Victoria Jelinek

The Baby Diaries – 10

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not. Mark Twain

FR pharmacieToday I went to the doctor with my boy for a check-up and we had an interesting conversation. She is a ‘stand-in’ for our regular doctor. Originally from Marseille, she loves the mountains and her husband works for the mountain rescue. Normally, she does research on frostbite for a national study and she’s also six months pregnant (and looks great. Unlike the bulk I was, and remain – I’m still wearing my maternity clothes!).

After she’d checked my boy’s weight, vitals, and head circumference, etc., we got to chatting about life in Southern France (I hold onto the idea that I will live there one day, put perhaps it won’t be until I’m in my 50’s, like Colette). From there, we began talking about the state of French industry. Recently, France has lost two manufacturing company contracts, which were employing/would employ thousands of workers because of inefficiency and the demand for guaranteed lifetime contracts, respectively. After that, we segued into the dire state of the French healthcare system. I’m a great admirer of their system – a winning combination of socialist and capitalist care – and I’ve been the grateful recipient of many medical services in France. Nonetheless, I am aware the system is bankrupt. That it has been so for thirty years. It seems to me that to raise the cost of doctor’s visits, hospital stays, and long term care, SLIGHTLY, would help the system immeasurably. It may even save it. Aren’t the French meant to be collectively oriented? Why isn’t this happening?

What she told me was surprising. Particularly from a French person. She said that the French complain about the 23e or 28e they must pay for each doctor’s visit, which is the amount one pays before being partially reimbursed. In reality, only about 10e per visit goes to the doctor. Unlike their American counterparts, for example, doctors here are not getting rich through their vocation. She told me that when the doctor is unable to process a Carte Vitale (one’s personal health card which is registered with the health authorities, is run through a machine at the chemist, the hospital, by doctors at every visit, and then is automatically reimbursed for a given treatment) and must give them a brown form to fill out and send to the l’Assurance Maladie (health office) for reimbursement, instead, the French patients complain about having to pay for the price of a stamp in sending the form in for reimbursement.

She is very pessimistic that anything will change in France, despite the dire state of affairs within the medical arena and the economic problems for the country as a whole. She believes that in general, the French believe that they are “entitled.” They do not care whence their rebates, subsidies, incentives, reimbursements, and retirement plans come from, only that they receive them and pay as little toward them as is possible. She believes that short of a huge philosophical shift in thinking, which is not likely to happen as the general population in France refuses to accept that there is a problem that requires everyone to adapt, the French medical and economic systems are doomed. I want to believe this is not so.

The Baby Diaries 9

Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.

P.J. O’Rourke

angkor-watI took my baby boy to the lovely Welsh assistante maternelle today. She’s still undecided about whether she’ll return to being an assistante maternelle after the last three years in which she’s spent under the famille garder while raising her young son. Even so, she’s kindly agreed to watch my boy for a few hours a day, a few days each week, while my husband is away working as an accompagnateur, and I’m grateful.

So today I dropped him off at hers for the first time, went home to write, and attempted to have something to eat at a leisurely pace. But all I could think about was how I really am a different person now that I’ve had my baby boy and this unsettles me. I feel as though I’m more emotionally tender, and consequently more vulnerable than I’ve ever been in my entire life. A little person depends deeply on me now and I am completely responsible for him. I realise, now, that my life has been relatively carefree thus far. I’ve cared about jobs, work, boyfriends, husbands, sure, but ultimately I’ve always been free to do as I wish. To go out to a dinner at midnight. To sleep till 10am. To miss the last train and take the night bus home or stay with friends. To travel to exotic places with my only concern being to get the correct inoculations beforehand. To leave a job or a place or a man because I’m unhappy. To do most personal things on an impromptu basis. To do most things selfishly.

I’d been so cavalier before having my boy about putting him into care as soon as it was possible so I could resume my professional interests. I was so cavalier about taking him with me on travels to places I want to visit and revisit in the second and third worlds. But now that he is in day care and not with me, I find myself feeling nervous, agitated, and I have an enormous, nebulous sense of guilt. As for traveling to obscure locales with him, I think ‘No way!’ I suddenly fear excessive heat, uncomfortable lodgings, bad water, food poisoning, malaria, typhoid and hepatitis!

I’m not the easy-going mother I’d hoped to be, taking my child everywhere with me and not particularly concerned about dangers, and more carefree. I fear I am conventional. That said, maybe things will change with time as he ages and becomes less vulnerable? Although, from what I hear from my elders, one’s child never really seems grown-up even when they are. Maybe as I learn to trust that my boy is happy in care, or at least not unhappy, I will be able to relax and concentrate on other things. Maybe with time I’ll better remember warm days and nights, exotic food, and the stars of the Southern Hemisphere, rather than its heat, poverty, and potential for bad stomachs.