Lucas William David William Park – Seriously?!

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By far the most challenging and frustrating part of the whole process was registering Lucas and getting all his birth documents in order to apply for his British passport. We also had a deadline of 10 May to get back to the UK for my best friend’s Hen do and my younger brother’s wedding, but hey, that was 3 months away, plenty of time right??

Is Lucas a Saudi?

I get asked this a lot, actually many people just presume he is as he was born here. The answer is no. Contrary to popular belief being born in Saudi Arabia doesn’t give Lucas any rights to citizenship here, damn right in my opinion! This is also the same in the UK, post 1983 just because someone is born in the UK doesn’t necessarily mean they are a British citizen, (pre 1983 anyone born in the UK got a British passport!!!!). In the USA however anyone born there is classed as a US citizen and will get an American passport, crazy if you ask me, but thats just my opinion! The only rights that Lucas might get is he may one day be allowed to play for the Saudi national football team, not actually checked the facts on that one but Dave is hoping so!!

Interestingly Lucas is only classed as a British citizen by descent. If we were to bring up Lucas abroad and he was to meet someone who wasn’t British, get married and have a child, his child would not be entitled to British citizenship unless Lucas had spent at least three consecutive years living in the UK at some point!

Where to start?

Luckily we had a few friends out here who had recently had babies so we were lucky enough to have advice on the whole process, though it was still as confusing as ever!! So….it begins with the birth document from the hospital which was in Arabic, this document was then taken to the Ministry to then create the birth certificate (sounds easy enough). We are also very lucky out here to have ‘brokers’ these are Saudis who work for Dave’s company and are the go between for things such as registering a birth, they will basically make everything happen.

We had heard from more than one person how difficult it was to get the documentation back correctly, particularly when registering a middle name, in Lucas’s case this was going to be William. The reason for this – there weren’t enough boxes on the form to write the whole name (I kid you not). As we knew this was going to be an issue, we sent the broker with explicit instructions to ensure that Lucas’ birth certificate had his middle name on, we even wrote it on a post it and stuck it to the form. I might add that Dave did this the day after we got home from hospital, so Lucas was three days old, still leaving us plenty of time to get the passport sorted!

6 weeks later

How it got to 6 weeks I have no idea, both myself and Dave have spoken about it since then and both realised we should have been chasing the broker, but in our new bubble of family life with a newborn, plus both our parents out, time kind of ran away with us! Anyway, the birth certificate is finally back!! Hurrah!!! And guess what, no really, guess……. THERE WAS NO MIDDLE NAME ON THE CERTIFICATE!!!! At this point we were starting to worry a little, did we have to start the whole process again? Was it going to take another 6 weeks? Our flights were a mere 8.5 weeks away and we still had to register the birth at the Embassy, fill out the passport paperwork get that sent back to the UK and wait for it to get back here, not only that but we then had to Lucas his Iqama (Saudi ID) in order to get him his visa to enable him to return back to the country!

We sent the broker back the the Ministry in the hope that they could just create a new certificate including his middle name, since it was specified in the first place. A few days later the broker returns and he’s sorted it, amazing we thought, that’s actually quite efficient…and then we looked at the certificate. Now, this is Lucas’s official birth certificate, his document for life, needed for such things as passports, when he gets married one day, buys a house, has a child of his own etc. The broker had taken it back to the Ministry and all they had done was tip ex’d over the original, written over the top and added an additional stamp over the top of that, REALLY??!!! I will be interest to see if the tip ex lasts the test of time…

At this point we didn’t have time to waste correcting it, in all fairness when it comes to later life he will use his British birth registration document accompanied by his Saudi birth certificate which is in arabic anyway so most likely won’t be referred to.

8 weeks to go…

The arabic birth certificate had now been translated to take the the Embassy and finally register Lucas birth!! We took all the details and the registering process then took another 3 working days and then a weekend, so another week had passed.

7 weeks to go…

Passport form all filled in online, printed and ready to send via courier to the UK. Current turnaround times on the internet suggest it will take 6 to 8 weeks, uh oh! It will be ok we thought, Dave’s boss applied for his little girl’s passport and the whole turnaround process, door to door took 2 weeks, it will be fine!! We sent via Fed Ex who gave us a tracking number, this was Thursday, for some unknown reason the application didn’t leave Saudi until the Monday, it flew via Dubai and Paris and got to the the passport office in Liverpool on the Tuesday morning!

