out breastfeeding ourselves and with the help of some amazing lactation consultants and I nursed her until she was 21 months.

We were blessed with a healthy baby girl at the end of it all so thats all that matters but the experience there was dreadful. When i fell pregnant again and knowing i was due in the summer I straight away said i would deliver in England… but then we found out we were having twins, and the pregnancy was a bit bumpy from the start so we decided that it would be best staying here. I definitely didnt like the idea of flying back with 3 kids under 3! As soon as i told anyone i was having twins i was told csection and of course exclusively breastfeeding isnt even worth thinking about. I chose the government hospital because they have the best NICU unit and no other hospital was able to support babies as premature as this government hospital could. As soon as i mentioned delivery to the doctors there, the idea of a natural labour was completely normal. They carefully explained the possible situations that i needed to keep in mind but said if both babies were head down then 100% i could attempt a natural delivery. In the UAE doctors are not allowed to deliver a breach baby naturally, however, in the case of twins my doctor told me that even if Baby B was transverse, which he ended up being, or breach natural labour is still an option. The twins were born naturally and thankfully Baby B turned himself head down during the labour. It was the most empowering moment of my life. I wasnt poke and proded, put in unnatural and uncomfortable positions. As for feeding, breastfeeding was very much encoraged. unfortunately one of my twins needed some nicu time and his brother was with me wanting to nurse endlessly. when i called the nurse in the middle of the night i was expecting her to offer formula and i was ready to say yes! Instead she told me if i was too tired to keep nursing, i could express some milk and she would give it to him with a cup or syringe while i slept. Without that support i dont know if i would have had enough milk for the both of them and continued to exclusively breastfeed them. They’re 23 months and still nursing 🙂

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

The private healthcare here is usually very good and since everyone (or most) have health insurance, it makes it accessible to all. However, for me the government hospital was truly incredible. Theres no bells and whistles, long waits in the antenatal clinic and standard ultrasound equipment but when it came down to whats really important, I could not fault them. A huge benefit this year has been the access to hired help! Live in helpers are the norm and is an affordable luxury.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

l read a LOT of forums and blogs when i was pregnant with my first but then avoided them in my second pregnancy. I envied the mothers who were able to have home births, water births, whose birth plans were respected!

Part of the local culture here is visiting when someone delivers. we visit in the hospital so typically the new mummy wears a pretty nursing gown and will have organized a hairdresser to come an blow dry her hair in the hospital. She will take a hospital suite to accommodate all the guests and have organised canapes, juice and tea to be served. The suite will be decorated in a particular theme and gifts will be given to each person who visits. On top of preparing for the new baby this is a lot to plan for too! Typically you receive a lot of guests for your first baby – we served 100 coffees on the first day after having my daughter. Hospitals set visiting hours but when you have a private suite they don’t really enforce it. I was receiving people from 10am until 1030pm. It is hard and tiring but its also lovely to really be celebrating the new arrival 🙂

I was so lucky to have my mother with me throughout and the support of my husbands family.

having a baby in Dubai maha little farashaDid you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

I didn’t realise until I had my daughter just how pro-breastfeeding I am. It has been incredible seeing the support you get here in a culture that encourages mothers to nurse their children until their 2nd birthday. When feeding the boys I really had to trust my gutt as with all big families and communities there’s support and theirs a lot of ‘advice’. Many told me that it was too much work for me to breastfeed both of the boys (i tandem feed with the help of the EZTwin nursing pillow) and that i should nurse one, and pump for the other and then give in a bottle. This seemed like waaay too much work for me. When the boys started becoming colicky, which we later discovered was silent reflux, i was told that boys were hungrier than girls and that they were fussing because they were hungry. I trusted my gutt, asked my midwife and my milk supply, or possible lack of it, wasnt the problem

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Have a plan but be flexible. Noone knows whats going to happen when you go into labour. Yes, it would be amazing to have candles, nice music, oil massages and be rocking on a ball through the labour but sometimes that just doesnt happen… and if it doesn’t thats ok. In hindsight i was so upset not because of what was actually happening. Why would i be? My dream came true – a healthy baby. I was upset because what i imagined didnt happen

Trust your gut! Advice from others is always well meaning advice but can lead you on the wrong track or really make you worry that youre doing everything wrong as its usually the complete opposite of what the person before said!

