Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Bibsey Mama who is British and had her daughter in Spain. Here is her story:
Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her?
I am a first- time full-time mum living in Southern Spain. My partner and I left the rat race in London and moved here just over two years ago when I was only a few weeks pregnant. My little girl, was born in hospital here in Spain. She is now 19 months old and is a walking, talking and being generally fabulous. We have a lovely life and this is a beautiful country but I do miss family and friends and the support that they naturally provide.
Why did you have your daughter abroad?
I didn’t specifically ‘chose’ to have my child abroad. I found out that I was pregnant a matter of days before we packed up the car and moved to Spain. I do wonder sometimes what we would have done if I had got pregnant a few months earlier. Had there been a bit more time to consider things perhaps we would have stayed put so that I could have had the baby in England. As it was we had both left our jobs, given up our flat, packed about 90% of our belongings off the charity shop and said most of our goodbyes. I don’t think that at the time staying in the UK even occurred to us as an option. I think I am glad that this is how it happened. I am not good with difficult decisions and given more time to think about things I would have been in a right pickle.
The move to Spain was right for us in so many ways. However, my experience of giving birth in hospital here in Spain was not good. And I can’t help but wonder if I would have been any better off in the UK.
What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
The list of benefits to bringing up your children abroad could be as long as your arm and so dependent on the country that you move to of course. Here in Spain children are adored by the whole of society. There are no looks of disapproval if you are out and about with your child even if she is bawling her head off. The Spanish are just incredibly sociable and children are embedded in almost every aspect of life. And breast feeding in public is so accepted here which makes it much easier when it is your first time.
The downside to this is that everyone has an opinion. When my little one was very small I couldn’t leave the house with her without someone coming up to me to tell me that she would be too cold/hot in whatever I had her dressed. After a while I just came to accept this as friendly interest. It was either that or go a little bit mad with the interference.
Other benefits of having kids here in Spain is how much safer and more stable society feels here. The kids play on the street (shame about all the dog poo though) and everyone is looking out for them: older kids; groups of old men who sit around shooting the breeze and watching the world, mothers and their babies go by; and of course the ubiquitous Spanish abuela.
As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
Truthfully, I felt a little bit small and alone. My Spanish was not that great when I arrived but, as the pregnancy was a bit of a wonderful surprise, I had not imagined that on my arrival in Spain I would have to negotiate midwives appointments, scans, blood tests etc. I felt like I was letting my baby down when I didn’t understand everything that was going on. I wondered at times if we had been incredibly irresponsible to plough on and come here when I was pregnant especially when, at the age of 39, I was considered high risk.
Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
Regarding the pregnancy and the birth, I am aware that the Spanish system is incredibly procedure-driven and quite invasive in comparison to the UK. The numerous scans towards the end of the pregnancy seem to me to be a kind of interference.
What I do find here is that there is quite a lot of pressure to put your child into guardería (nursery) very early whatever your circumstances. I often find myself justifying to people why, at the the age of 19 months, I haven’t sent Bibsey to guardería yet and don’t intend to for a little while longer. My circumstances allow me to have my child at home with me for a bit longer and I am lucky for that. I don’t judge people who have made different choices. And of course some people don’t have the choices that I do.
What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
This is a tough one. If language is a problem, then you just have to be brave. I can remember pushing and pushing and pushing the medical professionals to help me understand what was going on and what was expected of me – almost forcing their patience out of the them. Go with your own instinct. Don’t be brow beaten into doing something that you don’t feel is right for you or your child – just as you would in your own country in fact. It’s your body and your child. I have also had a miscarriage here in Spain and I know that there were questions that I should asked but didn’t because I was too shocked and therefore unable to find the words in Spanish.
Oh, and get online, search forums, blogs, expat websites, local activities – find other women in the same boat and go out and meet them. It worked for me. One of my best friends here in Spain is someone I met on a baby website forum. When you are away from ‘home’ you need all the support that you can get.
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