Whether a first time parent or mother of an army, all mothers know that the birthing process is anything but easy. Aside from the obvious physical discomfort, there is a lot than can go wrong during the delivery. And that just makes the soon-to-be parents even more anxious about the impending arrival of their bundle of joy.
But things get even more complicated when the delivery happens to occur internationally. Sometimes the baby comes earlier than expected and the mother is on vacation, or the international destination was part of a pre-planned birthing strategy. These mothers share their scary and exciting stories of delivering internationally. Some moms had their babies while in the air, while others got into scary accidents or had pregnancy complications that made delivering then and there a necessity. Some of these mamas didn’t even have their partner or any family or friends with them when they went into labor, making it even more terrifying.
If anything, these stories will inspire you not to travel while expecting. Even the parents who planned to deliver their child in a foreign country reveal that it’s complicated, both from a legal and administrative context and from a cultural one. It’s important to have a set-in-stone plan for how you want your delivery to be, even though it should be flexible in case of emergency. And perhaps factoring in a vacation, whether it's before or around your due date, may not be the best idea.
15 Off To Disneyland
Lots of women travel while pregnant, assuming that since they're nowhere near their due date, that nothing is likely to go wrong. Miranda* and her sister Kaylie* were in for a wild ride when the latter’s water broke during a road trip to the states.
“My sister and I were taking a road rip from Vancouver to Disneyland to celebrate her last few months being childless. She was only 6 months pregnant, so aside from being tired and cranky sometimes, we thought she’d be fine.
We made it to Oregon before her water popped. She literally was hysterical. She made her boyfriend fly all the way down there to be with her when she gave birth - luckily she made it on time. Now we always joke her baby is the American in the family. But it is cool that she could get dual citizenship when she’s older if she wants.”
14 Under Unfortunate Circumstances
Unfortunate circumstances brought Hannah* to Germany right before she was about to give birth.
“My mother passed away when I was 8 months pregnant, so I had to go to Germany (where she lived) to deal with things because I’m her only living child. I knew it was risky to fly being so pregnant, but the Doctors said it was okay and I would be back before my planned Caesarean.
Long story short, I ended up going into labor while I way away. I was terrified because I didn’t know any of the doctors and I had had such a rigid plan of how I wanted my birth to go down. Luckily everything went smoothly, but the plane ride back with a 2 week old was absolute hell. We made sure to stay in the U.S. the next time we were expecting a baby.”
13 Place Of Origin
To honour her husband’s heritage, Ava* decided to have her firstborn in China. But she says the process was a lot more complicated than she expected.
“My husband was adopted from China by a Caucasian family. He has always been interested in learning more and experiencing his culture, so we decided to have our first child born in China. We thought it would be an amazing way to acknowledge his (and our child’s) origin.
The only thing I found unfortunate was the paperwork. It was hard getting our baby’s U.S. passport issued after having him in China. Everything worked out eventually, but it was a lot of hassle and we didn’t even have anyone we know there with us. We’ve had two kids since then and both were born on U.S. soil.”
Of course, the opportunity for dual citizenship is rare and treasured, so if parents can provide that added advantage for their bundle of joy, why not? Well, maybe not being able to bring the baby back home seems like a really good reason to reconsider...
12 Overseas Delivery
Midge* thought she would be fine to fly alone while pregnant, but she had quite the surprise when she went into labor mid-flight.
“I delivered my baby on an airplane. It was a 10 or 12 hour flight from New York to Europe, and I was going to visit relatives before the baby was born. I stupidly decided to do the trip by myself, since my boyfriend was still working and said he’d come a week later.
I started contractions several hours into the flight, but they couldn’t turn around because we were already over water. There were two nurses on the flight who helped deliver the baby and the flight attendants were really comforting. But it was the worse thing ever - I was so scarred. I refused to fly again (other than to come home) after that because things could have been so much worse.”
11 Accident Abroad
After a terrifying car accident, Dianne* had no choice but to give birth to her child while in a foreign country.
