My Abu Dhabi Birth Story

My Abu Dhabi Birth Story is long overdue. As Levi’s 7th birthday approaches, I hope I can sift through this mommy brain of mine and remember a few key details about my experience giving birth abroad. Here it goes!


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4 Weeks Pregnant

Levi was conceived in November 2010. With unrestrained excitement, David and I proceeded to tell our family and close friends in the very early weeks of my pregnancy. I knew I was pregnant about 10 days after conception, I just knew it, I felt it! Plus, at that point we’d been practicing Natural Family Planning for close to 2 years and I knew my body quite well (We’re now 9 years of Natural Family Planning and would highly recommend it).

One of the cons of knowing your pregnant so early, is 9 months feels like FOREVER!!! I took a pregnancy test the day my menstrual cycle was due and after 3 positive tests David and I hopped in our car and drove to the nearest hospital in Khalifa City A for an official pregnancy test. I gave a urine sample and we waited, and waited, and waited. OK, it was really only about 35 minutes, but it felt like 8 hours. For some reason we couldn’t believe it with store bought tests, we needed a Doctor to say, “yes, you’re pregnant”.

Summer 2010

Summer 2010

It’s not as if my pregnancy came as a surprise, we decided a few months prior while backpacking through Europe that we would start trying for a baby soon when we returned. By the time we were ready, I didn’t expect to get pregnant so fast – on the first attempt; literally the FIRST try, one day during my fertility week (same story when it comes to Malachi, I know the exact day both of my boys were conceived). But again, it makes the 9 months quite long. It’s now attractive to be one of those “I didn’t know I was pregnant ladies” who can go 8 months with absolutely no idea their pregnant! How is that possible?

My body went thorough so much the first 5 months, there is no way I could have missed the baby growing inside of me and making me terribly sick. Yes, I was SICK, sick, sick! All the time, for 5 months.

During that time we searched for a OBGYN in Abu Dhabi.

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OB/GYN #1 wouldn’t allow David in the room during my appointments and wouldn’t allow him in the room during delivery. So we kept looking…

OB/GYN #2 would allow David in the room for all of my appointments, but wouldn’t allow him in the delivery room. So we kept looking…

OB/GYN #3 allowed David in both the appointments and the delivery room! But, after about 3 appointments with her I realized she was just a bit too “rough” for my liking and had little to no sensitivity for my misery as I struggled with pregnancy. She basically told me to get over myself, women go through this everyday! True, but I’ve never gone through it and I have NEVER experienced pregnancy sickness. I wish she would have just said, “Mal, you’re doing great! It’ll get better and your baby is growing just fine”. She didn’t. So we kept looking…

OB/GYN #4 Dr. Marwan, he was the winner winner, chicken dinner! By the time we found Dr. Marwan, I was already 5 months pregnant. He was surprised I STILL didn’t have a doctor. He allowed David in all of my appointments and in the delivery room as well.

So now I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant, my Father-in-law and brother-in-law are visiting us from Ohio, USA. We go for a short walk in our neighborhood and I feel slight cramping and tell them I need to head home. We get home, I go straight to the bathroom and I’m bleeding! You know I freaked, calmly, but freaked nonetheless. We immediately head over to the ER at New Al Noor Hospital. As I’m cramping, bleeding and trying not to cry we try to explain to the reception desk that I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant and bleeding. It took a while for them to understand the urgency of what we were saying, so my husband pushed to speak to Dr. Marwan. Thankfully, Dr. Marwan was at the hospital that day and saw me right away. After an examination he explained I was experiencing pre-term labor and from there he and his staff proceeded to do what they could to stop my contractions (what I previously labeled cramping) and bleeding. After hours at the hospital, prescriptions and an order for one month of bed rest I was sent home.

The next month sucked, if you’ve ever been on bed rest you know this. Good thing was I was feeling much better! My morning (afternoon & night) sickness subsided and I was back to my normal self completely enjoying my pregnancy. After a few days off of bed rest my husband and I visit friends. I started experience those “cramps” again. This time, stronger and more painful. I tried to ignore them, I did for about 30 minutes until I couldn’t hide the pain and my facial expressions worried everyone in the room. So, I was off to the hospital again.

224705_1999723517795_5055064_nI’m 6 1/2 months pregnant and back in the same ER. This time my husband knew how to handle the reception staff and I was seen immediately. It was evening and Dr. Marwan was not on duty. After an examination I was told yet again, that I’m in labor. This time it was more serious and I needed to go to a hospital that could handle premature babies. David and I are trying to stay as calm as possible but it didn’t stop the tears from falling. We asked for an ambulance and they told us we’d get there faster if we drove. So in labor, at 6 1/2 months pregnant we drive over to Corniche Hospital.

We walk into the ER and explain to the reception what has happened, the receptionist proceeded to ask my address and phone number…if I had the energy I likely would have smacked her and then repeated myself! I know, so bad…instead I said louder “I’m 6 1/2 months pregnant and in labor, I need to see a Doctor NOW!!” she nodded, apologized and ran off to get help. The next 45 minutes is a blur. I had needles in both arms, one in my hand. They insisted my husband couldn’t join me in the room so I was alone, crying, in pain and trying to make sense of the chaos that surrounded me as 6 or 7 medical professional were doing various tasks to and around me while speaking in either Arabic, English or Hindi. After 45 minutes, the ER Doctor on duty came in told me they weren’t equipped to take a baby as they did not have any incubators for a pre-mature baby born so early. I needed to transfer to another hospital in preparation for delivery. They called around and the only hospital that had an incubator was in Al Ain. A 60-90 minute drive away. I request an ambulance and again we’re told we’d get there faster if we drive.

They help me out of bed and I call David in to help me get dressed as they kept the IV in my hand so it didn’t need to be inserted again at the other hospital. They proceeded to yell at David telling him he wasn’t allowed in the room with me and I just gave them the look…you know the look! They all quieted down and looked away.

We’re in our car, driving to Al Ain. Praying, silence, crying, silence, praying, but then I had to poop. It was the middle of the night and we’re surrounded by sand. There is no restroom (that I would use pregnant with an IV in my hand) for miles. Plus, we didn’t want to stop, I was still technically in labor and we needed to get to the hospital. On top of that, one stretch of the ride there is no signal. We didn’t want to risk stopping, David kept telling me I could hold it. Listen, you can’t tell a pregnant women to hold her poop. Especially one in labor. I grabbed the tissues out the glove compartment, crawled to the back seat, grabbed a box that was on the floor, emptied it and pooped in the box. I haven’t had a moment that low since…but it was the laughter we needed at the time! Yes, disgusting, but hey, we laugh about it to this day!

We get to the hospital and I can’t remember what happened. By that point, this was the third hospital, I was in pain, hours had passed, I pooped in a box…in our car and I had a major migraine from crying. What I do remember is waking up in a calm, quiet room feeling a lot better. David on the couch next to me and a female Emirati doctor entering the room to reassure me everything was fine. They were able to get my contractions to stop and the baby was fine. I stayed for four days and upon discharge was prescribed bed rest again for one month. It was one of my best hospital stays, the staff and physicians were lovely!

