A Slice of Reality: Getting Pregnant and Giving Birth in a Foreign Country

I sliced my finger on the lid of a spaghetti sauce can last night which sent me into a tailspin of panic.  Though painful and bloody, the cut was seemingly benign.  Nothing that a few stitches and a tetanus shot couldn’t take care of.   Yet my reaction was Oscar-worthy, rivaled only by the time I was dumped by my college sweetheart and slipped into a 2-month depression.

Since our move to Nicaragua, I’ve fallen down concrete hills, stepped on stingrays, and boarded down a volcano and survived, all of which resulted in memorable scars of our journey in Nicaragua.  So why was this latest notch on my bedpost of injuries invoking such anxiety?   The answer – I’m 5 months pregnant. 

Justin struggled to understand my hysteria.  As he fumbled thru the house in search of Band-aids and Bactine, I sobbed into the blood soaked towel wrapped around my finger and fretted about the possibility of a trip to the local Centro de Salud.  Having only been there once before for an anti-parasite prescription, I conjured up visions of rusty needles and disgruntled nurses.

My already pregnancy-laden hormonal thoughts had spiraled out of control into a place of utter fear that had very little to do with my finger and much more to do with this looming birth.  What if I went into labor early and couldn’t make it to Managua in time?  What if I had to give birth at the Centro de Salud.  What if I went to the Centro de Salud for this cut and they prescribed me something that could ultimately harm this developing baby inside me.  If Justin couldn’t find the Band-aids, how was he going to find the hospital in Managua, two and a half hours away?  What if, what if, what if?

As a self-proclaimed control freak/hypochondriac, pregnancy is bound to cause some level of anxiety in an expecting mom.  DSM-IV diagnoses aside, Pregnancy can cause moments of anxiety in any mom.  Mix it all together with a birth planned in Nicaragua, with Spanish speaking doctors, thousands of miles from family and you have the perfect recipe for an all out freak out, which is exactly what I did last night.  The finger will heal, with or without stitches, but what will happen to me and more importantly, to this baby that I have already been waiting 5 months to meet?

20 Weeks

Our original plan was to live in Nicaragua for a year, evaluate our experience, and then perhaps move back to the States, get desk jobs, set up home in an insanely expensive Boston suburb that we couldn’t afford and procreate.  Well, that was my plan.  But, as one year crept into two, both Justin and I began to discuss the possibility of having children abroad.  I wasn’t getting any younger and the economy in the States wasn’t getting any better.   After reviewing numerous birth scenarios (go home now, get jobs, get insurance, get pregnant; get pregnant here, get on a plane back to States for delivery; get over it and just do it), we decided to ignore the one piece of advice that my physician father tried to impart on us during regular visits, “just don’t get pregnant down there.”  Four months later, I was pregnant and we were overjoyed. 

By that time, we had met with one of the top OB-GYNs in the country at Vivian Pellas Metropolitano Hospital, discussed a prenatal plan, and witnessed some of our best friends, here in Nicaragua, get pregnant and give birth to happy, healthy babies.  Just as in the States, my OB here recommended the regular battery of pre-natal tests, exams, and vitamins. Moments after we watched the tell-tale pink line develop, we were on the phone to my OB discussing necessary appointments and ultrasounds.  Since that day, we have received top-notch care that rivals the assistance that my sister has received at state of the art Boston-area hospitals.

So, you know the old adage that “women have been giving birth to babies, alone in the middle of fields since the beginning of time”?  Well, it’s more or less true.  And more importantly, women have also been having babies in Nicaragua this whole time.   Giving birth is an incredibly natural life event.  You can prep all you want with doctors and specialists, but ultimately, this little creature is going to enter the world on her own terms at her own pace.  And that, she can do anywhere. 

Later that evening, after my finger was carefully washed and bandaged, Justin quietly offered to pack my “hospital bag” so that we are ready to hit the road when labor begins.  With more than 4 months to go until the arrival of Baby Fahey, I’m thinking that maybe Justin really will be able to find the hospital after all.    

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32 thoughts on “A Slice of Reality: Getting Pregnant and Giving Birth in a Foreign Country

  1. Sarah,

    Congrats on the upcoming arrival of Baby Fehey.

    My husband stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and I’ve been following it ever since. We have just begun action on our 3 – 5 year plan of relocating to Nicaragua. We hope to be there by this time next year.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. The stories you’ve shared and the information you’ve provided thus far are interesting, entertaining and informative.

