Victoria Jelinek


The Pregnancy Diaries – 22

“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.

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