Pregnant On The Field

by Amy Young on October 16, 2017

Today I’m excited to talk with author of A Story of Pregnancy and Faith: In hope of what we cannot see. Dorette Skinner is from South Africa and lives in Thailand and she has shared at A Life Overseas before. Read to the end for a surprise. Without further ado, my conversation with Dorette.

Thank you for sharing a bit of your story today. What is your book about?

Hi Amy, it’s my pleasure. A little over a year ago I became pregnant the second time. And while my baby was being shaped in my womb, an idea started to take shape in my mind. As a physical therapist, I was not new to the idea of pregnancy – I even gave a few prenatal and antenatal classes years ago. But with my first pregnancy I realized that nothing I have learned could truly prepare me for the experience. I think the same is true in faith, we often learn more as we grow than we can ever study in books. I wanted a physical reminder of all the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Preferably in a format I could share with others, because my greatest desire during my pregnancy was to know that I was not alone. As my second pregnancy played out, it naturally became a story filled with thoughts and reflections of not only being pregnant, but learning to live in a foreign country and how to share the good news with those around me. By the time I gave birth I had a baby and also the first draft of a manuscript. A few months later I ‘gave birth’ to a story of pregnancy and faith.

Lots of people want to write a book, but you actually did it! What compelled you to complete this book?

Great question. I always loved writing and I was scribbling out poems since I can remember. Because English is my second language I’m sure it wasn’t very good. But writing also became my coping mechanism and way of making sense of the world. I actually wrote a book once when I was in my early twenties – the same idea of writing a chapter each month for a year. So I knew it was doable (even if I’m grateful I never published that book – I still had too much left to learn). I started blogging about three years ago and thought if I ever had an idea that could not possibly fit into a 700 word blog post, I would like to attempt writing a book again. I don’t like books where it feels like you’re just reading the same thing over and over again in different words. Because I had no idea how my own story would end, it made it more interesting. So all the plot twists and turns of the second story also took me by surprise… In the end being able to finish the book became something positive to focus on in the midst of great loss. And I am grateful that God (in His grace) do not only provide ways for us to cope, sometimes He can also use our imperfect stories to encourage others.

How else are you helping pregnant expat women? 

Because I am very isolated (There are no other expat mothers in the small town where we live), I have to keep on reaching out to old friends or seek community online. I found that many groups are mostly topic related, discussing pregnancy, breastfeeding or potty training and every time your child is past that stage you have to move on to the next. So I started a Facebook Group for pregnant moms called “Moms Growing Since 16’/17” and invited my pregnant friends from all over the world, with the idea that we can grow together as our children become older and go through the same stages. I’m excited to see if God will open any other doors in the near future to come alongside pregnant women/new moms. Especially to encourage women who also find themselves isolated in this season of motherhood.

This book isn’t  just for pregnant women. Who else could benefit or enjoy this book?

I think because it a story, anyone who like reading about other people’s experiences and getting a peek into a different place or culture would enjoy reading it. Especially those who have a heart for serving cross-culturally. I wrote mostly with women in mind, so men may not appreciate some of the details. It is not a “how to” book, a “40 week devotional” or “what to expect when you’re expecting” kind of book. I hope it will be a “me too” book instead and I like to think even women who are not pregnant would be able to relate to my story in some way.

What have you learned from having a baby and writing a book that has helped you living overseas?

I have learned that something as little as 500 words written every second day during nap times can add up to a manuscript. That God’s design is amazing and with Him on our side we can not only do hard things, but come out better on the other side.

What is your hope for people who read this?

I hope that by sharing my imperfect story, it will give others permission to embrace their own. Knowing that they are not alone and as we grow in faith it can sometimes be uncomfortable in this world, but it will be totally worth it in the end!

Dorette, thanks for sharing a bit of your journey as an author and mom with us.

Have you been pregnant on the field? Leave a comment (even if you haven’t been pregnant, I haven’t and I enjoyed this book immensely) and you might win a copy of Dorette’s book. Winners will be notified by Friday.