6 weeks to go…

We got an online ID number to check the status of the application, the number of times I must have refreshed that page over the next coming weeks…Once the application had been put on the system the status would change. We thought as soon as the application was at the passport office this would happen, it didn’t. It took a further four weeks before the passport was even put onto the system.

We have your application and it will be processed within the communicated timescales

This really frustrated Dave, this was the standard line he got every time he rang the passport office, which was daily by this point. Having worked for the Embassy and been involved heavily with the visa section I knew exactly how this whole process worked and it was fair enough. You can’t be giving people any more information than the above just in case there are any issues with the application which then extends the process. There’s nothing worse than someone coming back and quoting that “you told me it would be XYZ day” so on it lingered…

2 weeks to go…

We had resigned ourselves to the fact we weren’t going to make the original flight. Dave was still ringing daily and every now and again he would get a very nice person who was very apologetic and told Dave all the information they could. It was at this point we found out about the huge backlog a the passport office. Apparently in the new year the Home Office had relocated ALL new passport applications to the office in Liverpool and they were totally overwhelmed. Great! This was extending the whole application process to at least 8 weeks, we had no chance.

Should I stay or should I go?

My best friends hen do was going to be in Portugal from 13 to 16 May. My brother’s wedding on 17 May was looking in doubt, never mind the hen do. Lucas was 3 months old, what should I do?? I was always going to go back for my brother’s wedding, I couldn’t not, but I did have to think twice about the hen do, mainly because I felt like a bad mother. What kind of mother leaves their 3 month old baby to go and get drunk on a hen do in Portugal?! Well, turns out I am that type of mother!!! I wasn’t breastfeeding, Dave was absolutely amazing with Lucas so I had no doubts there and to be quite honest after 3 months (and 7 months trapped in Saudi) I was ready for a break!!! Dave was very supportive and told me I should go, as I was always going back for the wedding, what was an extra few days?! I’m sure there will be many appalled by this, and thats fair enough, but in my opinion it was the best thing we could have ever done!! Dave loved every minute of spending so much quality time with Lucas, yes it was very challenging, but there aren’t many dads who get the opportunity to spend such quality time with their baby as Dave did. It has made him an amazing Dad because of it, more importantly, he thoroughly understands just what a tough job it is being a mum sometimes!!!! It also did me the world of good too, I had an absolute blast with the girls and I’m not ashamed to admit that, I also know I can trust Dave to do anything with Lucas. I know of some mums who can struggle letting their husbands do the bedtime routine for example, as they don’t do it properly. After the baptism of fire that Dave got he can now do everything I can with/for Lucas and I trust him to make decisions for Lucas too without thinking he has to check with me first.

10 days to go

I think it was at this point the status finally changed to application being processed! After this apparently it only takes a few days and it get despatched. You don’t find out when its despatched, you just have to wait. There was (of course) a hold up. We had moved house since Lucas was born and since we sent off the application so there was inconsistencies between the ‘home address’ and the ‘return address’ that had to be clarified, luckily a quick phone call and this was done, but then the application was put back in the ‘to be processed’ pile all over again, who knows how long that would take!! I hasten to add we had May day bank holiday weekend to contend with as well so just skeleton staff in! JOY!!!

1 week until the wedding and the day of my flight

Dave rang hourly by this point and managed to get through to someone with a heart who listened to the situation and took pity on us. They assured us they would get the application waved in front of the approver so it could then be printed and despatched. I left for the UK that night and the status still hadn’t changed, but we were hopeful it would be printed the day after and despatched the same day. I was sad to be leaving Dave and Lucas of course, but I fully trusted Dave would be amazing and a part of me was extremely excited to be having the break and the chance to remind myself I was me again and not just Lucas’s mummy!!!

6 days to wedding

Passport printed!!!!! Finally!!!!!! It was starting to look like Dave and Lucas would make the wedding, it was tight but no longer impossible (which it had looked like a few days ago!!) We were now blind as to where the passport was, just waiting with baited breath!!! We did our calculations based on the outbound journey, worst case scenario it could take 5 days to get here but that would be if there was a Saudi style hold up which was unlikely. 5 days would be too long, 5 days took us to the Friday, holy day here, nothing is open. No Iqama = no visa = no travel.

