Every Expat Parent Knows It…

kewpie

Born in one country, living in another – the beginning of expat life.

My first baby was 11 days old when we made our way to the airport. In those 11 days we’d taken part, like many before us, in the expat version of the Amazing Baby Race. From the moment our newborn had made an appearance my husband was on a mission – a series of challenges for us to complete to make it from one country to another.

Every expat parent knows it. It begins with the birth certificate, sometimes translated, sometime not. Next it’s the passport: a process involving duplicate copies and waiting areas with queues that move at a beaurocratic speed. You’ll then usually discover some sort of additional and unexpected paperwork for a visa or permit. If you happen to be far from home it’s possible government departments will be discovered, stamps will be aquired, palms greased and deals sweatened.

None of this is the real challenge though. The ultimate challenge is packing up to six weeks of pre baby shopping with 11 days of post natal sleep deprived angst.

I could tell you everything about that first flight. I remember the baby basket we carrried her in, how my father swung it gently from side to side to keep her from screaming while we checked in. The tearful goodbye with my mother, the worry she unsuccessfully hid. I remember the couple we sat across from at the gate who told us our baby was a human kewpie doll. That’s exactly what she was: rosebud lips, enormous doe eyes and the whisp of a curl on her forehead. She was insanely perfect and we were overwhelmingly biaised.

When we landed in Singapore with an hour or two to spare, I made my way through the airport gingerly carrying her in a sling. What if I broke her? What if something went wrong? Was she too hot? I should lay her flat.

I found a change table in the womens bathroom and amongst the busyiness of airport life laid my newborn down with the soul purposes of fawning and fanning. As people wandered by with the noise of hand dryers blowing and taps running, a woman stopped to smile.

“Enjoy your baby, it goes so quickly, my baby’s 21 now” there was a tear in her eye. And maybe it was the hormones and the jet lag, but right in that moment I understood the sadness. While every cell of my sleep deprived and post natal body felt the blues of being consumed with babyness – I somehow knew that it was going to escape me.

I guess it was about four weeks ago that my doe eyed child and I made our way through customs and immigration. Her hair in a top knot, her teenage trademark of headphones attached to a device, one earbud hanging. She swiped her own passport and looked towards me as they quetsioned her age and travel movements.

“That’s my Mum” she said with a beaming smile in my direction to confirm that she wasn’t absconding.

“Hot chocolate?” I asked as we hit the airport bar just outside of our gate.

“Sure! I’m going to look for a power socket though, my battery is almost flat.”

And off she wandered, like the professional traveller that we’ve encouraged her to become. As I stood at the bar I looked over at a couple who were taking turns at holding their newborn.

“She’s beautiful” I said wistfully.

“It’s her first flight” they said in unison, they had more carry-on luggage than Beyonce on her way to Vegas for a month. They were nervous, unsure of what the next twelve hours would hold.

“You’ll be an expert three hours into the trip. I promise” I said enthusiastically. “My baby’s nearly 16…” I said before having to stop and catch myself. The tears were in a holding pattern.

Enjoy it, it goes so quickly, I thought to myself as I carried the hot chocolate back to the table.

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