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Meetings with the sage-femme – monthly checks during the pregnancy

After getting our temporary social security numbers and mutuelle numbers, the first thing we did was to make an appointment with a sage-femme (SF) in the hospital.  A friend helped us with that as we cannot speak French.  Grenoble is not very big, so we could get an appointment pretty soon (a week from the call).

It took us 10 minutes to find the hospital… Then, we went to the Accueil.  The lady there cannot speak English, but we slowly got what we needed to do.  There’s a room with several counters, and they are calling numbers (later we knew it’s the registration place, where the payment is taken care of).  People outside are waiting to be called in.  So we also got a number.  When it’s our turn, we went in and showed that we had an appointment with XXX.  There’s a young lady who speaks English, so she helped to put in all the information.  Basically she only asked for my passport and the health insurance info.  After that, she printed out a paper that has many stickers with my name and date of birth.   We were glad that we could use the health insurance (social security takes care of 70%, and mutuelle pays for the rest).

Paperwork was done.  We went to the consultation section.  There’s a small Accueil.  Again we said we were here to see XXX, and we showed the paper with stickers.  We were then pointed to a waiting area.  Around the agreed time, somebody came to the waiting area, and called my last name.  She was the SF!  Luckily she speaks a little English!  Since it’s our first meeting, she asked a lot of questions about our medical history and our families.  She also checked my condition (blood pressure etc.).  In the end, she gave me a list of tests need to be done in a laboratory, scheduled the next meeting, and asked us to go to that small Accueil to schedule an echography.

After that first meeting, we are kinda familiar with the hospital and the processes: where to register, where to wait, and where to schedule for appointments.  Then, after the pregnancy proceeded to the seventh month, the registration place put a pink note on the paper with stickers.  They told me that I did not need to register any more – just go to see the SF or doctor.  So, it seems like the registration place only deal with payment.  Since social security covers all the cost after the 6th month of pregnancy, no registration is needed.  For each meeting, the SF takes away one sticker, not the whole paper.

Up till now, we have had four meetings with the SF.  During the meetings, she checks my weight, blood pressure, tummy, and listens to the heart beat of the baby.  She logs all the information and the results of laboratory tests into the computer.  For me, I ask questions, and I tell her how I feel.  She prescribes Fe (every month), vitamin D (once), blood test -sugar (once), urine test -sugar/protein (every month after the 6th month), and blood test -toxoplasmose (every month).  Everything seems going well.  She also introduced us to a SF liberal for the classes (100% covered by social security), and gave us a lot of information on how to prepare for the big day, for example, what number to call when the time comes.  She is really helpful!



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Public or private hospital for my baby?

Although our choice is a public hospital (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Grenoble Alpes), we still don’t know whether it’s a good choice or not.  All I can say now is that I found that hospital so far so good 🙂

We did a lot of research online, and we asked a few friends about their opinions.  Private hospitals, or clinics,  tend to have better services such as single rooms and faster appointments (less patients).  More importantly, you will have designated sages-femmes and/or doctors, so you will be taken care of by somebody you are familiar with during the whole pregnancy.  In comparison, sages-femmes and doctors in public hospitals work in shifts.  You cannot guess who will be receiving your baby.  You might even be surprised by the presence of students in case of a university hospital.  Public hospitals cannot guarantee you a single room either.

In terms of money, the cost in public hospitals is almost fully covered by the social security in France.  Private hospitals/clinics are more expensive, but I don’t know how much more.  Actually, we have complementary health insurance (mutuelle), so even if we chose a private hospital/clinic, the cost would be largely covered, I guess.  The cost is not a deciding factor for us.

What makes public hospitals stand out and made us decide to go to a public hospital is that they are more capable of dealing with emergencies.  In fact, private hospitals/clinics do transfer you to public hospitals when something unexpected happens.  This transferring process just does not sound good to me.

To us, safety is far more important than better service.  However, I sometimes think that *maybe* the private hospitals/clinics do a better job in tracking the pregnancy because they can and do spend more time with the patient.  But don’t forget that sages-femmes/doctors in public hospitals may be more experienced as they receive much more babies every year.

Nevertheless, luck is important!  People get good or bad experience everywhere.  Right now, I feel good.



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Grand Circle

In 2015 summer, my mom visited us in the United States.  We took the opportunity to go to those national parks in the (mid-)west.  It’s a nice trip!

Here’s the overview of the Grand Circle we did:

Day 1.  We took an early flight to Grand Junction.  Had a quick lunch at Subway in the airport.  Picked up the rental car (4wd), and drove to Moab (1h46m).  Checked into Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn.  Got takeout from a Sichuan Restaurant.  Drove to Arches National Park ~4:30 (got a NP annual pass).

Day 2.  We got up really early to go for the sunrise at Mesa Arch (49m drive).  Then went back to the hotel to have breakfast.  Checked out the hotel, and visited Arches NP again!  After some hiking in Devil’s Garden, we left Arches NP, and drove to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (2h44m).  Stayed in The View Hotel, which gave us stunning views!

