Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: American in France, expatriate, family, France, French doctors, Geneva, infant jaundice, newborn, newborn gas, newborn weight gain, sleeping with a newborn, US culture, US politics
‘So live that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.’
I had been a bit confused when I was only prescribed the mid wife (sage femme) and the physiotherapy at the hospital after my son’s birth, but now I’ve discovered my regular GP will be my baby’s doctor. I figured I would get a paediatrician assigned, but it turns out there aren’t many to spare in France.
Adhering to the old wives’ tale that one should not take a newborn out of the cloister of its home till it has been alive for two weeks, I took my son to my GP when he was 15 days old. The doctor told me that my son’s jaundice is gone, which is good (the time spent in the window like a plant worked!). She also told me that he was not gaining weight at the rate that he should be, necessitating that we monitor this closely. I left the doctor’s office completely freaked out and cried. I don’t want anything to be wrong with my baby and I’m scared because he’s such a defenseless little thing.
Luckily, my brother and my sister-in-law (belle-sœur) arrived from Seattle to help us out. They have two children of their own, now ‘tweens.’ I figure the fact that their kids have survived thus far makes them ‘old hands’. Moreover, it’s wonderful to have my family nearby. It’s hard to be so far from them. It takes 14 hours flying, through 9 time zones, to get to where they live, which prompts my feeling rather isolated on holidays and in vulnerable moments (for any of us). My husband and I drove to Geneva to collect my brother and sister-in-law – our boy’s first ‘big’ outing – and dined at an outdoor café on the lake. I had been a little nervous about nursing my son in front of my brother, but then realized it’d be stupid to go and secret myself away each time the boy ate, which is every hour. Besides, scarves are immeasurably helpful for discretion (and luckily I carry one always, stuffed into my purse or in a pocket, even before I began nursing!).
I live in an almost perpetual state of embarrassment for being an American in Europe given the antics of American politics, the regular shootings, and the disparate tax rates. But every once in awhile, I am reminded how wonderful we Americans can be. My brother and his wife are full of optimism and earthy pragmatism. They’re open and encourage others to be so. They’re warm and gracious. When I told them that the French doctor had said that my son was not gaining weight as he should be, they assured me the rates of growth are different, particularly in this early stage, and the important thing is that he is not losing weight. When I told them that I didn’t know how to pass the time with the baby, who doesn’t seem to be able to do anything, they didn’t pretend to have all the answers. Instead, they assured me that no one really knows what they’re doing when they have their first child and you simply follow your new-born’s cues: eat when he eats. Sleep when he sleeps. Go outside and take a walk when you’re bored and stir crazy. They advised me to enjoy this initial period of my baby’s new life as though we’re both convalescing (we are!). I admitted that I’m sleeping with the baby on my chest, which ‘everyone’ tells me not to do, but which seems right – I can’t move with the caesarean anyway- and they didn’t judge me. Instead, they went to a local baby store and found a soft, little, slightly slanting bed so the baby’s head is a bit higher than its lower torso, with two detachable soft sides to it to keep the baby from rolling, which the baby can sleep on and which fits right between the pillows that my husband and I sleep on.
I never imagined I’d be so grateful for assistance – even the opportunity to give the boy to another pair of trusted hands in order to de-gas him is appreciated. I don’t think I have needed help as I do now. Perhaps it’s that in the past I was too proud to ask for and accept it, and now that there’s another person involved, I don’t have that same sense of ego?
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: birth, France, French, healthcare, hospital, jaundice, midwives, paediatric, pets, pre eclampsia, pregancy, pregnant, sage femme, vw van
“I learn by going where I have to go.” Theodore Roethke
I ran into a woman at the hospital whom I’d met in a café last summer. It turns out her husband is a friend of my husband’s. She suffered pre-eclampsia with her baby, who is, consequently, down the hall in urgent care. I went to look at her new daughter through the window – she’s tiny, and my new friend says that she’s not been able to hold her yet, as she is so vulnerable and must stay inside the oxygen tent. Apparently, however, the little girl is developing and will eventually be fine. I told her that’s great, as we’ll be able to have play dates with our new babies. Makes me realise that having a little jaundice is not a big problem.
