Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Kathleen who is Canadian and had her son in France. Here is her story:
Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?
My name is Kathleen. I’m 45 years old and I’m from Canada, although I spent part of my childhood in Japan. My husband is French. Our two children are 5 and 3 years old. We currently live in Toronto, Canada.
My husband and I met in Kuwait in 2003 and after getting married in 2005, we moved to Algeria, then the next summer to Vietnam with plans to stay for a couple of years. However, after about 7 months there, I got pregnant with our daughter, so I went ‘home’ to Regina, Saskatchewan to have her. We were living in a very remote and rural area of Vietnam at the time.
When our daughter was 2 month’s old, we moved to Qatar for the year. Then, next stop. France. I got pregnant within a couple of months of arriving in France and our son was born there.
Why did you have your children abroad?
We had my son in France because we were living in my husband’s home country at the time.
What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
My experience with the French public health care system, though sometimes confusingly and extremely bureaucratic, is that it is excellent. I was pleased with the care I received during my pregnancy. I also liked that we could stay at the hospital after the birth a bit longer than you would in Canada. I realize that’s not for everyone, but I sure did enjoy the rest. And surprisingly, the food was yummy. At a public hospital!
As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
I had a frightening second pregnancy. It started out fine and as it was my second pregnancy, I didn’t have all the anxiety and nervousness of my first. I was much more relaxed, even in dealing with doctors in another language.
My only anxiety was dealing with all the paperwork and trying to find a hospital.
However, by the 8th or 9th week, we received the scary news that I had contracted toxoplasmosis and would need to see a specialist plus have monthly ultrasounds. I was immediately prescribed antibiotics, which I took for the remainder of the pregnancy.
After that, I’d say I was alternately zen and stressed. We had to wait until the 18th week to have an ultrasound that would show how the baby was developing. After getting good results, I chose not to have an amnio which would have determined 100 percent whether the toxo parasite had tranfered to our son. I had expected my OB/GYN to disagree, partly due to my age as well (I was 42 at the time) but he accepted my decision. (My OB/GYN in Canada was not happy when I said no to an amnio at 39 years old.)
You may not want to hear that there is more, but there is indeed more…while things were looking good as our son was developing, I ended up with a twisted ovary at the 7th month mark. The pain was excruciating and due to a slight infection and the location of the pain, my OB/GYN thought I might have appendicitis. No tests could prove otherwise and the pain was intensifying. I had to have an abdominal laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). Both my son and I were put under general anesthetic and I was warned by my OB/GYN that there was a possibility that our baby would also be delivered by c-section if there were complications (but that our baby would be ok, but have to be in NICU).
The operation was a success and my baby stayed put. Then I was faced with the decision of whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine as the virus was in full force in the Ile de France at the time. The maternity wards were not allowing any visitors, including children, during check ups and after the birth except the pregnant woman’s partner Since I was put on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy, I decided against getting the vaccine. There was a lot of hysteria at the time and the media was reporting that pregnant women who got the flu were badly affected, so it was a tough decision.
In any case, a few days after I got the official ok to move about, our son was born, 3 weeks early, but healthy. My mom, who had come to take care of me, got to meet him right away (she received special permission from the hospital to visit) so that was pretty special.
Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?