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About Amy Young

Free resource to help you add tools to your tool box. When Amy Young first moved to China she knew three Chinese words: hello, thank you and watermelon. She is known to jump in without all the facts and blogs regularly at The Messy Middle. She also works extensively with Velvet Ashes as content creator and curator, book club host, and connection group coordinator. She writes books to help you. Amy is the author of Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters from China and Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service. Looming Transitions also has two companion resources: 22 Activities for Families in Transitions and Looming Transitions Workbook. You can listen to it too.
  • Elizabeth

    I arrived on the field in 2005, three months pregnant with our fourth child. He was born early at 36 weeks, at home, with my husband (missionary doctor) delivering him, our friend helping (missionary midwife), and an elderly and experienced missionary doctor/surgeon/obstetrician waiting in our sitting room in case any complications happened. It was the best delivery I ever had, but was it ever a rough year as we adjusted to so many changes! Almost three years later I became pregnant with our fifth on the field. As much as I would have loved to deliver there again, I was too sick with nausea related to the pregnancy and was having major difficulty functioning so we had to return to Canada.

    • I bet people who have never been on the field love hearing this story :). Sorry to hear about being too sick with number 5!

    • Hi, Elizabeth.. I can only imagine what an experience it must have been.. I’m also sorry to hear about all the difficulties that followed.. I hope you’re doing well back in Canada.

  • Hollie Rathbun

    My husband and I are living cross-culturally with our 3 young children. In the interview when she said she is isolated, I can definitely relate. We arrived without a team and with no other expat moms around at all. I’ll have to put this book on my list – seems like it’d be a good read!

    • It is Hollie! And Dorette and I have been brainstorming over ways to support moms on the field — especially those in isolated areas!

    • Hi Hollie.. I wish no one had to be isolated, ever. Especially when you need that village 😉 Will be praying for you!

  • Thanks for the great article! Ex-pat pregnancy and birth experiences are so interesting. I have a number of friends who have given birth in various countries and each experience/perspective is fascinating and unique. Likewise, I gave birth to my two children in Northeast Brazil and the experience transformed me. I now work as an anti obstetric violence advocate, perinatal educator, and doula. This is such a timely article for me because I am actually going to interview another ex-pat mom this afternoon. I don’t know what I am doing with this interview yet! Ha! I just feel compelled to gather her experience before she moves back to the US. This article gives me inspiration! Thanks again!

    • Love this! Yes, so good to capture each others’ stories before leaving. I’m glad you’re taking the initiative :)! Hearing one another’s stories is such a gift we can give to each other!

      • Couldn’t agree more.. and I don’t think I will ever get tired of pregnancy or birth stories.. Especially cross-cultural ones! I strongly considered going the doula route 😉 and I think it’s awesome that you did! Hope you have a great interview!

        • It’s some thing that I never expected to be doing… three years ago I would pass out at the sight of blood! But wow its amazing! Transformational! I’m certified here in Brazil and next year on furlough I am going to work on a US certified training program. I highly, highly recommend becoming a doula!

  • Steffani Hemming

    Hey ALO and Dorette, thank you for this. I’m pregnant now on the field with my first. I was so encouraged to see this post title, and to know there is a book out there speaking to this unique situation. I was actually thinking the other day that I’m in the market for a book or two about pregancy/motherhood on the field and cannot be more thrilled with the timeliness of this article. I would love to read your book, and would love to follow this discussion on FB in a group or through related posts. I feel the similarity of living in a rural town (where I’m the only expat from my culture) & being an aspiring blogger/writer about all things cross-cultural & faith, make this book #1 on my to read next list. Thank you!

    • Steffiani, I love it when the perfect book enters my life at the perfect time :). Sounds like this book may be that for you!

    • He Steffani, congratulations on your first pregnancy! This was such a sweet comment.. thank you! I would love to hear more of your story and read your words as well.. is there a place to find them? I hope my book will be encouraging in your pregnancy, and I would be the first to encourage you when it comes to writing as well! How far along are you?

