Tag Archives: expat life

BOOK REVIEW Knocked Up Abroad: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and Raising a Family in a Foreign Country by Lisa Ferland

For those of you who have been “knocked up”, given birth, or are raising kids abroad, you’ll enjoy this collections of real life stories.  I met Lisa at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference in Amsterdam in 2016.  She is a dynamic expat mom, writer, and public health professional who has found her niche while living abroad in Sweden.

“No fear, no tension, no pain.” That’s how she describes the eventful birth of her daughter in the chapter entitled “Lucy’s Birthplan”.  After reading this chapter, I know Lisa on a whole other level and have a whole new respect for this woman.  In fact, she may be my idol in the world of Labor and Delivery!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE how she demonstrates the power of self-hypnosis and guided imagery!!

This delightfully raw anthology of 23 stories of pregnancy, birth and parenting abroad unexpectedly moved, inspired, horrified, and thoroughly entertained me.  Lisa pieces together snippets of life in 24 countries, including China, Scandinavia, Malaysia, Japan, Dubai, Australia, The Netherlands, and The Seychelles, creating a seamless world of same, but different. “…Birth is not easy” writes Sherah S. Haustein, who birthed her three children in Israel, Germany and the US.  “…No two births are the same.  Each one has its beauty, its difficulties and its memories, even when things don’t go as planned.”  Themes around expectation, communication, cultural custom, internal and external physical challenge, naiveté, courage, control (or lack thereof!) and pure joy weave in and out of these vignettes of early parenthood.

Ferland, along with her contributors (including her own husband), showcases the complexity of crossing cultures when growing a family.  Fin, Katarina Holm-DiDio introduces sisu into our vocabulary which, she says, can only be translated as determination-perseverance-guts-and resilience – a necessary quality and common thread that binds these parents together.

The variety of writing styles is refreshing and many of the writers, including Ferland herself, are natural and gifted storytellers who leave me curious and hungry for more.  The stories are laced with humble authenticity, humor often dancing through the poignant moments. Empathy for these 21 women and two men is unavoidable as we witness their transformation into cross-cultural parents.

If you find yourself wanting more, Lisa Ferland has recently published volume number two in the series entitled Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby Bumps, Twists, and Turns Around the Globe .  I’m reading that next!  You can find out more by visiting her website. www.knockedupabroad.eu

 

 

 

Ode to Cat Stevens

January 2016

Remember that movie Gremlins?  Those creepy little annoying and destructive demons that caused chaos and confusion?  I live with a few of those.  You know about Perfectionism already, but what about Woulda Coulda Shoulda (WCS)?  Did I tell you about him?  He’s the one that used to make me second-guess every single action, decision, interaction, and communication I made. Obviously, he’s in bed with Perfectionism (see On Perfectionism and Discomfort).  Sluts.

Blanco y Tinto May Rehearsal  (105)I have this voice. It’s pretty big. You either love it or you hate it, but between Perfectionism and WCS, it has its tinny moments.  I wouldn’t say it’s been silenced, though being a talker living in a non-English speaking country has left it much quieter and more melancholy than it used to be.  Admittedly, there  are occasions when it becomes wimpy, unsure of itself, afraid of being judged, of saying the wrong thing, singing the wrong note, being misunderstood.

On the best of days, it shines through me, light saber blinding (yes, I do have a six year old), and it is clear and loud, bluesy and hot.  It doesn’t care who hears and yet it wants you all to hear.

It says YES!!!  Sing it, Sister.  Let that joy, that dream, that truth, that story, that pain, that hope, that song….let. it. OUT.

Light it up.

You know why I love to watch karaoke (oh how I miss the karaoke pub nights in the village) so much?  Because the heart and voice (and maybe a little booze) become one on those little one-step stages.   People stand up there with all their dreams bundled up in their voices, the mic in their hands, their eyes closed or to the heavens and they let it out.  I seriously have cried at karaoke (and not out of embarrassment).

Voice is the power behind what you have to say.  It can speak without words. We don’t HAVE voices.  We ARE our voices.  The chords are where our bodies, minds, hearts, and our lives’ very breath meet.

When we bind them, quiet them, use them inappropriately, abuse them, they begin to disappear, sometimes abruptly and sometimes little by little, over time.  Get that diaphragm in shape.  Quit smoking.  Hydrate.  Take a day off, let it rest.  Don’t yell.  Keep it warm and then…Sing it.  Say what you need to say.boy singing

I’m not ashamed.  I’m not hiding that away.  It’s not perfect and I’m not showing off.  And yes, I DO like the sound of my own voice.  It reminds me of who I am.  It saved me.

On Fear, Courage, and Living Out Loud

It’s Veteran’s Day and my son has been drawing pictures of soldiers and military vehicles all morning.  He says he wants to be an American soldier when he grows up.  He’s only five, but he’s been saying that for awhile now.  I am struck because he was born and raised in Italy with an Italian father and grandparents who don’t speak a word of English, but he identifies as an American.  He’s visited the US six times and one of those he can’t possibly remember.

Last summer, he found a little American flag that a neighbor had given us on the 4th of July.  He started taking it everywhere he went.  One day, as we drove through town, he rolled down the window and hung the flag out the window, waving it and singing “I love America!”.   16.5 Months 4th of July Celebration.jpg (12)I panicked.  We were driving through a small Northern Italian town.  Tiny cars and people all over the streets.  As I try to navigate the street and convince him to pull in the flag, I struggle to find the right words to explain why I was asking him to pull in the flag and why it would be okay in the US, but not in other countries.   He was being so open-hearted and true to himself.  Part of me was sad and ashamed that I felt like I had to tell him to pull in the flag and keep his pride to himself, but the other part of me knew it was necessary.  Yesterday, as we drove home on American roads, he asked out of the blue, “It would be okay to put the flag out the window now, right?”

What I realize now is that living in Italy, and my own limiting beliefs, have caused me to live “smaller” than I want for myself.  Over the years, I was careful not to draw attention to myself in public places or in community.  There were times when it was legitimately the safest choice, but living safely became a habit.  The fear of miscommunication, judgement, rejection and harm often prevented me  from connecting at a deeper level with people.   So, by living in avoidance of what I did not want, I got the opposite of what I DID want: isolation and disconnect.  Though, I say I don’t want to squash my son’s desire to “live out loud” (and he does loud pretty well), I know I am guilty of allowing my own fears to infiltrate my parenting.

We just finished watching the NYC Veteran’s Day Parade and I am reminded of what real courage is.   It’s moving straight through the fear.  It’s leaning in, being afraid, and doing it anyway because you have faith in your own incredible power, your purpose, and in the strength and humanity of others.  It’s doing it because you must.

When I return to Italy, I will see with the same eyes, but a different heart.  I still don’t think I’ll wave an American flag out of my window when I drive through town, but my fear of being seen is dwindling and my desire to connect is growing.  When someone says, “So you’re American? [Sei americana?]” That’s when I lean in.  “Yes, I am.”