I shall do a mock interview with this little midget, and you can take it as truth or fiction, however you like. Fact is, if I were to ask her these questions, she would probably look at me and say, “Huhn.”, which means sit down, and pat the couch beside her. If I didn’t comply, she very well might follow me around saying, “Mama, mama!”, and waving her little patty to tell me to come. SO. I’m not going to really ask her these questions. For one thing, her language is very limited and for another, she’s in bed right now.

Serenity, what do you do all day?

“Well, I get up somewhere between 6 and 6:30 and then I whine and follow mama around because my tummy is so hungry and if I get up at 6:00 I have to wait a half an hour for food. And then I feed myself breakfast and have to be washed up (and my tray, too, but Davina’s learning how to do that job) because if there’s anything smeary, I like to smear it. And we often have smeary things like oatmeal and cream of wheat or greasy eggs (that’s usually when David makes breakfast, though—mama doesn’t like to use so much oil).

“Maybe I should hurry up in my telling or I’ll never get this done. I don’t have any chores like David and Davina, but mama has to get me dressed and combed after breakfast and Bible Time. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you about Bible Time. I’m learning to sit still but I mostly have trouble almost every morning ‘cause I don’t really get that much out of the Bible yet and sitting there sucking my thumb gets boring. But I know what to do when Daddy says it’s time to pray and I fold my little pats together quite saintly. Mama still tells me I’m so CUTE, whatever that means.

“After that David and Davina have lots of chores and I just play and stuff. I’m pretty tired by the time they start school, so I sit in my high chair ‘till it’s time for me to sleep and watch them work. They do fun things like writing and coloring and stuff and mama usually gives me something to write. She never lets me use the funnest things, though, like the markers. One time when she did I wrote all over my tray—I think that’s why. Then I get to have my nap—but usually the electricity is off right then, so I get all sweaty from 9:00 to 10:00 when it goes back on. But I’m usually asleep so I don’t notice. Mama says that while I’m sleeping is the best time to get school done. When I get up I often have to be on the mat for a while and play with Play-dough or Little People or something. I like my Little People a lot—I call them “baby” ‘cause one of them is a little baby and that’s my favorite.

“Auntie fixes lunch for us and sometimes it’s so spicy I have to drink lots of water. We always have rice at lunchtime because that’s the way it’s done here. On Saturday when mama fixes lunch it’s usually not rice, though—she made samosas last time. That’s all we had: just samosas and ketchup and water, and it took mama more than an hour to make it. But it was good, I’m not complaining. Davina washed dishes after lunch and David usually plays quietly and since I’m full, I usually find something to do by myself. I like to play dolly so much that sometimes I do that.

“After the children are done with their chores we get to play together. I don’t know what we do—lots of things. David and Davina usually play with me and they like to play games like building houses with cushions and chairs or chasing each other around the house. The other day I didn’t know what to do and I stuck my finger in the fan. Mama told me not to and Davina did, too, but I learned the hard way. I got to have a bandaid, but I only left it on for half an hour or so. It bothered me. Sometimes David and Davina go outside and I feel left out because mama won’t let me go out with them. Then I howl in the garage and sometimes I get shlake and sometimes I get to go out in the stroller. It’s naptime after that… again. Sometimes in the afternoons I can’t sleep and then I keep Davina up, too. Mama says something has to change… hey, maybe I’ll get to just sleep one nap now! But I’d still have to go in my bed in the mornings anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

“Well, this day is getting long. In the evening we do different things—about once a week we go marketing, other times we play together and Daddy and Mama play with us, too. Occasionally we go to the Park and sometimes something else is happening. I don’t go out of the house very much, but the other day mama needed something in town so I got to go with Daddy all by myself. That was the first time I got to do that. I could barely see over the edge of the scooter, but I held on tight. It’s really not dangerous because Daddy is a good driver and careful. One time when we were all in town together at the shop where we buy office things someone came by really fast and knocked the scooter over and bent the hand brake. I’m glad we weren’t all on the scooter when that happened.

“I almost always have a bath in the evening. I’m learning to take a shower. I love water, so baths are always a treat. I have a problem behind my ear and I sometimes have heat rash so I usually get all powdered and creamed up before I go to bed. That’s usually at 7 or 7:30, and I don’t know what happens after that.”

Serenity, do you like India?

