Tag Archives: Expat Life

Expat Mom Birth Stories: Elsa Rich

Elsa Rich, a French expatriate, married her American husband 9 years ago. When she was pregnant with her third child, she thought all would go easy like with her first two children. That could not be any further from the truth.

Elsa met her husband in Paris through a dating website. She states, “Never thought I would meet my husband like that.” They moved around a lot and before moving to Italy, they lived in Switzerland. The differences between Switzerland and Italy are, “like day and night!” The move to Italy organized and paid by her husband’s company, consisted of their two children at the ages of 18 months and 1 month old.  The move to Italy affected her negatively, for many reasons. First two days after arriving, her husband had to fly to London for 5 days leaving her to handle their two children in a new country.  She also experienced postpartum depression after the birth of her second child.  She needed to find some help in dealing with the move and the depression to tolerate living here. When I asked about support system here in Italy, she stated, “If I really need help I fly my mom from Paris. I can ask help from friends but they are also busy with work and kids, so not so easy” She still finds it hard to live here but with each year it has been became easier. Their plans are to stay here because of her husband’s job. “FMs4Ms Network surely helped me to find some friends and support. The network has also very good tips/ explanations on how life works here.”

About 2 years ago, Elsa found out she was pregnant and was going to have her third baby delivered in Italy. Because she wanted to have a wonderful experience with her pregnancy and delivery, she got a referral of a private OBGYN but also made appointments through the ASL public system found here in Italy. She was very happy with her OBGYN and continued to have an uncomplicated pregnancy. She just had only the small, annoying normal pregnancy symptoms. Since this was her third pregnancy, she did not feel she needed to go to the prenatal classes

Elsa had a smooth sailing through the third pregnancy until she went to deliver five days before her due date at Torregalli Hospital.  She states why she chose Torregalli hospital, “I wanted the epidural and my doctor told me that was my best shot was at that hospital. was terrified of not having it. I had epidural for the first two and it really helped me.” At Torregalli, the rooms are old looking with old fashion beds, without remote control to adjust the bed head. As for the eating utensils she states, “I had to bring a mug and cutlery. I really thought it was a joke when my friend told me I had to bring those. I had my first meal (pasta) with a piece of bread replacing the fork.”

Because it was very crowded that day, while she was in labor she was placed in the hallway. When she finally arrived in the room after delivery, she was with three other pregnant women that were not in labor.  She was the only one with a baby in that room. One patient in the room was very sick and dehydrated as for the others; she was not sure why they were there, but none with babies. She explained her horrible labor experience with her third child in detail.

“Labor was short: 2h30, but very intense. I was in a corridor, as they had no space for me. No one was talking to me or looking me in the eyes. I was in labor and had perform the check in process of lots of questions. An example of those questions is, “What does your husband study and for how many years?” The same questions for me as well. I was thinking, “I am in labor, any chance you can ask me that at another moment?”

I asked for an epidural and they gave me the “yeah the anesthesiologist is coming soon” speech. He never came, of course. I made them call another one, but when she finally arrived, she only said, “you’ll have to push in 5 minutes so it’s not worth it”.

The head of the maternity ward arrived a bit before and literally, slapped my leg and said ” well, open your legs otherwise it won’t come out!” As if, I was the most idiot person in the world.

Because of the pain and the “French attitude “I yelled he should leave or he will get hurt.

Then my husband got mad and said it was outrageous that they make women suffer like this for nothing. I was scared they would send him out so asked him to calm down.

Every time the doctor, who did not look at me or talk to me, would check my dilatation it would give me horrible contractions. I got to the point where, I told her not to touch me again. I told her, “I will tell you when I feel the need to push”. The midwives acted as if they did not want to be there. I had to go to the bathroom by myself while in labor. Once I was seated, I screamed that I needed to push. They screamed, “don’t push!” Like I had any control of this! I asked for a wheel chair since the pain was paralyzing my legs. The nurses went on and on about who had the wheel chair, and where it was located. They were so unorganized and ridiculous.

