Resources for Global Families

BOOK REVIEW Knocked Up Abroad: Stories of pregnancy, birth and raising a family in a foreign country by Lisa Ferland

By Carolyn Parse Rizzo

For those of you who have been “knocked up”, given birth, or are raising kids abroad, you’ll enjoy this collections of real life stories.  I met Lisa at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference in Amsterdam in 2016.  She is a dynamic expat mom, writer, and public health professional who has found her niche while living abroad in Sweden.

“No fear, no tension, no pain.” That’s how she describes the EVENTFUL birth of her daughter in the chapter entitled “Lucy’s Birthplan”.  I know her on a whole other level and have a whole new respect for this woman. In fact, she may be my idol in the world of Labor and Delivery!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE how she demonstrates, in this chapter, the power of self-hypnosis and guided imagery.  

This delightfully raw anthology of 23 stories of pregnancy, birth and parenting abroad unexpectedly moved, inspired, horrified, and thoroughly entertained me.  Lisa pieces together snippets of life in 24 countries, including China, Scandinavia, Malaysia, Japan, Dubai, Australia, The Netherlands, and The Seychelles, creating a seamless world of same, but different. “…Birth is not easy” writes Sherah S. Haustein, who birthed her three children in Israel, Germany and the US.  “…No two births are the same.  Each one has its beauty, its difficulties and its memories, even when things don’t go as planned.”  Themes around expectation, communication, cultural custom, internal and external physical challenge, naiveté, courage, control (or lack thereof!) and pure joy weave in and out of these vignettes of early parenthood.

Ferland, along with her contributors (including her own husband), showcases the complexity of crossing cultures when growing a family.  Fin, Katarina Holm-DiDio introduces sisu into our vocabulary which, she says, can only be translated as determination-perseverance-guts-and resilience – a necessary quality and common thread that binds these parents together.

The variety of writing styles is refreshing and many of the writers, including Ferland herself, are natural and gifted storytellers who leave me curious and hungry for more.  The stories are laced with humble authenticity, humor often dancing through the poignant moments. Empathy for these 21 women and two men is unavoidable as we witness their transformation into cross-cultural parents.

If you find yourself wanting more, Lisa Ferland has recently published volume number two in the series entitled Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby Bumps, Twists, and Turns Around the Globe .  I’m reading that next!  You can find out more by visiting her website.

My Birthing Room at a Public Hospital in Italy

I had a wonderful midwife and gave birth in this tub.  I did not have an epidural, though one had been ordered along with a doctor to administer it, if needed.  After the birth, I stayed in a room with 3 other women.  The bathroom was down the hall. Lactation specialists visited daily. Aside from the fathers, no visitors were allowed. There were no translators and only one doctor spoke English.  I stayed for three days. We didn't pay a cent.