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‘My baby boy came early in the Algarve!’

Ben cradles his tiny son on an Algarve beach

Jules Jacob, 41, lives in Ditchling, East Sussex, with husband Ben and children Charlie, nine, Florrie, seven, and Josiah, 18 months. She tells M&B how her baby arrived during her summer holiday...

We booked our summer holiday with friends to the Algarve, Portugal, because we wanted one last break before our third baby arrived. Being 29 weeks pregnant when we flew out didn’t worry me because I felt fine and, besides, neither of my other children had come early. 

Everything about the holiday – the weather, the scenery and our villa – was perfect, except I wasn’t comfortable. ‘It’s like I’m leaking,’ I said one afternoon. Putting the ‘dampness’ down to dipping in and out of the pool, I shrugged it off and tried to enjoy spending time with my friends and family.

‘You might have a Portuguese baby!’ my friends joked over dinner that night

As the afternoon wore on, I noticed tightenings in my stomach, which I assumed were practice contractions. They became intense, to the point where I had to stop what I was doing and concentrate on breathing. ‘It’ll wear off soon,’ I kept trying to reassure myself. ‘You might have a Portuguese baby!’ my friends joked over dinner that night. 

At 10pm I started bleeding slightly, and felt panicky. ‘We need to get to hospital,’ I told Ben, whose face dropped. By now, the contractions were very strong and coming every five minutes. Ben alerted the villa’s housekeeper, who told us to follow him in the car to the nearest hospital. Thank goodness our friends were there to stay with the children.

Perhaps it was the holiday vibe, but I felt peaceful and sure that everything would be OK

Amazingly, I kept positive. Perhaps it was the holiday vibe, but I felt peaceful and sure that everything would be OK. On the ward I learnt I was 4cm dilated and would need to be taken to another hospital to give birth. Going through early labour abroad wasn’t what I wanted, but I focused on staying calm. Poor Ben was very shaken.

After travelling to the next hospital by ambulance, I was told I’d need a C-section. It was such a relief to know that pain relief was on its way. Despite the unfamiliar environment and the doctors’ broken English, I knew I was in safe hands. Even being told that Ben wouldn’t be allowed in the operating theatre didn’t panic me.

At 2am I was given a spinal anaesthetic which gave immediate pain relief. Chatting to the lovely staff helped me relax. Lying back with a screen in front of me, I felt a painless pulling sensation in my stomach. After a few minutes, it was replaced by strong, uncomfortable tugging. Eventually, the doctor lifted the baby out and I willed everything to be OK. Within seconds, I heard a cry. ‘Yay!’ the doctor said, and I thanked God my baby was breathing. 

I was told he was a boy but I didn’t get to see him. He was whisked straight off to the special care unit. The situation was serious, but as I lay back and was given stitches, I didn’t worry. Instead, a sense of peace washed over me. 

Ben was very pale when he was eventually allowed to see me. The doctor warned us our son had a long journey ahead. Thankfully, he was a good weight – 3lb – and didn’t need help with his breathing. I was relieved the labour ordeal was over, but knew we were in Portugal for the long haul.

It wasn’t until the next day that we saw our baby, Josiah. Hooked up to wires and lying in an incubator, he looked like a little old man who needed to fill out. 

Our holiday insurance covered us for a private jet

Eight weeks later, Josiah was strong enough to travel home. None of the commercial airlines would fly us but, luckily, our holiday insurance covered us for a private jet. Knowing he was healthy was the best feeling in the world. Although the experience was difficult, giving birth on holiday made me fall even more in love with my beautiful little boy.

Three things I’d tell my friends

  1. Keep your notes with you wherever you go during your  pregnancy, especially on holiday. I forgot to pack mine, unfortunately.
  2. Trust in the kindness of other people. Believing things are going to go well during labour usually makes for a smoother experience.
  3. Get the best travel insurance. I dread to think what might have happened if we hadn’t been covered.
 
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