Reflections on Pregnancy and Childbirth in Spain

13 February 2017 0 Comments Category: blog, Cat Gaa, Living in Spain

Like clockwork, my body wakes me up just before 4 o’clock. In the morning. I can hear my newborn son stirring in his crib, ready for his (past) midnight feeding.

For nine months, I had prepared for these moments. The extreme exhaustion, the emotional highs and lows of caring for my first child. There was the mourning of losing my freedom to travel or sleep as I pleased, of course, and the stress of navigating childcare and buying baby gear. The initial “Now what?!” discussions melted into excitement as the days and weeks ticked by and my biggest concerns became my health and that of my baby’s became the most important thing.

I am someone who has barely had any medical issues, unless you count an acute allergy to olive blossoms or an aversion to blisters. As soon as an at-home test confirmed that we were expecting, I immediately scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist.

In Spain, there are two tiers to the health system, private and public. As a full-time employee in the private sector, I was entitled to use the public system, known as social security, as well as the private insurance I had with Caser, the Activa plan for young people. My gynecologist is a close friend’s mother, so she saw me right away and confirmed that I was six weeks pregnant with our first child, due in early 2017.

But the news that we were expecting wasn’t all – we moved from Sevilla to Madrid for work, so I began a new job in a new city in a new field as I began second trimester.

Taking into account that each region of Spain has slightly different public health care systems, I signed up right away at the nearest ambulatorio and was assigned a GP, a nurse and, eventually, a gynecologist.

Although I continued to get vaccinations and prescriptions with the public system, I found that I enjoyed the treatment from the private hospital far more. I had more freedom as to when I would be seen, was a block away from my job and didn’t have to queue for treatment – my doctor even had an Andalusian accent like me. My pregnancy will always be a beautiful, eye-opening time of my life, and I felt healthier and more fulfilled than I ever had.

As the days ticked down to my third trimester, I began to consider where I’d give birth. Had I stayed in Seville, I would have likely opted for the massive Virgen del Rocío pubilc hospital, whose reputation is one of the best in Iberia. But it wasn’t just a matter of public versus private – I was also considering having my baby in Seville, where we own a house and have many friends, including my husband’s immediate family. I made a short list of hospitals in Seville – one public and two private – and set off  to interview gynecologists.

At 37 weeks, we made a temporary move back to Andalucía. Half of my suitcase was full of baby clothes from friends, as well as the maternity clothes I’d not bothered to wear during my pregnancy. At Hospital Infanta Luisa, a mere 350 meters from my home, Dr. García saw me through the last three weeks of my pregnancy and eventually scheduled me to be induced on January 4th, 2017 – just one day after my 40 weeks were up.

I’d always expected to have the labor that just happens spontaneously, perhaps while I was out having a coffee with girlfriends or at the supermarket. Being told I’d be induced was a huge pill to swallow, especially because it made me feel like my body was giving up on me after a healthy pregnancy. I was nervous that it would lead to a C-section – and I’d hoped for a non-medicated birth. Looking over my birth plan, I crossed out half of it and reminded myself that the ends justified the means, even if the baby had to be born via C-section.

Without getting into details: My husband and I checked into the hospital just before 9am. I had come to terms with the medical intervention, convinced it was the right thing for the baby’s health and resolved to take each decision as they came. After being administered the pill that helps to jumpstart the labor process, it was a waiting game until my body was ready to push. And, after nearly 12 hours when I was ready to push, my husband was downstairs calling our families.

At 9:05pm, Enrique was born with a little help from the vacuum, but 100% healthy. I was slightly broken but relieved and overwhelmed and exhausted. During those first 48hours in the hospital, I oscillated between every emotion as we got to know our son. In the weeks since his birth, he’s grown steadily and is coming into his personality – he’s just like his father even though he looks like me.

The street light glows just enough outside the window for me to watch my baby boy latch on and begin feeding. If the nine months he was growing inside my stomach are any indication as to how fast the first year will go, I’d better hold onto these moments, despite the dark circles under my eyes, the spit up stains on my t-shirts and the lack of travel and social plans. It has been nothing short of amazement to watch my baby feed, yawn and even burp as he grows accustomed to the world around him.

And as the doctor said with a wink as she handed me my son for the first time: “See you next year.”

Disclosure: Cat receives health care via Caser for her participation in Typical Non Spanish. Despite this, all opinions are her own.

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