2 days to wedding

Dave had been to the post room at work every day since the passport was despatched, bless, even the post guy there was waiting with baited breath for the passport, as was Dave’s whole office and all of our friends and family, even the broker was ready and raring to go as soon as the passport arrived and with two days to go it did!!!! Thursday morning (which was lucky as this was the last day before weekend). The final hurdle, getting Lucas an Iqama and visa in a day, and do you know what, the broker did!!! God bless him he did it, turned it all around in a matter of a few hours actually!!! Though as wit every step of this whole nightmare process, all wasn’t quite as it seemed. Quite ironically considering the struggle we had to get a middle name on the birth certificate, Lucas’s Iqama came back with the name Lucas William David William Park! We could deal with that, it wasn’t going to cause any complications with anything so we left it. I have friends who had to send back the Iqama twice because it came back with the wrong nationality each time, which does need to be correct!

 

Saturday 17 May – The Wedding Day

Dave flew on the overnight British Airways landing at 5am in Heathrow, a quick transfer to Manchester where I would pick them both up at 930am. I’m still in awe of Dave to be honest, he looked after Lucas for 7 whole nights and then flew on his own with him including a transfer at Heathrow, he’s a keeper! I was up at 5am to get ready before having to drive to Manchester to pick them both up, flights were all on time, Lucas was very well behaved, the one and only flight he’s ever slept through….! We had to be at the church for 11am so it was a quick change at my mum and dad’s before getting to the church. Lucas was a bit tired and overwhelmed all day bless him but we still had an amazing day, not forgetting the fact that this was also the first time most of our family and friends had met Lucas!!

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Hindsight

If we were to go through this whole process again, and I would advise anyone else to do the same one of us would have flown to the UK and paid for the premium service to get the passport turned round within the week. It would have been more than worth the cost of a flight to have had the passport in our hands weeks before the flight to avoid all the stress and also cost of changing the flights!!! But alls well that ends well!!

Being a Pregnant Expat in Saudi Arabia – The Birth!!

Pregnancy

The thought of going into labour is terrifying no matter what country you live in. I must admit I was a little more scared over here just because of the language barrier and not knowing exactly how it was going to happen, how I would arrive at the hospital and how it was all going to work. As I said in my previous post, there isn’t any antenatal support over here so you don’t get a walk through or any kind of advice on what will happen once you go into labour. I guess we were just going to have to wing it!!!

Warning: This will be a full disclosure description of exactly that happened! If you don’t want to know then look away now!!

Saturday 25 January 1:30am

POP! Oh my god my water just broke, and my god did it break, everywhere, all over the bed, leaving a trail as i ran to the bathroom.

Having literally spent the whole day in bed watching friends, eating snacks and just generally making the most of what was hopefully going to be one of our last weekends as a couple (Lucas due date was 24 January) Dave joked before we went to sleep, I think its going to be tonight, I have a really strange and funny feeling so wake me when you go into labour.

So here we are 1:30am, I’m sat in the bathroom unable to move because there is water gushing out of me, every time I tried to stand up out came more, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to be able to get to hospital! We weren’t quite sure what to do actually because I wasn’t having any contractions at this point, so Dave rang the hospital, explained that my waters had broken and they told us to come in where they would examine me and decide if I needed to stay or go home.

Off we toddled, bags packed just incase this was it. I had to sit on two towels in the car (I was also wearing a maternity super absorbent pad) which was filling by the second. We got to the hospital, which was around a 20 minute trip at that time in the morning, though there was no need to panic as I wasn’t having any contractions at this point, a few stomach cramps but nothing frequent that I could time. We got to the ER and the guy on the desk rang the labour ward who told us to come up.

2:30 am ish

I was all gowned up, hooked up to the monitor and told I was to stay at the hospital, because my waters had broken. I was told to get some sleep and they would come check on my progress in the morning and if my contractions hadn’t yet started I would be given some drugs to speed it up. Dave curled up on the long window seat in the room and went to sleep, I however, did not!! I was far to excited/scared/worried.

The Delivery Room

The room we were initially taken to was going to be our room throughout the whole labour and delivery, it was huge!! A private room, my own bathroom, lots of space and a little window bench for dave to sit/sleep on.

6am

In comes breakfast!! A nice bit of bread and jam, a juice, some water and a flask of hot water with my choice of other coffee or tea, very pleasant indeed.

