I was only supposed to be visiting for a few months so the thought of having a baby in Tenerife was the furthest thing from my mind. My partner and I had been living in Thailand and and much as we loved it, we both felt it was time for a change. I’ve never been afraid to up sticks and move on. My parents had made the move to Tenerife the previous year and so mi marido and I agreed that it would be nice to chill out with them on Tenerife for a few months.
Well life has that funny habit of throwing a spanner in the works. Much to my surprise, at the ripe old age of 37, I discovered that I had fallen pregnant. I had long ago given up hope of ever hearing the patter of tiny feet and my first reaction was one of shocked disbelief. His reaction was more straightforward – he was just shocked. “How did that happen?” he said. Duh!
Anyway we were faced with the choice of moving to his native France or staying on in Tenerife to have the baby. A girl needs her Mum at times like that no matter how long in the tooth she may be. No contest – we stayed in Tenerife.
In my usual woolly-headed way, I had no idea when it might be that I had actually conceived. I had lost a baby years before and after that, despite trying to fall pregnant, it had never happened again. I presumed the doctors were right – I was just not meant to be a Mum so I stopped paying much attention to my periods and just got on with my life.
I visited a local GP, fondly known as Dr. Jab. He advised I go to the Clinca Verde in Los Cristianos for tests. Unfortunately when I got there I was told they couldn’t do the tests without knowing the approximate age of the fetus. I was sent away again to do a urine test at a clinic in my local chemist. This established that I was about ten weeks gone.
After that my pregnancy was plain sailing except for my own nerves. Having come to terms with being barren, suddenly having a growing baby in my belly scared the life out of me. The only people that even knew were my partner and my parents until my bump and boobs grew to ridiculous proportions and I could hide the fact no longer. Even then I hated to talk about my pregnancy in case doing so somehow jinxed me and I would lose this one too.
Pregnancy Check Ups
Though I could have had regular check-ups paid for by the state by hauling my pregnant belly on a bus to Mahon every six weeks, I chose instead to pay for the check-ups privately and instead hauled my increasing girth to the Green Clinic in Los Cristianos. My Spanish was non-existent at that time and the charming Dr. Hidalgo’s English was fractured but he also spoke French and between us we managed quite well. A hospital translator, a lovely motherly English lady, was on hand too.
As an older mum-to-be I was offered an amniocentesis. I had to go to Candelaria Hospital in Santa Cruz for that and I’d have to say that was the low point of the whole pregnancy. However well organised that facility might be for locals, it is a confusing maze if you enter the wrong building as a foreigner and then try and find your way back to the labs. The day being hot and sticky didn’t help and when we finally found the right place, we saw that we were to knock on a door and then join a queue – don’t ask me what the door knocking was all about because it didn’t seem to cause any reaction. Maybe one nurse inside was tasked with counting the knocks so they knew how many people were waiting.
We seemed to be standing for a very long time in that airless corridor. Buggerlugs went off in search of a coffee machine and for a sly cigarette. I leaned against the wall feeling more and more woozy. The next thing I remember, some strange woman was holding my legs up in the air and babbling at me in a strange language. Very weird. It was a hell of a relief when I finally came to and realised where I was, not to mention a great embarrassment as I had taken to wearing his old boxers for comfort by that time and I stopped shaving my legs when I could no longer see my feet.
The nurses were great but the doctor who put that long needle in my belly was a frosty faced bit of work. Her face didn’t crack a smile once but given the hoard of waiting patients we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was probably just worked off her feet.
As an older mother, I was advised to have the amnio – though it wasn’t a medical necessity. Nevertheless as a born worrier, the amnio was a necessity for me. The tests get send to the mainland for analysis and it takes about a week to get the results. That was the longest week of my life. Thankfully, the results showed that I was carrying a healthy baby girl.
As my time grew nearer I became obsessed with what exactly to expect. Dr. H suggested I ask the translator to take me round the maternity ward. The day I had my tour the ward was especially tranquil. No mothers-to-be were writhing in dramatic agony, no fathers were pacing up and down outside in an anxious dither. I was also taken into the nursery and shown what would happen to my baby when she finally arrived. Just after the birth she would be taken away, cleaned and placed under hot lights for three hours. After seeing what to expect I left feeling just as nervous but far less apprehensive.
I visited the gynae every six weeks throughout my pregnancy. I’d stare at the screen in stupefaction as Dr. H wittered on about arms and legs and my baby’s beating heart. It was only on the very last scan that I could make something out of the grey mince on the screen – a beautiful profile of my baby’s face.
Towards the end of the pregnancy my visits included a sonic scan. It is an incredible feeling to hear the whoosh of blood and your baby’s heartbeat. Once, when my Mum had come along, the lovely Marierose offered us both a coffee. I hadn’t had coffee for months at this point but thought well, if the nurse is offering it, it must be okay. On the same occasion my mother and I got a terrible fit of the giggles. No doubt the coffee helped but hearing the monitor go ballistic every time we shared a joke had us both in hysterics.
My mother was most impressed with the treatment I received prior to the birth of my daughter. They didn’t have such sophisticated monitoring equipment in her day and she found the whole thing quite fascinating. Seeing the moving shadow of her grand-daughter on the monitor was a wonderful experience for her and she has commented that the level of care far exceeds what one would expect in the UK.
After the initial shock of being pregnant and a few minor bouts of morning sickness I had an easy pregnancy although I was two weeks overdue and about the size of a semi-detached by the time the baby arrived. Although I carried my baby through the heat of the summer and finally delivered in late August, I am happy to have been pregnant here in Tenerife. If you are yourself expecting the patter of tiny feet, don’t think you must go back to your home country to receive top class medical care.
The labour and birth … well …suffice to say you do not get pain relief in Tenerife. The nurses in attendance did not speak English, but did make themselves perfectly well understood. It is kind of hard to misconstrue someone thrusting their hand up your bits to see how far you have dilated.
My only complaint about the birth was that my partner was not able to join me. Hania, after digging in for two extra weeks, decided to arrive at the speed of knots with the cord round her neck. One episiotomy and set of forceps later and my first baby was delivered. The first my partner knew of her arrival was when Hania was placed in his arms by the maternity nurse complete with a little pointed alien head from the forceps. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see his face as there is no way his Spanish would have been good enough at that time to understand the reason for her unusual appearance.
While pregnant, I would have loved to have found a page like this which told me what to expect here in Tenerife. If you would like to share your pregnancy or childbirth experiences here on the island, then please send an email.