People ask how I did it. Some called me crazy. I think I was just naive. We moved to Spain when I was 28 years old and 20 weeks pregnant with no house and no overseas insurance. Because God was leading us there and because surely it would be easy to get both of those once we were in Spain, or so we thought.
I’m not going to go into details on that now but we did get a house and I did get health insurance there and they covered the whole rest of my prenatal visits and my birth. Which was such a gift! For that, I am forever grateful.
I gave birth to my son Maddox Rayne (meaning of Maddox: fortunate – meaning of Rayne: abundant blessing from above) on January 29th 2014 in Barcelona, Spain, two days after my due date. He was my first and I had no idea what to expect even though I had read “What to expect when you are expecting.”
You can’t really prepare for what you’ve never experienced, at least not to the fullness. I don’t know why but I never went to any prenatal classes or anything. The doctor told me to show up in the emergency room if my water broke or my contractions were less than 5 minutes apart. I didn’t ever meet the doctor(s)/midwives who delivered my baby because there were so many and they said it would be whoever was there at the time. In Spain, the midwives are in the hospital and deliver the babies and the doctor will come in if needed.
I tried to make it a habit to walk everyday and remember I had walked an hour the day I went into labor. That night at about 10pm I went into what I know now was the start of my labor. It started out and I was sort of giddy, laughing even because the contractions were not painful and they were few and far between. Little did I know what was to come. I labored throughout the whole night. They got progressively closer together and strong enough to where I couldn’t really sleep. Calvin would rub my back and time them while I tried to breathe. I remember taking a shower in the middle of the night and trying to shave my legs, not too successfully.
At 7am my water broke. I jumped out of bed, my adrenaline racing and said we have to go! We grabbed my hospital bag and Calvin called a taxi which was there in less than 5 minutes. Of course there was a police roadblock that morning and we had to go an alternate route to the hospital but still arrived within 15 minutes. I had a couple of pretty strong contractions in the car and the taxi driver may or may not have thought I was a crazy lady. By the time we arrived everything was a blur but I was in some serious pain, especially in my lower back. Back labor. I wanted drugs!
They put a wristband on me and got me ‘checked in’ and wanted to see where I was dilated. I was 5cm. They asked me if I wanted the epidural and I said YES! Then they asked where my papers were saying that I was okay to have one. I had done this blood test the month before and apparently I was supposed to go to the doctor’s office and pick up this paper that said I was okay to have an epidural. Another nurse had told me it would be in the computer system so I didn’t have to pick it up. That made more sense to me because of course your doctor would have the digital file for something so important.
“We are going to have to run the test again,” she told me. Are you KIDDING me?! But I had no choice but to comply. So I did and over an hour later, still in a ridiculous amount of pain now off in this teeny tiny room dilated to a 9, my answer was a screaming “YES, give me the epidural.” I was one of those screaming women you see being rolled on a stretcher from one room to the next. I had never in my life experienced this amount of pain before. Birthing a baby is pretty insane.
I remember having to sit oh-so-still while the needle went in my back. I felt like I was going to break the nurse’s hand because I held it so tight. And right after they were like oh no the baby’s heart rate is dropping we need to get the baby out asap (we didn’t know what we were having). This is all in Spanish by the way.
So before I could even process what was going on, before the epidural had even started to work, my legs went up in the stirrups and the giant pair of scissors came down because I needed an episiotomy and then they were telling me to “push push!”….”va va!” in Spanish. Then they were like no you are pushing wrong. “Oh my gosh, how am I supposed to push?! I am pushing like I am pooping, that’s what they told me. Why oh why didn’t I take some classes?”
Calvin was off in a chair nearby praying in tongues but so traumatized by what was happening that he couldn’t even look. Seriously. Oh my gosh. It felt chaotic. There was a team of 6 doctors and midwives and then next thing I know one of them is pushing down on my stomach and the other is with a hand up me trying to pull the baby out. And then at 9:45 am, he was out. And they rushed off with him.
