I have been a bit absent from the blog lately. This is partly because I’m not a very committed blogger (as evidenced by the number of times I have introduced posts similarly), and partly that I still have a very one track mind. I have no desire to make this into a parenting blog, but I also have very little space to think about much else with this big and gorgeous three month old around.
But there is a small space where my blog purpose and my current situation intersect, and that is having an expat baby. I can’t claim to be any sort of an expert, with only three months of parenting, and one birth in one country under my belt. But even in that relatively short period of time, I have a lot to say about the whole shebang. These are just a select few thoughts from my experience.
- You can still have a good experience in less-than-ideal circumstances, as long as you can get your head around it.
My ideal birth would be midwife led, active, at home, and as intervention free as possible: the full hippy experience. That was simply not going to happen in Brunei. Instead I was induced in a private hospital, and gave birth with monitors and IV basically strapping me to the bed. But the take away is that it was fine in the end, and really the only sticking points were when I struggled against my circumstances, and became convinced that it was all going to go wrong. In amongst the sticky times, I managed to keep a few of my hippy ideals, and (of course) the fact that the baby and I were both healthy at the end of it helped to keep it all in perspective.
- When you miss your family, it’s not just the amount of time, but the flexibility.
We were very lucky to have my Dad and Step Mum visit at the end of my pregnancy, my Mum and Step Dad visit for two weeks after the birth, and The Engineer’s parents visit for two weeks a few days later. We loved being able to see everyone, and share that special time with some of our nearest and dearest. But still, a few weeks after they all left, I really wished we had some family around. Having a cleaner was a huge help on the chores front (and still is), but sometimes you just wish someone could pop around for half an hour so you can have a coffee and a shower. Even in New Zealand, we lived too far from our family for that to be possible, but a 3-5 hour car ride offers a lot more flexibility than a 12 hour plane journey!
- If you have postnatal support from midwives and/or nurses – appreciate it!
In New Zealand we have midwives visit for 6 weeks after birth, and then a nurse service called Plunket takes over to check on the baby. In the UK, health visitors offer a similar service. But not every country is so lucky. People don’t always agree with all the advice offered (I am 99% sure I wouldn’t) but having someone come to you and just give you a bit of peace of mind that you’re doing okay, or help you if you’re not, is a wonderful service, and I really missed it (even though I’ve never experienced). Sure, there are doctors and other Mums and other sources of support, but in those crazy early days getting out of the house can be a huge challenge, and knowing when it’s worth going to the doctor and when it’s not is not always easy. I certainly am grateful for Google though!
- Bureaucracy for an international birth is crazy.
I might write in more detail about this later, but basically, there is a lot of paperwork when you have an expat baby. It all depends on the country you’re in and the country you’re from, but even though our process was simple compared to some, we still had to: register her birth here; get a special pass that allowed her to stay; pick up her Brunei birth certificate; extend her special pass; take and print passport photos; fill in the birth registration and passport forms, get them witnessed, and send them to New Zealand; get a temporary pass stamped in her passport; cross the border to validate the temporary pass; apply for her dependent pass; and cross the border again to get that stamped in. This involved way too many hours waiting at the immigration department (which is also a 1.5 hour drive each way), and was not easy to fit in around, y’know, raising a tiny baby and stuff!
- The expat community comes into its own with babies.
Maybe it’s because Brunei is so family oriented, or maybe it’s the same anywhere, but there is something quite amazing about a group of people all in the same boat who rally around and fill the void left by being away from family and friends. I have made some amazing friends here, and am so grateful to the group of wonderful (mainly) women who have surrounded me and supported me through this experience.
- Cheap takeaways are a lifesaver.
In the first couple of months, it can be pretty hard to remember to eat dinner, let alone actually make it. No matter where we were, we probably would have relied way too much on takeaways. But when we can get dinner for both of us for $5, it’s pretty much a no-brainer!
There is so much more I could say, but this is what first came to mind when I sat down to write, and I pretty much don’t have the energy to edit or refine. To be honest, I’m just pretty stoked that I blogged full stop. If there’s anything you want to know about the experience, I’m always happy to share – just ask!