After vacillating the last few days, the doctors told me that we’d be able to go home from the hospital. I actually involuntarily clapped my hands and cried with joy at this news. I am, however, to seat Sebastian naked in the window every day for a ½ hour as you might a plant, and the rest of the jaundice will consequently go away in a few weeks. I packed my bags and nervously my husband and I walked down to the check out area with our new, precious, little cargo. It’s amazing how easy it is to walk out of the hospital with a baby. We literally took the child out of the paediatric ward unchallenged, went down the lift, noticed the check out desk of our own volition, put the wee man on the floor there, got his birth certificate and paid (only 220e for ten days in the hospital, the c section, the paediatric care, the phototherapy, all the sage femmes and nurses…it’s cheaper per night than a hotel in New Delhi) then walked out to the parking lot with no one noticing. Mark and I also feel like frauds because we aren’t quite sure about what to do with the baby once we get home.
We put S in our trusty old VW van, and carefully drove home. Upon our arrival, we put the sleeping tot on the floor for our beloved cat to get used to. He walked around the seat, and then began tentatively sniffing and batting it. It’s a good job my husband had regularly brought things S had worn from the hospital so that the cat could get used to his smell, because Oscar took to him pretty quickly after the first few moments. Breathing deeply of my home, I went upstairs to take a nap in my bed while my husband looked after our new charge. I marvelled at the fact that it felt as though a part of me was physically missing…as if I now have a phantom limb. The distance from our bedroom to the living room is the farthest I’d been from S for nine months. It was anxious, lonely, and poignant. Even so, I fell asleep pretty immediately.
What is anxiety provoking now is that no one at the hospital, or our good doctor, had told us what we do now. I’ve been given ordinances (prescriptions) for several sessions with a sage femme and a physiotherapist, respectively. This is very civilised in terms of postnatal care and adopting alternative therapies into recovery, but I trust conventional medicine. I know the sage femme is the one who will remove my stitches in the days to come, but no one has mentioned what to do for any health issue S may have – even a check-up on the jaundice he’s had to make sure it goes away. Do we go to our regular doctor? Is a different doctor assigned to S by mail or something? Do we go back to the hospital? When are we meant to go for a check up on the wee tot? Maybe the sage femme, or even the physio, will know the answer to these questions…
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: birth, c-section, caesarean, France, French, iodine wash, midwives, newborn, sage femme, skin, surgery
“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.” Stendhal
I had my baby. His name is Sebastian Leo and he weighed 4 kilos. He’s healthy (passed some post birth test with flying colours which measures and grades signs of health, such as number of fingers, toes, lungs, breathing, organ functions, on a scale of 1-10).
For my caesarean, they wheeled me on a gurney through a maze of hospital halls and left me outside the operating theatre for a bit. Then I went in, and nurses spoke to me from above as I lay on my back, like a David Lee Roth video, which was disorienting, especially as everyone spoke French and I was having trouble concentrating. They gave me an epidural then laid me back down and pinned my arms to my sides like Jesus on the cross. That freaked me out. I could feel the surgeon performing the c section, which was bizarre: a sponge across my belly, cutting slowly and surely, pulling the baby out of my uterus and through the small incision as though pulling a sleeping bag from its storage sack. But it didn’t hurt. When Sebastian was born, one of the nurses held him to my face (I was still pinned) and he was mewling. I didn’t feel that love at first sight thing that many have said they feel. Instead, I kind of distractedly looked at the little baby and spoke softly to him, telling him it was okay and not to be afraid. I remember being charmed that he immediately responded to my voice by quieting. Then they took him away to my husband and wheeled me into a recovery area. The French strongly believe in skin-on-skin after birth, so when the mother has had surgery they give the baby to the father (or grandmother, or sister, or brother, or whomever is there to support the mother), have him take off his shirt, and instruct him to hold the baby close to his chest, speaking softly and caressing him. It’s really quite a beautiful and sane idea. That said, when my husband took Sebastian into his arms, the little one immediately tried to suckle him (“Not gonna find anything there mate!” my husband quipped). Meanwhile, I was lying prostrate in an area in which I was separated by other patients by a provisional curtain, and slowly feeling my body come back to a sensation other than complete numbness. My good doctor told me I wouldn’t be hungry for about 24 hours after I had the surgery, but I was starving! After an hour or two in the recovery area, I started asking if it was possible to have some food. The nurses got exasperated with me and I could hear one of them place a call and I heard her saying to the person on the other end “The American is hungry! I know…should we move her up to her room?”
