Archive for the 'Pregnancy and Childbirth' Category

Flamingos in Alaska: Nesting Overseas

The whole idea of the “nesting instinct” is pretty funny to me. That classic example of “tearing out the rose bush” and re-doing the yard just before going into labor is pretty true to the intensity of that desire to get everything just right before the baby arrives, at least in my experience.  Our family just got home after being away on a visa trip for over 2 weeks and as soon as I walked in the door, the nesting began.  I usually take my time to get things settled after trips, but not this time. Those  loads of laundry needed to get done that night, even if it killed the washing machine! True story. The washing machine died a horrible screeching death the next day, BUT I have 7 loads of clean laundry to show for it (and no we didn’t bring 14 bags with us… our washing machine is just that miniature).

It is funny enough when you’re nesting in your familiar country and culture, but this time around (this is the first baby of ours to be born overseas) I feel a bit like a sun-loving pink flamingo trying to build a nest in the frigid wilderness of Alaska. Not that the “birds” here don’t build cozy nests as much as anywhere else in the world, but I find myself trying to build the same type of nest native to my species, but in this instance using some rather foreign twigs.

This nesting urge has manifested itself in some intense language study as I try to figure out the names of products that I hope to procure, a bit of furniture re-purposing while trying to determine where the baby will exactly fit in our 2 bedroom apartment, some work with fabric that I could hardly call sewing (since I can’t sew to save my life), some international shopping and shipping,  and even my first ever, horribly unsuccessful, very hilarious attempt at plumbing.

Like I mentioned earlier, thanks to the free diaper grant from Cotton Babies, we are giving cloth diapering a try this time. I have heard that a “diaper sprayer” is a treasure worth its weight in gold for cloth diapering moms, and having found a mini-shower/bidet fixture that looks like the exact same thing, I decided to buy it and install it myself. Who cares that the item itself was purchased in Finland to be used for a Russian toilet, or that I had no idea what fixtures it needed, or the fact that I have never heard the first thing about plumbing or home improvement… I was determined that this simple project of screwing a few hoses and fixtures in place would take an adept person like myself all of 15 minutes to successfully install. Four hours later, after googling “how to use teflon plumbing tape” and “plumbing for (female largely pregnant nesting) idiots,” I had succeeded only in soaking a large number of towels and causing our toilet to leak. “Hello?! I’m nesting here! Where’s my forward progress?!”

Well, the diaper sprayer might never get installed, and I will probably feel completely ill-prepared until my foreign “necessities”  make their snail-paced way here, mostly likely after the baby’s arrival, but the baby is coming in his or her own time one way or another, and I trust that God has given us every necessity necessary to welcome this little one into our foreign nest. Until then, I’ll probably keep on being that flamingo in Alaska, and we’ll see where I end up in the end.  It might be time though to learn from the local birds rather than trying to reinvent the nest.

I’d love to hear your stories about nesting overseas! Did you find yourself in any funny situations as you prepared to welcome your baby into a foreign land? What things did you find your self searching high and low for before his/her arrival?

(Post by: Ashley)


View From a Gurney- The Finale

Before you read the final “Pregnancy and Birth Overseas” story, I wanted to introduce you to a wonderful woman of God who has a caring heart for women like each of you who are faithfully serving the Lord and your families. She has kindly offered to share her wisdom and encouragement here as a contributor in order to bless you! Please give Debby a warm welcome!

Debby Thompson has been on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for 36 years, 33 years living overseas. In 1977, she and her husband Larry went with their infant daughter to live covertly behind the Iron Curtain. Together with their 3 children, they have lived and served in Poland, Germany and Hungary. The past 18 years she has served as women’s ambassador alongside her husband, Director of Affairs, for the 18 countries of Eastern Europe & Russia. Recently, they have transferred their leadership to a national couple from Poland. And yes, she is a grandmother to 4 beautiful little girls!

