Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

This week I talk to Jennifer who is English and has 3 children, 1 of which, was born in France as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

jennifer cracknell lullabebe franceBonjour! I am Jennifer and from the UK. In 2012 my husband and I decided to move to sunny Provence with our family. Since my husband’s business was in London he would commute to Provence every 1 to 2 weeks whilst I stayed in our town of Saint Remy de Provence to look after the children. The plan was to establish a business in Provence but what with his work picking up in London this did not happen in the end. My daughter now 6 and first son now 5 were born in London and my second son, aged 2, was born in Avignon, France.

The whole experience was inspiration for my new business, Lullabébé, our first product being large muslin squares, which as a mother of 3 children under the age of 4 in Provence I simply could not be without.

Why did you have your children abroad?

What with having no family around and my husband away a lot it might not have seemed the easiest of choices to some to have another child abroad when I already had a 3 and 2 year old to look after. However, we had always dreamed of a large family and I was determined not to let that dream go. I had also heard such wonderful things about the French healthcare system and this was encouraging and comforting. It didn’t disappoint!

having a baby in France Lullabebe

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

Overwhelmed at times. Our living arrangements weren’t ideal whilst I was pregnant. Since we had no tax status in France when we first arrived we were very limited as to what we could rent and although our first house in France was spacious with stunning views over the Provencal countryside, the rain would seep through the windows when it rained, there were no shutters to block out the biting winter Mistral wind or hot summer sunshine. The tiny electric heaters were literally hanging off the walls and so what with no insulation we were blowing ‘smoke’ during the winter months. However, one of my favourite memories of that home was bringing my two children into bed with me during those winter nights so we could all stay cuddled and warm together.

In terms of my care whilst pregnant I could not have felt in better hands. With a dedicated midwife who was so warm, caring and friendly and with such attentive and thorough care despite it being my 3rd baby it was a dream to be pregnant in Provence.

And then there was the spotless cleanliness of the hospital, being allowed to rest for 4 days in my own private room and the yummy hospital food – truly I was a happy mummy!

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

The midwives seemed to find my natural approach to childbirth quite enlightening. With epidurals being commonplace when I simply requested gas and air at the end of my labour I believe it may not have been used for some time on that ward!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

Stay strong and reassure yourself with the fact that no two days are the same when you have children. Trust your own instincts and don’t be afraid to voice them. Be comforted by the fact that however hard things get sometimes, there are wonderful people out there who can support and guide you.

About Jennifer:

lullabebe logo

Jennifer is the founder of Lullabébé, company which creates beautiful and versatile muslins, which are inspired by life in Provence.
You can connect with Jennifer via her online store, Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Want to share your story? Get in touch: ameena@mummyinprovence.com

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: USA & UK

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Katie who is British and had her first son in the USA and her second in the UK. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

Hi, I’m Katie. I’m originally from the UK although I have lived all over the place! I have been living in Marseille since September 2014 with my husband and two children. We moved here for my husband’s job – he’s an astrophysicist working at Aix-Marseille university – and are planning on settling here permanently if all goes according to plan. My older son, Jack, is 6 and a half and was born in the USA and Oliver is 1 and a half and was born in the UK.

having a baby abroad US and UK Katie PieriWhy did you have your children abroad?

My eldest son was born in the USA because that’s where we were living at the time and the same goes for Oliver and the UK.
What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

Jack is eligible for a US passport which, having been through the process of trying to get a job in the US when not a citizen, is certainly a bonus! Other than that, I don’t think there were any ‘benefits’ to having him in the US over the UK. It was certainly a lot more expensive!!

Now that we are raising our sons in France I would say that the major benefit is that they will grow up to be bilingual. I think that this will give them great opportunities in life. The lifestyle in the South of France is much more laid back than in the UK or US as well and the weather obviously is a bonus :)
As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I was a first-time mum in the US, so language wasn’t a problem luckily. I think that the biggest thing for me, was being so far away from family. However I had friends that kind of filled that gap and helped out when I needed them.

