The last thing I expected of my time in Tenerife was to fall pregnant. My partner Nino and I were only intending to stay on the island for six months or so, principally so we could spend some time with my parents.
We were living in Thailand 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 Nino 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. Nino’s 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 Nino’s 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 couldn’t remember if I’d missed one or two periods. I mean, I’d been regular as clockwork for so many years I’d stopped paying attention.
I visited a local GP, fondly known as Dr Jab. He advised I go to the Green Hospital 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 foetus. 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. I received excellent attention from the gynaecologists at the Green Hospital. Dr H’s English was fractured but he also spoke French and Nino’s Spanish was coming on a treat by then. Dr H’s nurse, Marierose, was a large, motherly woman who proved a dab hand at Charades, so we always managed to get the point. Should we have had any trouble communicating, the hospital’s translators were on hand to help.
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 Nino and I 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. Nino 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. I’d gone down like a felled oak apparently.
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 horde 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 sent 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 as we tried in vain to calm down.
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. I was two weeks overdue and about the size of a semi-detached by the time the baby arrived.
Although I carried Hania 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, let’s draw a curtain over the gory details but 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. The doctor who delivered my baby spoke very good English and had a calm, efficient manner to which I responded well.
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 and it was all over before Nino actually knew that I had progressed from contraction to extraction. The first he knew of her arrival was when Hania was placed in his arms by the maternity nurse.
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 to info(at)etenerife.com .