I know I’ve gone quiet on the blog over the past seven months.
Perhaps it’s been because I’ve been focusing on growing a little human…but that would be a lie. We are, in fact, expecting our first baby in London at the end of June (so soon!) but during this time I have had plenty to write about.
We’ve moved apartments, been to Ireland twice to visit family and have spent weekends getting ready for the new baby and exploring London now that the sun is finally shining!
To be honest, I’ve been thinking of lots of things to share with you but wondering if any of them were worth publishing or if they would really be helpful to readers, including past, present or future expats.
Before I get into it, here is a recent photo from a day trip to Greenwich. I’ve been visiting lots of galleries, restaurants and parks this past winter and spring (hello cultured baby).
I will admit I was terrified of being pregnant in London at first.
It’s not that I was caught by surprise, but it’s not a city for the faint-hearted.
I experienced culture shock when we first moved here: the crowds, the vastness of the city, the number and variety of people, the endless options of activities. These things are all positives but I think it took me a while to adjust and I am still working on it.
I am lucky in that I don’t commute regularly and battle the crowds each work day because I’ve found if you’re not careful, it can have a tendency to bring out the worst in you. I had romantic visions of how much easier it would be to be pregnant in Canada or Ireland: glowing amongst the helpful and courteous strangers, the comforts of being close to family and friends and all things familiar, including the food.
From the perspective of what it’s like to be expecting my first baby as an expat in London, I think it’s best to share my experience so far.
Things I have been grateful for:
- Fashion options: the number of secondhand charity stores with fabulous clothing, to save you the trauma of maternity shopping in overpriced department stores with limited selection. But when you feel up to it, there are loads of high street options to help you adapt your wardrobe to accommodate your new buddy. However, I will say that since things change so rapidly, it’s best to have a budget in mind – I am told this applies to all things baby-related (clothes, nappies/diapers, toys)!
- On demand everything: while some people view the endless take away chains, online grocery ordering, task rabbit-type services and same-day delivery options as slowly chipping away at our society’s ability to socialise, function at a basic level in public and organise your life without the help of the internet, these are all moot points to a pregnant lady. We don’t have a car in London, I cannot carry as many grocery bags as I used to and to be honest, bending over to use a dustpan these days is a struggle. I would like to publicly thank all of the local small businesses, start-ups and big chains for offering delivery and actually carrying said items through my flat for me. With your help, we’ve managed to set up for the new arrival without having to drive one km.
- Passive-aggressive transit cues: the cute little complimentary ‘Baby on Board!’ button, which you can get from Transport for London to announce to the other commuters that you are ‘with child’ and silently ask, “can you please give me your seat so the baby and I don’t have to struggle to regain our balance in between transit stops?”. Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of head down commuters who ignore expecting women but the majority of people I’ve encountered (women especially) have been compassionate for a city as large as London. This is especially helpful before you are properly showing, since people will not start commenting until you are noticeabley large. Thanks to this button, I have had many seat offers, questions from grocery store cashiers and understanding smiles from other women.
- Access to care: the NHS has been very helpful, with a nice booklet provided to mark my appointments and notes in, check-ups every few weeks and access to GP, midwifery and hospital care all within my local neighbourhood.
- Kind strangers: getting free advice at the bus stop and my local café in a city where people avoid eye contact at all costs is a big deal. Since sporting the new bump, I have had lots of congratulations, questions and even been wished well on my journey to becoming a mum by the smiling staff at Nando’s after a Friday lunch. I started taking a casual art class and after barely introducing myself to the group, had invitations to bring the newborn baby along when I’m home on leave so I can keep painting!
- Future opportunities: this city has loads of young families and the quality of services in each catchment area initially caught me off guard. From pregnancy/mother and baby yoga and breastfeeding cafés to playgroups, free library story time, baby swim classes and buggy (pram/stroller) walking clubs, there is something on offer for all schedules.
We have decided to stay here in London for the time being and while I never imagined having a baby in a city so big, I have been pleasantly surprised. There are plenty of other people in the same situation as me: living in an apartment, having their first child in one of the world’s biggest cities and navigating both life as an expat and a new parent at the same time.
It’s humbling to know that I am not unique, it has been done before and there are ways to adapt your life to a new baby and a new city, with plenty of local services ready and willing to help you cope.
We have all of our supplies ready to go, much the same as we would have in Canada or Ireland. The in-laws are planning their summer visits and there is talk of our first family trip to visit our homelands but for now that is all it is…talk. We’re focusing on settling into our cosy London flat, meeting our new neighbours and joining our local group of mums and dads.
Since it’s Mother’s Day in Canada today, we have had a weekend of mini celebrations in the sunshine which included visits to our local market, gardening and gelato. Reminders of what is really important in life: time with loved ones, being outside in nature and enjoying simple pleasures.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of Mums, Moms, Mams, Mas, Mammies, Grans, Grannies, Nans and Grandmas (including Great)! I hope you’ve had a nice weekend full of love and little moments wherever you are and whomever you’ve been spending it with.
P.S. I’ve been reading a few things to prepare me for future life as a mum and I absolutely adore Cup of Jo’s blog. If you’re expecting, planning to have a baby or are in the thick of new parenthood, she has a whole section full of helpful Motherhood posts. Best of luck on your journey and if I encounter you along the way, I promise to offer you my seat, congratulations and a friendly, knowing smile.