Stand your ground. Insist that the doctor listens to you and respects your wishes (as long as they dont jeopardise the health of you or the baby of course)

Get help with breastfeeding! I took a package with a midwife to come to my house once a week since we dont have health visitors like in the UK. Each time she came she would check the boys latch just to be sure. the minute things started to go off track i’d call her. Get the problem sorted early and then its easy to deal with. Problems with breastfeeding can be so painful for mummy. Don’t suffer!

Get a nursing cover! You don’t need to be stuck at home just because you’re breastfeeding…and you definitely don’t need to sit in the public toilet every time baby gets hungry. As a muslim woman wanting even more modesty and also feeding an older baby i found that most nursing covers weren’t wide enough so started designing my own. Feeding my babies when out and about has never been an issue.


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About Maha:

Maha Gorton Little FarashaMaha is the founder and creator of Little Farasha  (“Farasha” meaning butterfly in Arabic) is a collection of hand crafted, Middle Eastern inspired accessories for trendy babies and glamous yet modest mothers.

Check out her stunning Keffiyah dribble bibs, nursing covers and ghitra bags!

Connect with Maha on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram





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.


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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.

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: Sweden

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Erin who is American. She’s shares her experience of having her fifth baby in Sweden. 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?

A native of Wichita, Kansas, I am on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard.  My family and I have lived in various areas throughout the US, including Southern California, Washington, D.C., and most recently Valdez, Alaska, but this is our first time living abroad.  My husband and I have five children, ages 10, 8, 6, 4, and 3-months.  Our first four children were born at military hospitals in the U.S.  Our fifth child was born at the city hospital in Malmö, Sweden.

having baby abroad in swedenWhy did you have your fifth son abroad?

I discovered I was pregnant a few weeks before receiving my military orders to Sweden in January 2012.  We certainly had the option to decline the orders, but for many reasons we decided to welcome the challenge and adventure with open arms. We moved to Malmö, Sweden with the Coast Guard in July 2012, arriving when I was 34 weeks pregnant with our youngest son.

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

Swedes are very proud of their socialized healthcare system.  The feel very strongly that their health care system surpasses the US, among other countries, by a large margin.  While many expats may believe that this would be the biggest benefit to having a child in Sweden, I already receive fully funded health care as a member of the military.  So, while I recognize this is not a benefit for me, it may be for others.

One benefit for me was living the experience of child birth in a different culture.  I was born and raised in the same Midwestern city and this was completely different from anything I have experienced.

Another benefit included setting my own pace for the birth of my son.  My previous hospital birthing experiences felt very institutionalized, meaning upon my admittance to the hospital, I was put in bed with an IV and 24/7 electronic monitoring of the baby by nurses and a doctor.  The Swedish system allowed me to progress as my body and mind allowed.  The midwife only monitored the baby with the monitor machine two or three times for 10-20 minutes each.  With the exception of my first child, all my births progressed similarly, coincidentally.

A week after the birth, I was directed to visit the local pediatric clinic with my baby.  Visiting the midwife at the Barnvard Centralen (a neighborhood pediatric clinic) was a nice touch.  I could discuss many things with her regarding my baby, me, concerns regarding our recent move, and how the Swedish system worked.  Nearly everyone speaks English which was especially helpful.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I felt challenged to be flexible and completely accepting of the “Swedish” way.  The Swedes are pushy in a passive sort of way, meaning that when they “suggest” you do something, they are really telling you that is the way it is to be done.  So, when the midwife (at a clinic that I did not seek care) told me to call her between 0800-0830 and I called at 0836, she would not talk to me until the next day.

