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Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: AUSTRALIA

Having a baby abroad AustraliaThis week I talk to Tasmin, an American who had her baby daughter in Australia as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about the benefits of being raised as a dual citizen, the challenge of getting affordable baby stuff and the importance of getting professional baby photo’s done. 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 Tasmin and I grew up in Texas, but my dad is from New Zealand so I was raised a little cross culturally (eating lamb, loving to travel). I had visited family in Sydney before and always wanted to live here since it is a big city, but clean with heaps of friendly people and things to do on beautiful beaches. I married another American and we moved around the U.S. a bit after University (where we met studying abroad in New Zealand) and I finally convinced him to sell everything and hop on a plane to Sydney 4 years ago. My daughter is four months old and she was born here.

Why did you have your daughter abroad?

Being raised as a dual citizen allowed me lots of opportunities like studying abroad at a non-international tuition cost in New Zealand, sometimes travelling under the radar in developing nations, and being able to live abroad in Commonwealth countries without prolonged visa applications.  I’ve always wanted my children to have those same opportunities.  Growing up in a small Texas town it made me feel special to have a connection to another country since so many of the people around me didn’t even have passports.  I think it gave me more of an open view of the world and its possibilities from a young age.

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

The U.S. has a certain way of doing things, and when it comes to birthing and raising babies, it’s not usually my personal preference.  Australia is very family friendly and the work arrangements especially appealed to me.  It is very common, if not expected, that you will take a full year off for each child.  Provided you return within 52 weeks, you have full job security at the same position with the same pay. In addition to your employer’s leave payment (averaging 8-12 weeks full pay), you also get 18 weeks paid from the government at minimum wage (replacing the old baby bonus scheme this year).  It means you do not derail your career by spending the first year of their life with your child full time.






Pregnant Tasmin

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was just fine.  To be fair, I had been here for 3 years before getting pregnant, so we had established a solid network of friends, plus I have cousins that live in town along with other extended family in New Zealand.

Our parents back in the U.S. of course would have liked to be more a part of it all, but Facebook status updates daily, photo posts, and Skype calls weekly have made staying in touch very easy.

Getting a hold of quality, inexpensive baby items has been really challenging since Australia is such a small place.  We have been getting most of our essentials from Amazon, sent to parents’ houses, consolidated and then mailed over to us in care packages.  Not ideal, but saves us ridiculous amounts of money.

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

Prior to getting pregnant, I would not have considered myself ‘crunchy’ but as I researched my options for everything on childbirth to child rearing, I kept leaning that way with my preferences.  Australia generally advocates everything that it part of my parenting philosophy, in contrast with the U.S.. Not to say you can’t fight for it there, but you would have to.

Here we have public and private hospital options and it was confusing for me to sort out, but I opted to go public  through Midwifery group care.  It was great because I saw one midwife for all my prenatal appointments (if any issues had showed up making me high-risk I would have automatically seen an OB as well).  She was also part of a small team of awesome midwives who would be there when I actually delivered the baby.  The rooms all had big tubs if you wanted a waterbirth, along with all sorts of other things (ball, mat) for the active birthing they advocated. They tried to keep you on a natural, intervention-free path if possible, but of course if you wanted an epidural, etc. it was available.  Since the birthing centre was within the hospital, any emergency situations could be immediately dealt with.  And it was all free.

The hospitals are also “baby friendly” in that they do not take a healthy baby away from you, they are not put in a nursery, never given formula unless that is something you have chosen (then you have to mix it yourself), and they don’t advocate pacifiers at the beginning as they can interfere with establishing breastfeeding.

Here it is expected that you will breastfeed for a year.  There is a lot of support in the hospital to get you going in the right direction, there are lactation nurses available at the early childhood centres twice a week for drop in help (they will watch you and show you how to improve your issue whatever it might be), and the Australian Breastfeeding Association has a 24hr hotline you can ring along with weekly meetings and coffee mornings with related discussion topics.  Inevitably there are some people who cannot or will not breastfeed, but formula use is definitely frowned upon.

