Baby Abroad: The First Six Weeks

Little Aussie

Six weeks into parenthood, I would be such a liar if I said it’s all been marvelous, staring into our new baby’s eyes bliss and harmony. More like chaos that heads everyday more towards the slightly organized variety with fleeting moments of bliss and joy. It’s OK, I know it gets better. No worries, mate.

Having my first baby abroad, I don’t have anything at home to compare the experience to, but I’ve thought some about the pros and cons of our expat situation and baby-having in Australia. I’m sure the list will grow, but so far having a baby abroad has been shaped by some ups and downs.

The Challenges

Missing family and friends from home – I don’t get homesick all that often, but there’s been something about having a new addition to the family that makes me really miss home, or at very least having some family or close friends around to share the experience with. We show off millions of pictures and videos with our families, but that in no way replicates having them with us or us with them.

Can’t get the products I want (at the price I want them) – Here’s one example: the Boppy pillow (stupidest sounding product ever, right?). Everyone raved about it, so I knew I needed one, but they’re not very commonly found here. Finally I found one in a baby store … for $100. They retail for about $40 in the States. Thank goodness it was available to ship here from Amazon for a very reasonable price when packaged in with a bunch of other things. I bought a cover for it, too, but of course it gets dirty on a regular basis and the covers are impossible to buy here. Thankfully a friend who is on a trip home is picking one up for me, otherwise I’d be stuck paying a lot of shipping for one little item. Inevitably, there have been a number of things that we’ve decided are going to make our lives so much easier (i.e. – the “right” swaddling blanket, a new wrap, etc) and the selection in Australia is just so much smaller than in the States. Maybe it’s just because I’m more familiar with American brands that I find myself looking for so many products I can’t find. I’ve sourced a lot of the things I want on e-bay, but that’s always such a trial.

I keep getting the words wrong – It took me forever to figure out what a “dummy” is (a pacifier I now know, and the great Australian expression “spit the dummy” suddenly makes sense). I still call them diapers, not nappies. Do we take her out in the “stroller” or the “pram?” It changes everyday. She sleeps in a bassinet now, which is universal, but I’m in trouble when she moves to a crib – sorry, cot. And let’s talk for a minute about the way baby clothes sizes are dictated here. Not “Preemie,” “0-3 months,” “3-6 months,” etc, which makes logical sense, but by a series of zeros. Preemie is 0000, Newborn is 000 and so on. Huh?

No one-stop shopping or 24 hour pharmacies – I’ve always missed Target and Wal Mart, but never more than now that I have a baby and I’m lucky if I can manage one errand per day. (Australians, don’t bother me with talking about your Target or Big W. You know not what you are missing). How happy would I be if I could make one stop and pick up groceries, diapers (nappies, sorry!), an extra baby blanket and a new pair of sunglasses all in that singular trip. And thankfully, we haven’t yet needed a pharmacy in the middle of the night, but I’m dreading some 3a.m. illness for which I am not equipped and I can’t just run to Walgreens for. First world problem? Yeah, but you’ve got to admit that these things make life easier.

The Perks

The Manual

Family resources out the wazoo – Like I said, I’ve never had a baby in the States, so I really don’t know what’s available to new parents there, but I feel like my cup runneth over with support, most of it provided free of charge. Each neighborhood has a government sponsored early childhood center where midwives are on staff for regular well baby checks and other appointments, breastfeeding clinic, and new mother support groups. The first midwife check was done in our home, and she gave us an introduction to everything that we can use the center for. I’ve also made use of a couple of the many telephone support lines for families. Mothersafe helped me with a medication question and, at my wit’s end one day, I called the Australian Breastfeeding Association‘s volunteer hotline for advice. Both were great. Oh, and you know how people always joke that babies should come with a manual ?In Australia, they sort of do. Every new baby in NSW is sent home with this giant blue book full of information, resources and it tracks their health milestones through their babyhood and early years.

Baby bonus – No, seriously, the government gives you money for having a little Aussie. I mean, you’re not going to get rich off it, but it definitely helps to offset expenses.

Everyone sees the GP – A big difference in health care here is that children do not generally have a pediatrician, unlike in the States. They are attended by a general practitioner for regular things, which I quite like because it means that one doctor will know our whole family.

Triple citizenship – Our little Aussie gets to be a citizen right away due to her father’s and my Permanent Resident status. Once I take her to the consulate with her paperwork, she’ll officially be a little Yank, as well. And, once Partner-in-Crime takes her to the consulate of his country of birth, she’ll have triple citizenship and can pretty much go wherever she wants whenever she wants. She’ll just need to learn to walk, first.

Marvelous friends – Though I started off the list by talking about the relationships I miss, having a baby has definitely shown us what wonderful friends we’ve made here. We’ve had lots of visitors, meals and gifts brought to us, offers for help and just a real interest and care for our little one. We are pretty much the only ones in our circle of friends with children, so we’re now those tethered down, go home early, boring people, but so far our friends have really been there for us. Thankfully, our friends have not stopped inviting us to adult events, even if we have had to decline a lot of offers. It’s still nice to be invited. Hushpuppy even got to go to her first party the other day, and she handled it like a champ, letting everyone pass her around for quite a long time before she finally had enough. That must be the Aussie side of her – always ready to socialise and have a good time!

4 thoughts on “Baby Abroad: The First Six Weeks

  1. Yvette Niesel

    This is completely random, but I’ve been following your blog for some time now and just want to tell you how much I thoroughly enjoy it. Especially now that there’s a new addition. 🙂

  2. Mandy King

    It must be hard to be away from your family. You’re so brave! It was fun reading about all the differences between here and the States. 🙂

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