I have previously shared with you what are three great things about becoming a parent abroad. But hopefully you’ve guessed it is not all rosey and easy. Living abroad, away from your way of doing things, your family and your support network is difficult as it is. Now imagine adding to that equation becoming a parent, which is also not an easy thing to do. There’s a number of challenges of becoming a parent abroad
I am currently pregnant with our second child, which is due about a month and a half from now. Our first daughter was born in Sweden, which is completely different from what I knew about becoming a parent in Mexico (although I wasn’t a parent in Mexico). Our second child will be born in Italy, which is again, completely different from what I knew about becoming a parent in Mexico and in Sweden. In this post I share with you three challenges of becoming a parent abroad, and they apply to both of our moves.
Challenge #1: Lack of support network
This is probably the biggest of the challenges of becoming a parent abroad. Whether we like it or not we are a social species. We need each other. You know what they say it takes a village to raise a child, well let me tell you that it takes special kind of people to support a new mother. I am not talking about the type of support of changing diapers and waking up at night, luckily we have dad for that. I am talking about being surrounded by people that support and cheer on the new mom through all the changes that she is facing. From woman to woman.
With our current society and way of life we have become more individualistic and this type of support is very much lacking for all women these days, everywhere, not just expats. But if you add to that the fact that you probably don’t know a lot of people, and don’t have as many close relationships, well that doesn’t make it any easier.
With our first daughter it was simpler because it was only Amado and me, but now with our second we have to plan a lot, and have a backup plan in case things don’t go as planned. The backup plan doesn’t include grandma or grandpa because they are not here, so we have to do with what we have, but it is not easy.
Challenge #2: Not speaking the language
The language is another of the main challenges of becoming a parent abroad. Now when Julia was born I was fluent in Swedish, so much so that during birth I spoke with the midwives in Swedish. That was not the case for Amado, but luckily people in Sweden speak English perfectly so he was able to communicate with everyone in the hospital during and after birth. I have met people that don’t speak the local language at all and they have stories of how difficult it is to go through getting any type of healthcare, now imagine having a child!
This second time around in Italy is completely different. Many people don’t speak English at all, and that is the case with the people that we’ve met at the hospital and during check-ups. Although both of us speak Italian none of us speak it as fluently as I speak Swedish so communication is not as straightforward. We don’t know the words for many things and have to use google translate as we talk to people sometimes. I am sure that during birth it will be fine but I can already imagine that it will not be without its challenges.
Challenge #3: Not being familiar with the health system
The different health systems are also one of the challenges of becoming a parent abroad. Everything is new and completely different. The first time around was a bit more shocking because that was also my first healthcare experience in Sweden because luckily I never needed to go to the doctor or hospital. Granted the statistics for healthy birth outcomes for moms and babies in Sweden vs Mexico are much better. But not being what I was used to it was a bit difficult to understand and to be able to share with friends and family at home.
First of all midwife care is almost non-existent in Mexico where even healthy pregnancies are followed by an obstetrician. In Mexico we have the public and private systems, I am not sure how the public system works but if I had been to the private system I would have gotten an ultrasound in each visit, from the get go. In Sweden I was told to come for the first visit when I was like 2 and a half months pregnant (that’s like 6 weeks after I learned I was pregnant).
The best way to deal with this difficulty is to document yourself, read and do research. Find out about how things work in the country you are living in and understand what are the main differences between your home country and where you live right now. Then you can try to understand the reason for these differences. I ended up loving the system and way of doing things in Sweden. Nothing is for profit, recommendations are given with lots of information and always based on science, if I was to give birth in Mexico today I would look for healthcare providers that are willing to work with me like it works in Sweden (pretty similar to Italy for that matter also) but at the time it was bit shocking. Not knowing where to go, who to call or why I needed to wait so long in between check-ups the first few months.
All in all for me it has been a good experience, with it’s difficulties but I’d do it all over again.
Have you had children while living abroad? What were the challenges of becoming a parent abroad for you? Was it better or worse than you expected, and how was it different from your home country? Let us know in the comments.