It was frustrating and difficult to arrange for pre-natal care because I did not initially have a Swedish personal number, the equivalent of a social security number, and I was looking to start care at 34-weeks (even though I had received pre-natal care in the US) – and found care by 38 weeks.  The only clinic willing to help me get access to the socialized system was Mama Mia.  The midwife for my prenatal visits to Mama Mia was exceptional.  She was warm, welcoming and accepting of my situation and even created a temporary personal number to ensure my information was prepared for my labor.  She was a tremendous help in entering my information into the Swedish system, which made my hospital admittance that much easier, and assisted greatly with post-natal care.

The hospital staff was hesitatingly welcoming.  Although my water broke 8-hours earlier, they did not want to admit me because I was not having strong and consistent contractions.  In the US, I would have been admitted immediately with a delivery expected within 24-hours.  In Sweden, however, they wanted to give me up to 3-days to deliver once my water has broken.  I did not know this little bit of information until my water broke, which made the waiting especially frustrating.  However, they admitted me since this was not my first pregnancy.

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

Well, yes, and where to begin?

First of all, while in labor (the wrong time to ask), I asked about pain relief options – specifically regarding epidurals.  I had epidurals with my previous kids (with minimal success).  In Sweden, very few mothers request an epidural especially after their first childbirth.  As the contractions grew too strong to talk through, she casually mentioned that women use happy gas – which I gratefully accepted!  It was just the right amount of relief.

All deliveries are accomplished by a midwife unless there are complications.  Our midwife was very good and seemed experienced.  My son had the umbilical cord around his neck, which she handled quickly and with ease.

Circumcision is not allowed in Sweden.  According to some, it is “being talked about” but no real progress is being made.  My insurance company realizes this, so they fund travel to the nearest Military Treatment Facility (in Germany) when the baby is 6-months old for a circumcision if we so desire.

Finally, our parenting choices are quite different.  Swedes generally don’t have more than two kids.  We chose to have five children and receive many stares from the locals when we walk around the city with our clan.  As Americans, we tend to be a bit louder in public than the quiet, reserved Swedes.  The saying is that loud people are either drunk or American!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Be flexible and open-minded to their culture.  Remember that thousands of babies have been born following their beliefs, culture and system.  It may not be exactly what you expect or have experienced, but be realize their perspective as well.

Definitely visit the hospital and go to a Swedish midwife prior to the birth – Mama Mia was excellent.  If anything, this will get you into the Swedish system and make things much easier once you go into labor.

Ask any and all questions without hesitation.  You need to feel comfortable with your pre-natal care, labor & delivery, and the care to you and your baby following the birth.  Research the differences between your home country and Sweden – such as vaccinations.

Push the system to meet your needs.  My son was tongue tied and needed a very simple procedure done on his tongue.  It took two weeks to get an appointment scheduled (we received the appointment information by mail) and the appointment was scheduled for two months later.  We figured this would not be a problem.  However, at that point, he was 3 ½ months old and had established a weak feel for nursing.  Soon after the procedure, he rejected nursing and is now only bottle-fed.  If you have a concern, don’t wait like we did with our son’s tongue.  They may be willing to get you an earlier appointment.


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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: Canada

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Juliette who is French. She’s shares her experience of having a baby in Canada. Here is her story:


having a baby in CanadaTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your son and where did you have him?

My name is Juliette but you can call me “Zhu”—that’s my Chinese name and penname. I’m 29 and I grew up in Nantes, France. I left France at 18 to go traveling and somehow ended up in Canada—this is a rather long story actually! I have been living in Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, since 2004; and I became a Canadian citizen in 2009. I consider myself a citizen of the world and I live in a multicultural house with my Chinese-Canadian partner. I just gave birth five weeks ago to our Canadian-Chinese-French baby, Mark Floyd.

