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I’ve decided to do a blog post on my stay in hospital after the birth of Ezra, because, I think some people may be interested in it, but to make it simpler I’m going to do it as a series of dot points on what make a French maternity ward and some of my experiences in it.

  • The first thing I noticed was that the delivery room didn’t have a toilet, or bathroom. In in my previous hospital births I cleaned up, showered and changed after birth. In France I wasn’t allowed off the bed. When I tried to stand up to put clean clothes on, they pushed me back down and physically dressed me themselves.
  • Which kinda leads to my next point. There was very little privacy. I’d been warned about this and it didn’t bother me much till one morning, about 5.30 when Ezra was sleeping peacefully in his crib, I decided to take the opportunity to go to the toilet before he woke, before breakfast arrived and before I had to do his bath(another point) when a nurse came in and called to me from the toilet door. “Oui, un moment” I replied, to which she called out again, then opened the door. I just looked at her in annoyance and astonishment when she told me something about feeding my baby. I don’t know if it was that I had to feed him or tell her when I last fed him but neither did I care, you don’t disturb someone who’s just had a baby when they’re on the loo, especially if their baby is happy asleep! “just wait a moment” I said semi politely in French. When she repeated herself with a “tout de suite”, I gave her my sternest look, pointed out the door and said “UN MOMENT”. She left.
  • I’d read online that the food in the hospitals here was good. As the girl in the bed next to me said “That must have been a joke”.  So- even France can’t do good hospital food.
  • Siblings were the only children allowed in the ward and they were very strict about enforcing it.
  • Nappy changes had to be done in the nursery so they could keep track.
  • Despite the large amount of regulations and rules, I suspect the “oh, she’s Australian” I heard amongst the nurses, at times actually gave me an advantage over the other women in the ward.
  • Every morning before 9am I had to go to the nursery to “bath” Ezra, and what a bath it was! One morning Ezra and I stood in the queue, waiting till there was a free bathing place quite amused by the scene in front of us, 8 babies and their mums in various stages of the bathing routine, 1 or 2 nurses walking amongst them keeping an eye on everything and helping when needed while one nurse sat at the desk in the front with her book writing down baby temperatures, weights and the states of nappies as they came off.
    Amused, that was, till I was part of it, then I felt quite silly. Lining on mat- fill and heat bath to exactly 37oC- undress baby- report nappy status- take baby’s temp (I was meant to have my own thermometer)- weigh baby- rub soap all over baby- rinse in bath- immediately towel dry- wrap in fresh towel- wash umbilicus with sterile pad and antiseptic- quickly dress baby in appropriate layers of clothing- use cotton tip and sterilized water to wash baby’s ears- use cotton cloth and sterilized water to wash baby eyes and nostrils- administer 1ml vitamin D while holding baby in raised position. And… I think you’re done.
  • Babies in France have to be named and registered before you leave the hospital. I was told we would have all sorts of problems if we didn’t do it. There is an office at the front of the hospital, you take your information there (while baby stays in the nursery) and they register the birth and provide you with several copies of baby’s birth transcript which you need for various gov departments
  • Like everything French there is heaps of paper work. The pediatrician I went to see to get Ezra released from hospital gave me a sense of National pride (fairly uncommon for me here) “It is very confusing” she said as she filled out all the forms “oh, you are from Australia, We all want to work in Australia, so much simpler”
  • Babies should be kept warm- very warm, actually hot. The hospital was heated to 36 degrees and the babies all had many layers on and were covered with several thick blankets. You’d think coming from Australia we’d rug up against the cold more- not so. Ezra was the least dressed baby in the hospital.
  • They don’t “swaddle” wrap babies here. I wrapped Ezra after the first night and got amazed comments from everyone who saw him. When I told the girl in the bed next to me why I did it and that lots of babies like it and it can help them sleep better, she told me her mum had said she should try it too and asked me to show her how to do it.
  • Babies here don’t have middle names. I had to explain Ezra’s a few times. Ezra is an unfamiliar name (‘Ezra’ in the french bible is spelt ‘Esdras’) but it is similar to a fairly common-maybe islamic- girls name Essrah. Jérémie is the french version of Jeremiah

In general our stay in hospital was ok. It was tough for our family, both the kids and Nate and I struggled with not being able to be together, but in general we were well looked after and the midwifes, pediatrician and most the nurses were very nice and helpful. Plus I met a couple of very nice room mates 🙂