Liberté, égalité, maternité: giving birth in France – Part 1

Baby feet - Image for Milja Kaunesto's article 31/07/12After announcing the ‘Big News’, the first words that I heard from my immediate family were: “My God, you’re not thinking of giving birth there?”

I could just hear their organized Nordic minds going a hundred miles per hour. “It’s just not hygienic.” “Are you sure they have the newest equipment?” “Are their doctors qualified?” “Do they have ultra-sound machines?” All great concerns. I couldn’t answer to any of them, because it was going to be my first attempt to reproduce on French soil.

At the time, we lived in the city of Ivry-sur-Seine, which starts where south-western Paris ends. Two minutes away from my house was Parisian Chinatown, the 13th arrondissement. And as much as I had feared the great big Parisian hospitals, I caught a lucky break – my birthing clinic was a small maternity ward, just 50 meters from our home.

Ivry-sur-SeineAs close as this was to Paris, it was the suburbs, and I was their first ever Nordic patient. From my first visit on, the nurses and mid-wives and doctors had a bunch of questions to ask me on my native Finland. “Do they have the newest equipment, over there?” “Are their doctors qualified?” “Do they have ultra-sound machines?” All great concerns.

As I was soon to find out, they sure were a qualified bunch. I needn’t have about anything. Everything was taken care of. My foetus and I were in good hands. Of course, being the Viking matron that I am, I got some remarks about my sizeable frame, and their greatest concern was my possible weight gain.

scaledNever has a human being been weighed more often. A warning finger was wagged: do not succumb to la gourmandise or you will be huge and a danger to your baby! How had Nordic women managed to give birth up until now without this precious advice? Little did they know that after my initial weight-gain burst during the first trimester, I actually hardly gained any weight at all. Problem solved.

A major concern of my fellow Finns had been whether I could afford a pregnancy in France. How expensive would it be? But, no problem. Being a Finn, thus a European citizen, and having worked in France for more than three years, the French social security took the whole of my pregnancy expenses in charge. Just as they do in Finland. As my pregnancy advanced, I also got a hefty check in the mail. ‘Birthing bonus’, they called it, and every French mom is entitled to one.

Paris Pharmacy CrossFor me, I had mostly feared the notoriously over-worked and mean Parisian medical staff. Again, no problem. Apart from one cranky ultra-sound doctor, I received good humor and smiles all the way.

I was the cranky one, with a hormone cocktail that could have been described as explosive as a Molotov cocktail. But hey, no problem! My clinic was staffed with mid-wives specializing in homeopathic remedies, herbal medicine and acupuncture, all taken in charge by social security. After a few relaxing and calming acupuncture sessions, my long-suffering husband hardly recognized me. So far, so good!

In my next article, I will let you know what unexpected issues I had to deal with concerning my name, and how my actual French birthing experience turned out.

Image Credits:
1. OliYoung, on Flickr
2. boklm, on Flickr
3. wader, on Flickr
4. Mr. Mystery, on Flickr

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Milja Kaunisto

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