Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My First Prenatal Check Up in Luxembourg

At 6 1/2 months pregnant, my first priority when we landed in Luxembourg was finding a doctor to watch over my pregnancy. For a month leading up to our move, I tried calling an OB from the States who was recommended by an expat friend-of-a-friend. I even put our Relocation Director, Sylvie, on the case (never heard back). And then, during our Luxembourg medical exams (required for our residency permits), I discovered that the physician I had been trying to reach doesn't deliver babies. So the doctor performing our check up offered to make an appointment for me, asking me to call the next day for the contact information. Well, I didn't; I was totally jet lagged and we were sleeping at odd hours, and I was without a phone for several days after we checked out of the hotel. But the truth is that I was intimidated to speak French on the phone and it took me a few days to work up my courage. By the time I did call a few days late, my appointment date had been cancelled. I felt quite sheepish as I was gently reprimanded and told I was on my own.

So I began again, making call after call. Doctor after doctor. Answering machine after answering machine....all in rapid French and Luxembourgish. We discovered that most physicians here go on holiday in August, along with the rest of the country (construction sites shut down, restaurants close for weeks, as do most government offices). At last, Rob (my hero!) found me a doctor and I had an appointment on the books. Granted, we didn't know a thing about her (and still don't), but at least I was back under prenatal care.

The day of the appointment, Rob came home to watch the kids and I drove to the Hospital Maternite. Though it is only two minutes from our house on GPS, I couldn't seem to find the exact address to put in my maps, and after circling Strassen, I ended up calling the hospital for directions. It was one of my early victories -- the person on the phone didn't speak English, and I still managed to understand where I needed to go (sort of).

After parking and finding the door, I kept standing in the wrong lines, walking into the wrong rooms and wandering the hallways. I finally made my way upstairs to a darkened hallway, where I saw my doctor's name on the door. Then I stood confused. Should I knock? Is there a waiting room behind the door? Should I wait quietly outside? But then what if I'm late and no one knows I'm waiting? I timidly knocked. Nothing.

At last, a person in a white coat flew out of a nearby room and I leapt at the opportunity. "Excusez-moi?" I said. She turned, and I immediately recognized her to be my doctor from an online picture. In my rusty 15-year-old French, I asked her what to do, and she pointed to a chair and told me to wait. So I did.

Five minutes later, Dr. Marie-Noel Huot opened her door again and summoned me. I sat at her desk in her small office, and we had a somewhat brief conversation about my medical history. I couldn't stop glancing at her fabulous studded high heels and scalloped bra through her semi-sheer shirt. There was a slight language barrier -- while she spoke English, it was with a very thick accent. My French is the kind that helps me muddle through the grocery store -- certainly not explain the reasons why my physicians in the States recommend that I have my first-ever c-section. It took me three tries to understand she was asking if I have gestational diabetes.

She pointed to the examination chair, which was about three feet behind me, then indicated where my feet belong, and without any warning, told me to pull up my dress. I did as I was told -- I think she even sort of helped me hike it up to my arm pits. None of that cute US modesty -- who needs sheets or hospital gowns to cover your underwear (thank goodness mine were respectable)! We're in Europe now! She squirted cold gel on my stomach and began an external sonogram. The baby looked great! She was in position and growing right on schedule.

After a quick weigh-in, I followed her into another room, where my c-section was scheduled for November 4. She thrust a handful of papers in my hand, and instructed me to go back downstairs for bloodwork, and to have my next appointments scheduled with her and the anesthesiologist. A few more wrong turns and wrong rooms later (and after trying to pay the wrong person for the appointment), I was back in my car driving home. A little shell-shocked, but grateful -- thrilled!!! -- that our baby girl was healthy and back in the care of a doctor.

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