Why did you have your son abroad?

I don’t consider myself an expat—I’m a Canadian citizen now and I haven’t lived in France since I was 18. Canada is “home”, and I never consider going back to France to have our baby there. If any­thing, hav­ing the baby in France would have been more com­pli­cated. I am no longer covered by the French health­care sys­tem because I am no longer a res­i­dent. I would have needed to sup­port myself, and find­ing a job in France would have been very dif­fi­cult, con­sid­er­ing my lack of French experience—ironically!—and the fact that well, I was expect­ing. Finally, my partner doesn’t have an immi­gra­tion sta­tus in Europe and he doesn’t speak French. I’m Cana­dian enough that hav­ing a baby here didn’t scare me at all. I speak both offi­cial lan­guages and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the med­ical staff wasn’t an issue. If I hadn’t been flu­ent in Eng­lish (or French), I may have con­sid­ered going back “home”. Rely­ing on a trans­la­tor dur­ing a med­ical appoint­ment or not being able to com­mu­ni­cate your needs well must be very stressful. I also trust the local health­care sys­tem. Let’s face it: it’s not per­fect but Cana­dian isn’t a third world coun­try. French love to brag about their great health­care sys­tem, but as good as it is, I can see its flaws now. I was actually thankful to the Canadian healthcare system, and I had a great labour and delivery experienceat the hospital—with no midwife, no epidural, no childbirth classes! I feel very lucky.

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

I certainly do feel stronger—being pregnant and giving birth is quite an experience, and doing so in your adoptive country, “abroad”, is an interesting experience. I loved being exposed to a new culture and I believe as expats and immigrants, we benefit from that. We can take the best of both worlds! I like the idea that Mark will grow up in a multicultural country, in a multicultural household. We speak English, French and Mandarin at home; we eat Chinese rice and French cheese; we blend our cultures into our daily life. Mark will be a citizen of the world as well!

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Let’s be honest here: I was miserable when I was pregnant! Some women are glowing throughout their pregnancy; I was self-conscious and I felt I was going through puberty all over again! I would have felt the same in France though… actually, I did: I traveled there twice, during the first trimester and at 7 months pregnant, and I was as bitchy in France as I was in Canada! Must have been the hormones. Yep, must have been. More seriously, generally speaking, I felt supported. Canada offers a great range of free or low-cost community services, including breastfeeding classes, childbirth classes, parenting classes, etc. There are also tons of resources available online in both official languages. I had all the info I needed at my fingertips. Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices? Don’t even get me started…! In Canada, I met the “pregnancy police”, random strangers giving pregnant women unwanted advice. It seems that when you are pregnant, you suddenly become everybody’s business. You are no longer a person—you become a baby incu­ba­tor whose only job is to care for the embryo, the fetus and then the baby. For instance, I kept on getting unwanted comment because I went to my regular yoga classes until I had Mark (I had my last class when I was 37 weeks pregnant!). I felt a lot of pressure to be the “perfect” pregnant woman but hey, I’m only human. I think French are a bit more hedonistic and don’t care as much about potential health risks or issues; they don’t try to be perfect. From a practical point of view, some tests are different in Canada. For instance, I will never forget the day Canada tried to give me diabetes!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Be confident and trust yourself, don’t listen to random strangers’ advice—they don’t know you and they have no context! It’s okay to disagree with local practices and beliefs… or to reject what you’ve been taught at “home”! Keep an open mind, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do things. I completely adopted some Canadian customs but I am still French and I’m sure it shows in my parental beliefs. Same goes for my partner: he is Canadian but he grew up in China, and some Chinese customs and beliefs creep in at home—that’s fine! Cultural beliefs are not exclusive, they complete each other. And if you are having a baby in Canada, don’t hesitate to get in touch—I’ll be happy to help!


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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: New Zealand

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Clemence who is French. She’s shares her experience of having a baby in New Zealand. Here is her story:

having a baby abroad - New ZealandTell me a bit about yourself?

