It has been too long since I’ve posted an interview! I’m SO excited about this one today. My friend Elicia, who is currently residing across the world in Morocco is on the blog today. We ran cross country and track together at UW-L. We were also ran together before her and her husband moved! I’ll let her tell you more!
Ames: Tell us what you and your husband have been up to for the past couple of years!
Elicia: First off thank you so much Amy for the opportunity to share a bit about my story and HUGE congrats on your growing family. <3 Ames: Aw, thank you! I have always appreciated your honesty as you have navigated marriage and parenthood. I have loved reading other interviews you have posted on your blog… Andddd Hiiiiiiii Balanced Ames readers 🙂
A little about me first because I always love learning about where people come from. I grew up an Air Force kiddo, but originally hail from the Midwest- Minnesota to be exact. I met my husband Tom at college in La Crosse and in 2012 we married in an intimate destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. We lived just outside of Madison, WI the first eight months of marriage and then adventure swept us off our feet and before we knew it we were packing our bags to teach in South Korea! We thought it would just be a year abroad and then we would “be back” but as wanderlust would have it– one year quickly turned into two years. We knew the adventure wasn’t quite over and we longed to see more of this big beautiful world. Turns out we would call Morocco, AFRICA home for the next couple of years where I would teach 1st grade and my husband would find his stride as a middle school math and science teacher. I still can’t believe we’ve called Asia and Africa home the past four years. We are now in our final months in Morocco and we recently found out that Mexico will be our home next!!
Ames: You are getting SO close to meeting your first baby! How has pregnancy been treating you?
Elicia: Pregnancy has been pretty amazing. I never thought I would be the gal to love pregnancy, but it is just so astounding to me. I have honestly really enjoyed it. Sure, there have been days where it’s had it’s challenges and I’ve certainly had hard days, but overall pregnancy has gone SO FAST and I do still feel like the same old “me.” I guess I had heard so many things about pregnancy that I had this scary idea in my head of what it would be like and compared to what others scared me into- it has been a total breeze. I think a big part of that is that I have continued to do the things that keep me happy and healthy throughout pregnancy- I was busy teaching my first graders, working out, reading, writing, etc. Ames: Glad to hear that! Everyone’s experience is SO different.
Ames: I know that you have been active throughout! Do you feel like exercise has been beneficial in your pregnancy journey?
Elicia: Oh my goodness. It has been KEY! I have tried and worked super hard at maintaining my workouts 4-5 times a week before and during this pregnancy. I’ve never felt stronger and more fit in my entire life than I have pregnant. I truly believe it has kept my energy levels up, heartburn at bay, helped immensely with my breathlessness, and even helped my third trimester pregnancy insomnia. Pregnancy gave me a motivation to workout like never before to keep myself and our baby healthy. I’ve always been a pretty active gal, but I never loved or longed for working out like I have while I have been pregnant!
Ames: One reason we wanted to do this post together is because your situation is unique (although it is YOUR normal): living overseas for pregnancy and delivery. What have the reactions from your friends and family been like?
Elicia: It’s been both hard and so unexplainably exciting. Exciting because we SO can’t wait to meet this little babe! Hard because we have been away from the Midwest (our families) the entire pregnancy. We found out that we were pregnant in early October and we had already booked our Christmas break trip to South Africa before we knew we were pregnant which would have otherwise been an opportunity to go back to the Midwest to see family during my pregnancy. We are in Morocco full time during the school year August- June since we teach at an international school that follows the American school calendar. So besides my sister and sister in law who just came to visit Morocco a few weeks ago no one in our family has been here in person to see me pregnant. There have been times of intense loneliness as we wish our loved ones were close to celebrate and anticipate our baby together in person. There have also been moments or days of intense joy all rolled into one. Anticipating a baby has been so thrilling and joyful for both my husband and I… while at the same time a deep ache or longing to have our families close- the daily struggle of an expat!
n comparison to not having family close this is a real small one- but one that I have to mention. A much smaller hardship is I also can’t just run to Target to grab my baby must haves or scroll my favorite sites online and have the adorable baby gear show up the following week since the mail is just so unreliable in Morocco. I struggled with this in the beginning, but it made me such a great planner! When I was 12 weeks along I had to make my baby/mama must have list because anything I wanted for myself or the baby had to be brought by visitors or coworkers who went home at Christmas break.
Ames: What are the negative comments you’ve received?
Elicia: HAHA. I have to laugh because this has been the hardest part of pregnancy for me that I wasn’t prepared for. The negativity! Most people think we are crazy for having a baby in Africa or share a story of someone they know who had a baby abroad and it went wrong. If they haven’t been to Morocco they envision me giving birth in a mud hut. Until a couple of years ago women gave birth here in clinics/offices. About two years ago there was a really nice/modern hospital built here. It has everything that a hospital in Europe would have and is well equipped. I think overall people have been mostly supportive or nervous for us- out of love. Nothing specifically negative stands out probably because I try to forget about the negative stuff people have said. Ames: A great reminder for us to be careful with our “thoughts”.
Ames: Are there any challenges you’re facing? Is prenatal or labor and delivery care different?