With regards to the healthcare, it was completely doctor-led which is very different from my experience the second time around in the UK. As a first time mum I personally found this reassuring, although if I had been in the US for my second pregnancy I don’t think I would have wanted it this way. I also appreciated the 2-day stay in hospital, in my own private room, before I had to go home and face ‘reality’. Also, did I mention the cost??? Even though we had insurance we still had to pay a LOT of money!!

Second time around, although I was in the UK it was my first experience of having a baby there and things were very different. The only reason I saw a doctor was because I had a low-lying placenta, otherwise everything was handled by a midwife. I was able to give birth in a birthing centre, rather than a labour ward, and things were much more relaxed and laid-back. I was more relaxed anyway due to previous experience and laboured at home for the majority of the time but once in the birthing centre my midwife spent most of the time in the corner of the room observing and letting me do my thing! Incidentally, she was French and even offered to let me practice my French – I didn’t take her up on the offer! My son arrived at about 7.30am after a 5 hour labour and I was home by lunchtime! I can see how the speed of this discharge would daunt a first time mum but as I wanted to be home when my older son cam e home from school I loved it. Plus I could shower in my own bathroom!

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

The only main difference was the hands-on ‘medical’ treatment of the pregnancy and delivery. In the US I definitely felt like my pregnancy was treated as a medical condition whereas in the UK the attitude was quite the opposite. Otherwise attitudes towards our parenting choices are much the same in the US and the UK. I breastfed my older son for a year, which is quite a long time compared to most women in both countries, I suppose. I am still breastfeeding my second son, who is 20 months, which is definitely quite unusual for both countries and even more so now I live in France!. Information and services about breastfeeding and help with breastfeeding were much more readily available and advertised in Portsmouth, the city I lived in in the UK compared to where I was in the US. I am sure the information is available in the US too, but it wasn’t made as easily available. In Portsmouth there are free support groups every day of the week that mums can attend and peer supporters who will come to your home to help, if necessary.

Second time around we have been much more laid back but most of our parenting style is the same as when we were first-time parents. I don’t know how my ‘style’ compares to that of French mothers really, but I don’t seem to stick out like a sore thumb too much – other than the fact that I am the mum yelling in English to her kids outside school rather than French! I still carry my, admittedly rather large, toddler in a sling sometimes and he still ends up in our bed at night but they are not things that make big differences in the grand scheme of things.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I would say do lots of research, meet as many mums and expectant mums as possible and follow your gut. Listen to everyone’s advice and use all of it, some of it or none of it depending on what works for you and your family. There is no ‘right’ way to prepare for a baby or parent a child – do what feels right and always push for what you want.

Inspire your kids with these lovely DIY gift ideas

Parents love receiving handmade gifts from their children. It doesn’t matter if they have drawn a picture for you or presented you with a bunch of your prize roses from the garden – it is the thought that counts.

UntitledChildren also love to give their mom and dad gifts and they like to make things themselves. Cutting and pasting, drawing and colouring all help your children to learn, work with their hands and to be creative.

If the gift is also useful and your children will see you using their gift, then that is even better. Thinking up gifts that actually have a purpose however, can be brain-racking. So here are 6 easy and very affordable ideas that should inspire the creative streak in your children and help you out of a tight spot.

1. Creative aprons: Every mom or dad needs a handy apron for the kitchen and one that can be hand painted and personalised is a gift that will be treasured. Check out the range of affordable aprons from michaels.com and then help your child design a wonderful, creative gift as a birthday or Christmas present.

2. Personalised coffee mugs: This idea is so easy, because all you need to do is buy some white mugs from the dollar store and some ceramic paints. Then let your child create a beautiful design on the mug for mom, dad, grandparents or siblings as a gift.

3. Key chains: Pop into your local craft shop and you will find all of the ingredients to make simple, beaded keychains that are useful and fun. Your kids will love making them and will feel a little buzz every time they see their keychains being used.

4. Handmade coasters: Buy some plain white ceramic tiles, a piece of felt, glue and chalk paint. Paint the tiles with the chalk paint, then glue the felt to the backs for protection, add some pretty buttons or sparkles to the corners and then let your children write a message on the front – your kids will have great fun with these gifts.

