This title is a bit misleading. I actually don’t have a clue how to have a baby in Beirut but, at five months pregnant, I have some time to figure it out.
Here’s what I know so far:
1. Get your shit together
When you first find out you’re going to be a parent, you start to wonder if you should try to be a better person. Then you get distracted by the logistics of actually having a baby.
Not sure if your insurance covers maternity and delivery? If you’re an expat working for and insured by a Lebanese company, it most likely doesn’t (I learned this the hard way). Having a baby in Lebanon is a fraction of the cost of doing it in the U.S. without insurance, but it still ain’t cheap. Do your research and consider your options, both here and at home, if you come from a magical land with free healthcare. And don’t ever assume you understand how the system here works – you’ll be surprised every time.
Before you got pregnant, an evacuation plan probably wasn’t a topic of dinner conversation. But with Lebanon always on edge, it’s good to talk through with your partner what you would do if tensions escalate at various stages of your pregnancy. Keep in mind that most (all?) airlines have restrictions on flying in your third trimester, and I’m not sure how a government evacuation works if you’ve reached the waddling stage. The last thing you want to be stressed about is the obscure what ifs, so come up with a precautionary strategy while you can still see your feet.
2. Speed-date doctors
This seems obvious, but find one you trust. Don’t settle for someone you aren’t 100% comfortable with, even if it takes some shopping around.
I ended up taking a chance on a guy recommended by my primary care doctor. Everyone goes to him! He’s on TV!
By the first appointment I knew he wasn’t the right fit for me: communicating more comfortably in French, never inquiring about my medical history, not telling me my due date (in the excitement of it all, I forgot to ask) and rushing us out were deal breakers. I actually agonized over the next appointment and, overcome by
emotion hormones, cried to my bewildered husband about it. So what if everyone loves him? I didn’t, and I didn’t go back.
I decided to try out someone else and knew within 30 seconds that I’d made the right call. So I lost time “interviewing” the first doctor. In the end, this is someone you’re going to spend the next nine months with, and some of it without pants on. Comfort and compatibility trump wasted time.
3. Find a friend
Forget the outdated local resources that come up in Google and stick to Facebook. I recently discovered a treasure trove of mom groups covering everything from basic parenting questions and breastfeeding to healthy lunchbox recipes. Most are closed so join a few and stick around the groups you find most useful. Here are a few of my favorites:
Moms Around Beirut By far the most helpful group I’ve joined, this one stands out for its “files”: lists of OB/GYNs, pediatricians, preschools and even public green spaces around Lebanon. The members are all enthusiastic and friendly, though you may want to turn off the notifications if you don’t want your feed to be all baby, all the time.
Mother Support Lebanon A general support group for pregnancy and motherhood, created by breastfeeding specialist Joanna El Zein Nawfal. Ask questions by post or anonymously via direct message. Admins have expertise in breastfeeding, early childhood education and nutrition.
Babywearing Beirut Babywearing Beirut promotes itself as a place to meet, discuss different carriers, organize outings, spread awareness and just hang out with other babywearers. It’s especially fascinating if this is your first pregnancy and you’ve never thought about things like trying to breastfeed while wearing your baby.
Mommy Classifieds A private mother-to-mother marketplace in Beirut, Lebanon. Like most classifieds, you’ll have to sort through a lot of junk to find a gently used Avent baby blender or a brand new Medela breast pump, but patience pays off.
Raising Bilingual/Multilingual Children A global group that seems to have particular relevance in Lebanon. If, like me, you grew up around just one language, it’s equal parts encouraging and overwhelming. And if you thought it was as easy as just speaking whatever language you feel like speaking on any given day, you were wrong (Google OPOL and ML@H to see what I mean).
4. School yourself
As Oscar Wilde said, you can never be overdressed or overeducated. Since being overdressed is unlikely by your third trimester, stick to the education. I haven’t tried either of these classes – yet – but I’ve heard great feedback from both.
Hypnobirthing with Duna Childbirth sounds terrifying, especially when there’s a baby inside you that will eventually have to come out. This particular practice of hypnotherapy claims to minimize stress and fear, in turn reducing pain. I won’t know for a few more months if it works, but I’d give birth upside-down if it promised to hurt less.
Le Leche League Lebanon Le Leche League International‘s Lebanon chapter holds regular breastfeeding workshops. Run by certified lactation consultants Nadiya Dragan El-Chiti, Tamara Drenttel Brand, and Joelle Farkh, meetings cover the basics (discomfort, supplies, etc.) but also things like what role your partner plays in the experience. Councilors also offer free support by telephone and email.
Are you pregnant in Lebanon? If you have any (much-appreciated) tips, tricks, or more questions, please leave them in the comments.
Images courtesy of deliacreates.com, ensuus.blogspot.nl and tradeja.net