    I look forward to your updates and hope you’ll manage to find time to keep them coming, (even after your little one arrives).

    Signed,
    Elisha in Calgary, AB

    PS. Justin may remember my husband and I as we rented a house from him in April. It was Casa Sol y Mar in SJDS.

    • Hi Elisha – thanks for the note! I hope we get the chance to meet once you are here! Justin says hello, by the way. I will try my best to keep posting – seems to come in waves :) If you have any specific questions about life down here, feel free to send them my way.
      All the best!
      Sarah

  2. Great entry Sarah! And it is true – you’d be freaking out even if you lived in the parking lot of Brigham & Women’s. Try to get used to it – you think they give you anxiety now? Plan on the rest of days, living in a state of constant high alert of something being wrong/not developing properly/looks funny/smells strange/have to call the doctor right now panic. But the payoff is more than you can imagine… And remember, your anxiety is only proof of what a great mother you already are. -e

    • Thanks Erin :) This experience is pretty incredible and amazingly life changing! I can’t wait for the next phase of anxiety and fear :) Would lvoe to see you when we are back in Sept. if you’re around!

  3. Pingback: A Slice of Reality: Getting Pregnant and Giving Birth in a Foreign … | Today Headlines

  4. Thanks for the reply Sarah. You may be sorry you offered to answer my questions because I have a bunch.

    I’ll start with just one for now… When you and Justin packed your bags and left Boston what did you take with you for personal belongings?

    • Hi Elisha,

      Here’s a link to a blog I wrote about packing shortly after we moved here that you might find useful. I would add that we each brought two bags, one carry on, and the dog, and that was about it. We didn’t have long term housing when we first moved here (we crashed with friends for a few months), so we didn’t want to be lugging a bunch of stuff around with us.

      One thing that I found helpful was that we left a box of items, back home in Boston with my in-laws, that contained “the maybes.” They were items that I wasn’t ready to part with or store, but didn’t know how useful they would be to us in Nicaragua. When we went back for our first visit, we went thru the box and determined what else to bring down with us.

      http://nicaragualiving.wordpress.com/2008/07/06/packingmoving-list-nicaragua/

  5. Hi Sarah,
    I actually hope to live abroad one day and the thing I worry about most is getting acquainted with foreign doctors, but the truth is, people have similar concerns everywhere and they deal with it. Your entry helped drive that point across. Thanks for inspiring!

    I’d like to invite you to be a guest writer for PinkPangea.com, a new community for women travelers to get real travel information geared specifically to women.

    It would be great if you could post about your experience living in Nicaragua, providing anecdotes and photos from your time abroad. You might also want to provide tips for women travelers who also want to get out there.

    I look forward to hearing more about your experiences abroad!

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    Rachel
    rachel@pinkpangea.com
    http://www.PinkPangea.com

    • Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for your message. I would be happy to check out PinkPangea and add some posts. Thanks for the invite!
      Sarah

  6. Hello!
    Long time Lurker, First time Commenter..
    My Husband and I have has alot of problems trying to concieve, We tried everything and spent quite a good chunk of our savings. Though I am happy to say last year we had our first little one. Life just hasn’t been the same since! Good luck to all of you and Keep your heads up!
    -Lisa

    Get Pregnant and Have Babies Now!

  7. We are in SJDS and have been for 5 weeks now. We are on a 9 month adventure in Nicaragua with my husband and our 3 kids (ds 12, dd 10, ds8) I am having fun reading blogs about people who are living in Nicaragua. We have met a few foreigners living here. We are in SJDS till late October and then we are heading to Granada (We think). I was looking at your picture at 20 weeks and you must live very close to us as our views are almost identical.
    I am enjoying your blog and look forward to reading more.

