How Living Abroad Changed Me, Made Me a Mother, and Birthed My Mission

by Anjelica Malone

Anjelica and girls on Guam for evening swim.

One of my earliest memories is of being nested in the sand within a little cove on a beach somewhere. Tall thin trees with thick green foliage canopies sheltered me, while a rich turquoise blue sky stretched out in front of me for as far as my little eyes could see. Though I’ve never been able to confirm it, I believe this place was my first real home, Guam.

I’m what some people call a “Third Culture Kid.” (TCK): someone who grows up (or grew up) in a culture outside of his or her parents’ original culture, or who grows up with parents from two different cultures.

I was born in 1986 to an active duty Navy mother. At the time she was working alongside Marines in southern California, but within a few short months after giving birth to me the military assigned her to a new base located on a tiny lush island far off in the depths of the Pacific. This was the first of more than a dozen places I’ve called home over the last 30 years.

In recent years I’ve come to more fully realize how my nomadic upbringing and early adulthood has truly transformed my life. Because of my years spent overseas, my taste buds crave foods that I can’t whip up in my own kitchen and until recently couldn’t easily be found in my local grocery store. I’ve had Happy Birthday sung to me in tongues my parents never heard before raising me. I regularly dream about taking my husband to Italy—not for a dreamy romantic vacation, but so that he can see where my school bus dropped me off after track practice in high school.

I’m what some people call a “Third Culture Kid.” (TCK): someone who grows up (or grew up) in a culture outside of his or her parents’ original culture, or who grows up with parents from two different cultures. TCKs are individuals who’ve likely found themselves yearning to settle down in a country where they aren’t actually a citizen or explaining to strangers that they don’t have a hometown because they’ve moved to a new city or country every few years since they were young.

All of my experiences abroad made me feel at home in a multitude of places, and gave me friendships and learning experiences that I treasure. I’ve developed a curiosity and yearning to know more about the many cultural norms and traditions that exist across the world, and I’ve developed an empathy for people from all walks of life.

One of my most transformational abroad experiences was my time in Puerto Rico. It’s where I blossomed from a TCK into a Global Mama: a woman who wishes to nurture a sense of global citizenship within her children through travel, culturally sensitive learning, and regular exposure to those of various backgrounds.

My husband and I moved to western Puerto Rico six years ago for an assignment with the Coast Guard. At the time, I didn’t think I would become a mother.  For many years I had feared motherhood. I feared the suffocation and limitations it would put on my life. I actually thought that being without children would allow me to better live out my calling and passions. But during my first year and a half in Puerto Rico my eyes were opened to a new reality, one that I seek to share with my clients and friends here in the U.S.

In Puerto Rico I watched as mothers stayed active, surfing well into their pregnancy and beyond. I watched as they made fresh juices from the fruits that grew in the yard. They hosted pop up art shows while their kiddos ran around barefoot, and they took family adventures to obscure parts of the world. Not because it was what they should do, thought was cool, or believed would garner them hundreds of Instagram likes, but because it was a natural extension of their pre-mother being—a part of themselves that they hadn’t let be squashed by popular expectations. There was an ease, a flow, a gentle assurance that life would unfold in the way it was meant to, and mothers could enjoy the pleasures of play without guilt. Homes could be left messy in exchange for the freedom to chat a bit longer with a friend met during morning errands. Women—mothers—could just be.

Global Mama: a woman who wishes to nurture a sense of global citizenship within her children through travel, culturally sensitive learning, and regular exposure to those of various backgrounds.

Watching women in Puerto Rico freely embrace motherhood and their passions empowered me to believe that motherhood was for me. I didn’t have to live up to others’ expectations; I could do it all in my own way.

Family trip to Bali.

The pregnancy and birth of my first daughter in Puerto Rico was a true manifestation of those ideas. I ate gobs and gobs of local mango, heaping spoonfuls of fresh avocado that fell from the tree that hung over our house, and walked for hours out in the hot sun without fear. No one told me to be extra careful about this or to avoid that. I think back on that time and recognize that I had been given the freedom to trust my body and my instincts. I especially remember drinking cold glasses of sweet guanabana and passion fruit juice delivered to me by my elderly neighbor each week, along with a strong message to keep walking and stay active to the very end. Both the drinking of unpasteurized juice during pregnancy and her openness to continually give me unsolicited advice are not as welcomed here in the U.S. But what I experienced in my first pregnancy set the tone for how I would live out the last four and a half years, and how I would go on to have my second daughter, and eventually develop a passion for sharing this message of flow, trust, and community with other expectant mamas.

Solo birthday trip to Bali.

During my time in Puerto Rico, I also discovered more deeply how I wanted to pursue service to women. Though I’ve known for many years that I wanted to work with women during the childbearing years, I originally thought it was as an OBGYN. I even went through several years of biomedical education before laying it aside upon our move to Puerto Rico. But during my time on that island, and subsequently on Guam for three years, where my second daughter was born, I came to appreciate a more whole-woman focused mode of care. When I experienced difficulty breastfeeding and was unable to communicate with a lactation professional, I realized my desire to not only become a lactation educator myself, but also to encourage women to develop communities of support around them during their pregnancies, births, and postpartum phases.

Helping women as they begin their journey into motherhood feels like an extension of every adventure I’ve ever had. My experiences abroad as a child and young adult not only shaped me into the person I am today, but they continue to inform my mothering style in a multitude of ways. My global experiences have also shaped my mission to work with mothers in a way that affirms their intuition and supports their need for community and care. I now live for the moment when a mother sees herself as a whole being. Where she feels able to make room for her passions and family. Where she feels free to be herself and listen to her own inner whisper. I love hearing how women all around the world are living out their passions unabashedly. And I love supporting them through the journey of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, as an educator, doula, and friend. I want all women to feel at home in their skin—whether that’s in the United States or on a distant island far off in the Pacific.


About the Author

Anjelica Malone is the author of Milk Boss 101: The Modern Breastfeeding Journal and Guide. She is also a Certified Lactation Educator Counselor, birth and postpartum doula, and a Childbirth Educator serving women in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband, two Little Women, and their mini-dachshund, Aoki. Visit www.AnjelicaMalone.com to book her services or read her writings, which focus on encouraging women to embrace their passions and equipping them to navigate motherhood in the way that’s most natural to them.

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