Having only lived in Spain for 8 months my partner and I were trying for our first child together, at this point the hospital stage never came into my mind. On falling pregnant only a month later it was now time to think about the doctors. We were only registered with the local private medical centre (centro medico Chiclana) and our first visit included a blood test and a scan. I was only 4 weeks pregnant at that time; it was very exciting for us and we left feeling very positive and without any worries.
We returned few days later to get the results only to find that, even though we were already paying a monthly subscription of 15 Euros, the charge of the blood test was just short of 200 Euros. This is when we started to panic especially when, shortly after, a friend told us that the bill to actually give birth privately would be around 2,000 Uuros. Our exciting time started to get a bit more worrying but we continued through the private doctors for the regular checkups and scans (paying around 30 Euros per visit on top of our monthly subscription).
I worked at an English restaurant at the time and I was telling an English lady (who had lived here for many years) our story so far, and our worries. She kindly offered to take us to the local state doctors and help us get registered (with no charge involved, so many thanks to you if you are reading this). Our excitement returned, we went to the doctors and all they needed was our passports, our E111 card (European Heath Card) and our N.I.E. It took an hour at the most! We started our appointment with our new nurse for regular checks and the only bad point at this stage was that we had to travel from Chiclana de la Frontera to Santa Maria for our scan.
It's still a mystery to us why we had to travel this far when all our other pregnant friends went to Puerto Real hospital which is much closer. But anyway, we still went to the private doctors for a 3D/4D scan as it was still only 30 Euros as opposed to 100 Euros anywhere else.
The year before we moved to Spain, occasionally I used to feel quite ill, vomiting badly for hours on end (usually somewhere between 4 and 6). I went for many tests in the UK but nothing showed up and my illness was put down to a bad diet. Once we moved to Spain my fits stopped so we put it down to the oil used in cooking (we switched to olive oil instead of sunflower/vegetable oil which we used in England) as that seemed to be the only change in my diet.
But, when I reached 32 weeks pregnant my fits started again, I had 3 fits in 6 days. On day 3 we thought enough is enough. We were very worried about the impact this must have been having on our unborn son. We rushed to Puerto Real hospital, the drive there was horrific as I couldn't bend without being in so much pain.
The staff in the emergency room were very helpful and they sent for a porter to take me to the maternity ward in a wheelchair. The poor guy was very confused when I was trying to explain that I couldn't bend to sit down so we walked what seemed like miles to get to the maternity ward. I was trying to take in as much as I could, ready for the big day, but we seemed to be going the staff only route, past the kitchens and staff rooms.
Once we got there I felt like I'd been spun around blindfolded. At the maternity ward we were taken to the dilating rooms and put straight on a monitor to check our baby's heartbeat. To our surprise, the nurse told us I was having contractions. Once they managed to lay me down and strap the monitor around me, my pain eased much to my relief. I could now take in what they were saying to me, they were saying that they needed to stop our baby from arriving by putting me on a drip and giving me regular drugs to stop the contractions. They also needed to give me 2 needles (12hrs from each other) which contained steroids to help develop our baby's lungs incase he was to arrive early.
We were shocked to find we'd be staying in for the next two nights minimum, we had nothing prepared. They wheeled me onto the ward and now I started to worry a little. How many strange faces would we be sharing a room with? Would they think we were ignorant because we couldn’t fully understand the language? Would the rooms be as dirty as we had heard?
Once we reached the door and the porter wheeled me into the room, our mouths dropped. We were in our own private room with a brand new TV and a balcony. Spotlessly clean throughout, very spacious and as homely as a hospital room could be. We were told that my partner had to stay with me the whole time I was in hospital and he had to sleep in a "lovely" looking chair which, in a way, folded out to be a longer chair (I tried to type bed but I can't really call it that).
