Carrie Jaxon, born and bred in Alabama, had been living in Madrid for nearly eight years and believed she had adjusted pretty well to the Spanish way of life.
But then baby came along and with him a whole host of new challenges and cultural conventions that have taken some getting used to. Here is her list of the ten quirks and perks of having a baby in Spain to guide you through the pregnancy and the new baby stage in your adopted country.
For starters - it exists! Four and a half months to be with your newborn is the norm here. And if you desire more time off, in many cases that can be arranged without the danger of losing your job completely.
Get ready to be treated like royalty.
Photo of a pregnant woman: Frank de Kleine / Flick
Spaniards just LOVE BABIES. In general you are regarded with the upmost respect when visible pregnancy sets in and onward. People will rush to give up their seat in the metro or bus, and if they don't, expect to hear someone standing make a fuss at them for not doing so. Even when carrying the new tot, people are quick to rise, which is good news for the urban wrap momma!
Forget covering up!
One of the best perks of having a baby in Spain, is the ease of breastfeeding. It's no easy task being a new mom and learning the ropes of feeding your child in public. In fact, the first time I embarked in a public feed a woman came up and commented on how cute he was, as he was attached to my chest…. because they see no shame, as one shouldn't. It's pretty awesome.
Random strangers will kiss your baby.
Friends warned me about this one before it happened. And then, one day when I least expected it, two middle-aged women stopped me to gawk at my two-month-old tucked away against my chest in a wrap…and then both leaned in to kiss him on the head. I could literally smell their breath.
Tip: add an extra 10 minutes to get anywhere due to the high probability you will get stopped by a stranger, or 3 wanting to peek in at baby on your route and get asked a string of questions. And possibly a comment about how warmly (or not) they are dressed.
There is a crazy shoe obsession.
Photo: Susan Lucas Hoffman/ Flickr
On top of the need to comment on how baby is dressed is the ever pressing need to comment on the fact that a baby needs to wear shoes. Shoes…on a baby….who doesn't walk? Baffling.
Babies poop. A lot.
And it can be assumed that there will not be a diaper changing table in any restaurant or bar in the close proximity. So learning to become a “super-diaper-changing-ninja” is a must. My personal experience has led me to changing my baby on my lap, on someone else's lap, in the stroller, on the bathroom floor, on a closed toilet, in the park. The good news? Spaniards typically don't bat an eye when they see it.
Gender confusion is rampant.
Spaniards seem only able to tell if a baby is a boy or girl based on whether they wear earrings or not. So if a girl's ears aren't pierced shortly after birth then even if they are clad head to toe in pink, they will get mistaken for a boy all the time. The gender confusion really just makes me laugh, but just a heads up – it's very present here.
Spaniards speak their mind when it comes to bringing up baby.
Unsolicited and passive aggressive advice as well as blunt comments are by far the biggest quirk. Of course we should all expect it from our moms, sisters and close friends with children, but in Spain get ready to hear it from everyone! I once spent the queue at the fishmonger being lectured by the woman in front of me – a complete stranger - as to why the Moby wrap I was using wasn't safe. Put a smile on your face and have a response ready to stop them in their tracks.
Oh, also, people are not afraid to tell you if they don't like your baby's name.
People keep their babies up way past midnight.
A sleeping child. Wouter van Doorn / Flickr
While my preoccupation is to try to get the little one down to sleep early my Spanish counterparts are all sitting out on the terraces with perfectly contented babe-in-arms or even toddlers while they slowly sip a caña. How do they manage it? My half-American blooded baby would certainly have a meltdown if kept up much past his normal bedtime of 8pm.
Speaking of cañas… a definite perk here is being able to take your baby to a bar. Not one soul here would even wince at that sight. Marvelous!
Yep, you heard me right. Taking that sweet, freshly bathed newborn and dousing them in a fragrance made for babies is somewhat of an obsession in Spain. It's almost comical. Expect this as a gift from at least one person. And if you don't receive it, you can have my unopened one.