Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making we go to Hong Kong to hear Rebekah’s story about how she had her daughter abroad. She talks about having a baby in Hong Kong, the differences in care and the dilemma of where to have another baby!
Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her?
I grew up in the outskirts of Chicago, and moved to “the city” as it’s called by us ruralites, for college. I met Hubs my junior year, and we had quite an instant connection. He soon after moved to Tokyo, the first sign of our life to come. We married in 2007 and moved to Hong Kong 4 months later. I found I was pregnant with Harriet the day we were to move, and she was born at Matilda International Hospital here in Hong Kong.
Why did you have your daughter abroad?
There were two big factors. first, we had great insurance when Harriet was born, and it paid for a much nicer hospital here than I’d ever have in the states, but second and more important, I didn’t want to be separated from Hubs when giving birth. He’s my cliché rock and I didn’t want to go through it without him.
What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
This could be controversial, but one of the major advantages was that after Harriet was born, we had time to become a family before introducing her to the rest of ours. We enjoyed having time to figure things out. It took a lot of the stress off, and helped us to get to know our daughter. It meant that by the time we did take her “home” at 7 weeks to introduce her to family, there was no way anyone could suggest they knew better than we did how to care for her. The other major benefit was simply that it made us feel at home here. we had a family here, it gave us some roots, and if you know anything about us, roots aren’t something we have a lot of.
As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
Initially I was very nervous about the system here, as private hospitals book almost as soon as pregnancy is confirmed, and the public system, while medically excellent, is very different than what I was familiar with. Once we were confirmed a spot at our chosen hospital, I felt quite good about things. I did worry about caring for my baby if I required a C section, as I knew my husband had limited parental leave, but we decided that if it came to that, we would fly someone over to help.
Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
Absolutely. So many things. It had a baby in May. it gets HOT in Hong Kong starting in roughly March, yet I had to practically beg for ice water in restaurants, as drinking cold things are considered dangerous for the baby or will cause distress in delivery, depending on which little old lady tells you her version…I understand that these are their beliefs, but being in an international city, not a small village, I didn’t anticipate this. Another thing we had to deal with was breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding was the norm at the hospital we chose, and that is part of why we chose it, but definitely not in public. If you know Chinese culture you realize that in most cases they will not be too confrontational, but they certainly can stare and give you the stink eye. We continually deal with other cultural issues like touching baby’s hands (better now that Harriet is nearly 3 and will tell people no) but I was certainly grateful for my Ergo carrier and I learned to be a bit more aggressive with my stroller (when I used it) than I would be in the States.
What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Know your options, and if in Hong Kong, resister early. Some hospitals offer pre-registration. Geobaby.com (not affiliated in any way, just a very helpful site for me) is always the most up to date on hospital practices for western families, knows which OBs support natural birth, who will sign you up for a C section right away, etc.
Now we are considering a second baby and debating what to do. The public hospital system here is good, but I am spoiled by my previous experience. The idea of not having my baby room in is not ideal, and home births are not really an option in Hong Kong, as it’s not exactly legal, as I’ve been told, so there is no safety net if something goes wrong, and well educated providers are hard pressed to assist due to their legal risk.
You can find Rebekah on Twitter and you can visit her blog: www.nuclearnomads.com
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Wow you sound like you had everything under control! I really wished for some more help from family but then again, my husband was a junior doctor working insane hours. Perhaps if he had been home more I would have been content.
I can understand about the ice water and breastfeeding culture clashes. If the first hospital experience worked so well, why not go with the same plan again?
What is it about the baby’s hand? Do people over there like to touch baby’s hand? I didn’t quite understand that part.
Very interesting article. I also found that Brazilians are superstitious about cold water. It’s strange. They also LOVE holding babys’ hands…
I gave birth at the Matilda (from California originally). I enjoyed reading your story as it brought back many memories of being in Hong Kong!