I am Clemence, French,  28 years old. I was travelling in NZ with my partner. We settled in Wellington and worked there as well, to improve our English. Then Pacome change our life… and it was not the plan to come back in France. Now we left NZ for Brisbane in Australia.

Where are you from?


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

6 months, in Wellington NZ

Why did you have your son abroad?

I was on a working holiday with my partner and a baby was not really expected but we decided to cope with him, and stayed in NZ!

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

It was an amazing time! I made some NZ mums friends who are lovely, It was interesting to learn the English side and the French side for dealing with the pregnancy and babyhood.

In France, healthcare system is really good and everything would have been free for me… but fortunately in NZ too!! because we asked for a 2 years visa so that we had the maternity and childcare for free.

Moreover, Childcare system after the birth is so good in NZ! in France, you give birth and then you have to see the doctor at some points… in NZ, the midwives come to see you and baby every 2 days after the birth, then 1 week, then 3 weeks… and then there is a nurse who comes to see you until the baby is 2 or 3 years old!! It was so helpful, I was not alone even without my family.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

so great! just sad to not have my family with me, they could just see baby on Skype.. it was not the same 🙁 and nobody to visit us at the hospital.

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

Maternity is different in NZ because you see midwives all along your pregnancy instead of doctors, midwives just help you to give birth in France… you create a relationship, someone listen to your worries, and help you to make your choice… they are really open minded about home birth, water birth, and some new way to think, and they try to not interfere with your choice… except maybe breastfeeding, they really encourage breastfeeding comparatively to France and natural birth… I think in France, they encourage you to have an epidural, in NZ it is just an option.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Don’t go back in your country! and give birth in an other country, it’s an amazing trip!



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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: UAE

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Rima who is originally Lebanese but born in Dubai. She’s had both her children in the UAE. Here is her story:

having a baby in dubaiTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

My name is Rima Karam and I am Lebanese – I was born in the UAE on May 9, 1979 and I was raised in Kuwait, USA, and the UAE. I met my husband while in high-School in Dubai and 16 years later we are married with two adorable children – Tiana is 3 and Kai is 8 – 1/2 months.

Why did you have your children abroad?

For me the UAE is my home as I was born here and spent the better years of my life here but my parents left Lebanon before they were married due to the country’s constant unrest and civil wars – there were no jobs so a great percentage of the population moved to the ME – mainly Kuwait (where my parents met) and the UAE.

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

As I am sure a lot of people know the UAE is a very cosmopolitan country and especially Dubai. It is a melting pot of different nationalities and I love it here. It is so up to date with medicine, technology, and education that I still wonder why it is referred to a 3rd World Country! I was blessed to have a fantastic OBGYN (the same one for both my kids) who took very good care of me like I was her own daughter and was there for me anytime I needed her. The hospital nurses were great and most of the doctors were brilliant but I had a few complications with my second delivery (a c-section) but thankfully all is well.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

The first time around I had a natural delivery and I was surprisingly calm as I didn’t know the ordeal I was getting into! I was informed of everything, I had met the anesthesiologist in advance as I had opted for an epidural and I had to sign a few papers and discuss a few side effects that could occur but thankfully I was ok. My OBGYN let me tour the delivery unit where I would be giving birth a few days before my due date and it made me feel more at ease as I familiarized myself with the place so it didn’t feel alien to me! All the midwives were extremely sweet and helpful although I don’t recall much from 0 – 2cm as it was all a blur of pain! Thankfully after the epidural I could think straight!

