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

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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. Salut Zhu,
    C’est Sophie!! Awwwhh; every baby needs a Sophie! A real baby classic in France.
    I don’t know much about the parenting part but you have two feet square on the ground over in Ottawa. I didn’t feel like you going back to live!
    All the best to you and your happy family.

  2. Hmmmmmmm. I might consider moving to Ontario now.
    Because I saw friends of mine having babies in Quebec and in France, and there is NO WAY I am going to have a baby in Quebec with everything I witnessed. I begin to think that the healthcare system is far more efficient in Ontario. I am going to think about it seriously…
    *on my way to take english course :)*
    And congrats again 🙂

    • I was just going to send Zhu your numerous articles about the Quebec health-care!
      I think there is no such thing as the “canadian health-care”. It can reaaaally change depending on the Province you’re in. I couldn’t imagine having a serious disease in Québec (or just anything actually…), but I do think it can be fine to have a baby here, some things are more advanced than in France or Europe in general (les accompagnantes à la naissance, les maisons de naissance, par exemple…)
      Most of french immigrants are settled in Québec, and trust me, out here, the health system is just crazy. And the diagnosis… oh, my…

      • I heard horror stories about the healthcare system in Quebec 🙁 I honestly appreciated the way things went for me in Ontario, maybe I was lucky or maybe I’m not picky. I know things are different in France but since I have no “grown-up” exprience with the system I don’t miss it much. Plus I heard horror stories in France too…!

    • I honestly had a great experience in Ontario even though I was kind of scare of he healthcare system. But everyone was awesome, and I felt well taken care of. I don’t know how it works in Quebec though, the healthcare system is very different from one province to another as you know.

      • I work with lots of folks who worked in health care in Quebec (we’re all RNs) and they sigh with disappointment with where Quebec has gone. Chaotic, underfunded, jammed packed with cultural and language politics- they left Montreal and prefer things here in Ottawa.
        It’s not perfect here, but better than where I practiced in the US for 12 years. Sadly my training and experience was very intense in the states since people are WAY sicker and it’s way more violent.

        • I can imagine how different it must be in the US! Especially around where you lived and practised.

          Nurses amazed me when I was at the Civic. Such a key job! They were precious help and support.

  3. Honnest, this Sophie La Giraffe freaks me out!!! Look, it has a flat face, a monkey mouth, cat’s ears, short neck, and… and… it doesn’t even look like a giraffe! Can I bring Mark a moose plush instead?… Pretty please?

    • That would be a great option! I only bought Sophie because it was for sale to be honest 😆 I like the box better than the toy! You know who freaks me out? Sponge Bob and the Teletubbies! No way I am ever buying these!

  4. You know, I got a real shock when I dropped by your blog for the first time last week after so many months of disappearance from the blogosphere… There, I read that you were pregnant, and next, you announced that you were in labour, and very soon after, you were showing your baby pics to us! So happy for you, congratulations!!! 🙂

    Well, I gather that immigrants aren’t likely to go home once they’ve found a new home, for whatever reasons. It’s here that they will make new families and a new life. Since I came from a family of immigrants too (4th gen), though I don’t consider the later generations since the first as ‘immigrants’ anymore, I can relate to that. None of us have actually gone back to our ancestral home and we know nothing about things back there! Who are what is left in the ancestral town or village, we have absolutely no idea! Perhaps I would trace my roots back there one day… It’s always been my wish to do so. 🙂

    • Ah yes, I can imagine your surprise! I was shy to tell I was pregnant, most people only knew towards the end. But I’m very proud of baby Mark! Thank you for the congrats 😉

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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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