Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Guest blogger: "Global babies - is having your children while living abroad a good idea?"

Here is the translation into English for my English-speaking readers.

"I'm sure that you will bring at least one American baby back with you!" 
Almost all of our friends quite agreed on this just before our departure to the US. And they were not so wrong about that. At least 90% of the still childless expats who I met in the last six years, have had at least one baby during their stay abroad. Hardly surprising, since most of the expat partners leave their profession to join their spouses in going abroad. Thus, it presents the perfect time for a baby break.

For us a few years passed before we would welcome our first global baby. My masters degree played a more important role for me in the first few years abroad. But eventually we also became parents while living abroad, even twice. 
Whether you will experience having a baby abroad, possibly thousands of miles away from family, friends and familiar surroundings, as positive or negative, will depend A LOT on your personality. As with anything in life there are pros and cons.

I have perceived both of my pregnancies and births in Portland, Oregon as very positive. The medical care was excellent. My doctor who has cared for me throughout both pregnancies, was also there when I gave birth. In the hospital there was no delivery room as you would find it in Austria or Germany, but a private room where my husband and I could stay the entire time, even during giving birth. The care provided was really excellent.

In the US, pregnant women are being celebrated! A friend hosted a baby shower for me shortly before the birth of my first daughter.  The child's imminent arrival is being celebrated which is quite different from our cultures in Austria and Germany. As the name implies, it is "raining" gifts for the baby.  You, as a pregnant women, will be the center of attention for a whole afternoon, celebrated by your friends and showered with amazing gifts. And, you will get only things that you really need, since you can register at a store before the baby shower, similar to a wedding list in Austria and Germany. A great tradition!

In the grocery store, my purchases were not only packed, but even brought up to my car so that I, as a pregnant woman, did not have to lift heavy things. And everyday I was constantly asked about my baby bump by strangers who congratulated me. Children and families have a high priority in the US. Even today, when I'm out with my two girls, most people react very positively. And yes, also on those days where my children misbehave. We often hear phrases like:
"Children are a blessing!"

Our two daughters have lifetime dual citizenship and currently even have three citizenships ( USA, Germany and Austria ), which to me, presents another big advantage. Furthermore, they are able to experience a different culture from very early on. They play with children from different countries of the world and grow up with being exposed to two languages. They are true "Global babies".
Of course, there are also disadvantages. You live, as I have already mentioned, thousands of miles away from family and friends. This of course meant, that my they were only able to witness my pregnancies via Skype and a photo diary that I kept online. That was not so easy, especially for the family. Shortly before the birth of my first daughter, I would have given anything to meet up with my family and go out to choose baby clothes and items. This was of course impossible due to the distance and has definitely hurt.

The biggest drawback for me personally is the fact that you are mostly on your own. Grandparents and other close relatives are simply too far away to help you in everyday life. While my friends from Vienna and Stuttgart tell me about "child- free" weekends or grandma helping out on a busy day to pick up the little one from preschool, I find myself sitting at the pediatrician with a fever myself, because my children and I have unfortunately become ill at the same time. This was especially bad this year at Christmas when all four of us had the flu at the same time. Again, I would have given anything to have my mom or sister close by.

However, even this disadvantage has a positive side: It brings you closer as a family. You have to be a great team in order to survive daily life. Therefore I have no regrets, the pros definitely outweigh the cons for me.

About the author :Yasemin Polikar has grown up between two cultures herself : Austria and Turkey. In early 2008 she moved with her ​​German husband to Portland , Oregon. Here two daughters were born there in 2011 and 2013. The family currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Yasemin writes about her life as an expat , mother and hobby photographer on her blog YPs world. 

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