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

I am not sure as I have never resided in Lebanon, but all I know that in Beirut it’s a stereo-type and a trend to have a C-Section as its faster and easier for the mother and the doctor! But I was never pushed into anything like that here, my 2nd delivery was a C-section as my son was a big baby mashallah and in my first delivery my daughter had to be literally sucked out by a a ventouse as she was stuck as my canal was a bit tight. Hence the C-section, but that was decided at the end when we had an approximate weight estimate and we knew it would never happen with natural!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Be as educated and informed as you can be about your situation, but don’t be extremely anal or that will work against you. Do remember that the doctors are here to help so if you don’t like something they are saying get a second opinion – its ok to disagree with your doctor on a few things but you have to be happy with them and trust them as yours and your baby’s life is in their hands. And use all the help you can get from the hospital/clinics, if they give home visits use them, if they have free classes on breast feeding etc, use it all! There’s nothing wrong with needing help, as there is no right or wrong way to raise a child. Also one more piece of advice – don’t get stressed if everything doesn’t go the way you planned it! There is no such thing as a plan with a newborn child – go with the flow and be happy that you and your baby are healthy and well.

About Rima and Fashlink

February 2012 was a very important month for my family and I as we welcomed our baby boy Kai into the world as well as another “family member” per se. was born in February 2012 – and it started out as an online window shopping site – which focused on what was in stores in the UAE. It was great helping create the site and watching it grow and evolve into an online shopping site – due to popular demand – targeted to the Middle Eastern shopaholics. We focus on small business/designers/entrepreneurs who create/sell products focused on women and children and hopefully mid- 2013 we will be launching the men’s section. I focus on sourcing brands/products for the children’s section – being a mother I find it very challenging and fun to meet new people who are so creative – its inspiring and motivates me to help them succeed and promote their products to the Middle East – and the world.


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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: HOLLAND

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Lynn who is American and had her first daughter in the US and her second in the Netherlands. Here is her story:

having a baby abroad in hollandTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

I am American and my husband is Italian. We have two daughters, ages 3.5 and 1.5. We had our first daughter in San Francisco and then moved to Delft, Netherlands when she was two months old. Our second daughter was born here in Delft.

Why did you have your children abroad?

We had been living in the Netherlands for a year when I got pregnant with our second child. Thanks to my wonderful local mom’s group (DelftMaMa) I didn’t have any concerns about having a baby here and I never thought about going back to the US for the birth.

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

One of the great things about having a baby abroad is that it gives you the chance to question the status quo in your own country and think about what kind of care and support is important to you (versus what everyone tells you that you need). The medical staff in the Netherlands had a much more laid back approach that resulted in fewer tests and less invasive appointments. As a second time mother, I appreciated the hands-off attitude.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Overall, I felt positive about my experience as an expat expectant mother. My main concern was that my requests for pain relief would not be honored. The Dutch have a history of denying requests for pain meds (although this is changing), and the midwife and doctors all told me that it might not be possible to get an epidural if the anesthesiologist was not available.  That certainly added some stress to my pregnancy! I was lucky in the end to arrive at the hospital right before the anesthesiologist left for the evening…I hate to think about how my delivery would have gone had I shown up an hour later!

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

A major difference I encountered was opinions about how postnatal care should be handled.  In the US I spent 3 days in the hospital and then went home. The medical staff encouraged me to get up and moving and I was back out walking around the neighborhood within a few days. The Dutch believe that mothers and babies should stay at home and do the minimum possible for at least the first week. Mother and baby are sent home as quickly as possible (as soon as a couple of hours after the birth) and once home, a special care nurse (kraamzorg) comes and helps you at home for the next week. The nurse handles all of the check-ups, appointment scheduling, cleaning and chores so that you can focus on yourself and your baby. While I loved having the kraamzorg nurse come to my house (every country should have this system), I did have a disagreement with her over whether or not I could leave the house. She did not even want me to walk one block to the grocery store. I had to get the midwife to give me medical permission to leave.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I would suggest that mothers connect with a local mother’s group and get to know other women who have given birth in the area. They will help you get answers to all of your questions, give the best advice and support you (and your new baby) through every step of the way.

