10 Reasons This Pregnant Lady Misses Home {And 10 Reasons She Continues to Make this Foreign Land Her New Home}

I am the grumpiest pregnant woman there ever was. I can say that, my husband can’t. Being pregnant in a place that is not my home seems to make the normal everyday Africa complications somehow cosmic.

The electricity going out before baking cookies seems to bring the whole world to an end. Having to walk half a mile because there are no mini buses sends me into a fit of crying. Rain flooding one of the bedrooms would normally just make me dig deep; instead I flop on the couch and scroll through Instagram. Plus, everyone is making me mad and hurting my feelings.

In my current state it is easy to rattle off 10 things I miss about my homeland, America:

  1. Hot high-pressured showers and a big hot bath with lavender sea-salt.
  2. Air conditioning.
  3. Arugula and restaurants that serve salad on every corner.
  4. Pizza, ice cream, Cheez-its, Doritos, queso, cheddar cheese on crackers. I am going to stop now because I am making myself hungry.
  5. Fast internet, streaming movies.
  6. Trader Joes, pre-made meals and drive-thru.
  7. My mom, sisters and conversations with tea on the porch talking about the baby and reviewing name options. Friends in general.
  8. A girls’ weekend in Colorado, the beaches of San Diego, my parents’ farm in North Carolina and the mountains of Utah.
  9. One of my best friend’s weddings this summer.
  10. Retail therapy and Amazon Prime.

What is much harder right now is to remember why we came here and remind myself why I chose to stay in this place. I am not forced to be here. My husband did not drag me here. God did not twist my arm. This was my decision and my husband and I continue to make that decision with each passing month.

This is our new home and we will continue to make it home for these 10 reasons:

  1. We feel called to this place and God paved the way for us to be here. Just as he paved the way for the Israelites to enter the promised land. There are days I feel abandoned in the desert, like the Israelites were for 40 years, but they learned to look for daily manna as I am learning to look for daily manna.
  2. This is our dream and I can’t see us doing anything else. It is hard to picture my husband in an office from 9-5pm. It’s hard to picture myself as the soccer mom redecorating our suburban house. A happy fulfilled husband is literally priceless and though there are days we both want to throw in the towel, we have to remind ourselves, this is our dream.
  3. We love the adventure and the challenge. We love this crazy life we live. Camels outside our compound, navigating a foreign language, learning a new culture, dressing in traditional wear, discovering new lands. We are thrill-seekers and there is literally never a boring moment in this place.
  4. Raising our children in this culture. I really hope that the Lord keeps us overseas for the next 10-15 years. I want my children exposed to other ways of life. I want them to understand the importance of serving people. I want my children to learn to adapt to the new and unfamiliar, and adventure with us into the unknown.
  5. Being able to offer friends and family a new experience. It is so much fun to me to be able to offer an epic vacation to friends and family. Because we live here, people we love can be exposed to new foods, new cultures, and new adventures that they would otherwise not have access to.
  6. This place has strengthened our marriage. The second week we were married we moved into our new house with only one working faucet and no working toilets or showers. Daily we face challenges together and daily we look each other in the eyes, sometime full of tears, and push deeper on into marriage and each other.
  7. My perspective of the world. I am constantly learning and my perspectives are being challenged. Life has a lot of grey patches that are hard to label as black or white, but love applies to it all. I encounter beauty and pain in the same moment and the same person.
  8. My puppy, my chickens, and my friend Rahel who helps me in the house. She has literally become a sister. We eat lunch and do yoga together. Because she helps with the cooking and cleaning I can spend more time writing.
  9. We like ourselves better in Africa. I am less petty and jealous. I don’t compare my body every second to yoga moms heading to the beach in bikinis. I am comfortable in what this place lets me be and become. We are less consumeristic. Maybe it’s cheating, but I love not having to keep up with the Joneses.
  10. Slow internet, power outages, limited water, and narrowed options helped me listen to the rhythms of life and slow down, take a deep breath and remember who I am.

What are you missing about home and why do you continue to stay?

23 Comments

  1. Michele July 16, 2017

    Number 9 on the second list! I don’t know that I’ve ever put it in those words even in my head, but I do like myself better in Asia. And number 10 is another reason I hope I am called to serve overseas for many, many more years! I’m in America for the summer and enjoying many of the things in the first list, knowing I have them only for these few weeks. But the things on the second one definitely draw me back!

    1. Elizabeth Spencer July 17, 2017

      Thank you Michele for reading and relating! its so good to remember these things even when I am not pregnant! hahahaha Where are you living abroad?

      1. Michele July 18, 2017

        They definitely apply all the time! I can’t imagine having the intensity pregnancy must bring to the longings for comforts of ‘home,’ though I am old enough now to be experiencing some other hormonal changes that make it harder! 😉 I started out in 93 teaching MKs in Africa and thought I’d do it my whole life. I don’t think I’ve ever met a TCK I didn’t like! I moved to Indonesia in 97 and have been in South Asia most of the time since then- the last five years in Kathmandu, Nepal.