Being given Sebastian once I was ensconced in my private room (maybe 25 euro per night, the rest is covered by the Carte Vitale – so civilised) was marvellous and scary. I didn’t think he was mine ‘cause his eyes were slits and he looked Chinese. I actually entertained the idea that I’d been given the wrong baby. Luckily, after a day or two his eyes opened and then he was the spitting image of my husband. Apparently, newborns look like their fathers so that the father will have empathy towards them, own them and protect them, rather than leave them in the woods or discard them as they might have in ages of old. I think that newborn babies are akin to vampires in the sense that they are designed to attract: they look adorable and they smell good, for example. It was very strange to nurse him. Particularly as I had 3 sage-femmes (midwives) instructing me at the same time on how to do it, standing very close to my breasts, and intermittently squeezing my nipple or massaging my breast rather abruptly and roughly! I thought it was strange how this little creature cannot move, yet to get to my breast he’ll wiggle and move like a wee worm to get there.
OMG, the C-section hurts! I can’t believe that I actually wanted one and said I’d opt for it electively if my doctor didn’t already order it (as 25% of women in the UK and USA do). I can’t move. I have to have a bedpan and it hurts to get on and off the pot. There’s a bandage and goo on the cut and they come and clean and change the dressing. I take 2 pills every few hours for pain and infection. I have to raise my bed all the way up and the back rest straight up in order to get to the top of the baby’s hospital crib (which rolls and is like a plastic bubble square), then sort of reach into him and roll him/move him onto me and then up to my chest. I have no stomach muscles. Never quite realised how much I used them now that I don’t have them to use. I dread going to the toilet or walking, but apparently that’s in the cards for me tomorrow!
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: birth, c-section, caesarean, Chamonix, France, iodine, midwife, midwives, sage femmes, Sallanches
“Don’t tell your kids you had an easy birth or they won’t respect you. For years I used to wake up my daughter and say, “Melissa, you ripped me to shreds. Now go back to sleep.” Joan Rivers
I’m actually in the hospital room in Sallanches waiting for them to take me to the operating theatre for my C-section. My husband and I got to the hospital at 6am with the operation scheduled for 8:30. I had an iodine shower, necessary in France before my procedure, and not one of my finer moments. I felt like a prisoner being scrubbed. My husband did the iodine as I’m too huge to bend and can’t see my nether regions, so it was a very practical wash. While he was doing it in this little bathroom to the side of my hospital room, there were nurses, sage femmes, and the cleaning woman, who came to the door of the bathroom to enquire about this-or-that, inform us of something, or simply to take the rubbish bin.
My good doctor with the great ham hands who has overseen two of my three pregnancies, came in from Chamonix to do the procedure. While I’m sceptical about the size of the incision he’ll leave with his huge hands, I am touched that he bothered to do this because he’s so busy. It’s weird to see him outside his office and particularly in scrubs. He tells me that I’ll go into the operating theatre. I’ll be given an epidural. The incision line will be so tiny and low that I’ll be able to wear a bikini again “if you lose your baby weight,” he notes. The baby will be pulled out and he’ll sew me back up. I will not be given the baby after the operation. Instead, it will be given to my husband while I go into a recovery area for two or three hours. The French believe in the importance of skin-on-skin after birth, so my husband will be asked to hold and keep the baby against his bare chest while I am in the recovery area. Knowing my incompetence regarding babies, he assures me the sage femmes will instruct me how to do everything from nursing to changing his diapers. I let him know that I’m prepared – I brought an eye mask, earplugs, and sleeping pills.
It’s 9:30am now. There is apparently some kind of emergency that takes precedence over me (imagine!). As a result, my good doctor is arguing with the staff and trying to arrange a new time. He’s just informed me that he will have to return to his office and begin his workday. He’ll leave me his mobile number. “You’re going to leave me with all these Frenchies? I don’t know anyone here!” I start to panic. His manner is calm, competent and jovial. “I’m going to have a baby by the end of the day for god’s sake!” I remind him. “Peut-etre…” he jokingly replies. Grumpily I say, “Forget your office hours. This has been two years in the making.” He smiles and reminds me that he’s French and they’ll take care of me or else have him to answer to or worse yet, a lawsuit waged by an American woman. A man with a thick gold chain around his neck and a lot of dark chest hair unfurling upwards from his white coat walks in. My good doctor introduces this man and tells me that he will be doing the procedure and he’s a very fine doctor. I’m too stunned to even catch the gold-chained-doctor’s name and too scared to ask him to repeat it. He doesn’t speak any English. He’s wearing a gold chain for god’s sake! And that chest hair doesn’t seem hygienic! I have to do an iodine scrub and this man has a bale of black hair emerging from his whites? I’ll also have to concentrate on French at the same time a baby is being pulled out of my womb like a sleeping bag from its case. Rather rudely, I smile up at him, tell him I have no questions other than to be informed of when it will happen, and continue typing on my laptop. I hope he views this as typically French behaviour and doesn’t go light on the pain relievers in retribution.
