My Journey as a Pregnant Woman Across the World

November 2, 2016
My Journey as a Pregnant Woman Across the World

In 2009, I left the U.S. for South Korea to teach English. It was my first time living and working abroad, and it was the fulfillment of a long-time dream. In addition to having an incredible professional and personal experience in South Korea, I also fell in love and got married. When February 2010 rolled around, I noticed that my period was late, and my body just felt…different. It felt riper and fuller in a way that it had never been before. I had to figure out how to say “pregnancy test” in Korean, but the results were the same regardless of the language barrier. I was a pregnant woman, and I couldn’t stop the flood of absolute joy. I was going to be a mother!

How am I going to do this? How am I going to be a mother while I’m working abroad? Will they fire me?

Then, the anxiety hit. How am I going to do this? How am I going to be a mother while I’m working abroad? Will they fire me? Can I still keep working? What if we have to return home? How will I find a good OB/GYN? Oh, my goodness–can I handle being a pregnant woman abroad?

During the course of my pregnancy, I spent time in three different countries: South Korea, the U.S., and Taiwan. As my body grew with my beautiful child, I experienced the discomforts and the beauty of being an expectant mother who chose to live abroad. Here are some of the highlights and challenges of my experience becoming a mother abroad.

My Journey as a Pregnant Woman Across the World


1. Supportive Co-Workers

In my Korean hagwon (language school), I had some of the most wonderful co-workers, both Korean and Western. They helped me find a good OB/GYN who could communicate well in English. They covered my classes when morning sickness was too much for me to handle, and helped me find the best food to eat.

2. The Friendliness of Strangers

My husband was offered a teaching job in Taiwan, and we arrived in the middle of August 2010. It was my third trimester, and we were hot, tired, and lugging seven suitcases. We had the address of our hotel in Chinese, but for some reason, our cab driver dumped us off at the wrong address. Two people saw our plight, and allowed me to sit in their air-conditioned apartment while they helped my husband find our hotel (which, fortunately, was a couple of blocks away). They carried our luggage, translated for us, and asked for nothing in return. That made me feel so good about our choice to be in Taiwan.

My Journey as a Pregnant Woman Across the World

3. Fantastic Postnatal Care

The nurses and doctors at the hospital were friendly and supportive. My husband’s supervisors gave him some time off to be with us in the hospital too. Best of all, I stayed in a Taiwanese mother-baby hotel. These places are awesome! Mothers and babies can stay in these luxurious and relaxing places for as long as a month. The babies are cared for 24/7, while the mothers are pampered, eat nutritious food and get plenty of rest. I wish they had mother-baby hotels in the States!


1. The Smells and Attitudes of Korea

The strong smells of kimchi everywhere were enough to further aggravate my morning sickness. Even my swelling baby bump wasn’t enough to secure me a seat on the subway or bus amid the scowling ajummas (Korean for “middle-aged woman,” used with all respect, but many live in fear of their pushiness.) My doctor couldn’t tell me my baby’s gender. Although the view is changing, Korean families prefer boys over girls, so by law, doctors can’t say if the baby’s a boy or a girl.

2. Things We Didn’t Expect

We had a few curve balls thrown at us while we were back in the States for a couple of months. I was called for jury duty, which I was able to get out of due to pregnancy. Because I didn’t have U.S. medical insurance, though, I had a hard time finding a doctor that would give me the monthly checkups and any tests I would need to ensure that my baby and body stayed healthy. Each monthly checkup cost me US $1,000 out of pocket. Finally, my husband struggled to find another teaching job in Korea. Most Korean schools preferred single teachers, and with a pregnant dependent wife, they were reluctant to hire him.

3. Giving Birth

Two months after moving to Taiwan, I went into labor. During labor, my doctor told me that my baby’s heart rate was dropping and that I had to have a C-section. It ended up that I had to be put completely to sleep, which was terrifying for five seconds. I found out later that Taiwanese doctors still favor C-sections above natural labor. Nevertheless, the result was glorious: a healthy, beautiful baby boy.

I faced many challenges as an expectant mother while traveling and living abroad. It’s not always comfortable, and it’s very important for mother and baby to be in the best health. Through it all, though, I never felt alone. Friends, co-workers, family, and my husband had my back during the whole process. Whether I was at home or abroad, I was surrounded by positive feelings and support.

Babies are a true celebration of life and love, and I’m honored to give my son to the world. Most importantly, he gave the world to me.


My Journey as a Pregnant Woman Across the World photo by Unsplash.


About Whitney Zahar

Whitney Zahar is a writer, a teacher and a student librarian. She’s been actively involved in the arts scene for as long as she can remember. She and her globetrotting family are pulling out of Taiwan soon and are looking forward to more adventures.

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