  • Megan

    We moved to Kathmandu, Nepal with a 1 year old son and I was about 4 months pregnant with my 2nd! That was not the plan, but we found out we were pregnant about 2 months before we were set to leave. So it was stay in the states for another year at least, or just go. So we went. It was crazy experience for sure, not good care in the hospital, but it was like I had joined a sisterhood with the Nepali women. When they found out that I had given birth just like them in their hospital…. I can’t explain how the women just seemed to open up to me. Not in a conversational sense, but it was just this feeling of “You get it.” And then they all decided my son was Nepali and told everyone in hearing distance! We were there for 2 years and I came back to the states as pregnant as I left! our third is a girl who was born in the states. It was tough, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Now my 2nd son has the coolest get-to-know-you fact, and the coolest birth certificate!

    • Ah, the gift of “you are one of us.” When we can extend it, as you said, it opens some doors we couldn’t open any other way. Thanks for sharing a slice of your story!

    • You are so right, Megan! I also experienced that feeling of you are just like us.. but it wasn’t really expressed (due to many language barriers)… and I think it would have been nice to be able to hear it in so many words..

  • Joanna Wamala

    I’ve been pregnant on the mission field five times over. Two of my kids were miscarried (one at 15wks, the other at 10) but thankfully we do have a supportive community and are relatively not that isolated. My three thrive in the cross cultural environment. I love reading and love books about other’s stories and experiences, especially in missions. This book is going on my wishlist!

    • Joanna, me too! Love hearing other people’s stories that is. Glad your three are thriving and for the support you had at the loss of your other two!

    • Hi Joanna, so sorry to hear about your loss.. I would love to hear more about your experience or should I say five experiences, because they’re all so different… and it gives me so much hope to hear your other kids are thriving on the field!

      • Joanna Wamala

        My kids are 6, 2.5 and 16 months. You’re right every pregnancy is so different. The first one I had morning sickness for 20 wks and a full time job I barely could do a fraction of from my bed! The other ones i had to suck it up and get on with life, it’s hard to languish with a toddler! But that was really hard some days! In all of my pregnancies I’ve been very thankful for a praying mission community around us.

        • Sometimes I’m amazed how much we can endure (looking back).. in the moments it sure feels hard! And a praying mission community sounds like a haven of sorts.

  • Susie Walter de Cervantes

    I just had my first child here in Tijuana, Mexico where I have been serving as a missionary for the past 8 years. At first, my family thought I was crazy to deliver here, but by God’s grace everything turned out wonderful! Because my husband was in a terrible car acccident before I got pregnant, his post-op visits led us to meet the OBGYN that eventually delivered our daughter. I felt comfortable with this sweet woman – more than I ever felt with my American gynecologist – and she allowed me to have the natural birth I always dreamed of. I also took a 12-week birthing class with my husband and this opened up a whole new network of local moms for me to be a part of. The teacher of that class recently had surgery and she asked me to step in and now I am serving the Lord by sharing with other pregnant moms about how to have a ‘humanized’ birth experience, just as He intended. Although it was hard to be without my own family here, I see how God used my birth on the field to draw me closer to Him, my husband’s family (my MIL was at the birth), and my community.

    • Hi Susie, congratulations! What a great testimony, thank you so much for sharing.. Sounds like God had such a great plan and the words “fruit of your labor” comes to mind 🙂

    • Susie that’s so awesome that it lead you to the end “humanized” birth movement! Me too!! I had both my kids overseas – one not so great experience so during my second pregnancy I discovered the humanization of health care movement. Changed my life. I was an English teacher here in Brazil… now I’m a doula, anti obstetric violence advocate, breastfeeding educator, and perinatal educator! Never would have thought I’d be doing this!!

  • Debbie

    I had our second child in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We were asked often if we would return to the US to give birth, but my entire pregnancy and birth happened there. She was born 3 weeks early (or the doc had the wrong due date?) in a very modern hospital. My Honduran doctors (OB and pediatrician) both spoke English and gave excellent care, as well as the nurses later. We had a great experience.

    • Hi Debbie, so glad to hear you’ve had a great experience 😉 I’m sure it helped a lot that the nurses and doctors could speak English!