There is great Community support as well.  After I left the hospital a midwife visited me 3 times over the next week to help me settle in, answer questions about bathing, pumping, whatever.  Then there is the Early Childhood centre who you have your well-baby appointments with for 4wks (they come to the house), 8wks, 3mths…etc.  You can attend an organised mothers group for the first 8 weeks hosted there, and then branch out and organise yourselves.  This has been one of the best things for me – weekly lunches with other women who have babies the exact same age to compare notes and commiserate.  It’s a fantastic support network especially for first time mums.  Karitane and Tresillian are also great non-profit organisations of nurses who answer a 24hr hotline on behavioural/sleep issues and you can be referred to them for day or week stays where the nurses actually show you how to fix an issue.  It’s mostly free as well.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Decide what you would like and find a carer that shares that philosophy, then as things unfold on the day of your birth, trust their recommendations.  It will never go as planned and you need to be flexible for your own safety and the health of your baby while still feeling engaged and empowered.  Really take advantage of the resources available to you whether they are hotlines to ask questions or mothers groups.  It helps you stay connected (not isolated in a foreign country with a screaming new baby) and realise what is normal and what is not so you can seek out help.  And take lots of pictures of the baby for your family back “home” including a proper family portrait session – you won’t regret it.

Tasmin is a photographer here is her site: www.tasminbrown.com Connect with Tasmin on facebook for “lots of mommy related musings”


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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: CANADA

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

having a baby in canada french mother

Deb and Sixtine Charlotte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

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

Connect with Deb here:

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


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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: USA

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Shadi who is Iranian but grew up in Dubai and had her daughter in the United States (she’s also expecting her second baby). Here is her story:

iranian expat baby abroad USATell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her?

My name is Shadi. I am from Iran. I grew up in Dubai and moved to the States at the age of 19 to peruse my studies. I have been here in the States, South Carolina for 14 years minus a break from living here where I completed my masters in the UK. Ironically, I met my “English” husband in the States so we have all kinds of cultures going on in our household! We have a 3 year old daughter and I had her here in South Carolina, US where we live today.

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

Growing up so internationally I didn’t have a specific preference of where I would like to have children. It was going to be where I was living at the time. My daughter is lucky to now have both American and British citizenships. I grew up with an Iranian passport and I know all too well how hard traveling was so I am very happy that my daughter will never experience that. I’m sure there are support groups for moms and women everywhere, there are immensely supportive groups you can find here like the MOMS Club, which I am a part of, I don’t know what I would have done without them being so far away from my family. Women need women, no matter how supportive our husbands are! 🙂

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was very lucky to have a smooth pregnancy, I really enjoyed being pregnant. I was also working throughout my pregnancy so that kept me busy. There are so many classes you can choose to take here and if you are looking for support, it is at your doorstep. I was especially surprised at how much emphasis there was on breastfeeding. That was one of the best classes I took, it helped me so much. I ended up breastfeeding for 16 months.

Of course I had the anxieties that any person would have while pregnant, especially being away from my mom, and reading, reading, reading helped a lot, as well as talking to friends and family who have had kids!

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

Not necessary with my pregnancy and of course with parenting, everyone has an opinion! While pregnant, I got great care from the doctors, I went for checkups regularly and towards the end, the visits became more and more frequent because that is what is asked of you.

My biggest issue about having a baby here was the clinical feel of it, there is a protocol and it is what it is. Most doctors treat having a baby like it’s a medical process, get it out, job done. I didn’t feel that connection with my doctors. Yes “doctors,” I was part of a medical group so I had many and whoever was available that day was going to deliver my child although at the end I found out it’s the nurses that do everything anyway!

Also, while I was pregnant, I found out that the typical process that takes place here, is they don’t let you go overdue by much, you will get induced, which is a very painful and rushed labor and therefore, you end up getting an epidural, which ends up in a c-section because you and the baby are absolutely exhausted, guess what? It is exactly what happened to me! However, thanks to my husband, we have good insurance, therefore, I had a large private room to myself, great care and at the women’s hospital I delivered at, there was a nurse that visited me daily to help me with breastfeeding, even bra fitting! I also did get to hold my baby pretty much right away even though I had a c-section, my husband held her next to my head until they were done stitching me up so I had my constant contact until I was able to breastfeed her rolling into our private room.

To be honest, in my opinion, the whole attachment to your birth plan is a 1st time mother thing, once it actually happens, however it happens, all that matters is that you are both healthy.

I would like to add here that I am now pregnant with my second and have chosen a different doctor. This doctor will be the only doctor I will see throughout my pregnancy and he will be the only one delivering my child. I also have the chance to have a natural birth even though I had a c-section 1st time around. The choices are there, you just have to look for them.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation? 

