July 2010


The episode with the new doctor, the nurse at the hospital, and the “insurance” issue all happened in a space of 3 or 4 days; combined, I decided that delivering at the hospital I was registered with, with the new doctor, was not an option. I had my next appointment with the new doctor set up, about a week after we got back from Italy, so I decided that our worst case scenario plan would be: go to Italy, come back, have a week to pack up as much as possible, go to the appointment and get a letter clearing me to fly, and leave that evening or the next day. In the meantime, I would try to cobble together a Plan A in the week before we left for Italy.

I emailed Vanina to let her know it did not go so well with the doctor and ask if she had any ideas or recommendations. She said she wasn’t really surprised and mentioned that I might want to check with a clinic in a small town nearby, where she knows the lady who runs the labor/delivery department. I had actually run across this clinic in my initial search to find an English-speaking doctor (not because they speak English there but because they seem fairly supportive of natural birth, which is my preference but apparently not very common in France) but decided against it due to distance. However, knowing that labor often lasts hours and hours, I decided a 30-minute drive was not too bad if they were at least nice.

I called the lady who knows Vanina in order to ask if it would be possible to have both Vanina AND my husband in the room at the same time, and let me preface this by saying that trying to do something important in a different language is stressful enough when you are face-to-face, but on the phone such a conversation can send your blood pressure sky high. It is much, much more difficult to understand when you are lacking gestures, facial expression, lip reading, and context clues. Anyway so I call this lady and she tells me (I think) that I will need to have written authorization from my doctor to have an extra person in the birth room. So, Tiffany drove me out to the hospital so I could register there. And, while at the previous hospital they acted like they were just barely able to squeeze me in at 7 weeks along, at this one they just wrote down my information and I was all good to go…at 7 months. The ladies at the front desk of the maternity ward were super, super nice. They showed me pictures of the rooms, asked if I had any questions, Tiffany translated the questions I didn’t know how to ask, and they answered all my questions to my satisfaction. They seemed pretty laid-back about some certain things that were important to me, and told me my accent was “cute.” So after my previous experiences at the other hospital I started to feel A LOT better about childbirth in a foreign country.

After registering, I had to set about the business of finding a new doctor. Because the lady who runs the maternity ward specifically said I would need written approval from my doctor, I decided that willingness to write such a note was the sole qualification necessary to be my new doctor. I took the list from the hospital of doctors who deliver there and began to call around. Keep in mind that making phone calls in French is very, very stressful for me.

After talking to a few secretaries, the best response I had received so far was that it was fine to have 2 people, they would just have to trade out so that only one was with me at a time. I called the next name on the list and asked my question…and the secretary said she would go ask the doctor. This is a good sign, I thought, as I listened to the hold music. She came back and said the doctor said that wouldn’t be a problem. HOORAY!!! So I made an appointment with my new doctor. I repeated the date, the time, everything, and she confirmed. And I was free to go on vacation and actually enjoy it, with no worries about the baby or hospital or doctor to cloud my enjoyment of Italy.

So, I had my baby, in a foreign country. Which is why I haven’t been online much. That, plus our internet box and my computer apparently had some sort of feud and stopped talking to each other so I had to sneak onto Jake’s in between feedings and when he wasn’t using it. And never fear, I will continue my fascinating series on pregnancy in the French medical system and will write all about my overly long stay in a French hospital. Until then, here’s a recent hodgepodge of what I’ve been thinking about:

Within the space of a week:

  • my American debit card number was stolen and therefore cancelled (thereby greatly reducing our access to that account
  • our “insurance” decided they wouldn’t be able to wire money to our French account to pay the hospital bill, despite me telling them we did not have enough money in the French account to pay and would not be able to use an American card to pay (European cards have a chip that American ones don’t)
  • I had a baby and therefore needed to pay a hospital bill
  • “insurance” figured out a way to wire money to us
  • the wire raised some sort of red flag and the French bank froze our account

So, we ended up paying for our kid with a check that didn’t technically have funds to cover it. But thankfully we were able to get the account unfrozen before the check cleared so it all worked out.

The way you feel about your child is far too profound to capture in words. But I will say that Asher makes me so, so happy. The fact that he exists is something I’m enormously proud of and a source of great joy. I’m just so pleased with him.

And, I have come to realize over the past few weeks that the human race owes its continued existence to the fact that women are a tough, stubborn lot. Suffice it to say that delivery didn’t go the way I would have chosen and 6 weeks later I can sit for short amounts of time without a donut, as long as it’s a cushy surface. Suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork: “I used a donut for 8 weeks!” “I had mastitis 4 times and thrush 9 times!” and the thing is, every single one of them – us – would say, without hesitation, it was worth it, that the same and worse would be suffered if necessary to bear and feed a child.

I was really glad my belle-mere was going to be coming for the baby…but when you throw in a recovery that has been much, MUCH longer and more difficult than I ever imagined, her presence was a huge blessing. I had three-and-a-half weeks where I didn’t have to wash a dish or cook and could just focus on healing and learning how to nurse and otherwise be a mom. It occurred to me that if such help was more common, postpartum depression would probably not exist, or at least would be far more rare. I read an article once by an Orthodox Christian woman who said that, in their belief system, a woman should have 40 days after childbirth to rest, heal, and bond with her baby. So the other women in her church community bring dinners and help with cleaning and chide her for doing too much, if she is, so she can just sit around and snuggle her baby. Being taken care of makes it far more difficult to feel overwhelmed.