A few days later I sat with Dr. Marwan and he told me quite compassionately but bluntly, “My dear, if your baby is born early it is likely he won’t survive. Abu Dhabi is not as medically advance to handle a pre-mature baby’s born at 6 months gestation. Please prepare yourself”. I needed his bluntness. I was thankful that he could look me in the eyes and tell me the truth and tell me plainly. I knew I had no control over the situation and all I could do was have faith, pray and follow Doctors orders.

Over the next few months I had to go to Dr. Marwan weekly for hormone shots in my back. Painful, painful, painful! And to monitor my contractions, if any.

 

 

By 7 1/2 months I was consistently praying to make it to 8 months. At 8 months, my baby would be safe if born early in Abu Dhabi. By 8 months we were preparing to move from our 1 bedroom apartment in Khalifa City A, to a 2 bedroom on Reem Island.

Long story short, on move day, the movers were not moving fast enough and I put myself to work in attempt to hurry the process along! That evening David and I went out for dinner and I felt contractions again. I didn’t pay them much attention because they weren’t strong and were similar to Braxton Hicks. That night I kept getting up to pee because I was slowly peeing on myself in my sleep (pregnancy, don’t ask). After the 3rd trip to the toilet I woke David up, I realized my water was breaking slowly and it actually wasn’t pee. I was actually in labor at dinner and didn’t realize it.

We headed over to the hospital around 2am, excited because we were only 5 days from my due date!!!

I had my birthing ball, my playlist, essential oils, Bible, journal, baby clothes, everything was ready!

When we were settled in my room, I reminded David that no one under any circumstances should offer me pain killers! No matter how much pain I looked to be in, don’t offer it. I’ll ask if I want it. The nurses insist I stay on the contraction monitoring machine because of my history. I fought a few times to be taken off and allowed to walk around because it was ruining my birth plan! As the nurses approached over the next 10 hours trying to insist on an epidural, David did his job well!

By hour 11 Dr. Marwan insisted on inducing me because they couldn’t track exactly when my water broke (and because of my history), he wanted to speed up the process to get the baby out. Trusting Dr. Marwan, but against my birth plan and against my personal judgement, I agreed to be induced. The pain tripled. It was horrible, (but don’t dare offer me an epidural, haha). By hour 13 after reviewing the baby’s heart rate Dr. Marwan told me bluntly, “we need to get him out now!” By the look on his face, I decided to scratch my birth plan, no arguing, no questions, just get him out safely. I looked at David and back to Dr. Marwan and nodded my head in compliance to the c-section.

The nurses swiftly inserted a catheter, transferred me to another bed and rolled me to the operating room. David and I had very little time to talk, so we said goodbye with a quick prayer and kiss. David pulled Dr. Marwan off to the side and I learned later he told him that I must come first, and did some type of man-to-man talk, I don’t remember the details. Although I was the one being rolled into the Operating Room, the look on his face matched my own anxiety and concern.

In the OR, I held a pillow tightly and slouched over as requested. They inserted the local anesthesia in my back and then the full body epidural. It was painful, I felt it although I was told I wouldn’t. I bit down into the pillow and tried to stay perfectly still.

Dr. Marwan, the anesthesiologist and the OR nurses spoke in Arabic and shared a few things with me in English. I know they didn’t put me totally under but I remember almost nothing. I remember telling them to take some fat out while they’re down there and feeling like my joke fell flat because no one laughed. I faintly remember them telling me to “kiss your baby” as a wet, bloody and tiny crying baby was put next to my cheek. I remember saying “hi baby” kissing him and telling him I love you. They brought the baby to David (who wasn’t allowed in the OR). The next thing I remember is waking up in my room and David bringing me Malachi, he tried to have me hold him but I was shaking uncontrollably and was in so much pain.

I whispered to him with the energy I had and told him, “I think I’m dying” which of course scares the crap out of him. He asks the nurses again and again if I’m OK? They assure him I’m fine. Dr. Marwan has left by now, so we trust their word. Ten minutes later I tell him I need more medicine, I was in so much pain and I was sure I was dying. He asked if they could give me more pain killers and they told him I had my limit for the day, and that maybe I had a “low pain tolerance”. This clearly angered David because he responded, “She just went through 13 hours of labor with no medication, she doesn’t have a low pain tolerance!” (10 point for the hubby)!

 

 

Throughout the night, David kept trying to get me to hold and cuddle and name our baby. I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t hold him near my incision. This was not how I planned my birth! I already felt like a bad mother and it had only been 4 hours…

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Levi, 1 day old.

Levi was born the afternoon of August 4th. By the morning of August 5th the pain had slowly subsided. By now, I could hold him, look at him – REALLY look at him; I cuddled him and apologized over and over under my breath, I prayed for him and we finally named him!

Dr. Marwan came in a few hours later to check on me. I told him how miserable my night was and he replied quite calmly, “yes, well you were induced an hour before delivery. So your body was likely still contracting and in labor”. What the?? David and I looked at each other and then at one of the nurses, why couldn’t they tell me that? Oh, by the way mam your baby is in your husbands arms but your body doesn’t quite know that yet…

 

Anyways, we spent four days in the hospital and they wouldn’t let me leave until I pooped. I know, enough with the pooping, but this is real life and in real life we poop!

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My experience afterbirth at the time was miserable, I wanted to leave and I was so stressed out. Now having Malachi in Hong Kong, I can say my time in the Abu Dhabi hospital was lovely! We had our own room and bathroom. David stayed the ENTIRE time and slept on the couch. I had privacy and was able to sleep and have help with Levi when needed.

At the time, what angered me was the bully nurse that made me feel so horrible about breastfeeding (another post, another time). Another nurse refused to hand Levi back to David. The 12-15 nurses that kept coming in our room to see the “cafe latte” baby, because they wanted to see what a biracial baby looked like (weirdos), and the fact I wasn’t allowed to eat anything for a while so I was HANGRY!

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Levi, 2 days old.

We went home on August 8th, one day before his original due date. I couldn’t have been happier to get home! But then, we were home and alone, with a baby! What now?

Well, thankfully, he’s almost 7 years old and we survived.

Dr. Marwan, our Iraqi OB/GYN, will forever hold a special place in our hearts and family; and Abu Dhabi will always be a home to us as the birth place of our first born! I’ll also add that Abu Dhabi, as such a young country, has grown leaps and bounds year after year. They are likely well equipped to handle premature babies without as much hassle.


Levi is our little miracle baby, our answered prayer!

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Date Night: Tips & Misconceptions

Did you laugh at the title? If you’re a parent, likely it provoked some type of emotional reaction. Indifference, desire, laughter…something!

For me, when I hear the term date night I dangle between a chuckle and a frown. The chuckle because it sounds very idealistic to keep up with dates once the babes arrive and the frown, because I feel like we’ve failed time and again at date night.

June 2008, CaliforniaI know all too well the importance of prioritizing dates with your spouse, especially once you become parents. Life becomes so busy and your time usurped by responsibilities, it’s important to cultivate and nourish your marriage with dedicated time with one another.

