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It's tough giving birth miles from home and your family

PREGNANCY is hard enough for mums-to-be, but imagine if you had to go through it in a different land. Arlene Harris talks to the foreign women bringing up babies far from home.

Becoming a mother is undoubtedly a wonderful experience, but it can be daunting, which is why many women turn to their own mothers for advice and inspiration. But not everyone has that luxury and there are a growing number of women all over the country who don't have their families on hand to help them through the early years because they are bringing their baby up in a foreign country.

The absence of maternal advice coupled with being in a different country with different customs, traditions and even language can make motherhood more challenging.

We spoke to three women who are living in Dublin but are originally from abroad to find out how they are coping with one of the biggest roles of their lives.

Ann Rigney is from Oregon in the USA. She met her Irish husband Stephen while he was working over there and they decided to move back to Ireland where she now works as a Nia Technique dance and fitness teacher in Dublin 7 and is mum to Eilis (5) and Eoin (3). Although her family is very far away and she misses them all the time, she has made some great friends and is happy with her life in the capital.

"We moved back to Ireland, (initially to Limerick) in 2003 where I pursued a Masters in Ethnochoreology at UL. A year later we moved to Dublin and have been there ever since. When I discovered I was pregnant with Eilis, I had been living here for nearly four years and missed my family very much – so the news really made me feel the distance at that time.

"However, I had a great experience with the Irish antenatal care and support here. I found the midwife-led system excellent and don't feel I would have got the same quality of care at home, so that gave me confidence throughout my pregnancy.

"The support I received during my pregnancies and after was very good. But I found it daunting that the breastfeeding rates are so low here in Ireland.

"I was determined to breastfeed and because of this, was very persistent in asking for breastfeeding support in the hospital – if I didn't have the determination or come from a place where breastfeeding is normal, I might have given up. This was one aspect where I did feel isolated and far from home.

CONNECTIONS

"Through my public health nurse, I found out about Cuidiu and the breastfeeding support groups. It has been a fantastic organisation to be a part of as a new mother, regardless of where I come from.

"My friends at home, who were parents, stressed to me the value in joining parent groups. And I not only gained the valuable support I was looking for at the time, I also made strong connections with other parents who were experiencing the same things.

"Up until I joined, I thought I was alone in some aspects of being a new mother and a parent in general. Now I have made lifelong friends and it is a very nice feeling to have gained a strong connection through this group in my adopted country.

"I regularly Skype with friends and family and that has been a saving grace. I don't know that I would be as happy living so far away if I didn't have the technology I use to connect with them. I am close to my family and have close friends at home but though I miss them, it makes living far away much easier.

"Since the economy took a bad turn, people from home do not visit us in Ireland so frequently. We, too, cannot visit the USA as often as we once did.

"The cost of travelling with children, plus the fact that I don't have an income, regardless of my dance class, means that we don't get over as much as I would like.

"This is the downside of living far away with a family of my own here.

"I would recommend that new mothers find a community organisation where they can make connections and gain support throughout parenting.

"For me, it was Cuidiu and I cannot recommend them highly enough. I now feel a part of my community and have made wonderful connections."R GREAT FRIENDS: Ann Rigney with her children Eoin and Eilis


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