7am

I was starting to feel regular contractions at this point about 5-7 minutes apart, but manageable with some deep breathing. The doctor came in to examine me (I might mention at this point that my OB, that I had seen throughout my whole pregnancy was on holiday!!!!!!!) I was 4cm dilated so they decided to give me some drugs to speed things along a little. I was told to finish my breakfast as that was the last thing I was going to be able to eat, it was apple juice or water after that point. Is this the same in the UK?? I wasn’t sure it was, I’m sure mums to be pretty much snack throughout to keep their energy up?!!! Well, not here!!

Also at this point I was asked to turn over onto my side to prepare for my enema!!! Yes, I had an enema!!! I didn’t realise until afterwards that this is quite old fashioned and no longer common practice in the UK. Still, in the words of Meredith Grey, at least I wasn’t going to “poop on the table”.

11am

Contractions were gradually getting more frequent and more painful, still manageable and still no drugs YEY me! I was passing the time watching Coronation Street on ITV Player, as we had wifi access in the room. Dave was passing the time ordering himself a huge club sandwich and chips for lunch whilst I was on apple juice only!! It’s at this point I think I would have benefited greatly from being able to move around, but what with being hooked up to the monitor and my IV this just wasn’t possible, maybe I should have asked to move around but for some strange reason I didn’t, so I had now been lead on my back for 4 hours. The IV in my hand was also REALLY quite sore, more so than the contractions!! The gas and air was quite funny, I really got the giggles for a good 10 minutes, but other than that it did nothing for me other than make me light-headed. It did absolutely nothing for the pain!

12 midday

OK so now it was getting really painful. I didn’t want to have an epidural if I could help it, mainly because I really didn’t want to have a catheter fitted. I was 7cm dilated and wanted some pain relief now. I was told at 7cm the baby would soon be on the way so they would just give me a shot of pethidine.

1pm

The Pethidine did nothing, nothing at all, it didn’t make me sick, or drowsy or take any of the pain away, what a waste I thought, give me an epidural!! I didn’t care at this point I just wanted the pain to go away. Unfortunately it was not to be, I must have been about 8 or 9 cm by this point so they said it was too late for an epidural. GUTTED!

2:30 pm Time to push!!

The OB arrived at this point as I was fully dilated and ready to push, the baby was going to be here soon (or so we thought). I pushed and pushed and pushed and nothing, it didn’t even feel like he was coming out. I didn’t feel like I was pushing correctly if I’m honest, I know you are supposed to push from your bottom like you are going to the toilet, and I was really trying to do that but it just wasn’t happening. I was then given a catheter as my bladder was so full, (must have been all that apple juice as I wasn’t allowed to eat anything!) they released a whole load of urine but still nothing moved. I was told to lie on my left side for 45 minutes and keep pushing every time I had a contraction. The OB left and the nurse was SUPPOSED to stay with me. She didn’t. 30 minutes later a very terrified Dave was shouting for anyone who would come as I was in distress, we were all on our own and had no clue WTF was going on.

3:45pm

The OB came back and was absolutely appalled that we had been left on our own at such a moment. At this point I was so tired and in so much pain I was just kinda out of it! Lucas still wasn’t coming and we were both getting tired. I was given an injection down below getting ready to slice if needed (please god no, i thought) and there was talk about Ventouse, again I really hoped it wouldn’t come down to that.

4:10pm

Emergency C Section time!! I don’t know why that was suddenly decided, i don’t know if Lucas’s heart rate was dropping or what was going on. I think that’s one of the main negatives of the whole experience, no communication, I had no idea what was happening or what should have been happening on or what kind of state Lucas was in. At this point I was so happy to go to sleep just to take the pain away.

4:28pm

Lucas was born! 8lbs 2oz, 51cm and a very healthy baby!!! At this point most babies would be taken over to the parents and the first feed would be tried (I think) obviously I was still asleep and we were very keen to breastfeed Lucas, I’ve heard all sorts of stories of them taking babies away to be circumcised, giving them formula etc etc. This was totally not the case, they asked Dave if he wanted them to feed Lucas and he said no, my wife will want to, so they didn’t and waited until I had come round to give breastfeeding a go. They didn’t whisk him off to be circumcised or anything like that just did the usual tests, gave him a few immunisations, cleaned him, dressed him and took him to the nursery ready for me when I woke up!IMG_3246

