Having a Baby Overseas: A Chat with Chandler Gilow

Apr 16, 2024 | 0 comments

We are delighted for this informative and comprehensive four-part series on birth overseas by Chandler Gilow of The Global Birth CoachYou might find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, struggling to get or stay pregnant, or loving on a couple who is pregnant on the field. And dads? We have something just for you! Here’s an overview of what you have to look forward to in this special series: 

Having a Baby Overseas: A Chat with Chandler Gilow (4/16)

How Do you Prepare for Birth Overseas? (4/18)

What does Dad Need to Know about Birth Overseas? (4/23)

What are the Unique Challenges of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth Overseas? (4/25)

Hi Chandler, thank you for your time to talk with Global Trellis. For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself and what interests you in helping people have babies overseas?

During my first year of college, the Lord opened my eyes to the birth world while I was on a two-week trip to the Philippines. I went to serve in a children’s home over Christmas break, but the prenatal clinic needed extra hands. The moment I used a doppler for the first time and heard the infant’s heartbeat, I was hooked! Before returning to the States, I decided to leave the college I was going to and switch to a school closer to home with a nursing program. I have been a birth nerd since that trip! 

My first birth was a planned, out-of-hospital birth in the U.S., but it ended up being an emergency cesarean. It was hard to process, and we struggled with our breastfeeding journey. When we became pregnant while serving in the Middle East, I knew I wanted to attempt a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) and wanted to be better prepared for breastfeeding. I enrolled in a program to be a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist and networked for months, finding the right provider and hospital for us (which ended up being an hour away in the capital). That pregnancy taught me that birth overseas has unique nuances and requires so much more energy than I anticipated to get all the resources we needed. As I reflected on our journey, I saw an opportunity for growth in the care offered to cross-cultural workers during the perinatal period to help support them to thrive in the perinatal season.

I love a good back story! Thanks for sharing yours. Next, I’m curious what resources or services do you offer at The Global Birth Coach?

I currently offer three primary services, with a fourth service being created. 

1. The Virtual Village Facebook Group: This group was the very first service I created. It is a place to share resources and encourage one another as each mom navigates birth abroad. I have loaded the files with all the available resources, focusing on virtual options accessible to those navigating birth overseas. There are resources for counselors, nutrition, exercises, pelvic floor PT, etc. There is also a master list of information that I update regularly based on stories from every city and country where cross-cultural workers have given birth. It lists hospitals and providers with information about them from the expats who used them. 

2. The Expat Birth Academy: The Academy is the hub for education and handouts. Everything on the website is free to anyone who needs it. Resources include these four:

a) The Expat Birth Class: 7+ hours of recorded birth education nuanced precisely for birth abroad.

b) The Infant Feeding Class: Breastfeeding and formula feeding are discussed from the perspective of those living outside their passport country.

c) Pregnancy Planning and Decision Guide: A list of questions to ask yourself, your spouse, and providers to help you think through birth abroad. 

d) Preparing for Birth Workbook: A self-guided debrief designed to help parents emotionally prepare for their upcoming birth (based on TCK Training debriefing)

3. The Expat Birth Podcast: Most of us have heard birth stories throughout our lives and generally know what to expect for birth in our passport country. In most cases, couples do not know anyone who has given birth overseas before they become pregnant, which results in many question marks in their mind about the logistics of birth. In 2021, the podcast was launched to help fill that void and create a space for parents to hear real stories of birth abroad and know they are not alone.

In collaboration with several others, multiple resources are being created to increase support for those navigating miscarriage and infant loss abroad. Providing more support is a hole in support I have seen, and I am leaning on the experiences of others to provide content that is both practical and helpful in the healing process. Stay tuned!

Wowza! What a treasure trove you’ve created. Thank you! Since you’ve worked with so many people, what are a few of the avoidable pitfalls that a couple could fall into with having a baby overseas?

In the last four years, I have noticed three common pitfalls for families navigating birth abroad:

1. An overly rigid birth plan: I am a firm believer in advocating for birth options. However, sometimes, due to cultural or logistical restraints, certain birth options will not be possible in your country of service. The balance of expat birth is found in educating yourself on birth options, advocating for as much as you can, and coming to terms with any limitations in your area. Creating a malleable plan increases the couple’s ability to pivot and the likelihood that they will have a positive birth experience. 

2. Putting off birth preparation: Birth and transition to parenthood are major life transitions and take intentional mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation. So many cross-cultural workers are pushing themselves to burnout or feeling pressured to achieve a certain point in language at the loss of time to prepare. I see many mentally shift their focus to birth in the third trimester and feel overwhelmed. I want cross-cultural workers to feel empowered to prioritize birth and parenthood preparation to better set themselves up for success.

3. Not preparing for alternative birth outcomes: Most of the cross-cultural workers I partner with are from the U.S. In the U.S., we all assume many aspects of care that cannot be assumed in other countries. I have seen countless couples experience significant stress because they did not know what would happen if their infant needed to go to the NICU or if mom needed an emergency cesarean or blood transfusion. I do not want couples to dwell on the unwanted what-ifs, but I want them to ask these questions to make informed decisions outside of a stressful situation.  

Because having a baby is usually such an exciting and long dreamed for event, my final question for today is what are some of the benefits of having a baby overseas, Chandler?

There are so many! While giving birth abroad is challenging, there is also much beauty. The top six benefits of giving birth abroad that I have witnessed are:

1. By experiencing a common life milestone in your country of service, you have a new way of relating to local families and going deeper into relationships.

2. You will learn more about your country as you utilize services you have yet to need.

3. If cultivated, your relationship with your spouse will be strengthened as you navigate this season without the support system you might have had in your passport country.

4. Your roots will grow deeper in your country as it will now hold the memories of your child’s birth and many of their firsts.

5. You may have birth options you would not have had in your passport country! I have been surprised at some of the fantastic birth options internationally. For example, many U.S. cities would not have options like affordable doula support and water births. 

6. Your child will always have a special relationship with your adopted country because it is where they were born!

What a fun list. I bet many people are nodding their heads in recognition and joy. Chandler, thank your time! We look forward to the articles in this series–thanks for being a “Birth Nerd” and sharing your knowledge and insights with us.

Those are my questions for Chandler, dear reader, what questions do you have?

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Supporting cross-cultural work.




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