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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: INDIA

Having baby abroad indiaThis week I talk nmaha who is Indian but grew up in Dubai and had her daughter in India as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about the differences and the similarities between having a baby in Dubai vs. India. Here is her story:

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

I’m a Chartered Accountant and currently run a healthcare business with my husband. Though I’m basically from India, I spent the first 24 years of my life in the Middle-East (Dubai) and still consider it my home. I have one daughter (she turned three in April this year) who I had in India.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?

Technically, India isn’t abroad for me, however, all the birth stories I could relate to were based in the Gulf. My mom had my brother there, 20 odd years back, and all my friends (the ones who had children at that point) had delivered their babies there as well.

I had initially planned to have the baby in Dubai, however, the logistics of having my husband there were too many and we finally opted for India as the more viable option.

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

Well, the one glaring benefit was the focus on a natural birth. Of all the stories I had heard, the common factor seemed to be that any delay in a delivery in the Middle-East resulted in an induction at a minimum or a C-section. They didn’t give the natural route too much off a chance. (I did end up having to be induced, but that was after two days of no progress.)

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Well, back in Dubai most working women actually work till their delivery date. Expecting mothers also drive themselves around till they need to go to the hospital. It’s completely acceptable and even encouraged. In India, I was forced to work from home for the last month and a half, even though I refused to completely stop working. (What would I do with all that free time). Plus, I had to stop driving on the day my pregnancy was confirmed! I ended up feeling extremely claustrophobic and a little big smothered.

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

Like I discussed before the approach to pregnancy and parenting is a lot more wholesome in India. It’s an advanced version of the modern attachment parenting style. The doctors are also a whole lot more laid-back and prefer to let nature run it’s course.

I have a diagnosed back problem and on good days suffer from serious back-pain. Anticipating the difficulties of a natural delivery (which I wanted), I pre-warned the doctor that I would need an epidural and my husband even signed on the forms in advance. I was in labour for about 2 days and by the time they got round to putting in the epidural, it was too late to administer it. I had the most excruciating delivery back-pains.

The natural approach to parenting also meant that I wasn’t given much choice about breast-feeding. For seven months I exclusively breastfed my daughter with no supplements, not even water! Though it was great for mother-daughter bonding, I was physically drained by the end of each day. Plus, we followed an on demand feeding schedule that finally left me feeling depressed.

I also co-slept with the baby, which had me up at all hours worried that I would suffocate her, though I loved the extra cuddle time.

On the good side, with all that breast-feeding I lost all my baby weight within 6 weeks of delivery! I also had the benefits of a masseuse who came home everyday and a physio-therapist who helped me strengthen my post-delivery body pretty quickly.

People here expect the father to relax and visit the child at fixed times, rather than playing an active role in childcare. My husband had to jump over hurdles when he wanted to help me out and share some of the responsibility.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Do your research before you make any decisions on pregnancy, birthing or parenting. There are innumerable methods and options out there and every opinion has an alternative, even your doctor’s. Be a 100% comfortable with your choices and don’t let people tell you that the child is primarily the mother’s responsibility. Keeping it natural is great (and I wouldn’t have changed to much), however, there is no ultimate right or wrong way, each child and mother is different.

Follow nmaha’s blog



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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: AUSTRALIA and UNITED KINGDOM

having a baby in IndiaThis week I talk Mrs B who is Estonian and had first son in Australia and her second in the UK as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about the differences and the similarities between Estonia, Australia and the UK. 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?
I am from Estonia, but at the age of 17 I won a scholarship to study in the States for a year and my expat life started.  Now 18 years later, I have lived in the US, Germany, Australia and since early 2006 in the UK (interestingly, this is the first time I’ve done the math and as a result realised that I have now been away from Estonia for longer than I lived there – time flies!).

I studied languages but have been working in web development for the past 10 years.  At the moment I work 4 days a week in the city while my live-in mother looks after my two sons, my 6-year old who was born in Australia and my 2-year old who was born in the UK.

Why did you have your children abroad?
I had my first son in Australia because I had lived there for 5 years by then, had an Aussie husband, felt very comfortable with the system and travelling to Estonia for the birth was just not an option due to the distance.

