Cultural identity & pregnancy : Yee’s life-changing moment

Yee tells us more about how the way she perceived her cultural identity has evolved and her pregnancy loss.

Coming to Germany for love

She is a 32-year old social work student and English teacher in Berlin, comes from Melbourne, a city located in the South of Australia. She left Australia five years ago to work in Cambodia. But soon after decided to move to Germany as she wanted to join her partner in Dresden, a northeastern German city. Her move, however, coincided with the beginnings of the far-right movement, Pegida. The atmosphere in the city started to change; it became oppressive and Yee no longer felt comfortable. She moved to Berlin two and a half years ago. She identifies herself as Australian, Malaysian and Chinese. Contrary to what one might think, she became aware of her cultural identity late.

A long way towards forming her cultural identity

In Melbourne, one is first and foremost Australian, which does not imply denying one’s cultural heritage, says Yee. One can still practice their traditions,‘ it is not seen as un-Australian’, she says. She never had to deal with an identity crisis, but she did face some internal conflicts growing up.  Although her family was the only Asian one in an all-white neighborhood, she still felt accepted as Australian and accepted as well herself as Australian. It was not until her school organized a student exchange between students from the city and countryside did she first become aware of how different she actually was. Her exchange student came during Chinese New Year which Yee’s family celebrated. As Yee felt her exchange student’s confusion and discomfort, she felt ashamed of her cultural heritage for the first time.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "asian australian new year"
Chinese New Lunar Year 2015 in Sydnsy – Source :

Her high school years and early adult life was a navigation between her Australian identity and her Chinese Malaysian cultural heritage. Living in one of the most multicultural cities in Australia, it was never particularly difficult and she rarely experienced outright racism. Yet one thing that often came up amongst her friends and colleagues were ‘Asian jokes’, which Yee often participated in herself.

Reflecting on her personal identity

Making jokes about her ethnicity were both a form of entertainment and of fitting in. It wasn’t until she moved to Germany did she begin to reflect critically of her participation in such jokes. She has been confronted about her multi-faceted identity for the first time. She had been used to being accepted as Australian, despite not being white. Since moving to Germany however, this has been rarely accepted when she has been asked where she is from.

Her Australian identity is not accepted due to the color of her skin. But it is because of this, that Yee has been able to truly reflect on her personal identity for the first time and truly accept and appreciate her multicultural background. She has now lived in Germany for over four years with her partner in Berlin. They began to plan to start a family but at the start of this year, she and her partner lost their first baby.

 Breaking the taboo on pregnancy loss

She shares us her experience. This year, Yee and her partner lost their first baby. She insisted on talking about the loss of their baby for a useful purpose. Pregnancy loss can be a very taboo topic, despite being more common than one thinks: pregnancy loss and miscarriage affects one in three women in Germany and one in four in Australia.

Many women may not feel like they want to or even be able to talk about the incredibly painful experience. This is one thing that Yee felt was important through her grieving process: to talk openly about their baby and their loss. One of the main things she struggled with was some of the interactions she had after the loss. Many people ignored the topic completely, fearing to bring it up in case it might hurt her. Some people told her to ‘forget about the baby’, while others told her ‘you will be a mother one day’. For her, it was this silence and sense of denial which hurt her the most.  For Yee, her baby would never be forgotten and would always be her first child. She thinks it is important to recognize the babies we have lost even though they are no longer with us.

Grieving after pregnancy loss: how to overcome this ordeal?

‘To overcome this, it is necessary to take the time to grieve and talk openly with your partner and family. It is important not to keep things to yourself and bottled up’, Yee says. Even though their baby is no longer part of this world, he will always be part of her and her partner’s life. They were, fortunately, able to spend a few hours with him after the birth. At first she found the idea confronting, but in the end, it was life-changing for her and her partner. They were able to spend time with him and say goodbye; to hold him in their arms and share the first hours of happiness with their baby after birth, even though he was no longer with them.

Pregnancy loss
©Julie Royston

Being open and accepting of the loss was a crucial part towards long-term healing. In spite of everything, she and her partner would still like to start a family; she knows that she will always have to deal with the memories of the loss and that any future pregnancies will be accompanied by fear. But the piece of advice that she can give is to not be scared of confronting your emotions, not repress your feelings and accepting the fear. This way, you can always be at peace with yourself and experience a life filled with joy.

One thought on “Cultural identity & pregnancy : Yee’s life-changing moment

  1. Thank you for sharing about your loss and healing Yee, as well as your continuous experience as a person of color and that lifelong journey.

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