Having a baby in India versus Gloucester; both have their positives and you will probably be surprised by what I am going to say about the whole India experience! I should also add it was first baby as well! So why India?
Well in November 2009 we got back from our honeymoon, and on our first day back at work Martin suggested we go out for dinner to ease ourselves back in. I was pretty shocked as we had eaten our way round South Africa so I was craving some beans on toast to be honest but, I agreed! It soon became clear why he had suggested dinner, he had been offered a job in Delhi and wanted to tell me in a public place! I think my response took him by surprise as I was quite up for it. My main concern was what about my job as I had started my new promotion that day. What was I going to do when we were in India, I would loose my mind without a job and my career!
To cut a long story short I quit my job and 5 months later we moved to India to start our adventure. We were having the most amazing time, with great social lives and travelling. I had got involved in running expat events as I had tried to get a job and was offered one, which on paper sounded great, but the money was so terrible I had to decline! So, I had a pretty easy life but loved the role of a part time event organiser and going round discovering all the new venues and negotiating great deals with them.
The next step we wanted to take was to have children. Amongst our expat friends we were in the minority and one of only a few couples who didn’t have children. Loads of them had had their children in India and raved about the experience. So, in summer of 2011 I found out I was pregnant and off I went to meet the recommended consultant at the local BUPA hospital. Manavita was amazing from day one, she had worked for 7 years in Wales and so knew the expectations of a UK mum; obviously I didn’t really have a clue other than what all my mummy friends had told me.
There wasn’t any antenatal classes so my sister loaded me up with books to read, but in India the appointments are petty regular (every month at the beginning and then weekly for the last 6 weeks!) and they are scan happy (a scan cost about £20 a time), all state of the art. So, I was having very regular check ups and could always call Manavita on her mobile! Yes! I had her personal mobile!
I had the same consultant from my first pre-natal check all the way through to her delivering my baby! All slightly different to the UK. Luckily it all went pretty smoothly and I had an easy pregnancy. I went through a birth plan with her to make it very clear that I did not want an episiotomy, as this is quite common practice in India apparently EEEK. Plus I only wanted drugs when completely necessary. I had hoped for some gas and air but that wasn’t possible unless you are in the operating theatre and so I had to do without.
So the birth! It was a Saturday night and we were meant to be going to a party, it was very local and close to the hospital. By this point I was 6 days overdue and had agreed to go in to be induced the following day. So, we saw it as the final party before our new arrival. However, I started to get some twinges during the day, I went straight on to Skype to my sister to ask if this could possibly be the start? She said she thought it was probably happening, so I called Manavita to let her know.
Martin joked that they didn’t seem too bad so we should still go to the party as all our friends were going!! In the end we didn’t go and by 10pm they were getting much more intense. Manavita called to say she was thinking of going to bed but wanted to see how I was getting on. I explained I was now having 6 minutes between contractions and she was keen for me to go into hospital. I hate hospitals so I decided to go for a walk and then go into hospital.
Wow, that walk got things going and when we got into the hospital I was 6 cm dilated! We had our own room which was basic, clean but fine. The only thing that I didn’t like was how traditional the birthing experience was, I had to have a non mobile monitor on at all times for the baby’s heart beat and so was limited in how much I could walk around. I had my gym ball, but basically it ended up that for the last 2 hours I was on the bed with stirrups and Harry was delivered at 4am by Manavita and a cheering squad. There were about 5 nurses and the paediatrician in the room, all saying “Push!”, it’s hilarious when we look back now.
Harry was delivered and handed across to the paediatrician, who my friend pointed out later from a pic we had taken, was dressed in a velvet smoking jacket!! How random. But all was good. I had a drug free birth, which is an achievement in India as they love to hand out the maximum amount of drugs because they are all chargeable!
So you can imagine how gutted I was when I couldn’t deliver my placenta! The only option after maxing out on drugs was a general anaesthetic and for it to be removed. Luckily, I was pretty shattered so poor Martin had all the risks explained, which can be quite scary if the placenta had been attached to the uterus wall. But luckily it was a simple procedure. We had to stay in hospital due to the op but came home the next morning, having had friends to visit during the day. So overall it was a great experience and I feel that it was almost easier not knowing what to expect; in some cases ignorance is bliss!
We had just 6 days before all the family started to arrive from the UK, which was all pretty stressful and exhausting considering we were still trying to find our feet and get to know our gorgeous little man. Although, I think Martin was pretty grateful my mum was there at times when I had some emotional moments! Mum took control and often said I was probably tired and sent me off to bed!
One disadvantage of having a baby abroad is that all of the family are desperate to meet the baby; they can all want to come out to visit straight away! For Martin’s parents it was their first grandchild so waiting 2 weeks before they could come was hard.
