At this point – in January – I was starting to get concerned about the language barrier at the hospital. The news that I had a zero percent chance of getting my English-speaking doctor when I showed up in labor was disheartening and more than a little frightening. Somebody needed to do something, and that somebody was me.

While trying to find an English-speaking doctor or midwife several months previously, I had run across the (English) website of a lady named Vanina who called herself an accompagnante périnatale, which is basically just what it sounds like. In English you would call this sort of person a doula. Normally I would not be particularly interested in hiring a doula but the idea of having someone present at the birth who could not only make sure I understand what the hospital people were saying to me but also possibly make sure they don’t do things I don’t want them to without my knowledge was extremely appealing. Plus, I plan to be mentally occupied with things like HAVING A BABY and probably not really into thinking and speaking in a foreign language. I made an appointment.

A few days later, a round, cheery lady with short grey hair showed up, breathless from the 4 flights of stairs one must climb in order to reach my apartment. Everyone, regardless of their physical condition, shows up breathless at my apartment. Anyway so Jake & I talked with her and we all got along famously, and her English was excellent even though she claimed it wasn’t. Even though this was a sort of “complimentary consultation” so we could decide if we wanted to hire her, we learned a lot during this time. For example, the blood test that I didn’t want but was told repeatedly was required/necessary/obligatory was, in fact, not. Apparently French doctors make a habit of telling their patients something is required when in fact they (the doctor) just prefer it. Interesting. Vanina will be a useful ally, I decide. I know my rights in America; I don’t have any rights (to my knowledge) in France so having someone around to explain these sorts of things will be very, very helpful.

Jake & I talked about it off and on for a few days and decided that peace of mind was worth the cost of hiring Vanina, and so we did. A lot of my French comprehension is based on guesswork and context clues, and while I do not expect anything to go wrong during the birth of my child, that is not a situation where “I THINK what they said was…” will cut it. Because sometimes things DO go wrong, and part of my job as a parent is to make choices with my child’s well-being in mind, and I cannot do that if I cannot understand what people are saying to me. A couple hundred euros is definitely a sacrifice for us but I would rather sacrifice euros than my kid’s health, so that is what we decided.

So I had an ally but no doctor…

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