Tag Archives: cultural differences

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.


Want to share your story? Get in touch

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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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: CANADA

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Deb who is French and had her daughter in Canada. Here is her story:

having a baby in canada french mother

Deb and Sixtine Charlotte

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her?

I am a 27 year-old Parisian French mother of one and I was born and raised in France. I met my husband (Canadian English) in Iceland, Europe in September 2008 and I moved to Prince Edward Island, Canada in July 2010. I got pregnant in February 2011 and gave birth on October 17th, 2011 to a beautiful baby girl named Sixtine Charlotte. She is now three months, 2 weeks and 6 days.

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

I had my daughter in Canada because this is where we live. We are very close to his family and they were very helpful during my entire pregnancy. It would have been nice to share this with my family as well but it wasn’t possible. Fortunately, my mother was able to come visit us both at the beginning and at the end – and was even able to assist to the birth of our daughter.

To be honest, I can’t really say how different it would have been had we lived in France. She was our first baby and I don’t know how it works in France. However, I received excellent care from both my OB-GYN and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital of PEI’s nurses who took care of me during labor and delivery. I feel very thankful for that. According to my mother, there were many different aspects of labor and delivery that surprised her but again, I couldn’t tell.

having baby abroad canadaAs an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

As an expectant mother in Canada,I felt lost and overwhelmed at first. I had preconceived ideas about what would pregnancy be and prenatal care was a lot different than it is in France. I was very stressed during the first few months – I was expecting to be checked and reassured as soon as I got pregnant: Instead I was given a first appointment at the twelve weeks mark. I was also surprised and upset to learn that I wouldn’t be able to know the sex of my baby. We actually had to pay a private clinic for this service. And wait until I was six months pregnant ! In France, it is much earlier than that and it is free of charge. Also I found I didn’t have as much privacy during L&D as I thought I would have.

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

don’t like to compare both countries as it makes it sound like I am criticizing and not appreciating my country of residence but this isn’t at all what I am trying to do.

On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, despite of those “oddities”, I had a great Doctor which made up for it all. At the end of the day, my daughter was born healthy and that is all that really matters to us.

I felt guilty for not breastfeeding long enough. I don’t recall breastfeeding being as massively advertised in France as it is here.
Co-sleeping, and cloth diapering are things that I had never heard of before moving to Canada. In my opinion, it is less popular in France which explain the puzzled reactions in my French entourage. Most mums go back to work after three months in France so co-sleeping isn’t as practical.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

This is your pregnancy, and this is your baby. Listen to your heart and don’t feel that you have to explain yourself on everything. Do what feels right for you. Try not to compare between what things could have been and what things are. Just take the best ! And forget the rest ! I would also recommend the movie “Le Premier Cri” (“The First Cry”) which is a beautiful movie about pregnancy and birth around the world (http://www.disney.fr/FilmsDisney/lepremiercri/) .

Connect with Deb here:

Facebook Sixtine and the little things
Blog Sixtine and the little things
Email Contact me


Want to share your story? Get in touch: ameena@mummyinprovence.com

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: SOUTH AFRICA

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Rilla who isFrench and had her son in South Africa. Here is her story:

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

My name is Rilla, I’m 27, French and I’m a translator. I grew up in Strasbourg, France, but I now live in South Africa, where I’ve been for 2 years already. I have a 18mo son and I’m pregnant with my second son, who is due some time in February.


Why did you have your children abroad?

My husband and I were newly weds, out of jobs and visas in Israel, when we decided to move to South Africa, his country of origin. And that’s when we found out that I was expecting! It wasn’t planned at all but we welcomed the news, and honestly, looking back today, we see that we have grown a lot together thanks to this adventure. We didn’t go to France because we expected it would be more difficult work-wise as my husband hadn’t started learning French yet, and I wanted to experience life in his country. So South Africa seemed an obvious choice to us.