Out of the 10 years David and I have been married, we’ve spent 7 of those years as parents. Those first three years we should have savored every minute of free time, because the words free and time no longer go together!

In my opinion, a healthy marriage can get away with living off of past dates. They become sort of reserved fat that you can pull from when needed.

In Abu Dhabi, as new parents, David and I would reminisce as we lay exhausted on the couch whispering after putting Levi to bed, nervous to even yawn loudly. We’d quietly snicker about what we were doing 4 years ago or how we didn’t have the desire to go out if given the chance. We also had no desire to leave our baby with anyone, we were tiger parents (OK, we’re still helicopter parents)!

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Date reminiscing only lasts for so long, you need to start making memories and new experiences together. As new parents, your baby becomes your entire world and you bond deeply over this little person(s) that you made together. Eventually, you reach a point when you look at each other and you can’t remember the last conversation you had that wasn’t about work, money, or your child(ren). You can’t remember the last time you laughed at something that wasn’t about your baby or a viral video of another baby. At which point, I hope you’ve come to the conclusion that ya’ll need to get out!

Here are a few misconceptions I’ve come across as a married mama and a few tips for your reading pleasure, please note I’ve only been a mother for close to 7 years and I’m sharing from that perspective:


Misconception #1: Parents Want to go Out

Nope. Not really. What I’ve found for most of my parental friends, they usually don’t want to go out. When you consider going out as a parent you have a full mental pros and cons list: How far is it? Is it worth my time? Who’s all going to be there? How much money will I spend? What time do I need to be there? Are spanks required? What time will I get home? What do I have going on tomorrow? Going out has to be worth it to parents, because an evening away from our children is rarely experienced without the feelings of worry or guilt.

Tip #1: Accept the Season

D & MFor my marriage, the desire for date night outside of our home has transferred between David and I in seasons. Sometimes, I really want to go out, other times, it’s all David. Every time we plan and commit to a weekly date night, we do good for about 6-8 weeks and then the scheduled date night hits and we just want to chill, at home. Our streak is thrown off and we end up dateless for weeks on end.

I remind myself often that we’re in a season of young babes, no sleep and exhaustion. Levi talks a mile a minute and Malachi refuses to sleep away from me for more than 3 hours at a time. This won’t be the case in the years to come. We’re in a season, and all seasons pass. David and I will again be in the season where we have time together, when we don’t want to leave the restaurant by 9 pm and when an enjoyable Friday doesn’t include Netflix.


 

Misconception #2: You Need a Weekly Date Night

OK, I know I’m going against many marriage and family therapists here, but I feel like the weekly date night can put a huge amount of stress on couples. To the point where people end up pretending and the genuine desire to have this night becomes just another responsibility to tick off the list. Now, I’m not suggesting you throw it completely out the window. I am saying give yourself some grace and as long as you spend time together in whatever capacity that works for your marriage, a weekly, consistent “leave the house date night” may not be the best scenario for you, and that’s okay!

Tip #2: Go Anyways!27857907_10215872927281146_2894731521305748676_n

There are times your spouse may want to go do something and you absolutely don’t want to go. Go anyways! This has happened more times than I can count in my marriage. I’ve been working on going when requested even when I don’t want to! David doesn’t like going to cafes (crazy right?!) and it’s one of my favorite places to be. I likely get him to put aside his distaste for cafes and go along with me once a month.


Misconception #3: Parents are Jealous of Non-Parents

I’ve seen comments and opinions about this quite often since becoming a parent. The biggest argument to this misconception is connected to time. Parents are jealous of non-parents because of the freedom they have to sleep, drink hot coffee, bath, etc.

So many parents prayed for, worked towards, and sometimes physically, mentally and emotionally went through a great deal to become parents. The idea that we sit around envying the lives of non-parents is quite ludicrous. To be fair, if I had to rephrase this to a more truthful statement for the parents I know it would be: Parents are Jealous of Non-Parents Time. Because that’s all it is; as parents your time is occupied completely by little people, they take up so much space in your heart, your mind and your schedule but in a way that we wouldn’t change for the world. I simply wish I had MORE time! That I could stop time at certain points to savor and commit to memory that first smile, first word, or purposeful kiss.

Tip #3: Be in Agreement

There is nothing worse then going on a date and then arguing! Not only does it totally defeat the purpose of spending time together being affectionate and communicating, but  you’re wasting time. What’s brought on the most arguments during a date with us is not being in agreement. For example,  David has a plan in his head that he didn’t verbalize and I’m expected to just go along with it, or we can’t agree where to go. The argument list can go on.D & M

What I found to be the best way to avoid a potential argument is to decide who is choosing the location ahead of time, to verbalize any requirements or requests, like when to leave. When we go out, we usually have a nice little signal ahead of time so we both know when one of us is ready to go home. It usually happens around the same time, and the sign isn’t even needed. We simply give a look and we know, it’s time to go!

Tip #4: Date Anytime!

A bonus tip that goes without saying but is always a good reminder, date anytime. Don’t limit your dates to date nights. Nighttime isn’t all that attractive when you become parents. You’re yawning at dinner, the music is too loud, your exhausted and irritable. Don’t force an evening date. Plan your dates in morning or early afternoons when you can. There is way less parental guilt during these times for some reason and you still get to put your babes to bed and get to bed at a decent hour yourself.


29972_1444566679221_2768581_nWe’re currently in a dry season of a weekly date night, but we’re in a season of abundance with watching our little boys grow and play together, as well as spontaneous lunch dates, random conversations and plenty of laughter. Each marriage is so different, enjoy the one you’re in!

What are some of your date tips and/or misconceptions you’ve come across in your marriage?

2 Boys: Same Same, But Oh So Different!

I’ve been a mother for almost 7 years. Motherhood comes with many, too many, ups and downs, highs and lows. Motherhood has challenged me in ways I could in no way prepare for; and it’s filled me with such a deep love and fulfillment I can’t attempt to articulate in a paragraph. I feel like I really grasped motherhood with both hands, arms and shoulders – all of me! I can say, I’ve been quite proud of myself and feel really good as a Mama. That is, until something happens that brings on the infamous Mama Guilt!

When I found out July 2017, at 7 months pregnant, that my second baby would be another boy, I felt completely prepared. I originally hoped to have a baby girl so I could say, “okay, we’re done here! Thank you to all you little visitors, but my uterus is officially closed“. God had other plans! With another boy, I don’t want to to close up shop just yet. I’ll extend my uterus hours for a little longer in case I have a mini female me in my future. Time will tell…In the meantime I thought, OK, I have a boy coming!

My thought process went pretty much like this: I have a boy, I birthed and raised my little boy; I know what to expect, I’m ready! I know what I’m doing, and baby numero dos will be easy peezy!

SMH.

How far, how very far from the truth my assumption was.

My Boys

Top: Levi, 1 day old, 2011, Abu Dhabi Bottom: Malachi, 1 day old, 2017, Hong Kong

I don’t know why I assumed my boys would be the same. I knew their personalities would be different, of course! They’re two different people after all. But, I must confess I pretty much expected similarities for the first 6-9 months of life.

Can I tell you, not ONE thing was the same with these babes.

