Starting a New Life in Switzerland…while pregnant

As we settle into life as a family of four with baby Ty I’ve invited a few fellow travelers to share some of their stories. Up first was Nancy from Family on Bikes sharing her tale of traveling to Ethiopia with her 6-week-old twin boys. Amy at Livin on the Road gave us a peek at her travels as a  family of 6 making their way around Australia in an RV. Last week Claudia at The Travelling Mom shared her family’s favorite spots around Vancouver, BC. This week I am thrilled to introduce you to one of my best friends, Tara, who moved to Switzerland last year to live with her boyfriend and give birth to their beautiful baby girl. 

Who wouldn’t want to give birth in Bern, Switzerland with a hospital view like this!

I was seven months pregnant when I boarded my one-way flight from Detroit to Zurich. I was relocating my life to my boyfriend’s home town of Bern, Switzerland, to have our baby, to raise our family, to start over.

My other baby, a blue Mustang convertible, was on a container ship packed with my belongings.

I was saying so long to the United States, my family and friends, my journalism career, my ability to understand anything anyone was saying.

It felt monumental. And it almost didn’t happen.

Mustang all packed up and ready to go on the boat

The day before the big move, I was packing shipping boxes. Three 25 pounders filled with baby supplies.

I hadn’t actually lifted the boxes. I was folding blankets the first time I felt it. A sharp, stabbing abdominal pain. It took my breath away.

The worst of it lasted a minute then passed. A couple of hours later I felt the same, horrendous stabs. It kept happening. I was nervous.

These weren’t Braxton Hicks contractions or round ligament pains. This was not something you want to feel while trapped on airplanes for a day with a not-fully-baked person inside you.

Another good jolt six hours before my flight sent me to the emergency room.

Ultrasounds showed baby girl was fine, no signs of what was causing the pain, but there was a problem with my kidney. Looked like a cyst. Maybe a tumor. Doctors recommended I skip the flight and get a check-up the next day.

I thanked my lucky stars for having the good sense to buy travel insurance. That is, until I tried to use it. Turns out I’d still have to pony up several thousand dollars for a new ticket. I could then submit a claim and hope the insurance company would pay for it.

Let’s just say I have a love-hate relationship with insurance companies. I hate them. They love my money.

Since the baby was fine and this kidney thing wasn’t going anywhere overnight, I boarded my flight.

Very sad. Very excited. Hoping that the pain would not get worse.

The flight was like any other flight while pregnant. Tons of water. Tons of bathroom trips. Tons of fantasizing about what it would be like to have a baby in a new country where I understood, well, NOTHING in German.

Luckily, I didn’t feel much pain, except when the little bean stood up on my bladder.

Tara slowly transitions to her new life in Bern, Switzerland

I arrived in one piece, happy to be reunited with my boyfriend and begin the real work of establishing a new home.

  • Searching for doctors and obstetricians who spoke English.
  • Researching and enrolling in the mandatory insurance programs.
  • Tracking down my stranded Mustang.
  • Setting up our new apartment.
  • Preparing for the arrival of our daughter.
  • Learning the public transit system and the names of common food items.

It was a whirlwind couple of months.

My doctors, which I found through a U.S. State Department online list, took care of everything. No tumor, but a minor, common pregnancy-related kidney issue that had to be monitored through the end of my pregnancy.

My boyfriend helped me learn his home-town ropes and we soon fell into an easy rhythm.

Pregnant in Nice, France 2011

We even had time for a trip to Nice, France, where I was the maid of honor in one of my best friend’s wedding.

The transition was going smoothly, but I must admit I was on pins and needles anticipating the birth.

My doctor spoke excellent English, but the midwives who would be assisting me in labor were a little less fluent. I thought I could rely on my boyfriend to help there.

But it wasn’t until a tour of the birthing clinic that I realized how difficult it was for my him to translate baby-related issues for me. He was a first-time dad. Even the German terms were Greek to him. The look on his face while he tried to comprehend childbirth was terrifying then, kind of funny now.

But everything worked perfectly. Like so many things in life, what needs to happen will find a way of happening. Even if it takes a few extra minutes to cobble together English / German / invented sign language sentences.

Baby Sophie gets weighed by the midwife

This was Switzerland, after all and a sophisticated, mother-centric birthing hospital.

In the weeks before the birth, I’d picked up a few key German words and the midwife who helped me during labor spoke English. So did the doctors who performed my C-section and the staff of midwives who cared for me and my healthy daughter during the following week.

We even had an English-speaking midwife come to our house during the first couple of weeks home. By then my boyfriend had also been schooled in translating any leftover words I couldn’t understand.

It was a wonderful, if a little frenzied, experience settling into (or should I say thrusting myself into) my new life.

The advance planning I had done helped some. Worrying did not. Trusting that things would work out in the end, even if I could not see (or plan) how, was absolutely essential.

Welcome to the world baby Sophie. Let the adventure really begin.

Tara is a stay-at-home mom living the expat life in Bern, Switzerland. Life as a new mom in a foreign country has been, in so many ways, rewarding and challenging. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, but she just takes it day by day. Follow her journey at Another 52 Weeks. Look for more excitement from Switzerland when Dek, Ty and I head over for a visit this coming fall. 

All Photos © Tara M. at

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