You might think that giving birth in a foreign country sounds stressful, but believe me, it’s nothing compared to moving house on the day you give birth to your first child (we don’t tend to do normal in our house)! However, if you were to ask me about those early weeks and months of motherhood, and whether I think it would be more stressful to be at home or abroad, then there’s no real debate really – abroad would top those stress levels hands down.
Quite apart from being told off for daring to not put socks on baby on a hot day, or forgetting a hat for him when you leave the house, all major support networks (usually in the shape of friends and immediate family) are now elsewhere, and quite often you have absolutely no-one to ask whether it’s normal that your baby hasn’t pooped for four days, whether an addiction to bananas is completely usual (and doesn’t indicate simian tendencies), or whether your baby will ever get his two top middle teeth as he looked like a hippopotamus when he smiled for a good couple of months (those last three were at some point topics in our house this past year! Oh, and, as a mother of three I can tell you that the first two points are related by the way, just in case you’re in the same predicament!…)…
So, as I sit writing this, I am reflecting on how tough we mothers are as Expat women. How we have to cope with the trials and tribulations of daily life in new countries thousands of miles away from home. How we laugh (ok, not all the time!) at such challenges as language barriers in our temporary homelands, and excel in letting things go over our heads – such as being told off by elderly ladies for not doing something correctly (in their eyes) when it comes to our infants for example. We have no choice but to laugh in the face of loneliness with husbands who work incredibly long hours, and/or who travel a lot. We kick dirt in the eyes of sticking out like a sore thumb in our foreignness (and sometimes pretend we are local by acting like we have sore throats and can’t say much just so we don’t have to!)….
But, joking aside, there are definitely times during this (often not chosen by us) lifestyle choice that you actually really need people, especially when you add a brand new teeny person to the mix. Then it’s really important to try and build a network of people in the same boat as you. People who can reassure you that their babies are going through the exact same stage with no untoward happenings, and who can offer advice on various baby related scenarios – from sleep, to lack of it – to teeth, to lack of them… These same people happily sport matching eye bags, and support each other through the days when you understand why sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture… And, for those of you in Munich about to embark on a similar baby journey – this is where my lovely friend Lynn comes in, with her very excellent company – Pippagina.
If the baby was awake right now, I would consult him about the Tuesday mornings he spent socialising with like-minded tiny folk, but I bet he would tell you what a blast he had anyway, and how he had a bit of a penchant for holding the hands (or feet, he’s not fussy) of the closest baby girl next to him.
I know I enjoyed meeting Mums from all walks of life and of various backgrounds (not just expats, I hasten to add – there are lifers and locals alike), and I really enjoyed having Lynn (who is a UK registered midwife) there to listen and give support and advice on nearly every baby related matter, whilst providing a happy morning of music, movement and stories. It was so great to have this support, even for those of us embarking on this journey third time around – each baby is well and truly different you know… I will definitely put this down as one of my more postive expat parent experiences.
All Pippagina classes are in English you might be relieved to hear, and are easy to find in central Munich. As well as providing a bit of a knees up for tiny expats (not just Mums, Dads are very welcome too!), Pippagina’s main goal is to provide a meeting point for parents, and to offer an environment where large and small can forge friendships and ultimately succeed in building that all important support network in a foreign country. It is a proven fact that there is an increased level of postnatal depression in the Expat community, and it’s fantastic companies like this that help combat that. Just to have a point of contact, a friendly face, a group of people in the same situation as you is a valuable thing, and with such a lovely lady in charge, you can’t go far wrong really…
Hand holding obligatory….
And on the subject of small squishy people, and incredible mothers, another lovely friend Tracey (whose blog I have followed for a number of years) sent us a set of her brand new baby books to peruse. What this talented lady cannot do with paper and cardboard isn’t even worth thinking about…
I think you can see just how much someone enjoys them, and more often than not he picks the noisiest book for a bit of bed time reading!! Do pop over and have a look if you are looking for last minute tiny person Christmas presents, the board books are all based around animals and feature lots of touchy feely things to explore and learn about. Definitely Small Baby approved!