“Yes, but I didn’t like all the people at first. Everyone pinches my cheeks and goos at me and they often give me candy. But really, it’s not that different than USA because Daddy and Mama and David and Davina are here. I got to see Grandpa and Grandma on Skype the other day and I just chattered all the words I knew how to say because I was so glad to see them. Even after I was done talking to them I kept checking to see if they were there by shouting “PAWPAW” every few minutes. I miss them and I talk about A. Bepah sometimes, too, and I know everyone’s names because I see them in the photo album mama made.”


Okay, that’s the end of the interview. Serenity got up from her nap and got hungry and I keep getting interrupted. =)

Well I've got babies on the brain these days (something about having a newborn!), so let's talk about doing cloth diapers overseas. Before I moved to West Africa with my 3-month-old, I wrote to one of our colleagues there who had used cloth diapers for both of her babies. She sent me an email packed with lots of advice, and I wanted to share it here today! This is written from the perspective of someone living in a remote area, doing laundry by hand. Not all of it will be applicable to every situation, but I think you will still find her recommendations helpful.

Here's Charity:

I have used cloth diapers for my boys and really liked it, but I certainly understand why someone may choose to use all disposable. I kept some disposable on hand and used them if I was having a really busy day, or maybe I was sick, or we were traveling. I also used disposable for the first couple months after they were born. I liked cloth in the village because I found the disposable not so disposable in a village setting. Especially in the rainy season they don't burn the greatest and if you had a lot of observers when you burned trash, it was a bit embarrassing to have this huge pile of diapers. And to just let them pile up until you can drive them away to the dump can get pretty smelly!

Here is the diapering system that I came up with and felt like I could handle. I was given some diapers as a gift in the States.The ones that I prefer are the long thin cotton ones that needed to be folded. Some people don't like all the folding, but they washed out SO much more easily than the pre-folded ones that I would choose them any day over any fancy, thick prefolded or pamper shaped diapers. They dried so quickly even in rainy season that I never had a problem of them getting smelly. There are likely rubber pants here, but not good quality. I would bring some. Bad rubber pants can give you a bad diapering experience. My preferences on rubber pants are called "Doppi". I would NOT recommend Gerber. They get holes in them so much faster and are much more "plastic-y" and hot. The "Doppi" brand is so nice and soft and have lasted a long time. Remember that you will need all sizes and I would bring a couple packs of each size.

I also made diaper liners out of old cotton sheets and shirts. I lined each diaper when I folded it, then if it was just wet, the liner got washed, and the messy ones got thrown away and burned. It saved a lot of washing. I kept a bucket of water with disinfectant in it, and put the wet diapers in there. If they were extra dirty I immediately rinsed them out in some other water and then put them in the disinfectant water. I washed the diapers at least every other day, so they didn't get so smelly. Unless they were unusually dirty, I simply wrung them out of the water they were soaking in, then rinsed them twice and hung them out in the sun. They have stayed amazingly white and smelling nice. If you use laundry soap, you have to make sure they get rinsed VERY well, as the detergent can be harsh on the baby's skin. Occasionally, I felt they needed the extra cleaning and did use the soap, but the disinfectant really did a good job for the most part. As far as how many diapers, I'm trying to remember, but with washing them every other day, I probably didn't use more than 12-15, but you may want to bring 2 doz. just in case you don't want to wash them as often.

I used diaper pins for awhile, but found something here that I like WAY better. It is Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners. They work SO well and pins can be such a pain.

A couple things that I would add from my experience - instead of using traditional plastic pants, I used 'Thirsties' brand diaper covers. They worked great for me, and almost never leaked! I also had a friend give me homemade flannel diapers - long, thin ones (like Charity mentioned) but made of flannel. These are super easy to make, soft for Baby, and very absorbent!

So what is your experience? Have you tried cloth diapering overseas? What tips do you have, or what brands/supplies would you recommend?

I wanted to write today's post as a thorough answer to this reader's question. But I simply don't have the answers! So instead I'm just posting the question and hoping that the rest of you can help us out!

Question:

Hi!  My husband and I have begun talking about starting a family, but we're overwhelmed just thinking about how we will plan for childbirth.  I've heard stories of women going back to their passport country for childbirth, and I've also heard stories from women who give birth in their assignment countries.  What are the factors we should consider when making this decision?  What about traveling before and after birth, family help, or separation from my husband if I need to travel and he needs to stay and "hold down the fort"?  I'd love to hear the wisdom your readers have on this topic, especially about what some needs may be that a new mom might not expect!  Thank you!