My second son was born after we’d been living in London for 4 years.  Knowing what a busy and overcrowded city it is, I did think about travelling to Estonia for more one-on-one attention pre- and post birth, but in the end I decided to stay here to make sure that my husband wouldn’t miss the birth.


having a baby in Australia and UK

Mrs B's sons

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
Compared to Estonia, I’m glad that both countries that I’ve given birth in let me work until 2 weeks before the birth.  In Estonia women go on maternity leave 70-30 days before the due date meaning they HAVE TO stay at home from 36 weeks.  I would have been so bored and anxious sitting at home all that time, I think being busy and active as long as possible is much nicer.

I think that it’s also less stressful to have a baby in the country that you live in, that way you don’t have to travel with a young baby and there’s no stress of having to get a passport quickly to be able to go back “home”, etc.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I consider myself lucky to have had my first child in Australia.  Australians are very much into natural delivery and breastfeeding, and felt that I received a lot of very useful information and guidance throughout my pregnancy.  Once I was in labour, the midwives were exceptionally encouraging and calming.  I sent them both a huge bouquet of flowers afterwards, they made me feel very special.

After the birth they visited my room often to ensure that breastfeeding was going well, offering to help almost at every feeding.  Also, I was very happy that I was able to stay in the hospital for 4 days and that by the time I went home, the feeding was going well.

Once I was at home, I visited the local baby clinic almost every week initially.  It was a great environment to have a bit of one-on-one time with the nurse and get reassurance that everything was alright.

In England the situation was a bit different.  Every step of the way I felt like I was on a conveyor belt, being rushed through every appointment.  Thankfully I was having my second child so I didn’t mind too much because I was already equipped with a lot of information.

However, my second birth didn’t go very well at all. There is no point in blaming the country or the system, perhaps the planets just didn’t align that day.  Even after the long and traumatic birth, the aftercare was minimal.  That could have been because I had had my second one and maybe the opinion was that I didn’t need any support as I’d done it all before.  I really missed being able to stay in the hospital for more than 24 hours, the personal aftercare appointments and the general natural/breastfeeding promoting/baby wearing attitudes of the Aussies.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
As mentioned already, Australia and Estonia are both very breastfeeding friendly.  The UK doesn’t seem to be there yet and it really saddens me when a new mother is not guided enough to establish breastfeeding before she leaves the hospital.

My boys were both born with tongue ties so feeding them was a bit tricky in the beginning.  Thankfully I had been taught a good method in Australia so by the time I got annoyed looks by the UK midwives for holding my second son in the “wrong position” I just told them to bugger off (as nicely as I could a day after giving birth 🙂 )

In regard to the tongue ties, in Estonia they would have probably be snipped at birth, just like they snipped my own when I was born.  Neither in Australia nor in the UK though did they think that was necessary.  I would have preferred for this minor surgery to be performed as soon as possible, I wasn’t keen to wait and see whether they’d have speech problems.  I couldn’t find a willing surgeon to perform these simple snips in neither country though so the boys had their tongues fixed in Estonia during our visits. We waited perhaps a bit too long with the oldest as he did require speech therapy later on.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
If giving birth in Australia, I would recommend going private – it does not cost very much if you have private health insurance (which almost everyone does have over there) and it ensures that you have your own room and can stay for up to 5 days.  I would also recommend going to the antenatal classes, even if you’ve had kids before in other countries – the information they share there about you anatomy and the process of labour was excellent and very useful once in labour.

After birth, definitely visit the baby clinics and the new mother’s groups that are set up in your area.  They are both very nice and reassuring environments to ask questions, get help if needed or just vent.

If giving birth in the UK, I would recommend choosing the opposite – the midwife led programme.  I had chosen the obstetrician led program, simply because it seemed similar to the Australian system, but in the end it meant that the midwives changed very often (too often) during labour and since no one had seen me before I felt that they just rushed through their shift and treated me like a number.