I had to walk to the table. I looked at one doctor and said, “I’m scared, I need a 5 minute break from this pain.” She did not even respond or even say something encouraging.

I began pushing. My husband was cheering and supporting me like a champion, but I felt something was wrong. I was scared and no one was telling me anything about what was going on. I bent over and tried to reach for my baby to pull her out myself, as I have done for the other two. Three people held me back on the table.  I began to kick and scream, “Let me go! Do not touch me!” I am sure I hurt some of them and I saw the head of the maternity ward jerked back. I think I kicked him in the stomach. If I did, I feel he deserved it anyway! No one talked or comforted me while all this was happening.

Then I felt a horrible excruciating pain; it was the doctor’s hand scrapping my pelvic bone to free the baby.  I still did not understand what was happening. Then at last, I saw my sweet baby, but I was panicking and shaking, I did not get to enjoy this birthing experience. I could not hold her. I kept saying, “I’m sorry” over and over again, I was in shock and was trying to acknowledge what had happened, but I couldn’t. All I saw was bright lights and so many doctors.  My husband was against the wall. I was trying to see my baby, but everything was blurry.

The doctor told me I needed two stitches.  I jumped when she tried to make the local anesthesia. She rolled her eyes and said to the anesthesiologist “Just put her under will you. I had enough.”

Therefore, they gave me general anesthesia for two stitches but no epidural. This did not make sense, right?

When I woke up the baby was not with me. I was, again in the corridor, alone. I was wondering what had happened. Then a nurse arrived to tell me that they had to check the baby’s shoulder. She mentioned that she would be brought to me soon, because we needed to make a latch on as soon as possible. This was without asking me if I had made the choice to breastfeed or bottle feed.”

Since in Italy it is very big to force breast-feeding, I asked which she had chosen to do with her third child.  She tried to breast feed again with failing attempts, because that was what the hospital demanded. When she asked for a bottle, the nurses told her that she needed a consent from the pediatrician. “They treated me like a neglecting mom and they didn’t offer any support for helping me breastfeed. They gave a five minute lesson on how to make the baby latch.”  Her overall experience was, “It was the worst of all my three giving birth experiences. It really felt like women must suffer and must breastfeed as if we were in the 19th century’s. In addition, the way men doctors would talk to my husband and not me and women doctors would talk to me and ignoring my husband because “men don’t do these things” (like changing diapers etc…)”.

Elsa now pregnant with her fourth child has decided for obvious reasons that she will not be going to Torregalli to give birth.   She claims, “For this baby I’m going to try the Margherita center. At least I know that I will not get the epidural, but I’m hoping for a bit more humanity and support.”

Author: Kimberly Vanzi

Working Moms Stories: Danielle Jennings

Danielle Jennings is an interior designer from Toronto, Canada and the mother of a six-year-old girl. She first came to Florence seventeen years ago with a study abroad program when, she met her husband.

“How did you meet your husband?”

“I met him in Piazza Santa Croce on a Saturday night in August.” she answers smiling. “I was out having drinks and dinner with my roommate, when a group of locals came over. Among them was my husband. We dated for the rest of my stay here.”

After that encounter, Danielle went back to Toronto to finish her Design studies. They visited one another until December of 2001, when Danielle officially moved to Florence.

“My husband owns his own IT company.  He has a web agency and develops on-line software for the hotel industry. This would have made it very difficult for him to move to Canada” explains Danielle her decision to move to Florence.

“Did you encounter any cultural differences that you had to overcome?”

“I am Italian descent so the differences weren’t so obvious for me. My mother is Italian from Bari.” Danielle replies. “Maybe one of the differences was the approach of people and how to go about making friendships. I found relationships to be more open here. At the beginning, it seemed very odd for me that girls were friends with guys. I was also struck by the different way to celebrate the festivities. In Canada the festivities felt so much more alive whereas in Italy they are more modern. It wasn’t what I was expecting.”

