If I were in NZ right now, about to give birth for the second time in the same country, things would be so very sweet. Most of the challenges I’m facing here are language based. I speak ‘un peu le Francais’, which is a step up from ‘un petit peu le Francais’… Sometimes now I even say, “Je ne parle pas beaucoup de Francais,” (I don’t speak a lot of French) by way of apology when I stutter and pause my way through conversations.

Today I had a whole lot of little things to do, things I put off mainly because of my limited French…

– making an appointment with the doctor, to stock up on my usual prescriptions, so that I don’t have to do it for a while (ie. while breastfeeding all the time)

– making an appointment to meet with the hospital midwives. Went totally blank on how to say ‘fifty-seven’ (cinquant sept) while half way through giving her my phone number.

– reading through and completing the paperwork for the hospital – this took insanely long, partly because there’s so much of it, and partly because I typed most of it into google translate, even if I didn’t really need to. I just wanted to be sure I got it right.

– started packing for the hospital. I keep putting this off because I’m using/wearing a lot of the stuff I’ll want to put in. I will probably stay in hospital for four nights after the birth, assuming nothing goes awry. Also assuming I don’t absolutely hate being there and escape as soon as they let me… How is packing for the hospital made more difficult by the language barrier? Well the list of what to bring is in French. How different can it be from NZ? The hospital doesn’t provide towels, for starters, or baby clothes, nappies, etc. Had some fun trying to decipher the french phrase that means disposable knickers. Also got stuck on “brumisateur” which google translate tells me means “atomizer”. What do I want a spray bottle or steam-thingy for while I’m in labour?

The French health system is famously good but it is different to NZ with regards childbirth. I don’t see a midwife throughout pregnancy, more and more often toward the end, and then for six weeks afterward. Instead, I see an obstetrician once a month, and have a lot more blood tests and ultrasounds. The expectation is that I will have an epidural. I don’t have to, but it’s the go-to answer to labour pain here, and the more I am exposed to this way of thinking, the more I agree – why suffer unnecessarily? They have this ‘walking epidural’ option – a lighter dose, basically. I can control the dosage and while I have less pain relief I can walk around (which helps labour progress). If the pain gets too much I can up the dose and lie down. Seems so in-control and civilized. My memories of Louis’ birth a still pretty fresh (too fresh for me to go into this one with even a shred of whimsy) and while everything went very well – not too long, and without medical intervention except for laughing gas (which doesn’t count) – I am dreading the pain and exhaustion.

Just after Louis was born. Exhausted. Even smiling was beyond me.

Enough about birth. The other things I ticked off my list today were:

– fixed up the children’s books that Louis has ripped. He doesn’t do this often, fortunately. I lost the cellotape, though, and so I’d made a little to-fix pile. Found the tape in the bottom of the toy box yesterday.

– sent a few emails

– dried the dishes

– took Louis to the playground. It was the first day in a while with good weather – so good in fact that we’ll eat dinner on the porch tonight. There is one friendly mum who frequents our playground and she was there with her two daughters and one extra little girl, whom she babysits. Going to the playground doesn’t make it onto the language-barrier to-do list, but today I definitely flexed my French. We had a whole, for-real conversation! Me and a french person – who I wasn’t buying food from! Amazing.

I was warned not to expect quick or easy friendships with the French, but I figured my usual gumption (shameless chattiness and bold smile) would cut right through any chilliness. I was wrong. Antony isn’t Paris, where I’m sure no one would even exchange formalities, but it’s not “me too” country either. Bonding is tres difficile. My friends are all expats or at least have an expat parent. But maybe that will soon change.

One thought to “Ticking things off”

  • Hélène

    My finger slipped in the middle of a long comment, which went something like: re epidurals, would you have a tooth pulled out without anesthetics and would you have had a choice about it 100 years ago?; also, it’s quite magical to feel contractions but no pain, and my major motivation for going for the epidural was that I was afraid of being afraid and not in control; expect a generally more medical approach in France to childbirth; my experience with both our two girls in a hospital in Paris was wonderful (only midwives before and during birth, as they were straightforward pregnancies); and finally a French friend will probably happen somewhere unexpected with an unlikely person!

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