If I ever have another child, I would choose the midwife option to establish a good relationship with the women who are going to help me labour.  Although, I might have to go to a completely new country to give birth altogether in since so far every single member of our family has their very own and different birth country 🙂

Mrs B has blogged at www.crankymonkeys.com/blog since she became a mother, writing about the good and the bad – severe sleep deprivation, “sleep schools” in Australia, sunny Aussie life, moving to the UK, travelling, job hunting, settling into the life of a working mom, missed miscarriage, secondary infertility and post-natal depression and lately more and more positive stuff.


You can also find Mrs B on Twitter


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



Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

This week I talk to singer/songwriter Milja who is Finnish and had her baby daughter in France as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about having a “platinum baby” in Paris and bitchy nurses. Here is her story:


Milja KaunistoTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her? I’m a Finnish singer-songwriter and pianist, mommy of one magnificent daughter… and not so long ago, a performer in a chic Paris piano-bar located somewhere between the Ritz and the old Opèra. As my 8-month pregnant belly no longer fit behind the bar’s grand piano, and my squeezed lungs became unable to yell ‘Proud Mary’ at 4 A.M. without me passing out on the keys, I gave up my night job and retreated to my horrid apartment.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?
My musician husband and me had started regretting our decision to have our child in Paris when it had occurred to us that our apartment wasn’t suitable for a child, or any human being at that. It wasn’t the mice, or that I got an electric chock every time I touched the stove, or that I had to wear a wool sweater night and day just to keep warm, or even that I had to heat my bathing water in a pot because there was no hot water available. It was that there was, in fact, no running water whatsoever, and that carrying 20-liter water containers twice a day couldn’t be done while pregnant.

I started to long for Finland’s clean, functional houses, almost all equipped with a personal sauna. But returning to Finland was no option. We hadn’t suffered the Parisians for six years, painstakingly building a network necessary for any musician to make a living, just to run back to Finnish schlager-style variety music. So we moved to a great deal more expensive apartment, one with running water… and two weeks later, out came Lydia, now two and half years old. Milja Kaunisto

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
Finland is a large country with a small population, meaning that hospitals are scarce and thus full. I had heard less pleasant birthing stories from my Finn-friends – the famed Finnish equality between sexes can also mean no pain killer unless there is a ‘real need’, such as c-section. They just tell you to shut up and push, ‘this is the way our foremothers did it and so should you’. The wimpy person that I am, I was relieved to see that the little public-healthcare clinic that was to be my birthing stall offered a wide variety of pain relief. And they had obstetricians specializing in acupuncture, massages or homeopathy, all included in the public healthcare system!

They had helped me tremendously with my pre-birthing hormonal madness, my elephant ankles and my fiery heartburn, so when my waters broke, I felt confident. The waiting room was full of women of all colors and languages. It was fascinating to see the cultural differences of these women when it came to pain. Some talked vividly in their cell phones all through contractions, some screamed theatrically along with the mother and the mother-in-law by the bedside, some demanded more painkillers in an animated french. As it turned out, my baby didn’t come out but 32 hours later, so I had plenty of time to observe everything around me. But after 30 hours, I went into shock and was being prepared for a c-section with the utmost care. I felt so grateful. My Algerian gynecologist surgeon did such a wonderful job, and just a few minutes later, I saw my little blonde Lydia come out, cool and relaxed, practically yawning. This was the very first platinum blonde Nordic baby the gynecologist and his staff had ever seen, and they couldn’t stop staring at her, all smiles.

Lydia and Milja

Lydia and Milja


Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices? What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I had been given a choice of a joint room or a single room, and since I do not watch TV and hate its sound, I had chosen a single room. As it happened, I was tangled in wired and hoses after the surgery, and could not do a thing without calling for help. Somehow they knew I was a singer, and at night as I pressed the help-button to go to the bathroom, I heard the nurses mumbling in the hallway. ‘Oh, it’s her again.’ ‘Who does she think she is, calling for us all the time?’ ‘Did you know that she’s a singer?’ ‘Oh, that’s why, then! She thinks of herself as a superstar!’ At this point the nurse stomped in and barked: ‘What now?’ In my hormonal state, I started crying, and pointed towards the bathroom. The next day when I had to call for help again, I heard: ‘Oh, come on, not again! Someone call her husband to come and give the diva some applause!’ Do they really think a piano-bar singer is the same as Beyoncé, I thought. But then, I heard these nurses whined about almost every patient – this one smelled, this one snored, this one was too fat. I decided to let the supervisor know about this, and what a change it made! Nothing but smiles and helpfulness after that!

