Then and now
My parents are pig farmers near Oxford. That’s where I grew up. Apart from living in New York for six months, I’d never lived abroad but now I’m living in San Sebastián, northern Spain, in the Basque Country.

I’ve been here two and a half years and I’m here because of love; this is where my husband’s from. He’s an engineer and works for a family company and I work for myself so it was easier for me to move.

Seven years ago, I was in the UK and he was in Spain and we were going back and forth, I’d spend a week every month in Spain. When I first moved out here, before I had Rita, I’d go back to London for a month at a time to work on a collection. 

A day in the life
I generally get up around 7.30/8am, give Rita breakfast and then get out of the house and do some jobs – supermarket or whatever. At 10am she has a snooze. Then around 12.30, a lady called Sonia comes to look after Rita as I can no longer find enough time during naps and in the evenings to work.

At the moment I’m making wedding dresses, not working on a collection because it’s not possible with Rita. For the last collection, I was travelling back to London with two suitcases of patterns, materials, toiles – thinking how am I going to do this with a baby? I can’t work 12/15 hours a day any more.

Like in the UK, it depends on your job and economic situation as to whether you go back after having a baby. I only got four months maternity pay from the government, as I’m self-employed. Also, if you’re self-employed you have to pay £280 a month, even if you’re not earning, to the government.

Because of my work situation, I’m thinking about having another baby soon; having them all close together. For this reason, I’ve joined a gym – to get myself back in shape before I fall pregnant again. I do post postnatal pilates, which I’ve done ever since Rita was born. So I take her to the class and she meets others kids. Or I do cross-training. In the afternoon we’ll go for a walk by the sea, or around the town – it’s a beautiful city.

I’ll make some food for Rita in the early evening, around 6, then bath at 7, bed at 8pm. Everyone in Spain thinks that’s really early. Normally over here, they go to bed at 8/9pm. Very often kids are out at 8pm in the park.

Nin and her daughter, Rita

Bringing up baby
People worship kids out here. But the attitude towards breastfeeding is different. I got asked so many times if I breast or bottle-fed which I thought was such a weird question. Some people have to bottlefeed and that’s OK but I assumed everyone would at least try to breastfeed.

Giving birth here was generally fine though in one clinic the lady was not very helpful. My Spanish wasn’t as good as it is now and she said if you don’t understand no-one will be able to explain. My husband couldn’t be there and I was left feeling I had very little support. It all felt quite scary.

Fortunately, Mikel’s uncle is a gynaecologist so he looked after us all the way through the pregnancy and came to the birth. He retired two days later. He was actually on holiday at the time but came in and acted as midwife. He was midwife for Mikel too and Rita was his last ever birth. It was an amazing birth – an exceptional situation.

I would have been interested in having a water birth. In the UK we’re a bit more open-minded than they are in Spain. There’s no gas and air, as it’s expected that you’ll have an epidural. Some people go private and that’s really common, as it’s not as expensive.

I had to share my room during labour. There was a woman who was 30 weeks and was having visitors, just separated by a curtain. But when my waters were broken I was moved into my own room. From what I’ve heard from friends who’ve given birth in London, I had a much better experience. London is so overcrowded.

Highs and lows
San Sebastián is a great city because it’s small and really healthy – with beaches and mountains. So people move away but then move back to have kids. There must be lots of baby classes… I’ve found some – I went to a singing one but I didn’t speak Basque so I couldn’t sing along.

I’ve made one really good mum friend who’s local, she doesn’t speak a word of English so it’s good practise for me! If I was in London, I’d probably do more classes and activities, as I’ve got loads of friends with kids.

Lots of friends come out to visit, which I love. But it’s so different to my upbringing. Here, we live in a flat and I’ve got a balcony where I grow lettuce but every time a storm comes in they get all shrivelled up because of the rain. So it’s a constant battle to grow plants and veg.

When I was younger we were always out on the farm and now I’m in the middle of a city. When it’s not raining, which happens a lot – more in the Basque Country than in London, I live in the Scotland of Spain – we spend a lot of time outdoors. We have a campervan so we often go away for weekends.

Being right by the beach in summer is really nice. When I was breastfeeding I’d sit by the window and look out to sea; it was a real treat. But will I be here forever? I don’t know – forever’s a really long time. Seven years ago I didn’t think I’d be living in Spain so who knows where I’ll be in another seven years.

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