    • Hi Lindy,

      Glad you guys are enjoying your time in Nicaragua! I wonder if you’ve been staying in Casa Miramar as they have similar views…Have a wonderful time in Granada and be sure to come back to SJdS!
      Cheers,
      Sarah

  8. Hi Sarah,

    We are a couple from Venezuela and the Netherlands living in Brazil right now. We run a social project in the slums.
    We just found out we are pregnant, and looking for new options to continue our social project in another place. As Brazil (Rio) is’t safe at all with the drug wars, and visable guns all the time.
    We thought of moving to Nicaragua. One of our concerns are the healthcare services, and the way they take care of prenatal and deliveries. I hope you could give us some advise, the way things work overthere. As I have an international healthcare insurance, I could make use of the privat sector. Do you have any suggestions?

    you can mail me on sabineharmes@gmail.com
    this is the website of the project we run http://www.atelierfavela.org

    thanx a lot for your help

    sabine

    • Hi Sabine,

      Congrats on your pregnancy! When we first moved to Nicaragua, my husband and I purchased international / catastrophic health insurance. We renewed it for a second year, but when the time came to renew for a third time, we opted out, as we had never used it. We found that the private healthcare system here is not only quite modern and progressive, but that it was affordable without insurance. When we found out that I was pregnant, we did invest in insurance with Seguros America, which covers us in Central America. However, we have yet to use it – again because our own health care has been quite affordable. When the baby arrives, we will add her to this plan for a little added security.

      My husband and I have felt very comfortable with the prenatal care that we’ve received to date. An average prenatal check-up, including ultrasound) with one of the top doctors in the country at Vivian Pellas Hospital costs appx. $50. Lab work and prescriptions are quite affordable, as well. The actual delivery will cost somewhere in the range of $1200-$2000 (paid directly to the OB, pediatrician, and anesthesiologist) depending on various needs of the delivery. Then there is a hospital fee that ranges from appx. $600-$1200, again depending on the type of birth you have (c-section, natural, epidural, etc).

      I would recommend contacting Hospital Vivian Pellas directly to determine if they accept your international healthcare insurance. Even if they don’t, you will find that private prenatal care can be quite affordable. Best of luck to you!
      Sarah

  9. My husband forwarded this blog to me today. We are planning our eventual relocation to Nicaragua in the (hopeful) near future. We tried once a a couple years ago and after selling everything and moving to a temporary sublet I found out I was pregnant. Wasn’t an initial deterrent (I’d had my first baby at home and we were planning the same for the 2nd somewhere along the Pan American), but we did eventually end up staying.

    Anyway, I’m enjoying this blog. Wishing you a beautiful birth (if you haven’t already had the baby). 300,000 women do it every day….that’s quite some collective female energy.

  10. HI! We have lost our mind, and are considering moving to Nicaragua with my husband telecommuting.

    I was a doula… maybe if I moved in time. Hee hee!

    So, I haven’t yet found the info. I want to find (why your there, etc.) but any info you can give me! We have three children. Are there school options at all? Or do we have to homeschool? :)

    Off to go look at flights so we can visit this place! (Have been to Honduras, and Costa Rica, just not there. Honestly, the affordable living by the ocean is the draw!)

    • Hi Penny,

      Interesting that you are a doula, as we have three friends here who are also doulas. There has even been some initial discussion about the possibility of opening a birthing center here in San Juan!

      In regards to schools, our friend opened a private English school for children ages 2-6 here in San Juan. It is called “Adventures in Learning.” She is currently looking into options for expanding the school (both space and grades). If you’d like more info, let me know and I can put you in touch with her.

      All the best to you!
      Sarah

  11. So after having your child in Nicaragua, do you regret havnig your child in Nicaragua? Such as many doctors’ desire to C-section practically every pregnant woman, or the governments entitlement to your child? What trouble have you come across being that your child is a DUAL-CITIZEN and you having to get permission from the Nicaraguan government to get a US birth certificate/passport and to exit Nicaragua to vist the U.S. with YOUR OWN CHILD?

  12. Hi Sarah,
    My husband and I are looking into relocating to Nicaragua and are suppose to start looking around in February. The catch is I am now pregnant and have concerns about malaria and Dengue fever. What did you do to protect yourself from mosquitos while pregnant and what do you do now for your baby?

    Thanks for this great blog!

    Candice

    • Hi Candice,
      Thanks for reading and for your message. Malaria is not of major concern here. It’s a personal decision whether or not to take malaria pills, but in my experience, very few people take it when coming to the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Dengue is more of a reality here, but not terribly widespread. There tend to be outbreaks at one time and then it seems to lie dormant for a while. Your best bet is to use bug spray (there are all natural version in the States if you are concerned about using deet while pregnant). I would say wear long sleeves and pants, as well, but that’s unrealistic with the heat here :) Best of luck on your journey! Let me know how else I can help.
      Cheers,
      Sarah

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