It actually turned out that we headed back to the UK not long after. We would have happily stayed another year but were asked to stay a further two and we felt we wanted to take Harry home. Also, lots of our friends had been offered new jobs in different places and it felt like a lot of good friends were also moving on. So, at four months, after a long saga of getting Harry’s passport, we went home. One top tip I have for couples abroad who are thinking of having a baby is researching passports for your (future) baby as waiting for the passport felt like a lifetime for us!
Martin had decided to change companies and so we moved to a rented house in Newbury as going back to London wasn’t what we wanted for Harry and our family! It was a bit of a shock as I am a city girl and love London, I couldn’t imagine not going back to our house.
Wow repatriation is so hard! I came back to the UK with a baby, having done none of the antenatal and had to throw myself into every baby group and activity going. There was nothing like CheltenhamMaman around, I sure wish there had been! Martin and I found it really hard and much harder than going out to live in India, for lots of reasons.
From our experience when you move abroad you meet expats and locals who are also looking for friends, hence they are prepared to make the effort and friendships are formed quickly! But when back in the UK people already had their circles of friends and weren’t always that willing to welcome new people. We had moved to a new place where we literally knew no one, Martin had a new job so had to throw himself in and was working really long hours. Plus no one went out. In India people had child care on tap at very low costs so it was a no brainer, we always went out if invited. It would depress you to know what a very good hourly rate for a babysitter is in India. But in the UK childcare is so expensive and even the cost of a taxi put us off going out!
It was a very tough 6-8 months. We were also looking to buy a house but nothing we liked came onto the market. I was starting to look at what I might be able to do for part time work but really wanted to restart my career as I had had a long break, despite the events work in India. We were both pretty frustrated and we sometimes questioned whether we should have stayed in India a bit longer, but then we would meet with friends and family and not regret our decision!
We eventually moved to Cirencester on a bit of whim after falling in love with a house! 6 weeks after having our offer accepted we moved. It was tough to move again to a new area but definitely easier than the first time and we found friends much more quickly. We now have a great set of friends and everything quickly fell into place, we just love this area. We are more easily connected to all our family even though the nearest ones are 2 hours away. This definitely feels like home and we have a great support network and I have loved exploring the area. There is so much going on if you are prepared to search for it.
I had Olivia in June 2015 and so then experienced the whole having a baby in the UK. The experience was pretty good, I did find the very limited scan and appointments a bit strange after the India experience but I guess everything is different second time round. I also found the fact that I saw quite a few different midwives quite strange, although all of them were very nice.
I was nearly induced again as I had been into Gloucester due to reduced movement and was 3 days overdue. They were fantastic. This time there were no delivery rooms initially so I had to wait a day before they planned to induce me on the ward. But the actually birth in the delivery suite with a midwife and her trainee was good and all went smoothly. The room was probably a bit smaller than the India one but I loved that I could move around and get into whatever position I wanted!! Olivia was born in the early hours of 9th June and I was home by 11am. It was amazing to be home so quickly plus we could have a few days before we had any visitors and they could pop in rather than stay 2 weeks or 10 days! That was amazing!
So having a baby in India was pretty good and the service was amazing. Obviously we did pay for it (well Martin’s company did) and so it is hard to compare with the service we got here. I would say, if they had been a bit more advanced with more modern birthing techniques it would have been helpful but otherwise I could hardly fault them. Having said that, having a baby in the UK was also an “enjoyable” experience. I definitely did miss having that one person throughout as I think that added something special to the whole experience.
If you are ever asked to go to another country and are thinking of having a baby whilst there, I hope I have convinced you that despite the differences, they aren’t all negative and it can be a very positive experience. The one thing to consider is how precious you or your family are about meeting the baby and how you manage that. For me that was by far the hardest part of the whole pregnancy, including labour!
One final thing. I have mentioned how much I loved doing events in India and how I never shook off the exploring bug! So, I have recently set up a blog and social media campaign called The Cotswold Connection. I have set this up because I have discovered so many unique Cotswold gems over the last few years of exploring the area.
Friends kept asking me for recommendations for different events or celebrations they were having and so I thought I would share and celebrate all the unique venues and events we have on our doorstep. There are already lots of tourist guides but they tend to cover all the beautiful countryside etc. They are definitely not focused on stylish venues and events and perhaps this is something that interests you. If so, I would love to know whether you have any great places that I haven’t mentioned yet and hear what you think of the venues and events on the blog so far. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com, suggestions and ideas are always welcome as this is a new venture!
A Guest Blog from Anna Jones
Anna is married to Martin and mummy to Harry (5) and Olivia (2). An ex Londoner who moved to Cotswolds nearly four years ago with 2.5 years in India in between. She loves fashion, travelling and exploring and would call herself a city girl at heart. Having worked in fashion retail for most of her career and then in events, she is now a marketing freelancer working with local Cotswolds venues and brands specialising in social media. She has recently launched The Cotswold Connection, which is a curated collection of venues and events that aims to promote and share the very best Cotswold gems! You can follow Anna on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.