It’s 12:30. I’m starving but they won’t allow me to eat before my procedure. Dangerous to leave a hugely pregnant woman hungry like this. I’ve been here for six hours and I haven’t eaten since yesterday’s dinner. I might bite someone’s hand or sneak (not too stealthily mind you) down to the candy machine to get a Snickers. The doctor with the gold chain has just come in. They’re going to give me a C-section at 1pm. He indicates a gurney in the hallway and asks me to get on top of it. It’s time. I hope to whatever fates and gods there are that the baby is fine and that all goes well. I’m scared. It hits me that I’m about to deliver a baby. So much can go wrong. And now I don’t have my good doctor there and my husband is not allowed into the operating theatre. Tears have started rolling down my face. “Be strong, Victoria. Try to have faith that things will turn out well,” my husband tells me (easy for him to say). I’ll close my laptop and say “good bye” for now.
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: Aldous Huxley, Chamonix, collectivism, Dystopia, Dystopian, environmental disaster, France, George Orwell, global politics, Hollande, hypocrisy, individualism, Ray Bradbury, societal avarice
Be the change you wish to see in the world. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
One of the reasons I was reluctant to have a child was because I worried about the state of the world. My husband told me these worries were a rationalisation for my greater concerns like my not wanting to forfeit naps. He argued that negative global events are precisely the reason that thoughtful individuals should have children. But as I go into the last several weeks of my pregnancy I find myself fighting my previous trepidations about bringing a child into this world which I believe is only getting worse. I’m a glutton for news, even as it upsets me (both the topics and the reporting). My father used to advise me not to take it all so ‘personally,’ but I find it all to be a personal affront because I find all of the worries and incidents of the world to be indications of greater philosophical issues such as selfishness, avarice, corruption, hypocrisy, inequity and aggression.
Globally, I see the fact that the Syrian leader won’t step down, even as his Russian allies tell him the situation is untenable and he should help implement a new regime and transition government, as the sign of universal greediness and hunger for power regardless of which country one cites. Many people in the Philippines are living and being schooled on houseboats due to rising water levels (and I won’t even go into the animals and vegetation and desertification throughout the world) yet apart from a few developed countries like Denmark, there doesn’t seem to be any real initiative to aid the environment by using sustainable energy supplies, which I see as a sign of universal selfishness and lack of foresight because it seems no one wants to compromise their way of life even in small ways. There was that huge shooting in the US last week of almost 40 people – there are now so many families grieving – and gun sales went up in the days that followed. The American government signed in a new fiscal deal, and while it’s certainly good that something has managed to happen in an ideological bi-partisan country, the very rich – and even the middle and lower classes – do not seem to object to the fact that there is not health coverage and educational opportunities for all, which can only be had with more money coming into the coffers, which means higher taxes. If the US continues in this manner of individualism and capitalism at all costs, it will not be able to proclaim that it’s the land of opportunity for all. Yet other countries are equally as bad. Since Hollande proposed the 75% tax for the upper 1%, 5000 rich folks have left the country, even Gerard Depardieu, who owes the French people for his money and fame. In the UK, despite the fact that banks were bailed out by the government, which is ostensibly for the people, the banks have not passed on their savings to customers in recent years and despite their rising profits. And, while many folks are not able to live in major cities like London anymore, meaning they often must commute for work, transit costs in the UK have gone up 50% in the last ten years.
