Preparing for Baby Overseas during a Pandemic

On New Year’s Day 2020 as most of the world was making resolutions and naively promising to make this the “best year yet!”, my husband and I discovered some extra determination and hope for that promise to be true. We found ourselves in the doorway of our tiny bathroom blinking back tears as we stared at the positive pregnancy test. What a way to start the new year… and new decade! A new little life was forming inside me and I had not been ready for how happy that actually made me. We had questioned whether this was “a good time for our family” and I honestly did not have even a hint of baby fever up to that point but in that moment all those doubts were overshadowed by this great feeling of joy.

Fast forward 5.5 months and I’m in my pajamas in the middle of the day (which day exactly I’m not sure), probably sweating because we live in a tropical climate without air conditioning, wondering what mess of a world I actually had the nerve to bring this little human into. I was already anxious considering just what preparing for my first baby while overseas in a developing country would entail, but then life had to throw a global pandemic into the mix.

As most humans around the world have had to do this year: we’ve had to change some of our plans. I’m not experiencing the kind of pregnancy I expected to have (health-wise I’m great thank God) and I won’t have the kind of birth I had imagined most of my life. In part, this comes with the territory of living as a missionary/expat in a foreign country. Add being married to someone not from your home country and you already have a recipe for a lot of unconventionality and unpredictability. But throw in the global pandemic and at this point I am just surviving in the hazy whirlwind of a complete loss of control. Whereas before, this might have made me anxious, right now I am hands-in-the-air, Jesus-take-the-wheel accepting it.

It reminds me of a favorite verse from Proverbs that says, “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.” (19:21 The Message paraphrase)

Can we all stick that on a mirror?! How real is that verse for this beyond-strange year?

Of course it’s so human of us to shake our fist to the sky and demand, “Why me?! What exactly is your purpose in this?” (side note: a global pandemic is far larger than the inconveniences it causes to our personal plans yet God in His sovereignty has a specific purpose and lesson to teach us in every disruption or tragedy we go through)

My running list of questions for God is as follows:

  • Why can’t my husband and I travel to my country together? (I won’t go into this very personal issue but I’ve written previously on how fickle the U.S. immigration system is)
  • Why are international borders still currently closed – making round trip commercial flights and international shipping almost impossible? No easy way to visit family during my pregnancy and return to my home abroad / husband, no way to fundraise for our organization and our growing family as missionaries as we had planned, no way to shop for gadgets or products, no way to ship anything from online retailers.
  • Why has my entire second trimester been in law-enforced lockdown?
  • And even as I mourn these seemingly insignificant yet real losses I worry about those around me suffering from legitimate crises like food insecurity and violence – Why, God?
Again, the overwhelming answer seems to be: give it over to me. My purpose prevails.
With all of that said, here is how I am preparing for baby boy in the small ways within my ability:
  • I am reading a lot! I’m learning about childbirth and our miraculous bodies and nurture parenting. I’m especially interested in how I can create a safe and secure environment for my child’s emotional and cognitive development.
  • I can’t do a lot of nesting right now (we don’t have room for a nursery where we currently live, and right now we can’t – and possibly won’t – buy much baby furniture/equipment) but I’m dreaming and planning to change and rearrange a few things around our small rental house to better accommodate a new baby. We aspire to a minimalist lifestyle and plan to stick to that even after the little one arrives.
  • I’m talking to him, singing to him, and praying for him – just not specifically by name since we don’t have that picked out yet. I already feel such a bond and deep love for him that I can’t imagine the sensation of finally holding him in my arms!

I am also preparing myself mentally to feel naturally maternal in some ways and completely inadequate in others. I’m preparing for the great responsibility of molding and teaching this little “clean slate” of a human, yet remaining open enough to learn from what this completely “other” being is able to teach me. I cannot predict his temperament nor affinities nor physical appearance. I’m prepared for much of our parenting lessons to be on-the-spot learning. I’ve felt a deeper love for my husband in the last few months and I’ve been reading and reflecting on how to nurture and prioritize our marriage relationship postpartum as well. I don’t want it to be put on the back burner as I’ve heard couples complain of before.

Some parts of cross-cultural parenting, and being far from family, seem daunting since I don’t have much personal reference other than a few other moms I’ve met recently. A couple friends and I have joked about eventually writing a book because I haven’t found a good one on the topic of cross-cultural parenting (parents from different cultures) yet. (send book recs if you know of any!)

With the extra down time due to ten weeks of lockdown in Honduras because of COVID, I’ve been able to journal, reflect, and analyze with my husband on different upbringing and parenting styles. I think this is a challenge enough for homogeneous couples that are just from two separate homes but the subtle differences in expectations and value systems and traditions of two people from different countries/cultures trying to make decisions as a united front for their child might require a little more intentionality. May God grant me patience, humility, and stamina for the challenge ahead.

I might write more in-depth on some thoughts I’ve had about preparing for cross-cultural (and bilingual) parenting so for now I’ll leave the topic at this. Please send thoughts, questions, or resources on any of the above!

For now, I am honestly enjoying this pregnancy stage so much. Carrying this precious baby boy and feeling him move and kick inside my womb has already been the greatest gift. I am praying for the next three months to go smoothly and that this time would serve to form and prepare my husband and me into the kind of parents that the Lord would have us be for this little one.