Over the time I’ve been here and blogging, I have had several people tell me how great it was to read about what life is really like here. I love to hear that people are reading. And of course I love compliments. But this one always throws me a little, because I feel like I do such a terrible job of saying what life is really like. I blog so sporadically, and it’s just about the random things going on usually.
As one of very few expat bloggers here, I do feel like I have a duty to do better. But I also have a baby, and pretty poor organisational skills. This blog is never going to be a comprehensive view of what life is like in Brunei, but today I thought I’d blog on a topic that I would have really appreciated to read about before coming here: having a baby as an expat in Brunei.
To set the scene, a brief summary of my experiences. In May 2013 we started treatment with the Reproductive Medicine Unit at Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC). I underwent four cycles of IUI, and got pregnant in October 2013. I had appointments at the RMU in early pregnancy and moved to Obstetrics and Gynaecology at JPMC in January 2014. I continued there throughout my pregnancy and The Engineer’s Baby was born there in July 2014. After one check up at JPMC, we have used the Panaga Health Centre for all subsequent health needs (vaccinations and appointments). It may also be worth noting that we are from New Zealand, and know many people there who have babies, so my view of what is “normal” is strongly influenced by the New Zealand health system.
With The Engineer’s Baby getting so close to one (eek!), I am pretty much done with having a baby in Brunei. Before I know it, I’m going to have a toddler in Brunei! This doesn’t really make me an expert though, because I’ve only had this one experience. Other mums might have quite different opinions on the whole thing! But here are mine.
Overall, my experience was positive: I have a beautiful and healthy baby. But looking back at the specifics, my “ideal” would involve changing almost everything except for that wonderful outcome.
It’s very medical
In New Zealand the norm is to be seen by a midwife, rather than a doctor, for a low risk pregnancy. I love that idea, and feel it would suit me better.
I was grateful that I am self-educated
I don’t want to put anyone down, and I certainly don’t think my (mostly internet based) research beats years of medical school. But there was a general lack of advice in some areas. And honestly, from everything I can find, some of the advice I received was very questionable (I won’t go into specifics, but if you do want to know more, feel free to contact me).
I was grateful that nothing went wrong
We had a fine experience, but I didn’t feel that real sense of trust in my care providers before, during, or after birth. We are so lucky that I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
The rooms were lovely
We were so grateful to have a private room where we could all stay together. We paid for it, of course, but it was worth every penny.
It was time consuming
This is obviously partly my choice. But driving an hour and a half each way for so many appointments was tiring. Fortunately, we were able to get quite a few Friday afternoon/Saturday morning appointments, so that The Engineer could come and share the driving.
On top of the driving, I often had to wait a LOONG time for my appointments. Sometimes it felt like I lived at the hospital and in the car.
The nursing staff were lovely
Particularly in the RMU, we had some absolutely lovely nurses to support us.
The postnatal care was basically non-existent
There were several times that I wished for a bit more care for me and The Engineer’s Baby. Someone to bounce questions off, rather than having to visit a doctor for every little thing.
The support from the expat community was great
I soon realised that the health professionals weren’t going to provide that support network that I needed. So I was so glad when someone told me about a prenatal yoga course that included a mini antenatal course. This gave me some information on the healthcare here and connections with other mums that have proven invaluable through the whole experience.
Activities saved my sanity
It can be very isolating to have a baby with no family around. But through various activities I have made some great friends that have helped the last year positively speed past!
Outside time and crawling spaces are difficult
Despite the fact that we get summer all year around, we have spent most of the last year inside. It is hot, and there are bugs, so apart from the pool, it’s hard to spend much time outside. We love the pool, but having a baby has made me miss my garden more than I could imagine! There are playgrounds for bigger kids, but not much for crawlers. And our active wee button needs somewhere to wriggle!
Apparently I have quite a lot to say about this. But my little Brunei baby has just woken up from her nap way too early, so I’ll leave it there for now. Who knows though, I might be back with more later.