The first few years, Danielle worked in Design, but her job didn’t meet her needs to be creative. After building a career in fashion, she recently became a self-employed interior designer.

“I was working in the showroom of an Italian company, doing projects and reaching out to clients. But I felt like I was working in sales and that didn’t meet my needs. In 2003 I had an opportunity to work in fashion. I started off as an assistant in the buying office. I was working for American firms selling stock and also private label development. Later I started working with leather goods and leather development. In 2009 I started working for Jimmy Choo. I started my career there. I moved my way up in the company, the back office to private development and leather development. Two years ago, I started working in Design again. Now I am a self-employed interior designer.  I went back to my first passion and I am doing what I always wanted to do.”

Danielle has a six-year-old daughter and she gave birth at the Careggi Hospital. She describes her experience as an at least interesting one.

“The obstetricians were great, but as a metaphor I felt primitive. When my daughter was born, it was a really hot month of May. They kept the windows open and there were no bug screens, the lights were always on. We had to stay for four days in the hospital. I didn’t have enough milk so my daughter wasn’t recuperating her weight loss fast enough.   My experience there was extremely impersonal. I understand that nurses and doctors are just doing their jobs. What they didn’t understand, was that she was our first child and we didn’t know what to do very well. The health system in Canada is different in terms of aesthetics and sanitation. As for the cost it was exceptional and everything was well organized.”

When asked if she is comfortable with the Italian way of raising children, Danielle smiles, nodding in approval.

“I love it. I think the Italian way of raising children is more towards the needs of the child and more open. When we started the weaning process, we went for a visit in Canada. I would make the broth from scratch the way my pediatrician explained to me. My friends and family members were surprised that I am not using homogenized foods. I also found helpful the fact that you have your own personal pediatrician whom you can call and can help you. Everything is more industrialized in Canada. It makes it easier for the parents, but health wise the Italian way is better.

“On the other hand there are a lot of opinionated people here. It was hard at the beginning until I gained enough self-confidence. Everyone was trying to tell me what to do and I became frustrated.

“I was also pleased with the daycare system here. My daughter didn’t go to public school because we were among the last on the waiting list. I ended up opting for the private. I think that extra money we had to pay was worth it because I felt she was well taken care off where she is. This year she will start school and we chose a private school. We want her to have access to excellent development in English. The school she will be going to has an English section, Italian and bilingual sections. It was one of the reasons we chose it.”

As an expat mom, Danielle felt it was hard to make friends with other moms. Being a working mom, made interacting with other parents difficult. The only other moms she knew were work colleagues. Now, as a self-employed mom, she feels she has to juggle even more than before.

“I couldn’t wait to be self-employed and then when it happened it was different than I imagined. You think you know what the worries are going to be. You have to do everything. You are no longer a working mom. You have to be a mom and you also have to be a businesswoman every day. To juggle that in 24 hours is quite a challenge. Before when I had that 9 to 6 job and I could have weekends off and the paycheck was still coming in. However, when you are a self-employed mom everything happens seven days a week, nonstop. After I got my Partita Iva, I had bills coming in after the first three weeks.

There are also advantages of course. If I need to take a day off, if I need to be creative or if I have to do research, I get to decide what to do and when.”

Danielle believes that one of the biggest advantages of living in Italy is the quality of life and food. On the other side, she thinks that not having grocery stores or pharmacies opened 24 hours a day is a minus.

“It’s the small, everyday things that bother me; like going to the postal office or pay bills. But Italy has changed a lot in the past 15 years, Florence in particular.”

She never excluded the possibility of moving back to Canada.

“For now Florence is the right size. If I were to move to Canada it would be for my daughter and her future. Her living her childhood in Italy is great. I think she would profit better from Canadian schooling in the future though. Here a lot of people depend on what is passed to them. They don’t teach children the responsibility of being self-sustainable. They don’t teach them about the value of money and earning everything. That is not as valued here. I think kids need to learn the way the world works and the responsibilities that come with that. I feel that the system here for teaching life values is chaotic and without any structure.” states Danielle.