  2. Annalisa July 17, 2017

    See…I don’t find it that tough being pregnant (in Guatemala). Sure, there are problems with the hospital and whatnot, but since I have nothing (but the movies) to compare it to, it’s not a big deal. I recently read a book called “Knocked Up Abroad” (not that I liked the title) which was quite interesting about the experiences other expat women have had in other countries; some had home country experiences to compare them to and some didn’t.

    1. Elizabeth Spencer July 17, 2017

      Sounds like a great book! I am going to check it out!!! I need all the help I can get. hahahahaha Are you pregnant now? how many weeks? Congrats!!

        1. Elizabeth Spencer July 18, 2017

          You are almost there!!! I am 26 weeks. woot woot!!! Are you delivering in Guatemala? I am always so interested of women living abroad figure delivery out.

          1. Annalisa July 18, 2017

            Yay! Congratulations to you too!

            They say you’re not supposed to fly after 35 weeks; so unless there was some emergency that flying me back to the States could somehow fix and my doctor would sign off on it and the airline would be okay with, I’ll be delivering in Guatemala. For us, a big deciding factor was that my husband is a local working a normal job. If we had planned to give birth in the US, I would have flown up 2 weeks ago while he stayed here, and then I would have been there until the baby could get a passport and be registered as a Guatemalan born abroad and gotten their Guatemalan passport. All-in-all, it would have been at least 3 months that I would have been separated from my husband, and he would have missed at least the first 2 months of our child’s life; I decided that wasn’t really fair for anyone and said that short of a medical emergency, I am giving birth in Guatemala. We are opting for a private hospital instead of a public one (or even the one covered by my husband’s medical insurance through work) just because of the level of attention and the ability to have someone with you while you give birth, but basically it’s a normal middle-class Guatemalan birth.

          2. Elizabeth Spencer July 19, 2017

            You are so brave. One of my friends in 33 weeks and she is giving birth in Nicaragua!! I have so much respect for you and I know it will all go great!!!!!! Thanks for sharing your process. It was hard for us to decide what to do. Maybe for the next one I will deliver here. It is hard uprooting real life for three months and not bring the baby home to your home. Good luck! Is this your first?

          3. Annalisa July 19, 2017

            Ha 🙂 I think I’m more stubborn than brave, but thanks. 😀

            I think there are some other factors to consider when making such a decision as well such as how long you’ve been on the field. Admittedly, I didn’t think I’d ever get married when I first came down here; so it wasn’t even something on my radar and this thought is completely hypothetical, but I’ve been down here nearly 7 years and have had a chance to get to know a lot of locals and foreigners who have shared their birth stories with me. It allowed me to make an informed (albeit anecdotal) decision about what I was comfortable (or not) with. Guatemala–and probably Nicaragua–is about 30 years behind the US medically, and I’m 32 years old; so the question for me was “Am I willing to give birth in the same conditions my mother did when she gave birth to me?” I think both my older brother and I turned out okay even if he was a week early and I was two weeks late.

            We had thought about–if I gave birth in the States–for me to stay at my parents’ house. It would have allowed me to bring the baby “home” to something known and comfortable for me even if it wasn’t the baby’s home. They still live in the house I grew up in. I know that’s not an option for everyone in this group though as some grew up abroad and the parents of others have simply moved to a smaller place after their children moved away.

            This is our second pregnancy, but our first baby (hopefully, although it’s not in our arms yet).

          4. Elizabeth Spencer July 20, 2017

            awwww! I am so excited for you. Yes! I big decision. I am going to be with my parents and my husband will come closer to the birth (not that you can plan when the birth is. hahahah). not ideal but the best we could figure out under the circumstance. I bet I will try to stay in ethiopia and maybe head to Addis for the next baby. I know it will be so hard to be apart!! Please keep me updated!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          5. Annalisa July 19, 2017

            On a related note, I was actually working on a “Top 10” post about the “Top 10 Worries of Being a Mother Abroad,” but I didn’t get it done on time for submission. Maybe I’ll finish it in time for The Grove.

          6. Elizabeth Spencer July 20, 2017

            I would love to read that! I need more encouragement on being a mom abroad and how people navigate medicine and vaccinations and all the other concerns!!!

          7. Britney July 31, 2017

            I love your lists. I can relate. I lived in Haiti for three years. I actually was married there (to a Haitian) and gave birth to our first born. (We have since moved the US and had two more babies.) I just wanted to chime in and say that while living abroad adds another layer to making decisions like where to give birth and which vaccine schedule to follow, it’s almost as complicated in your passport country. As far as medication and vaccines go, ask people in your community for pediatrician recommendations and then follow that doctor’s advice. I was skeptical of the medical system in Haiti, but I LOVED our pediatrician. She set my heart at ease at our first appointment by explaining the differences between the Haitian and American vaccine schedules and helping us make informed decisions about which to follow. When we return to Haiti someday, she’ll likely be retired, but we’ll ask our friends for recommendations and find another doctor who is willing to help us make informed decisions (and who speaks English because I don’t know that I’ll ever feel comfortable doing my kids doctor’s appointments in another language).

