One of my friends Leigh has kindly allowed me to interview her and ask her about her experience of her pregnancies and labours abroad. Please find her stories below.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today! Would you be happy to give us a brief overview of how you came to be in a foreign country when you birthed your two babies?
I’m happy to share with you Joanna! When I gave birth to my son in 2015, I had been living overseas for two years. My husband and I had been through a long process of trying to decide where and how to deliver the baby. At first, I assumed the best option was to fly back to my home country and do a hospital delivery. When it became clear that would not be possible, I began doing some research on pregnancy and delivery options and decided that I would check out some of the hospitals in the capital city. After exploring those options we realized that the travel distance and cost of this kind of delivery would also not be ideal for us.
As I began to do more reading, I came to the conclusion that a natural birth would be the best option for our family and would make most sense in a local setting. We talked to some trusted local midwives and one of them agreed to help us with a home delivery. In the months leading up to my due date I continued to read books on natural childbirth and also took a detailed online class (NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com) which gave me more confidence that I had the God given capability as a woman to safely and fearlessly give birth to my child in a home setting. As I gained more information, the unknown became less of a scary thing. Thankfully I remained healthy during the pregnancy as I continued to work, get light exercise and proper nutrition.
On the day I went into labor I used the skills and knowledge I had gained through my research to stay active and energized throughout the process. An unexpected change in plans happened when we realized the midwife was quite far away in a nighttime church service when it was time to deliver. Thankfully, my husband is a doctor and quickly made the decision that he would happily assume the duty of delivering our son himself. To my surprise, he became the most amazing coach that day! He guided me through the steps, encouraged me, and gave me the extra support I needed to complete the task. It ended up being the most special and memorable moment of my life!
When it came time to plan the birth of our second child in 2018, the decision was much easier this time. We made the plan early on to do another home delivery since our previous experience was so positive. I went into labor on my due date, and was certain this labor would be much shorter than the first time. My instincts proved to be spot on! As my husband was leaving his workplace that morning, our daughter decided she wasn’t going to wait for him to arrive. Upon the realization that I would have to deliver the baby myself, I made the decision to remain positive and do what needed to be done. I had previously planned to try a different delivery position this time, and amazingly it was just the perfect position for catching the baby myself. It was a quick process and I felt like it was truly the hand of God who delivered our baby girl!
Thankfully, my good friend, a nurse, was nearby and called me immediately after the birth. She rushed over and helped with the rest of the process and by the time my husband arrived, all he had to do was listen to the story and share his excitement that I didn’t even need him that morning. The second delivery ended up being more memorable than the first! I would not change one thing about either of my delivery experiences.
Thanks so much! I’m sure our readers would love to hear, how did you find your maternity care?
Most of my maternity care was administered by my medically licensed family member, which of course would not be the case for most of your readers. I did have several ultrasound scans, two of which were done in the capital city and two locally. The quality of some of the scans were as good if not better than one I would have received in my home country, and for a much lower price as well! In many countries, antenatal care and delivery services are administered by midwives, which might be different from your passport country. If you decide on a Natural Birth plan, receiving care from a qualified, well trained midwife will be a great benefit for both you and your baby.
Are there one or two experiences that come to mind as particularly positive during your pregnancy, birth and parenting journeys?
Aside from the birth stories of both of my children, there are many other positive experiences I’ve had through pregnancy, birth and parenting. Some that stand out most:
- Gaining strength from other women knowing that most of the women around me have given birth naturally very many times, and that women are strong, made to give birth, and capable of managing all of the expected duties that come with being hard working wives and mothers. Even when I had a lot of challenges breastfeeding my firstborn, I refused to give up because breastfeeding is an expectation in the local culture. What began as a negative experience ended up being positive because I was able to continue after many months, with support from my husband until the breastfeeding became an easier and less painful experience.
- Focusing on appropriate, regular exercise during my second pregnancy really helped with the labor and delivery process. Even during both of my labors, I walked up and down the stairs when I could, which helped move the process along and kept me moving instead of stationary in bed.
How have you found becoming a mother to a newborn far away from your family?
It was most difficult with my firstborn because I didn’t have any family members nearby to help me and give me sound advice. I didn’t ask for help from anyone, which looking back was probably not the best decision. We managed all of the struggles of newborn care as a couple, which had both positive and negative repercussions. With my second baby, we had developed more of a support system and the management of a newborn was much simpler. Also, having the knowledge and experience from the previous baby made it easier, however each child is different and comes with their own challenges and surprises!
Do you have any advice for anyone who is planning to start or grow their families in a country which is different to their passport country?
My advice would be first, to do as much reading and research as possible. Make sure you seek out trusted sources that have a proven track record, not just anything you find online. Educate yourself on the options for childbirth in your area, making a Birth Plan (and a Plan B), and sticking confidently to your decisions as a couple. The more preparation ahead of time, the better experience you will have! Even if things don’t go exactly as planned, (they probably won’t) you’ll be prepared to face whatever comes up.
Second, make sure your spouse is on board for this adventure! They may not be ready, but they are committed to standing beside you on the journey. The more support and understanding from your spouse, the less stressful the process will be. It’s overwhelming at first, but as you educate yourself on childbirth, share as much as possible with your spouse. Odds are they’re also scared, but as I mentioned before, the more knowledge and preparation, the less fear you’ll both experience. I have the great blessing of having a doctor as a husband, but that’s not a requirement of course, just a spouse willing to learn with you and try to be understanding amidst all of the crying, emotions, and ups and downs of pregnancy, delivery, and newborn care! If you are alone, or have a partner that’s timid about being involved in the process, it’s ok! Find a trusted friend or other family member that will be happy to be part of your journey.
Finally, I’d like to say that raising children in a foreign country can be a very positive experience. Workplaces in many countries are more flexible with work schedules or even may allow you to work with your child alongside you. Depending on your situation, you might get more maternity leave or not need to take formal maternity leave at all. Some forms of maternity care in other countries are much more affordable, even affordable enough to be paid for in cash instead of dealing with the hassle of insurance claims.
In my experience, raising children in a foreign country also allows many parents to have more quality time with their children and be more involved in raising them in a more simple, flexible environment. Being part of a small supportive community of other parents in the same situation can also be a very key part of your parenting experience, and not something that would be available in many passport countries. Another benefit to raising children in a foreign country is that in many cultures, the locals are willing to be part of caring for your children in your home, and become a key source of support and help in early childhood. Building strong relationships with locals is quite natural when you have children and share that common experience with them.
There’s no need to fear starting a family outside of your passport country. Embrace it with a positive attitude, learn from others, and be open to facing the new challenges you’ll surely encounter. You’ll look back on those years as some of the most memorable of your life!