Perhaps opportunity and resources only for the few is the crux of the matter? Capitalism versus Socialism? Perhaps it’s a sign of collectivism versus individualism run riot? Is this the fault of Thatcherism and Reaganomics? Is it simply human inclination? I often see people operating in their own interests to the detriment to others in all manner of ways on a daily basis even in a little mountain town like Chamonix, particularly during the high season when there are many holiday makers: no one wants to cede their way on the roads, making it dangerous in the snow and ice; no one wants to give cuts in the cue at the grocery market to a heavily pregnant woman with two items or a young mother with a toddler when they’ve just fought to get their huge grocery carts full of food; folks don’t clean up after themselves in the cinema, or they throw rubbish on the ground, or they don’t pick up their dogs poop; and I was recently told by a few women here that I was attempting to discuss politics with that they don’t know who Romney was/is and they don’t ‘bother’ to read the papers or watch the news ‘cause it’s ‘too depressing.’ Indeed. Why be informed? Why vote? Why should we look out for anyone else’s interests when it’s so damn hard to assert our own in this rat race of a world? I see the dystopian novels of Philip K. Dick, Anthony Burgess, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell moving from science fiction to reality. The only thing that is keeping me going right now is another thing my father told me before he died – that we cannot affect others because they don’t want to be proselytised to, but we can live our lives the way we would like everyone to live their lives. Simple advice that’s not easily followed…it’s hard to remain patient and kind and to take the ‘right action’ when one is tired, or worried, or over extended, or highly emotional and pregnant!
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: Chamonix, dentist, doctor's offices, France, London, mature pregnancy, pregnancy, pregnancy in France, toothache, waiting rooms
I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. He told me to wear a brown tie. Rodney Dangerfield
It seems as though I’ve spent this entire pregnancy in doctor’s waiting rooms. Even so, I’ve had a toothache for about six years and if there’s one pain I can potentially get rid of right now, then I’m going to try.
Several years ago in London I had a cavity filled. I didn’t have a dentist there so I ‘simply’ went to one of the Boots with one. What a mistake. The dentist carved my tooth so deeply and so widely there was barely any tooth left and it still hurt. On my next visit to the U.S.A., I visited the family dentist. I’ve had the same dentist for over three decades, and when I’ve visited other dentists where I’ve lived, they have always commented on the positive state of my teeth…I attribute this to my good doctor, because I eat too much sugar and am not conscientious about flossing. My mother tells me she and my father prepared me for my first visit to the dentist, aware that I might be freaked out and be a bother to him. Instead, I promptly fell asleep in the chair. The dentist told my mother afterward I was “the most relaxed child” he’d ever seen. I’d like to believe this was true, but I attribute this to the fact that as a child my parents tried an “experimental method” of sleeping with me in which they would allow me to tell them when I was tired and wanted to sleep…my mother admits I regularly would “go and go, then simply slump somewhere and sleep.” Nice. During this last visit to the family dentist a year ago, he dug up the cavity and replaced it, telling me he’d filled in some “space” created between the teeth so I wouldn’t get “food packing” in between the teeth which causes pain (yech!).
But the pain has remained, so I went to the dentist in Chamonix recently. My body is becoming huge, my stomach is regularly cramping, my eyesight is blurring, and I have regular heartburn, so if there’s a pain I can do something about then I’m going to do something about it. Except that I couldn’t really. But it took several visits to ascertain this. I went the first time and she explored the tooth but was hesitant to take x-rays because of my pregnancy. She asked me to get an “okay” from my doctor regarding her taking x-rays and kindly booked me in for an appointment (it took me six months to get one in the first place!). My good doctor looking after my pregnancy replied when I asked whether it was okay, “Bof! Bien sur!” However, the dentist did not believe me upon my next visit to her and telephoned his office. Of course he said it was fine. She took the x-rays and declared my roots were dying, however, it would be best to see if we could revive them rather than diving into a root canal. At the next appointment, she gave me local anaesthesia twice (I don’t like pain, but I couldn’t drink my coffee afterwards, I felt as though my lips were paralyzed) and dug up the old cavity and filled the roots with clove derivatives…it felt nicer, and I did hope the tooth would revive. I returned this last week and discovered the roots are still dying and it will be best to do a root canal, but she doesn’t want to do this while I am pregnant. So, she took out the old cloves and packed the roots with more cloves and sent me on my waddling way, instructing me to call her when the wee one is out. Between the weekly visit to the laboratoire for blood samples, the weekly visit to my doctor for a check-up and an ultrasound, the intermittent visits to specialists and recently to the dentist, I feel as though I’ve spent my entire pregnancy in a doctor’s waiting room.