Nada, zip, zero – nothing! 

Well, actually that’s not entirely true. Levi and Malachi look so much alike.

 

I spent the first 4 months of Malachi’s life being completely flabbergasted. I was constantly frustrated and cried often; he wasn’t behaving, interacting, nursing, sleeping, or growing like Levi.

David felt the same – minus the crying. Baby Levi loved spending time with his Baba. He loved laying on his chest, he enjoyed his cuddles, his singing, and at 6 (and 3 quarters) he still does. Malachi did not want to lay on his Baba’s chest, he rarely wanted him to sing, kiss, or cuddle him.

David & LeviLevi was and is 100% a Baba’s (Daddy’s boy), Malachi on the other hand is a Mama’s boy through and through.

Having a Mama’s boy definitely has it’s perks, but being the only parent to be able to calm, feed and put to sleep a baby is beyond exhausting.  With Levi, David could do pretty much everything I did minus nursing, and not for the sake of trying, Levi tried to nurse on David more than once!

Malachi’s leaps, sleeping – everything was drastically different than Levi’s.

I can’t count how many times I’ve said, “When Levi was a baby he…blah blah blah”. We’ve been so used to Levi and only Levi for so long…we gauged everything with Malachi based on our experience with Levi.

On one hand, this is quite normal. On the other, because Levi was such an “easy” baby, we were constantly pitting Malachi’s behavior against his brothers. It took a good 4-5 months before I realized, “Mal, stop comparing these two little slices of heaven”. They were created to be uniquely and beautifully different.

My Boys

Left – Levi @ 1 year old. Right – Malachi @ 7 months. Same Outfit!

Seeing Malachi as an individual, completely away from the shadow of his brother has been difficult for me to say the least. It’s a habit that formed so quickly, it’s taken some time to break.

Since accepting Levi and Malachi as uniquely and beautifully different, I’ve been able to enjoy this journey of motherhood even more. I’ve fully embraced little Malachi as…Malachi, my little coconut! Our connection and relationship has been so much better and enjoyable.

Everything with Malachi has been new to me – he’s such a little individual, so determined, so loving and cuddly, so full of joy and laughter! He makes me laugh every single day.

To all the parents who are struggling with comparison, let’s remember to celebrate and uplift each of our beautiful babes. Let’s build them up with our love, our words, our actions and our prayers. Giving them the foundation and tools to grow and become wonderful, confident, resilient, compassionate and optimistic individuals in this world!

Have Kids, Will Travel

 

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IMG-4157My sweet-little-hunk of love and laughter Malachi, is eight months now. Unlike his older brother Levi, we have yet to take a family trip or getaway with him.

On one hand, I’m thankful, it can be exhausting traveling with a little one. On the other hand, traveling as a family is so rewarding, you’re making memories and having wonderful experiences. So that pesky mama guilt sets in as I flashback to the experiences we gave Levi during his first year.

At four months Levi took his first international trip back home (well, Mama & Baba’s home) USA. By eight months, Levi had traveled to Cyprus, at ten months he’d been to Oman, and by one year he was back to the USA again; enjoying a cross-country road trip from Ohio to California with a little detour: we celebrated his first birthday in Nashville, Tennessee! Over the past 6 years this kid has received more passport stamps than most adult members of my family.

This year my husband and I decided 2018 is the year of NO TRAVEL! We’ll spend our first Summer in Hong Kong this year. We’ve traveled every year since moving abroad in 2009. So for 2018 we said we would do a little adulting and sit still, save money, and enjoy a few local stay-cations. As we’re halfway through the year we’ve been tempted numerous times to book a flight and go! The itch to travel is strong. So far, we’ve stuck to our guns…then enters Villa-Finder.com. I received an email introducing the company and service to our 852 Mamas community thus enticing me once again, to book a flight and go!

Villa-Finder launched in 2012 and has over 1,000 reviewed and inspected villas in their database. From Bali, to Phuket, Koh Samui, Sri Lanka and Mauritius! Taking a look through their website, the villas are beautiful and picturesque! Villa-Finder’s villas are frequently reinspected to ensure they are well maintained and consistent in their level of service.

Villa-Finder’s customers are usually families, which makes sense why they reached out to 852 Mamas! As Mamas, we know that family needs are significantly different to those traveling without kids. Thinking back to our pre-kids backpacking trip through Europe in 2010, we wouldn’t dare to try that at this stage, we’ll wait until they’re a bit older!

As a parent, our concerns and considerations regarding accommodation include things like pool fences, car seats, convenient transportation, safety, etc.

Depending on your specific concerns, Villa-Finder’s Travel Consultants fits the needs of the family with the villas that best fit their specific requirements.

IMG_9055Their Guest Relation team can arrange everything for your stay including: airport pick-up, special dinners, day tours, in-villa massage, and so on. This is not just a platform where customers book and pay. Villa-Finder has a team to make sure your needs are met. Villa-Finder’s Guest Relation’s team works on your behalf free of charge. 

Villa-Finder is also planting a tree in Sumatra, Indonesia for every booking made. Allowing families to contribute to the environment in a passive but sustainable way!

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I’ve personally stayed in a villa twice since having kids, the Zighy Bay Resort in Oman and Kau Suar Bali Luxury Villas in Bali, we usually choose hotels. Now that our family has grown, the benefits of a private villa are quite attractive, I’ve listed 4 key benefits below:

  1. Privacy: this goes without saying, when you have kids, privacy is key to a stress free family experience. You’re not worrying about who can hear your baby crying in the middle of the night, or the lovely sounds of your two year old refusing to take a bath. In a villa, it’s pretty much the same privacy as our crazy family life at home but with a little luxury!
  2. Space: from personal experience, this is all too true. It’s so helpful to have space when you have kids, they can play and everyone isn’t cramped in a hotel suite. It also helps to have more than one bathroom!
  3. Service: from pool toys, to couples massage, to private chefs there is usually nothing off limits in terms of requesting services.
  4. Value: the price of a villa and a hotel is relatively comparable depending on your family budget, yet when all is said and done, you will likely save more money from food and beverage bills and avoiding those pesky service charges.
I’d like to make an honorary mention of a private kitchen! Because when you have kids, snacks and meals are a big deal.
No matter where you choose to stay as you prepare to venture out this Summer, I’ll be stalking Instagram vacationing in my own little way! You never know, we may give in and try out Villa-Finder for ourselves this Summer, we shall see!

 Written for 852 Mamas

Hong Kong Mama’s Silent Lift Anger


OK Hong Kong Mamas, I’m going to take a confident position here and assume we’ve all experienced what I like to call ‘Silent Lift Anger‘. Please entertain me as I explain:

I’ve lived in Hong Kong for over two years before experiencing Silent Lift Anger (yes, my fellow Americans – it’s elevator…but when in Rome). Once you have a baby, and in my case two, everything changes!

My first experience with SLA was with my husband and newborn baby in the MTR at Hong Kong Station. I didn’t realize at the time that this would become a regular occurrence.

