Having a Baby in Brunei

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.

image

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.

Advertisements

Yep, still a New Zealander.

I think New Zealanders tend to have a fairly global outlook and a reasonable understanding of the world. We get media from Australia, the US and the UK (and a little bit from elsewhere), so we know a bit about their respective cultures. We are a country of immigrants, so we understand the accents and vocabulary of many different Englishes (although on the whole our foreign language skills are distinctly lacking). We are a tiny country, miles away from anywhere, and are fully aware of the fact.

But despite our small size, we have a pretty reasonable reputation around the world. People know of our rugby and cricket teams, or Lord of the Rings, or they know pretty much nothing but want to visit anyway. They may not quite know if we’re part of Australia or not, but in my experience people have usually at least heard of New Zealand. And considering there are at least fifty cities in the world with a greater population than the whole of New Zealand, I think that’s pretty good going.

In many ways, this has made it fairly easy to expatriate. We are used to different international brands, we can understand most English speakers pretty well, we are used to online shopping taking practically forever to arrive.

But every so often, expat life throws up a reminder that we are New Zealanders at heart, and always will be.  The most recent example is the discovery that not everyone knows what a kiwi is (it’s a bird, not a fruit), or why New Zealanders are called Kiwis. This is our slightly ridiculous national bird.

image

But there have been many other reminders too.

No one understands me when I say my name.
The short e sound in my strong accent is a constant source of confusion. When I introduce myself as Jenn, most people hear Gin (or maybe Jan, Jean, or Jane). When I ask about my check in luggage, the poor airport security staff get very confused, thinking I am transporting poultry.

People don’t know what togs, jandals, or utes are.
And I just can’t get used to swimsuits, flip flops, and pick ups.

Lots of our slang misses the mark.
But it’s sweet as, bro. There are heaps of Kiwis around to get it, so I’m chuffed. And with two NZ parents, the sprog will understand when we’re yacking away.

People don’t know of some of the greatest foods.
I can’t eat dairy at the moment (boohoo), so I’m among those who are missing out on kiwi dip. But I can still understand the joys of New Zealand fish and chips (vastly superior to the British version), kumara, salt and vinegar chips, mince pies, Vogel’s bread, feijoas, and all that great Kiwi tucker.

Some of our normal brands are considered weird.
We are stoked to see Colgate, Anchor, Mainland, Weetbix etc. But to many they’re just the foreign stuff.

Sometimes these realisations come across a little negative, but that’s really not how I see them at all. I love getting reminders of our amazing little country and its crazy culture. I’m proud to be a New Zealander. I’m proud to be showing New Zealand off to the world a little, and I will be proud to return home when we do.

Goodbye May, Hello June!

It’s been a long time since I posted (although really, what’s new?)  In fact, I managed to go the entire month of May without posting.  So today I wanted to do a quick recap of what went down in May, and a bit about what we’re looking forward to in June (and some of what’s already happened, since the start of June was more than a week ago).

But first, a side note: how on EARTH is it June already? I can’t quite comprehend just how quickly time is going at the moment!

In May we…

  • recovered from our colds, and were so glad to get out of the house again.
  • celebrated my first Mother’s Day with our first trip to the Miri Marriott (my Brunei expat friends and readers will appreciate just how weird it is that it was over two years before we stayed there!)
  • went to our first birthday party, and thought about how soon The Engineer’s Baby will be having her own.
  • had an amazing visit from my dad and my step-mum (aka Poppa and Grandma)
  • flew to Kota Kinabalu for an amazing long weekend, including a boat ride out to a beautiful island, orangutans, lots of good food, and family hang out time.
  • watched The Engineer’s Baby take her first steps
  • visited the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre for the first time (and were pleasantly surprised)
  • said goodbye to Poppa and Grandma again
  • visited Danes Cafe, had a nice coffee, saw what the hype was about, and vowed to return for that burger
  • went to the movies (I saw Pitch Perfect 2 with two friends, and had a wonderful time)

1-2015-05-27 16.06.19

In June we have already…

  • started Junkfree June, which means no takeaways, no fizzy drink, no sweet treats for an entire month
  • celebrated eleven years since our very first date
  • tried two new restaurants (Sushi Tei and Pastamania, both at KB Sentral mall)
  • seen The Engineer’s Baby learn to climb, meaning even more babyproofing
  • tried the indoor playground/soft play at KB Sentral mall, and realised that The Engineer’s Baby should probably be walking well before we return
  • booked flights to Penang in July and Singapore in September

1-2015-06-05 12.57.13

And this month, we also plan to…

  • celebrate The Engineer’s Baby’s eleven month birthday, and The Engineer’s thirty second birthday
  • see The Engineer’s Baby start walking properly (I guess that one’s not really in our control though, so who knows!)
  • finish booking our July holiday
  • plan something to celebrate The Engineer’s Baby’s first birthday (oh my goodness!)
  • celebrate the start of Ramadan, and get disappointed that we can’t visit the markets (because of that pesky Junkfree June thing)
  • go to another birthday party, and marvel some more at how big all these babies are getting!
  • blog a bit more (I don’t promise a lot though!)

1-2015-06-06 11.24.37

Life has definitely slowed down a little since The Engineer’s Baby arrived (not that it was very fast paced to begin with.  Kuala Belait doesn’t really lend itself to fast paced.) But we quite like that.  We miss all the travel, but it just doesn’t work so well for her, and we wouldn’t change her for anything.  So we’ll just keep plodding along in this little Brunei life, enjoying watching her grow and change, and getting ridiculously excited when new restaurants open (Kaizen Kuala Belait, you’re next on the list!)