  • Gail Lantz

    I was pregnant and delivered 2 babies while overseas. My husband thinks our third child will be picked on one day because he wasn’t born overseas, but he has joined the TCK ranks since. Being pregnant and giving birth in my home country was the most stressful experience. I much preferred being away from all the family opinions overseas 🙂

    • Hi Gail, you bring up such a good point.. there is a lot more freedom in being away from all the opinions.. and the locals have their own ideas as well, but it’s often easier to get away with doing what you feel is best 😉

    • Britney

      I also appreciated the separation from family and their opinions while I was pregnant and a new mom. It gave me the opportunity to learn what worked for me. I also learned a lot of really fascinating things about being a new mom in Haitian culture, like to cure baby hiccups you should pull a string off one of the parents’ clothing and stick it to the baby’s head with saliva.

  • Lesley Ann Smith

    I was so encouraged to see this title come my way today – one of our biggest struggles right now is deciding whether to go back to the US or give birth here in Nicaragua… but I’m sure there will be so many other decisions that only expat moms have along the way. Thanks for sharing your stories!

    • Hi Lesley, I hope the awesome stories shared in the comments below will also give you some more insight.. and will be helpful in your decision. Don’t just want to assume.. are you pregnant already?

      • Lesley Ann Smith

        Yes, with our first. I am very encouraged by the comments and will continue following them. Right now one difference is receiving medical care in my second language… I’m pretty good at Spanish but I have never had to know medical terms before. For a first time mama, I’ve never been more thankful to have the Internet for all my burning questions!

        • Britney

          I really liked having our first in Haiti, but my OBGYN spoke English. I also used the internet to answer my burning questions. I found the What to Expect app and community to be very helpful.

          • Hey if it helps at all Lesley to know, I’ve had two babies in Leon Nicaragua in the past 3 years and all has gone well!

  • Jen C.

    I just had my son on the mission field in Zambia. He is just 7 weeks now. This is just the type of connection I am craving right now. Would love to read this book!

    • Hi Jen, congratulations with your bundle of joy.. I’m sure he will be a local favorite 😉 It seems like we’re all craving this connection and I would love to hear more about your birth experience!

  • My little Kenyan-born boy just turned six months old. I loved being pregnant here. A mama is highly valued and well taken care of here, and I enjoyed my new status in the community. Since my son’s birth, I’ve been learning so many new things about Kenya, about myself, and about God. What a wonderful journey this is!

    • Lovely, my little boy will be six months in two weeks, so we practically went through all the same motions as I was writing 😉 There is so much to learn and it’s exciting.. enjoy your little guy!

  • Lynne Castelijn

    Oooh, so MANY precious little missionary kidlets! Ladies, you rock! We had our two girls in Australia and two boys in the Philippines. The Filipinos loved it. They would chuckle sagely “Hah, hah – so nice! Made in the Philippines!” 😉

    Doctora Ruthie, a beautiful Christian Filipina doctor delivered both the boys in a small Baptist mountain hospital. Our ministry and home is extremely remote and both times I was rather relieved to make it to our Guesthome in plenty of time as the alternative, so our tribal friends told us, was to use the very experienced local “midwife”, who also happened to be an elderly male village chief. Much as I appreciate him, and trust his experience – it was still nice to be in town!

    It was also wonderful how God used our babies even in our ministry. Both boys were totally breast fed until they were well over a year old. And thankfully both were fat and healthy. The tribal ladies always asked what supplements or milk formulae I was using, and it was so good to be able to encourage them “Nope, it’s just me. But I drink tons of water and eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and that’s what’s making them strong so maybe you could do this too!” (There was a strong misconception going around that one HAD to give your baby formula/supplements in order for one’s babies to be healthy).

    Now all but one of our babes are grown and stretching their own wings. Savor each moment – they’re gone before you know it! ….. Thanks for your interview Dorette and Amy. And Dorette – fantastic about your book! I went on Kindle and bought it already. So if you don’t win the prize, ladies – it’s only $3.99! I’m sure the value of Dorette’s story is worth WAY more than that! Looking forward to reading it. 🙂 With love from a fellow sister from southern Africa (Zimbabwe :-). xxxx PPS – Sorry my comment is so long – I am working on that concise thing!!

