Baby on Board while Abroad: First Trimester Survival Guide


BY ANNE QUINTOS

I've always wondered why it takes so long for women to carry their offsprings in their wombs. Sure, other animals like dolphins and sharks have longer gestation periods. For perplexed young adults like me, however, nine months seemed like an eternity to bear.

Now that I'm pregnant, what I thought was an eternity seemed to move like a speed train. And pregnancy, like a speed train, has been exciting, nauseating (literally!), expensive, disorienting, and amazing! This is why I would like to share my story, hoping to shed some guiding light for overseas Filipino moms-to-be. Even though it can be quite a struggle to get pregnant abroad, it's definitely all worth the ride.

1st month: Oh Happy News

The instructions said wait for two to three minutes. After a few wee drops, one...two...positive. This wasn't the first time I took the test, but this was the first time I didn't have to wait. "I'm so pregnant," I told myself. I immediately rushed out and gave my husband a big hug.

He also didn't have enough time to let everything sink in. After months of trying, our prayers were finally answered. Happiness was an understatement and words just escaped both of us. I cried. He was dazed. Nonetheless, the moment was perfect. We hugged and welcomed each other to parenthood.

"Press 1 to call. Press 2 to deposit. Press 3 to check value..." Raymond waited and followed the voice prompts to make a cheap call to the Philippines. Even though it's anti-climactic than personally delivering our happy news to our family, phone calls were the only choice since we're miles away from home.

We weren't able to see their smiles nor celebrate with festive meals. Still, we felt everybody was happy, from my 90-year old grandmother to our youngest sibling. It's really wonderful how the warmth and love of family travel fast despite the distance.
Preggie tips
  • Prepare yourself for the next months to come as being pregnant while abroad can get emotionally tiresome. On top of the usual homesickness, changing hormones, cravings, and mood swings all add up to the challenge. 
  • Discuss with your partner on when you should announce your pregnancy news to friends, relatives, and co-workers. In most countries, a wait of up to three months is common.

2nd month: Flip Cravings

I grew up with a sense of taste that can take up almost anything. My mom even told me that I was the only baby who ate mashed ampalaya (bitter gourd). Weirdly enough, my taste buds suddenly changed on my second month of pregnancy. The Chinese food I've been eating for almost four years became too strong for my palate. Our usual Japanese sushi dates just became unappealing.

On the other hand, my love for lutong Pinoy grew fonder. I was craving for Sinigang, Nilaga, Adobo, Pancit Bihon, and the usual fare. This was when Raymond started to learn how to cook. My sense of smell was so heightened that I can smell onions even in another closed room. Our friend Merlisa also shared her delicious lutong-Pinoy meals with us from time to time.

Unfortunately, we only the have time to cook during the weekends. We also live far from the Filipino community area. So, on tortured days of barfing the whole work week, I deeply longed for Saturdays and Sundays when I can have my baby get the yummy taste of home.
Preggie tips
  • If your sense of taste gets out of whack, visit the nearest Filipino store for authentic Pinoy ingredients. Adding familiar brands of soy sauce, sinigang mix, and the like to your cooking might do the trick.
  • Even if you have a bad case of morning sickness and most food are unpalatable, you need to eat regularly. Remember that there's a growing baby inside you so try your best to eat whatever tolerable (but healthy) food you can grab on.

3rd month: Hospital Blues

Finding the right OB-Gyne for me in Taiwan was quite challenging. Most doctors speak good English, but we felt there's still something being lost in translation. We did a lot of research and we settled for a hospital recommended by most foreigners working and living in Taiwan. We met our first doctor, a young and perky lady who seemed nice but we didn't feel much expertise. When her nurse was roughly translating our next schedule to us, she asked for the help of another doctor in the next office. The male doctor looked at our schedule slip and asked me, "Pilipino ka?"

It was such a relief to find a Filipino doctor because we instantly felt the connection and that language won't be a problem. Immediately, we rescheduled my check-up with him for the following weeks. But came the time of our appointment, he was rude in reading us the results and not as accommodating with our anxious questions. His clinic line moved in clockwork, like us pregnant women were cogs. He dwelt on early tests and statistics, which filled us with anxiety.

The very next day after, we went to find another doctor. This time around, we chose a Catholic hospital. While it was not as foreigner-friendly, we prayed that we'll be able to find the right doctor for us. And thank God, we did. She was a Chinese middle-aged woman who was fluent in English. Reserved, but gentle. Not as wishy-washy as the first, and not as alarmist as our second find. Finally we had a medical expert to guide us in our pregnancy journey! (Read our 2nd trimester experience...)
Preggie tips
  • Find a doctor you absolutely trust and feel comfortable with. 
  • Seek advice from relatives and close friends on things to expect in pregnancy, and also check with colleagues in your current country for local customs. 

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