4 Things I'm Scared Will Happen When My Wife Gives Birth in a Spanish Hospital
Three years ago my wife and I were in a white and beige hospital room in lower Manhattan when Clara, the physician's assistant, told her to push.
Radford, my wife, was sitting on the partially-reclined bed, a position she did not want to be in to give birth. But there she was. Sweat covered her face, and she gripped my hand. She was actually holding it pretty hard. My hand might bruise, I thought. Maybe I should say something.
"Radford, you can feel the baby's head," Violet, our trustworthy doula, said.
"What?" Radford said, as if this was the craziest thing anyone had ever told her.
"Yeah, reach your hand out," Violet said.
My wife reached her hand out and felt the top of our son's head. She started crying.
"Radford, I need another big push," the physician's assistant said in her monotone, as if making a coffee order.
Radford had only just started pushing a few minutes ago. We had arrived at the hospital about two hours ago at 4:30am after being awake all night. And now Radford was touching the baby's head.
Radford gripped my hand even harder, let out a groan, and fucking pushed.
Blood gushed down from her nose. Like really gushed. Everywhere. Over her mouth and chin and down onto her medical gown and the bed.
It was like out of a horror movie. That's how Radford described it after. She thinks it's funny now.
The physician's assistant looked up. "What's happening?" she said. "That's not good."
"She gets a lot of nosebleeds," I said, as I searched for tissues to give her.
A nurse helped Radford wipe the blood from her nose and mouth, and the physician's assistant put her focus back on the baby.
Radford gripped my hand again and pushed.
Our son was born soon after.
Now, a few years later, she will give birth again.
This time in a foreign country where we moved last year and where I can only speak the language un poco.
Here's what I'm afraid will happen in Spain.
1. She Or the Baby Will Die
Obviously a big one. While Americans like to think we have the best of everything, the quality of healthcare care is high in Spain. This country has good hospitals and good doctors, and my wife will be giving birth at a hospital that many recommend. Like everyone we've talked to says this hospital is amazing, the best in the area, fantastic.
But despite the high level of care that she's received so far and the fact that many people love this hospital, still, I worry. In the United States, my wife is three times more likely to die in in pregnancy and postpartum than a white woman, according to research into maternal deaths.
While it's not clear such a disparity exists in Spain, I worry that the medical staff make the right decisions during the intensity of the moment. And if she cannot advocate for herself, will I be able to help? Which leads me to my next worry.
2. My Spanish Won't Be Good Enough
After our first son was born and my wife had been transferred to a shared room, I went home for a quick nap and shower and returned with Shake Shack for both of us.
When I walked into into her shared room, I could tell right away she was not doing well. For one, she was moaning. Then she said: "It fucking hurts." She had tears in her eyes.
A nurse entered the room.
"How are you doing?" the nurse said to my wife.
"Oh, fine," my wife said, sitting up straighter, hiding the tears, and adding some carefree levity to her voice.
"Wait, wait," I said. "You're not fine. You're in a lot of pain." I turned to the nurse. "She's not doing well. She's in a lot of pain."
The nurse looked at her.
"Okay, yes," my wife said. "I'm in a lot of pain."
The nurse was able to increase her pain meds and help her get more comfortable.
If this happens here, I worry, despite my daily practice, that my Spanish won't be good enough to help.
That said, studies have shown that people's second language improves slightly after drinking alcohol.
So maybe I should drink during her labor and delivery.
Just throwing it out there.
3. There Will Be More Blood & Pain
As I was sitting holding my newborn son to my chest, I remember looking at the buckets of blood at the foot of her bed. At least 3 or 4 buckets. Full of blood and bloodied cloths. I didn't know if that was normal.
The physician's assistant was stitching up my wife after a bad tear, and whatever pain reliever or anesthetic they'd given her was not working. My wife was screaming in pain.
It was fucking horrible.
I didn't know what to do. I was holding my son, overwhelmed by the feelings of love and care I had for him. But also wondering if my wife was dying.
This is fucking traumatic, I thought.
This time around my wife feels more certain of how she wants the birth to go. And I will support her. But I worry, how many buckets of blood will there be? And do they have anesthetics that work in this country? And medical staff who care?
4. We Will Need to Pay 20,000 Euros
In the United States, despite having health insurance we ended having to pay about $20,000 USD out-of-pocket for the birth of our son. That was true despite it costing over 2,000 per month for health insurance for our family. In Spain, we pay 2,000 euros a year for private health insurance, as required by our visa.
A couple weeks ago when we were at the Palamos Hospital where she will give birth, we walked into the office of our administrator who handles the insurance.
We asked if she accepted our private Spanish insurance.
"Oh, no," she said. "You'll have to go to Girona."
"No," we said. "No, no, no."
She'd been attending appointments in Palamos. We didn't want to go to Girona, which is about an hour away. We wanted to give birth at the hospital twenty minutes away that everyone loves.
Then the administrator looked to see if Radford was registered with social security in Spain.
She was registered!
Which means that it will be free to give birth in Spain. (Knock on wood.)
Which I don't believe.
No, when we go to the hospital we need to pay money. As much money as possible. At least a few thousand. I mean, I don't want to pay 20,000, but I need to pay something. Or it doesn't count. That's how it works. You need to feel the financial pain to match any physical pain or agony.
I guess we can pay nothing.
If you insist, Spain. If you insist.