6:15pm ish

I’ve been transferred to our very nice private recovery room ready to meet Lucas. Dave rings the nursery and within 15 minutes Lucas was there for our first meeting. It was amazing seeing his little face, he looked exactly like me!!! I’ve lost my voice at this point, this will be because they intubated me when I was put to sleep but who cares, I’m holding my gorgeous little boy and he is wonderful! Breastfeeding didn’t work as I wasn’t producing any milk at this point, common after a c section/traumatic birth apparently, so I just had to wait for the milk to come and in the meantime give him formula.IMG_3235

Our room

Just like a hotel!!! Very big, a sofa big enough for Dave to sleep on, our own bathroom with a shower and all amenities included. A TV, wardrobe, drawers etc. A very welcome sight after the labour! Our home for the next three nights until I recovered.

Recovery

The aftercare I received was amazing, the nurses were very friendly, so attentive and couldn’t do enough. The nursery nurses were also fantastic, brining Lucas in whenever we wanted, showing us how to do things, giving us advice, and also taking him back up to the nursery if we needed a break, particularly if Dave wasn’t there as I was unable to life Lucas up!

The food and meals were great, fresh chicken with rice and vegetables, soup, bread and jam or breakfast in a morning, all very nice!

Looking back

I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone but looking back I don’t think my labour was handled as it should have been. I felt very restricted, very alone and in the dark about what was going on. Maybe it was my own fault for not being more forceful, but I had other things on my mind, like trying to deal with the pain!!! I’m positive had I been more free to move around gravity would have taken control and Lucas would have come naturally. On the plus side, I think the medical staff here are very pro active when it comes to having a c section versus lets keep pushing and pushing and pushing. I pushed for two hours and at that point they decided enough was enough and I’m grateful for that! The aftercare and the fact we had our own private room was amazing and more than makes up for the small blips during labour. We were able to adjust as a little family and get used to everything in the comfort of our own very nice and comfortable room!

I must also note that my scar healed extremely well and extremely quickly, I was up and about within 1 week when Dave went back to work and back at the gym after 6 weeks with no pain after the initial couple of weeks. It’s very small, very neat and very low down!

And Finally

Taking into account all the above, if we were to get pregnant again out here I wouldn’t hesitate to deliver again in Saudi Arabia and I would certainly advise others out here to do the same,but to just be open-minded and not expect the same as you would in the UK.

Being a Pregnant Expat in Saudi Arabia

Pregnancy

So, I’ve been asked by a lot of people back in the UK what it was like being pregnant out here and how the whole hospital system worked. I also would have found it very helpful to know others experiences when I was pregnant, so here goes!!!

My best friend back home was pregnant at the same time as me, about 2 months ahead, so it was interesting as we were going along, comparing our experiences!!

The only thing that I found the same was the appointment schedule, though rather than a “booking appointment” at 8 to 12 weeks you actually have your first hospital appointment with the Obstetrician (OB). In Saudi they tend to follow and practice an American approach to medicine, maybe because its private health care (we get it covered by BUPA through my husband’s company).

In Saudi before your first appointment you choose your OB. He or she will see you at all your appointments throughout your pregnancy and deliver your baby at the end. There are no midwives as such in Saudi, just OB’s and nurses. I personally found it very comforting to know that my OB was going to be with me throughout, they know everything about you from the start, any complications or any preferences, and lets face it, there is nobody more qualified to deliver a baby than an OB!!

The other bonus about being private was that we could request a scan whenever we wanted and it was never a problem! I actually suffered from placenta previa to begin with so had to be scanned at every appointment anyway until it moved out of the way!!

The downside of the system was no support when it comes to preparing for labour, the birth and those first few weeks. There are no antenatal classes, no breastfeeding workshops, nothing. I did A LOT of online research, joined online forums such as The Bump, Baby centre and Pregnant Chicken. Did I feel at a disadvantage not having such support? No, not really, if you’ve never had it then you don’t really miss it. In some ways I was quite glad as I was very much in charge of myself and what I wanted to do, with no-one giving me their opinions etc. I chose to read and take the advice that I wanted to in the comfort of my own home, using the internet! A few of my pregnant friends in the UK actually found some antenatal classes quite preachy, and sometimes were scared half to death in the process!! But many also found them very enlightening and helpful, so its swings and roundabouts.

I think it actually helped in the long run, I didn’t have a birth plan, it was never really discussed at the OB appointments and I didn’t force the issue either, knowing full well that 9 times out of 10 it never happens the way you want it to anyway (mine didn’t for the record!!!).