Towards the end of our talk, Danielle offers some advice for other expats who plan on moving here and start a family.

“You need to be able to communicate with your partner very well, because it takes a while to make friends. You need a good support system at the beginning. Also don’t to give up when it gets hard, because there are some days when you want to go back home. Italy has a lot to offer, you just have to find your space and it’s possible, especially in Florence.”

You can follow Danielle at www.dnj.design.

Author and journalist Ela Vasilescu

I want to share my story:  Click here to submit to be interviewed.

 

Working Mom Stories: Kate Whalen

Kate Whalen, an Australian expatriate from Melbourne, living now in Prato with her husband and toddler son, has overcame the dilemmas that many face in finding a job in Italy. After arriving in Firenze, 7 years ago on a holiday trip, she met her Italian husband one night at a pub in Santa Croce, which would be changing her life forever.  Like for most Italian families, a dual income is the standard for family living and for Kate’s family there is no exception.  Through the 7 years of living in Italy, Kate, an aspiring woman, has attained a job she loves and is also in the process of creating a new startup business adventure.

Kate left behind her job as a restaurant manager, working for a celebrity Australian chef. Though she really enjoyed that job, she was not able to continue that type of work here in Italy. Those similar jobs require extensive Italian language, something that Kate did not have at the time. Kate earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Archaeology, but focused more on her Bachelor in English in her search for a Job in Italy. It was not long after she completed a TEFL course at a learning center in Firenze, that she was hired by the same center to teach English to local students. After 2 years at this teaching job, she developed enough experience to go out on her own and teach courses in Isolotto at a community center and elementary schools.   Three more years later, Kate started a freelance business with partita iva teaching Business English. She only works for companies on a contract-based salary conducted through a training agency or the company itself.  Because of bad work experiences with schools, Kate strictly conducts all her work for companies. Concerning her contracts, she has her “commercialista” draw-up the documents between the hiring companies and her. She states the terms of the contract and having this kind of document gives her a sense of security needed when dealing with an independent owned business.  Sometimes she gets a “lettera d’incarico” from a training agency where she has her commercialista check over its legitimacy.  How does INPS affect her contracts?

“INPS HURTS…..it’s expensive and I honestly hate paying it. Having said that, I did receive five months of maternity payments plus three months of half-maternity payments because I had paid so much in INPS the previous year. That’s the only positive thing I can say about my relationship with INPS at this point.”

She claims it is easy to get a Partita IVA, but the hardest part is paying the INPS and taxes associated with having a freelance type business.  She started with the ‘regime minime’, so she only paid 5% in tax the first 4 years, but that was when her yearly income had to remain under a certain amount. She states, “The problem is, people with the partita IVA don’t only have to pay taxes and INPS in June, but also another payment in November which is an estimated part payment of what you will be paying for the following year….. Confusing and annoying and sometimes a shock to receive.”   Though she has these contracts, most invoices are paid after 60 or 90 days, so budgeting and planning is important. With more ups than downs in her freelance business, she claims: “It’s the best decision I made regarding my teaching career here, and I haven’t looked back.”

I was curious as to how working has affected her family life.  Kate considers it as one of the best jobs in the world for my family, as it has flexible hours, no weekends, and no evenings.   Kate and her husband decided to place their child in “Asilo” at 5 months for two mornings a week.  She states her infant son benefits from going to the Asilo, “He loves it. He plays, learns and socialises, plus he eats incredibly well. And now that he is 17 months, he is happy to go every day.”

