A New Chapter…

It’s been more than four months since my last blog post. I’m a Newbie in blogging terms, having only written a handful of posts since moving to the Caribbean last February, but despite this, I’ve been struggling to find content. After some self-reflection, the reasons for this are clear: When I first started my blog back in March, my life looked significantly different to what it does now. Whilst I think I’ll always have the soul of a free-spirited traveller, one can’t deny that I’m now embarking on a new chapter, one where everything I’ve known changes exponentially, and the new life growing in my belly takes top priority. Unsurprisingly, planning for birth and parenthood have taken centre stage, leaving little time to consider travel or adventure, at least for the time being.

Writing in any medium is a form of self-expression and I’d like this blog to be authentic to my interests. Therefore, I’ve decided to change direction slightly: In future I’ll be blogging more about pregnancy, and expat life as a parent; topics which I love to read about on other people’s blogs! I think this will give me more to write about, but most importantly, more motivation to continue writing.

Another issue which I must address is my perfectionism! I’ve confused blogging with high-brow journalism, agonising over every adjective and sentence. This inevitably sucks all joy out of my hobby, as a short post which should take no longer than a couple of hours takes days or even weeks of tweaking. From now on I’m going to try and write in a more concise and down-to-earth narrative. Not least because I won’t have time for great elaboration once my arms are full with a newborn! I’m searching for a new name for my site too – please get in touch if you’ve got any ideas for suitable names.

I’m excited to say I’m now almost thirty-two weeks pregnant. I’m currently back in the UK and loving the cooler weather, which has made pregnancy much more comfortable. Generally I feel fine in myself but have some mild pelvic girdle pain. My midwife told me to slow down all activity and be careful not to overstretch in yoga. I’m also struggling to complete some basic tasks such as taking off my shoes. Bending over strains my back so I have to squat or sit down to reach things at a low level. My hips are also sore at night and turning over is a nightmare, I often get stuck on my back whilst trying to change sides! However, I must say all of this is a small price to pay for the joy of feeling our baby squirming and kicking every day. ūüėä

Having a Baby in St Lucia

I’ve looked after children as part of my professional life for the past four years. Those four years brought about some of the biggest challenges I’d ever faced at work but I’m exceedingly grateful for that time. Armed with ideas for educational activities, the knowledge of developmental milestones and how to establish routines, I’ve a better grounding in early childhood development than most parents to be. However, I’ve no idea if this knowledge will translate to real life when I’m severely sleep deprived and suffering chapped nipples. What’s more, having a baby abroad is uncharted territory. Who will handle my antenatal care? How do I meet other mums in my community? How will I feel when my husband returns to work and I’m at home on my own with a¬†screaming newborn? I’ve been told that parenting is one of life’s toughest gigs.¬†I’d imagine that parenting in a foreign country doesn’t make things any easier.

I had my first antenatal appointment in St Lucia at¬†approximately eleven weeks and two days into my pregnancy. We’d had a disappointing experience at SAMS hospital in Grenada and were desperately hoping that the medical care in St Lucia was on a different par. From what I understand, British women initially make an appointment with their GP¬†who refers them to a midwife at a hospital or birthing centre and most give birth at the same establishment. In St Lucia, women tend to seek the services of a public health clinic which offers antenatal care led by midwives, or the services of a private obstetrician. Some opt for a combination of both, then refer themselves to the public health hospital once in labour. Others opt only to receive private care, either using just the private hospital or a combination of the hospital and private health clinics. Antenatal counselling such as breastfeeding advice and breathing techniques for labour are only available at public health clinics. Depending on your outlook, you could say that antenatal services in the¬†UK are more streamlined, or that the care in St Lucia is more flexible.

We’ve chosen the services of Dr Nadia Samuel at the private Tapion hospital in Castries. She’s a St Lucian obstetrician and gynecologist who has worked in the UK for twelve years and has vast¬†experience of dealing with obstetrical deliveries and emergencies.

After being weighed, Dr Samuel asked me a series of questions about my medical history. She took my blood pressure then asked me to lie down on the bed for my first ultrasound scan. For numerous reasons, I’d been unable to bridge many emotions¬†to my pregnancy until that point. Being pregnant is a lot like partaking in your own wedding – it feels oddly surreal. I’d also spent a month concentrating all my efforts on the exhausting task of morning sickness boot camp. This had left me little time to ponder life’s changing course and if I’m being honest, had¬†me feeling partially¬†unresponsive.

