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?
Ni 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?
Not 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?
Ava’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.
Want to share your story? Get in touch
Nicole 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.