Having babies abroad – an ex-pat’s experience
“When you’re living an ex-pat life, your life is different to that of the locals and even your friends at home. All of my children were born in private hospitals abroad – the hospital in Bangkok was like a seven star hotel! The hospitals were relaxed but yet professional and quite frankly, we had to put our trust in them! We had heard though, for example, that Cairo had the highest birth rate per capita in the world and so thought they sounded as though they knew what they were doing!
In all three countries in private hospital settings, it was strange for a woman to want to give birth herself. In Egypt, with my first son, they told me I had high blood pressure and so I would need a C-section. As soon-to-be-new parents, we were going through the anxiety that every pregnant woman and her partner go through and so we went along with it – only later realising that my obstetrician had a flight booked to visit her son in America and coincidentally she wanted paying in US dollars! I don’t think leaving my son’s arrival to Mother Nature was really in her itinerary.
Son #1 – Cairo
The nurses in Egypt didn’t speak English which made things interesting as I had to listen to a doctor over the phone who was translating! But at least they didn’t put on huge rubber gloves and waders as they did in Singapore for son #2. This was our first natural birth and the sight of them donning the oversized protective paraphernalia left Roger and I aghast, wondering how much blood there was going to be! It turned out to be just for cleanliness and hygiene but it had us worried!
In all three countries we had to tell our obstetricians in the lead up to the birth that we didn’t want to know the sex of our baby and in Egypt, we had to make sure that we had told the paediatrician that we didn’t want our baby circumcised at birth if it was a boy – I was nearly a little too close to seeing this happen (I told you they were relaxed!) – or have her ears pierced if it was a girl! Many Egyptians were confused by girls without earrings and assumed they were boys, despite them being dressed top to toe in pink!
The hospitals in Bangkok were the most western in their approach of all the hospitals. They promoted natural birth and breast feeding (in the other countries it was assumed that if you could afford it, you would bottle feed) and provided me with a great cover to use when breastfeeding. I’d used muslins with my other two sons but thought this was an excellent idea. It tied round my neck like an apron and had a little viewing ‘window’ – I’d wished I’d had one in Egypt when strangers would stroke my son’s head whilst I was breast feeding, getting a little too close for comfort!
Son #3 – Bangkok
A friend visited from Switzerland and I lent the cover to her. She also loved it and after we discussed its few design flaws, we thought we’d have a go at creating our own. And so Tiny Turtles was born! We have saved many women across the world from milk leakages, squirting milk moments and the like whilst out and about, at weddings, on holiday, on public transport – all thanks to son #3 and a Thai hospital!
My friend breast feeding using a Tiny Turtles cover
In every place that we have lived abroad, ex-pats have had help in the house and nannies …. which come in handy in Cairo where you’re expected to have a month of confinement (rest) after giving birth. What a luxury! Locals couldn’t understand why we European mums were up and about so soon!
We had great nannies in all three countries and they became members of the family really. You don’t tend to use a nanny agency but employ them when another family leaves. When we moved to Bangkok, the current residents of a flat we were about to rent had a great nanny who was used to looking after three boys. I asked what was going to happen to her and if she was good, heard she would be available and so employed her straight away! Very different to the UK! She was excellent and we’re still very much in touch.
And now I’ve returned to Kent with my husband and three sons. They’ve had to adapt to western ways after years of living abroad in Africa and the East but they are finding their feet and becoming accustomed to social norms. The business continues to grow (you can connect with us on Facebook), and is ready to help British women when feeding their babies.”