My Thoughts On Being Pregnant Abroad
Now thinking back – only a year ago my thoughts on getting pregnant were still a little seed far away from being planted. Pregnancy was something I had never previously considered and my only goal in life was getting my career back on track and finding a way to settle down in Denmark. But fast-forward a year and here I am – 9 months pregnant from the person who stole my heart. I do feel a little bit anxious from the thought of having a baby, but the excitement does make up for all the worries I have. And I do have to start getting used to the idea that in about a month time I will be walking around with the identity of a mother.
Today I felt the urge to share my thoughts with you on being pregnant abroad. When I first found out I was pregnant it didn’t really cross my mind that things work a bit differently when you go through your first pregnancy far away from your motherland. 1. Attention & Affection Please
Let’s start from the obvious – pregnancy makes you hormonal. VERY HORMONAL. It’s like PMS-ing all the time. Of course, during some months my hormones were almost at ease – but still despite my very efforts I did end up as yet another pregnant emotional wreck. A fragile creature that craved (still does) affection and attention from literally everyone around and especially from the people it loves the most. But then here I am – thousand miles away from my family and friends (with some exceptions, of course). However, the choice to live abroad also means letting go of some of the habits you have and accepting that you can’t spend all of your spare time with say your closest family. All you can do is give them a call and spend a few minutes together over the phone… which we all know is never the same as being in the same place. So every time I felt the urge to spend some girly time with my mom (I know), sharing all my crazy thoughts and feelings over a piece of cake and a cup of tea, I had to redirect that urge somewhere else. In my case the scapegoat was Philip – the person who is always there for me. This has undoubtedly put a lot of pressure on him – having to deal with my mood swings and ‘get me’, while also working hard and doing all those other important things before Sofia-Malou arrives. With that said I do feel for him and I can only imagine how challenging it actually is to live with a pregnant woman (who is also far away from her motherland). But hey, it’s over soon, right?
2. Food Cravings
Another massive issue when you live abroad and you’re pregnant – ‘food’. I haven’t had a lot of bizarre cravings, in fact my cravings were pretty reasonable during these 9 months… Or should I say – they would have been incredibly normal if I lived back in Bulgaria. Why? Because the things I felt like eating were dishes or desserts that I associate with my childhood. And where did I spend my childhood? Correct – not in Denmark. So you can imagine the frustration of not being able to cook the Bulgarian dishes I craved, because I couldn’t find the right ingredients to make them perfect… Not to mention my not so great cooking skills (aw, if my grandmothers were here). Of course, I keep doing my best to satisfy my cravings and sometimes the things I make are actually tasty enough, but still – I could just kill to munch over my parent’s homemade dishes. Thankfully, there is a Bulgarian store, here in Copenhagen, so at least I can get some of the things I feel like eating (such as pink and tasty tomatoes and white Bulgarian cheese).
3.Being pregnant is a ‘piece-of-cake’
What about the way people treat you when you’re pregnant? Well, every culture has its own way of treating pregnant women. In Bulgaria people will always encourage you to sit and relax, then give you an extra portion of food (and then some more), and just keep treating you as if you’re a little kid that has a cold and have no clue how to boost its immune system. But I guess in times when all you need is attention, you eventually end up enjoying being massively spoiled… even by strangers. Everyone will just act incredibly nice around you, giving you a hand even when you don’t need it. Why is that so? Because after the fall of communism back in 1989 people couldn’t really afford having kids (hence why I have no siblings and why most of my friends don’t have either). They money had no value due to the crazy inflation and there was hardly anything in the stores. It’s since relatively recently that families have begun having more than one kid. So no wonder why pregnant women receive all the attention today.
What about the situation In Denmark? Well… considering that it’s baby boom at the moment, and from what I’ve gathered, it’s been for many years now, being pregnant in Denmark is not a big deal. People have been able to afford having a few children and the country has also massively supported that. Exactly because most families have 2/3 kids – pregnancy is far from being considered extraordinary… so if you end up residing here don’t expect to be treated in a special way. If you’re pregnant in Denmark, you work until you’re almost too pregnant to be actually able to stand on your feet. In Bulgaria you get a note from your doctor (when you’re around 6 months pregnant) and spend a lot of time off work prior to your maternity leave. Me? I’ve been working at the Body Shop up until yesterday. For me it’s been incredibly entertaining to identify the differences in the way pregnant women are treated in both countries. For example when we went to Bulgaria in July my family kept advising me to stop running around and take some time off. In Denmark, however, people have no incentive to give me a hand when they see me all pregnant, dragging a massive table with Body Shop products to showcase out on the street.
The way I see it – the way both countries treat pregnancy is literally in stark contrast. I’m pregnant, not ill so being active (doing sport, working, etc) is perfectly fine with me. But growing a baby inside you does take a lot of your energy and, of course, carrying heavy items is just insane…
In that sense I would have been pretty grateful if people were willing to help me when they’ve seen me all pregnant and sweaty, struggling to drag all these items.
My conclusion – both cultures can definitely exchange know-how and find the middle ground. Because come on – pregnant women are neither ill nor superhuman :).
4. Is Your Baby Too Big For You Too?
Okay, here we talk MASSIVE differences between Denmark and Bulgaria. In Bulgaria you do Private. In Denmark – not. So here, all doctor’s/midwife appointments are planned by the system and you pay your doctor a visit when you’re schedule (given by your midwife) tells you. Also, you get only two chances to see your baby on a screen.
In Bulgaria you go to your doctor all the time and see your baby around 10-15 times during your pregnancy.
At first I was getting incredibly irritated that I had to wait until my set doctor’s appointments and couldn’t just pick my own doctor and visit him/her to see Sofia-Malou whenever I wanted. Now, however, I’m more than grateful that things work in the way they do here. If your pregnancy is going smoothly, why go to checks all the time and scan the baby? It makes no sense. But in Bulgaria it does make sense as you pay every time you set foot in a clinic.
Also, there is a trend in Bulgaria that seriously shocks me. Most girls end up having C-section rather than giving natural birth. Why? Because apparently their babies have huge heads. It’s laughable really, having in mind that women are created to give birth. How come 8/10 women can’t do so because of the size of their baby’s head? I actually spoke to a Bulgarian doctor, who told me that 15% of the women worldwide SHOULD have C-section due to complications. 85% are perfectly capable to give natural birth. In Bulgaria the % is 50/50. But again – we talk money here. And not only. It’s much easier for the doctors to plan C-section than have to be at the hospital all the time waiting for their pregnant patients to call and come in to give birth naturally.
I’m grateful that my Danish doctors/midwives are pro everything natural and are encouraging me to go as drugs-free during labour as possible. They’ve inspired me to try stay away from epidural etc. so that I don’t hinder my ability to ‘push’ and end up prolonging labour. My midwife encourages me to keep doing sport (so that my muscles are prepared), learn and practice different breathing techniques, and even meditate. Having in mind how much I despise conventional medicine (I’m more of a homeopathy type of person) then I think I’ve found my place.
Part 2 coming up very soon…
And you? Whether you live at your motherland or abroad – what’s your pregnancy experience been so far?