To be pregnant is one thing. To be pregnant and expat is another thing.
But first, a little background. Expat is short for expatriate, defined as a person who lives outside their native country. (Quick trivia: I just learned that expat can also be used as an adjective.) In our case, expat is what we call the employees who get a temporary work assignment to another country, usually for a year, to work at the client site. My husband and I are from the Philippines, working at the same global IT firm. In July 2011, we moved to the US for what’s supposedly a 1-year assignment. We’re still here, now with 2 kids.
I’d like to write about what it meant to me to be pregnant for the first time while an expat’s stay-at-home wife. What does it mean to uproot yourself from a life and a home that’s worth 30-something years of friendship, family and career and move halfway across the globe? What does it mean to find out you’re pregnant two months into your “new country”? And delivering your first baby less than a year in your new place?
- Virtual hugs and online tears. Our interaction with our loved ones mostly come in virtual form. FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, you name it, we tried it. My new address was really Facebook. When we announced that we’re finally pregnant after months of trying, instead of hugs, we got smileys (and extra exclamation points from the happiest friends). It also means my Mama handed down motherhood advices to me over the phone. It means crying in front of a computer screen, and that’s not even the weirdest thing. Even when you suddenly see your reflection off the monitor. There were other strange video chats, like being asked by a best friend to show some skin. Oh no, not the sexy kind. I was asked to show my stretch marks during a group chat. Oh, the scandal!
- Out of this world pregnancy cravings took on a more literal meaning. You can take this Filipino out of the Philippines, but you can’t take the Philippines out of my, erm…taste buds? We’ve heard of strange cravings during pregnancy. Mine wasn’t really…only if I were in Manila. I was craving for the “exotic” Filipino food, like the halo-halo and lechon. We learned to improvise.
- What baby shower? While this may be the least important of concerns, it was still something I wished for. I had always dreamed of throwing baby showers for my friends. Not only did I miss many of those, they couldn’t throw me one either. I’ve always thought this was a very personal affair with your closest loved ones. So I was overwhelmed with surprise and appreciation (and very likely, hormones), when my husband’s office friends organized a shower for us.
- What hand-me-down? We have to buy everything. Well, some things we didn’t have to, thanks to the baby shower. Then, there was a Filipino couple with a 1-year old who left some baby furnitures before going back to Manila. Why does this matter? On to #5…
- Mind the box. The box to ship back home, that is. Because our stay here is only temporary, we are constantly restraining ourselves from buying more than what we can practically pack for home. Getting hand-me-down furnitures and baby gears were really helpful. It also meant consciously looking for things with multiple purpose (to maximize our small apartment, another reality for temporary residents like us) and things that can be folded and disassembled to fit the box later on. There were items that we wanted to invest in for use by the next babies. But not knowing where we will be when the next child comes had been a factor in many of our buying decision.
//Care to share your experiences while pregnant and expat?