Elicia: The biggest challenge we face is that we can’t communicate with hospital staff- receptionists, lab workers, or nurses at the hospital where our baby will be delivered. That itself can be nerve wrecking for me and has been a challenge. They have all been so patient with us for the most part. The languages spoken here are French and Arabic. Neither of which we are anywhere near fluent in. Yes, we knew this going into it all- but I am resting in the fact that God has gone before us and will provide! Our amazing Moroccan friend Rita will be in the room for the birth and be translating everything for us. She’s fluent in Arabic, French, and of course, English. Since this is our first baby I have no other experience to compare it to. From what I know so far prenatal care has been pretty similar to the states. I have had the same screenings/tests done with just about the same timeline as those pregnant in America. I’ve seen my doctor once a month during pregnancy since I’ve been low risk- and now since I am in the last month of pregnancy I believe I will go once a week for fetal heart rate monitoring and blood pressure checks for me– although I am not sure! HAHA this is what I meant about the language barrier. We have a 35 week appointment this week and I will ask about the final weeks. I still haven’t seen the labor/delivery and recovery rooms, but I will have to ask about that this week as well. The language barrier has made (forced!) both Tom and I pretty laid back about the whole birth thing ahead 😉 I will add that our doctor does speak French, Arabic, Spanish, and some English so we have gotten by with that since Tom is pretty good in Spanish.
Ames: Top 3 things NOT to say to a pregnant lady in her 3rd trimester:
Elicia: I could make a list of 15 things!!! Like I said- I am still in shock and awe by the comments people make. Even though I am not in the USA people still say things to me that blow me away. Initially, I got that I needed to eat a “cheeseburger or two” ( I am a naturally petite woman 5’2- I was 100 pounds when I got pregnant.) Now, I am getting the opposite. So here are the top 3 things to never ever say to any pregnant woman that people have actually said to me.
1.”WOW, YOU ARE REALLY GETTING MASSIVE/BIG/ LARGE.”
2. “I can tell you’re gaining weight by looking at your face- it’s definitely bigger!
3. “I can’t wait until you get so fat and balloon out. You’re gonna get so big.”
–ummmmm thanks? I usually just laugh and then later when I am telling my husband it hits me how rude the comments really are! When has it ever or would it ever be okay for me to tell an overweight woman she is BIG or LARGE?! Especially a woman who is growing a human… I just can’t even! Ames: Hahaha. It seriously gets shocking. I would stick with safe compliments like: “You are glowing!” “You look great!” “You must be getting SO excited!”
Ames: When we were chatting I loved what you said: “I truly believe it’s where God has us and people ask us daily, ‘When are you coming home?’ Tom and I are both like, ‘We ARE home!'” Can you dive a little deeper into this subject?
Elicia: We’ve called Asia, Africa, and America “home” in just the past 4 years. Home has been where we can relax, where we do life together, where we live/explore, and eventually we grow to love. Like I mentioned above we certainly miss our family, but this is where life has us. This is where we are right now. I have to embrace that this is where we are meant to me or it will eat me alive. We miss so much. So many weddings, births, deaths of our dear loved ones, my little sisters’ sporting events. It’s SO hard some days. I have to have faith that God has given us a love of exploring this beautiful world, tasting all the amazing food, and most importantly the relationships and bonds we have formed because of living abroad that keep us going. Most importantly I can’t deny the connection we have made with other expats who are doing the same. It’s humbling and messy and so beautiful. I have learned so much more than I can put into words. I can visibly see God working even though we are in Africa. I still crave cheese curds, those Target runs, and gosh darn it I wish I could swing over to my friend Katie’s house and catch up over coffee about pregnancy and give her a huge hug…but this is our life and even though it’s different than most of our peers it’s been such a beautiful ride.
Ames: I know that you and Tom are very active, have you been able to keep up that lifestyle with your teaching and traveling schedules?
Elicia: In Korea our jobs were so low stress and we had tons of free time. When we left work it was truly the weekend so we would take off to camp and hike essentially every weekend. This easy breezy lifestyle allowed for lots of “us” time. Traveling all over Asia when we wanted and just how we wanted. In Morocco, our jobs have been a lot more demanding and mostly stressful so we have really had to make a huge effort to keep active in our daily life. Thankfully, we had a small gym at our school that I would use quite often and the weather allows for year round outdoor running! Our school also has a pool that Tom does laps at now that it’s warming up. 😉 I say warming up, but where we live in Morocco never gets below 50’s during the day– we have become real babies about the weather! HAHA.
Working 10-12 hour days teaching and then prepping was/is totally exhausting so it was a struggle some days to work out, but I was always so glad when I did. Now that I am on maternity leave I have no excuse not to work out!
Ames: Are you eating any differently than you were when you were stateside?
Elicia: Produce in Morocco is insanely cheap, fresh, and totally organic! Small scale farming is very much alive here so we have loved that. We often buy fruit and veggies off a horse and buggy cart (think like the olden days haha!) We eat a TON of fruit and veggies. I am not a huge meat eater- but we try to incorporate that into the meals too. I think we have eaten healthier overall since living abroad with much less of an option for fast food. Ames: Yum to the freshness!
Ames: How long have you and Tom been married now? What are your best tips for marriage?
Elicia: We will celebrate 5 years of marriage in August! I know we still have a lot to learn about marriage- but my advice would be that marriage and loving your spouse is a choice. Each day I wake up and I have to choose to serve, respect, honor, and love my husband. There are so many distractions and so much around us (social media) that would allow us to put marriage on the back burner… I think that consciously making the choice to honor and protect our marriage has made all the difference. I also want to add that marriage is truly the best thing ever. It really has just gotten better with time! The biggest honor and such a blessing. I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years bring. Ames: Great reminders!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog Amy and for paving the way in motherhood for so many of us!! <3
I occasionally dabble in writing on my own blog over at www.lifesajournee.net
Or you can follow along on our daily adventures over on instagram: @lifesajournee_liveit
From Morocco with love, (& will someone please go eat Culvers cheese curds for me?!? )
Ames: Thank you SO much for coming on the blog!
I just loved that we could learn more about Elicia and Tom’s journey. Best of luck to them as they start their family. Cannot wait to see that little babe!