I was discharged from Queen Mary Hospital on Friday night. Yet, I was requested – well actually firmly instructed to visit the hospital the NEXT morning after discharge, which I thought was completely bizarre! Saturday morning we go to the hospital and they instruct us to return yet again on Monday morning. So now it’s Monday, and Mama is exhausted! We decide to skip yet another $600 Uber ride and take the train from Lantau to Queen Mary. As we exit the train and make our way to the lift we notice people (able-bodied people) rushing to the lift. We make it in time with our stroller (buggy) to stand behind 3 adults. Behind us is a little old lady in a wheel chair with her relative or caretaker. My husband passively makes a comment about lift priority which goes either completely ignored or, they didn’t hear him or, don’t speak English. We push ourselves onto the lift and proceed to make our way to the Central MTR to transfer trains. This is where it gets quite annoying, the Central lift is TINY and only so many of us can fit, let alone with a stroller. Again, able-bodies push through to make it in front of us on the lift.

Here enters my Silent Lift Anger!

Inside, I’m furious, frustrated, annoyed….can’t they see we have a baby? Don’t they understand the lifts should be for people like us and wheelchairs? Why can’t they just take the escalators? Shouldn’t they at least offer for us to go first considering the signage painted at their feet tells them so?

I’m not bold enough to call out strangers. I also sometimes struggle with impostor syndrome since, well, I’m a foreigner in this country. Still, I want them to follow my cultural etiquette when it comes to lifts! That’s a bit arrogant of me right? I mean, I’m in Hong Kong and this is obviously what seems to be the norm here. When I look around, everyone else seems to just accept it. So, I just scream and yell on the inside…Silent Lift Anger!

This has now gone on for over 8 months. When you have a stroller in Hong Kong – these experiences happen weekly! I’ve had so many moments of Silent Lift Anger – to the point where I’m walking out of the lift and having full conversations in my head of what I wanted to say, witty things I should have said and dirty looks that are universal. I’m sure people passing me on the street thought I was a sleep deprived psycho mom with my crazy facial expressions and my mouth murmuring slowly with no words exiting!

A few times I found myself bold enough to say, “the escalators are working!!“. Usually, this boldness is proceeded by a play-date or lunch-date with other Mamas and they embolden me with that wonderful Mama Power that comes after a simple coffee and teething chat. It’s amazing how a little time with other Mamas makes us feel empowered (or, like a failure depending on the group…but that’s another blog post, eek).

My Silent Lift Anger now lasts a good 30 seconds or so. I’m over it quite quickly because I know what to expect. I have to plan to leave earlier, avoid rush hour, get on the train car directly across from the lift if possible, push my way past people – don’t make eye contact (or do, depending on the situation), and simply adjust to lift etiquette that exists. I make sure to say thank you and extend a warm appreciative smile to the people who do show great kindness and consideration.

So Mamas, when you’re experiencing your Silent Lift Anger, just know you’re not alone! And eventually, you won’t need the lift at all!

Where’s My Snapback?

This blog has been re-posted at 852 Mamas


The term snapback is defined simply as: returning to your pre-baby body or pre-baby weight.  The significance of a snapback is the lightening speed at which it happens for some women. At 1, 3 or 6 month post-partum many Mamas are 100% back to their pre-baby body!

OK Mamas, is it just me or is the pressure to snapback at an all time high? We also live in the age of the internet MACHINE which is both amazing and creepy at the same time. I’m “coincidentally” bombarded with adverts and offers regarding my post-partum body on Instagram, Facebook, Google – you name it. The adverts are catered directly to me and depending on the day, can really cause some mental and emotional stress to a sleep deprived Mama of 2 boys!

When I’m cluster feeding one baby boy and simultaneously attempting to help my older son prepare for a spelling test – the last thing I want to see as I spell check a word in google (in this particular situation, seeing the word ‘tomorrow’ 19 times you have absolutely no idea if you’re making up the spelling or if tomorrow is even a word), the last thing I want to see as an advert is how to turn my mama belly into tight abs! 

I’ve also seen my fair share of  side-by-side images of women showing their pregnancy and post-pregnancy bodies, dates included. It’s quite impressive. Especially because I was NOT thinking about a full body photo at 4 days post-partum. Let me add here, I’m not a hater (usually) these Mamas look amazing and I’m (usually) inspired when I see these pictures. But to be honest, I am left looking down and examining my body afterwards because….well, I still don’t recognize it!

Let’s take a moment and discuss the different types of snapbacks, shall we?

The Natural Snapback: You wanna thank your Mama for a snap like that! (Read that again but rap it Salt’s verse from Salt N’ Pepa’s Shoop). Mothers who simply have “it” in their genes, they can sneeze day 2 post-partum and the SNAP happens instantaneously!

The Passive Snapback: These mamas are the ones that can do absolutely nothing major, a plank here, a salad there and in two months BAM…They’re snapped!

The Breastfeeding Snapback: I really thought I’d be her! The Mama who just breastfeeds. We know, we know, we know that breastfeeding burns calories. These Mamas simply breastfeed (like many of us) but for them, the natural side-effect of breastfeeding is the SNAP!

The Food & Fitness Snapback: I respect these women and would love an ounce of their discipline. So, these are the ladies who have a plan and stick to their plan no matter what. They know the SNAP will only come if they work for it, and work for it they do!

Okay okay, to be honest, I’m likely – well I mean…I’m not working for my snapback as hard as many other Mamas. At the same time, I’ve been quite hard on myself and overly compared my body to other Mamas. What’s crazy about that is I would never negatively compare my baby to other babies or my 6 year-old to other kids. They are beautifully unique and lovely little individuals. So, I’ve been working on taking that same gentle love for them and directing it towards the way I see and love myself!

This is entirely a completely different blog post for another day, but I have to constantly remind myself how amazing my body is! It’s carried, nurtured, protected and birthed two beautiful and healthy babies. My body is a blessing and I need to look upon it and think about it with a lot more kindness!

A snapback for me does not come naturally, passively, or from breastfeeding. I’ll have to work hard for it if I want it. The question then becomes do I really want?

What I’ve realized on this journey called Motherhood is…we need to love ourselves more as Mamas and do what’s best for us as individuals! Let’s refocus our snapback to simply loving ourselves a bit more and doing things that we enjoy. Mamas, after babies our lives are usurped by a tiny human and it never stops, it just consistently changes. So for us, it’s not often we have free time to do things that we (as Mal, not Mom) want to do.

So I repeat, do what’s best for you! If you enjoy a spin class, take that class! If it’s a quiet corner in a cafe with a book, tell us where you found a quiet cafe in Hong Kong! If it’s a daily nap, Mama take that nap! If it’s a post-natal Pilates class, have fun at that class!

I’m worrying less about my snapback and focusing more on loving myself. I hope you do the same!


 

 

 

Issa Baby!

I find it a bit crazy that I have my Brown Mom Abroad blog and have failed to post a single word about my pregnancy. To be fair, my blogging is very scarce but today I had the energy, time and mindset to share a little bit about my pregnancy while living abroad thus far.

