Tag Archives: TCK

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 mummy in ProvenceNext up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making we are in France to hear my story about having my daughter abroad. I’ve not shared my story as part of this series so here it is!

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

My name is Ameena, I’m half Egyptian, half English, born in Dubai – that’s the abridged version! I have no clue where I am from but I am ok with that … kind of! I’ve lived in the UAE, Qatar, Oman and the UK including London, Manchester and East Sussex. My darling daughter BiP just celebrated her first birthday and she was born in Avignon, France.

Why did you have your children abroad?

When I first met my husband, John, we were both living in Dubai. We knew we didn’t want to have a family in Dubai so we had to choose between France, UK and Canada to start a family as, between us, that’s where we had passports. We chose France because of it’s excellent medical care. It was so much easier to have a family in France with all the medical support provided.

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

I always feel this is a double-edged sword! I was born in a foreign country where expats were the only people I regularly encountered. One year they were there, the next they weren’t. We moved around and I never had a place to call “home” – home became a house with our things. The transience was something I learnt to live with and I am cool with it all. I don’t think it’s that interesting to have had friends from all over the world but I guess it is. I understand a whole range of cultures without even trying. I hope that by having BiP in France she will embrace French culture and understand other cultures … I would also like for her to live in other countries should the opportunity arise!


As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was terrified. I was truly 100% overwhelmed, terrified and did I mention terrified?? I spoke basic French and was usually intimidated by my doctors. I felt so alone and out of my depth! I sought solace in online forums … how I wish I’d discovered Twitter back then!

On the flip side, I did have excellent care when it came to my sciatica, which plagued me from wk 18 of my pregnancy. I was prescribed physiotherapy with hydrotherapy sessions to help me deal with the discomfort.

When I was 10 days from my due date I was prescribed home visits for a midwife to come check me and my bump every 48 hrs which was outstanding care. Every other day a midwife would come to our home and monitor both in inutero BiP and I. Amazing! I have yet to come across another health system that offers such care.


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

Since I don’t have a “home” country to speak of I guess I was mainly comparing to the US. It was a pretty silly thing to do as the differences were so vast. I bought loads of books from Amazon and poured over them. I browsed forums and got information that was only US applicable yet I dragged it to my appointments which annoyed my ObGyn … I became a sponge for information. I read, read and read some more.   I realised quickly that a birth plan was something to forget about … my ObGyn was excellent and very capable … especially BiP’s birth was everything I never wanted but perfect nonetheless.

One major issue was that the French consider a full term pregnancy to be 41 weeks, not 40 weeks like the rest of the world. It annoyed me so much! I still am not sure why they do that! I also gave birth is private clinic rather than in the hospital and I have made John promise that we will not move until I am finished with my baby-making chapter as my ObGyn, the clinic, the everything was really great!


On Breastfeeding
I’ve battled people with regards to breastfeeding in France. They seem to frown upon it, assume I am selfish or stupid (or maybe both) for doing it. It’s been an uphill battle to find support, especially as my French is not really up to scratch. My desire to breastfeed was so strong I shrugged off the people who said it was “Abnormal” for an 8 month old baby to be breastfed or the doctors who told me that breastfeeding past 6 months was only for the mother’s benefit! The biggest shock to others has been when I tell them I’ll wean when BiP wants to!


On Baby-Led Weaning
I’ve not even bothered to tell my pediatrician about how we feed BiP. Each visit I am given a handout on what BiP should be eating and I make a paper airplane out of it … it usually contains info about how much flour to add to a bottle of formula which is totally irrelevant!  The last time I mentioned BiP had an omelet I retracted my statement saying I misunderstood the question – the feeding schedule is very fixed in France and BLW has no place!


On Elimination Communication
The only thing I have been told is that babies are all incontinent until they are at least 18m old … my pediatrician prefers I take BiP to the park and show her the birds rather than put her on the potty. We do both.

Extra Care
During my pregnancy I was given 8 free pre-natal classes with a midwife, some were spent in the pool, some in the classroom. They covered topics from breastfeeding to breathing to dressing your baby to preparing your hospital bag. I’ve already mentioned the home visits. After having BiP I had a midwife come to our house to check up on us – I spent 6 days in hospital due to a 1:1000 allergic reaction to my stitches – the normal stay in hospital for a natural birth is 4 days in France. 6 weeks after delivery you see your ObGyn who prescribes 10 sessions with a special physiotherapist to get your pelvic floor strengthened. This is standard and very, very unsexy but fantastic in preventing incontinence and other complications following childbirth. I have yet to find another country that offers all of the above free of charge.


What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Do your research. Read. Ask questions. Make sure you know what your entitlements are and make the most of the system to ensure you have the best possible experience. Get a mentor, someone to support you through the journey. Becoming a mother is daunting enough without the added pressures of being abroad and having to deal with language and cultural differences. Make sure your partner is up to speed on what your needs are. I don’t think my experience would have been as positive without my husband’s support.


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


If you are expecting a baby in France or abroad and would like to talk to me please send me an email.