Declaration of pregnancy and CAF

CAF stands for caisses d’allocations familiales, and it belongs to social security system.  Declaration of pregnancy to CAF (and to the health insurance company if you have mutuelle) is necessary.  Theoretically it needs to be done before 14 weeks, but sometimes it’s just impossible.   For me, it’s almost 25 weeks.  The form, so called “nous attendez un enfant”, was from the sage femme or midwife.   She wrote the DDG and signed it.  Then I filled the personal information including the temporary social security number, and mailed the form to CAF.  (BTW, two copies of the form mailed to CAF, and one copy mailed to the health insurance company.)  Actually the distance from our home to CAF and to La Poste is similar.  But I suppose going through La Poste is faster than making a RDV (appointment).

About two weeks after mailing out the form, we got our CAF number.  And since then, our “conversation” with CAF has been going on and on.  They have requested these information/documents in separate mails:   (1) more personal information (declaration de situation); (2) birth certificate; (3) declaration of income in 2015; (4) residence permit (sejour).  I always try to respond as soon as I can, then there’s long wait.  Now I am still waiting for them to process the documents I sent three weeks ago, and I don’t know what they will ask for next time.  Anyway, it’s interesting.

CAF is slow, but who is not?  At least CAF helps people.  It gives financial help to families in need.  Students without income can get assistance on housing (Aides au lodgment).  And in the case of pregnancy, CAF gives “prime a la naissance” to families to welcome their babies, and babies can get monthly allowance afterwards!  These benefits are granted and calculated based on the situation of the family.  We are not expecting anything, because we are very grateful for the health insurance already.



Antelope Canyon – magic of light

For our Grand Circle trip, Antelope Canyon is a must see in the list.  It is the heaven for photographers!  The access to the canyon is restricted, because it is in the Navajo Nation.  Only guided tours are allowed to enter Antelope Canyon.  Thinking that it’s so popular, we booked our tours one and a half months earlier.  Still, the Photographer’s tour was already fully booked.  So we just took the Sightseer’s tour for the Upper Antelope Canyon, which was $50 each.  We could pick a good time – 11:30 to 1:10, when the sun is up high in the sky.

It was a sunny day!  We arrived at the tour company 30 min before the tour, and got the tickets.  The tour trucks took us to the canyon.  Forgot how long it took, but it was not very long.  The tour trucks were open aired but with roofs.  You probably don’t expect to see clean and air-conditioned bus anyway.  In fact, the funky shaky tour truck made everybody even more excited!

Entering the canyon was like entering a magic land.  Outside – so bright so hot; but inside – so quite so mysterious.  With that perfect amount of sunlight – no more and no less – the rocks, in my eyes, looked like flowing water that stopped at some point in the past.  It seemed like time has stopped.  I guess I can’t find a way to describe my feeling…  I could feel that everybody was amazed.

Since the canyon is narrow, we had to keep moving.  There’s no time to look for the best angle and the best setting for photos.  On the way, we passed a few photography tour groups.  They are all with tripods and quietly waiting for us to pass by!

I wish I could have taken better photos!



In France, Laboratory and Pharmacy are independent from Hospitals

Here is what I know about the healthcare system in France.  Everybody register with a family doctor – a généraliste.  In most cases, people go through the family doctor for treatments so that the cost will be properly reimbursed.  I heard it’s also easier to get an appointment with a specialist through the family doctor.  In the case of maternity, however, it’s not necessary to go through the family doctor.  We don’t have a family doctor, and we went directly to see a sage-femme (midwife).

People go to laboratories to do various tests and scans requested by doctors or other healthcare professionals.  There may or may not be laboratories in or close to the hospital.   Seems like laboratories are independent from hospitals.  People can have their own choices of laboratories to have the tests done.  In my case, the SF gives me a paper, which lists the blood test and urine test to be done.  She uses a hospital stamp, and also signs on the paper.  In the laboratory, I give that paper and my health insurance card to the register.  And then, they will take samples for the tests, and give me an instruction about how to get the results online.  By the way, they will confirm my birthday, because it’s the password to access the results online.

Similar to the laboratories, pharmacies are also independent from hospitals.  There are so many pharmacies around the city.  Just show them the prescription paper and the health insurance card.  Depends on the type of medicine, the reimbursement percentage varies.  I have had Fe and vitamin D supplement, which are 100% covered by social security and mutuelle.  In comparison, for the pain reliever (to take during the irregular contractions at home), only 15% is covered.

One important thing if you do not have the carte vitale yet.  After all, it takes months to get the carte vitale, even with best luck!  The temporary social security number on the health insurance card (from mutuelle company) should work as well!  But some people in the laboratories and pharmacies may not know that!  For me, the first visit to the laboratory took me more than half an hour to register.  Partly due to the language barrier, but mainly because she did not know about the temporary social security number.  At last I took out the form of Declaration of Pregnancy that I was about to mail to CAF, and somehow she believed in that form (filled by us) more than the health insurance card.  After that, my visit to the same laboratory has been easy and fast, although they still ask me whether I have the carte vitale every time I go.  Similar things also happened to me in a pharmacy.  People in one pharmacy insist to see the carte vitale.  So I went to a different pharmacy, where people (not all) there know what to do.


Echographie in France: Un garçon!

In France, échographie is typically done three times during the whole pregnancy.  First in the 3rd month; second in the 5/6th month; third in the 8th month.  I did the first échographie in China.  Actually I did three times in China… within one and a half months.  They only checked very briefly though (a couple of minutes), probably because it’s the early stage.

After the first meeting with my sage-femme (SF), it’s the right time for me to do the second échographie.  It was done in the same hospital, CHU.  The purpose was to estimate the delivery day, and to examine if there’s any abnormality.  A SF and a student performed the échographie.  The student speaks some English 🙂

It took more than half an hour!  They did very careful examination, and explained to us what we were looking at.  Suddenly, they asked us whether we wanted to know the sex of the baby.  We nodded.  Un garçon!  A boy!  Although we were not sure how they could tell, we were quite excited.  In the end, they provided a detailed report containing many photos.  Due to the positioning of the baby, they could not get everything that they needed.  Plus, the size of the baby seemed smaller than expected (based on DDR).  Therefore, they suggested to do another échographie, which was done in the following week.  Also, they said the first échographie done in China should be more accurate to estimate the DDG, so a translated report would be helpful.  In fact, there’s only one measurement in the Chinese report – LCC.  Based on that LCC, the SF estimated a new DDG, and she thought the size of the baby was okay.  We were kinda relieved.

I did the third échographie at 33w+3d.   Again, the SF measured a lot of things, and everything seemed normal.  The calculated weight of the baby was ~1900g (25~50% in their database).  The positioning of the baby was good, which I was very pleased to know.

Oh, I forgot to mention that after the second échographie, they somehow could construct a photo of the baby’s face.  Will our baby truly look like that?



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!



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.



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.




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!



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?