17 June 2007
Not quite as bad as that jerk at the Sous-préfecture, but still...

MP3 was born in a public hospital. I’m not really sure what advantages those private clinics have over the local public folks, especially since I have no ‘real’ complaints this time around. Oh, God, I hope I’m not getting too used to this place. Anyway, public hospital, right? This means that everyone working there is a fonctionnaire at some level. LOVELY! French civil servants and me. Can anyone say Water and Oil?

I swear, my visit this time around was a study in what’s so outrageously funny with the French Civil Servants—and why they drive EVERYONE (including the French) nuts.

When the MP3 was less than two days old I took the walk up to see her in the NeoNat unit. You have to understand that my room, 104, was at the far end of the maternity ward, on the ground floor. The NeoNat unit is all the way on the other side of the world from there, in another building, on the second floor. Now, when I was a little less mobile (basically my first visit and maybe another one or two after that), a nurse or aid would have to take me by wheelchair. This meant a trip in the elevator (OH! I have an elevator story!!) down to the basement, a nine kilometer ride through the tunnel connecting all the buildings (the hospital is more of a campus), then up in another, tiny elevator. Once on the second floor, I’d be pushed from one end of the pediatric ward to the other, past opened patient rooms and TWO BATHROOMS, to the doors of the NeoNat unit. Once in the NeoNat unit, I had to wash my hands in the sink located in the room where MP3 was hooked up to every machine known to man and put on a funky jacket/robe thing—jacket if I was breast feeding, robe if I wasn’t.

Now, walking up is a little different. A trip down the hall, up the stairs, down the other hall, up more stairs, across the enclosed bridge and one finds oneself in front of the back door to the NeoNat unit. Except the back door is actually the front door. And there begins the beginning of the problem with the nurse. On my first trip up by foot I rang, was let in and proceeded to do as I had done on all my other visits—meaning I washed my hands in the same sink as before.

Uh oh! No, not good. I had just soaped up when I was (snippily) informed that I had to wash my hands in the basin at the door. I wasn’t even allowed to rinse the soap off before being led by the nose down the hall. So once my hands were washed (well, rinsed at this point), I walked back up the hallway to see my baby.

Well, you know, I had an urge. The Urge. The same one I had every five minutes before the birth and only a bit less regularly since. I had to pee. So I asked where the nearest bathroom was, knowing full well that I pass TWO on the way up in the chair.

But those potties are off limits to the likes of me? Huh? See, they can’t let me into the pediatric ward because I might come back carrying germs. One must return to one’s room to pee, then come back.

You’re kidding?


So back down the hall, out the door, down the stairs, through the GYN floor, down more stairs, onto the OB floor and all the way down to the end of the hall. Where I peed, and started back, when I ran into the Exorcist who was quite shocked to see me up and about. So I explained that while she might be surprised at how well I was getting around, apparently the nurse in NeoNat thought I was right on target. And I explained how it was that I had to descend two flights of stairs and cross half the hospital to pee. And how it was impossible to use the toilets in the pediatric ward, toilets that were all of five meters from the front-door-that’s-actually-the-back-door to the NeoNat unit but were off limits because I’d become contaminated by just going onto that ward (that I had to ride through while in a wheelchair). She asked why I didn’t just use the nurses’ toilet.

Bwaahahahaha. See, I’d asked this same question before dragging myself back to my room. The reason? Contamination, again. ‘Can you imagine if everyone used our toilet? It’d get dirty!’

So, OB-GYN Kenobi is seeing red at this point. Here’s her patient, less than 48 hours after a cesarean (here considered as an excuse to get out of work for months on end), being forced to pee on the other side of the world.

Apparently on my way back through the numerous corridors and up the uncountable stairs, either Kenobi or one of her minions called up the nurse and read her the riot act because as soon as I’d re-washed my hands and re-buttoned up my (new, cleaner) blouse thingy, she (the nurse) read me the riot act. And later, even though my husband was right there with me, ready to hold my hand and even carry me if need be (yep, strong back that man), she INSISTED that the midwife come up and escort me back down to my room.