          8. Elizabeth Spencer August 4, 2017

            This is so encouraging and helpful!!! Thank you for sharing. I definitely need help figuring all this out and I love your advise!!!!!

  3. Amy Young July 17, 2017

    Elizabeth thanks for not one but two lists :)! It is good when we are able to see how God is using a place for our good and his glory:)!

  4. Nancy July 17, 2017

    Elizabeth, you have portrayed accurately and gracefully the love-hate relationships that we all have with living overseas. Yet we stay, because we are called and the love we have for the One who calls us, outweighs the down days. Keep on, keeping on. After 25 years I can say that while I still miss the other world when I am here or there, the fruit I have seen from building long term relationships has made me glad I stayed. I am blessed. And I am so glad that we raised out child overseas.

    1. Elizabeth Spencer July 18, 2017

      Awww. I love this. so good to hear from people that have journeyed farther and are thankful for the path. Thank you for the encouragement! Where are you based?

  5. Amy Flores August 2, 2017

    I am loving all of your posts and have read so many, even though I just discovered your writings yesterday. I feel that He led me to your site. I was overseas as a M in Honduras when I met my husband. We married and had our daughter, and she was born there. I remember how agonizing the decision was about which country to have her in, the pros/cons of both, etc. In the end, I opted to have her there because I wanted him to be able to be a part of the entire process and to be able to be present when she was born, and he had ownership of a family business and could not leave at that time. Additionally, I did not want to leave my work months earlier than I would have to if I stayed. The decision worked out well for us, though I missed having my Mom with me throughout the pregnancy, among other sacrifices. We had her in a 24-hour clinic where I was literally the only patient there at that time, so I benefited from the attention of all the medical staff. I found a fantastic doctor through word-of-mouth with the locals – she was Christian, had a great reputation as a doctor and as a woman, and she was literally one of the only doctors who was truly a doctor and not a veterinarian doubling as an doctor. When the time came to have her, I felt great, so my Mother-in-Law and I walked to the “hospital,” with locals saying kind words to me along the way. My hospital room was so roomy that all of my husband’s family (20+ people), some students and their parents, and local friends were all there when we returned to my room (THAT had its pros/cons, believe me, LOL!!). We moved to the U.S. at the end of 2015. Other than Honduras, my husband had never traveled or seen much, so these past two years have been a new adventure for the three of us, as we navigate living in the U.S. together; for me, it is home, but it is also foreign after living abroad for many years and the impact that that has on you (it changes you so much, as you know). I don’t know if we will live in the U.S. forever but it was incredible how He brought us here and how He led us to this point, so we continue to trust Him here same as we did there, with a different culture and pace of life (THE hardest part for me, our American pace!).Thank you for your sincere, honest writing . . . it is your humility, grace, and trust in Him that has kept me reading and intrigued. May He continue to bless you and lead you every step of the way!!! And may His grace, peace, and strength be yours forever!!!

    1. Elizabeth Spencer August 4, 2017

      Thank you for your encouragement and sharing your story. I seriously think that more women like yourself need to share their stories of pregnancy, birthing and new borns abroad. When I found out I was pregnant I only knew one mom living abroad with a baby and I was panicked searching the internet for how to make decisions about delivery and DR. I didnt even know what pros and cons to include on my list. Even now, friends in the states ask how my dr in Ethiopia is and I have no idea how to gage because it is my first pregnancy. All I know is it is inexpensive– $10 total for a dr visit and ultrasound. hahahahah Anyway. I have been so encouraged as I hear other stories from women that are navigating the same questions. Even though I miss my Cheez-its and AC, my husband and I talk all the time about how hard it would be to move back the America. I agree with you on the pace. So hard to keep up!!!!! I will be thinking about you as you adapt to a new way of life there. Many blessings from Ethiopia and thank you so much for the encouragement.

      1. Amy Flores August 4, 2017

        I remember being so nervous at times and literally felt so alone, since I didn’t know another person in the same position at the time and had no idea about these helpful women’s websites. We also had extremely sporadic internet service and phone service, so I couldn’t talk to my Mom or family in the U.S. as much as I wanted to during that time. But The Lord was SO faithful to me throughout my pregnancy, and despite being an older first-time mother (I was 42 when I had my daughter!), my pregnancy went well and I enjoyed it immensely. It was truly the most beautiful season of life. Like you mentioned, the prices overseas are so much less – I don’t think I ever paid more than $25 USD for a doctor’s visit or ultrasound. And when we had her in the clinic, it cost $1,500 USD which was actually a fortune to us, considering my M stipend and his Honduran salary. By the way, my Aunt who married into the family back in 1969, is from Eritrea, and over the years, I have met so many beautiful Ethiopian people in their home – you are certainly surrounded by a loving and warm culture!! And I have eaten plenty of zigani (sp??) too! If nothing else, that hot dish could speed up your due date. =) Blessings to you, always.

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