Alba Léon reviews the book Knocked Up Abroad, an exploration of the unique challenges and joys of being pregnant while living abroad.
Living abroad has its ups and downs and challenges, and they can become even more pronounced when you are pregnant…
Having a child can be a daunting enterprise and it’s been said that it takes a village to raise one. So what happens when that village happens to speak a different language and have very different customs from one’s own? In her book Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby Bumps, Twists and Turns Around the Globe Lisa Ferland explores this question by sharing the many and varied experiences of women who have gotten pregnant while living abroad.
As a global villager myself, I could immediately relate to their stories, which ranged from the frustrating (how to get contraceptives while navigating a health care system in a language you don’t speak), to the exhilarating (how to explore archaeological sites with a six-month in tow) as well, unfortunately, as the heart-breaking and frightening. In short, the stories cover full range of experience we talk about when we talk about motherhood. And even those experiences we don’t talk about at all.
I am a first time mother, and I read this book while in hospital, waiting for my child to be born. The stories echoed many of the questions and experiences that I had dealt with throughout my pregnancy. From my reading I learned that it is normal to feel hurt when you are found wanting. As one mother puts it: “I’m glad for…the relative fewer comments on all the things I’m not supposed to do during pregnancy. It will take me until our child is about one year old to be finally able to care less about these comments”. It turns out I have at least 11 months to go!
The book is also a testament to the problem-solving powers that often develop from being lost in translation: “I opened the box and tried to make sense of the Spanish directions listed on the side of the box. Did that say one cucharita or cuchara (teaspoon or tablespoon)? What was the difference again?”
“But sometimes these things happen” is a thought often repeated in the stories. It is, in a nutshell, the main theme of the book. Living abroad has its ups and downs and challenges, and they can become even more pronounced when are pregnant; we tend to have an enhanced sense of how we want things to be done, how they are ‘supposed’ to be done. Often, the contrasts between our way and our adoptive country’s way can be as stark as the light and shadow in a Rembrandt painting.
The experiences of the women featured in the book attest to the many ways in which international families—regardless of their shape and size— adapt to new environments, customs, rules and experiences around pregnancy and childbirth. Their stories show that help can come from unexpected places, such as the Dutch kraamzorg service (subject of one mother’s ode), and also that the help from expected places, such as well-meaning family members, can sometimes drive us up the wall.
What I enjoyed most about Knocked Up Abroad was my increased understanding that all of these emotions are fine, and the newfound sense of connection that comes from knowing that other women, somewhere else in our global village, has experienced the same things.
Amsterdam Mamas received a free copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.