We never even heard him cry.
What was happening? Is he okay, where is my baby? Is he even alive? I was trying to get some answers. What seemed like an hour was only a matter of three minutes and they brought him back wrapped tight as could be and told us to look and see what sex the baby was.
What relief! A boy! “Grandote,” all the nurses called him. Big little one, because he was 8.5 lbs, bigger than most Spanish babies. We were exhausted too tired to celebrate this little one we had spent months dreaming about. I spent the next hour being sewn up while my sweet Maddox cried and cried. Then they wheeled me off to a room which I shared with a Pakistani lady the first night. At one point her WHOLE family of more than 10 others were in the room. I just wanted them to leave. I was SO TIRED.
I don’t know why but in my mind I was thinking (regarding Calvin and I) neither of us have slept, there were no extra beds Calvin might as well go home and get some rest and come back refreshed and ready to help. So I sent him home. I WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. I was in SO much pain, bleeding through 3 sets of sheets that night and Maddox wouldn’t stop crying. The nurses wouldn’t really help me except to change my bedding. All while the Paki lady and her mom who snored louder than a train and her baby slept all night. If her baby would even start to cry she would go SHH really loud and he would stop. I am not even kidding. Maddox screamed so much I thought his face would be permanently red.
I remember the next morning when Calvin came back being so relieved. I hadn’t slept in 2 nights. Is this what having a baby is like? The crying. I can’t do this. My mother in law, thank the Lord for her mother’s intuition suggested having Maddox looked at by the nurse and tried to get Maddox to take a pacifier. The nurses didn’t want me to use it because of nipple confusion but we were desperate. It did help.
Sure enough he had a fever and was dehydrated. Even though I felt like he had been attached to my boob since birthing him he still wasn’t getting enough. So they gave him some formula. And then he finally stopped crying and slept for 4 hours. And so did I. At this point 4 hours of sleep went by in what felt like 4 minutes.
They moved us to a wonderful private room for the 2nd night where Calvin stayed on the couch and we had a view of Camp Nou Stadium. That night was so much better. Calmer, more peaceful. They hooked up this automatic breast pumping machine to try to get my milk to come in faster but nothing happened. I just sat there while my breast was squeezed for 30 minutes. Imagine my joy. My milk did eventually come in 4 days later and apart from the first new mom nursing hurdles, I had a great breastfeeding experience. (That was not the case with my 2nd daughter. You can read about that here.)
The next day I could only shuffle out of that hospital inch by inch. We laugh about it now but I was SOOOO sore. My recovery was awful. I don’t know why but they never offered ice or spray or anything for the pain down there and I didn’t know any different so I didn’t think to ask. So my relief was just some drugs, which I happily took. I remember I saw this adorable dark haired Spanish girl in her yoga pants breezing by me with her newborn and I was like, “what in the world? I feel like a 95 year old woman. How is she doing this? Didn’t she just give birth too?”
Until my gynecologist came on day 7 for a surprise home visit and removed some stitches I was in pain pretty much day and night. I had to nurse Maddox while laying on my side. I couldn’t even sit without pain. Calvin had to change every diaper and do all the burping and outfit changes for the first week. The only thing I did was hobble back and forth from my bed to the bathroom. We lived with 4 others at the time so thank you Lord I didn’t have to cook or clean. But none of them had a baby so they didn’t know what to expect either. We were all in shock.
It was wild to say the least. But little by little we got used to our new rhythm of life which involved very little sleep, sore nipples, and lots of crying. It sounds crazy and it really was. Would I birth another baby overseas? Probably. Would it be my first choice? Probably not. I have a MUCH redeemed birthing story with my second baby, Ivory soon to come. But there you have it, my birthing story overseas in all it’s unfiltered glory.
What about you? Have you given birth in a foreign country? Or maybe you want to share your birth story from your home country. Either way, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below or on our facebook page.