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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: USA

This week I talk the Gauri AKA the “Loving Earth Mama” who is half English, half Portugese and is a real TCK who had her daughter in the US – I won’t go into too much detail as she’s got it all covered as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Here is her story:

having baby abroad USA TCKTell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her?
I was born in Boston where my parents travelled to study complementary medicines and join the health food movement 🙂 My dad is Portuguese, my mother is English. I grew up in Portugal which we moved to when I was 5. At 18 I went to the UK to do a degree and ended up living there for 15 years. I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my hubby (who himself is bi-cultural: British-born Chinese) and 20 month old baby girl (nicknamed Nica). She was born in San Fran after we had been living here for a year and a half.

Why did you have your daughter abroad? What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
We didn’t plan to spawn abroad, as such… we just moved here because it is so sunny and wonderful and then found our life naturally moved that way. But, though there are many challenges – not least of which being away from my family and friends – there are some benefits to living far from your tribe, too.

When I first gave birth I concentrated on the negative. I cried ‘cos my mother wasn’t here to help me (though she does help me a lot from afar and comes for long visits, too) and ‘cos I had no friends coming over with food and comfort. ‘It takes a village’, I sobbed, ‘and mine is the other side of an ocean’. Then slowly I remembered the reasons why I left Portugal. I LOVE that country but I left because, even living in the capital, I felt smothered and hemmed in, like I was living in… err… a small village – you know, where everybody is up in your business, talking about you, judging you, interfering? And I remembered that actually I don’t like ‘village’ life, at all!

Over here, a continent away, I was able to completely re-invent myself as a mother. I was able to start from scratch which, though painful, is also incredibly invigorating and empowering. It was also freeing: breaking with the old ways, ‘the way things have always been done’ was much easier, over here. I mean, for example, I often heard other pregnant women complain about how people would give them so much unsolicited advice. That didn’t happen to me. I assume it was because the people I knew here didn’t feel close enough to me to do that and the people who are close to me are, well, far – so nobody’s opinions were getting in the way of me forming my own.

And let’s be honest, being into alternative health and natural birth, I was always going to do things a little differently… but if I were in Portugal I’d be feeling judged and different and crazy and that would undoubtedly lead to me second guess myself all the time and, on some things, probably bowing to the pressure, if for no other reason than I would have known no better.

On the other hand, here in California, I have been able to surround myself by a network of incredibly insightful, smart, alternative, gentle mamas. I knew so few people here that once I had a baby I really had to go out there and build community, attending every mother-baby group I could find. The hidden advantage there is that it really enabled me to ‘pick and chose’ and connect with friends who resonate with who I am and with my life choices, NOW.

My old friends are all wonderful but don’t necessarily share my present parenting ideas or ideals.
And these new mama-friends teach me so much (whereas in Portugal I may have been myself a bit of a natural parenting pioneer…?). Here, I can learn from others leading the way in conscious, green, natural parenting. I am so awed and inspired by these women.

If I were in Portugal or even in England, while I would have been held, loved and supported, I would have undoubtedly relied on hanging out with my old friends who see me as the old me and expect me (without thinking about it) to do things the way everyone there does it… I would find myself having to explain/justify/re-think why I do things differently (like co-sleep, breastfeed a toddler, do sign language, don’t eat sugar or watch TV, etc, etc) ALL THE TIME. Phew. I feel tired just thinking about it. The clean break here has been amazing in allowing me to find out who I am as a mother with only my soul and some books as guidance – along with my amazing, supportive husband.

US TCK having baby abroadAs an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
I felt blessed and embraced, as people here are very open and positive. At the same time, I also felt very alone and isolated staring down such a big life event, knowing nearly nobody else locally who was expecting or a parent. But honestly, most of the pregnancy I was blissed out and looking forward to my heaven that was coming after giving birth (or so I thought). It was really only after I gave birth that the magnitude of this life change really hit me – I was no longer a career woman but a stay-at-home-mom with no community. Enter the ‘going to EVERY mothering support group and local play groups I could find’ stage.