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First, let me say I don’t have a comparison of being pregnant or having a baby abroad vs. in America. My son was born almost 6 years ago in Abu Dhabi, UAE and that was…well, a lot! To be fair, I think for most moms the first pregnancy is a lot to take in no matter if you’re away from home or not. I also experienced a few complications during my first pregnancy. Without going into full detail, I went into pre-term labor at around 22 weeks (five and a half months) pregnant, and again around 26 weeks (six months). The second experience with pre-term labor was more severe and caused me to be moved from one hospital, to another, and finally to another in one night. It was one of the scariest nights of my life, praying and asking God to keep my baby IN MY BELLY full term! I was admitted for about 3 days and the remainder of my pregnancy was very closely monitored.  It’s hard enough when your doctor looks you eye-to-eye and says, “you need to prepare yourself for this baby not making it” add that to trying to comprehend medical information through various accents all in a culture very different than your own; it can be overwhelming. When I went into labor in the wee morning hours on August 4, 2011 I had my birth plan, my bag packed and was ready. After 13 hours of labor and because of my previous complications the doctor decided to induce me, maybe 45 minutes later he told me I needed an emergency Cesarean. It was a lot to take it and a long story to share. In the end, thankfully, Levi only came 5 days early and was a beautiful and healthy baby boy!

With everything I went through in my first pregnancy, living in Hong Kong has been a lot harder for me. I’ve tried to put my finger on why it’s been so hard for me, the only guess I’ve been able to grasp is the public system is just overly saturated with patients, more than I’m used to. Considering I don’t speak or understand Cantonese (Hong Kong’s national language) it’s very difficult to communicate and to comprehend directions, requests and instructions when you’re brain is already muddled from pregnancy. Many expats decide to go with a private doctor which is quite expensive. For our family, being on one income paying for a private doctor isn’t a realistic or wise move. So, I’m sticking with the public system instead. I will say I did 0, yes ZERO research into having a baby in Hong Kong or Abu Dhabi before we moved. I knew there was a very high chance that we would have a baby while in both countries, but I didn’t look into anything prior to being pregnant. And let me digress a minute…honestly, our families only wanted to know will our baby be American? The answer is yes guys! I was born and raised in America as were my parents, grandparents etc. all the way back to slavery. My husband was born in America, as were his parents and grandparents dating back to immigrating from Europe. So our children have American parents and are full citizens, if they wish they will be able to run for President as well without any hassle! You’d be surprised how many times citizenship comes into question.

Sharing all of that to say, I’ve been having such a hard time emotionally with being pregnant abroad as well as the physical sickness that comes with my pregnancies I’ve slightly ignored talking or sharing much about my pregnancy experience as a mom abroad. And let’s be honest, the only information most people want to know anyways is the due date and gender!

So, I’ll oblige! The due date is quite easy to know, even before my first doctors appointment, I finally dragged myself around 4 months pregnant. I know the exact day we conceived with this baby as well as my first baby.  I haven’t been on any form of birth control since 2008, instead we practice Natural Family Planning so it’s pretty easy to track! Our little reward from God is due October 20th.

As for finding out the gender, we tried to find this out in Hong Kong – we were denied. An interesting fact to know about Hong Kong (which was news to me) sharing the gender is considered unethical and illegal. The unofficial answer we received from one Doctor was aborting a baby based on gender is/was very popular in Hong Kong and China. I don’t know how much of a problem it is presently and I refused to research anything about it – just certain things you don’t want to do when pregnant. But, we’ve been itching and waiting to find out the gender! I really felt that once I knew I can mentally prepare and plan – when really, knowing not much changes – it’s just really nice to know!

When we arrived to the U.S for our Summer vacation, getting an ultrasound was a must do the first week. My husband found a place that was actually pretty cool, it offered the ultrasound in 2, 3 and 4D as well as a nice big room for family members. It was just the 3 of us but another family was in another room and there were at least 15 people with them, it was really sweet to see everyone so excited and supportive to find out the gender! The highlight for me was warm gel for my belly – I swear the little things go a long way with pregnant ladies! They also offered the heartbeat recorded and put in a build-a-bear stuffed animal, we opted for the tiger. We requested she not tell us the gender, but write it down so we could surprise Levi with a fun game later that day. Just to make it a little more special – he really, really, really wanted a little sister and was just waiting for the news that Mommy has a baby girl in her belly. He asked at least 20 times during my appointment “where’s the private?!” Overall, it was a great experience we received four 4D print outs, a few black and whites, a dvd and the tiger with heartbeat for $180. I’m happy to finally know that we are having another beautiful baby boy!

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Ideally, as I approach my delivery I hope to share more about my experience because I know it’s usually a major concern for woman who are curious what it’s like to have a baby abroad.  As well as moms who are slightly anxious traveling abroad while pregnant. I get it, 15+ hours from Hong Kong to New Jersey, 1.5 hours from Jersey to Cleveland –  flying internationally is already rough, adding being pregnant with a kid plus constant pee breaks – you can already imagine it’s a lot! I’m happy to answer questions if I can, especially if they are connected to my experience. Three months to go, guys, 3 months to go!

American in Kuwait: Melissa

Brown Mom Abroad Interview Series


BMA: Introduce yourself!

My name is Melissa Holmes and I am the mother of a wonderful 8-year-old girl soon to be 9 years old in August. I am originally from Charleston, SC born and raised. I lived in Maryland for 2 and half years prior to accepting a position overseas. I moved to Kuwait in August 2016.

BMA: At what age did you and your child(ren) receive your passports?

My daughter and I got passports in 2016. I was 35 and she was 7. I applied for my passport while I was applying for jobs overseas. I applied for her passport after I received my offer.

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BMA: Do you speak (or currently learning) any language other than English?

We do not speak any other language other than English. We have dabbled in Spanish over the years.

 

BMA: What made you decide to live abroad?

I have always desired to move abroad but was scared out my mind. What was a single mother going to do abroad as a teacher? Then I joined various Facebook groups that were tailored to my specific needs as a single parent kindergarten teacher and the locations I was considering (UAE was my first choice) I have heard great things about being abroad. The opportunity to save and travel. The tax free salary was also very tempting. I also did not want to get burnt out as a teacher and I wanted to continue to love teaching. So I took a leap!

 

BMA: How long do you plan on living abroad?

I plan to stay abroad and possibly teach in various countries and retire in either Thailand or Ecuador.

BMA: What do you miss most about home?

I am going to miss my family, food, American comfort and all four seasons.

 

BMA: What advice can you share with families thinking of moving abroad?

Advice I would give and have given is – go for it! You will never be fully ready just decide what you want out of the whole experience. Pick a country apply and go for it. Is it scary? Yep however the experience is going to, far outweigh the fear.

BMA: How do your kids feel about living abroad? Were they born abroad?

My daughter is excited about going abroad. She was happy that her school will have a pool and she gets to go to school with me. She is watching me and how I am responding to it all. As long as I am calm and happy about it she’ll be open to everything. I have explained to her she can still talk to family and even got her a cell phone. She wants to travel and have fun.

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BMA: What’s your advice for moms who are thinking of traveling with kids?

My advice for mothers traveling with kids is similar to thinking about moving abroad. Make a plan and go for it. Involve the kids in the process. Ask them where they want to go. Make it an adventure.