My advice would be, embrace your pregnancy, follow your instinct, listen to your body, do your research, and most importantly, find a support group. Women have been having babies for centuries, where you have your child doesn’t matter, the end result is you and your baby, that is all that matters.



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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: SOUTH AFRICA

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

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

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


Why did you have your children abroad?

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Three things come to me.

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

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

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



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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: SPAIN

Having baby in spain

Bibsey Mama and her daughter

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

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

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

Why did you have your daughter abroad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

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

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

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

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

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

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

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

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


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


Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: SINGAPORE

having a baby in Singapore

Crystal's daughters

This week I talk to Crystal who is American. She shares her experience of having baby in the USA and in Singapore as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. 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 33, and when I’m not doing the wife/mom thing, I give workshops and write about sexuality during pregnancy as well as reconnecting with yourself and your partner after baby. I also love to write fiction, do photography, and bake.

My husband is a 35 year old fellow American (of Indian descent), and although he’s lived abroad many times before (as a child and as an adult), this is my first posting abroad (other than a highly structured program for one month in college). We’ve been married about five and a half years, and have two daughters; Elanor (3) and Rhiannon (born October 2011). Ravi and I are both from Massachusetts, and had been based out of the greater Boston area on and off since we were each in college in the late 90’s/early 00’s.

Elanor was born in our hometown of Boston, Massachusetts in the US and Rhiannon was born in Singapore, where we currently live.

Why did you have your children abroad?

This was an incredibly difficult decision for me to make. I agonized over the choice because Elanor became deathly ill after her birth, and we don’t have answers as to why she got as sick as she did. I’m also high risk (diabetic with pregnancy, and I was in the early stages of developing pre-eclampsia when we elected to induce Ellie’s birth). I knew that my care would require a lot of bells and whistles, and I just wasn’t sure I could find or felt confident about here in Singapore. However, I was very lucky to find a great OB who was willing to email with my OB in the states and adapt my care to simulate what I would have gotten back home (the same tests, the ante-natal assessments, etc). I was given a very thorough private tour of the hospital where I delivered, and they assured me that again, they could customize my care to meet my concerns.


Finally, giving birth in the US would have separated our family for 5 or more months as I can’t fly after 32 weeks, and the baby would need to be 6 weeks old to fly (or older, as getting a passport would have been a much slower process in the US than it was in Singapore). We were willing to do so if my condition had ever indicated that the US was where I needed to be, but thankfully while not an easy pregnancy, I remained stable enough to deliver in Singapore, and to remain with my husband and elder daughter while waiting for the younger to arrive.


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

In Singapore, once you find the right provider (I went through 5 OB’s–I found that the older, male OB’s in particular were very authoritarian and were not forthcoming with information—my OB is a younger woman, which I think had a lot to do with our connection and her flexibility), the care you receive is incredibly personal and customizable. Few people have insurance, so there’s no one dictating how frequently you see your OB, how often you get an ultrasound, or exactly what tests you HAVE to have. It’s between you and your provider to decide.


I think what blew me away the most was how personal the care was. When I needed to be rehydrated (I had hyperemesis and threw up constantly), I just went to my OB’s office and she inserted the IV herself. When I had a fall and needed to go see labor and delivery triage, she came in from home to check on me and the baby herself. There was never any question if she’d be the one to deliver my baby once she checked her calendar to ensure she wouldn’t be out of town near my due date. When my condition warranted close monitoring, we didn’t have to argue with “policy”–we just agreed that I would be seen more often. When I was hospitalized for early labor, and again after my daughter was born, my doctor dropped by my room daily (sometimes twice daily). I never questioned who would deliver my baby, or who would look after me…I knew it would be the doctor I’d picked and felt safe with.


As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Like I said, I had a lot of initial anxiety. Boston is known for being one of the best places to receive medical care in the world, and having had a medical pregnancy, I was worried that I couldn’t get the level of care in Singapore that I’d become accustomed to in Boston. Imagine my surprise, then, that by the end of the pregnancy there were plenty of things I liked *better* about Singaporean care!


The OB I chose allowed me to have a lot of say in my care. This had its pluses (such as specifying which ante-natal tests I wanted) and its minuses (when we were deciding when to induce, I would have preferred less say and more objective science as to whether or not I should deliver on a given day). She was also really awesome about letting my former OB in the US have a lot of say regarding testing, and she also was given input when my condition began to deteriorate and we were making the decision regarding how much longer to allow my pregnancy to progress (I had Rhiannon at 35w 3d because of pre-eclampsia).