Here is Debby’s story,

View From A Gurney

The hospital in Poland where this story takes place

“To jest chlopak!” (It is a boy!) With that declaration our son, David Lawrence Thompson, Jr. entered the world, April 6, 1979, a hearty 9 pounds, 141/2 ounces. Lying on the cold, hard gurney, I took in my surroundings. I was in a birthing ward in a communist hospital behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland. The long windows revealed that it was an early cold spring morning outside. Around me women were in various stages of the birthing process, some behind curtains, some not. It all looked and felt like something out of a black & white World War II movie. Only the birth experience itself and the nearness my husband seemed familiar. The language, the equipment, the smells, the sounds, even the dress of the attending medical staff was different. And the procedures were definitely different. I was thankful to have arranged for a colleague to transport dissolvable stitches from the International Pharmacy in Vienna, having been told that none would be available.

Larry needed to leave; he would return with food & toilet paper, since the hospital could not provide supplies for its patients. A sister (Polish for nurse) came by and asked if I would like of cup of tea! Definitely. I was keenly aware of how terribly much I missed my mother. The tea would be soothing. By myself on the gurney, having just given birth in a land so far from my own, my thoughts floated back over the previous few weeks. Larry and I had searched arduously for a doctor that would allow a husband to be present in the delivery room. Since this was Baby #2, we felt already trained in the method of natural childbirth. However, this was an outlandish request in the communist medical system and we needed a Polish doctor to grant permission. Finally, and I say finally, 6 weeks before my due date, we found a professor doctor that gave the needed approval. Though he was not even present and a midwife was just as involved as the attending physician, the professor doctor would later take full credit for the successful delivery.

Why would any woman want to add childbirth to her repertoire of cross-cultural experiences? A very good question. My bedrock answer then & now: the will of God. Years earlier as a student at Mississippi State University I became involved with the organization of Campus Crusade for Christ. There I met a group of students who had a smile on their face, a spring in their step and a song in their heart. They were marching to the beat of a different drum and I wanted join their ranks. Though I knew the Lord, it was in that season that I yielded to God complete control of my life and my future. I determined that Proverbs 3:5-6 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”) would chart my life’s course, no matter what circumstances I was in or what insurmountable challenges I faced. Larry’s marriage proposal had been, “Will you go with me in helping to reach the world for Christ?” My answer was “yes”-to the Lord, to him, and to a future of pioneer missionary living.

The ramifications of those decisions found me on that gurney in a communist hospital. I was not trying to be a heroine; I was not seeking to be a martyr. I just wanted to be in the center of God’s will. I was fully convinced that was the safest place to be, and I knew that His will was good, acceptable and perfect. (Romans: 12:2).

A host of factors had led to our prayer-saturated choice. We had a little 3-year-old daughter to consider and we had a home of our own. Any missionary will agree that no matter where home is, it is home, even when the address is communist Poland. I did not want to have a baby while living transient out of a suitcase. Desperately I longed to bring our baby home to our home and the modest nursery we had prepared for him. And that is what we did.

Fast forward to 2007. “What in the world were you thinking?” My son had just become a father & the story of his own birth was being re-visited. This is the son that was the first baby boy to be born to evangelical missionaries behind the Iron Curtain. He will never be able to be President of the United States; our constitution prohibits anyone being born outside its borders from holding that office. But he will always have typed in his passport “place of birth” Warsaw, Poland. That to me is a very precious treasure. The Polish people are a remarkable people and our family is supernaturally bonded to their nation.

But his question took me back to my view from the gurney where the cultural differences dominated, where the physical & emotional challenges were as real as my next breath. There on that gurney, a holy awareness took place. I sensed the Presence of God. He was there with me; I was not alone. In an ocean of the unfamiliar, He was The Familiar. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your Hand will guide me.” He did. (Psalm 139:9-10) “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” He did. (Exodus 32) “In Thy presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) Even on a gurney.

Debby, thank you again for your heart to bless and serve women in ministry, and thank you for sharing this amazing story with us! Does anyone have any questions for Debby?

(And lastly, THANK YOU so much again to everyone who shared your stories here this past month, and for each of your comments as well! I had so much fun reading about all of your experiences and hope you enjoyed this series too!)

Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- Beth in Indonesia

Our third baby was due while we lived in Kota Baru, Indonesia. My water broke at home early in labor, so my husband and I spent time getting our two toddler girls to bed first and called our friend to come stay. We arrived at hospital at 8 pm and were so glad to see the delivering doctor was already there, though she looked a bit tired! It was great she was there because she only comes to the hospital “on call”and lives a ways away.

I was wheeled into the hospital and my husband, Courtney, followed. We came to the delivery floor and upon entering the doors the nurse removes her shoes and instructs Courtney to do the same. (It is customary for Indonesians to remove shoes before entering homes, they feel it is cleaner.  But this was our first experience to see that at a public place.) The nurse says “This is a sterile environment.” I chuckled and said, “Yeah, Courtney, are your bare feet sterile?” I hardly think so. But if the Indonesian hospital thinks so, we’ll comply.

The nurse set us up in a room. I was dilated to 3 cm and I asked the doctor for the epidural. She agreeably said, “Oh, yeah, ok”  and soon left the room. The doctor and I talked about an epidural with each check up and she assured me that she would call the anesthesiologist to come as soon as I arrived to the hospital and that he was very skilled at epidurals, though she also said it isn’t normal for Indonesian women to receive one.  I found with talking to my neighbor ladies they didn’t even know there was such a thing and were amazed and liked the idea of it, wishing they could have experienced it with their babies!

I got  ready to take on as much labor pains as I had to.  I was still in early labor. We called our parents because it was their Sunday morning and we knew they’d be awake. We also began to share the news that baby would be arriving soon to our friends here in Indonesia through text messages on the cell phone. I laughed and told Courtney what a funny sight this is – here Courtney was rubbing my back during a contraction with his left hand and texting on the phone with his right!

Things were going normally in labor. I was waiting for my epidural and wondered what the delay was. The doctor checked on me again and I asked for the epidural. With a look of surprise, she said, “Oh yes! I will call the anesthesiologist.” She forgot! It would now be another 30 minute to an hour wait. Courtney and I continued on in labor, talking together. Then, following one contraction, I suddenly felt a strong pain in my belly. It was so strange and unfamiliar. I told Courtney and he encouraged me to be strong and reasoned that with it being the third baby, the labor must be coming on fast and hard.  After a few minutes of this pain increasing and worsening with contractions, and no relief between contractions, I knew something was really wrong. This wasn’t normal.  I knew already that we faced some risks in this delivery – that the uterus could rupture since I’ve had a c-section with my first baby.

Wrapped up in a fetal position, the pain was severe and I hollered and trembled.  After the doctor asked several questions, I moaned, “I think it’s a possible uterine rupture!” In her thick accent she said, “Yes, Beth, I’m afraid that is it.  Will you allow us to do a c-section?” Courtney and I agreed to it fully knowing the risks of continuing labor, as we’d faced the matter before with the second baby. Before leaving the room to prepare for the emergency, the doctor patted my shoulder and said, “Beth, you should pray.” Now, maybe she meant that to be encouraging as she knew we are Christians, but when your doctor says that, it makes you wonder! So, of course we prayed and Courtney immediately sent out messages to our friends and organization members to pray for us.

Soon I was wheeled into the operation room and Courtney wasn’t allowed to follow. After a long and painful 30 minutes, the anesthesiologist arrived in the operating room and following him was my husband all dressed down in dark green hospital scrubs! Courtney was able to be with me after a friend  reasoned with the doctor that I would be more at ease if my husband were with me. Looking him over I noticed he had his shoes on now. I joked, “Shouldn’t this be a sterile environment too?” Courtney laughed, “Yeah, it’s supposed to be. I’m sure I should have washed my hands too. But there was no place to do that and the doctor that came in with me didn’t either.”  How reassuring. At least they used gloves. Within the next few minutes the c-section preparation moved along and I was finally relieved from the pain. Courtney and I definitely felt the prayers of so many people and we walked through this experience with peace-not panic, assurance-not worry, and gratefulness to the Lord for a healthy baby boy!