About Lynn and Nomad Parents:

Find out more about Lynn on her site Nomad Parents. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Nomad Parents is the online community for expat families in the Netherlands. The site is full of helpful information, real stories and regular articles from experts relevant to parents with children ages 0-4. Come and visit us to find out what parenting in the Netherlands is all about.


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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: ALBANIA

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Rachel who is American and had her first daughter in Albania. Here is her story:

Having a baby abroad ALBANIATell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

My name is Rachel and I am 28 years old. My husband, David, and I are from the United States. David’s work brought us to Tirana, Albania a year ago when I was 4 months pregnant. We have one precious little girl, Elena, who is 7 months old now. She was born in Tirana in a government-run hospital. Why did you have your children abroad? We chose to have our daughter abroad because we knew that my husband would not be able to leave work for an extended length of time. Besides that, we did not have insurance at the time and Albania has socialized medicine.

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

It has definitely proven to be a great relationship builder with the Albanians. When they find out we chose to have our daughter here they immediately call her an Albanian and suddenly we are “in” with people.

Being born and growing up overseas will give Elena (and our future children) opportunities to explore many new places and cultures that she wouldn’t have been able to see if we lived in the US. Elena will grow up speaking at least two languages (David speaks to her in Albanian because he is almost fluent in it) and she’s been to three countries already. She will know how to adapt and relate to different people from so many different places.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Like any first-time expectant mother, I was excited, nervous, and scared. I think that was compounded by the fact that I was in a foreign country. I didn’t know what to expect both because I hadn’t delivered before and because I didn’t know what the Albanian hospitals and doctors would be like. It was difficult having my family and friends so far away during this time. Thankfully, my mom was able to come over for a month and was here when I gave birth.

I was also worried about the fact that I didn’t speak Albanian and wouldn’t know what the doctors or nurses were telling me during delivery. Since my husband speaks the language he was my translator the whole time. My doctor, who spoke English, chose most of the time to speak Albanian to us, so I was dependent upon David to explain what the doctor was saying both in our pre-delivery visits and in the delivery room. And I was especially nervous because I was told that Albanian nurses didn’t have the nicest bedside manners, but the nurse at my delivery was very sweet; even though she didn’t speak English, after each contraction she would pat my back and say, “Bravo”.

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

Definitely! My delivery experience was full of cultural differences. For one thing, we had to get special permission for my husband and mom to be in the delivery room with me. Here in Albania, women are usually alone with the nurses and doctors. Also, since they have socialized medicine here everything is free, but in order to get good service from doctors or nurses you pay bribes. We chose our doctor because we knew that he refused to take bribes and because we heard he is the best obstetrician in the country. Albanians are very concerned about babies getting sick from air-conditioners so there was no a/c in my delivery room in mid-July.

In the States we might go overboard with our equipment, but there was no ultrasound machine to monitor my contractions, my heartbeat, or Elena’s heartbeat. Instead they monitored her heartbeat with a pinard horn (a kind of stethoscope that looks like a horn; one end goes on the mother’s belly and the other end to your ear in order to hear the baby’s heartbeat.) Though there were many differences, I knew these ladies had delivered a lot of babies and knew what they were doing, with or without equipment.

Thankfully I had a good, uncomplicated delivery.

One thing I love about parenting in Albania is that Albanians love children and pay a lot of attention to them. Everywhere I go with Elena her cheeks are pinched and she is adored and played with. I’ve already been warned that when we go back to the US for a visit I need to remember that not everyone is going to stop what they are doing to give their full attention to my child! In the US there are many different parenting styles, but here in Albania they all seem to parent the same way. It happens to be a bit different than how we have chosen to raise Elena. Well-meaning Albanian ladies often stop me in the street to correct something they see that they don’t approve of. For instance, I have been told that I need to put more clothes on Elena, that her nose is cold, that she needs to eat every hour, that I need to rush home if she is crying, and that she needs to be wearing shoes, even though she isn’t walking!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

