Pregnancy as an Expat: It’s a Little Different

Everyone’s life changes when they see two lines on a stick. But I’ve come to the conclusion that expat pregnancy is a little a bit different. Here are a few of the reasons why:

Sharing the pregnancy news is bittersweet

I was unbelievably excited to share the news with grandparents, aunts, and cousins-to-be. But it was tinged with the sadness that family will be further away from this little one than we would like. I never imagined starting a family abroad and I’ve worried that we’re crazy to take one of life’s biggest leaps when we’re a long way from home. But I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to make the decisions that feel right for your family, right now. Becoming pregnant isn’t an exact science and it felt like the right moment to ditch the contraception. It’s also the right moment to be living in San Francisco. When that decision isn’t right for our family anymore we’ll be on the first plane outta here.

Pregnancy Gifts

Everyone will want to know where you’re having the baby

One of the major questions I’ve been asked during my expat pregnancy is where I’m having the baby. People don’t mean home or hospital; they mean the USA or the UK. The question caught me off guard at first because I’d never considered going back to London. Obviously, I’d love to be surrounded by family and friends, but the one person I MUST have at my side is my husband and it’s not practical for him to come back with me four weeks before my due date (airlines won’t fly women who are passed 36 weeks into their pregnancy). I’m lucky enough to have relocated to a country with a decent (albeit excruciatingly expensive) healthcare system and my life, my work and my husband are all here. For now, this is home, so this is where I will have my baby. You’re welcome to come and visit!

It’s more likely you’ll find yourself flying

And that can be a bit scary when you’re pregnant. I read every online horror story and was given a number of mixed opinions. When I was hired by a client in Florida I asked my doctor what she thought. She was very relaxed so I took the contract and booked my ticket to Orlando. Two days into my trip my worst nightmare happened…I started bleeding. In fact, it was worse than my worst nightmare because minutes before I went to the bathroom a crack had opened up in my hotel-room ceiling and water had started pouring through it. Maintenance were knocking on the door as I was staring dumbfounded at my knickers. My baby was fine, but I was worried if I’d made the right decision to step on a plane. Back in San Francisco, my doctor determined that the bleeding was probably caused by a placenta that was very close to my cervix but absolutely not caused by flying.

A few weeks later I nervously stepped onto another flight. I had a wonderful trip, was given three seats together so I could sleep, and I’m looking forward to one more flight home before I deliver. If you want to fly there are only two opinions that count: yours and your doctor’s. That’s it. Really.

Pregnancy as an Expat

You may feel a little more alone

Being an expat is a wonderful experience I wouldn’t swap for the world, but one of the hardest things to deal with is loneliness. The first few months in San Francisco I struggled bitterly with homesickness, missing friends and family back home. Eighteen months in and I have a social life again (!) and while I still miss London, I’m proud to say I’ve built a happy life here. But when two close friends gave birth a few months ago I wished hard that I was reproducing in London. I wanted to benefit from their experience and their wisdom…and lots of cuddles with their newborns. But I realised that the tenacity that enabled me to find friends, start a business and generally get a life would also serve me well as a mum-to-be. I plucked up the courage to go to a Meetup for pregnant ladies in SF and now that some of them have delivered I’ve been able to get first-hand accounts of what our hospital is like etc.

Nothing can prepare you for parenthood, but I’ve certainly developed more confidence in my ability to cope with change since I stepped off the plane and started a new life in San Francisco.

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