Mostly, as an expectant mother, I just smiled and enjoyed the state-of-the-art health facilities and options you get here (all paid for, though, whereas in Europe I would have had access to free healthcare). I did wish there were more independent birthing centers, as there are in Europe so that my choices weren’t as stark as: big hospital or homebirth – which I ultimately went for. I would have loved midwifery to be more standard here, too. And I yearned for the kind of work-related benefits you get in Europe. I couldn’t believe most women here, in the US, only take 3 months off work! How can you possibly bond and practice natural breastfeeding (no pumping) in those conditions? ‘You can’t’, is the answer and so many women give up breastfeeding here, because pumping doesn’t always cut it for them. Sad.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
Hmm, not just opinions but practices. I am pretty sure if I had stayed in Portugal (and perhaps even in England) I would not have known people who ate their placentas, practice Elimination Communication and perhaps I wouldn’t even have a name for co-sleeping… or would I? I do tend to ferret out the alternative communities wherever I go, so maybe motherhood would have been the catalyst for me to seek them in Portugal, too.
In California, though, safe in my little circle of AP and alternative moms, I live in a kind of a bubble where extended breastfeeding, gentle discipline and self-directed play are all if not the norm, at least absolutely accepted. I definitely think I would hear people’s opinions about these things if I were living somewhere else. So glad they are ‘nomal’, at least in pockets, here.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Stay connected to your community at home, your good, old friends who really know you, will call you out when you are being stupid and sing to your soul when you need sympathy. They are important and you will need that (alongside the support you get from your new community in the place you move to). Skype is invaluable in this way.

Ask for what you need, even from family and friends who are abroad. If you need/want them to come over for a few weeks/months after the birth – ask. I know this depends a lot on economic conditions and perhaps they can’t do that, but you can ask them to call you every day for 5 mins, just to check in on you or to send you a care package or to write long emails about mundane things back home so you feel part of things, even as your life changes so much and everything else is off center, at least this will be familiar. I didn’t ask my mom to stay after the birth and I regret it, now. Okay, regret is too strong a word, but I learned from that. I learned that I need to ask and I need to be open to whatever answer comes, even if it is a ‘no’ but at least then I asked.

Then, after nourishing your roots, go out and spread your branches into your new community of choice (I do hope you moved by choice! and not only necessity). You will need them, too. You will need lots of mothers in your circle. That is the best healing, post-partum, talking to other mothers!

Learn more about Gauri by Liking her on Facebook, following her on Twitter and checking out her blog


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


Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

Having baby abroad franceThis week I talk to Amber as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She had her son in France. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your son and where did you have him?
I’m an American expat currently living in the suburbs of Lille, France. I’ve been in France for 5 years and I moved here to be with my French husband who is from Reunion Island. I have a 9 month old son named Victor and he was born here in Tourcoing, France on Nov. 30th.

Why did you have your son abroad?
We decided to have our son here because this is where we’ve made our life. My husband isn’t a native to “France Metropole” (continental France) either. We are more or less alone here and a baby had always been a part of our plans. Not knowing what the future holds for us, we decided to go for it now. We didn’t want to put it on hold just because we’re living away from our families.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
In all honesty, having a baby in France seems to be much more affordable than having a baby elsewhere. I chose a private hospital and doctor, stayed for 8 days and was home hospitalized for three weeks, and I think must have cost something like 60€ total . We have been to the ER more times than I can count since he was born, had numerous tests run, and have never paid a cent for any of it. The health care system very much favors children. My son has a health issue and drinks formula that is very difficult to obtain and quite expensive, and because it’s a necessity it’s subsidized at 100%, meaning we pay about what we would pay for formula from the supermarket, and regardless of our income.

There are also benefits to raising children in France. Childcare is very affordable and maternity leave (although not well paid) was four months for me. I could have even chosen to stay at home longer. Comparable to my friends in the US who hardly had 4-6 weeks of unpaid leave, that’s a great advantage.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
My pregnancy was full of questions. I felt like (and still feel like) I have to fight in order to get doctors to listen to me and take me seriously. I chose my doctors very carefully and explained from the very first visit that I would be asking a lot of questions and expecting very thorough answers, which isn’t really the French way of doing things. There’s also the complication of not knowing how the system works, so not always knowing what questions to ask. In France you have to ask very precise questions to get the exact answer you are looking for. Over time I had to learn a lot of vocabulary which came naturally as my pregnancy progressed, but it wasn’t obvious at first.

I felt a lot of stress from women who’d already had children and were telling me things like if I hadn’t already booked my maternity, chances were that they were already full, or if I hadn’t found childcare prior to getting pregnant, I was out of luck and would likely never find anybody. I scrambled before the end of my first trimester to try and line up a hospital and a nanny, and in the end the scramble wasn’t necessary.