So there we were in a hospital in a country we had lived in for just over a year not being able to communicate that well but surprisingly relaxed. This continued for more days than we had ever expected and every day my contractions were showing up on all the charts (they gave me 2 scans per day). I had another 2 fits in the first 5 days of being there. I researched lactose intolerance and found a few connections so I mentioned this to the doctors and they changed my diet straight away but this didn't seem to help.
The doctors and nurses where the friendliest I've ever met and made me feel so relaxed, they apologised for not understanding what was wrong with me and did every test they could. Ten days into my stay they sent me for a scan on my stomach and BINGO, they found my problem. Gallstones "Mucho Mucho" the head doctor explained. As our baby grew he was pushing my gallbladder up, which was causing my problems. Me being ill started my contractions.
A few days later still on the drip and linked to machines in our lovely room, getting a little fed up now, the main doctor came round to tell me I was nearly at 34 weeks into my pregnancy and once I reached 34 weeks, they would no longer stop our baby and he would be allowed to arrive if he wanted. We were so happy to hear this, and when the day came and they took out the drips I was so happy. I could shower and go to the toilet without anyone's help.
We stayed there another two days praying for our baby's arrival as the thought of being there for this long and not taking him home in our arms was quite upsetting, but he wasn't ready. My contractions stopped and home we went. We left the hospital with high spirits and such a warm feeling towards all the nurses and doctors and I couldn't wait to return to have our baby. We were told that I would probably go full term now.
But our boy had different plans. After five days of being at home he decided the time was NOW. So there I was quietly eating my beans and egg on toast when it happened, my waters broke at 10pm.
Our friend came and took us to the hospital at 11pm and once again I was on the dilating ward. We felt like celebrities as they all remembered us (well they should we were there for over two weeks). The wards were full so we stayed in the dilating room which was like the ward rooms but with no TV or balcony.
I was glad I was kept there and not moved to the ward as once I got going, it happened so fast. Very lucky, I know, but I was due some luck. Our beautiful baby boy was born at 3:45am on the 15th of April weighing 2.8kg (6.1 pounds). I got to spend a few minutes with him before they took him to the special care unit just to check him as he was over one month premature. My partner had to go with him. Out of all the experiences this was the worse right now. After going through all that to find yourself back in the dilation room alone.
The nurses and doctors left me alone to sleep, but I didn't want to sleep I want to talk to someone, anyone, I didn't care. I was so excited and a little nervous and in complete shock about everything that just happened. Four long hours later my partner returned with a photo on his phone of a baby, our baby, and then I felt relaxed. I knew everything was okay and could have slept for a month. My partner on the other hand was now pacing the room itching to see his son again.
They came and moved us onto the ward and into a room with another lady and her newborn baby girl. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, sharing a room with a Spanish lady to whom I couldn't really hold a conversation with. Our baby boy joined us that day around 4pm. We stayed in the hospital for another 3 days in total as the usual period here in Spain is a minimum of 2 days after giving birth.
All my time in hospital was more than I could have dreamed of. Their persistence to discover my problem was second to none and as all English doctors failed to find the cause of my pain I was very relieved to say the least.
The nurses and all other staff I dealt with were, in my opinion, faultless. They helped us learn more Spanish and we helped them with their English. The food was beautiful and there was lots of it, my taste buds have welcomed in all kinds of foods I never liked before.
To finish I'd just like to say, don't listen to the horror stories as the hospitals over here have had huge facelifts over the last five years and if it's your first baby they will put you at ease and try their best to make you feel relaxed as much as they can.
I am so glad I chose to give birth here because at the same time I was in labour, so was my sister-in-law (unbeknownst to us until 2 days after). She was in Pontefract Hospital in West Yorkshire in the UK. She gave birth around 5:00am English time and at 6:00am they asked her to leave. She pleaded for 1 more hour and, reluctantly, they let her have it. At 7:00 just two short hours after giving birth she left hospital. This I find appalling and much prefer the two day rule in Spain.
Our bouncing boy (Luke) is now 10 months old.