    • Such a great life story! I am sure it had its upstill and downs! So awesome that you could bf exclusively! It is great to break conceptions of what healthy is, especially when the practice that has been normalized is usually not healthy! When a baby is supplemented without medical necessity it can disrupt the milk supply in mom! There are generations of moms where I live that supplement because in the 70s there was a major campaign to sell formula…

    • Hi Lynne.. I loved the long comment and hearing your story – so please don’t be concise 😉 Nice to meet a fellow Southern African here as well and thank you for your kind words on my book.. I think God really use our babies in more ways than we will ever know.. and I’m excited to see what he has in store for my boys.. thank you for taking the time to comment (especially after you already bought my book – I really appreciate it).. Blessings to you and we will savor the moments!

    • Britney

      Thanks for sharing your story. No need to be concise!! 🙂

  • Deborah

    My husband and I are serving our 1st term together among an unreached people group in West Africa. I miscarried our first pregnancy last year at 10 weeks in combination with many other tragic losses of local friends. We just found out last month I am pregnant again. Culturally, you don’t announce you are pregnant so I’ve been struggling explaining why I have been feeling unwell! I’m also trying to figure out how to take care of myself so far from home with only basic prenatal care and far away from other expat moms. Would love to read this book! Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Deborah, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and it is hard enough under ‘normal circumstances’.. congratulations your pregnancy (it’s interesting about the culture) and I hope you find ways to take care of yourself! Will be praying for you as well!

  • All four of ours have been on-the-field pregnancies and births. There’s another missionary pregnancy book that I have really enjoyed called Wide Open Curtains, by Amanda Hinson.

  • Alisa

    I had my two children while on the field. I loved being pregnant and am now interested in other’s experiences.

  • Whitney Akpi

    I love this! I am currently pregnant with twins and living in Togo, West Africa. I just have to say all you mama’s out there there having your babies on the field are so brace! I am an MK and TCK, born and raised in Taiwan-but Taiwan was so far advanced in the 80’s than Togo is today. I have always been adamant that I would have my children outside of America-but the idea of being 30 weeks onward pregnant with twins and cooking all meals from scratch slightly terrifies me! One of you posted how having your third child in the States was the most difficult-I struggle with the decision as twins in North America is such a medical emergency, and here in africa it is so normal. We should make a Facebook page for all of us pregnant/or having been pregnant on the field! To get input, cooking ideas, encouragement and fellowship!

    • Britney

      I empathize with you. It’s a tough decision to make–where to give birth. I have a friend who was pregnant in Russia and went to Finland to give birth. Would you be able to go to neighboring country for the type of care you are looking for? I know that throws a lot of additional logistics into the mix, but it might work. I know having our son in Haiti was waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than giving birth in the US. We didn’t have health insurance when we lived in Haiti, so we were not interested in coming back for his birth.

  • Donna McD

    Thank you for the post. I carried our fourth child in Ukraine, having arrived there a year and a half earlier with three children under the age of 6. She is 16 now, but I still remember holding off going to a doctor for my first pre-natal visit until 20 weeks because I just wasn’t ready for that kind of language lesson. My other pregnancies had been relatively uneventful, so I wasn’t terribly worried, until I found that my doctor was going to go back in time for ‘standard medical practice’, even though we were living in a city of more than 2 million. I love reading other people’s stories, whether pregnancy-related or not, so a book about Dorette’s experience would be a treasure.

    • Oh! Another Ukraine baby. 🙂

  • Britney

    I was pregnant with my first on the field in Haiti in 2012. I had an excellent OBGYN and gave birth in a maternity hospital there. It was a good experience, but also felt like the maternity hospital protocols were much like going back in time. I’ve have two more babies since then, but both of those were in the States. I would love to read Dorette’s book!

  • Thank you all! The winner’s name has been drawn and she has been notified :).

  • Tianne

    I had my first baby in Australia (my husband is Australian). When we found out we were pregnant our org. said it would be better for us to stay in AUS before heading back to Africa as we serve in S. Sudan and can’t deliver the baby in that country. I had only been living in the country 2 months when I found out I was pregnant. It was a bit of a roller coaster with no place to call “home” but God provided and I was able to have the home birth I wanted. We moved back to S. Sudan when our son was 3 months old and God continues to guide us and strengthens us daily and we are praying for baby #2 🙂

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