American expat baby in FranceI also chose to continue working until four weeks before my due date. The recommended amount of time is six weeks, and most women take eight or more. I was made to feel like I was abusing my body and my baby for this decision, despite having my doctor’s permission. People would approach me and ask me if I ought to still be driving “in my condition” and perfect strangers thought that acceptable topics of conversation were things like my decision to have or not have an epidural, breastfeeding or not, etc., when otherwise the French keep very much to themselves and would have never tried to make playful banter with me if I weren’t pregnant.

I also felt like there is a stigma about pregnant women and maybe this exists elsewhere too. I felt like people were either looking at me encouragingly, or jealously. I chose to have my baby at a young age (I was 23 when I got pregnant) and the average age for a first baby in France is 30. Because so many women are waiting until they are older to have babies, there are many who are finding that it’s not always as easy to have a baby later in life, and thus the stares and the critical comments. My doctor even went as far as to ask me if “I really wanted to have this baby” or if “my pregnancy was intended”. I tried not to be offended, but in their eyes a 23 year old doesn’t choose to be a mother. What they didn’t know is that I’d been married for two years, we’d recently bought a home, and both my husband and I were employed and financially stable. Having a family had always been our intention, and my line of thinking was why not go ahead and do it now, while we have health and time on our hands? We wanted the process to be natural and stress-free. My goal was to be pregnant by the end of the year 2010 — no ovulation tests, no sitting with my feet in the air or any of grandma’s remedies, and we figured we’d need time in order for it to work out as we wanted. As fate would have it, my little boy was already in my arms as we celebrated the arrival of the New Year.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
Breastfeeding is very rare here. I know very few women who did it longer than 3 months, and I met very few doctors who were encouraging breastfeeding. I was told by a pediatrician that it was my fault that my baby was experiencing “failure to thrive” at two months because he hadn’t gained any weight. She claimed it was due to my “obsession” and “fixation” with breast feeding. I was neither obsessed nor fixated — nursing was something I did because I could, but I did not enjoy it and literally suffered through it. Other doctors claimed that it was due to my diet (i’m vegetarian) and that he wasn’t getting the nutrients necessary to thrive. I carried on until he weaned himself at 6 months (he’d been receiving bottles of formula while I was at work) and came to find out during the last month that he was allergic to milk proteins, and thus allergic to my milk AND the doctor-recommended formulas. Long story short — I felt as though French doctors are unwilling to look at the big picture and examine other symptoms, and are very quick to write you off as an obsessive new mom because that’s the easiest route.

At the same time that I was experiencing criticism from doctors for nursing here in France, I was getting backlash from people in the states or other Americans abroad about the way I chose to nurse. I was told that pumping, using nipple shields, or even creams, wasn’t “real nursing”. I had a hard time dealing with the people in my life who really had no clue what it was like to try and go out in public while breast feeding a baby in this country. It’s something you just don’t see, because people just don’t do it that often, and when you’re in a fragile, postpartum state of mind, it’s difficult to ignore all of the stares or comments around you. I think it may be easier to nurse in the states or in a country where it’s more common to encourage new moms to nurse.

It was also very difficult to get postpartum help for myself once my home hospitalization had come to an end. My doctor would say something like, “oh yeah, you can see so-and-so who works at the hospital.. she doesn’t have a direct line so you’ll just have to call and see.. she has very irregular hours and is hard to get in touch with…” which wasn’t very encouraging. With his doctors calling me “obsessed” for coming in to see them about his colic, and mine telling me “it’s very hard to get help”.. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a whole lot of faith in our medical system’s ability to provide good mental health care or emotional support to new parents.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
I would advise home hospitalization, and I would advise asking for it because it’s not offered automatically. This was helpful because they’d come to the home every day to weigh the baby and show me how to do things that I couldn’t learn how to do at the hospital due to my C-section recovery. They’d answer any questions I had and were very attentive to my needs. I wish this could have continued in some form or other throughout my maternity leave.

It’s also important to be realistic. Having a baby away from your family and outside your country isn’t easy, and you need to be strong and have a good support system to get you through the difficult times when you have little to no comfort in your surroundings. I would recommend that you find a doctor who understands your unique situation and really listens to you. I would also recommend finding other women in your area that you can talk to, or friends that are supportive of your situation.

Check out Amber’s blog

Want to share your story? Get in touch

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: TURKEY

Having a baby in TurkeyThis week I talk to Suzie as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She had her son in Turkey. Here is her story:

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

I’m Suzie, 26, originally from Wales and I’ve been in Istanbul, Turkey now for 5years. I met my /turkish husband here and our son M was born in March this year. He was born in Istanbul.