“I got into a car accident when I was visiting family overseas. I was 6 month pregnant and only took the trip because I thought it was one of the last times I’d see my family before becoming a mother. Because of my injuries they had to deliver my son prematurely.
My son and myself had a lot of complications post-birth, so we were in Europe for more than 2 months longer than we anticipated. Even when we came home, my son had to stay in the local hospital until he was old enough. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. Thank god for travelling insurance or else I don’t know how I could’ve afforded the hospital bills.”
10 International Love Affair
Brielle* fell in love abroad, but she didn’t mean to have a baby abroad. That’s why they say love is unpredictable.
“I had a whirlwind romance with a guy I met in Spain while on vacation. We fell madly in love and I extended my stay for a few months, only to get engaged and married. I quit my job and made my move to Spain permanent. A few months later I found out I was pregnant.
I soon found out my husband was cheating, which led me to break up with him. I was already 8 months pregnant, so I knew it wouldn’t’ be safe to travel home to deliver. I ended up giving birth in Spain, alone and without speaking Spanish. After my divorce was finalized, I quickly took my baby and moved back to the U.S.”
9 A Norwegian Birth
With a complicated family and baby-daddy situation, some women are just looking to get away. So with nothing left to lose, Zooey packed up and went overseas in order to deliver her baby.
“I’ve never had a good relationship with my family and, when things get rough or bad, I tend to run away. My family wasn’t supportive when I announced I was pregnant and that baby daddy wasn’t in the picture. So, I thought I had nothing to lose, so I packed up and moved to Norway, where I’d always wanted to live.
It was extremely scary yet so liberating to give birth in a strange place, where I knew no one. I wanted my baby to have an American passport, but now she’ll also have the option to become Norwegian. I raised her there for two years before moving back to North America, but it was really such a transformative experience.”
8 International Passport
Adrienne* specifically decided to have her daughter outside of the U.S. so that she could get a foreign citizenship later on, if she wanted to.
“My family is originally from Britain and all my life I wanted a UK passport so I could travel within the European Union. But, I could never do that unless I actually moved to the UK, which isn’t something I’d be willing to do.
So, when I had my daughter Sophia, I decided to have her birth in the UK so she could apply for citizenship there later on. If she has the EU passport, she can travel virtually anywhere and work there, too. My husband and I came to London several times during my pregnancy to meet with my doctor, and ended up staying there for almost 2 months before and after I went into labor. It was costly, but I think it was worth it.”
7 The Pregnant Bride
Morgan* had been planning a fairytale European wedding and honeymoon when she found out she was pregnant. But she didn’t let her last trimester stop her from enjoying her time overseas.
"I was shocked to find out I was pregnant only 7 months before my wedding. My then-fiancée and I had planned an elaborate wedding in France, where his family is from. We’d already paid for everything and sent out the invitations, so there was no going back. I was destined to be a pregnant bride.
I was almost 8 months pregnant when I walked down the aisle in France. But on our honeymoon in Italy is when I went into labour. I was a couple weeks early, but everything was okay other than we weren’t ready for a baby at all. All of our baby stuff was back in Canada, so we had to do a lot of shopping while we were in Europe and had to extend our stay until our little boy was stable enough to make the flight home. It was an adventure!”
6 Career Woman
Taryn* was still doing a gruelling international commute between her work and home when she was 9 months pregnant, which didn’t turn out to be the best idea.
“I work in California, but my husband and family lives in Toronto, so I commute back and forth quite regularly. I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I worked up until my 9th month of pregnancy. I was flying back to Toronto for the last time before I was supposed to give birth when I went into labor.
They had to do an emergency landing for the plane so they could get me medical attention. Me and the baby were fine, but I was really embarrassed and upset. My husband flew to the states to meet me, even though he totally missed the delivery. I’m totally not working up until my due date next time.”
5 Running Away
Alice* thought that running away would make her delivery easier, but it only ended up making things worse.
