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Pregnant Expatriate

Pregnant & Abroad

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I could really use some advice from an unbiased third party.

My husband is Dutch, I am American, and we live in the Netherlands.

I’ve recently found out I’m pregnant, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s my first, but not his (he is just as happy though).

Well, I’ve been living here for three years, I have a healthy relationship with his parents, I have some contact with two out of his 15 cousins, and we occasionally see his brother…my point is that coming from a large tight knit family, the lack of family closeness is unfamiliar to me. Not to mention, I haven’t really made any real friends here….so yea, even before the hormones had anything to do with it, I felt pretty darned lonely here.

Which brings me to my situation: I want to have this baby back home in NY with the support and love from my family and friends.

I don’t want to exclude my Sweety and his family from being a part of pregnancy….but it’s not like they are around all the time either…not how my friends and family would be. This is my mom’s first grandchild and I know I’ll get the kind of attention and care that I want.

In a perfect world, (health permitting) I would want to travel back right before my third trimester and come back with the baby two weeks after labor, again, health permitting. I wouldn’t even be opposed to hubby coming to NY for the birth…I just don’t want to do it here so alone.

I haven’t brought this up to my hubby, for fear that he will think I am pushing him away and being selfish. Does that make sense? But I feel pretty strongly about it.

How can I approach the subject sensitively? Should I even approach the subject at all?

Any kind of advice would be highly appreciated.

First-time Mom Abroad

I admit I’m particularly interested in the feedback this question will get in the comments — historically these sorts of birth plan dilemmas rustle up some very strong emotions — but I’m also curious to see if we have any other expats who went through something similar and can share their stories.

These kinds of marital discussions are the hardest, I think: the kind where you’ve basically been simmering all alone in your thoughts and ideas for awhile and have already made up your mind, but you’re still hoping there’s a way you can make it SOUND like you’re open to compromise and further collaboration…even though you’re totally…uh, not.

That said, this is a discussion you need to have with him. Like today. Yesterday. You guys need to sit down and get this plan out there and hashed through from every possible angle if you really intend to do it. Who will be your OB in New York? What’s the contingency plan if you encounter complications after you fly home, or your baby needs to spend time in the NICU? What happens if he books a flight and the baby comes early, or you go past your due date and he needs to return? Would you feel pressured by a travel schedule to induce? Is making an international flight alone with a two-week-old newborn something you really feel comfortable with? (Note that I’m not suggesting that any of these questions is some insurmountable dealbreaker; they’re just the sort of logistical/practical discussions you AND your husband need to have TOGETHER.)

I really (really really really) do sympathize with and understand your desire to be with your mom and other friends/family for some of your pregnancy and the birth. I really do! But I can’t quite wrap my mind around basically shutting your husband out of it, or that you don’t seem to care about his presence or involvement all that much. (You mention you wouldn’t even be “opposed” to him flying to New York for the birth. Okay? That’s generous of you?) If you were talking about you and him both spiriting away to New York TOGETHER for the whole thing and were worried about potential hurt feelings from his extended family, I’d make fart noises with my mouth and tell you to not even worry about it. They’ll get plenty of time with the baby and missing the final trimester and birth experience is not something they are entitled to. But your husband merits a bit more consideration. He is, after all, also your “home” and “family.” If you’re feeling alone and unsupported by him, or doubt his ability to be there emotionally (or otherwise) for you during pregnancy and childbirth, that hints at a much deeper problem than birth plan logistics. But I don’t want to read into problems that might not actually exist, so let’s stick with the birth plan logistics and his possible reaction to this proposal.

You mention he has a child(ren?) already, so maybe you’re thinking that since he already got to see a birth, he won’t care about missing this one? If you’ve seen one of your children being born, you’ve seen ’em all, no big deal? I don’t know your husband, obviously, but I’m trying to picture me telling my husband that yeah, I’ve worked out my birth plan for our second (or third) born child and sorry, it just doesn’t really involve you. His presence at each and every one of my deliveries and the immediate days afterwards was a huge, huge thing for us as a couple and as a growing family. That is just my experience, of course, and I am by no means any kind of One True Example Of How Everyone Must Think. Women give birth while away from their partners every day — military deployments, babies coming early while Dad is on a business trip, babies deciding to come RIGHT THIS MINUTE while Dad is stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital. It’s obviously not the end of the world or harbinger of fatherly bonding doom.

But you’ve gotta get a read on how he feels about this, about potentially missing the birth AND the first two weeks of his baby’s life, and I think you have to give his feelings some weight. Even if they mess with the plan you mapped out ahead of time. Maybe he really, really wants to be the one to cut the cord. Maybe he can’t deal with the possibility of you having a c-section while he’s not there. Maybe he’ll resent the implication that he’s unable to give you the “attention and care” that you want during the final weeks of pregnancy. Maybe he’ll suggest a compromise, like having your mom come for an extended visit that would overlap the final weeks of pregnancy, the birth and some time with her first grandchild. Or hell, maybe he secretly longs for the good ol’ days where fathers stayed out in the waiting room during the gory bits and will be totally relieved that you’re giving him a pass. Maybe he’ll just plain understand your desire to be with your whole family and be completely on board with this plan, even though it (best case) significantly ups the odds that he won’t be there for the birth. I don’t know. We’re all missing the same crucial bit of information here: How he feels about this. 

I don’t have a good script to give you that perfectly states your position in such a moving, eloquent way that any husband who hears it will break down in tears and shove plane tickets in your hand because GO, YOU MUST GO, I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND AND WOULD NEVER STAND IN YOUR WAY. *throws roses at stage* I would suggest sort of…floating the idea out there first, in a vague unformed way, instead of basically revealing that you’ve made up your mind and have the whole thing planned out, but hey, you’re not “opposed” to him flying in for the birth, if he wants, whatevs. (In other words: Don’t phrase that part that way, like his presence is just some afterthought or inconvenience.) Say you’ve been looking at the calendar and trying to figure out how to share both the pregnancy and the baby with your family at home, and wonder what he thinks about you going to NY for a third trimester baby shower and staying there for the birth, so you can be with your mom and friends since that’s just how your family does things and yada yada.

Consider any and all compromises he offers. Consider the possibility that the trimester-long parade of pregnancy-fueled love and attention you’re picturing back at home might be a tad idealized, as your friends’ and family’s lives will go on and they won’t necessarily be around all the time either. (Or that you and your mom might start wearing on each other’s nerves after a week or two, because omg there’s something about pregnancy and birth and mothers and daughters that just complicates it all). Consider looking around for some prenatal fitness classes (yoga, swimming, etc.) that you could join, thus potentially making some friends and giving your “I’m so lonely and alone” mindset that nice mental boost that comes from being active.

Good luck with it all, by the way. I really do hope you get the birth you want with no drama or hurt feelings. I imagine your husband does understand the sacrifices/culture shock/adjustment issues that come from living overseas and should be willing to have a reasoned discussion with you about this. As long as the discussion goes both ways and steers clear of ultimatums/”I DON’T CARE I’M DOING WHAT I WANT”s, I think you should be able to work something out.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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