In France, I’ve noticed, standing up for yourself risking a few moments of shame makes everything work. Mummies – defend your ground!

After a week at the clinic, I was let out with my baby. Not long after that, our landlord started busting in our new apartment with his own set of keys! We decided it was time to leave Paris.

We now live in a tiny medieval village in the southern France’s Aveyron. Instead of piano bars and concerts, we have a small music school and a studio, and a house five times the size for half the rent. I would not go back to Paris now that I’ve tasted the delights of the French countryside. The kind people, the fresh produce, the cheap living. And my little daughter ,that will go to a French school next year (that, I’m sure will make another weird chapter to write about) makes it all worth the while.

Milja Kaunisto is a singer-songwriter, mummy of one fantastic daughter, lover of great food, amateur writer and world-saver, traveling woman and part-time nut.

You can follow Milja on Twitter, Wix, My Space and you have to check out her Blog.


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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: DUBAI, UAE

Having a baby in Dubai expatIt’s back to the United Arab Emirates this week as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making to hear Catherine’s story about having her son in Dubai.  She talks about feeling nervous about being abroad, the benefits of private healthcare and the differences between Dubai and the UK. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are your from? How old is your son, and where did you have him?
I’m 32 years old, from the South West of England – a village in Weston-super-Mare. I grew up in Oslo, Norway. My son William is 13 months and baby number two is due in November. Will was born in City Hospital, Dubai, and hopefully our second will be born there as well with the same obstetrician.

Why did you have your son abroad?
We had Will in Dubai as, for the moment, it’s home for us – I’ve lived there for ten years and my husband for six, and we never really considered having him anywhere else. While I’m sure healthcare in the UK is first-rate, my sister had horrendous birth experiences with her first two children and I’ve often read maternity care is an area needing some attention thanks to understaffing and over-stretched resources. We did also feel going back to the UK to have our baby would have been cheating, as neither of us has contributed to the country for some time and we’re no longer eligible for NHS care (and quite rightly so).

As an expectant mother abroad, how did you feel?
I was nervous about having our baby abroad as I knew I wouldn’t have my immediate family to hand straight away, but as it happened Mum was over on holiday when my doctor decided to induce so that was a stroke of luck! I did feel somewhat isolated, though, and distanced even more from my family at a time when I would have liked to have been closer to them, especially since my sister already had two children and was pregnant with her third.

Catherine with Will & her husband

Given that my healthcare in Dubai was private, I was concerned that I might end up undergoing tests or procedures that weren’t strictly necessary purely for money-making purposes, but again my choice of doctor reassured me, as she had worked in the UK for a number of years before relocating to Dubai. I was also very concerned I might be pushed into a C-section (I wish I had been now!) but she was very supportive of my wish for a natural birth. I found that pretty much anyone and everyone had an opinion – something I doubt I’d have encountered in the UK – and they weren’t frightened to share it. I never expected to have to defend my choice of not having an NT scan over the coffee machine in the office! I also found some of the medical professionals (and I use that word lightly) somewhat less than subtle in their manner; the doctor who did our anomaly scan at 20 weeks announced that I must have pregnancy diabetes as ‘baby is fat’. Er, OK.

What do you feel are the benefits of having a child abroad?
As healthcare in Dubai is mainly private, one of the benefits was a lovely modern hospital with private rooms. Superficial, yes, but I’d imagine having to be in a ward with other women after one of the most traumatic experiences of my life would have been a little less than ideal! Another benefit, especially for me, was that my maternity care was entirely the responsibility of an obstetrician, whereas at home I may only have seen someone this senior in case of any problems. I had pre-eclampsia and a difficult delivery thanks to being induced, and I was very reassured to have a specialist taking care of me. Not that the midwives weren’t excellent – they were beyond excellent – but I hadn’t had the easiest of pregnancies and I was grateful for the extra level of care.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
I’d say to others in our situation, find yourselves as much of a support network as you possibly can. I managed to meet up with a group of mums-to-be all due around the same time and found them invaluable – we were all so supportive of each other, we really did take the place of family when family simply couldn’t be there. We still keep in touch now and two of us are pregnant again. And one more tip; if you do have any doubts about the care you’re receiving, see if you can find out what would happen back at home. Having my sister at home who’d been there and done that, so we could compare, was great for me but I also managed to find information on NHS websites and through other online resources to put my mind at rest.