Kingdom Hospital where I chose to have Lucas is very geared up for Western parents to be, they don’t force you to wait in separate rooms, Dave was allowed in all my appointments, the scans, the whole birthing process and at every step of the way afterwards. We were not impeded at all by any of the Arab culture. We had a male OB who was Egyptian I think, most of the OB’s at the hospital are of Middle Eastern descent, both male and female, and all speak just as good English as any doctor with the NHS!  Most have been educated in either the USA or the UK anyway!

Any frustrating moments during the whole pregnancy process? No, not that I can remember, sure I had to wait a while for the odd appointment, but that’s just the same as the UK. We are also very lucky that on our compound we have a medical centre, which is just like a doctor’s surgery in the UK, so I didn’t have to go to hospital for any small niggling worries or issues, I could just pop into the medical centre and see a doctor or nurse there!

Coming next, the birth…….

Babyzen YoYo

travel

One of the best things we have bought since having Lucas is the Babyzen YoYo

YoYo

Any parent who travels with a baby will know how difficult it can be juggling hand luggage, a baby, and transferring a pram on and off a plane. Sometimes the pram will stay at the plane door and be there as you exit, great! Most of the time we have found either a big wait at the end OR a pram that comes off with the luggage, getting all battered and bruised along the way. I have even heard of some airlines making you check in the pram at the check in desk! A pram is a must for us she travelling as we usually have at least a three hour transfer in between where we need somewhere to seat Lucas! We just cannot risk having to check our pram in and not being able to get it at the transfer airport.

Riyadh airport is one that doesn’t have the capability for you to get your pram at the plane door, which can make it difficult when waiting in line at passport control for hours on end. As mentioned above, it also ends up getting battered and bruised as it swirls around on the baggage belt with suitcases landing on top and people shoving it out of the way in order to get their luggage!

After hours of research on the internet (it really isn’t easy to find a hand luggage sized pram just by using Google) it was someone who lived on our compound who recommended the Babyzen to us. It is NOT cheap. We originally bought a Quicksmart backpack stroller but as you can see by the photo it isn’t quite as sturdy as the Babyzen and as we were going to use the pram not only for travel, but as our pram whilst on holiday, we didn’t really feel like it was right. It also didnt recline, which is no good for a sleepy baby on the airport!

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So, we paid the extortionate amount for the Babyzen YoYo (it was the same price as our Graco Travel System!!!) but boy has it been worth it!!! It is sturdy, lightweight, comfortable, easy to push around and most importantly of all, conforms to hand luggage size so fits in the overhead locker!! It comes with its own little drawstring bag to put it in when you take it on the plane! I know friends have ours have struggled with Saudia and if they see it is a pram they won’t let you take it on the plane, regardless of if its hand luggage size or not. We always make sure we pop it in the bag 5 mins before our flights, just in case!! One small negative, it definately isn’t as easy to pop up and down as the video shows!! I’ve not figured out how to do it one handed yet, we’ll see if practice makes perfect!!!

So if you are a family who likes to travel I can’t recommend the Babyzen YoYo enough!!

xoxo

Travelling with Saudi Arabian Airlines and a baby

travel

So, travelling with a baby is never the most fun part of a holiday!! Living in Saudi Arabia also means that unfortunately we cannot get back home to Preston without a transfer at some point! The good news is this does mean we have a multitude of airlines to choose from!! So far with Lucas, we have travelled with British Airways via Heathrow and Saudia via Jeddah. This Christmas we are flying with Lufthansa via Munich!

Here is my review of travelling with Saudia. We won’t be using them again when traveling with Lucas.

Flight times

90% of the flights back to the UK leave in the wee small hours. Saudia’s flight to Manchester (via Jeddah) is no exception! The flight departed Riyadh around 11pm. This first of all meant putting Lucas to bed and then waking him after just an hour, poor thing! No sooner had we got up in the air we were on our way back down to land as the flight time is around 90 minutes. Lucas had pretty much just dropped off to sleep when we had to get off the plane. Luckily he stayed asleep until we got onto the transit bus to the terminal. This took about 20 minutes, packed full of people at which point Lucas woke up. By the time we had negotiated security and got the the gate area Lucas was well and truly awake (it was around 1am at this point). Our flight out of Jeddah wasn’t until 330am. Needless to say Lucas did not sleep on the airport as it was too busy and noisy for him and even if he had, it was another bus transit to the second plane. So its 330am and Lucas has been awake for 6 hours now and is well beyond the point of a good night’s sleep. We ended up getting the odd 30 mins here, 30 mins there on the plane but that was it. Somehow he managed to go the rest of the day once we got back to the UK with just his usual naps!!! Pretty amazing really!

