If I Can Do It Here, I Can Do It Anywhere by Meagan McConnell
Moving every nine months used to be an adventure, an often last minute pack-your-life-in-two -suitcases-you're-leaving-in-eleven-days, adventure. *when I say 'moving', I don't mean to another city, or state. I mean across the world*. My husband's job has been taking us all over Western Europe for the last eight years. Swoon, right? Eh, kind of.
My husband's first season overseas (he plays professional basketball), we lived in a tiny town in Italy - I think right here is where people get the wrong idea. Here is where you start envisioning your two week vacation to Positano or Florence last summer, and can't imagine what I could possibly have to complain about. Hah! Our apartment was the size of a walk-in closet, the mattress on our bed had been used by the last ten sweaty basketball players that had lived there previously, and the hot water and wifi worked every other Wednesday. Exactly zero people spoke English in that tiny little town. Living and vacationing are two very different things - a lesson we learned quickly. That was eight years ago, and man-oh-man was life simpler then.
Fast forward to March 2015: we find out we're pregnant while living in France. We lived in the city of Reims, home of Vueve Cliquot ... so now it should be clear how we ended up unexpectedly pregnant. I remember going to my first pre-natal doctor's appointment. The appointment was basically a game of charades: him showing me how to undress, and then a simple "all is ok" when we heard the baby's heart beat. That was it. Thats all it could be, because he spoke zero English, and I spoke zero French. This is when I realized that the next chapter of our life was going to be slightly more complicated. We moved home to California at the end of the season in May, and by the end of July, we were told we were moving to Spain.
We had about two weeks to get ourselves packed and ready to leave. The allure of the adventure was gone faster than you can say "baby" ... and was quickly replaced with sheer panic and a whole bunch of self-doubt. Self-doubt was not something I was used to, pre-pregnancy, by the way. Will I find a doctor I like in Spain? Will they Speak English? Do they believe in epidurals? Are the vaccination schedules the same? - all these things were racing through my head almost constantly over those two weeks. Also, HOW DO YOU RAISE A BABY? That was another one, and probably the most important one. We got to Spain, found a fabulous doctor that I loved ... spoke no English. Perfect. Got a translator. Went to my first appointment, he talked to us for about five minutes straight, and at the end the translator turned to me and said, "he said everything OK, we come back in two weeks". Hmm I don't speak spanish fluently, but I'm pretty sure he said more than that? I guess you could chalk my third trimester up to good luck...everything was normal, my baby was healthy and I was healthy so everything that was lost in translation (literally) didn't matter.
On December 1st our son entered the world - I have very little memory of his birth because sometime during labor, the nurse came in and gave me a shot "for the pain", and after that it was smooth sailing, says my husband. Apparently, I was talking up a storm with my elderly midwife, Rosa, who spoke no English, and didn't flinch when the gentleman stuck me with an epidural. Again, lets chalk my labor and delivery up to luck: no clue what was in that shot, my doctor didn't end up coming in to delivery my baby, so the on-call doctor helped a sister out, and I left the hospital two days later with a new best friend, Rosa (...and my son).
I felt compelled to write about my third trimester and L&D, because this is the part of my parenting journey that was, by far, the biggest challenge. The first five months of my son's life prepared us perfectly for being parents in a foreign country. The communication barrier was the real deal, and I spent every single day surviving, certainly not thriving. I can't begin to explain how scared I was most days, and I think my fear was mostly because I knew if something was wrong with Miles, as his mom, I was very limited in my ability to help him. I was scared to the point of almost being mad, and my anxiety was crippling. I kept thinking, if only I was in California and could drive five minutes down the road to my pediatricians office and ask questions and understand his answers. If only my mom was a short drive away. If only I could read the labels on the back of the baby products to make sure I knew what I was putting in my baby and on his skin. If only, if only. It wasn't until I moved home in May and had all of those luxuries at my disposal, that I realized we got along just fine. We figured everything out, and my confidence as a mom and a woman had quadrupled. It wasn't until I was home that it donned on me: yes our nomadic lifestyle will have challenges, but I'm one hundred percent confident that we'll be a stronger, better family for it. The real challenges are the ones that every mom faces, regardless of where they live, the ones that cut you to your core and linger: family members that are critical and unsupportive of your parenting methods, mom guilt, pressure to find balance, and so much more. How small of me to think my challenges were any heavier than other women raising babies.
I'm sure, as our son gets older (he's almost fourteen months, and we are now living in Germany, where he started pre-school last week at an all German-speaking school), we will be faced with new challenges that feel overwhelmingly difficult. But, it's my hope that someday he finds confidence in his ability to overcome any challenge he may face in life, like his parents did. Of course, while I say that, I can see it now: Miles sitting on the couch at a therapist's office in twenty years saying, "yeah my parents were gypsies and I never knew what home was". Perfect.
For the time being, I'll continue to suppress my type-A personality, and try to embrace this "season" of life. It already seems like time is passing, far too quickly.
I'm 29 or 24, depending on who you're talking too. I married a guy who's the cats-meow, and we're currently living in Germany while he pursues his professional basketball dream. Over the last eight years, we've lived in five different countries. We welcomed our first little boy last December, and I also write for my blog Boots and Bull. I love all things HOME, which is ironic because we live like nomads. During the offseason, you can find me cowgirling & drinking too much red wine, surrounded by our wonderful friends and family back in California & Arizona.