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

To me the best aspects are multiculturalism and multilingualism. My baby is brought up in a French-Afrikaans environment, with a Tswana nanny. All three mentalities are very different, and I hope to raise children who have an understanding of the world and of others, who will not judge based on appearances but learn to respect others first and foremost. That is why it is important to me that my son learns his nanny’s language too. So I speak only French to him, my husband only Afrikaans and the nanny only Tswana. Surprisingly, he is not confused a bit by all this “babel-ing”! He understands Afrikaans and French perfectly, and Tswana quite well too I think, although he speaks mostly Afrikaans. And he speaks a lot for an 18mo, so all these languages are not delaying his speech in anyway thus far.


having baby abroad south africaAs an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I found it a little frustrating at times to be so far from my family and friends. Only one friend saw me pregnant, and I wish I had been to be able to share more of these moments with those I love, back in France. I still have my grand-parents, and I am the eldest in the family, so my children are their first great-grandchildren, and I felt like I was depriving them of the honour to see their descendants growing -by the way, at 80 years old, they are taking the trip of their life to come and stay with us for a month!

So for me, living abroad is a sacrifice when it comes to relationships.


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

After Brazil, South Africa has the second highest rate of C-sections and it is the norm to opt for an elective C. In the province of Johannesburg, the rate is 80%. So when I told the gynaecologist that I wanted a natural birth, he basically told me, TIA baby! (This Is Africa)…”You’re not in Europe, birth is risky here”… That’s the mindset around here, so for many, my choice seemed irresponsible. Thankfully, my husband supported this project and we decided to find a private midwife. We struggled, but eventually we found a great one whom I learned to trust, and I don’t think I would like to give birth with someone else now.


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Three things come to me.

First, have it your way! If you feel like the kind of birth you seek is not the norm where you are, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel at peace with yourself and the way you bring your child into the world, and that you are empowered by it!

Secondly, develop a network of support. A pregnant woman has a lot of questions/thoughts going on, and it helps so much to simply be able to chat about things. Most of the time, we find answers for ourselves, we don’t need expert advice 🙂 Once we can express all the feelings and emotions, they sort themselves out and it is helpful to have people around to offer some support when feeling tired, or in need of a break -including a break from the baby!

And finally, this last advice was given to me by a friend here and I believe it made a difference for us: make room for your husband to get involved. We, new mothers, all want our new father to help and “get his hands dirty”, but we tend to feel like he’s not doing it as well as he should. So my friend told me to make sure I let him participate freely. Whatever he’s doing, whether he’s changing a nappy or taking a bath with the baby for example, don’t look over his shoulder, rather leave the room and let him do it his way. The nappy may not be perfectly adjusted, or he’s not holding the baby the “right way” and so on, but your lil’ angel will be fine and your husband will gain confidence and bond with his child, and that’s worth the effort.



Want to share your story? Get in touch: ameena@mummyinprovence.com

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: SPAIN

Having baby in spain

Bibsey Mama and her daughter

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Bibsey Mama who is British and had her daughter in Spain. 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?

I am a first- time full-time mum living in Southern Spain. My partner and I left the rat race in London and moved here just over two years ago when I was only a few weeks pregnant. My little girl, was born in hospital here in Spain. She is now 19 months old and is a walking, talking and being generally fabulous. We have a lovely life and this is a beautiful country but I do miss family and friends and the support that they naturally provide.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?

I didn’t specifically ‘chose’ to have my child abroad. I found out that I was pregnant a matter of days before we packed up the car and moved to Spain. I do wonder sometimes what we would have done if I had got pregnant a few months earlier. Had there been a bit more time to consider things perhaps we would have stayed put so that I could have had the baby in England. As it was we had both left our jobs, given up our flat, packed about 90% of our belongings off the charity shop and said most of our goodbyes. I don’t think that at the time staying in the UK even occurred to us as an option. I think I am glad that this is how it happened. I am not good with difficult decisions and given more time to think about things I would have been in a right pickle.

The move to Spain was right for us in so many ways. However, my experience of giving birth in hospital here in Spain was not good. And I can’t help but wonder if I would have been any better off in the UK.

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

The list of benefits to bringing up your children abroad could be as long as your arm and so dependent on the country that you move to of course. Here in Spain children are adored by the whole of society. There are no looks of disapproval if you are out and about with your child even if she is bawling her head off. The Spanish are just incredibly sociable and children are embedded in almost every aspect of life. And breast feeding in public is so accepted here which makes it much easier when it is your first time.

The downside to this is that everyone has an opinion. When my little one was very small I couldn’t leave the house with her without someone coming up to me to tell me that she would be too cold/hot in whatever I had her dressed. After a while I just came to accept this as friendly interest. It was either that or go a little bit mad with the interference.

