To inaugurate this new section, Moms Abroad, here is Dani’s story. She left Chile, her country planing a much shorter adventure in Norway than that which she has lived so far. Of course, there were no babies in her original plans, but, long story short, one thing led to another, and now she is a Mom Abroad, proud of her beautiful Elaia, who is only two months old…
Here is the story of my first Mom Abroad…
Let’s start with the easy stuff: where are you from, where are you and why…
I am from Santiago and I moved to Norway over 7 years ago to complete a Masters in Political Science. It wasn’t by chance, but because my boyfriend at the time, with whom I studied in Chile, was Norwegian. We decided to come to the University of Oslo because it is a great university, it’s free, and it would be a great opportunity for me to get to know his culture better.
My plan was to return to Chile after two years of masters studies, but this is my 7th year here; I have even started a family with my daughter and husband Iñigo, who I met here and who I lived with after separating from my Norwegian ex boyfriend.
Tell me a little bit about your daughter. Where was she born, what is her name, how old is she?
I gave birth on December 10th, 2016, 11 days before my due date, something I foresaw. That same day, I had a birthday party for one of my closest friends in Oslo, who is also Chilean, and I told her “I will be giving birth that day…”, and so it was! Elaia was with us after an intense, natural birth, she measured 49 cms and weighed 3.250 kilos.
Elaia means swallow (a bird) in basque.
It was very easy to choose this name, truthfully, it took us no more than ten minutes to make up our minds. Nevertheless, we did discuss two alternatives for a few months, and as we were not able to make a final choice, we decided to look in a name app for finding basque names. We skimmed through to the letter E (as all we had looked at was letter A because we really liked it), and we immediately found “Elaia”. There are only about 300 people whose name is Elaia, and all of them are from Basque or Navarre, Spain, which is where my husband is from.
We got married in the year 2014, twice, with two parties, and almost three years later, we have Elaia with us. Although she was not planned, she has totally revolted our lives and priorities, she has also filled our home with happiness and sense.
Elaia is very small, but she already has a well established personality. Her eyes look very much like her father’s – large and almond shaped – and her mouth looks like mine – with the same dimples. She is great at letting us know what she wants, how and when. She is only two months old, and it has not been easy. As parents, it has taken us a while to know her and understand what she wants, but we learn every day. She laughs a lot, frowns and looks at us intently, as if wanted to get to know us better.
What is the pregnancy and birth process like in Norway?
In Norway, the monitoring begins at week 12. Before that, you won’t even get a blood exam to confirm the pregnancy.
The health system is public and the private one hardly exists. As opposed to Chile, health is free and of high quality. As a resident, I have the right to use the public health system and to be attended during the months of pregnancy. However, if everything is going well, the monitoring is very scarce.
At week 12 I confirmed my pregnancy with my doctor through a urine test and then a blood test. After this, I visited the midwife each month and at week 21 I got my only ultrasound. However, as I was used to the Chilean health system (which is paternalistic and very expensive) I chose to pay for an extra ultrasound on week 9 in Norway and then another on week 18 in Chile.
My sister, Carola, was also pregnant at the time and we used to compare both systems a lot. She was constantly monitored by her specialist doctor. I, on the other hand, until the moment of giving birth, never got to see a specialist.
My doctor, a general physician, saw me only one time and from there on I only got to see my “Jordmor” (which means midwife in Norwgian, but the literal meaning is “mother earth”, which shows how hippy-like the system is).
My sister, on the other hand, has four different ultrasounds, or as many as she wished to have. She could “say hello” to her baby whenever she was able to afford it. Although I could have gone to a private hospital to “visit” Elaia in the womb, it was not recommended, and I was assured that one ultrasound was more than enough to detect any anomalies. The visits to the doctor were five in total, plus one for the ultrasound.
Pregnant women are allowed to eat anything in Norway, healthy, for sure, but there are no recommendations to avoid things, not even sushi. I gained 25 kilos in weight. My sister, on the other hand, was constantly warned against the dangerous consequences of gaining too much weight, they even asked her several times to loose weight.
At the beginning I felt quite worried about the limited monitoring I was receiving because I kept comparing myself to my sister and the experiences of my friends who had had babies in Chile. However, I think that the best system is that in which you are encouraged to celebrate and enjoy your pregnancy, without too much negativity from family, people around you and the health system.
What was the hardest thing about being pregnant abroad?
Being pregnant abroad was not really an issue. Maybe being able to communicate with nurses and doctors in Norwegian was a challenge. Maybe having to cut back on traveling, for example, was the hardest thing for me. Despite this however, I went to London for a yoga fair, the Om Yoga Show, during week 33 and 34 of my pregnancy.
Today, thanks to technology, it’s very easy to stay in touch with family and I always felt like I had them with me.
What was the best thing about bien pregnant abroad?
Feeling calm with the monitoring I was receiving and being able to be far from (although not totally) the million of advice and worries that family and friends tend to give without one asking for it.
People in Norway are very respectful and will never give you an opinion if you haven’t asked for it. I ate anything I wanted and did all the Bikram yoga that I wanted to, even until the last day of my pregnancy, without anyone criticizing me.
What was the worst thing about the delivery?
I am extremely independent, but at the same time very close to my family. Although I chose to have my baby alone with my husband, of course I missed my family visiting me at the hospital.
Communicating with the nurses was also a challenge. The first midwife I got was Danish and we didn’t understand anything. All I did was say “ha, ha, ha!” trying to guess what she was saying. Danish and Norwegian are quite similar and they can understand each other well, but for foreigners its a completely different language.
During my stay at the hospital I had a moment in which my latin temperament flourished. The nurse who was also a foreigner spoke no english and had very bad Norwegian. We had a misunderstanding because of this. Despite this incident, every went well.
And the best thing?
I loved how babies are brought into this world here. Contractions are experienced at home, as calm as you can, with your husband or whoever you choose. This way you can “enjoy” the first few hours of the delivery in your home, get a warm bath, pack your bags and cuddle with your husband, feel relaxed until its necessary to go to the hospital, where you only wait for the last centimeters of dilation. Once the baby is born he or she is never separated from the mother. All tests are done in the room, or the mother takes the baby to a different place if necessary.
The other thing that I loved, is that if all goes well and we both feel okay to walk, we do everything on our own, even go to the cafeteria for lunch.
We are treated like mothers and not like we were sick, and we are taught and encouraged to do everything ourselves instead of getting it all done for us.
Another thing that I loved was that after a very long delivery (almost 20 hours of contractions at home and another 12 hours in the hospital), they put Elaia on my chest and told me to hold her in my arms, breastfeed her and dress her myself, so we could go to the hospital hotel, where we would spend four days. After half an hour, I got up from the bed, took a shower, and walked to the hotel.
In the hotel we had a large twin size bed for me and Iñigo, who would be sleeping with me, and a small crib in case we wanted the baby to sleep there.
I loved that I was recommended to promote maximum attachment with my baby, I was encouraged to undress her and my chest, and they suggested that we spent those days with a lot of skin to skin contact.
We were given the nurse’s number in case we needed her, and we were only visited twice a day, just to check that everything was ok. everything was just very relaxing.
According to your experience, what would you recommend to other women who will be having a baby abroad?
Relax, be informed, and enjoy.
Are you also a Mom Abroad?
Are you or ave you been pregnant while living in a different country? Are you raising a baby away from your family?
If you are interested in collaborating with A Baby Abroad, telling me your story and experience as a Mom Abroad, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org . I would love to hear your story.