Saturday, 17 October 2009

The Kindness Of Strangers by Kate

So here we are back in Madrid and suddenly I've been promoted on the Metro. In the last few days complete strangers have been giving up their seats in crowded carriages and inviting me to have them instead. This is both touching and gratifying and one of the best bits so far about my abdomen sporting a now unmistakeable bump.

Spaniards - generally speaking - are very much in favour of children, babies and pregnancy and I'm just starting to appreciate that fact. It doesn't help us insert ourselves and our potential new Madrilena into the Spanish ante-natal system (they're chocka and trying to book ourselves to have our now overdue anomalies scan is proving to be a bit of a struggle) but it does bathe things like Metro journeys in a benevolent glow.

So back to the beginning for a quick recap. Theo and I abandon contraception at the beginning of the year and get on with business as usual. Just as the weather gets seriously hot I start feeling unusual. Alcohol and caffeine are suddenly unattractive to my taste buds, my breasts feel a bit strange and I keep getting ravenously hungry, but just don't fancy eating anything. I break out in the type of acne I only get when there is extra progesterone in my system (experience with previous contraception). I can't remember when my last period was, but I start feeling suspicious and report the symptoms to my experienced sister (four children). She admits they sound fairly classic, but counsels against any over excitement about the situation just yet. I don't actually feel excited anyway, just a tad queasy.

Theo has gone off to a residential camp for a week. On the phone I tell him about my suspicions. He forbids me to self-diagnose until he gets back. I pass the next six days feeling disinclined to eat or drink anything sweet. How did I get this virtuous?

Theo returns and we do the pee stick. The line flames up positive even before I have a chance to pull my knickers back up. Theo is very excited about the prospect of suddenly probable parenthood. I feel justified.

The next few weeks pass in a heat haze and Theo is highly solicitous, dealing patiently with my new found fussiness about food and giving me lots of back rubs and foot-massages. I milk it.

We get back to England to see friends and family, lie to the NHS about our current address and book ourselves in to see a midwife and radiographer in Bristol.

The first scan seems fine, as far as these things do. We suddenly realise there really is a living thing in my belly, not just a collection of physical symptoms. We also realise we're two weeks further on than we thought. A bump - still smallish - obediently appears below my midriff. I scour Bristol's charity shops for roomier clothes. The midwife takes lots of blood out of my arm and nods approvingly when I tell her I don't drink or smoke and I fully intend to breast-feed. Theo doesn't watch the blood extraction part.

First hitch when we are told we have a high risk of our foetus (now christianed Fosbury) having Downs Syndrome. This is upsetting news. I calm down a bit when I realise that a 1 in 65 risk still means it's less than 2 per cent. Nevertheless, we opt to have amniocentesis and thankfully that all goes fine.
“Look out for its feet!” says Theo at one point during the procedure.
“Oh, I've stuck loads of needles in babies, don't worry about it,” says the consultant cheerfully. He doesn't on this occasion, thankfully.

A few days later we are back in Spain and the initial news from the amnio is good. The three chromosomes which are affected if Downs Syndrome is present are normal. Phew. Two weeks later we learn that in fact, all the chromosomes are normal and we are growing a female. We change the foetus' name to Fosbella.

Which brings us up to date as, having registered with the Spanish health system, we wait for our next scan (although most possible anomalies were checked at 17 and a half weeks and nothing untoward was seen then, so we're not hugely anxious). Anyway, it seems like a good plan to get it done as soon as possible, so we are considering paying for a private scan or pulling strings to see if we can get one done when we are back in Bristol for a wedding.
Meanwhile, I am busy committing foetal-related words in Spanish to memory. Luckily, being medical, they are largely the same as their English equivalents, just pronounced in a more Spanish way. Disappointingly, “scan” is not “escano ultra-sono”, as we had hoped. Never mind. In the meantime, I will keep on enjoying my new Metro privileges.

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