As Dr Samuel slid the ultrasound Doppler across the jelly on my stomach, a¬†beautiful¬†image came into view on the screen. For the first time, we laid eyes on our unborn baby. My husband mentioned something about being surprised the baby was moving so much and I fell silent in a rare moment of speechlessness. What I felt in that moment was a surge of pure love that was both primal and all consuming in it’s nature. Any suffering from previous weeks was suddenly eclipsed in the miracle of maternal biology.¬†Mummy and Daddy already love you more than you could ever imagine and we will do all we can to protect and guide you in the years to come.¬†

We left Dr Samuel’s office on cloud nine, heading downstairs to the laboratory in quiet contentment. She’d been professional, thorough and sensitive to our questions, and seeing our baby was the icing on the cake to our first successful appointment.¬†I’ll have an ultrasound scan and appointment every month. These will get more frequent¬†as I approach¬†labour.

The laboratory took a blood test and urine sample. I was given a total of twelve tests which included:

  • Diabetes
  • A test to establish which blood group I belong to
  • A complete blood count
  • A few tests for sexually¬†transmitted diseases, including Hepatitis B, HIV and Syphilis
  • A hemoglobin test which can identify serious illnesses¬†such as sickle cell and leukemia
  • A test that establishes the likelihood of a series of serious illnesses, including a rare type of cancer called adult T-Cell lymphoma
  • Rubella
  • Thyroid
  • Urine infections

A week later Dr Samuel emailed me to state that all my tests were clear.

Before planning our family, Pawel and I sat down and discussed the sort of parents we’d like to be. We believe children should be shown the same love, respect and understanding as adults. We believe children need¬†gentle boundaries, but that these should always be given¬†from a point of love rather than fear or threat. We are strongly against the idea of corporal punishment. We’ll strive to put our child’s needs before our own but try to avoid the pitfall of¬†becoming¬†martyrs to them.¬†We’ve agreed not to read a single book but to parent entirely on our gut instincts.¬†The problem with books is they facilitate the idea that there is one way and only one way¬†to¬†parent.¬†Children are actually fairly individual in terms of the communication, boundaries and affection they require and parents are just as unique as their offspring. Some parents work. Some parents stay at home. Some parents roll around with their children in the mud. Others prefer to cheer them on from the sidelines. All possess the¬†universal¬†goal of wanting what is best for their kids. None of us really have any idea of the type of parent we’ll be until that becomes a daily reality. One thing I know for sure is that life will never be the same again.

DSC_059313 weeks and 3 days. Our baby is approximately the size of a lemon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Caribbean Baby!

By the time we’d arrived in¬†Grenada in February, my husband’s broodiness had reached feverish levels. I had my usual ambivalence towards the issue; I’d always wanted a family, but was selfishly reluctant to give up the freedom one become’s accustomed¬†to after living child-free beyond the age of thirty. I was also plagued with the common anxiety of wondering what a good parent was, and if I was even capable of being one.

Moving abroad forced me to examine the unforeseen direction my life had suddenly taken. Now prohibited from conventional employment due to visa restrictions, I explored different ideas, from starting my own business to embarking on another stint of travelling. Neither idea came to fruition for the simple reason that most ideas fail to come to fruition: I lacked the passion to pursue either. Starting a business felt too big a leap for a novice expat who’d just arrived in their adopted land, and whilst I loved travelling, the one and only time I travelled sans husband, I missed him terribly.

After a couple of months in Grenada I finally found myself on the same page as my husband. I’ve been practicing Buddhist meditation since last summer and have begun to use it as a tool for tuning in to my intuition.¬†By honing intuition, one is supposedly able to follow their heart’s desires, as opposed to the conflicting desires of the mind, and in turn lead a life which is more authentic to their true self rather than what society and other influences¬†expect of¬†them. So what does any of this spiritual mumbo jumbo¬†have to do with starting a family I hear you cry?¬†Whilst I’ve reluctantly come to accept that there is never a perfect time to¬†procreate, a messy home filled with happy children is an ambition I’d wholeheartedly love to fulfill at this time in my life.¬†In my gut, the decision to grow¬†our¬†family feels right.

I took a pregnancy test a few days before my period was due on the 17th of May 2016.¬†I knew I was pregnant as I waited for the results whilst simultaneously trying not to vomit!¬†Nonetheless, a haze of surreal excitement and disbelief hit me as I watched two positive lines slowly appear in the test window. What followed has been a roller coaster¬†few months. We’ve felt jubilation as we watched our baby dance in my womb at our first ultrasound scan, and apprehension¬†as the Zika epidemic predictably took hold of the Caribbean at¬†the start of the rainy season. We realised we’d seriously underestimated the emotional upheaval of having a baby abroad as we navigated foreign health systems, but felt relieved I was unemployed as I battled debilitating morning sickness that had me bed bound for a month.

I will try my very best not to morph into that social media nuisance who posts incessantly about pregnancy and babies, as I’m aware that many people¬†have zero interest in either topic. However, our journey into parenthood is now a significant story in our expat life here. I hope you won’t think me self-indulgent for including a few posts on the topic and I hope that these are both interesting and informative.