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

Well, I did get in trouble with an auntie (older woman) one time when I was visibly pregnant for drinking iced water. Many Asian cultures (including the Chinese, whom are the dominant ethnic group in Singapore) believe that pregnant women should only drink warm water, and that cold water is bad for you.


I’m also flouting convention a bit in not staying home for the first month after having a baby, and I’ve had strangers tell me that I have no business being out with the baby so soon. There’s a local practice called the “confinement month” where a confinement nurse comes over and prepares special foods for you and gives personal care to help restore balance to the body. I think there are aspects of the confinement month that are really cool (such as the only thing you should be doing is bonding with your baby) but there’s plenty that just doesn’t vibe with my American ways (not washing your hair for 40 days? No thanks!).

Breastfeeding is not popular in Singapore, where in the US there’s almost the suggestion that you’re a bad mom for not breastfeeding (which was hard for me as my breastfeeding relationship with Elanor didn’t work out). This has pluses and minuses. If you’re ambivalent about nursing or if you don’t want to/can’t, there isn’t all the mommy judgment and attitude that gets thrown your way in the US. As a mom who was on the receiving end of that judgment (Elanor couldn’t nurse for a long list of reasons) I was relieved to know that I would be spared that this time around if things didn’t work out with Rhiannon and breastfeeding. On the flip side, as a mom who *does* breastfeed my daughter, it was really frustrating to have nurses at the hospital suggest formula to help with weight gain and blood sugar, when both were within the acceptable limits of our pediatrician. There is support, but you have to really seek it out, which might make it tougher for women who don’t have as supportive a pediatrician as we do (she’s a mom who breastfed both her boys for over 2 years each).


There’s not the culture of fear in Singapore that there is in the US. I went home while pregnant (while some stuff about Singapore rocks, the markup on baby stuff does not…I made a special trip home to stock up on things that were too expensive or that I couldn’t find here…) and I was taken aback at the culture of fear in the US surrounding parenting. All of those “THINGS THAT ARE HURTING KIDS on News at 11” and the constant news about toy recalls (I haven’t heard about ONE recall since we moved here), and articles about all the things I should be worried about was pretty exhausting. I remember being annoyed by it when I lived there, but after being absent form it, it was really overwhelming. I like that in Singapore there’s this basic assumption that your kids are going to be fine (okay, they’re a bit nuts about extra schooling and that sort of thing, but we’re still a few years away from that).


The thing that’s been hardest to adjust to, though, is that Singapore is very much a closed society in some regards. There are very strict gender roles and not a lot of acceptance for homosexuality. We are very liberal on these issues, and when I found out I was having another girl, I was relieved…my husband has long hair, but if a son of ours wanted long hair as well, he get in trouble in school for it! I have a lot of LGBT friends and I identify as bi-sexual myself…I definitely worry about the impact of living in a homosexuality-negative country if either of my girls turned out to be lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. We make a point of reading LGBT friendly books to the girls, and emphasizing that they can love whomever they want (which might sound silly given their ages) because it’s important to us to pass along these values, which are not consistent with our current home country.


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I think finding the right OB is the most important thing here in Singapore. Knowing what you want and discussing those goals with the OB up front is very important. Making sure that you’re informed about what all of your choices are and then advocating for yourself is important, regardless of where you give birth. Once you find the right person to work with, it’s a great country in which to give birth.

Crystal is a wife and mom who writes and does part time sexuality education. Someday, when she has “free time,” she’d love to go back to school and learn to be a pastry chef just for fun…a desire influenced by far too many hours spent watching cake making shows on Food Network. She writes about life in Singapore, her adjustment to the expat life, and her two girls on her Blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.



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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: COLOMBIA

having baby abroad columbia

Laura and her son

This week I talk to Laura who is English. She shares her experience of having a home birth in Colombia as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. 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 am mum to gorgeous 3 month old baby boy. I am English and my partner is Colombian and we had our little boy in our apartment in Bogotá, in the middle of the night.


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

I work in the humanitarian sector and while working in Colombia I met my partner. When we decided we would love to have a baby together, there was no conscious decision about where to have the baby, we were in Colombia so I think we just assumed that is where we would have it. One of the perks of having a baby in Colombia is the very special treatment you get as a pregnant lady.

