I showed up for the first doctor’s appointment early, ready to fill out a mound of paperwork. Let the record show that Jake was with me, and has gone with me to every appointment except one when he was covering my English club for me. The receptionist told me they were running behind and I could leave for an hour and come back, but I decided to stay rather than risk missing my slot. Plus, the paperwork will take up a lot of time! She handed me a single sheet of paper with a few blanks on it: name, address, date of birth, phone number, and a question which is typical of an OB/GYN and which I will not elaborate on for delicacy’s sake. I sat down in the waiting room and began working on the form. It took approximately 2 minutes to complete. I took the form back to the receptionist and she instructed me to sit down. Then she proceeded to “interview” me: going over the information on the form and asking a few additional questions, which she marked down in some sort of folder-form. I was a bit nervous, as all this was in French and really concentrating to make sure I “understood” everything (I use the quotation marks to represent the HUGE amount of guessing and assuming that goes into my comprehension).

Then she asked me a question; I stared blankly at her. I understood all the words but had NO IDEA what she was asking. I said, “I don’t understand” and she repeated the question a bit slower. I continued staring blankly. Then I pointed at the blank on the form which I will not elaborate on for delicacy’s sake. She repeated the question, this time with obvious frustration. Met with my continued blank stare, she switched to English and bellowed, “WHO TOLD YOU YOU’RE PREGNANT??”

In hindsight this may have been the place to inform her that I did, in fact, take a home pregnancy test. The “who” part threw me off. She did specifically ask if I had had a blood test or ultrasound to confirm pregnancy, which I had not. She acted irritated at this. I still am not sure how you are supposed to acquire a blood test or ultrasound BEFORE YOU GO TO THE DOCTOR, since they both require a prescription. Or why you have to register to acquire a bed at the hospital BEFORE YOU GO TO THE DOCTOR.

I finished the interview and proceeded to wait for 2 hours before we made it into the doctor’s office. She was delighted to practice her English, which was refreshing, and asked me to tell her about myself.
“Um, I’m 27…”
“And this is your first pregnancy?”
“As far as I know.”
“And you want to continue the pregnancy?”
Once again I was caught off guard. In America this is not something a doctor would typically ask if you are sitting in front of them, beaming, next to your equally beaming husband. I mean of course there are some doctors with terrible bedside manner but in general if a couple comes in together and they both look relatively happy, despite sitting in the waiting room for 2 hours, you can assume they are not there to schedule an abortion. However this is a typical, routine question in France. I assured her that I had every intention of continuing the pregnancy and she asked me some more questions, then did an exam.

Let me explain that in France the doctor’s office is literally an office. They sit at a desk with books and files around and talk to you, and their exam space is in the same room. So they talk to you, and then tell you to take off your pants and put them on a chair or something and hop up on the exam table. There is no leaving of the room for a few minutes for privacy, no flimsy paper blanket to give you the illusion of dignity. She apparently did not listen to some of what I said during the “talk time” (I will refrain from elaboration for delicacy’s sake) because she was concerned that I was “measuring small.” She told me to get dressed and told me I needed to go have an ultrasound immediately to date the pregnancy. She called an ultrasound buddy of hers (doctors here do not have that stuff in office, you have to go to a separate ultrasound doctor) and asked her to stay late a few minutes to squeeze us in for an emergency ultrasound. So she scribbled prescriptions for bloodwork and the ultrasound; we paid and started booking it across town to get to the ultrasound doctor. I should note that due to the information I conveyed to the doctor and which she did not pay attention to, I was unconcerned about being a bit smaller than she wanted but did recognize this as an opportunity to see my baby a few weeks earlier than we normally would.

We made it to the ultrasound doctor, handed her the paper from the first doctor, and she told me to take off my pants and sit on the exam table. You just have to get used to this stuff if you are having a baby here. And then we got to see our baby, a little bean with arms and legs waving around and a heart, and we heard the heartbeat, and one of us cried but I won’t say who. I was never so happy to have a doctor not listen to me. And thus concludes the first appointment.

Things the doctor DID NOT talk about, which she probably should have:

  • prenatal vitamins
  • that I need to wash fruits/vegetables REALLY well because of toxoplasmosis in the soil