While you are pregnant it is important to research and get as much information as you can beforehand. Ask other ex-pats who’ve delivered in that country what advice they would give you based on their experiences. Have in mind what you want and find a doctor and hospital that best fits that need – but be flexible with it. Things will probably go differently than you planned, so remember that your doctor has delivered hundreds if not thousands of babies. He has a lot of experience under his belt to help him out! I am learning to be gracious while raising my child overseas. When strangers give you unsolicited advice just say thank you and keep walking. Don’t let them frustrate you or get under your skin. Adapt a bit to their culture as well. Don’t be so rigid in your parenting style that you can’t learn from the locals.


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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: EGYPT

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Nancy who is Canadian and had her first daughter in the USA, and her second in Egypt. Here is her story:

Canadian expat baby abroad EgyptTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

I was born and raised in Canada but met and married my husband in the United States. We have two children and one on the way. Our oldest daughter was born in the United States, our second daughter was born in Egypt. It looks like we’ll have our third child in the States since that’s where we’re living now.

Why did you have your children abroad?

My husband was attending graduate school at the American University in Cairo when I became pregnant with our second baby. Since we were living in Egypt that’s where our little one was born. Our other two children were born in the States also for the simple reason that we happened to live there when they were due.

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

I think cost is a huge factor—having a baby in Egypt was far cheaper than having a baby in the United States. We knew all of our costs up front and even chose our hospital room based on how much we wanted to pay. We were completely unsurprised by the total when we received our bill. I think in the United States a lot of new parents are shocked when they get their bill in the mail, whether they have insurance or not. It was nice to not have to worry about whether we’d be able to afford to have our child.

We’ll also always feel so connected to our children’s birth places, including Egypt where we don’t have citizenship, because the birth of a baby is such a momentous milestone—almost like the ultimate souvenir.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was nervous at first because in Egypt we were so far away from our family but I was friends with one woman who had given birth in Egypt and she introduced me to several others and all of a sudden I had a full circle of friends giving me advice and courage and strength. I did feel a little conspicuous walking around with my big, pregnant belly toward the end of my pregnancy because not a lot of Egyptian women seem to leave their house when they’re pregnant—there are so many children running around and so many babies being carried in baskets and on shoulders but I rarely saw any pregnant

I think that wherever you have your first baby kind of becomes the norm for what you expect with future pregnancies. I had an American friend who had her first baby in Egypt and her second in the States and she felt that her experience in the States was weird compared to her experience in Egypt. I think I felt the opposite way because I had my first baby in the States so I noticed what they did differently in Egypt.

I think one of the biggest factors for me right now are my pregnancy cravings. I seem to always want things that I can’t have—for example, I’ve been craving dill pickle chips but they don’t have those where we live, though they are very popular in Canada. In Egypt I aways wanted peanut butter and that’s hard to come by there!

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

I was handed a pamphlet about breast-feeding by a friend and inside it recommended that, if you veil, you should take a vitamin D
supplement. I had never thought about that before because I don’t veil but I thought it was a good point. I think the biggest thing that I noticed was that everyone around me was always very concerned about the temperature of my children—whether they were too hot or too cold. They would scold me for not having socks on my infant when it was boiling hot outside. My
pediatrician though was very understanding of Western traditions and never criticized my parenting techniques, which was nice of him.

The whole delivery went much differently than I expected as well. The nurses kept trying to get me to lie down, which I didn’t find comfortable, but having me sit up was making them uncomfortable. It ended up being a fine experience but the cultural differences were very frustrating at the time. My birth story can be found on my blog.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

If you’re far away from family, or even if you’re not, make an effort to connect with other young mothers in your area who can recommend doctors and midwives and hospitals. I got so much good advice and made some wonderful friendships that I don’t think I would have made otherwise. It was so nice to have a support group of women who were going through the same thing that I was—raising children is difficult no matter where you are in the world.

You can find out more about Nancy on her blog


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