Where to?

I came back from Singapore with great news:  everything looks fine, chances of a chromosomal disorder is one in (literally) thousands, I got an 85% chance of it being one sex (which I won’t announce it yet, because there’s still that 15% chance, you know?  And I don’t want people calling the baby by a certain gender until we know for sure what that gender is).

But I also came back with questions…

The baby is due, hopefully, 2 months before we leave Manila (and I say hopefully, because right now we’re meant to leave a month after delivery, so we’re still waiting on our transfer plans, which should show our requested extension).  Once the baby is born I need to do a BUNCH of stuff before s/he gets a passport and is allowed to travel, all per embassy rules.  Usually that is no big deal, but as flights from Manila are always packed, the longer we wait to get our tickets (we can get our tickets until we have passport on hands), the less likely Karl and I and the baby will sit together (and I do NOT want to endure a 20+ hour trip with a newborn, a dog and a cat away from Karl!).

The baby also must sit on an window seat (one of the so many rules of using a car seat on a plane), and those fill up fast too.

So yeah, even the birth certificate is not easy to obtain here in the Philippines and it takes at least a week…

With all that in mind, we really need to make a decision on where will this baby be born.  I just found out that Singapore is also an option, and at least there the paperwork moves quicker (you even leave the hospital with a birth certificate!).

Anyone who has given birth abroad, right before moving out of post with the State Department, please chime in!  I’m in desperate need of advice.

So here are the PROS and CONS (that I can think of so far)…  For a background for those of you who are not part of the Foreign Service, if I medevac for delivery overseas, I am shipped out 6 weeks pre-due date, and can only return to post 6 weeks after the due date.  Karl can take sick leave to join me when the due date looms closer.

Delivering in Manila
PROS:
  I’ll be near Karl, our pets, our helper (specially important when I’m huge and waddling). 

-Karl will for sure be there for the birth. 

-My friends in Manila will meet the new baby.

CONS:  We might not get all the paperwork done in time for both me and the baby to leave the country (one of them is done at 6 weeks post-delivery, and that must be done before we get our travel orders!), so we will likely not be sitting together on the plane, and though our class of tickets upgrades us automatically to the Economy Plus section (the extra legroom and comfort will be super super super important for a 20+ hour flight with a car seat + 2 pets by our feet), those might be all full. 

-Finding room for the pets in cabin at the last minute might be an issue as well.

-Medical care in Manila is great, the doctors are wonderful, but I don’t trust the nurses based on many many stories I’ve heard.  The main problem here is that nurses are either bad or in training:  as soon as they get good, they find a much better paying job overseas (and who can blame them?), so the ones left behind are not the most experienced.

Delivering in Singapore
PROS:
  I’m only a 3.5 hour flight away, so Karl can see me at least every other weekend, so we won’t have to spend 6 weeks apart. 

-I can probably afford to hire help for a few days a week. 

-Singapore is a medevac location for all of Asia, so they are used to doing all the paperwork, and hospitals turn information more quickly (as it happens in countries with less bureaucracies), so by the time I return to Manila, or sooner, I should be all set to get our tickets back to the US. 

-Medical care in Singapore is comparable to the US.

CONS:  Because the State Department really really really wants you to deliver the babies in the US, you only get DC per diem in Singapore, which is literally half of Singapore’s per diem, so we will likely have to use our own money to cover the difference as the per diem (adding BOTH housing and the meals & incidentals one) doesn’t even cover your cost for temporary housing, much less other expenses. 

-I will be away from my pets for 3 months.

-I won’t be “home” for 3 months.

Delivering in Washington DC
PROS:  My parents can likely come and spend some time with me near my due date, so I won’t be completely alone. 

-I also have a ton of friends there, so it’s not like I’ll have no support.

-If something goes wrong during birth, I do trust the doctors and nurses to be very quick on their feet for an emergency situation and that the baby will be fine.

CONS:  I will be away from Karl for 3 months, and he will be away from the baby until he moves out of Manila. 

-Though I will bring a pet with me to DC, who to choose?  And who will take care of the pet while I’m in the hospital? 

-I will have no maid for those 3 months, so while pregnant and with a newborn, I’ll have to clean the house, do laundry, shopping, cook, etc. (I do realize American moms do that every day, but this is a person that by that point will have had help for almost 2 years, that is not the best timing to pick the American lifestyle back up.)

-Let’s face it, I will not be returning to Manila:  there is no way the State Dept will pay for me to travel back to hang out here for another 2-3 weeks before shipping me back to DC again for our move. 

-Karl will do the move on his own (this could have been a pro if my husband wasn’t the type that would donate all our belongings because he hates having “stuff”).

-If I give birth earlier than scheduled, Karl will likely miss the birth (since it takes a good 24 hours to get from Manila to DC, and that is assuming he is able to jump on the very next flight the same day, which is highly unlikely).