She might have her career of choice, but that has not stopped her from pursuing other business type adventures.  Kate is in the process of designing and implementing another wonderful startup business, created from her expat experience living and giving birth here in Italy. Kate had to go around and collect special items to have when she was going to be in the hospital and at home after delivery.  She says, “pads, nipple balm etc….the things no one really wants to buy and no one really talks about!”  She realized that it was many trips around to get the right items instead of a one stop bag with all the items needed. Kate states, “So I came up with the idea to create a pre packed hospital kit for mums to be. They exist in Australia, the UK and the US, so I’ve decided to give it a shot here. It isn’t a baby kit, this is just for mums and I think it could make a nice baby shower gift from friends or family.  Many of the products I have chosen are certified organic, biodegradable and recyclable. Much of the packaging has been recycled and has low C02s, so are more friendly on the environment than other products on the market. From my research, most people would prefer to throw away the items they use in the hospital, rather than bring them home, therefore it became apparent to me that I needed to create something with as little negative impact on the environment as possible.  In addition, most of the products are produced in Italy. So I’m going to give it a try! Watch this space!”

Kate Whalen came to Italy on a getaway vacation not realizing she would find the love of her life and start to raise a family all while being a motivated woman enjoying her career and creating another one with hopes to help other moms with their births in Italy.  She is a woman many expat moms could learn a lot from in their search to expand their career here in Italy. Just reach out your hands and go for it, it will happen.

Author: Kimberly Vanzi

 

I want to share my story:  Click here to submit to be interviewed.

Please Help Support the FMs4Ms Network

As renewal time comes for all the Network essentials for keeping moms connected with other moms and giving out information for living an expatriate life in Italy, I am forced to realize how much financial obligation out of my personal account this Network entails. I feel this Network is an asset for the many moms and their families moving here to live in Firenze and the surrounding areas. Which is why I am asking for your help to keep all this alive. A small donation could go a long way.  Here is the GoFundMe link that will take you to the page of where you can donate. Thank you in advance for your help.

https://www.gofundme.com/FMs4Ms-Network

 

 

From Vancouver, Canada to Florence, Italy

View More: http://nataliareardonphotography.pass.us/elenaphotos

Gina Mazza currently lives in Florence with her beautiful 7 month old daughter and her husband Alessio. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Gina wanted to share with us the story of her coming here and how she overcame some of the cultural differences she encountered when settling in.

Read more her story…...From Vancouver, Canada to Florence, Italy

By Ela Vasilescu – Writer/Journalist

 

****This is one of the many stories from our Expat Stories Series  If you are interested in sharing your story fill out the form on this post.  We Would Like to Read Your Expat Story

 

Florence, Love, Joy, and Pain

mama-1592422_1280

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.

Read more her story…...Florence, Love, Joy and Pain

****This is one of the many stories from our Expat Stories Series    If you are interested in sharing your story fill out the form on this post.  We Would Like to Read Your Expat Story

 


 

A Group of House Plants Hard at Work

The beneficial effects of houseplants in home and office

house-plants

Houseplants can clean your air, eliminating chemicals, mould and bacteria; they produce oxygen and moisture. On your desk, they can create a personal breathing zone filtering chemicals emitted by computer screens, in your bedroom succulents, orchids and bromeliads provide oxygen at night.

Last century NASA, after finding a hazardous build-up of toxins in spacecraft, discovered that houseplants were able to remove toxic chemicals in sealed chambers. This lead to a series of detailed studies on the filtering capacity of plants in relation to the most common chemicals found in indoor environments.

Indoor pollutants include the chemicals found in modern products, electronics and furnishings, particularly formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, ammonia found in cleaning products, moulds and bacteria and the 150 bio-effluents emitted by the human body.

The poisonous nature of these substances has been highlighted recently in the sick building syndrome where energy efficient buildings seal in the toxins and the people living in them get ill.

What some house plants are good at:

While all houseplants filter and clean the air, two of the best for:

Formaldehyde which enters our homes in  refuse sacks, paper products, fabrics, plywood, chipboard, resins, gas ovens  are the Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ and the Rubber plant Ficus Robusta.

Xylene and toluene – in adhesives, printers, computer screens, photocopiers – the Areca palm Chrysalidocarpus lutescens and the Moth orchid Phalaenopsis sp.