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



Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: JAPAN

Having a baby abroad JapanThis week we go to Japan as part of the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making to hear Erica’s story. She talks about the cultural differences between her native country Canada and her current home, Japan.  A fascinating story about language barriers, keeping small babies inside and never putting socks or shoes on your baby. Here is her story:


Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are your from? How old is your daughter, and where did you have her?
I’m a mother to one-year-old Stella who was born in Japan, a wife to a wonderful Swiss man, a blogger, a freelancer and a trailing spouse. I was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, but I’ve lived in seven different countries, countless cities, and a few tiny backwaters.

We are currently calling Japan “home”, and dreaming of our next adventure.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?
We had my daughter abroad because I wanted my husband to be present at the birth. He has a demanding job, and so returning to Canada, or Switzerland, or the US for the birth wouldn’t be practical.

As an expectant mother abroad, how did you feel?
Like many expectant mothers, I felt a mix of emotions: I was excited, impatient and thrilled to become a mother. But I was also incredibly anxious about having a baby abroad.

I got pregnant the week we moved to Japan, so in addition to culture shock, homesickness, and pregnancy crazysauce, I had to find and furnishing an apartment, and figure out prenatal care while dealing with a massive language barrier. Hence the anxiety.

I wanted everything to be perfect and I wasted considerable effort worrying that things wouldn’t be done “the right way”. Finally, two weeks before my daughter was due, I decided to just relax and trust the doctors. That was the best thing that I could have done.

My daughter’s birth was not perfect. Medical interventions were made that probably wouldn’t have been had we been in North America and Stella was rushed to the NICU in a different hospital where she stayed for her first four days. Still, I feel really positive about the experience. My doctor was so helpful, the midwives, despite our language barrier were incredibly kind and patient and more than willing to accommodate my strange, foreign wishes.













What do you feel are the benefits of having a child abroad?
There are many. In Asia there it is normal to take a long period of rest after the birth of a child. I stayed in the birth center for five days recovering from a normal, uncomplicated (for me) delivery. Most women stay at least a week. People were shocked that I took my daughter out for a walk seven days after she was born!

Having a child abroad has taught me to be a more flexible parent. I was fairly dogmatic about my attachment parenting crunchy granola beliefs, but circumstances have forced me to compromise on some of these principles. Seeing so many happy, healthy, well adjusted children who are not raised “by the book” tells me that there are as many ways to parent a child as there are children to be parented, and the best thing you can do is relax, do what works in your family and be kind to yourself.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?Pre-natal care in Japan is quite different. Doctors are much more paternalistic. One big difference is the recommended weight gain; mothers are only allowed to gain 6-10 KG in pregnancy, and doctors enforce this strictly. Mothers are even put on diets while pregnant! Let’s just say that the doctors were not too impressed with my 20 KG weight gain!

Prenatal care is also more cautious in Japan. For example, even uncomplicated pregnancies get an ultra-sound at each and every OB visit, and Non Stress Tests are administered routinely in the final three or four weeks of pregnancy. Also, I was instructed to come to the birth center as soon as contractions started and not permitted to labour at home.

In some ways, parenting in Japan is very similar to my attachment parenting style. Co-sleeping is the norm here; breastfeeding is encouraged; most mothers give birth without pain medication; and baby wearing is common. In other ways it is quite different; babies are held less, and are allowed to cry longer. Parents are liberal with television and sweets, and I get the feeling that mothers are less uptight about parenting in general.

The Japanese approach to baby sleep is quite different. Babies are put to bed much later, at about 9 PM and it is accepted that babies wake frequently during the night. I once mentioned that I wanted to try to night ween my very wakeful 10 month-old, and the other mothers looked at me like I was a crazy person.

