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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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.

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