You are literally treated like a VIP, everyone does everything for you and you never have to queue for anything (which is great in a heavily bureaucratic country). Needless to say I became very lazy! Since having our little one I have found the attitude to breastfeeding very positive and there is no shame in breastfeeding in public and people are generally very accommodating.


As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

In general I felt fine about being abroad, I did miss my family and friends in the UK but then I always do.

The thing that affected my feelings the most was the health system I encountered here which I thoroughly disagree with and this resulted in me feeling very frustrated, sad and angry at points. I still struggle with the heavily privatised system, where quality and a say in your health comes at a very high price and is only available for a select few and I still become extremely vexed at how decisions are made on a purely money making basis and not in the interests of the patients (I could go on a length here).

Therefore in terms of my birth I felt absolutely distraught at the thought of going anywhere near a hospital.

After a lot of tears and despair we finally found one of the two doctors in Colombia who do “alternative births” with midwives (midwifery is not a recognised profession) and who place emphasis on partners having a say in there birthing process. As a result we had a very special experience that would not have happened in the UK with a midwife, a woman who is training to be a midwife and the doctor in our home. My partner cooked for everyone, the atmosphere was calm, we passed contractions in the garden, in the bath, walking in the living room and because this is not common in Colombia I think the relationships between all the people involved will be lifelong. We are not just a number of deliveries for the professionals involved, we are part of a very special group.


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

I will try to be brief…… the biggy for me was that fathers are not allowed to be involved in the births. I find this incredible and we were given many different reasons why this is, including that Colombian men are weak! This ultimately led to our decision to have a home birth.

I then discovered that the most likely outcome during the birth here is a cesarean, we were actually told on more than one occasion that this is just easier and that the idea is to fill and then empty beds quickly! Many women are encouraged and choose to have cesareans. Women are given an epidural without question and there is very limited opportunity to have an active birth, all contractions must be done on your back.

One of my most shocking experiences was at an antenatal class where the teacher criticised arab countries methods of birth, making a racist and sexist comment about how terrible it must be to have women delivering your baby and even more so with their faces covered.

Now what is funny is had I been in the UK I would have without question had my baby in the hospital and I have to admit I think I would have considered an epidural but what angered me here is that I didn´t have a say, even an opportunity to be involved in my own delivery and I would have had to be on my own.


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I would advise not only mothers and fathers from abroad but also those in Colombia or in similar health systems to look for a way to express their rights. You should have a say in your birth plan and your health.

Yes, you might not have a choice in the end, if there is an emergency, but this might not happen. Fathers at my antenatal group wanted to be part of the birth, my doctor admitted that where possible a natural and active birth is the healthy option and that a fathers presence is vitally important in building respect for women and reducing violence in the family, especially in a macho society.

What gives me hope is that the midwives in Colombia are petitioning the government to recognise their profession and the birth choices it brings with it. Birth and health practices in general should not be about what is easier and more cost effective but what is right for the person receiving the health services.



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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: HOLLAND

Having a baby abroad in hollandThis week I talk to Monique who is American. She shares her experience of having both her daughters in Holland as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself?
I am a former attorney turned freelance writer and blogger, living in the Netherlands with my husband and 2 daughters. While I wasn’t athletic and didn’t participate in sports growing up, these days I proudly proclaim that I’m a runner and participate in races in a variety of destinations every chance I get.

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in California, went to school Indiana and Washington, DC and lived for a while in Connecticut.

How old are your children and where did you have them?
I have two daughters, aged 10 and 7, both of whom where born in the Netherlands.

Why did you have your children abroad?
There was no master plan to move overseas to have children. We had been living in the Netherlands for a while due to my husband’s work, with no immediate plans to return back to the United States and we were ready to have a family.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
The custom in the Netherlands is to have the baby at home, not use an epidural and to have a kraamzorg, or nurse, come to your home after the birth of the baby.

While I didn’t “go Dutch” completely when having my children, but I did take advantage of some of the customs. I was not interested in having my children at home, but I did use a midwife, as is common and encouraged for women under 35 who aren’t experiencing any complications during pregnancy. I choose to forgo the epidural during the birth of my first child, but didn’t have that option with youngest daughter, since I need to have an emergency Cesarean. I did have a kraamzorg with both children, and having someone help you during those first few days after you bring your child home is a delightful pleasure every new mother should have.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
It was a little unsettling at first because the customs were different than where I was from. I relied heavily on “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and the website “Baby Center” to get answers and information from the cultural perspective I was used to.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
During my first pregnancy, my midwife mentioned that it was fine have wine, but it should be limited to a glass a night. This goes totally against what is expected in America, and I went with the American recommendation and abstained during both pregnancies. Breast-feeding was also not as popular a choice here when I had my children, and though not discouraged, I didn’t feel as though I had a lot of support around me regarding that decision.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Try to embrace the customs the country you live in but in the end don’t stress yourself our and do what’s best for you.