Bassinet Seat

It was quite deep and very slim, quite claustrophobic for Lucas, he did not like it at all!!! it didn’t help that it was also based just below the huge TV screen which documented the route, which not only emitted heat but was lit up for the whole journey.

Jeddah airport

Its quite depressing being 6 hours into your journey home but still in Saudi… Jeddah airport (the international terminal) was awful. There was one coffee shop open and that was it, a barely stocked duty free, no nappy change facilities and there were cockroaches running around. Not pleasant at all. However, we were pleasantly surprised on the return leg as we travelled out of the domestic terminal which had a Starbucks, a Costa, and a little deli counter!

Luggage

Because the UK to Jeddah leg is international and the Jeddah to Riyadh leg is domestic you can’t through check the luggage all the way through. This meant we had to get our luggage at Jeddah airport and recheck it in to travel on to Riyadh. This would be OK in most other countries, but information and simple instruction aren’t a strong suit in Saudi. We had absolutely no idea of how to re check our luggage back in or where to go, we tried to ask a few people and all we got was a point and a grunt. We eventually found the Saudia check in desk where we explained our situation and tried to check in our luggage. At this point we got a very grumpy jobsworth shouting at us in Arabic, which of course we understood (NOT!) Long story short there was a desk somewhere else in the airport where we should have printed off some new labels and dropped our bags off (who knew!!!) i guess we should have read all the signs pointing us in the right direction (oh wait, there were none!!!!). So after 5 minutes of arguing in English and Arabic the very nice Saudi behind the desk took our bags and checked them in. Job done!!! The one bonus of this whole debacle was that once we arrived back in Riyadh there was no passport control as we had done it all in Jeddah!! woohoo!!! We still had to wait an hour for our bags though, so no time saved in the end…..!

Customer Service

In the air, amazing actually, really nice, really friendly and the air hosts/hostesses love babies. Very impressed. At the airport, both Manchester and in Jeddah awful!! Jeddah as just explained above, and to be honest it’s Saudi, so was expected. What I wasn’t expecting was to not be allowed to go through the boarding gate into the holding area at Manchester airport because I wasn’t wearing my abaya. I was covered, wearing long leggings and a long sleeved shirt but the Saudi woman on the gate would not let me through without my abaya. This would usually have been a bit of a pain, but fine. However, on this occasion I had Lucas fast asleep in my arms so it was near impossible to get an abaya on for obvious reasons. I explained that once I was through and Lucas was settled I would put it on, but she refused point blank, so very, very rude. The other airport official who was with her even gestured to let me through and she still refused. Cue, trying to get on an abaya with a sleeping baby in my arms and a changing bag on my back…!! Im pretty sure on British soil I would have been well within my rights to refuse this but not being one to cause a scene I obliged, but boy was I LIVID after that!!!! So… that was my experience with flying Saudi Arabian Airlines with a baby via Jeddah!! We will (and are) using Saudia in the future, to travel within the Middle East, and may even be tempted again to the UK if its the route via Heathrow, but certainly never ever via Jeddah again!!!

Welcome!

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So as my brief blog description suggests I’m an expat living in Saudi Arabia! Originally from the UK I moved here to join my husband almost 3 years ago. Since then we have had a baby boy (Lucas, now 9 months old) and I’m just about to turn 30!

I thought I’d welcome in my 30’s by starting to write about my experiences as a young new mum living in Saudi Arabia. As I had Lucas out here, I know I would have found it helpful to know how other western expats found the whole experience, as it is very different to the UK!

I also wanted to start writing about our family experiences of travel with a young baby, everything from airlines, to airports and hotels as I know how daunting it can be. We have already done our fair share of flights with the little one, none of which were direct so involved transfers, never a fun task at 3 in the morning!!

Being an expat mum out here also means its not really feasible for me to go back to work (I was working as PA to the Ambassador at the British Embassy pre Lucas) so this blog is also a way of doing something creative and worthwhile with my time, other than looking after my gorgeous boy obviously!!!

Hope you enjoy!!!

Sara xoxo