 

 

 

 

BMA: What’s your traveling style? Are you spontaneous or detail-oriented?

My travel depends on my mood. I like to have a general idea and be flexible with what I will see and do. As long as we both have fun, I am okay.

BMA: What were you most anxious/nervous about moving abroad?

I was most nervous about moving to a new country. I was on an emotional roller coaster. One minute I’m happy and excited. The next minute I am questioning my own sanity. It is a whole new world. I don’t think I could be fully prepared for this experience so I keep an open mind and focus on the positive.

BMA: Did you feel prepared?

I felt as prepared as I was going to get. I downsized my apartment and I tried not to stress. When I do got overwhelmed I prayed and wrote in my blog. I was in contact with the school and it helped tremendously and calmed my anxiety. My school contact was also a single mom so that made me feel just a little better about going abroad.

BMA: What has been the hardest part with planning an International Move?

The hardest part was the transitions. My lease was up June 20 and school ended in June. So I had to move and downsize a two-bedroom apartment. I gave away a lot of stuff. I threw away just as much.

 

BMA: Can you tell us how you landed your contract abroad?

I landed my job after about a month and half of searching. I decided months prior that I wanted to go overseas. I had tossed the idea around for years but I finally said enough is enough time to confront my fears. I applied through one of the free recruiting companies that everyone talks about. I had a preliminary interview but everything kinda of came to a halt. I then paid for a website on a Friday evening and by Monday I had three interviews. Two weeks later I was offered a job. Kuwait was not on my list. I almost didn’t accept it. I took a deep breath and I signed my offer. The authentication process was daunting and time consuming. I ended up paying one of the companies to finish it for me. I left August 15, 2016 for my new adventure and chapter in my life.

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BMA: What are your top 3 hopes to living abroad? 

1. Save to retire abroad.

2. Get out of debt.

3. Have an experience of a lifetime.

BMA: Did your family support your move? 

My family and friends have been very supportive in my decision. I was able to answer all their questions which shows to them that I have done my research and I was not doing this without giving much thought to it.

BMA: What did you do with all of your belongings?

I gave away stuff. I sold stuff. I left stuff at my mom’s house. Figuring out what to do with my stuff was one of the hardest and easiest thing to do. I realized I am a pack-rat every time I move. You just don’t realize how much stuff you have until you have to pack it up and move. However, I paced myself and when I gave it away or sold it or decided to leave it I was at peace with it all. I have decided that if it doesn’t fit in two large pieces of luggage and our carry-on bags then we don’t need it and it won’t go with us.

BMA: How can we follow your journey?

Instagram: @melissah8199

Twitter: @lizb81

Blog: elizabeth8199.wordpress.com


Thoughts on Melissa’s interview? Comment below!

Brown Girl Abroad: Yinka

Brown Girl Abroad Interview Series

We’re back!!! Excited to introduce my friend Yinka to you. Yinka and I actually connected through my blog back in 2015. She relocated to Hong Kong about 2 months after me. We became instant friends and I’m so thankful that I’ve known her during my transition year in Hong Kong. Meet Yinka 🙂


BMA: Introduce yourself!

My name is Yinka, I’m 35 years old from London, UK. I’ve been living in Hong Kong with my husband for over a year, this is my first experience of living in another country which has always been a lifelong dream of mine. I love to travel and explore different cultures which has also helped me learn more about myself and the world around me. The natural world is an extraordinarily beautiful place that I want to see with my own eyes.

 

BMA: What age did you receive your passport?

I received my first passport aged 14 as my mother had planned a trip to Jamaica.

BMA: Do you speak or are you currently learning a language other than English?

Unfortunately I don’t speak any other language fluently but I always learn phrases before trips to non-English speaking countries so I can greet locals and express gratitude.

BMA: Did you meet your husband abroad or in your home country?

I met my husband in London though he is from another country (France) himself.

BMA: Can you list all the countries you’ve traveled to?

So far the countries I’ve visited are:

1. Barbados

2. Belgium

3. Cambodia

4. China

5. Cyprus

6. Denmark

7. Egypt

8. France

9. Germany

10. Greece

11. Hong Kong

12. Italy

13. Jamaica

14. Japan

15. Laos

16. Macau

17. Martinique

18. Netherlands

19. Portugal

20. Saint Lucia

21. Spain

22. South Korea

23. Thailand

24. USA

25. Vietnam

 

BMA: What made you decide to live abroad?

My husband was looking for another job so I encouraged him to look abroad, he also wanted a change in country so it was the perfect opportunity for the both of us.

BMA: How long do you plan on living abroad?

We plan on living abroad indefinitely; my husbands career is the decider. Although, if an opportunity arises in Europe that’s worthwhile then we would consider it. We are better off living in Hong Kong than the UK since the recent Brexit vote for the UK to no longer be part of the European Union. This has contributed to us not going back considering my husband’s French nationality could make things more difficult to return to the UK in the future.

BMA: Have you experienced any discrimination traveling abroad?

I’ve never experienced any discrimination since living abroad just curiosity which I found strange given Hong Kong is a modern city with millions of foreign visitors each year. Strangely, I have not had this experience when travelling to other Asian countries.

BMA: What do you wish you knew before traveling abroad?

Actually there’s nothing I wish I knew before, I have learnt to adapt and deal with a situation if it arises.

BMA: How does your family feel about you living abroad?

My mum and close friends were understandably upset when I first moved but knew this was something I have always dreamed so they are happy for me and very supportive.

BMA: What did you miss most about home?

I obviously miss my close friends. Funnily I also miss my favourite supermarket and how great the value was, here the food shopping is more expensive as literally everything is imported which is reflected in the prices.

BMA: When were you first bitten by the travel bug?

Ever since I was at school I have had the desire to travel, I loved going on school trips and exploring places out of London even if it was just the south coast of Britain. I had a very vivid dream once that I was In New York and never ever imagined I would ever visit in real life but it happened, since then I believed dreams can come true.

BMA: What advice can you share with women thinking of living abroad?

I would say research your new home beforehand and don’t be afraid to take risks. You will be faced with challenges but once you can overcome them the experience and opportunity you have been given is rewarding.

BMA: What is your traveling style?

I like to be organised beforehand and have an itinerary but it depends on the destination, city breaks I’m more detailed and beach holidays more relaxed.

BMA: How do you finance your traveling?

My husband and I finance our trips together though I like to look out for special deals and research when the low season is so that hotels and flights will be cheaper and less crowded.

BMA: How often do you travel?

Before I was married I would travel whenever I could if it was financially possible and if I had a travel companion who wanted to go with me. Now that I’m married we like to take long weekends away, given the proximity to other Asian countries it’s easy to jump on a plane and head off somewhere.

 

BMA: What are your top 3 travel tips for women?

  1. Research the area you’ll be staying in so you know your surroundings.
  2. No need to over pack, it just makes travelling to/from airport/hotel that much easier.
  3. Asking the local people at your destination for recommendations on where to eat, places to visit etc can give you are more authentic experience.

BMA: What are your favorite travel resources?

