From Europe to China and back again
Our Global Parenting series is back and today we are exploring the expat world through the eyes of Yuliya, a Ukrainian born mum of two currently living in the Czech Republic but a serial expat for the last 10 years. She is the author behind her own blog Tiny Expats as well as the editor of Expat Kids Blog on BlogExpat.com.
Yuliya takes us back to where her expat journey began in London and the ins and outs of giving birth abroad.
BG: Tell us about your background, where are you and your husband from originally and how did you end up as expats?
Y: My husband and I became expats pretty early. I went to the UK from Ukraine to study at 17 and he was sent to a boarding school there at age 12. We met in London, where we both started the same degree program. Originally, I thought, I would either continue working in London after graduation, or maybe go back home to Ukraine, but my husband had this job proposal in Germany and that is how our joint expat journey began. After Germany (Hamburg) came China (Shanghai), after China – Russia (Moscow) and now we’re in Czech Republic (Pardubice).
BG: Where were you living when your children were born?
Y: We had our first child in Hamburg, Germany. At first, we were pretty uncertain on where it would’ve been best to give birth to her. My parents lived in Ukraine, my husband’s – in Russia, so if she was born in Germany, we would have had not much help from them. Then we thought that the medical system is supposed to be pretty good there, plus my husband still had some work obligations, so we decided to go along with it. What was very important at that time was that my husband had flexible working hours, so he was very much there for me and the baby, when we most needed him.
Our younger daughter was born in Moscow and this time I had help from my mother-in-law, which, considering that our older daughter was just 3.5 years old at that point, was very valuable.
BG: What were health care facilities and social support like where you were living at the time of your children’s births? Were you prepared for parenthood away from home?
I really liked the help I had with my pregnancy and labour in Germany. During the 38 weeks of pregnancy, you would schedule regular visits to your gynecologist, who would convey all the necessary checks, tests, ultrasound, etc.
Then you could choose the hospital, where you would like to give birth. We chose a great hospital, part of the large medical university base. All the pregnancy and birth expenses were covered by insurance, which was paid for directly from my husband’s salary (it’s an obligatory insurance system).
After giving birth, you are entitled to visits from a nurse, who would come every day of the first week and then every other couple of days to your home to check up on the baby and help you out with breastfeeding, baby care, bathing, etc. It’s all covered by obligatory insurance as well.
Giving birth in Moscow was a very different experience, although I can’t say it was all that bad, but you definitely need to convey more research and choose wisely, where you would go for help and assistance. I chose a private gynecologist to take care of me during the pregnancy. As my husband’s Russian, I could’ve received free medical care in a state hospital, but after some research on internet, I read so many upsetting stories about long waiting times, rudeness of the medical staff and medical mistakes, that I decided not to venture there.
You can also choose a hospital, where you would give birth and do it for free, but again, we decided to have a contract with the hospital, paying for extra services – for example, to choose the doctor, who would be present there during the birth (and not just the one who is on duty that day), to get a private birth room (and not be in a room with several other screaming ladies) and to have a single room after giving birth (we also chose that option in Germany, where you could pay extra to have a family room, where you can even stay with your husband, however, all those rooms were already occupied on a day, when we got there, and it is always a question of availability). The birth went pretty well, my doctor was great, which is why I chose her before birth, although, I did encounter some of the rudeness I heard about from junior medical staff upon arrival to the hospital.
In Russia, you can also get free visits from a nurse during the first month from a state hospital and later you can visit all the specialists and do all the tests for free (that’s a national health insurance, so it would not work for expats). However, once again, we decided to choose a private insurance and a private hospital for our daughter. It is always much more comfortable, with scheduled visits, appointments (and not just waiting in a queue for hours) and better personal attitude from the medical professionals.
BG: Tell us more about the support networks you had after giving birth?
Y: Moving around with children is quite a different experience to going alone or as a couple – I find that having kids always increases your chances of meeting new people and making friends. I still keep in contact with a mom from Germany, who I met in a baby’s group, when my daughter was just 5 months old.
During our time in China, I met a couple of lovely expat ladies, as our kids used to play together. I also met a friend in Moscow, when taking my daughter to figure skating lessons and now, in CZ, I socialise with mom’s of kids, who I met through kindergarten or (luckily enough) through my TinyExpats blog. Kids are great social facilitators!
BG: How have your Tiny Expats handled your mobile life so far?
Y: Our oldest daughter is now 5 and she goes to a bilingual kindergarten. We are still not sure how long we will stay in CZ for and, although it would be nice for her to pick up some Czech, she will still need English in the future in any case. There’re some expat kids in this kindergarten as well, which is a great bonus, in my opinion, she’s not the only foreigner, so she doesn’t feel left out. My daughter’s English is still pretty basic, but I love how she tells me stories ‘told’ her by other kids and actually manages to ‘tell’ them stuff (with details as well). A few words and body language can go a long way!
Although, we moved around quite a lot already and our children seemed to handle it pretty well so far, I still worry every time how they would get settled. Would there be any negative attitude towards them in a new place? Would they have hard time fitting in? I’m sure, families living in the same place get plenty of kids’ related worries, but relocation always adds extra factors into it.
On the positive side – I think, this moving around and learning ways of life in different cultures, helps our children to grow up more open minded. Hopefully, when they are older, they would not see just differences in people, but will be able to find similarities. Learning how to deal with change is also a valuable lesson.
BG: How has living overseas benefited you as parents?
Y: When it was time for us to work out how exactly we wanted to parent our child, it really helped to be opened to lots of different opinions around. I found out I was pregnant while visiting Ukraine, that’s where we took some couple’s classes to learn more about pregnancy and baby care. I’ve read lots of Russian and German sites and forums on parenting and motherhood. In the end, we opted for natural parenting, but it was nice to make an educated decision, it gave us more confidence in our choice and that this style is the best suited for our situation.
BG: What advice would you give to other parents in a similar situation where a lot of moving around is required?
Open up to the change, do a lot of research and relax – getting too stressed out never helped anybody.
While, of course, moving around adds certain edge to an already complicated business of parenting, it also gives you opportunities, which you can see if you keep your mind open. Meeting new people, learning different ways of dealing with things and teaching your children valuable lessons. It does get scary at times (will it all be ok?? will I be capable of going through with it all??), but people are, mostly, very adaptable beings, so it’s all a question of braving through difficulties and enjoying the positives.
Giving birth away from your home country and your family is an immensely brave thing for a woman to do, no matter the medical system or support systems in place in your adopted country. Thanks to Yuliya for sharing her story with Our Globetrotters. If you’d like to hear more about Yuliya’s Tiny (and very adorable!) Expats, come check out her blog, or you can follow her on social media too Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
Have you given birth or moved overseas with small children? Would you like to share your Global Parenting story? Contact Keri at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief outline of your overseas adventures with kids and I’ll be in touch.
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Pictures courtesy of Yuliya