Thank you so much, Beth, for sharing this amazing story with us! Praise God for His providence and protective hand over you! Does anyone have any questions for Beth?

Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- Vanessa in the Dominican Republic

Our lives as missionaries is rather new. This time last year we both (meaning my husband and I) had 9-5 jobs in Northern California, not really thinking of moving anytime soon. It was around that time where we both decided that we were ready to take the next step and start trying for a baby. Months went by and no baby. I was discouraged but knew God’s timing is perfect. May of last year we got our call to the mission field which God clearly confirmed for us. We sold all that we owned, raised support, and moved down to the Dominican Republic.

We live in a poor section of Santo Domingo (the capital), where we teach English at a small Christian  school.
It has been anything but easy. We teach 1st grade through 12th. The students are very difficult to teach (lack of discipline) and the school has no real organization but we have been blessed. God has given us the ability to travel around the country, help deliver food to Haiti after the quake and have my parents visit for a week. After a tearful goodbye with the folks I starting noticing different “changes” in my body.

Three tests later and ultrasound my hopes were confirmed. We are having a baby! I am not far along right now but the baby, which we gave the nickname “appleseed”, is healthy and growing fast. This will be a brand-new experience for me and my husband, Sean. The hospitals are a lot different here than in the states. But our doctor is a christian and she even knows English. She prayed with us before the exam, setting my mind at ease. I look forward to visiting her throughout this babies growth. I am nervous but mostly just filled with joy. God is certainly good, no one can deny that. Even the Haitians we met that lost everything in the quake were still praising God. Amazing. Thier faith builds up my faith. God gives us only what we can handle, and I am convinced that He knows we can handle a lot. The best is yet to come….

*This is Ashley chiming in to say that since Vanessa sent me this story a couple of months ago, much has changed in their lives! God has continued to bless Vanessa’s pregnancy and her little one is growing right along! The big news is that God has recently led them in a new and unexpected direction in their ministry! They will soon be moving to the Midwest to accept a position as youth directors for a church there. Though this was unexpected for Vanessa and her husband Sean, they are excited to see what God has in store for them. Their involvement in ministry in Dominican Republic will continue in different capacities as they will be bringing 4 Dominican youth to the US with them in July to be involved in their youth program for 2 weeks, and also as they head back to Dominican Republic in July to work on a building project for the school as well as plan on taking trips back every February. As all of us know, our steps are often unknown to us, but God is so very faithful to lead us according to His will as we follow Him! Please pray for Vanessa and Sean as the make these upcoming transitions and as they wait on their new little one!

Vanessa, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and CONGRATULATIONS! How exciting! Does anyone have any questions for Vanessa?

Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- Megan in Southeast Asia

Just after the birth once they got me to the delivery room

At about 5 that morning I woke up with labor pains. I stayed in bed until about 7am, dozing between contractions. Around 8am we called Ariana, our friend and a trained midwife, to come help.

We got to the admission room at about 10am, and my contractions were getting more serious. We waited in the admission room for someone to come check me to see if I was dilated enough to be admitted. 45 minutes after arriving a nurse wandered in and checked my blood pressure and the baby’s heartbeat then moved on to other patients as my contractions continued to get stronger.

Ariana told me to try going to the bathroom. We are in Asia, so no western toilets, only a squatty potty! Every time I squatted I had a massive contraction and started feeling serious pressure. I came out and told Ariana and our friend Arpana (who is also a doctor), “This kid is coming. The doctor needs to come soon!” Arpana asked the nurses when the doctor will come.
“In a while,” they said nonchalantly.
“I don’t have a while!” I said, “This kid is coming!”
Ariana and Arpana kept asking after the doctor and were continually put off.

At that point I had hit hard labor. I kept saying “I need to be checked. This kid is coming!” FINALLY the head nurse arrived to check me. “She’s nine centimeters! No time for a labor room, she needs to go to the delivery room!” and I was thinking “Yes, I know this.” In the midst of a contraction the head nurse said “Okay, get up, we need to walk to the delivery room.”