Also, babies never wear shoes. And rarely wear socks. Even in winter. I still don’t know why.

I love observing and cataloging these differences in child rearing. It is so interesting to see that much of the baby rearing wisdom we hold as fact is actually culturally based.


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
My best advice is to relax. Find a doctor who most closely shares your approach to prenatal care and birth (you won’t find someone who thinks exactly like you do, but close enough is good enough) and then trust your doctor. Don’t get caught up in the minutia of baby prep, birth plans or small details of baby rearing. Relax an enjoy the process of becoming a parent. You and your baby will be happier for it.


Connect with Erica on her great blog: www.expatriababy.com or on Twitter



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



Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: Egypt & Saudi Arabia

Having a baby abroadThis week we go to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as part of the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Aisha, who is originally from the USA, talks about the difference of having babies in the USA, Egypt and Saudia, her role as a natural birth lecturer (amongst other things) and the importance of being informed. 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?
I’m originally from the United States, but I’m married to a Saudi and live in Saudi Arabia.

I have a myriad of roles:

• Founder of AMANI Birth (Assisting Mothers for Active, Natural, Instinctive Birth)
• Childbirth Educator and Lecturer
• Labor/Birth Doula
• WHO/UNICEF Certified Breastfeeding Counselor
• Columnist and Editor for Saudi Life Motherhood and Parenting pages (www.saudilife.net)
• Saudi Birth Story Blogger (www.saudibirthstory.blogspot.com)
• Freelance Journalist for Arab News
• Home Schooling Mother

It’s not as busy as it seems. I’m blessed to do most of that from home and with my children around me all the time!

My first five children were born in California: Khalid 15, Sarah 13, Amina 12, Salman 10, and Rayan 8. My sixth was born in Egypt, Haider, 4. My last two were born in Saudi: Faris 2 and Amani 9 months.

Why did you have your children abroad?
It just happens to be where we lived at the time of their births. Since my husband is Saudi, we eventually migrated across the globe to his homeland.

Faris holding newborn baby Aman

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
First and foremost would be the birthing culture’s understanding of Islamic practice. I find it uplifting and refreshing when medical staff make dua (prayer) or say, “Bismallah (for Allah),” before any exam or procedure.

Also, respect for modesty in the Muslim countries during labor and birth; which was lacking in the first five births in the States. Not to mention, not being treated strangely for making dua (prayer) in Arabic during labor and birth.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
With the first one (sixth birth), I was very nervous about the quality of care. More than that, I was concerned about the high level of medical interventions routinely performed in the Egyptian birthing culture.

I found a doctor who respected my birthing experience and who basically allowed me to dictate what I did or did not want done. As a natural birth mama, this really was a blessing, especially since Egyptian protocols are not normally so “hands-off” for birth.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
Absolutely! First of all, there is simply no such thing as “informed consent” here. Once you admit into the hospital for birth, it’s as if you’ve handed your body over like you would your car to a mechanic. Questioning the doctor, or asking to be informed about what is going on and why, is often met with annoyed resistance. Patients and their families are met with an attitude that portrays that the doctor is “all-knowing” and whatever is happening is “beyond anyone else’s level of understanding.”

Sadly, it’s common to hear about women who have been “put under” for no reason and without warning just as their baby is about to be born. This and other unnecessary procedures and protocols are carried out without a word or explanation before, during, or after the event.

This is extremely disturbing and frightening for those of us from the West. We realize our birthing culture there is too medicalized. However, in the States we expect some level of respect and information and overall control over decisions made with regards to our care, unless a true life or death emergency arises.

As for parenting, most locals in Saudi and Egypt have no concept of home schooling. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. I could probably write a whole post (or more) just on the cultural differences in parenting.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Knowledge is power. Get educated, be prepared to advocate for yourself and your baby as well as to make your case (and educate your care provider along the way) for what you want/don’t want done during your birth.

More importantly, don’t assume that the type of care or respect for your decisions is at the same level as your home country. Constant and detailed communication with your care providers is imperative. Also, shop around and ask other expats for their recommendations and don’t just go with the provider your insurance covers. When it comes to birth, it’s better to pay more for the experience you desire, then to regret it later.



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



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