Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Carrieanne who is American and had her daughter in France. Here is her story:
Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old is your daughter and where did you have her?
I am a 29-year-old American writer. I was born in Connecticut, but raised on the sunny beaches of Florida. I spent my days as the head of a multimillion-dollar corporation and nights dreaming of living overseas. I met my future husband while on vacation in France. He moved to the USA and followed me to Montreal. Eventually, I gave up life in the fast lane and followed him back to France. Our little French American girl was born in Bayeux, France last year.
Why did you have your daughter abroad?
We decided to start our family in France because we both preferred life here. I entertained the idea of going back to the USA, but there were many obstacles.
If we moved to the USA, it takes months to recieve a spouse Visa. My husband would have to wait in France while I prepare the application in the USA. I did not want to be separated from him for that long.
Also, we are self-employed so health insurance would be expensive. I do not think insurers cover pregnancies if the applicant is already pregnant. In France, our mutual (private health insurance) costs 70 euros per month and we are 100% covered. Last year I broke a finger and was pregnant – we paid nothing out-of-pocket. Healthcare in the USA is so expensive that it would not make financial sense for us to have a baby there.
What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
I like that everyone in France gets standard care. It does not matter which doctor you see, you know when you will have your ultrasounds, which blood tests will be done, and when your next appointment will be. In the USA, each doctor handles pregnancies very differently. Even though care for pregnancies is standard in France, doctors are not limited. If they think additional tests or ultrasounds are needed, they can prescribe them.
Besides free healthcare, another incredible benefit was qualifying for maternity leave. I am self-employed, yet I received about 6,500 euros for taking time off work. We also received about 900 euros from social security when I was 7 months pregnant, and 150 euros from our mutual as a gift. Now, we receive money for her each month and will recieve 9 hours of in-home daycare for free each month. I could not imagine getting all this in the USA.
As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
I was scared and anxious at the beginning of my pregnancy. I had no idea what to expect. I could not find the information I needed online and did not have the vocabulary to communicate efficiently with doctors. I was frustrated because I felt out of control. As I gained more information and my French became better, I felt more at ease with the situation.
Blogging about my pregnancy in France helped me relax. It felt great to provide others with information that I could not find online. I received encouragement and support from my readers, which kept me going whenever I felt frustrated.
Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
When I was pregnant, it felt like my gynecologist was not taking me seriously when I requested a natural birth. I watched a story on the news a few nights ago and think that attitudes here are changing. Many French women are beginning to demand a less medicalized approach to giving birth.
After my daughter was born, I was almost forced to bottlefeed while in the hospital. The puericultrice and midwives took my husband aside and convinced him that I was endangering our daughter by breastfeeding. It was very emotional and difficult for me to stand my ground, especially without the full support of my husband. We later figured out that my daughter was not latching properly, and then she gained weight quickly. If I was in the USA, I could have left the hospital after she was born, met with a lactation consultant, and avoided all this stress.
What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Relax and learn French. It is important for you to be able to communicate efficiently with the doctors and midwives. If you usually count on your husband or significant other for translations, understand that there will be times when he will not be there. My husband is an English to French translator, but there were pregnancy-related terminologies that even he could not translate.
If you find yourself pregnant in France, I wrote a book specifically for you – French Mamma’s: Pregnant in France. I provide details of what to expect, including the standard medical schedule, emergency contact information, and sample ultrasound results. All chapters are in English and French, with important pregnancy-related vocabulary words that you should know. At the end of each chapter are practice sentences to help you learn the vocabulary words, as well as an answer key. You can download the first two chapters for free on my website.
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