In Pregnant and Expat Part 1, I listed 5 things about my personal experiences being a first-time pregnant stay-at-home expat wife (whew!), mostly from the first trimester. Here are 7 more through the pregnancy until the first weeks with a baby.
- Doctor who? Typically, you ask family and friends for recommendations, especially for an OB-GYN. The difference when one is a new expat is, first you have to have friends that you can ask. Friends that are not only people you can trust for this kind of referrals, but who also have been pregnant before you. We were lucky that we have one Filipino couple in our area who were too happy to share their experiences and advices. While filling out forms for the OB-GYN, another thing that struck me was the missing family practitioner. The family doctor –someone you’ve been seeing for a long time that you don’t realize what it means to start looking for one. He knows your health history, your family’s history, and even your family. My husband’s family doctor was a guest to our wedding, so…that close. And so being expat means you miss so many people, even your doctor who you don’t normally look forward to see.
- You’re on your own. This has got to be the most obvious. I was envious of the friends who gave birth with their mom with them. On the first weeks with the baby, when I was too exhausted to lift my own eyelids, and my husband was too tired to hear me, “you’re on your own” could not get any clearer. I lost count of the times I had to tell myself, “If I don’t do it, no one else will.” If I don’t get up, no one else will pick up the baby. If I don’t make an effort to eat, no one else can feed my baby.” Sure, the husband was there, but eventually he had to go back to work. And I was surprised that there was no paternity leave for him at work!
- No nannies. This is part of “you’re on your own” but this was the most drastic of change for me that it deserves a separate count. In the Philippines, it is easy, and affordable, to hire nannies and house help. I was so used to having someone else take care of everything in the house that it was really difficult for me adjusting to the new setup where I did all the house chores WHILE heavily pregnant. I began to think who I really missed more, the house help or my mom. But…
- Where’s mom when you need her the most? 8,000 miles away, hon. My mom is in the other side of the planet along with all my other girl friends and confidantes. My husband was left with no other buffer whenever my (hormone-driven) mood wanted to pick a fight over the tiniest of issues. You can marry your best friend, you can marry the best husband in the world, but nothing beats getting comforted by your own mom. Then there are very personal things that happen during the pregnancy -changes in your body, especially- that are really not sexy to share with the husband. Some things are still best shared with a girl friend.
- English is not my native language. While I’ve been doing business in English with international clients for my entire career life, I didn’t think I can express myself in English while in labor! I didn’t think I need a translator either for the things that would probably come out of my mouth at the delivery room. Imagine my relief when a c-section was decided (my firstborn was in breech position so we had to). There is probably the cultural difference with the nurse and the hospital staff, but I wouldn’t know the difference, this being my first delivery.
- My hospital room was empty but my chatrooms were busy. After delivering the baby, I had imagined a recovery room filled with flowers and balloons and most of all, family and friends! But I was wheeled into a very quiet, lonely room. When I went online, the hundreds of messages from our loved ones around the world compensated for that. And of course, the baby was more than enough to cover all possible homesickness.
- More depressing, but more fulfilling. I would assume that expat moms are more prone to postpartum depression, simply because of the added homesickness, lack of support group (from people who know you for a very long time), and the enormous help that you need during the most gruelling time of a parent’s life –the first weeks. But when you emerge from this, you know you are much stronger than if you had given birth at your home country. Friends would ask how I’ve managed it. And the only answer I could come up with is, “because I had no other choice but to survive it”. Strength, resilience, independence. That’s the expat advantage.
//Care to share your own pregnant and expat stories?