Being pregnant

An overseas pregnancy

Our new Pregnant Pause blogger writes about her experiences as a mom-to-be — while thousands of miles away from her hometown.

Photo: Cara Waterfall

As Karen Robock nears her due date, our former Editorial Coordinator, Cara Waterfall, will take over Pregnant Pause and share her experiences of being pregnant in West Africa.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in at a hospital in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on tenterhooks before my appointment with my new gynaecologist. I could just make out the shadowy figure of Dr. Zumelzu, but had little idea of what to expect from The Man Behind The Frosted Glass. He was also an hour late for our appointment. I was getting fidgety in his waiting room, which was all cold tile and impersonal, gray walls.

So how did I end up here in West Africa, thousands of miles away from Toronto?

My boyfriend and I had moved here to pursue careers in development and freelance writing, respectively. When we arrived this January, the circuitry of the city flickered before us, alive with promise — even the Christmas lights were still up.

Further along the highway, a sign cheerily told me: “With Maggi, every woman is a star.” The goddess of instant soups and stocks was a vision of hope, neon-lit.

However, everything I had read about Abidjan told me to be wary of the city. Last spring, civil war erupted for the second time in a decade when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to President-elect Alassane Ouattara. The country is still suffering the aftershocks.

But I’ve been living here for eight months and what’s printed in newspapers is pretty far removed from my day-to-day life — although now, in my 19th week of pregnancy, I’m about to see this city in a whole new light.

When I found out I was pregnant, I had done my initial pregnancy consultation in Toronto in July and then met with two gynaecologists in France during my August vacation; now I was sharing my pregnancy details with a third stranger. Good grief. There wasn’t a lot of glamour in being pregnant overseas if this was what passed for continuity!

My doctor, Mme Succar, had recommended Dr. Z. She is a French-born woman who has lived in Abidjan for the better part of her life and one of the few French doctors I’ve met who speaks at a normal speed.

?”Dr. Z is the best in the city — thorough, meticulous,” she informed me crisply. “He’ll make sure you get all your checkups.”

I trusted her instincts, but still entered the hospital with some trepidation. What if I didn’t like him? What if he had the bedside manner of an iceberg? Plus this appointment would be in French — a language that I can speak, but which regularly throws linguistic hurdles in my path. Thankfully, my boyfriend was there to serve as translator, hospital navigator and crutch.

When Dr. Z finally emerged from his office, I saw a man with an aura of energy that seemed to make his peppery hair stand on end.

As soon as we sat in his office, he peppered me with questions while I peppered him with paperwork. He was friendly, spoke rapid-fire French and had that startling efficiency and eidetic memory that many doctors display when they’re analyzing you for the first time.

He spoke about delivering his children’s babies, how his daughter had also become a gynaecologist and joked with me during the ultrasound about how the baby was a mover and shaker. In short, he was more than competent — he was even charming.

As Dr. Z rattled on about pregnancy dos and don’ts, I felt myself relax ever so slightly in my chair. He also presented me with my first Carnet de maternité (Maternity Notebook), which he delivered with the officialdom of a dean bestowing a university diploma.

But the notebook did more than provide me with a pregnancy guide; I finally had the sense that there would be some orderliness to the coming months.

And afterwards, of course, I expected nothing short of mayhem.

I would love to know: Did any of you spend your pregnancy in a foreign country? If so, what were some of your experiences?