Baking a Baby in Canada, or Why I Have Never Considered Going Back To France


Sophie La Giraffe, Clas­sic French Toy I Couldn’t Resist Buying!

Mark was born on Octo­ber 12, 2012. These arti­cles were writ­ten shortly before his birth (it was a great cathar­sis!) and doc­u­ment the nine months of preg­nant where I was def­i­nitely not glow­ing. Up-to-date sto­ries com­ing up as well!

When I first learned I was preg­nant, some peo­ple asked me if I was going to move back to France for a few months.

Their ques­tion sur­prised me because I hadn’t even con­sid­ered the option.

If I had been an expat, I may have felt the urge to go back home at some point. But I am not an expat. I am an immi­grant, a bona fide Cana­dian. I have been liv­ing full-time in Ontario since 2003 and I am a Cana­dian cit­i­zen. Why wouldn’t I trust the coun­try I chose to call home?

If any­thing, bak­ing the baby in France would have been more com­pli­cated. I left Nantes, my home­town, in 2001, right after grad­u­at­ing from high school. Since then, the longest I have lived in France was nine months in 2002—no, I wasn’t hav­ing a baby back then, I was work­ing and going to uni­ver­sity in Paris.

So I haven’t had an “adult life” in France: I have never had a real job in France other than a few assign­ments with a staffing agency, I have never rented an apart­ment, never used the health­care sys­tem as an adult, never paid taxes.

If any­thing, hav­ing the baby in France would have been more com­pli­cated. I’m no longer cov­ered by the French health­care sys­tem for a start because, well, I am no longer a res­i­dent. I would have needed to sup­port myself, and find­ing a job in France would have been very dif­fi­cult, con­sid­er­ing my lack of French experience—ironically!—and the fact that well, I’m expect­ing. And how about Feng? He isn’t French. Okay, he is prob­a­bly more French than most Chinese-Canadian thanks to me, but he doesn’t have an immi­gra­tion sta­tus in Europe.

Besides, I’m Cana­dian enough that hav­ing a baby here doesn’t scare me at all.

Why would it?

First, I speak both offi­cial lan­guages and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the med­ical staff isn’t an issue. So far, all the doc­tors I met were Eng­lish speak­ers but that’s fine by me. I have no prob­lem under­stand­ing them and I’m famil­iar with the med­ical ter­mi­nol­ogy (its Latin roots are a dream for a native French speaker who took Latin in school!). If I hadn’t been flu­ent in Eng­lish (or French), I may have con­sid­ered going back “home”. Rely­ing on a trans­la­tor dur­ing a med­ical appoint­ment or not being able to com­mu­ni­cate your needs well must be very stressful.

I also trust the local health­care sys­tem. Let’s face it: it’s not per­fect but Cana­dian isn’t a third world coun­try. French love to brag about their great health­care sys­tem, but as good as it is, I can see its flaws now. I don’t trust French doc­tors more than Cana­dian doctors—why would I?

Both sys­tems have their strengths and weak­nesses. I decided very early on that I wouldn’t com­pare them because it seemed like the best way to drive myself crazy. Some tests are done in Canada and are unknown in France and vice-versa, some doc­tors are arro­gant ass­holes and some are great, and the preg­nancy police obsess over dif­fer­ent things. Big deal. Among the dif­fer­ences I heard men­tioned here and there, Canada focuses on dia­betes tests while France is wor­ried about tox­o­plas­mo­sis, the way to cal­cu­late ges­ta­tional weeks is slightly dif­fer­ent and Canada takes a more open pro-breastfeeding stance. Noth­ing earth shattering.

I find most French who com­plain about the Cana­dian health­care sys­tem do so because:

  1. They are French and need to com­plain (okay, I admit it, I’m like that too some­times—blame it on our Latin roots!);
  2. They don’t nav­i­gate the sys­tem well and keep on expect­ing things to be like in France;
  3. They had a sin­gle bad expe­ri­ence that left a bad taste in their mouth.

All of these rea­sons are under­stand­able. If you are in Canada on a tem­po­rary visa or if you get preg­nant just after land­ing, maybe going back “home” makes sense.

All in all, things were eas­ier for me because I can’t really com­pare the two systems—I don’t know what hav­ing a baby in France is like.

So I’m happy to have a lit­tle Canadian-Chinese-French baby here in Ottawa. Maybe I’ll get a “good new cit­i­zen” bonus for help­ing pop­u­late the country?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Mark is soooo cute :)

    i’m ghanaian-italian and hubby is british and our baby is now ghanaian-italian-british-canadian. i love the cana­dian health sys­tem sim­i­lar to what we are used to in europe, but i love it best because i had a mid­wife with­out any extra costs.

  2. Hi Zhu!

    I hope that you are get­ting some sleep. My friend at work just became a new Father. The big ques­tion every morn­ing in the lunch room is “How much sleep did you get last night Arun?” We all sup­port him and are vic­ar­i­ously enjoy­ing his new daughter’s arrival as a new Cana­dian. An inde­pen­dent pho­tog­ra­pher at the hos­pi­tal made an excel­lent video pre­sen­ta­tion for his new arrival. It was an option offered by the hos­pi­tal. Not free. We all watched it on the lunch­room com­puter and thought that it was great!

    I have ques­tion about Mark. You said that you could have had his birth in France. Would not that have been a ben­e­fit for him? Cor­rect me if I am wrong, but I always thought that if a baby was born in another coun­try, from Cana­dian par­ents, that the baby would auto­mat­i­cally have dual citizenship.

    • This is a very goo ques­tion! Indeed, Mark will be French (as soon as I get the paper­work done!) because I have a French cit­i­zen­ship. France rec­og­nizes both jus solis and jus san­guini, which mean you can claim French cit­i­zen­ship if you are born in France or if either of the par­ents is French. So even though he was born in Canada, he will be able to claim French citizenship.

  3. Pingback: Having a baby abroad in Canada- Global Differences Series

  4. Hi Zhu!

    As you are a dual cit­i­zen, what claims does the French Gov­ern­ment have on Mark. I read a story about an Ital­ian immi­grant baby born in Toronto who was drafted in Italy when he went to visit as an adult. Does dual sta­tus for you mean that Mark is sub­ject to French laws? I am a dual cit­i­zen of the U.S. and Canada. My Father was drafted by the Amer­i­can Army when he was serv­ing in France. His com­man­der said “do your want to be a pri­vate in the Amer­i­can Army or an Offi­cer in the Cana­dian Army. He chose the Cana­dian Army.

    P.S. My Father fought along side with the Free French Under­ground against the Nazis. He told me about their courage. We should not take our free­dom for granted.


    • That’s an excel­lent ques­tion, and one I should con­sider too!

      The French gov­ern­ment did put an end to the manda­tory one-year “national ser­vice” just a few years ago. I had to “serve” a few days since I was born in 1983, all women born that year did. I told that story here:

      Since then though, all French sim­ply have to attend a one-day “info ses­sion” about the army, it’s not too bad. I remem­ber my father going away for national ser­vice for a year when I was a tod­dler. He hated it. Most guys did. I mean, it’s a year of your life to spend at the army!

      French are no longer drafted, same as a Cana­di­ans. And the chance of a France-Canada war are very slim o I guess he should be fine 😉

      Your father was a very coura­geous man to fight with the allies. My grad-father was too young to do so but all his older broth­ers died dur­ing WWII, most of them were deported.

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