by Heather Walsh, Guest Contributor
My phone vibrates on desk. I pick it up.
I internally grumble…this can’t be good…
“We have orders…” he says with apprehension.
I am not worried. The monitor said we were going to the “East Coast.” This meshed well with my five-year plan. We had planned to start a family within that time, and we wanted to be within driving distance to family to take said new person to visit them. Where in the east could we be going?
“We are going overseas.”
Pause. I must have heard that wrong.
“Can you repeat that?” I ask.
“We are going to the Far East, not the East Coast babe.”
But what about our five-year plan?
What about having a family? I can’t possibly do that overseas.
A move overseas is daunting. There is a lot of paperwork, and decisions like do you sell your car or store it, vaccines for pets and humans.
Adding in the concern of changing your life plan can be scary – but you don’t have to change it. Becoming a parent overseas can be an amazing opportunity to become part of a community.
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There isn’t the option to drive to the grandparents for the holidays. Family can’t just travel to help with the new baby, bring meals, provide demonstrations of how to soothe a colicky baby. The overseas community is very close for this very reason. You are all there together – through every storm and power outage. This means that you work together to make the best of each situation.
Holidays are never spent alone.
Your overseas friends become family.
Amazon doesn’t deliver in two days. When ordering diapers from Amazon, it will take two weeks or longer to get to you which overall is not that bad, but that means you need to plan ahead. Write yourself some notes, and alerts in your phone to buy diapers local while you’re waiting for the Amazon delivery.
The labels in baby stores are in a foreign language. This is a blessing and a frustration. The sizes are different from American sizes for clothing, shoes and crib sheets. But what an amazing opportunity that your child’s first sleeper will be in Japanese or European sizes!
Their first umbrella can be Anpanman or Hello Kitty and that will be a talking point for years to come!
You need to order furniture in advance. Similar to Amazon, the only Americanized store in overseas locations are the military Exchanges – AAFES, MCX, NEX.
If they do not have the crib or stroller you want in stock, you need to order it early. It can take a few months for the shipment to arrive.
Not all online stores ship to APO/FPO. Research on the website you are ordering from if they will even ship items to your military PO Box. In some cases, only small items will ship.
Most websites ship via UPS which does not go overseas without extreme cost. While this can be frustrating, use this as an opportunity to explore which businesses have explored this option to support military troops overseas.
You are birthing a baby at an overseas hospital. This was the scariest part of me. Per health.mil, in 2014, the Naval Hospital Okinawa welcomed over 1,000 new babies. To put that in perspective, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in the D.C. area welcomed 1,200 in the same year.
I had heard stories of a random provider delivering your baby that you had never met before, and that did not sound ideal. The reality was so much better. As a patient, you meet every provider on the team through the multiple visits. You see them again at the commissary or the PX. And you see them out to eat with their family at a local restaurant. When you are overseas, your medical provider is more than that – they are a person, with a family and they want to get to know you as a person too.
I am personally still in touch with my midwife and when I saw her again at a different duty station, she arranged it so I saw her for all of my appointments and stayed after her shift to ensure she would be there to deliver my second child.
This is a testament to both her as a person, and the community you build when you live overseas.
5 Benefits Of Becoming A Parent When You’re Stationed Overseas
Clothing swaps abound. Children grow fast! Meaning they will probably only wear that adorable reindeer outfit once.
When living overseas, everyone has a similar sized small home with similar sized small storage space. This equals the want and need to cull their children’s clothing.
Ask other parents if they know of a basewide clothing swap. Oftentimes, there will be free clothing credits for new parents – meaning you get to pick a certain number of outfits without bringing any clothes which means free barely worn clothing for your new babe.
Use resell and bookoo sites. Since most parents are waiting for big ticket items to arrive, they have purchased smaller items like baby swings and co-sleepers. Again, due to the small storage space, after a few months of use, these items often are resold at bargain prices. So, you can splurge on a swing and a co-sleeper, and that water table for the toddler stage.
First food is a foreign food. In America, the first foods are often rice cereal or pureed food. In a foreign country, you have the option and opportunity for your child to have a unique first food.
My baby’s first food was Okinawa soba noodle that she stole from my thankfully cooled bowl of soba noodles. She chowed down like I had never seen before. It is a funny anecdotal story now, but it really opened her palate.
She ate curry and sushi as a toddler, and still enjoys them today.
Traveling with a baby. I never thought that I would be taking my one year old on a bullet train in Japan or walking the streets of Hong Kong with a baby on my back.
And while the little one may not remember these trips, we have the pictures to prove it, and we were able to experience the culture with babe in tow.
You are not alone. Quite frankly, having a baby overseas often means you have more support, not less!
The reality is you are not becoming a parent alone. Some embrace their time overseas to expand their family because there is such a tight knit community to lean on and learn from. The resources abound to help new parents – utilize them and you might even find that you excel at this parenting thing more than you ever expected.
So yes, while it can be daunting to become a parent overseas, it can be done and has been done many times over before you. Let the panic fade, and enjoy the journey.
Not every American baby can say they were born in Japan, Germany or Italy. It is a fact that they will treasure in sharing with others, and so will you.
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Heather Walsh is a mom, Marine wife, Navy child, blogger and lover of all things crafty and Disney. Professionally, she is a Physician Assistant and has a passion for helping others to stay positive and supported. Currently she is one of three women who share travel tips for the military family at www.milmomadventures.wordpress.com They are currently sharing exploration of Southern California and Virginia with tips for the military family on how to enjoy the adventure with every PCS and save money while doing it!