So at this point, I’m really leaning towards delivering the baby here.  I’m due March 7th, and who knows if the baby will be late, making things even more complicated, but at least leading up to the birth, I’ll be home, with my husband, pets, and don’t have to worry about taking care of the apartment while waddling around.  And if I’m very organized, I hope to at least go through my things before the baby is here, so we can reduce some of the stress of moving…

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20 Comments

Filed under Baby, Foreign Service

20 responses to “Where to?

  1. Anne

    As someone who’s been through this twice, another con to add to your DC list is that if you go back to DC to have the baby but don’t return to Manila, you may lose your per diem while in DC. At least, this is what I was told on my most recent OB medevac, so I ended up having to go back to Post for just a few weeks before packing out and going back to the U.S. again (oh so much fun with a baby and a toddler). As for my first birth experience, I delivered 4 weeks early and my husband missed the birth because he couldn’t get back to the U.S. in time. That said, I don’t regret going back to the U.S. as I was more comfortable with the U.S. medical system. It’s such a hard decision, but no matter what you choose you will get through it just fine. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the tips, Anne! For the most part, I’m comfortable giving birth here in Manila, so that’s not a huge drawback (I could see in a different post how I might feel otherwise though). I was told by Manila and Singapore that I wouldn’t get back to Manila if I were to deliver in DC. I was not told about the lack of per diem, that would definitely be a problem! There goes another con against going to the US…

  2. Hi Carla, I am SO sympathetic with the difficulty of your decision. There are so many perks to this life, but this isn’t one of them!
    Regarding the per diem, I have a couple of friend who both came back to the US on Medevac immediately before they were scheduled to PCS, and they both got per diem despite MED giving them a hard time about it initially. They had to argue their way back into qualifying for per diem, but they won the argument.
    It sounds like staying put may be the best option for you overall, but if you do decide to come back, some resources:
    Pets: we had a good experience shipping our pets out of Manila using KLM cargo and a US based pet shipper. It’s not cheap, but the dogs were clean, healthy, and emotionally stable when my parents picked them up in FL. They were walked, fed, and bathed in both Amsterdam and Atlanta. Karl could ship them to a family member in the US.
    The American model of motherhood–do it all yourself and do it perfectly–is insane, but there are resources you can access. And who wants to be perfect anyway? Peapod.com has grocery delivery. Oakwood has maid service once a week, or if you’re not at Oakwood you can pay $85/visit for a cleaning crew to come in. Cooking? Unecessary. The US may the leading consumer of conveience foods, whether you buy a pre-made frozen meal or get take out.
    As for packout, I was not there for our packout this time, having gone back early so my parents could spend time with the baby. In sum, our UAB was not what either of us intended, but it’s not the end of the world. The best thing about living in the US is that if you really need something, you just go to the closest Target and buy it. I suppose I’ll have triplicate everything after ten years, but I can just selll it at a CLO yard sale! 🙂

    • Thanks, Dianne! I’m one of those people who are really afraid of shipping their pets separately (they’re my babies!), and my cat gets really freaked out on flights, so I like taking him in cabin with me to reassure him it’s all ok. (Lily did fine on her way here, but she was still a puppy then, so who knows now?)

      Moving right after the baby, and risking not being together on the flight stresses me out a lot. Plus, I don’t want to be stuck all the way in the back, as that stresses me in general even without pets and baby!

      Good to know about the Oakwood cleaning, I’ll definitely be using that (or using a cleaning service if we end up in non-Oakwood, which we might, since we have a month of home leave to fill up). As for pre-frozen meals, I did so much of that in college that nowadays I can’t eat it anymore! But we did used to buy some of those semi-prepared meals that worked out pretty well while we were still in DC.

      But said all of that, Jenny told me that you’re freaking out without your helper there 🙂

      As for packout, Karl would literally get rid of everything. Seriously. Even when I told him about it, he said “yeah, that sounds like the thing I’d do.” Not taking any chances!

  3. One small thing — probably depends on the airline, but I’m not sure the baby necessarily has to have a window seat. I think the car seat just can’t be blocking someone else from exiting. Once when we flew (this was Air France) I was with baby and carseat in a middle four seat configuration. The carseat was in the of the middle seats and I was in the aisle. The other two people in that row could exit out the other side so no issue.

    Anyway, good lucky with all the decisions you face! Just remember there’s no right or wrong answer. It sounds like your gut is already steering you in one direction. I don’t think you often regret just trusting it.

    • Thanks for the carseat tip! Personally, I hate aisle seats (window all the way), so if the baby is on the window, I can compromise. But good to know in case we can’t get seats together, we can be more flexible.

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. I hope everything works out, schedule-wise, for a delivery there! As if having a baby is not stressful enough, you have all those other things to consider!

