Delivering Abroad

February 8, 2012 at 1:25 am 1 comment

When I got pregnant and gave birth to my daughter a year ago, I was a bit of a pioneer in my circle of friends here in Madrid.  Although I knew most of them would soon follow in my footsteps, I did feel like I was braving a new frontier for my fellow ex-pat buddies.  Now several of them are pregnant or starting to think about adding a kid to their life and they have questions.  Lots of questions.  I’d like to share some of them and my answers for anyone who is about to have a baby in a foreign country, far away from home and your own family.

Oh, and I’m not holding back with the nitty-gritty details, so Dad, you’ll probably want to stop reading here.

Were you happy with the hospital?

We sure were, it wasn’t the fanciest of hospitals but it was clean, the staff was professional and it was relatively close to home.  We had our own room with a couch for my husband to sleep on.  Plus, my husband ate for free in the cafeteria.  For those of you living in Spain, we used our private insurance, but I know public is just as good if not better sometimes.

Was there anything that happened at the hospital or during the delivery that you didn’t expect?

Well, ladies, they give you an enema here in Spain!  That was my first surprise of the day and as unpleasant as those ten minutes were, I would rather use the bathroom in private than the alternative incident that can happen during delivery.

Another thing was we were required to bring things I didn’t expect:  pajamas for me, complete outfits (onesie and pajamas) for the baby that were put on immediately following the delivery.  We also had to provide our own diapers and wipes.

There were a couple of good things that we didn’t expect, one of which was there was a hairdresser who came around every day and offered to do your hair.  I have no idea if it cost extra or not, I was so blown away the first day she came to our room that I said no without thinking, but next time will be different.  At least my hair will look good in those post-birth photos.

Also, they offer a nighttime nursery service.  The first night after Nora was born they knocked on our door and offered to take her to the nursery, we thought about it a lot and then guiltily sent her off to be looked after by strangers so we could sleep.  They brought her back early the next morning freshly dressed and diapered.  We suspected they gave her a bath and we knew they fed her at least once during the night which was good because my milk hadn’t come in and she was hungry.  The next night when they knocked, we had her ready and waiting at the door.  The nursery was free of charge in our hospital, but I hear they charge in public ones.  I would highly recommend using it if you’re not breastfeeding or if you’re feeling pretty beat up after delivering.

Probably, the worst thing that happened that I hadn’t anticipated at all, was that my husband wasn’t allowed to be with me during the delivery.  I had to have a caesarean and the law in Spain doesn’t permit any non-medical personnel to be present during surgeries.  I found out this fun-fact as I was being wheeled into the operating room.

How long were you in the hospital?

I was in for five days (one for the delivery, four to recover), but you can be discharged earlier.   Two to three days seems to be the average stay here if you deliver vaginally.  Five days is a long time in the hospital and I was ready to get out of there on day four.

Was your family there?

No, big mistake on my part.  My family wasn’t there for the delivery and it was really tough.  I thought I could handle it, but those post-pregnancy hormone drops will make you crazy and I got a bad case of the “baby blues” and asked my Mom to come earlier than we had planned.  She arrived about a week after my daughter was born and I really appreciated her dropping everything to come help us out.  The rest of my immediate family flew over within a month.

Did you have a lot of visitors in the hospital?

Yes, a lot, every day, at all hours.  I have wonderful in-laws so I will try not to offend anyone here, but there is a huge cultural difference between American and Spanish norms in regards to who comes to the hospital and when. In American culture, it is usually just the immediate family and maybe a close friend or two, but in Spanish culture EVERYONE comes to the hospital, I’m talking aunts, uncles, cousins, friends you haven’t seen in years, co-workers, friends of your relatives… you name it, they come.  They are all excited to see the baby and bring a present to welcome the little one into the world.  BUT if you’re not used to this, you’re not expecting it or you feel like you got hit by a Mack truck after delivery, you may get a bit freaked out with all these visits.  It also is uncomfortable when you are trying to figure out breastfeeding and you have people waiting outside to see the baby.  I hope this doesn’t come off as a complaint.  I love our friends and family here and I was happy to see them, but I was completely overwhelmed by it all and honestly I didn’t feel well enough to be entertaining.

My advice to those of you giving birth in Spain is use a little trick a Spanish friend of mine did:  Wait 24 hours before telling anyone the baby has been born.  That will give you a little breathing time and if you don’t feel up for visitors then, you can always make the announcement later.

Any final words of advice?

I met with a pregnant friend a few weeks ago and she told me that her mother’s advice during her pregnancy was “you’re not the first and you won’t be the last”.  I really think that’s a reassuring thought.  Remember that even though this whole baby thing is new and even more complicated since you’re really out of your comfort zone, you and the baby will be just fine.

I think I’ve covered most of the questions that I’ve been asked.  I’d be happy to answer more if you’d like to post them in the comments section.


Entry filed under: Motherhood, Pregnancy and Birth, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Konradakor  |  July 25, 2013 at 3:10 am

    >pshhh- weddings scgmeddinhs I want to see pics from your groovy disco party!!!! That was the most fun I’ve had in ages I haven’t danced like that since college, and who knew I could learn how to have a good hand at craps??? love a good night out and that was a GREAT one my dear. Thanks for being born, so we could celebrate!!!


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