Ammonia – cleaning products and bio effluents -the Lady palm Rhapis excelsa and the King of Hearts Homalomena wallisii

Author and photo by Kate Parenti
http://www.gardendesign.bio/

Free violin lessons for kids in Florence

violino-marianaFree Violin lessons for kids (elementary school age) at the Nidiaci garden in Oltrarno (via d’Ardiglione 30) will be starting this Thursday at 6 p.m.

The teacher is Mariana Pinto, whose extensive curriculum you can read here (in Italian) http://www.nidiaci.com/2016/04/03/mariana-rodrigues-pinto-la-nostra-maestra-di-violino/

The course is entirely free of charge, but for insurance purposes, an accompanying adult must become a member of our Association (annual fee 10 euros).

The Nidiaci garden – created in 1920 thanks to the generosity of the American Red Cross – is kept open by community volunteers and is right behind the historic Carmine church.

Violins for the course have been donated by members of the Association.

For information
Associazione Amici del Nidiaci in Oltrarno Onlus
tel. 349-1575238
http://www.nidiaci.com

What’s in a Name

in a nameWell everything! Especially if you are planning to get married and move to Italy.  Even more so, if you want to take your husband’s name and then get Italian Citizenship.  In Italy, it is the legal practice to keep your maiden name when you get married. You will have the hardest of times if you try to take your husband’s name and get the documents needed like Italian Social Security Card, Health Care Card, Driver’s License and even your Permission to Stay.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense as to why not to take your husbands last name and to keep that birth last name.  One big fact is the governmental offices will not accept documents when there are two different names on them.  In addition, God forbid if you got a divorce. You would have many issue of turning back all those documents. (That is to say, you got them all in your married name in the first place) If you had used your maiden name to start with, you would just need the papers everything else would stay the same.

It seems that more and more in the USA are starting to keep their birth name and skip that old tradition there of changing to their husbands name in marriage.  So best if you are planning to move and even more if you plan to stay forever in Italy, Do Not Take Your Husband’s Name.

We Would Like to Read Your Expat Story

Logo FMs4Ms2016To the many Expat Moms that follow our Website/blog;

As some of you may know in the past, we have interviewed many moms about their experience as expats. Together with journalist Ela Vasilescu we would like to continue this project.

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. Moving to a different country and starting a new life, although exciting, can be scary and the process of integration can be slow and excruciating at times. Other times the process is fast and problem free.  We want to hear your story.

We will do a separate section to focus on birth stories 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”.   These stories will help pregnant moms compare and understand the different hospital environments in and around Firenze and fill with joy and melancholy the ones who already experienced the birth of their child here.

We would like to explore these 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.

The project will consist in scheduled interviews shared online on our blog. If you would like to take part in the project please please fill out the form below.     

Ela Vasilescu
Writer/Journalist
http://writerinflorence.com/

To sign up for an interview please fill out this form and we will contact you very soon:

Ask Dr. Paolo is back

Ask Paolo logoYou may have noticed a few blog post and workshops about Dr. Paolo Molino a psychotherapist.  Dr. Paolo Molino has been helping the Expat community for years. He is a psychotherapist of Gestalt psychology. He is also a family man with his wife and two children.

He expertise covers many areas such as:

  • Affection disorders (depression,emotional dependence )
  • Personality disorders ( borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder , antisocial personality disorders)
  • Parenting Roles (coaching and support)
  • Sexuality related problems (male and female)
  • Relational problems (couple’s or family’s)
  • Family constellations (group or individual session)
  • Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia)

If you have any questions about dealing with different cultural relationships, dealing with being away from family, or dealing with children behavior just to name a few examples many expats go through.  Click and  Submit your questions.   *your question can be submitted anonymously

If you need to contact him directly for an appointment here is his information:

Paolo molinoDr. Paolo Molino, psychotherapist,
Piazza Cesare Beccaria Area, Firenze.
Cell 331-1064726
email: paolomolino@gmail.com.
Website: http://www.paolomolino.com