Please help us! What kinds of things need to be considered here, ladies? If you gave birth overseas, what was your expereince, and how did you make that choice? If you traveled back to your passport country for childbirth, how did you plan, what factors did you have to consider? How long were you away from your assignment country? Have any of our readers been seperated from their husbands for childbirth? What kinds of questions should this potential new mom be asking right now?

{This is article is intended for those who are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, but it is not meant to uphold breastfeeding as the right way, or debate the advantages or disadvantages of breast vs. bottle. If you can't breastfeed or have chosen not to, no judgement here! Maybe you can help us out by writing an article on bottle-feeding overseas.}

I was a new mom with a 16-week-old baby when we moved from the US to Africa, so breastfeeding was still a full-time job. Although my little one was not the best nurser, and certainly had a rough start, we had gotten the hang of things and I was comfortable with it. I knew that the culture we were moving to accepted breastfeeding as a normal, everyday part of life, so I figured if anything it would be much easier to nurse my baby in Africa than at home.

Whew, was I in for a surprise!! First of all, my little man was shocked to go from cold temperatures to hot as we moved in December. He would get totally drenched in sweat with the effort of nursing, and the last thing he wanted was my smothering nursing cover over his head when it was 95 degrees. Suddenly, nursing discreetly became a lot more difficult! But I worked with my technique and got to the point where I felt I could nurse modestly without a cover - especially as I realized that my African neighbors considered it totally acceptable for a nursing mom to go around without any shirt on to give their baby easy access! But my ability to fit into this cultural worldview was severely stretched one day when my husband took me & baby to the market. He wanted me to meet one of his good friends, a man who sold leather wallets, sandals, and other knick-nacks in the tourist section of the market.

When we arrived, he was occupied with a customer and waved for us to sit down and wait for him. I was relieved, as my baby was quite ready for his afternoon snack. I carefully turned my chair so that my back was to the watching world, and started to feed my little one. A few minutes later, long before Baby was done nursing, my husband's friend came over to greet us. Hubby quickly jumped up to "head him off" until I could finish, but it was no use. He was thrilled that we had brought the baby to meet him, and it never occurred to him that I might want privacy while I was breastfeeding! He proceeded to squat down in front of me, trying to get my baby's attention, talking and laughing, as comfortable as could be. I was mortified and quite annoyed! Yet it was so obvious that this was such a normal thing to him . . . just like we have no problem with playing with a baby while their mother is changing their shirt or putting on a clean diaper, so they have no problem with playing or talking to them while they're eating. Three more years and another baby later, I never gave up my desire for modesty and privacy, but I did do a better job of controlling my embarrassment when I couldn't do anything about it.

So let's open a conversation about breastfeeding - sharing tips, questions, advice. I'll start with a few things that I discovered in my almost three years of nursing two babies . . .

If you're figuring out how to nurse discreetly, try sitting in front of a full-length mirror, so you can get an idea of what others are seeing. Also ask your husband to walk around and "check out the view" from every angle.

One thing I learned about breastfeeding in a tropical climate was how easy it is to get heat rash and thrush. I found I had to put on a clean bra every single day, or I would develop BAD heat rash under my breasts. I would use cornstarch or a medicated powder (if you use the medicated kind be sure not to get it anywhere near your nipples!) sometimes several times a day to keep things dry and comfortable. In the hottest season, or when I had a bad rash that I was trying to clear up, I even took my afternoon nap completely topless to let everything dry out and air out. (A side note - the best remedy for a bad rash, on you or on baby, is direct sunlight. However this is probably not practical for most of us!)  About thrush: I personally didn't have any trouble with this bothersome fungal infection that affects both mother's nipples and baby's mouth. But I know many ladies find it to be much more common in a tropical climate. Do any of our readers have tips or suggestions on how to deal with thrush?

I also found that feeding was much more comfortable and enjoyable for baby and myself if I sat directly in front of a fan as often as possible while nursing!

Question: A friend asked me recently what I did about nursing pads. I did not need them for either of my boys, so I didn't have a good answer for her. She had tried making her own washable ones, but found that they leaked much too easily. Have any of you ladies made nursing pads? How did you make them waterproof?

 

What else? What questions do you have about breastfeeding overseas? Any funny stories about nursing in a different culture? What tips or suggestions do you have for a mom just starting out?