Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happily Dressed

Our "announcement" blogpost has elicited some good questions that I thought I'd take a moment to answer.

1) Will our baby be born in France or the USA? Barring any unforeseen emergencies, this little one will be American. If calculations are correct, I will be about 31 weeks along when we fly back, so as long as I can convince the airlines that I'm not 41 weeks, we should be fine. :)

2) Did Brooklyn really notice that I was pregnant before I did?
Nope. Sorry, the last post was too vague. I've known since the beginning of January when the stick popped up with that little plus sign (some things don't change no matter where in the world you go.) Jason was in Paris at the time, so I e-mailed him a little movie to share the news. It's embarrassingly cheesy, but I'm feeling daring so I'll share anyway...
Back to Brooklyn, when she noticed my growing belly at six weeks, I was A) horrified to be big so soon, and B) not quite ready to share the news, knowing that she would immediately make it public knowledge. And so, I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to convince her that it was simply fat.

3) When is the expected due date? The ETA for this little one is September 12th when calculated with a French wheel, and September 10th when calculated American-style.

4) Are we having a boy or a girl? We don't know, and we probably won't find out. The ultrasound technician actually asked me last week if I wanted to know the gender. After a tough moment of deliberation, I said that no, we'd rather have a surprise. She smiled and said that it was "plus magique comme ├ža." (By the way, I was utterly shocked that she could even make a prediction at twelve weeks!)

All in all, pregnancy in France has been quite the cultural initiation. After having two kids, you'd think that I would know how it's done, but in many ways, everything is shockingly different in a new system. The French are notorious for their copious paperwork--well, apparently even a pregnancy isn't official without it! Your first pre-natal visit culminates in a formal "declaration de grossesse" that consists of several colored copies of this form that must subsequently be mailed off to the respective government offices before the end of month three. Heaven forbid you forget to mail in your forms, as your baby might never be born! (The actuality is even worse--you might have to pay for your pre-natal care, labor, and delivery...) By the way, does anybody else find it rather ironic that the word for pregnancy in French is "grossesse?" It sums up in a nutshell what pregnancy feels like at week 38.

Moving on, as soon as you learn the news, you need to call the hospital and register for the "accouchement" right away because the spaces fill quickly. ("Accouchement" refers to your labor and delivery, although a literal translation would be a "lying-in." This usage to me reflects an overall cultural mentality where birth suggests that you settle in and stay a while. Life really slows down its pace for those who are nesting. Were I staying in France, I would get at least eight weeks of paid maternity leave before the birth, and another ten after!)

Of course there is the standard course of bloodwork and lab tests to be carried out. The main difference is that these labs are generally unconnected with the medical offices--you must bring in a doctor's order and set up appointments separately. Coming from the States, I unfortunately have to get blood drawn every month because I have not been immunized for taxoplasmosis. While fairly uncommon in the US, it's a big problem in Europe. Women are cautioned to be particularly vigilant in avoiding raw meat and carefully washing all of their fruits and veggies. I find it quite ironic that in the US I can't eat soft cheese (not considered much of a problem here in France), but here in France I have to be careful eating salad.

The last shocker (and let me tell you, it was a SHOCKER) was my actual visit to the gynecologist. The initial interview was pretty standard, but after the talking was over, she pointed to a chair in the corner and told me to take off my clothes--all of my clothes. Horrifically, she then stood and watched while I undressed. Without the dignity of even a paper towel to cover myself, I then had to parade across the entire room buck naked in order to get to the exam table. Jason, all the while, is still sitting in the room, trying his hardest not to laugh at my positively horrified expression.

I can't even begin to describe the indignities of my drapeless exam. It was seriously one of the most awful experiences of my life. When it comes to personal space, I am extremely reserved. While the gynecologist may have been exasperated with my Puritan prudishness, stating that in France it's much simpler, this was one place where "French-style" will never fly with me.

But wait, it gets worse! After parading across the entire room again in my birthday suit so that I could recover my modesty, the doctor stopped me with my underwear half on and half off. Apparently I hadn't weighed myself yet--she wanted to see this moment of reckoning as well without even a scrap of fabric to hide behind.

The whole ordeal was hideous. It's one of those things that I really wanted to laugh about, but it was so embarrassing that it was hard not to cry instead. To add insult to injury, I then discovered when the bill came that this lady was setting her own prices instead of using the standard pay scale reimbursed by the French government.

Needless to say, I switched doctors. Today I met for the first time with a wonderful midwife. Not only did this kind woman allow me to keep my pants on, but she talked to me like a whole person. Interested in my thoughts and feelings, she addressed my real concerns and offered good advice. Thanks to our positive encounter, I now feel like perhaps I can handle pregnancy in France after all.


Crys said...

That story is so horrible. I can't even imagine. Jason being there makes it all the more horrific! I mean yes obviously he is the father of three of your children, but still is it puritan to just want so DIGNITY! One positive to be pregnant in the middle east. That never would have happened!

chou said...

I love your video!!! And am horrified at your initial Dr's visit. We're glad to hear that the next one (with the midwife) was better.

Mom L said...

Ditto to Christy's comments! You'll be sharing birth times with Bill and Stephanie. How fun!

Tanja said...

I liked the video too - I was just wondering how long it will be with more pictures in ... let's say 10 years and a couple more family members to the whole A-W-Clan. (I erased the full name :) but now I have to think about Rootbeer)

Kes LT said...

hey, you have just expanded your comfort zone!

michelle said...

Horrible indeed! I wondered by your comments on Kristin's blog if you were just unable to be a Weight Watcher while in France because of the food or if there was something else. Congratulations!

Megan Ficek said...

I had a similar experience once. Who would place the table stirrups-first towards the door in the first place? And what nurse in her right mind would walk in and out three separate times during my exam? At least I was draped! But still, I hope there were no innocent bystanders in the hallway that day. (I hope that story makes you feel at least a little bit better)

Bruce Richards said...

Wow, you miss a few days checking the blog, and look what happens! Congratulations! I was learning how to make websites in my "teaching extension" class yesterday, so I went to my own website (our blog), then the instructor mentioned something about links, so I clicked on the link to your blog and saw a picture of Kara in the hospital and wondered why, then I realized you were expecting. Good thing my joy is not automatically verbally expressed!

Justin said...

Gee wiz, that is a fantastically horrible experience. Good call on switching care providers. I was looking at your ultrasound, and if I was a betting man, know where I would place my money... :)

Jackie said...

Okay I'm just getting around to checking your blog and wow congrats! I wonder if we'll be around to see the new little one! Big yikes for that doctor visit - I hope to never have to do that! Oh the nightmares alone!

Congrats to all of you!

The Favorite said...

CONGRATS!! I haven't checked your blog in a few weeks so it was so fun to read- and I loved the video- too sweet. Hope you feel well and when you move back you better pick a place right next to a hospital :)
(Bruce hopes it's a boy)

Bruce Richards said...

The big Bruce hopes it's a boy too.