Sunday, August 19, 2018

Have a seat and why are you still working?! - Pregnancy Customs in Barcelona

Midday on the L4 Metro line, Barcelona, Spain.

We're eight months into our first pregnancy. To be fair, I probably should've written more frequently, but, hey life happens.

However, it's never too late! 

As promised in my previous article, I want to share some "insider" details about what it's like to be expecting a baby in Barcelona.  

Here's my 1st stab at it (and I promise it won't be the last!). 
Before going further, I should mention that these observations come mostly from Nathalie. She's the one who's pregnant; I'm merely the sounding board for her first-hand experiences growing our child.

Have a seat 

Nathalie commutes to work. In practice, it isn't far; only five stops between two different lines. However, carrying an increasingly heavier load is only part of it. 

Sleep sometimes isn't plentiful. 

The body is continuously changing. 

The baby likes to put her feet wherever she pleases, which is often in Nathalie's gut. 

Oh, and it's a balmy 38C/100F in most metro stations. 

In short, those five stops feel like a transatlantic flight. 

Luckily, the people from here understand. 

Without prompting, able-bodied Spanish folks will give up their seat to her.  In a mere matter of seconds upon boarding, some kind individual will offer his or her comfy place so that Nathalie can sit and take a load off after sweltering in transit.

Unfortunately, some tourists aren't as accommodating. As we round into the heat of the summer, sometimes, Nathalie is left on her own, standing in a packed train.  She's coping, but with the heat, it isn't always easy.

On a pedestal 

Respect for pregnant women doesn't just stop at the metro exit.  Practically everywhere we go -- or rather wherever Nathalie goes -- people go out of their way to make sure she's comfortable. 

Staff in stores give her special attention.  The clerks, associates, and servers that we know in our neighborhood all ask her how she's doing, with some even acutely keeping track of our progress.

Her HR rep is nearly militant in his quest to make sure that Nathalie never finds herself in discomfort.  Indeed, it's to the point that she should refrains from opening the lowest drawers on her desk, lest it harm the baby.

From what we learned in our two years here, Spain puts pregnant women on a pedestal.  That's not to say that its bad -- far from it.  However, it's part of the culture we neither knew about nor expected when we moved here.  We're not complaining.  

The long (pre)maternity leave

Nathalie decided to work up until two weeks before the due date.  Part of that is because she's enjoying her job and wants to stay as long as possible.   Part of it is because her office has air conditioning and we don't (if you didn't catch it, Europe went through a historic heatwave in late July. It was 33C/92F in our apartment for what felt like an eternal two weeks).   

Either way, culturally, pregnant women in Spain usually take sick leave from the third trimester. In Belgium, unless there's a good medical reason, most women work up until the 36th week or so. For Nathalie, she had to practically plead her case to her HR rep. 

Once she gives birth, Nathalie will have 16 weeks of maternity leave, which is about the EU average. 

In the end, Nathalie and I seem to be coping well. We're certainly getting a first-hand cultural education about pregnancy in Spain.  As we round out these last weeks, we're grateful for the courtesy Spaniards have shown us. 

A quick note

As we're prepping everything for the arrival of our daughter, we've put together a list of stuff that we think will help us give our daughter the best. 

We've been able to get many of these items, but if you'd like to help us, we've posted our baby list here: 

Our baby list

If you would prefer to give cash, we have a TransferWise account in my name  -- Elliott Saunders Locke -- that lets us accept payments, from all over the world. Here are the details:  

See something you think we're missing? Know an amazing baby product? Let us know! Either write a comment or send us an email!

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