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: anaesthesiologist, anaesthesiologistes, baby in France, birth in France, birth plan, doula, France, labor, labour, midwife, pain relief, pregnancy, pregnancy in France
“The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.” Aristotle
I met the anaesthesiologist in Sallanches hospital. That’s a difficult word for me to say even in English. Read somewhere that there are 13 anaesthesiologists per 100k of the population in France, whereas the US & UK have a 1/3 less.
We didn’t wait long for the appointment blissfully. It’s getting hard to sit for any duration of time comfortably. I can just about do a movie in the cinema. She spoke French and no English but she was nice enough to enunciate. I don’t know if she’s a doctor or is certified to do this. If our appointment were in English, I’d make small talk and find out why she’d become an anaesthesiologist, what it involved, where she’d studied, whether she liked the job well enough, etc. As it were, I simply lay on an examining table smiling stupidly and she strapped some things to my stomach to monitor the heartbeat while we spoke. She took my blood pressure. She asked if I’d ever had an operation under general anaesthesia, and whether I’d ever had an allergic response to any medicine in the past. She asked me if I wanted to order an epidural in case it was necessary. I said “yes,” and told her that I’d like to know what other pain relievers I could have. She informed me that there is only the epidural. No gas. No air. No gas/air combo (Entonox). No morphine. No intramuscular injections. Moreover, I had to choose what I’d want in case right there-and-then. There were no options on the day other than an emergency spinal epidural if a caesarean were necessary or something went wrong, and doctors and nurses would dictate that then. I don’t mean to sound like some kind of drug addict, it’s that I’m completely adverse to pain and from what I hear giving birth or having a C-section is painful.
It’s funny. In the US and the UK there’s a “birth plan” (“a what?” I’d said the first time I’d heard it, which was not from my midwife here). Apparently, a mother can determine the type of pain relief she wants, what position she’d like to be in, what music she’d like to have playing while she’s in labour, the option of a doula or midwife present…If I were even able to communicate some kind of cogent “birth plan” in French, I’m positive I would be met with sceptical or pitying looks at best and revulsion at worst (“Les Anglais! Tsk, tsk). Must say that I’m kind of into the French mentality in that I’m thinking “Let them do what they need to do,” except on the pain relief front. Jeez, less than 60% of women even remember their doctor’s names after delivery and many of those have the whole birth-plan-thing. Even so, it’s still a better average than the 4% that remember their anaesthesiologist’s name. I couldn’t understand her name when she told it to me much less remember it afterward.
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: conception, dad, daddy, delivery, father, Father in pregnancy, France, poop, pregnancy nerves, pregnant, pregnant in France
The Father’s Perspective of the Six-month Stage
By Kingsley Jones
It’s about now that I realise that I know absolutely nothing about babies, nappies, birth, or how not to kill them in the first few days or weeks. It’s a sobering thought. Quite literally, as I sip a beer with a friend, and hear the joke “oh well you’ve done your fifteen seconds of effort to make a kid” yet again. I’ve heard that joke about twenty times now, and it’s wearing thin, but at least this friend rates my performance as breaching the ten second barrier, which is more than most of my supportive mates.
So, it’s off to the gynaecologist for the ‘all important’ six month scan. I sit with my wife in the waiting room, looking blankly at the posters on the walls of new mothers cradling their children. There are no fathers in the pictures. My frazzled brain focuses for a minute, and I consider the pregnancy so far. I wanted it, perhaps more than my wife, but she’s going through nine long months of hell. Then my pregnancy-filled brain wanders. Would a really pregnant woman break through one of the worn wicker chairs in the doctor’s office and get stuck? How did a fat man with sausage fingers ever consider gynaecology as a career in the first place?
I swear if another doctor tells me “mais, c’est tout normale”, I will hit him. Can he not see that my once beautiful wife is waddling like a duck, and that her stomach looks like an alien is about to erupt out of it? Oh wait, yes it is, just like the Sigourney Weaver film. Tout est blatantly not normale. Then the questions start again in my head. I’m not the greatest fan of picking up my dog’s turd when he’s in the park. How the hell am I going to cope and scoop up nappies full of poop? Friends who are new parents haven’t helped, with stories of when dear little Johnny was covered in it from his bottom up to his shoulders. Oh brilliant, what have I done?
