Having a baby in France is special. While pregnant, you can cut in the front of the line at grocery store, post office and SNCF train ticketing office. The special treatment is not just when waiting line, people all over the country take pity on you. While on holiday in Provence at 8 months pregnant, I was at a busy brocante and needed to sit down for a drink. When the waitress approached me, I asked for bottle of water and she said it was for full meals only. I pointed to my stomach and said “S’il vous plait. Je suis enceinte” / “Please, I am pregnant”. At that moment she kindly looked at me and said “Bien sur” / “Of course”. She frequently checked on me and made sure I knew where the bathroom was, which can be challenge. For non-pregnant people finding and being allowed to us a bathroom is not easy. There are public toilets which are fine in an emergency but with my center of balance off, trying my luck in a make shift port-a-potty did not seem wise. Typically, if you need to use the bathroom at a café, it’s standard to purchase a coffee at the counter. In general, 1,20€ is a small price to pay for a clean place. But being pregnant, I could use the bathroom up to five times in a three hour outing it did not seem wise to ingest up to five espressos. Therefore, I tried my luck with kindness of baristas. I would waddle in, point at my stomach and repeat the phrase “Je suis enceinte. Est-que ce possible je utilise les toilettes” / “I am pregnant. Is it possible I can use the toilet?” and 99% of the time they would say yes. In a few instances the barista would look at me upon entering and just point to the toilets.
I went into labor at 2:00am and arrived at the clinic 12 hours later with little progression. My mid-wife arrived and we decided to wait. And wait we did. I was in a small 3-story clinic 30km south of Paris in a peaceful neighborhood. Maxime and I took a few walks around the block and wandered up and down the quiet halls to pass the time between contractions. At 8:00pm it was decided to give me morphine to help progress the labor. The baby was eager to get started but not to move from phase 1 to phase 2 (we needed to get to phase 3). The morphine resulted in little progression so we went to try the large bath tub. While that was super relaxing, it was now 1:00am the next night and I had not had any sleep. I found it insane when people at the clinic told me to try to get some sleep. Who can sleep when you know hour are hours away from meeting your new baby? So after the bath, we moved to an epidural which apparently can not only ease the pain but help you relax so your labor progresses naturally to the next phases. In France, epidurals are the norm. I had sworn off an epidural because in the U.S. when an epidural is used, it frequently leads to a C-Section (and no, I don’t have a statistic for that.) But in France, they are administered by giving you a few small doses over the course of your labor and you are still actively involved in the labor. You can feel much of the pain and move your legs with some concentration but it takes the major edge off. And it’s a great tool to help have a safe delivery. And that is exactly what I had. Within 3 hours of having the epidural and 30 hours of labor, Stella Simone Bridoux was safely born at 7:27am weighing 2.9kilo 46cm and I wouldn’t change one minute of the experience.