Other benefits of having kids here in Spain is how much safer and more stable society feels here. The kids play on the street (shame about all the dog poo though) and everyone is looking out for them: older kids; groups of old men who sit around shooting the breeze and watching the world, mothers and their babies go by; and of course the ubiquitous Spanish abuela.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Truthfully, I felt a little bit small and alone. My Spanish was not that great when I arrived but, as the pregnancy was a bit of a wonderful surprise, I had not imagined that on my arrival in Spain I would have to negotiate midwives appointments, scans, blood tests etc. I felt like I was letting my baby down when I didn’t understand everything that was going on. I wondered at times if we had been incredibly irresponsible to plough on and come here when I was pregnant especially when, at the age of 39, I was considered high risk.

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

Regarding the pregnancy and the birth, I am aware that the Spanish system is incredibly procedure-driven and quite invasive in comparison to the UK. The numerous scans towards the end of the pregnancy seem to me to be a kind of interference.

What I do find here is that there is quite a lot of pressure to put your child into guardería (nursery) very early whatever your circumstances. I often find myself justifying to people why, at the the age of 19 months, I haven’t sent Bibsey to guardería yet and don’t intend to for a little while longer. My circumstances allow me to have my child at home with me for a bit longer and I am lucky for that. I don’t judge people who have made different choices. And of course some people don’t have the choices that I do.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

This is a tough one. If language is a problem, then you just have to be brave. I can remember pushing and pushing and pushing the medical professionals to help me understand what was going on and what was expected of me – almost forcing their patience out of the them. Go with your own instinct. Don’t be brow beaten into doing something that you don’t feel is right for you or your child – just as you would in your own country in fact. It’s your body and your child. I have also had a miscarriage here in Spain and I know that there were questions that I should asked but didn’t because I was too shocked and therefore unable to find the words in Spanish.

Oh, and get online, search forums, blogs, expat websites, local activities – find other women in the same boat and go out and meet them. It worked for me. One of my best friends here in Spain is someone I met on a baby website forum. When you are away from ‘home’ you need all the support that you can get.

You can find out more about Bibsey Mama on her Blog, Twitter, and Facebook


Want to share your story? Get in touch: ameena@mummyinprovence.com


Stream of Consciousness Sunday: The Mother Tongue Myth

Here is my 5 minute brain dump as part of this great series. Here goes …

I always knew that living in France BiP would obviously speak French. At some point. When she was a tiny baby people would ask me why I was only speaking to her in English. They would say that she would be disadvantaged at school if I only spoke English to her. I decided I’d not corrupt her French by speaking my bad French to her and instead persevere with English.

NOW she is almost 19m old and seems to speak a LOT more French than anything else. I’m stumped. We only speak English at home and until BiP was 14m old she was always with me – now she spends 9 hours a week surrounded only by French speakers.

She even translates everything I say:

I’ll say:

“Let’s go run your bath” – she replies “bain!”
“Let’s wash your hands” – she replies “main!”
“More?” – she says “encore!” (actually it’s more like “cor” but sounds nothing like more).

I’m still winning with words like car, cat, bye-bye, mummy and daddy!

Just yesterday she was running around yelling “Bag! Bag! Bag!” waving her hand in the air – I looked for the bag in question and saw she had found a ring in my jewelry box and was actually saying “bague” (ring in French)

Looks like I have a lot of baby French to learn!

Kinda blows the whole idea of a “MOTHER tongue”out of the water eh?


This is my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post at all.things.fadra.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

Excusez-moi Madame? Where are you from?

breastfeeding in franceToday BiP had an appointment at the pediatricians. It was just a general check up.

In France there are a number of required check ups and this was BiP’s 16 month check up (she’s 17 months old now).

We saw a different pediatrician from our usual one because I’d discovered he was possibly more pro-breastfeeding than my regular pediatrician. As I’ve written before, breast isn’t always best if you live in France. So it’s important for me to find someone supportive.

Everything was going great until the subject of vitamins came up. He said it was time BiP took some different vitamins which were to be dissolved in a bottle of juice or milk.

The following conversation is translated from French (obviously) –

Me: “But BiP doesn’t drink juice or milk”

Pediatrician: “WHAT? What does she drink then?”

