In my first article I described the preparation required for your expat relocation while pregnant. This article will give you tips from the moment you arrive in your new country until your baby is born. These moments, between the actual move and baby’s arrival, were almost surreal. I was doing two life-changing things at once. For the move and the expat adventure I was excited; I wanted to explore the unknown. Becoming a parent, far away from family and friends, and very far from the “known”, sometimes felt hard. These feelings could conflict with each other. Sometimes it made me feel insecure about what I was doing. I suggest keeping familiar things in your life (for example, have your best friend or sister visit you to help you before your due date), so you can embrace the unknown confidently! Giving birth in a new country can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be!
Arriving In Your New Country
Before you know it, you will arrive in your new country. So, what’s next?
- Make a plan around the due date with family or friends if you want them to help you before, during and/or after the birth.
- Make a plan for extra help around your baby’s birth, e.g., if you want the assistance of a doula.
- Find out how to book a night nurse, a lactation consultant, or any other additional help (if available) for the days and weeks after the birth if this is not included in your new location’s standard medical care.
- Find a pediatrician, as your baby’s medical visits will begin very soon after his or her birth.
- Research citizenship requirements for your baby once he or she arrives.
- Try to find a community of expat moms from your home country to help answer your questions and provide support in your new location.
I also did some research in my network to get in touch with other Dutch people who had delivered a baby in the US, particularly in Chicago. In my opinion, this is the best information you can get, even better than any website. Other nationals know the difference between birth in your home country and your new country. It gave us information about what kind of insurance we had to find. We learned that the process of giving birth in the US is more medicalized than in the Netherlands and which hospital was best in Chicago.
- Meet your OB/GYN as soon as you can. Ask questions, discuss concerns and provide any additional information you would like them to be aware of.
- Make a plan with your doctor about what to do if you pass your due date.
- Take a tour of the hospital where you plan to deliver your baby.
- Get all your appointments planned until delivery.
- Find out if your primary language is spoken at the hospital. If not, can you access translation services?
Once in your new house, make it feel like home! You are going to spend a lot of time there with a new baby – especially in the bed. So get a good one. Other items to think about buying: a comfy couch, some cute paintings, home scents, and if it is winter, candles to make it extra cozy.
You will also need to prepare the baby’s room. How much time and effort you spend on this depends on how much time you have between moving and giving birth. However, do not stress about it too much because your baby will probably be sleeping in your room for the first weeks or months. Remember, your baby only needs love, milk and sleep. He or she will not care whether or not the room has the cutest decorations!
Make sure that someone will be there to help out after you deliver the baby. This can either be a partner, nurse, a friend or your mom, whatever you need. But you definitely need it.
Take some me-time before that little one arrives. Take a lot of naps, get a mani/pedi, have a nice decaf coffee somewhere, watch some Netflix or just do nothing. You deserve it!
Plan For Baby’s First Trip Home
Before your baby arrives, you’ll want to consider planning your first trip home with the new member of the family. Of course, this is all based on how the baby is doing and how you are feeling after birth. But it made me feel relaxed to know that I had a visit planned when I would be able to show my baby to my dearest friends and family.
Make sure to look into passport requirements so that you can take you baby out of the country. We traveled to the Netherlands when my daughter was eight weeks old, and stayed for two weeks. It felt so good to show my baby to family and friends. I was so proud. The good thing about traveling with a little baby is that it will be easy. Your baby will be sleep on the flight most of the time. However, be aware that your hormone levels are high, so coming back to your new home can be tough.
The First Months…
As soon as your little one says hi to the world, your life is different than before. In the first months focus on your new family, keeping baby alive, and your own recovery.
- Accept that the first week is tough.
- Rest, especially when help is around. A happy mommy means a happy baby. Your body went through something very powerful and needs to recover.
- Don’t rush your recovery, take your time.
- Whenever you are ready, go for a stroll. This helps you mentally and physically.
- Go out for lunch and dinner as much as you can while your baby is still an easy sleeper.
- Be patient with yourself, your baby and your new life.
… And Beyond
Whenever you are feeling ready:
- Start exploring your neighborhood, the city or even your new country a little more.
- Go to baby classes to meet other mommies and babies.
- Start thinking about how you want to fill your days. You can start or continue working, be a full-time mommy, learn a new hobby, or some combination of those things. It all depends on your situation and what you want. Just don’t think you have to rush these decisions.
Looking back, this was one of my best years so far. We left our comfort zone, which was not always easy, but it made me so alive! We learned a lot as parents, as a couple and as individuals. I am so thankful and happy to be mom of this little angel, that my husband and I went through these highs and lows together, and that I had the support of my family and friends.
Haven’t moved yet and still trying to figure out what to do? Check out our relocation checklist!
Feature photo credit: Jamie Loren of Bella Baby Photography