I always use Tripadvisor for reviews on accommodation, restaurants and places to visit. I always like to read through travel blogs and watch YouTube videos on destination guides.

BMA: Tell us a travel story we’d enjoy!

While on a trip to Macau my husband and I visited the Venetian hotel and casino which is very impressive in size to the point it actually took us over an hour to try to find the way out! We didn’t realise that a number of other hotels were all linked together. My husband looked like he was ready to burst with frustration all the while I was trying not to laugh while marvelling at the sheer size of the place.

BMA: How can we follow your travels?


Thoughts on Yinka’s interview? We’d love to hear from you, comment below!

Interested in being interviewed for Brown Girl Abroad? Let’s connect, comment below or email me!

Traveling Mom: Serena, New York

Traveling Mom Interview Series


BMA: Introduce yourself!capture_2016-11-03-15-22-51-1-1

Hello my name is Serena, I reside in Brooklyn New York. Mother to a six year old girl. By day, I’m an Operations Officer at a not-for-profit, and I freelance on various PR/Marketing and Music projects when time permits.

BMA: What age did you and your kids receive your passport?

Got my passport, the first year it became mandatory, which was 2006. Before that, US citizens could use state i.d. and a birth certificate. My little girl received and got her first passport stamp when she was just a year old

BMA: Do you speak or are you currently learning a language other than English?

I speak conversational Spanish. Before I travel to any place I try to learn basic tourist terms.

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BMA: What city or country is your favorite and least favorite place to visit? Why?

Favorite place I’ve traveled to so far is Thailand because of the food, the hospitality and cultural pride. I’d say my least favorite place traveled to was Doha, Qatar. Honestly, it’s mostly because it was just a layover so didn’t get to absorb much of the city. I lost my DSLR camera there as well, which REALLY put a damper on my perception. I’m willing to visit again, as my issues were internal for the most part and has nothing to do with the city.

BMA: Why bring the kids?wmoms5

I believe that much of what we learn is through experience. Because it’s an experience, several senses are involved, so information is absorbed better. As parents, it’s our job to teach our children about the world that we live in. Not only about their day to day life, but what it’s like to live in this world as someone else. The more we understand about each other, the easier it is to coexist. So now I ask you…. Do you think you would prefer sitting in a classroom learning about the history of country, or actually going and experiencing life in that country?  The taste of the food, hearing the authentic music, seeing the architecture, can’t be captured/described in a textbook. I’m no professor, so don’t quote me. These are just my beliefs 🙂

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BMA: Have you had any negative experiences traveling with kids?

There were two things that happened when we went to Brazil that really affected me from a parental perspective. While in Rio, my bank continuously denied my transactions and withdrawal attempts which led me to constantly having to be on the phone with them in the middle of the street with my child. Rio is not exactly the safest city in the world, so I was really upset, yet tried to remain alert and aware of my surroundings while I worked through the issue with my bank.

The other situation was with TAM airlines. I flew there with my partner and our child, but somehow, the airlines separated us and my daughter and I had to sit next to stranger who gave me funny vibes (it’s mommy thing) on a full plane for 10 hours. Would you believe, no one wanted to switch seats? Most of the people on my plane were families as well, so I understand. I had to keep my child in my lap the entire flight home, while trying to sleep lightly, standing guard. I arrived back to NY with red eyes and a crook in my neck. My baby got some sleep though, so that’s what really matters.

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BMA: Tell us when you were first bitten by the ‘travel bug’. 

The November after 9/11. I had never been on a plane before that. My cousin who is also a best friend of mine had recently moved down to North Carolina. We would spend hours and hours on the phone to try to compensate for lost face to face time. It was  the trip to visit her that got me on my first flight ever. It was short and ideal for a first time flier. It [9/11] gave me motivation to get over my fear of flying. I haven’t been able to stay grounded since.wmoms2

BMA: List all the cities or countries visited. 

I’ll try 🙂

  1. U.S.A: Nevada / Georgia / North Carolina / South Carolina/ Washington DC / Florida / Maine / Rhode Island / Pennsylvania/ New York
  2. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  3. Negril & Ocho Rios, Jamaica
  4. Bermuda
  5. St. Martin
  6. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  7. Cancun, Mexico
  8. Rio de Janeiro & Sao Paulo, Brazil
  9. Abu Dhabi & Dubai, UAE
  10. Doha, Qatar
  11. Thailand: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Phi Phi Islandsimage2

BMA: What do you wish you knew before you decided to start traveling?

I wish I would’ve joined all of my travel reward incentive programs earlier. I only started a few years ago. The only thing that mattered to me back then, was booking the next flight. I can only imagine the amount of points/rewards I’d have by now.

BMA: How do your kid/s feel about traveling?capture_2016-11-03-15-22-35-1-1

My daughter loves traveling. It’s exciting and of course, it’s time off from our normal day to day lives (work/school).

BMA: What’s your advice for parents who are thinking of traveling with kids?

When planning and prepping for your vacation, keep in mind that’s, although it’s a vacation from life, it’s also  normal day to day life in some ways, just NOT in your own home. This way you’ll be fully prepared. It may be vacation from the day job and the daily commute, when your babies are with you, it’s NOT a vacation from being MOMMY.

BMA: How do you finance your traveling?

I use my own earned income. Each destination I decide to travel to, I research beforehand. My research covers peak and off peak travel times, flight frequency to local airports, local currency strength etc. From that information I gather, I determine what average costs would be, and begin planning from there. Some of my travel dates are pre-planned (school recess) while others might me more spontaneous or based upon a deal found.

wmoms1BMA: How often do you travel?

We travel at least three times a year (a combination of international and domestic travel).

BMA: What are your top 3 travel tips for parents?

  1. When booking travel, consider all parties involved. Their needs, interests, and possible costs. This will keep everyone happy!
  2. I always start my planning from my interests/activities. I believe this helps with deciding lodging. The closer you are to your activities, the more money you save on transportation.
  3. When booking hotels and resorts, always investigate any incentive programs and/or promotions before you go. I’ve been able to take advantage of deals before my trip simply my subscribing to newsletters/promotions.  Another way to save money!

BMA: What are your favorite travel resources?

A few of mine are: hopper.com, kayak.com, tripadvisor.com, fly.com

BMA: What’s your traveling style?

Very detailed planner. I know what I want to get out of my travels, so by planning every detail myself, I ensure that. (Control freak much? Lol)

BMA: Tell us a travel story we’d enjoy!

While in Dubai, we stayed on JBR walk, which is near the beach. One night while taking a late night stroll (due to the 8 hour time difference) my family stumbled upon a capture_2016-11-03-15-22-17-1televised/sponsored break dancing competition being held on the boardwalk. So we decided to spectate. Our little one who was 5 at the time, began to show some of her own moves. A few of the event organizers spotted her in the crowd, and then escorted her to the front and into the event, beyond the red ropes to dance alongside the stage (leaving both her dad and I on the OTHER side of the ropes) We found it funny and pretty much laughed at the ordeal, as we were allowed to stand close by, so no worries. The perks of having a talented kid!

BMA: How can we follow your travels?

Instagram

Twitter

www.prittyandthecity.com

wmoms4


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