Me: “Water?”

Pediatrician: “But what does she drink for MILK?”

Me: “Umm, she drinks my milk”

Pediatrician: “STILL?!?” He shrieks, almost falling off his chair.

Me: “Yes, I have no good reason to stop, she loves it.”

Pediatrician: rubs his forehead “What about yogurt?”

Me: “No, she doesn’t eat yogurt.”

Pediatrician: “Why?”

Me: “Well, I believe that cows milk is for baby cows” (I couldn’t find the word for calf in French) “AND my milk is for MY baby”

Pediatrician: SIGHS Loudly “Excuse me Madame? Where are you from?”

Me: “I’m half English, half Egyptian”

Pediatrician: Nods knowingly “Ok, good. See you next time!”

I guess my ridiculous answers come from the fact that I am OBVIOUSLY not French!

The experience reminded me of a clip from the movie Grown Ups … Check it out …

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: SWITZERLAND

having baby in switzerlandNext up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making we go to Switzerland to hear Marcy’s story about having her first son abroad.

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?


My name is Marcy.  I was born in Chile, but moved to the US (Texas) when I was 11 years old. My husband and I met in high school, and after dating on and off for about 6 years we got engaged at the end of college.  We now live in California and have been married for 7 years.  We have two boys– Donovan who is 3 years old and born at a birth center in Switzerland, and Quinn who was born in our home in California just over four months ago!  I’m trained as a Montessori teacher, though I now stay at home with my boys.  I write a blog (not as regularly now with the new baby, though I hope to get better about it again soon) and can be frequently found hanging out on twitter.


Why did you have your children abroad?

My husband had made it clear at his job that he was very interested in opportunities abroad.  So when his company bought a small business in Geneva, Switzerland, his boss came to him first to offer him the ex-pat opportunity.  We happily took it! We spent 18 months living in Geneva.  We had already been planning to try for a baby shortly after we would have moved, and we briefly considered putting the baby plans on hold while abroad but in the end decided to keep our “timeline” and see how things went.  As iut turned out, I got pregnant within a few months of moving to Switzerland.

Marcy and her husband Zach in Annecy, France

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

I liked to joke that since we lived somewhere where we didn’t completely know the language, I got to skip all the unwelcome advice (and even criticism) often bestowed upon pregnant women!  Also, the Swiss tend to be much more reserved and respectful of personal space, so I avoided much of the strangers-groping-your-belly issue.  There were certainly a few aspects that were difficult, like being so far away from our families back home, and the language barrier was definitely there.  But I also discovered many positives.  For example, in much of Europe it is standard to do monthly ultrasounds at your prenatal appointments.  I now know that perhaps that many ultrasounds isn’t the best idea, but at the time it was incredible to get to see my baby every month.  Also, the attitudes towards pregnancy and what is or isn’t “allowed” were much more relaxed. In the US the list of “don’t”s (don’t eat this, don’t do that, etc) is a mile long.  In Switzerland, I was told to wash my lettuce very thoroughly, and don’t eat undercooked red meat.  That was it.  Pregnant women drank wine, ate soft cheeses, etc.  Also, I was always offered a seat on public transportation, no matter how full.  I loved that.


One big advantage of giving birth in Switzerland was a very positive experience with breastfeeding.  At least during the first few months, breastfeeding is highly encouraged and culturally supported.  I often breastfed my baby out in public, at sidewalk cafes, etc, both in Geneva and in France, without using a cover, and rather than odd looks or rude comments I instead received warm smiles of encouragement.  This was so great, as it gave me the confidence to not worry about offending anyone by nursing in public once we moved back to the US.  Also, when Donovan was born he developed pretty bad jaundice and had to stay in the hospital, under the blue lights for 2 days to treat it.  In many places in the US the doctors would have been pushing me to use formula to “help” with the jaundice, but in Geneva that was never even brought up.  Instead the nurses in the hospital were very supportive and encouraging of breastfeeding.