  5. Dani

    Hey Carla, I can’t offer much wisdom with regards to which place is better but I will say this: go where you will have the most possible help and support after birth. Those first few weeks are hard no matter what but if you are also trying to figure out how to get food on the table, how to wash clothes (which you will go through many of) and who will watch the baby while you take a much-needed shower, you will be way more stressed and tired than you need to be. If Manilla is where you’ll have someone else around to cook you meals, hold the baby while you shower, watch the pets and do the laundry then that sounds good to me. Also, those first few weeks are really important to Dads I think. For Chris it was so, so huge to him that he got to be there for Will’s birth and hang out with us for so long before going back to work. So wherever Karl will be around the most is also something to consider. Could your mom come to Manilla to stay with you for a few weeks? It’s nice to have your mom there, if you can. Regarding paperwork: make Karl take care of all of it and just make sure he does all of his research ahead of time. Chris got ours done really really fast because he knew everything he had to do before hand and who he had to call to get it done. We spent a small fortune on FedEx but Will had a dip passport in 3 weeks (and FedEx is reimbursable). Actually, if you have any questions or need a primer, email me. Chris has written up a guide for a few people now. Sorry for the longest comment ever!! So excited for you whatever you choose! (and didn’t you LOVE your Singapore medevac? The Botanical Gardens a few blocks from the doctor? the beautiful skies? Haji Lane? IT was one of my favorite trips–in no small part because of the ultrasound I think!)

    • Thanks, Dani! I think Manila is definitely the place to be then. Karl will be here (and he wants to be around the baby!), and I have our helper, who is wonderful and great with kids (I’m not kidding that she may be even more excited than we are). If Chris has written up a guide, I’d love to have a copy! After my medevac meeting, it really freaked me out at how much must be done postpartum! Specially being in the middle of a move and waiting on travel orders that depend on all of that!

      By the way, a friend is moving to Chengdu and I sent over your blog to her. They’re planning on having kids there since they’re newly married still, and she got so excited to read your blog!

      As for Singapore, it was rainy season so that kind of sucked. At least I had been there a few months ago, so I knew my way around pretty well, and still took advantage of the few hours we had with no rain! And the food, ah, the food…

  6. Well, you know where I stand (Manila all the way!), but, still, good luck!

  7. I have no advice since we have yet to leave for our first post (three weeks!!!) but I do have a question even though we are a LONG way out from planning a family: If you come back to the U.S., does the State Department cover your housing (Oakwood or something similar) and provide a per diem? I had assumed they pay for flights but then you’re on your own in terms of staying with family. And I don’t know if it’s different for State/USAID. Luckily I will not be worrying about this for a little while! Good luck with the decision. It sounds like you are leaning one way, even though none of the situations are PERFECT. How exciting!

    • Yes, you get both housing and per diem, based on DC rates. You won’t get housing paid for when you are at the hospital though, so you’re on your own for those dates, aside from that, you get 6 weeks pre and post natal. If you stay with family you don’t get housing but I *think* you still get per diem.

      The one advice I have for you is let the embassy know as soon as you get knocked up, so they can arrange you medical medevac for your NT ultrasound (depending on where you’re at, in Asia, you get to go to Singapore). If you wait too long, you miss out on it.

      And 3 weeks from your first post? I remember those days, nerve wrecking but exciting! Where are you off to?

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Interesting. Thanks for the tip! I will file this away for future reference. We are heading to San Salvador, El Salvador! I’m really excited. Also, I was born in the Philippines — 28 years ago — and everything turned out OK to my knowledge! So there’s that.

        • I don’t think the Philippines would have an over population problem if most births didn’t turn out ok!

          El Salvador sounds exciting! I think it was in our last bidlist too, and we bid it somewhat high. (We got our #1 bid, which was Rio, but we had lots of Central and South America in there — actually aside from 2 posts, out of 30, the rest was all there, as with our timing and language requirements, we couldn’t bid on any other of the 300+ posts. Even though it turned out ok, second tour bidding was not fun…)

          Sent from my iPhone

  8. Lurker here. Just wanted to chime in as someone who just had 2 kids during 1 tour in Korea and has a hubby that had to process tons of medevacs. He says the easiest thing is to head to DC and then return to post. We had a friend due about 8 weeks prior to their PCS date. They had full intentions on returning to post for about 2 weeks and then leaving again, but had tons of issues with getting the correct birth certificate in DC and ended up not being able to get everything done in time. They had to fight to get everything paid. I lucked out and our kids didn’t interfere with PCS and I returned home both times, stayed with family and did receive my meals and incidentals per diem (you can pocket a little cash to put towards a rental if you do it wisely)… just no housing… and no car except days that you have appointments.

    The easiest for you would be to stay in Manila if you feel comfortable there. I wouldn’t do Singapore unless you absolutely have to… no out of pocket payments. If you seem to have an uncomplicated pregnancy and you can stay on top of all the paperwork… stay.

  9. Pingback: Elena’s Birth Story–Part 2 | Carla Runs the World

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