So the midwife arrives, a good 20 minutes later—the place was packed and pregnant women were being stuffed into closets and on other wards because there were so many of us that there was no room in the inn, so to speak, and she was understandably busy—and asks me to wait.


All I want to do at this point is lie down because, yes, I’d just had my innards exposed less than 48 hours before and while I do have a high tolerance for pain, everyone has their limits. I was at mine. And being yelled at by a nurse for deliberately trying to give my child a combination of cholera, tetanus and The Plague because I’d had The Urge had worn my patience down to nothing.

So Marc and I waited, and waited, and waited. And when the midwife finally came back to escort me down, grumbling just like I was since my husband was Right There, I asked her who had called and gotten me into trouble with the nurse, because boy was she pissed. Well, come to find out, that’s why we had to wait. Apparently the midwife gave the nurse a good talking to about exceptions to the rules and how making someone with a gaping hole in her gut cross the Andes to pee is one of those times when Exceptions Can Be Made.

Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly the most popular mother in that ward any longer. I imagine when MP3 left they all breathed a collective sigh of relief. ‘Fuckin’ Americans.’

Still, it is kind of sad how I can cross the entire Sick Kids floor and not risk anything because I’m in a wheelchair, but as soon as I walk on the floor I’d somehow become contaminated. And how is it that my ass is clean enough to use my own toilet without risking anything, but it would somehow funkify the nurse’s toilet? They’re both cleaned regularly, and honestly, in a hospital, how long does any toilet go between cleanings? Not long at all.

So yeah, a bit of comic relief and something to grumble about other than being stuck in a room with someone else and her screaming baby. And if nothing else, I got to see again how in France the rules are the rules and Jeez, don’t ever think of bending them.. Ever! Bad! Bad!

posted by Doc at 16:51 | Permalink |


  • At 18:36, Blogger Heather

    Wow...just wow. And they think us North Americans are crazy? (Don't get me wrong - I am a total francophile, but they can be weird about things, can't they?)

    Kudos to you for traipsing to hell and beyond a mere 48 hours after surgery! After my c-section I felt like a truck had run over me and all I did for about three weeks was sit in a rocking chair and hold myself. You have my admiration!

    P.S. SHAME on you for having GERMS! In a ward with SICK CHILDREN! Imagine that....germs in a hospital? In fact, the only person possibly at risk was you! I've heard that if you'd like to get sick, just go to a hospital.

  • At 21:01, Blogger Antipodeesse

    Oh Gawd, that is all so horribly familiar. I thought I had put those memories all behind me, 13 years ago, but no.

    My son was also born in a hospital where the neonat ward was miles away from the maternity and virtually inaccessible for we Caesarean mummies. Could someone explain the logic in that?

  • At 21:11, Blogger Papadesdeux

    Hey Doc, did I ever tell you about the time I had kidney stones and they forgot about me in the hallway of the hospital in Nîmes?... well they say kidney stones are more painful than having a baby... well they do... they say that... Oh hell, I'm never gonna win at this game.

  • At 05:54, Anonymous Robin


    Please tell me, because I absolutely MUST know...

    how in the world did you manage to leave the hospital without performing a ceserean of your own on the evil NeoNat ward nurse? Just how?

    I am officially renaming you St. Doc de Gudmont-Villiers! Do you perform any other miracles???

    Kudos to you for not cutting anyone, as I'm not sure I would have been able to resist. It would have been ON, as in everybody was kung-fu fighting, YAH! Either that or all of a sudden, my comprehension of French wouldn't have been so good...quoi? les toilettes sont juste a cote? merci!

    Lastly, congrats on the little bundle. She's cute as a button!

  • At 07:11, Blogger Linda

    I think I would have just walked back to the ward on my own with or without her permission. What is she going to do--shoot you? I would also have told her that I was going to pee on the floor as I couldn't make the long walk back. Give some people a little power and they sure do take advantage of it. I think French women are the worst at this. If I have a choice at a store of asking for help I always pick a man.

  • At 14:48, Blogger jchevais

    Holy NeoNazis, Batman!

    Shame on you for having germs, Doc. Just shame.