Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My birthday

And so there I was on my birthday in a room full of French women, all of them heavily pregnant, watching a video about breast feeding. Produced by some public health body or other it made women who don’t (breast feed) look like the spawn of Satan - invariably they were pictured fagging away while their poor under nourished child screamed - and women that do like little angels, all beatific smiles as twins happily nuzzled on their ample boobs. In any event there’s nothing like being on an interactive pre-natal course to expand one’s French vocabulary - contraction, waters breaking, push, breath, epidural, oh **** this hurts, I am right up to speed now.

As we left I was feeling slightly better about all the social security bills I’ve been paying. Extortionate as they are, it’s reassuring to visit a maternity unit like Pertuis. There are 20 odd rooms, most have two beds but you can guarantee your own room - presumably provided you promise to breast feed - for 30 euros a night. The staff counselled us about when we should come to the hospital - whenever we want. None of this wait until the contractions are regular and occur every five minutes. No, in Pertuis, if we have even a remote worry, in fact even if just fancy a change of scene, we shouldn’t hesitate to pop into the maternity unit.

Compare all this with the experience my sister in law who had her first baby in St George’s Tooting. Feeling regular contractions she rushed to hospital with my brother, only to be turned away. The contractions weren’t regular enough. Half way home they turned back convinced the Doctors were wrong. They were. My sister in law gave birth on a trolley in a hospital corridor due to lack of beds and was sent home a couple of hours later. When we tell the French midwifes this story they are appalled. Tanya is due to stay in the hospital for five nights and I even get a bed and a wine list.

So here’s a tip for expectant mother’s - move to France.

Meanwhile in the fields the grape harvest has begun. Cars are parked on the verges and teams of pickers toil up the long rows of vines. On the roads there’s chaos as vigneron’s chug their way to the Cave Cooperative. Forget caravans, camper vans, mopeds, Sinclair C5s, there can be few slower things than a tractor load of grapes. It’s all very quaint and rustic.

But it’s not the tractors that are the main worry, it’s the mechanical harvesters. Imagine a machine that straddles both lanes, blocks out the horizon and moves at less than 1 mile an hour and then imagine rushing with your pregnant wife to the hospital and encountering one.

Second tip, for pregnant mother’s, make sure you don’t give birth in France in September.