Some people I have talked to tell me they would never have a baby abroad, mainly because they don’t feel they would be up to doing it all on their own, away from grandparents, aunts and uncles… Having to handle a newborn is, for sure, challenging, and most people prefer to do this with the help of their tribe. But what if we weren’t talking about “one” newborn… but two?! Managing one baby, all on my own (okay, plus dad’s help), although stressful and challenging most of the time, was do-able, at least for me, while living abroad… but could I have pulled it off with two? hmmm… not so sure…
Today, at Moms Abroad, I bring you the story of Leighann, who gave birth to a set of beautiful twin boys while living in Germany…
Tell me a little bit about where you are from, where you currently live, and why…
I was born in South Korea, but was adopted by my wonderful parents. They lived in NY, so that was the first place that I lived. I usually claim New England though, because that’s where I went to high school and where the rest of my family currently still lives. My husband and our family are living in the Chicago suburbs right now. We’re a military family, so we get around a bit!
So, you have twins!
Yes, identical twin boys, Hunter and Hudson. They were born at 33 weeks in Landstuhl, Germany. They’ve recently turned one and are a pleasure to be around. They’re both playful, happy babies, and are so in sync with one another sometimes, that it’s kind of mind blowing.
What was the monitoring process of pregnancy and labor like in Germany?
Well, since I had two babies in my giant belly, I had to go for ultrasounds up to twice a week until later in my pregnancy, where there was less risk of something going wrong. I was monitored at a US military facility, but if there had not been room for me, I would have had to be seen at a German facility. Although I had heard nice things about the local hospital, I was thankful, because I didn’t speak much German (we had just arrived!), and my husband had to travel often for work!
What was the most challenging thing about being pregnant abroad? And what was the best thing about it?
Wow. Well, when you get prepared for your baby, you realize that cribs are different sizes in the US, strollers are harder to find, and so on. So, if you buy a crib in Germany, but your family sends you sheets from the US, they’ll be too big! Strollers, in my opinion, are better made in Germany. They have a lot of brick and cobblestone sidewalks, so their strollers are a little sturdier, which also means more expensive! The upside to this though, was we now have a well-made double stroller that can handle the outdoors. Clothing sizes also run different, so when shopping, we sometimes ball-parked it!
Other challenges were just about way of life. Most houses don’t have garages, and in ours, we had to trek up a sidewalk, then down some stairs, then down some more stairs to get inside. This was fine with me, until my belly got ridiculously huge and I was trying to carry groceries! Also, houses are built upward, more so than outward. So, there are several stories. Ours had 4. I loved our house, but that also got old as I grew!
Thinking of labor and delivery, what was the worst and best thing about having to do this far from your own country?
It was sad that our families couldn’t be there and get a first glimpse at the babies, but we actually had to do a medical evacuation in the United States shortly after their birth. So, although the situation wasn’t the best, both sets of grandparents and my brother and sister-in-law were able to meet the boys. What’s fantastic though, is that because of such great technology, I was able to tell them when I was going into labor!
How about motherhood and parenting. What challenges have you faced due to the fact that you are away from your home, family and friends?
Now that we’re back in the United States, it’s a little easier. However, in Germany, we would want to video chat with our families, but the time difference made it difficult. My husband had to work, our parents worked, etc., so we couldn’t talk whenever we wanted. Obviously, it wasn’t easy for them to just stop by, and it was a little difficult to not have any help around. My husband had to travel for a month shortly after we brought the boys home, so it was a little bit of challenge to do everything that needed to be done in a day! I think those times made me stronger though! I actually grew a lot closer to my friends who were already moms, because we’re all relatively close in age, so anything I was going through, they had gone through in recent years. One of my close friends had a little girl in the fall, and her husband doesn’t get to spend as much time with them as she would like either, so I’m glad we have each other.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give others who are going to have a baby or will be raising young children, away from their country?
I would say to embrace the country! Although preparing for our babies was different, it was still fantastic! The people in Germany were so kind to us and did what they could to help!
Also, be grateful to have the experience of being outside of your comfort zone. A lot of the differences made sense to us, so the challenge wasn’t because we had to “overcome” things, for the most part, it was just that we needed to adjust!
Also, stay in touch with family! We live in a time where we can text, video chat, e-mail, and so on. Even if you don’t like technology, if you are abroad or have family members abroad, learn to use it! It will keep you close!
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