“It hurts! I can’t walk!” I say.

“No, no, you have to get up.”

Ariana helps get me up and I am literally hanging on her as we shuffle to the hallway. I’m thinking that maybe they will get me a wheelchair or SOMETHING but no, the nurses just say, “Keep walking!”
Another massive contraction hits and I hang on Ariana. “Keep walking!” I hear.


At that moment my water breaks in the middle of the hallway. “Keep walking, keep walking! don’t push!”

Ariana confirms that the baby’s head was already on it’s way out!

“Put her on the floor!” The nurse says

At this point I see Robert come running in. I’m holding myself up off the floor and he gets behind me. “Relax,I’ve got you,” he says.
In one push his head is out! There is no doctor or nurse, but Ariana catches his head. The nurse comes right behind, and the rest of his body is delivered… on the floor, in front of the nurses station.

“The floor” where Jude was born

“Megan, you have a son!” Ariana says. The nurses cut the cord and take off with our son to give him oxygen (he’s still a little blue). And literally about 90 seconds after I’ve given birth the nurse says, “Okay, get up, we have to get you to a delivery room.”  And now there is a wheelchair sitting nearby. But the nurse walks me right past it and I WALK to the delivery room.

Big brothers first look

Megan, WOW, what a story! Thank you so much for sharing! Does anyone have any questions for Megan?

Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- Kristin in South Africa

I had my first (and only so far) pregnancy and birth overseas in South Africa. My husband and I were living in Swaziland, Africa when I became pregnant, but moved to South Africa when I was four months along.  Healthcare is better here than in Swaziland, so I was confident about delivering the baby here.

Since we were foreigners AND new in town, I took every advantage to ask people for recommendations for doctors, hospitals, and everything! I found our gynecologist from our estate agent and our pediatrician from the woman whose used car we purchased.

It’s hard to compare birthing experiences since I’ve never given birth in the US.  I believe my experience with our doctor was different from the States as he himself did an ultrasound at every appointment. I loved see my little one and our doctor would explain all the things he was checking out.

Our pre-natal classes were longer and more informative than the ones my friends were going to back home. A big difference there were the terms they used. English is widely spoken here, but they use British terms, so sometimes it can get interesting. For instance, we were told to bring two baby gros (footed sleepers) and 2 baby vests (“onesies”) with us to the hospital. We did a lot of googling of words to find the American equivalent.

I gave birth in a great hospital; God directed us to the part of town we live in now and I think it was because of this hospital. I was able to have a natural birth with an epidural. My water broke at about 11:30 am and our little boy was born just after midnight that night. I recovered quickly and my doctor allowed me to go home the next day. At home, a couple days later, I started running a fever and having back pain similar to menstrual cramps. I phoned my doctor expecting to get an answering service since it was the weekend. My doctor answered his own phone, I described my symptoms and he called in an antibiotic for me. I was amazed! The pain was caused by an infection of the uterus lining which can happen if your water breaks early and you have to push for over an hour – I had both cases.

Overall the whole experience was great and would do it all again!

What a wonderful story, Kristin! Thank you! Does anyone have any questions for Kristin?

Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- Patty in Ghana

Patty, John, and baby Carey at 1 day old!

My husband and I were young, newly married, and had just finished raising our support when we found out we were expecting our first child.  We couldn’t have been more excited!  The plane tickets were already bought, and our boxes were being packed so we just kept all our plans in place while adding a few baby things to the bags and some maternity clothes for me!  I’m sure those who were older and wiser probably wondered what we were thinking, but I’m so glad they just entrusted us to the Lord.

The plans were for us to stay with a veteran missionary and his wife near the capital city for our first year, while we learned the ropes.  On arrival, though, we found out everything had changed – the missionary’s wife wasn’t even in country, the missionary himself was having terrible health problems, and he wasn’t stationed near the capital anymore.  He was in another city about seven hours away, helping a national pastor with a struggling church plant.  All my grand ideas about finding a good hospital in the capital and having an older lady for help during this time came crashing down!

