With many of us becoming “global citizens” the idea of giving birth in a country that is not your native home is becoming more and more common. It is however still a daunting thought for many women.
Having the privilege of being able to work in many different countries has given me some invaluable insights into different approaches to pregnancy and birth. There is one birth every 4.5 seconds and each one is unique. And just like every birth is unique, so is every country; they each have their own customs, policies and beliefs. And while you may have an idea of what you want your birth experience to be, the country you are in can affect those decisions based on medical practices, customs and laws.
Personally, the choice to go abroad came out of a yearning to expand my experiences with different cultures and countries with regards to pregnancy and birth. Every opportunity gave me eye-opening insights and invaluable learning experiences that I could later share with my own clients at Urban Hatch. By expanding my insights I could offer a wider range of advice and support to couples from all over the world.
I began my Midwifery career in Belgium. I was fortunate enough to work in very large University Hospitals as well as small local ones. In Belgium the approach to pregnancy and birth is very clinical. The Obstetrician is the central figure. As a midwife my role was not as involved as I would prefer to be. The labour and birth process is very traditional and the majority of women are comfortable with this. The idea of giving birth directed by only a Midwife is not something most would feel comfortable. The entire process is very traditional and not unlike any other medical procedure you would get in a hospital. The Mother did not have very much say in the process and often went in without her concerns or preferences even discussed beforehand.
Although the experience and insight I gained were extremely valuable, it was not the approach to pregnancy and birth I truly believed in.
I then moved to London where I worked in a number of large NHS hospitals, as well as smaller birthing centres, private hospitals and eventually founded my own business; Sofie Jacobs Pregnancy and Birth Consultancy. Here I experienced a very different approach to pregnancy and birth that was very much based on the personal choices of each couple. Having a Midwife is very common in the UK, and they often head up the entire process, normally only referring to the OBGYN when it came to pathology. In fact, most women would get nervous if an OBGYN had to be involved as it often meant there was a problem or medical intervention was necessary. The couples in London would come in very educated and often had a very detailed plan of their expectations when it came to the birth. Unfortunately, this often created unreal expectations and disappointment, as births can never really be “planned”. This gave me a whole new perspective on the ever popular “birth plan” and started me thinking of the idea of “preparing” for birth rather than planning. (Link here)
London was a big change for me. This is where I literally learned to be a Midwife. Having such a central role allowed me to do a number of things I had never been given the opportunity to do before. I was able to make decisions I had never made before, deal with emergencies, perform procedures, work with doctors as a team and even deliver celebrity babies. Each situation brought new and daunting challenges but gave me invaluable experiences. I really learned the importance of being flexible and working on the fly. This is when I truly understood that you can’t plan for birth, but you certainly could prepare for it as a Midwife and as an expectant couple
The diversity of London offered a range of different experiences for me. As a Midwife, I was not only guiding my clients but also learning from them at the same time. Each experience brought new ideas and approaches. It really opened my eyes and my mind to the wonderful ways each pregnancy and birth bring new and unique challenges every time.
Destiny eventually brought me to Hong Kong, which again offered new and exciting opportunities. Being a truly international city, I found I could really apply my knowledge and experiences I had gained from working with so many different cultures. Although I would not be delivering babies directly, there is a strong presence for Midwives during pregnancy and in guiding labour. Here I found most couples would come in very educated and had strong opinions on their pregnancy and birth plans. Again my experience would prove to be extremely helpful as I personally knew that “plans” don’t always work out accordingly.
The diversity of my clients began to grow and the way in which I was consulting them also began to grow. With the availability of the Internet, I found my clients were eager to be in contact with me in other ways than the traditional face to face visits. With an International clientele who travel often, I began offering consultations online allowing me to be wherever they needed me to be when they needed me. I had found my home in Hong Kong.
After working for many Midwife Clinics, I wanted a place I could bring all of my experience and offer it to couples who come from different cultures, countries and backgrounds. This lead to the “birth” of Urban Hatch.
Today I work with couples from every walk of life, every country and every background. I can see them face-to-face, through Skype or even just a text message if need be. The flexibility of my business reflects the diversity of my clients’ needs.
As I’ve said every couple, situation and birth is unique. No matter where you are giving birth the common goal should be the wellbeing of the woman and child, regardless of traditions, policies or “plans”. My travels have given me invaluable insight and I am honoured to have been a part of so many different births. At Urban Hatch there is no plan, no traditional way, no right and no wrong. My hope is that I can bring new and informative ideas to my clients and that every day they do the same for me. Whether I’m Skyping a client in Moscow or literally holding your hand in Hong Kong our goal at Urban Hatch is to make you feel “at home” in your decisions and during the process.
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