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

When I first became pregnant, I expected I’d want to return to the UK to give birth. As the pregnancy sunk in, I realised that I didn’t want to take our baby home from the hospital to anywhere other than home, which meant giving birth here. It turned out to be a wonderful decision. Unlike the UK, I had monthly appointments with ultrasounds at each check*, I had my doctors cell phone number to call at any concern, I got to choose the doctor, and hospital and felt in control of our monitoring. Yes, we had to pay for the appointments/birth but I was able to offset the cost with my husbands national insurance and the pregnancy and birth in total cost a fraction of a private birth with the same options in the UK. The downside was I was unable to consider a homebirth, which I would have probably opted for in the UK.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Overwhelmed by the differences at times,  and having no other pregnant friends or Mums of babies here, a little isolated. On the other hand, Turkey is a baby/pregnant friendly country so I never had to stand on a bus or wait in line!

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

It is rare that a parenting decision we make is in line with the ‘traditional’ Turkish opinion of what we should do and that can be tough going as people don’t hesitate to tell you, in no uncertain terms, that your choice is wrong. For example, a nurse told me using cotton nappies with M would cause nappy rash not prevent it, I’ve lost count of the number of strangers who have chastised me for carrying M in a ring sling or wrap, and people frequently tell me to put more clothes on him, cover him up. But, their intentions are all in the right place and I try to remeber that; plus, my in-laws have been fantastic in supporting the decisions we’ve made, even when they don’t understand them themselves.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Trust your gut and talk to your partner. There have been times when I have felt like just giving in for the ease, but have stuck to my instinct and ultimately have felt good about the choices we’ve made. Likewise, talking to my husband has often made a big difference to how I feel and he has been able to deal with some of the problems I was facing head-on, whereas I’d just have let them go.

*I know there are those against ultrasound, but I was grateful for the extra monitoring.

You can follow Suzie on Twitter and don’t forget to check her Blog


Want to share your story? Get in touch


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: FRANCE

PigletinFrance and Baby PigletThis week I talk to Sharon who is British and had her baby daughter in France as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about the importance of family values in France, the challenges of breastfeeding past 3 months (it’s not really “done” in France and following your heart. 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’m a 30 year old British expat living in the North Isere, France with my French husband, my daughter and my two cats. I moved to France from the UK aged 16 as I was an Ice Dancer and Lyons had the best training facilities in Europe. It was daunting arriving in a foreign country alone so young, especially as I didn’t speak any French. However, I soon picked up the language skills and France became my home.

My daughter was born in Valence, France in April 2011. I was living in Lyon and had planned to give birth in the Croix Rousse Hospital in Lyon as it had an excellent reputation and many of my friends had given birth there. Unfortunately due to my Husband and I moving area and a delay in our house purchase, I was unable to give birth where I had planned and ended up having a very difficult birth and after birth in Valence’s public hospital which left me in bed for a month post partum.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?
I didn’t specifically choose to have my daughter abroad. Living in France happened naturally for me and it seemed logical to have my baby here. My Husband and I had spent a few years in the UK together long before we decided to have children and we had both said at the time that if we do have children one day we would like to raise them in France.

France places much more value on Family Values in my opinion than the UK does. I love how meal times are family affairs here and how frequently families get together and make efforts to stay in touch. My Husband and I are as close to some of his French family members as we are to our friends and we want that for our children as well. I know that parents influence the education of their children but I also believe culture does too and I really respect the French culture for the importance they place on family.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
Having moved to France at such a young age I consider that I already know some of the benefits as I’d experienced growing up in a foreign country myself. Access to a second language and different cultures for a child is fantastic and part of their life education. Aside from the benefits for my baby I don’t think there was really any benefit to me but that is probably because I had a very difficult birth experience and often when things go wrong you want to be in your own country.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
Initially, I was quite blasé about the whole thing and felt that the French placed a lot of drama around such a natural experience. Everything in France is very medicalised and I can remember being told off as I hadn’t had any check ups before my 12 week scan. I had opted not to have any early check ups as I had miscarried the year before and had been through a circus of check ups that led to nothing but stress. Some women find the constant check ups re-assuring but I chose to let nature decide what to do and was at peace with my decision but the Drs didn’t understand.
I also chose to be followed solely by a midwife rather than an Obstetrician which is rare in France and my French friends and family thought I was mad. Despite the difficulties I encountered with the birth and after birth (which were largely due to the medical incompetence of the Obstetrician) I am still happy with how I managed my pregnancy and would opt to be followed by a midwife again. I would even consider having a home birth which is quite rare in France.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
Aside from my choice of not wishing to have my pregnancy over medicalised, I haven’t encountered too many differences as yet as my daughter is still very young. A lot of my friends and French family seem surprised that I am still breastfeeding my daughter (she is 3 months old). It seems as if it is automatically assumed that she would be on formula by this age.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Thankfully I am fluent in French so I was able to make my wishes understood but even then (especially after the birth whilst I was in dreadful pain) I sometimes wished I could explain how I felt and ask my questions in English, just for re-assurance that I was being understood. If you’re not fluent in the local language I would definitely recommend either finding a Dr that speaks your language or finding someone to help with translation.