Not long after moving into our temporary housing, the missionary asked us what our plans for the baby were.  Ummmmmm?????  We had no idea.  We asked him what we should do.  He said we better start praying.  That was good advice, but we were hoping for something a bit more… substantial!!!  A few days later, we were in town.  The missionary was taking us to THE grocery store and market for the first time.  In mid-explanation of some food or another, the missionary stopped talking and walked over to a very expectant Lebanese woman and asked her what hospital she used.  She was very polite and gave him the information we needed.  Tema Women’s Hospital.  Tema???? That was near the capital, seven hours away!  How would that work???  At that moment we had more questions than answers.

A few weeks later, John and I headed to Tema.  It took some work, but we finally found the hospital.  We headed inside, and I joined the line.  I was seated right next to another American lady named Annie.  We hit it off instantly.  She was a teacher in the International School in the capital, and was expecting her first baby the end of November.  We talked about our work, the other places she had lived, all kinds of things.  Then she asked me where we were going to stay when it was time for the baby to be born.  Ummmm??? Once again, I was speechless.  The only answer I had to give was that we were trusting God to provide a place for us.  She just stared at me for a second, and then asked me to hold her place in line while she went to take a phone call.  She came back a few minutes later with a big smile on her face.  “You all are going to stay with me and my husband!”  she said.  We tried to protest, but she would have none of it!  She said that she was always bringing home “strays” and that they loved having people in their home.  In fact, her husband was on his way to the hospital with lunch for all of us!

It was now my turn to meet the doctor.  We had a place to stay, but what about the doctor, the hospital itself, and the care?  We’d already seen one miracle, we shouldn’t have been worried about the rest!  Dr Owusu-Baah had been an OB-GYN in New York for 25 years and had recently retired back to Ghana and built the hospital.  He had an excellent manner, and knew exactly what he was doing.  We told him our situation (living seven hours away), and he told us what to watch for and how often we needed to come for check-ups.

We met Erik, Annie’s husband, for lunch, and everything was a go.  In fact, Annie and Erik insisted that when we came down for doctor’s visits we should stay at their house, too, so that we wouldn’t have to pay for hotel stays!

I had a text-book perfect pregnancy, and we headed down to Accra two weeks before my due date, just in case.  John and I had a wonderful time wandering around the capital, the craft markets, and the neighborhoods waiting for our baby to arrive.  Annie and Erik and their new baby, Casey, were wonderful hosts.

Everything was going wonderfully, but God had one more lesson for us.  Our baby’s official due date was January 14th.  I guess someone forgot to tell the baby.  Now the days were dragging slowly by with no end in sight.  We were starting to feel like a nuisance, even though Annie and Erik never made us feel that way!  We couldn’t understand why this was happening, but God knew.  He had one more job for us to do.

A week after my due date Annie came and asked John if he would be willing to come and give a talk at her school.  The 5th and 6th grade classes were studying world religions, and when she told the teachers that she had a Baptist missionary staying at her house, they asked if he’d be willing to come share our beliefs with the classes.  John was able to share the simple truths of the gospel with almost fifty children, including several Muslims, several Hindus, a Buddhist, and a number of atheists (including the teacher).  That afternoon John and I were also able to talk with Annie about the gospel and plant some seed in her heart, too.

That evening my pains started coming.  We headed to the hospital about 9:30pm.  The nurses and mid-wife were mostly kind and helpful, except when I told them I was ready to push.  They didn’t think I should be ready yet, but baby was!  Dr Owusu-Baah arrived in time to take over, and our daughter was born at 1:47am, nine days after her due date!  Dr. Owusu-Baah was excellent, even letting John stay in the delivery room with me (even though that is not done in Ghanaian culture!) and having his wife (who had come with him to keep him awake on the road) take pictures for us.

God had given us so many miracles already, and now in His perfect way and His perfect time, He gave us a perfect baby girl!

Carey at 6 years old!

Patty, what a wonderful story of God’s provision and protection! Thank you for sharing! Does anyone have any questions for Patty?

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