Day 3.  Sun rises behind the monuments.  We can enjoy sunrise from the balcony.  However, I still went out to have a better angle.   In the morning, we did about 3h hiking around the monuments (wildcat trail, 4 mile).  After that, we checked out the hotel, and drove the 17 mile scenic drive.  Driving to Page was about 2h.  We had dinner at Lake Powell.

Day 4.  A special day – we went to White Pocket (2h57m)!  Since it’s kind of unplanned, we did not fill the gas.  So we worried about running out of gas all the day!   We even kept the AC off to save gas.  White pocket is a place that no help can be found.  We then went to Kanab (2h51m).

Day 5.  I did the lottery for the Wave, but did not have luck.   So we drove back to Page to visit the Antelope Canyon.  Our tour was around noon, which should give the best light effect in the canyon.   After the tour, we went to see Horseshoe Bend.   The short trail actually took much longer time due to the hot weather and the sand surface.  We went back to Kanab.

Day 6.  Lottery for the Wave, again!  This time my husband did it, but he did not have luck either.   Therefore, we went to Zion NP (1h).  We did a special hike – The Narrows.  Dinner was Thai food – amazingly tasty!  We never thought tourist place has so good restaurant.

Day 7.  Last day of lottery!  Planned to let my mom do it, but it’s done when my mom just entered the room.  A group of six got the last six permits!  What a luck!  At least we tried.  Then, we went to Zion again.  This time we did Angel’s landing.   We drove to Bryce Canyon NP afterwards.  Caught the sunset, but the weather was not great.  However, the starrynight was unbelievable.  I could, for the first time, photograph the Milky Way and star trails.

Day 8.  Sunrise at Bryce Canyon NP.  After a short hike, we started to drive the long way to Grand Junction (5h39m).  We stopped briefly at Capital Reef NP on the way.

Day 9.  Flew out in the morning.

Details and photos will come soon.




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Finnish residence permit – apply from Paris, France

Last Wednesday, we went to the Finnish Embassy in Paris for the residence permit interview.  Basically, we brought with us all the original documents, copies of which have been uploaded to the online application system.  Finger prints were taken there as well.   And, that’s all.

For my husband, who will work in Finland as a post-doc researcher, the required documents are quite simple: the invitation letter from Finland, and the sejour in France (since we are applying in France).  For me, a housewife, additional documents are needed: the marriage certificate or the family book (translated and legalized), and a form (something like a survey of our current situation and our past) signed by my husband.

Yesterday (Monday), we received emails saying that the decisions were ready.   SO FAST!  We thought it would take one month or two.   Based on their website, the longest wait is nine months!   After logging into the online application system, I saw our residence permits were granted.   Now we just need to wait for two to three weeks for the actual cards.  We are going to Finland for sure!!!

Welcome to Finland
Welcome to Finland, from Embassy of Finland in Paris, France


4 days after the decision:  the cards are on their way!

6 days after the decision:  the cards are in our hands!

From application to receiving the cards: only 11 days!



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Health insurance in France: Social Security (Carte Vitale) and Mutuelle

We came to France in the end of November, 2017.  At that time, I was already more than four months pregnant.  We worried about getting health insurance in France, because the work contract is only six months.  But we came anyway.

One of the first things we did after arriving at Grenoble was making an appointment with the insurance company on campus.  For whatever reason (could be a mistake?), they approved our application!  That lady gave us a list of documents to be prepared, and asked us to go back in two weeks.  One of the requested documents is the birth certificate.  Of course, it has to be in French.  Therefore, my husband needed to have his family book translated by a court translator.  Other documents are easy to prepare.  After two weeks, we submitted all the documents to that lady.  Things seemed going well.

Another week went by.  One day, we received letters from that insurance company.  Each of us got a carte d’adherente, which contains the temporary social security number and the mutuelle number.

At some point, the insurance company requested the birth certificate again.  And this time, in addition to my husband’s birth certificate, I also submitted mine, which is prepared in China (translated and legalized).

The insurance company mailed us a few time – about my pregnancy.  They introduced all kinds of benefits we have.  They kept us well informed!  They have our bank account number, but we did not see any charge – until about two months after getting the carte d’adherente, we received the bill.  It turns out that the first three months is free, and they will start to charge in March.  In the same letter, they also included the payment that they made to the hospital and the laboratory from where I received service.  Not a penny from our own pocket ~

Ten days after the bill, my husband got a letter, which says he has been assigned a new social security number.  So not a temporary number any more.  A few days later, another letter came in to request a photo for making the Carte Vitale (the so called green card).  We mailed out the photo as soon as we can.  Last Saturday (2~3 weeks after mailing out the photo), we got the card!  However, I have not been assigned a new social security number, yet.

So, for my husband, it took like three months to finally get the Carte Vitale.  I guess it is fast?