“I got pregnant while I was in high school with my boyfriend who was from Colombia. My parents weren’t supportive of me keeping the baby, so we made an elaborate plan to run away and live with his parents in Latin America. We had to wait to save up enough money, so we didn’t end up leaving until I was 7 months pregnant.
My parents were horrified, but I ended up staying in Colombia for almost a month before they made me come home. I ended up giving birth while I was there, which is why my parents didn’t take me home right away. It was such a crazy time, but my parents let me keep my boy. My boyfriend never ended coming back to the U.S., though.”
4 Destination Wedding
Nicole* had already planned and paid for a trip to Mexico for her best friend’s wedding when she found out she was pregnant. But, what she really didn’t expect was having a foreign delivery.
“My husband and I had been trying to have a baby for over a year when we discovered we were pregnant, so we were over the moon. But we’d already planned and paid for a trip to Mexico because I was going to be my best friend’s bridesmaid. I’d only be 6 months pregnant on the trip, so we decided to not cancel and go ahead with it.
I ended up going to labor on the beach of all places. I was almost three months early, so it was pretty scary, but we were lucky that everything went smoothly. We obviously left the vacation early to take our little girl home. But that’s the last time I travel while pregnant.”
3 Missionary Mama
Sometimes we love what we do so much that it's hard to choose between following our calling or making a huge sacrifice. As a missionary, Mallory* didn’t have much of a choice when it came to having her baby abroad. But, that didn’t make the experience much better.
“My husband and I are missionaries and we were working in Israel when I was expecting our second child. We’d delivered our first baby abroad with the help of a birthing coach, so we though we’d do it again the next time.
Unfortunately, my pregnancy was much more complicated than the first. The midwife said I needed to go to the hospital, which was risky in the area that we were working in. I ended up going, and eventually my baby and I had to be transported back to the U.S. because of complications. He’s okay now, but that definitely has dissuaded me from wanting to do anymore international work or births.”
2 Way Back To World War II
Cornelia* had a grand entrance into the world when her mother gave birth to her while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Poland during the 1940s.
“I was actually born in Switzerland during World War I. My parents were living in Poland and, even though we’re not Jewish, it wasn’t a good place for anyone to live at that time. They decided to run to Switzerland to escape the Nazis, even though my mom was 8 months pregnant and they had my two toddler siblings to take care of.
I was eventually born in a family acquaintance’s home only a couple of days after they had escaped from Poland. The family friends only let us stay with them because my mom was pregnant. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would have been for her giving birth during such a chaotic time.”
1 I’m Giving Birth, Mate
Clara’s* vacation in Australia became even more special when she delivered her twins early. Even though her delivery happened abroad, everything went smoothly and safely - and Clara knows just how lucky she is. But what she gained in good fortune, she had to pay back in baby supplies.
“I gave birth to my twins while on vacation in Australia. My partner and I thought we had enough time to sneak in one more trip before we became parents - boy were we wrong!
I went into labor a few months early, and we surprisingly had our babies in Melbourne. The hospital staff was lovely and everything went smoothly, but we had to get everything the babies needed while we were still there. Needless to say we spent a lot more on that vacation than we anticipated we would. But it was worth it!”
Although delivering a baby while travelling abroad makes for an excellent conversation starter, most of these mothers acknowledge they wish their labor had gone differently. The most important thing is that the baby is healthy, and in most of these stories that was the case. But that also doesn’t lessen the trauma and anxiety that comes with welcoming a baby in an environment you’re not used to and without loved ones there to support you.
It seems like travelling during your pregnancy is a risk not worth taking, unless you wouldn’t mind having your baby abroad. Even parents who thought they had enough time for a vacation risk a premature birth. And delivering a baby in a place you’re not used to or comfortable with, even if there is proper medical care, can be scary and increase the mom’s stress (which can potentially harm the baby). Staying grounded during pregnancy and in the country you definitely want to deliver in is the safest option.