By Ela Vasilescu – Writer/Journalist
A.B. is a twenty two years old mom currently living in Prato with her one year old daughter. She is originally from Russia, of Irish heritage on her father side.
A.B. wanted to share her story, where she talks about why she chose this city as her home, how she fell in love and gave birth to her beautiful daughter. Because she is currently involved in a custody trial we will protect her identity by only using her initials in the following interview.
Ela V.: Why did you choose to come to Florence?
A.B.: I initially came to Florence to study interior design. I chose to come to this city because whilst we were looking at top interior design universities, the University of Florence came out among the firsts. I came here with my parents to visit the city and we loved the architecture, the people, the atmosphere, and the energy. My parents were living in Germany at the time and that made it easier for us to visit each other.
Ela V.: What is your first memory of Florence?
A.B.: We came during the summer and we stayed in Artimino which was beautiful experience. It was a different kind of atmosphere than we were used to in Germany; the landscape and the warmth of people enchanted us.
Ela V.: Was it hard to adjust to a new city?
A.B.: For me personally it wasn’t hard at all. I was going to an International School where all the courses were in English, with a lot of international students from all over the world. Now that the classes are finished, I graduated and everyone else moved away it’s very difficult to adjust to everything. Because I don’t have family here and all my friends moved away, the only thing I have left here is my daughter and my dog.
While I was still living in Germany I corresponded with a man from Florence online and we decided when I come to Florence that we would meet. I came here and we started dating and very soon things moved to a more serious level. He also made living here very easy for me because we were travelling together and visiting new places all the time.
Ela V.: Did you get married?
A.B.: Fortunately I didn’t get married. Fortunately, because I am currently involved in custody trial and I can’t live the city. We did agree to get married at some point and we even made an appointment to go to the City Hall to sign the papers. A week before something happened and he showed me a different side of him, so decided not to sign the marriage license anymore.
Ela V.: What happened?
A.B.: I got pregnant just before finishing school. My pregnancy was wonderful. My partner was very happy and supportive at the time. I gave birth in the water at the Careggi Hospital and it was an amazing experience. The nurses there were so wonderful and helpful.
After I gave birth everything seemed to be fine, but after four or five months I realized the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted to pack up my things and leave but I am obliged by the Italian law to stay here until the trial is over.
My parents always disagreed with my relationship. They knew he had a certain way of living and certain traditions he would follow that I would not have been comfortable with in the end. I was living a beautiful dream; I didn’t want to see the ugly side of it because I was very much in love. I like to receive flowers, I like to dress in a nice way, eat in nice places and socialize with people that challenge me intellectually. I like to travel the world and have a general comfort. He on the other hand has lived in Prato for the last 10 years surrounded by his whole family. The fact that he was so family oriented also attracted me, because being so far from my own family made me crave for that closeness.
Ela V.: How do you feel about living here now?
A.B.: At the moment I am suffering and don’t like it anymore. I pray every day that I can get out of here. As I was saying I have to live in Prato together with my daughter’s father until the custody trial is finished. It’s very hard emotionally and because we don’t live in the city there is not much to do all day.
Ela V.: How are you handling the single mom life?
A.B.: I love being a mother and the single mom life wouldn’t be so hard if the circumstances would be different. My family helps me financially so I can be more tranquil from that point of view. We wake up late, have breakfast together, we play and either come to Florence or just take a bus or the train and visit other cities.
Ela V.: Would you say you have experienced the miracle of birth that everyone talks about?
A.B.: Yes, I could say that. There was definitely something magical about it. Life is no longer about me but about this new, little person I brought into the world.
Ela V.: What are your plans for the future, when you will have a choice to leave or stay?
A.B.: My plan is to eventually leave Florence and change the environment. I am used to changing the place I live in every four or five years. I have a choice between going to Germany or Ireland. I am very self-determined and I want to work. I specialized in 3D renderings and right now I am trying to build a portfolio that I can use later on.
I always say the city of Florence enchants you; it put a spell on you and tries to trap you. When one first arrives here, the architecture, the splendor of the Duomo with its refined details and the general energy you can feel on the streets is overwhelming. Until the fog lifts…
Ela V.: Do you have any regrets?
A.B.: No, I have no regrets. I take responsibility for my actions and no one forced me to do anything I didn’t want to; what I didn’t think about was what would happen if I would stop loving this person. It is financially, physically and mentally exhausting, but I have no regrets because I have my daughter now.
Ela V.: How did you hear about the Network?
A.B.: I was desperate to meet new people and I thought I couldn’t be the only one who had a baby in this city, so I went online and the page popped up. I signed up, followed the website, but at the time I wasn’t yet ready to interact.
Ela V.: How do you think the Network could help you?
A.B.: It would be really nice to meet other moms and talk about mom things. I would also like to expose my daughter to an international environment where she could play and meet other children.
Living an expat life, being pregnant and giving birth are unique experiences we could all learn from and relate to. We would like to read more of your stories, your experiences, your fears, your expectations. Together with journalist Ela Vasilescu we would like to continue this project and expand it to also include birth stories and pregnancy experiences.
Moving to a different country and starting a new life, although exciting, can be scary and the process of integration is slow and excruciating. We want to include birth stories in the project because each woman has a distinctive memory about the moment when they gave life to a new human being and reading those stories would help and inspire other mothers to be or fill with joy and melancholy the ones who are already experiencing motherhood.
We would like to explore these three distinctive threads (living as an expat, pregnancy and birth stories) that whilst seemingly different, they trigger situations and feelings unlike others and by sharing them we could help others understand they are not alone, offering the support they need to move forward.