Also, go with your heart. Just because something is the “done thing” in the country you’re giving birth in doesn’t mean to say it is the right or best thing for your baby. I do a lot based on instinct and will continue to do this as I have a contented baby so must be doing something right!


Connect with Sharon on Twitter and on facebook also check out her blog for, often hilarious, stories about living in France

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: United Kingdom

This week we go to the UK as part of the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Deborah has two sons; one born in the UK and the other, in her home country, the US. She talks about the challenges of having a baby so far away from family and friends, the taboo that is natural childbirth and glamour of driving a mini-van. Here is her story:


Deborah and Gabriella with their sons Asher and Levi

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?
I’m Deborah Goldstein, freelance writer, columnist for Patch.com and mother to 7-year-old Asher and 4-year-old Levi. I’m a Gemini married to a Sagittarius, which seems to work out ok. My partner Gabriella and I have been together 17 years, and we still like each other for the most part. I was born in New York City, spent most of my childhood in the suburbs outside of Chicago, gave birth the first time around in London and now I’m back in U.S. driving around the glamorous suburbs of New Jersey in my mini-van.

Why did you have your children abroad?
In 1999, my partner Gabriella and I started itching to travel. We decided that we’d move overseas wherever either of us could find work. Her company offered her a job in London, and we lived there for 7 years. We had our first child at the Royal Free Hospital’s birth centre in Belsize Park in 2003. In 2006, Gabriella’s company offered her another job in NYC, so we said, “Toodle pip!” to the UK. Our 2nd child was born at the birthing center at Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
Because our first birth experience was abroad, we had no point of reference. Having given birth in the U.S. the second time around, I’ve looked at birth from both sides now as the song goes. My first child kicked a hole in the placenta at 35 weeks, and my 33 ½ hours of labor followed. I am confident now that doctors would have pushed me to have an unnecessary C-section had I given birth in the U.S. They would not have tolerated such a long labor with a premature baby. Our local hospital St. Barnabas in New Jersey is topping the C-section charts at 49% of all births.


Having a baby abroad UK

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
You know how you buy an old house to fix-up because it has so much potential, and then you come to the conclusion that potential is really expensive and stressful and you vow never to do that again? But you didn’t know what to expect when you bought that house, and your contractor told you it had such good bones, and your vision of what could be was so very idyllic. We had no idea what to expect which was probably a good thing. Expecting a child for the first time was a similar experience. We romanticized our life with baby and looked forward to becoming parents. Neither one of us ever imagined how difficult it would be to parent without the support of friends or family. Those months of sleep-deprivation made the first trimester of flat-on-my-back morning-noon-and-night sickness look like a doddle.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
The medical system in the U.S. teaches pregnant women to be afraid of pregnancy and birth, and doctors convince us to trust the medical establishment over our own bodies. They aren’t completely to blame when insurance companies have got them by the short hairs. Doctors would much rather perform surgery they can control rather than leave birth up to nature. And then there’s the issue of pain. Women in the U.S. will do anything to avoid what they’ve been taught is unbearable pain. Look, I won’t lie and say that it wasn’t painful, but I think the unfamiliarity of that kind of pain is what’s most shocking the first time around. Think about the first time you experienced any kind of pain like stubbing your toe. It still hurts when you do it again, but you are familiar with the sensation, and it’s not as scary. When you recognize what’s happening to you (and one child has stretched you out sufficiently), the pain is not nearly as significant the next time. When I tell other mothers that I gave birth without drugs, they look at me like I’ve got a tail growing out of my ear. Would you believe that it’s easier to tell people that I’m gay than it is to discuss birth? In the U.S., I am fairly closeted about my birth choices.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
You are your own best advocate. Do some reading. Trust your choices. And always accept help from others. And, as a wise friend told me regarding the many mistakes we think we make along the way, your children grow up in spite of you.

You can follow Deborah onTwitter and also check out her blog Peaches & Coconuts


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