Whether you’re a future Mum or Dad to be, nine months is a long time to play with ones uncontrollable imagination. The older I get, the more I worry. I suppose because you realise just how cruel life can be at times, so I rarely let my guard down these days. So when my wife announced that we’d be expecting our second child nine months ago, the neurotic part of my brain started going into overload. Will the birth be okay? Is it worth going private, or should we choose the NHS?
Just to fill you in on the first birth. We decided to go private with a company called Sanitas, which towards the end of the nine months I was calling Cacitas (caca = poo). What exactly did we get for €90 a month?Now that we’ve gone through the process with the NHS, the only benefit was having a private room for a couple of nights after the baby was born, and being able to walk around the delivery room in some sexy green slippers. The rest of the service was miles better with the NHS. You’d think that if you were paying for private health service, then the standard would be much higher. Not in our case.
Sure, the actual clinic was very clean, smelt of orange blossom, and they had a snazzy water cooler in reception, but the service was lousy. We always had to wait an hour for each appointment with the midwife; a grumpy, stuck up lady who was always in a rush, perhaps so she could finish early and go horse riding or play golf for the afternoon. The scans were quick five-minute jobs and any questions were met with a sigh and raise of her neatly trimmed eyebrows.
As it was our first baby, we didn’t have much to compare it too, especially during the birth. Without going into too many details, we weren’t happy with the way the birth was handled by the midwife. Again she was too quick, didn’t keep us informed of what was happening, and we are convinced that if she had taken more care the recovery time would have been much shorter.
One infuriating aspect of going private was what happened to me while my wife was in labour. You can imagine the stress I was already under watching my wife suffering contractions (sure, poor you, I hear you say, but what about your wife?). I know, you’re right, but nine months of worrying was finally coming to a climax, and what happened? I got called out to reception.
A woman told me that if anything serious happened to my wife or the baby during the birth, something which needed major surgery or transported to a different hospital, then we weren’t covered by our healthcare policy and could have to pay up to €3,000. Nine months of keeping calm and patient came to an end as the lady caught the gruff on the chin. I lost it, shouted a few words of abuse, and demanded an explanation as to why I was being told this just as my son was about to come into the world. Luckily, my mother-in-law was standing by my side and managed to calm me down and sort things out. Apparently there had been a mix up with policy and dates. Even so, it was totally unprofessional. Needless to say, for the next one we didn’t go private.
I was half expecting the NHS service to be slow, unprofessional, and a bit blasé, but it was the complete opposite and we were both thrilled with the service. Here’s a little breakdown of why.
The service was extremely thorough. We must have had about six or seven scans over the nine months. The midwife was excellent and informed us throughout the procedure. You can tell when people really like their jobs and everyone we came into contact with, apart from a few grumpy receptionists, seemed happy knowing they were contributing to the birth of our second baby. The only moan I have is that at times we had to wait up to three hours for the scans, and they never gave us a copy of the image. But all in all the staff were sound.
When we got to the hospital we were seen within about 20 minutes and met the midwife. She was very calm and friendly and filled us in on the procedure, so we weren’t left wondering what was going to happen, even though we had a pretty clear idea anyway. Then we got moved to our own room where they could monitor my wife’s contractions and the heart beat of the baby. Things went really smoothly, a few different women came in to check on the progress and sorted out the epidural quite well, although they did have to try four times before they got the right spot. The actual birth was amazing. The team of three were very comforting and professional. One had even been in the same class as my wife’s brother, and let out a tear when the baby was born. Both Mum and baby were in great condition after. They even let me cut the umbilical cord, which was emotional. And to top it all I never got pulled out and told I might have to pay €3,000.
Once the baby was all cleaned up we were whisked upstairs for a few tests on the heart beat, eyes and reflexes. Then given a bed in a double room, which was empty at the time. They gave us plenty of nappies, a bottle of milk for the baby, and all the necessary cleaning stuff. The only thing missing was an extra bed for the dad, or at least a flat sofa. I had to doze in a squeaky chair, not great after an all night labour. At about six in the morning another new born baby arrived and screamed us awake. That was the main difference between private and public; we had to share a room after the birth.
If there’s one thing to complain about though, it would have to be the visiting hours. You can only have visitors between 16.00 and 20.00, and a maximum of 2 at any one time. This was extremely frustrating, especially as it was in Holy Week, which made it difficult for family members to get there in the afternoon. The security guards were about as lenient as a prison marshal. The next day I came up with my father-in-law and the guard wouldn’t let us both through, so I let my father-in-law go up. After fussing and tutting over a coffee, I remembered from our other hospital visits that I could get upstairs through another building round the back, so I sneaked up. And I wasn’t the only bright button in the basket.
The couple next to us must have known about the secret passage as they had about ten visitors during the afternoon, and once or twice all at the same time. This was annoying, especially as we were taking it in turns to visit, and my wife wanted to rest. In the end we spoke to the nurses and they came in and threw people out.
These are minor things though and a small price to pay for having a lovely baby girl at home. I’m really grateful to all the people who contributed to such a miracle. If you are thinking about having a child in Spain then I’d say confide in the NHS: it might not be a great service normally, but the baby popping out department is top notch, especially compared to the private companies, at least in our experience. If you have any questions then just drop me a comment below.
Barry O’Leary has been an expat in Seville for nearly ten years. When he’s not teaching English, he writes a blog A Novel Spain which is about how he sees life in Spain. He has also lived and taught English in Brazil, Ecuador, Australia and Thailand and travelled around the world in the meantime. His non-fiction travel literature book, Teaching English in a Foreign Land, about his adventure as a TEFL teacher has sold over 2,500 copies.