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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Spring is here! Le printemps est arrivé !

Before I begin, just one thing. When you're writing in French, there's a space between the last word and the exclamation point. Just sayin'.

Today is one of those glorious spring days that I've come to expect—even though we've only had a few of them. The kids and I are soaking up our daily doses of vitamin D, hitting the area playgrounds and making new friends. It's not even 10am, and it's already 16 degrees. Love it.

Spring means planning the garden (sprouts are doing well!), cleaning out the mud room, putting away the winter gear and digging out the rain boots and sandals. This summer promises to be a great one, with my youngest just learning to toddle around. The whole backyard is ours.

But la neige is not gone. Only in Quebec can you be wearing shorts and walk past a snow drift as high as your three-year-old's head, right?

Do you live in a climate where spring or summer seems to come suddenly, right on the heals of winter? Share your stories!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Homebirthing in Quebec

"City Kids Homeschooling" is a blog I follow. I don't homeschool my kids. My two oldest go to a Montessori preschool, and I stay at home with the youngest. But when she turns three, I intend to send her to the same preschool. My oldest will also go to kindergarten at Montessori.

After that...I don't know.

I don't follow the blog because I intent to homeschool. At least, not yet. Truth be told, I'm on the fence, and deeply curious about the homeschool set. So I keep reading. Today's post is about homebirthing. I didn't really see the connection...until it started unfolding in my head as I typed a comment on the blog.

My third child was born at home. In one of those magical experiences, my husband and I put the older two to bed while I occasionally left the room with an especially strong contraction. They fell asleep. Labour got into full swing. I didn't have to wake them up, dress them, throw them in the car and whisk them to a neighbour's house while my husband drove like a maniac to the birthing centre or hospital. I let them sleep. I took a bath, called the midwife. I walked around the living room while my husband watched a basketball game and started putting together the bassinet. Yeah...the one that always functions more like a clothes rack than a baby sleeping place.

L was born after midnight, in the wee hours of an especially hot June day. The kids woke up to the commotion just seconds after I pushed L out. Their father loving helped them rise out of bed and scurry in to the room to see L in my arms. They squealed with delight over their sister. I delivered the placenta, and my amazing midwife, who had been with us from my first appointment to now, gave them a quick science lesson on the functions of the placenta. To this day, I hear my oldest declaring to her stuffies that give birth, "You have a beautiful placenta."

Why am I blogging about this now, on this blog, that is not about homebirth or homeschooling? Because it's another experience that will forever be in my mind as uniquely Québécois. In this province, midwives have fought hard to have birthing centres and the right to assist homebirths. I had a midwife when we lived in Boston, but it was entirely different. I had midwives, plural, and the one who delivered me was not one I had seen during my prenatal check-ups. Here in Quebec, Fabienne saw me at every prenatal appointment except one; I called her directly during my pregnancy with any questions or concerns I had; she delivered my baby and came back to the house three times to check on us.

Fabienne is Québécoise. And while I speak French, I somehow felt more comfortable discussing my pregnancy and birth in English. She didn't bat an eyelash. Occasionally, both of us would throw out a word or two in French, when it came more naturally. When L was born, Fabienne spoke in French to the back-up midwife, and the words felt very natural in my home. My husband spoke in French to Fabienne. L was born hearing the two languages from the start!

I'm writing about this because I feel very privileged to have had this birthing experience. Having my baby at home, with a dedicated and devoted midwife, no drugs, no machines, no bright lights, no strangers (Fabienne was part of my family by then!), no equipment, nothing...grabbing that baby and really being the first one to lay hands on her...that experience is MINE and mine alone. And oh, so empowering.

I'm also writing about it because it's not a given. It's not an obvious experience for women who don't even have that option in other countries. Yet another reason why I don't hesitate to say, "Vive le Québec!"

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Welcome back. Bonjour?

I have been away from this blog for some time. I hope you have noticed. ;) haha

Struggling with some unexpected health issues and a baby suddenly stricken with separation anxiety, I haven't had a hand free to type. Hopefully, I'll be putting that behind me now. Well, not the baby, but...

This past week, I've visited an ER twice, plus a walk-in clinic. In the past nearly three years that I've lived in Montreal, I've only visited a walk-in clinic one other time. I'm generally healthy, thank God. I also generally champion the Canadian universal health care system. I believe in its values; and I also believe we live in one of the most medically advanced nations in the world. The best of the best. Did last week force me to reconsider?

Le temps d'attente. Anglophone or francophone, you're best off recognizing this phrase if you plan on going to the ER in any way besides an ambulance. Of course, no one can tell you the waiting time. You can just swap stories with the guy sitting next to you, whine and complain to the guy cradling his broken arm. Yeah.

I waited, and waited, and waited. I listened to the anglophone nurse call triage numbers of the P.A. system. She must have been new, because she also forgot to turn off the P.A. when chatting with a francophone colleague. More than once, she announced the wrong number in French, causing us in the waiting room to giggle while the francophone nurse chided her.

"You said soixante-dix-sept."

"Right, seventy."

"But you said soixante dix-sept."


What started as comic relief began to irk me as a waste of my time. Anyway, when I was finally called in half a day later, I shuffled past sad-looking people in hospital gowns, lying on stretchers, sometimes with the privacy of a curtain, sometimes not. It was dark and dreary. It looked like the ER of a third-world country.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Into my curtained room popped a nurse, in cheerful humour, joking with me as he took ten vials of blood. I've fainted from blood draws before; this time, I was laughing. He assured me the doctor would be there soon. I rolled my eyes, but sure enough, he was there in less than five minutes. He assessed my situation with an expert eye, professional, upbeat and full of energy. (It didn't hurt that he was also nice to look at...) Perfect English, yet D. Boucher was clearly Québécois. He called out instructions in both French and English, ordering an EKG, chest x-rays and a CT scan. I was wheeled directly from one to another, no time to waste.

All this to say that, once I FINALLY got through the triage process, I was thoroughly impressed with 99% of my healthcare system. I was in good hands. No, great hands. Handsome hands, yet I digress...

When I was discharged, a nurse showed me where I could change back into my clothes (ok, yes, the accommodations suck), handed me my papers. I thanked her and she said, "Bonjour," before leaving to take care of another patient. It gave me pause to smile. I remembered when I first arrived in Quebec. I had lots of phone calls to make to arrange for immigration papers, get information, make reservations, etc. At the end of each phone call, rather than the beginning, the person on the other end of the line would say, "bonjour!" I learned it as a greeting, in the beginning of a conversation, but here it took on its literal "good day" and was something to say at the end of a conversation. How many times did I raise the phone back up to my ear and repeat, "Oui?" into a receiver, thinking that the conversation had begun again? Little memories like that fill me with nostalgia for a time when I was twenty-one-years-old, a collage student, discovering this amazing city!

The snow is melting; our snowmen have lost their heads and I can see grass everywhere. Spring is here. This weekend, we will spring forward an hour. And I'm certain that spring will bring us even more adventures à la québécoise to report here!