You’re Having Your Baby Where? Part II

  The Good, The Bad, and The Hurry I was only five weeks pregnant and already completely stressed out. The first reason was that my gynaecologist, whom I had become attached to, informed me that she did not deliver babies. “Well, why not?” I asked her. “Aren’t you a gynaecologist?” She laughed her affable laugh and said, “Oui, mais c’est comme ça.” (Another French phrase that you have to get used to.) Hmm. So it’s like that? Okay. But she was helpful as usual, and gave me a recommendation to a “great” clinic. After that, I was still stressed out because she, along with all of my friends, colleagues, and French family, were telling me of the dire importance of registering to have my baby immediately. Register? To have a baby? In Alabama you just head to the nearest hospital whenever it’s time. You call the doctor and he meets you there. That’s it. In Paris, everything is more…well…shall we say, organized? First of all, you have a choice between hospitals and clinics. I decided to go with a clinic in order to have a more a personalized service, since this would be my first child. Also, I had heard a few horror stories about how quickly one can become a mere number in some hospitals here. I’m aware that that could happen anywhere, in any country, but still, for me, a clinic was definitely the best choice. The clinic that I went with is called Maternité Sainte-Félicité, and is located at 37 Rue St. Lambert in the 15th district of Paris This maternité is run by les Petites Soeurs des Maternité Catholiques-in other words, Catholic nuns. The clinic has been in place since 1990 and, as one friend put it, if you were summing it up it in hotel measures it would ,be a four-star. When I first went there to register, having already been to the Sécurite Sociale to declare my pregnancy, and having my first ecography as proof that I was indeed pregnant, I was afraid they wouldn’t take me, that I’d be left out in the cold to have my baby at home. After all, I’m not Catholic, so I didn’t know if that would be a problem or not. It wasn’t. They never even asked the question and the clinic is open to people of all faiths. My next fear was whether they would have enough space for me. Was I already too late? As it turned out, I was too early: I had to leave the clinic and come back two weeks later. In the end, the clinic accepted me, and I was officially registered. The next step was choosing a doctor. If you have your baby at this clinic, you must choose a doctor from their list. Of course, not knowing any of these doctors, I called my gynaecologist and she recommended a doctor from the list. Another panic set in. Would he be as nice and as good as my gynaecologist? Well, only time would tell. There was really nothing else that I could do. Being pregnant is one thing, but I learned that being pregnant in another country is something altogether different. It All Happened So Fast My pregnancy seemed to be over before I knew it. I had stopped working, having the usual six weeks’ maternity leave that women receive in France before the baby is born. (In addition, you receive ten weeks of maternity leave after.) I had walked all over the Versailles gardens on the weekends for exercise, and in my own neighbourhood’s Parc Monceau as well. I had read all the well-known books available in English: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “Your Pregnancy Week By Week.” Those books are excellent references, but if you’re having a baby in France, I strongly suggest that you buy at least one French book. That way, you’ll have the French system and the vocabulary under your nose. The book I found to be the most useful is “Guide Practique de la femme enceinte,” by Marie-Claude Delahaye; I found it one day while browsing in a FNAC store. The price? Only 7.90 euros and worth every centime. In this book you have the usual advice and evolution of your pregnancy, but it’s also filled with social security information, legal issues and other administrative information that you really need to have. And as I mentioned, the French medical vocabulary could be an issue for some, so it’s good to know very important words, such as péridurale. In English, it’s epidural. Yes, they almost sound the same, but do you really want to take a chance at not being understood? Not with this word! Having read all my books and seen the doctor for my last regular visit, in which he chided me a little bit about my weight, I was totally ready (mentally) to have the baby. As for the weight thing, in France the doctors advise you to gain between nine and 12 kilos, that’s 19-26 pounds. In America, the doctors are more liberal, shall we say, and you have the “right” to gain between 30-35 pounds. As I told my doctor, I’ll certainly adopt everything that’s great about the French system, such as the maternity leave, for example. But as for the weight gain, I have to remain totally American on that one. For me, it seems totally reasonable to put on 30 pounds. I mean, with the baby’s weight, all the water retention, the placenta…okay, and also because of the mere fact that trying to resist delicious French pastries, pregnant or not, is like trying to convince George Hamilton to stop tanning: it’s impossible! Friday morning, July 12, I called my husband, who had just arrived at work, and told him to make a u-turn. It was time to get over to Sainte-Félecité, right away. I’d called the clinic and they were expecting me. When we arrived, I saw my doctor for only 15 minutes, because as it turned out, he was on his way to the south of France for a holiday, so he called in a replacement, one of his colleagues. The “new” doctor came in to see me, and was extremely nice. Everyone at the clinic was. The nuns, nurses, administrative people were all very professional and smiley. I even had my own private monotrice; a nurse specialized in deliveries who worked exclusively with me before, during and…
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