The sixth month mark is, perhaps, the scariest so far for me. I imagine in the labour room, I’ll feel helpless and terrified, but I’ll be surrounded by medical staff who’ve seen it a thousand times before. It’s now, for the first time, that I’m faced with the worries that this really is going to happen. Sure, you consider it after the ‘fifteen seconds of effort’, when you first discover that your wife is pregnant, but every mental image I had was playing with a toddler, paddling in streams, and learning to ride a bike. Never was it of me getting up at three in the morning to attempt to calm a wailing baby that I didn’t know if she was dying, bored or just hungry.
Who is going to teach me all this stuff? And in three months time, who is going to take the responsibility for letting me carry a baby out of the hospital doors, without a clue of what to do? Comments of “oh you’ll learn” and “it’s instinctive” make me break out in a cold sweat. I’ve never held a baby in my life, and would be terrified of dropping or breaking it or something.
Six months really is the reality check when you know that against all odds the sperm that was released during your fifteen seconds is actually going to bring a child into the world, and you realise that most of all you really should have at least tried to break the one-minute barrier at conception, because the phenomenal lack of sex recently is going to mean the first sex after birth is going to make my mates jibes all too true.
Filed under: www.kidsinfrance.com | Tags: blood clot, blood problems, Factor II mutation, France, French medicine, health care, Homocysteine levels, Leiden, lung clot, miscarriage, placental abruptions, plasma, prothrombin, pulmonary embolism, sudden death, taxes
“Who has fully realized that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood?” Carl Jung
My brother had a pulmonary embolism last week. It’s a blood clot in the lung that can cause sudden death. I’d be so sad if something were to happen to him that I don’t even want to think about that. Apparently, he had chest pain and shortness of breath. He wasn’t even going to the go to the doctor, just went to bed to lie down, but thank goodness for his wife who insisted that he go to the hospital immediately. He’s fine now, but he’ll be on medication for life and he has to have his blood levels checked regularly.
So, he calls me to tell me about all of this after he’s been in the hospital. I panicked by his call ‘cause he never calls, thinking that a call from him meant something horrific had happened to someone in our family. I wasn’t too far off base. Anyway. He tells me that he has a Factor II mutation in his blood. It’s what our father had, too. Before they discovered this, however, he’d been discussing his family history with the specialist, and one of the questions the specialist asked him is whether there’s any history of miscarriage in our immediate family. Of course. There’s me. The specialist tells my brother that a hereditary Factor II Mutation could be the cause of my previous miscarriages and I must get it checked out with a specialist so that something can be done to protect my current pregnancy and my life after the baby is born.
I’m scared. I’ve started to feel “safe” in this pregnancy. No more bleeding. No abnormal pain. Things must be okay, right? But even as I feel nervous about whether I have this mutation and it means there may be problems with this pregnancy, or later for me, I must admit I also feel a sense of relief because this may explain why I’ve repeatedly miscarried and I believe knowing is better than not knowing — I have a very hard time with the oft French phrase from doctors ‘c’est comme ca.’ My brother sent me the report and screening. It’s hard to understand. Words such as “mutation (G20210A) in the Factor II (prothrombin) gene,” and “in pregnant patients with placental abruptions and fetal growth restrictions,” (though everything looks good on my ultrasounds!). Something about testing for “R506Q (Leiden) mutation in the Factor V gene,” and “plasma homocysteine levels.” I took the results of my brother’s exam and the specialist’s report to my doctor who then referred me to a specialist in Annecy. The reports are in English, though, and the specialist in Annecy doesn’t speak English, so my doctor in Chamonix wrote a letter outlining everything and giving the gist of the problem. I’ve investigated it online now, too, and I’ve written a load of questions in French. Likely my grammar will be all off and the doctor will think I’m stupid, but the point is to find out whether I have this science-fiction sounding mutation or not, and whether there’s a risk for my baby. I must admit there are times like this that I really wish that I were in an English-speaking country or that I spoke fluent French…it’s bad enough to try to figure this kind of a thing out with an English-speaking medical system. To try to understand it in French and how the whole system works on top of that, is another thing altogether. Intimidating. That said, the French medical system thus far has been amazing for me; it’s immediate and responsive; comprehensive to the point of sometimes seeming overly careful (and all paid for by my taxes! It ain’t like that in the states). I think I’m in good hands…