When this month’s travel link-up topic was announced, a hundred and one exciting adventures ran through my mind. Maybe I could write about the time when, aged 19, I took a teaching English as a Foreign Language course and headed solo to Sri Lanka to teach in an orphanage for a few weeks. Perhaps I should tell you all about the time I went through that break-up and rather spontaneously booked a flight to Brazil to explore the region around Rio with my friend Elliot. Or I could even use this opportunity to write even more about my wonderful honeymoon.
However, all of these adventures paled into insignificance when I compared them to the adventure that I am about to embark on. I am about to become a first-time mummy, and if that wasn’t enough, I am attempting to do it while living on the other side of the world from my main support network.
While moving to Doha turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, it was somewhat thrust upon me in many ways. I didn’t have time to think too long and hard about the future, and I definitely didn’t envisage myself staying long enough to get married, put down some roots and start a family out here. And yet here we are, two and a half years on about to navigate this exciting yet terrifying journey in a country and culture that couldn’t be further removed from our own.
Here is why expat first-time parenthood is scary, but why it should also be viewed as the greatest adventure of your life to date.
Your family and oldest friends are a long way away…but your new support network is awesome
My closest group of friends back home all fell pregnant at about the same time. In fact, we couldn’t have planned it better, with one of us due to give birth every month between now and July. In the past, I have felt really down about the fact that I won’t be around for hospital visits and subsequent mummy dates, but I have slowly come to terms with the fact that we can still be an enormous support to each other during this time through the mediums of email, FaceTime and Whatsapp. And while I’m missing my friends terribly, I’ve discovered a really supportive local online support network, and grown closer to my IRL mummy friends out here in Doha, who I now know I can lean on for anything.
I only wish I had my own mum here for a little longer. Due to work, she only has a two week window in which she is able to come and visit, and we are praying really hard that our little girl decides to make an appearance during that time.
You have to navigate a lot of new systems and processes…but this is super empowering!
If you’d asked me nine months ago about how to register for a birth certificate while abroad, or apply for a child’s resident permit to allow them to live in Qatar, I would have given you a blank stare. The amount of admin involved with giving birth outside of your home country is mind boggling to say the least. However, working out all of the intricate systems and processes (as well as the sneaky insider cheats) has helped me to feel really well-prepared and in control of what is about to come. With parenthood comes a whole load of responsibility, and with responsibility inevitably comes admin so I may as well get used to this starting from now!
The healthcare culture is alien…but in many ways superior to back home
I have lost track of the number of head-in-hands stories that I’ve heard about people’s labour experiences out here. “I wanted an all-natural birth, but they rushed me in for a C-section because I had been in labour for more than 12 hours”; “The doctors didn’t keep me informed about anything as my labour progressed, and I ended up being pumped full of pethidine, having to have an episiotomy and a ventouse delivery without really understanding why”. It’s all too easy to freak out when you hear things like this and immediately start looking into making arrangements for flying home to the trusty NHS where nothing like that would ever happen, surely? Well, I hate to say it, but it still does.
Out here, most of us are blessed with access to excellent, world-class private healthcare and some of the world’s newest technologies and best doctors. Every time I visit my OB, I am given a scan to check that our little girl is well and growing as she should be. Yes, the language barrier may cause a few problems at times, but if you face your birthing experience with a solid birth plan, and a supportive husband (or doula) by your side, there is very little that can go wrong.
You can sometimes feel really out of your depth…but this makes you stronger than ever
There have been numerous occasions when I have let the lead-up to our little one’s birth become all-too overwhelming, and have felt pretty alone and vulnerable out here. To start with, it was down to silly things like not knowing where I could buy important items like the baby carrier I wanted or sheets that would fit our Chicco Next2Me. Then as my pregnancy progressed, it progressed to worrying about whether we will be able to give our girl the best start to life in this country, without some of the opportunities and support that she would have back home; about how I might navigate going back to work when I only have 60 calendar days maternity leave; about what we will do in the sticky summer months when the mercury rises above 50 degrees celcius…
But then I tell myself to be strong, that we have made the decision to stay for now and we just have have to embrace it. We can do this! I have said this time and time again – I am so lucky that I have a brilliantly supportive other half in Mr Sunshine. We’re in this crazy expat parenthood ride together, and I know that with him by my side, we can accomplish anything that this new and exciting adventure throws at us.
Are you a mummy or soon-to-be mummy in a country away from ‘home’? What have your experiences been?
I am posting this as part of the monthly travel link-up with Angie, Emma, Jessi, and guest host Andrea. If you would like to share a post about your greatest adventure, then head over to any of the girls’ blogs before the 7th of this month!