As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Many things.  Though as it was my first pregnancy, I didn’t have much else to compare it to.  I was pleased by things like not feeling like I had to be so paranoid about everything I ate or did as a pregnant woman.  I do remember feeling frustrated, though, at the highly medicalized view of childbirth in Geneva. I knew I wanted to give birth naturally, if at all possible, with few or no interventions.  I knew the US maternity system made natural birth difficult, but had expected that living in Europe would make my goal easier to accomplish.  Isn’t Europe so progressive??  What I quickly found was that some countries in Europe, and even the German side of Switzerland, are very supportive of and conducive to natural childbirth and even things like home and water birth.  The French side of Switzerland, however, and specifically Geneva where we were, were not. I searched and searched and could not find a birthing center in Geneva.  The hospitals, which were like 5-star hotels with incredible accommodations, were also rumored to have c-section rates as high as 50%!  I was happy enough with my OB until I finally, at 7 months pregnant, talked to her about labor and childbirth and options like moving about freely and pushing in different positions. She essentially told me there was no reason to use any position other than lying flat on my back on the bed.

That’s when I knew I wanted her nowhere near me or my baby during birth.

One of my other concerns about birthing in a hospital in Geneva was the language barrier. My French was good, but trying to talk about medical issues, let alone while in labor, was not something I wanted to deal with.  While most doctors in the hospitals spoke English, it was a complete luck of the draw on whether the nurses or hospital midwives would (when we did end up having to stay in the hospital with my son for his jaundice, we found that almost none of the nurses spoke English).  Miraculously, it was about that same time that I finally discovered a small birthing center just outside Geneva.  I met with that midwife (who spoke perfect English), toured the center, and transferred my care to her for that last month or two of my pregnancy.  Best decision I ever made!  It was such a relief.



2 week old Donovan in Geneva

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

That’s the funny thing, I had expected it to be different but other than things like monthly ultrasounds and blood draws during pregnancy, many things were similar– too similar.  I have no problem with hospitals or modern medicine, I have been very glad to use them when needed (like when my son had jaundice, or later when he developed a UTI at 2 months old!).  However, I quickly learned that just as in the US, hospitals in Geneva were not set up to be conducive to natural labor.  I’m quite certain I would have needed an epidural had I given birth in the hospital, since they were not set up to help you cope with labor in alternate ways (like labor tubs).  Instead, at the birth center I had plenty of space to move and walk about freely, and also had a large bath tub where I spent most of my labor because it made such a difference in easing the pain of contractions.


One thing that was different, which I mentioned above, was the attitudes towards breastfeeding (in the US we *say* we support breastfeeding, but the practices of most hospitals and doctors don’t really, usually out of ignorance more than anything– nurses and doctors get almost no training on breastfeeding and often unintentionally end up spreading myths).  I was very glad for that support.  Also, circumcision is still routine in many places in the US but not so in most of Europe, so opting to leave our son intact was simple.


One amusing difference in thoughts about parenting is that the Swiss seem to have an obsession with drafts and cold air.  Babies are NOT to be exposed to any drafts!!  It apparently makes them very, very sick.  Donovan came down with his UTI, my neighbor (a lovely, wonderful older woman) told me it may have been because we don’t always put shoes on him when walking outside and his feet probably got cold.  My husband and I still giggle about that one. ; )


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Do your homework!  When I interviewed my OB I asked her about birth practices and she waved my questions away saying we’d talk about it “later.” Well, later turned into realizing at 7 months along that my OB and I shared VERY different views on giving birth.  It would have been nice to discover that sooner.  If you are abroad and decide to give birth in a hospital, but worry about the language barrier, that’s one more reason to consider hiring a doula (I would have done that if I’d had to use the hospital after all).  Mostly, and this goes for any pregnant woman really, is to research and decide early on what kind of birth you want to strive towards, and find a labor support team (OB/midwife/doula/etc) who will help you achieve it.  Things may not go according to plan, but if you don’t plan and prepare to begin with then there’s very little chance things will go as you want.


Also, for anyone living abroad but especially those who are pregnant abroad– find an ex-pat group to be friends with.  I found a group of English-speaking women (from the US, Canada, England, etc) while still pregnant.  They were a great help with knowledge and support, from everything from breastfeeding to which shops sell what specialty parenting item.  Also, if I hadn’t met the group while still pregnant, I may have never actually made it out to the weekly meet-ups with a newborn.  It was so, so helpful to have that group of women, a few of who I still keep in touch with.


Want to share your story? Get in touch: ameena@mummyinprovence.com