Monique Rubin writes about Netherlands travel for Examiner.com and her family’s travel adventures on her blog Mo Travels. She lives in The Netherlands with her husband and two young daughters. You can follow Monique on Twitter.



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

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: HOLLAND & THAILAND

having baby holland and thailandThis week I talk to Apple who is TCK and eternal expat. She shares her experience of having a baby in Holland, and another in Thailand as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Here is her story:


The decision to have a baby in a country not one’s own is a big one for most expatriates. In situ is often the choice made, maybe with the help of the soon-to-be-grandmother willing to travel and assist with either existing children, or to give succour to a brand new mum. Others decide to fly back to their passport country for the delivery.


For me the decision was easy. Granted I was, neither time, in a country with sub-standard medical care; but the overriding fact was that as a TCK I did not consider my passport country my home. Wherever I happened to be living at the time was home.


Our daughter was born in Emmen, The Netherlands and I had nothing but praise for the care received throughout my pregnancy and after. The Dutch had post-natal care down to a fine art with home visits given by both the mid-wife and the kraamverzorgster, who helped with all things to do with the newborn. A comforting voice offering advice and sound commonsense to an at times weepy mother.


Neither did having a baby in Holland present any great cultural differences, and I was up and on my bike, along with my baby, remarkably quickly.


Still in the dark ages, before the Internet and mobile phones, we sent letters with stamps on them around the world three years later announcing the birth of our second child, in Bangkok, Thailand. It took a few weeks for the news to percolate through to family and friends but was still joyously received. A few months’ later congratulatory letters and cards finally caught us up after a relocation to Singapore shortly after the special delivery.


My doctor was a delightful Thai who happened also to be a friend. I remember being slightly peeved that he and my husband were engaged in the serious business of completing the Daily Telegraph’s cryptic crossword and were not, to my mind, focusing on the important things in life, me. But when push came to shove I had everyone’s attention.


On a gloriously sunny day in Bangkok at Sametivej Hospital just before lunch, Edward arrived with relatively little fuss considering he was ten days overdue, and tilted the scales at just over ten pounds. After lying with him in my arms for a while admiring this amazing creation and watching my husband’s delighted face, the newborn was taken to the nursery for a few rays under the lamp.


His father went home to tell our daughter about her brother’s safe arrival, which in those pre-sky-train days in Bangkok could take anything up to a couple of hours. I meanwhile was wheeled into my darkened room for a little rest and recuperation.
Dozing in and out of consciousness, happy and relaxed, I was woken properly by the door opening. In itself not a fantastic phenomena, but the breeze the act provoked created a ripple chain reaction along the polystyrene ceiling tiles, until finally the one above my bed lifted five or so inches before settling back with a sigh and a thud.


I was now truly awake and watched the diminutive nurse bustle in with a fresh jug of water and a beautiful arrangement of purple vanda orchids delivered by a friend.

“Sawadeekah,” she greeted me, pouring a glass of water.
“Sawadeekah,” I returned. Kob khun kah,” I thanked her as she handed me the glass.
“Oh Madam, so solly,” she continued, switching to English and fussing with the pillows.
“What?” I asked on instant alert, tears already flowing.
“Madam? What matter? Why you cly?” She asked patting my shoulder.
“What’s happened? My baby?”
“Oh Madam, no, no, baby OK.”
“Why are you sorry then?” I asked sniffling.
“Boy born year of Tiger vely stlong, velly difficult. Better wait for labbit.”
I cried from relief, and later pondered the thought that no matter where we have our babies in the world and no matter the research we have done, there will be cultural misunderstandings.

Twenty-five years later I am delighted to report our son, born in the Year of the Tiger has proved strong, but not difficult.


Apple Gidley writes and speaks on intercultural and expatriate issues based on her experiences as a lifetime global nomad. She has lived and worked in Africa, Asia, Europe and the US while raising two TCKs. She writes a monthly column for a Houston magazine and is published regularly in The Weekly Telegraph amongst others.
Follow Apple’s blog or Twitter



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

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