5. Message pillowcases: Purchase a plain cotton pillowcase and slide a piece of cardboard inside so your children can easily write on the pillow case. Then using a pencil your child can write a lovely heart-warming message, which you can trace over with a felt marker. They can also add little hearts or other decorative elements to the design. Set the marker (read the instructions with the marker pen), then wash and iron your child’s gift.

6. Flower crowns: You and your kids will need floral wire, floral tape, and flowers which you can pick in your garden. If you don’t have a garden, you can also buy bouquets from supermarkets or order flowers from online florists like Fresh Flowers. Guide your kids to form the floral wire in to a circular shape to make a loose crown around the head and then cover the wire with several layers of floral tape. Cover the wire by taping pretty leaves and stems, this will act as the base of the crown. Next, attach your selected flowers (with long enough stems) by taping them to the base. Let your kids add flowers to as much or as little of the rest of the crown as they like.

There is nothing better than receiving a handmade gift from your children and these 6 ideas are all very affordable and easy to make.

 

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Asha who is British and had her daughter in France. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

having a baby abroad asha bhatiaHi, my name is Asha, I am a mother of nearly 2 and have just started my online baby shop, Bebe-Monde. I currently live in Marseille near the Vieux Port. I moved to France from London 3 years ago with my husband who is French.

I was born in England and of Indian origin. I have a baby girl called Kiara and we had her in Aix-en-Provence, she is 17 months old and I am expecting our second child in mid-July :)

Why did you have your children abroad?

I moved to France with my husband a few years ago, we were both working in long, stressful jobs in London and one day decided that we wanted a different lifestyle. We wanted to set up our own businesses and live in the sun. As my husband was originally from Aix-en-Provence, this seemed to be the perfect choice. even though I did not speak a word of French!! We then decided to start a family and Kiara was born and now we are waiting for our second child.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

I found that I had more confidence in the French health system compared to my experience of my friends in England. It is also quite common to stay in the hospital 4-5 days after you have had your baby which I found quite convenient as I had time to recover and support with our new baby unlike in England where it is usually 2-3 days.

Also if you have a good mutual even your private maternity care can be covered whilst in the UK usually going private is quite expensive.

However for me the most important benefit has been that we can bring up our children as bilingual. I have struggled so much to try and learn French and I am still not there but our children have a wonderful opportunity to speak 2 languages fluently, It is also the best age to learn a language when you are a baby and far easier than when you are an adult:)

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I tried to be as relaxed as possible but it was not easy as French is not my first language and every time I had to get my tests done or visit the gynacologist I was frustrated that I couldn’t express myself in my own language and had to rely on my husband to make the appointments and to be with me to translate what was going on. I also found the French public and admin side so confusing!! too much paper work and everyone telling you different things. Luckily I found (with a lot of difficulty) a mid-wife who spoke a bit of English and I felt more comfortable at this stage. There is not much of a support network for english expectant mothers , or if there is, it is very difficult to find.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

There are a few things I experienced which were quite different to the culture I am used to. When it comes to pregnancy and parenting most people anywhere you live have always got an opinion. One thing that struck me most and until today I struggle with the choice that we as parents made was not to use a “dummy” for our child. Although there are some people who decide not to give the dummy, there is a large marjority who choose to give one to their child. We decided to try without one and as Kiara didn’t have the dummy, naturally she started sucking her thumb:) and till this day I always get comments that I should give her the dummy and that she will be sucking her thumb till she is 18 years old or even worse I once was told that eventually Kiara’s thumb may have to get amputated!

There is also one thing about French people and food. They have a very set structure for food which structures the whole day, at first I found this a bit rigid for example, you wouldn’t see anyone in the restaurant before 12.30pm and at 12.30pm you get a huge rush of people all wanting to eat their lunch at the same time. Also most restaurants would close after 2.30pm.
However when I had Kiara, I found this structure to be very advantageous as it gave Kiara a good eating habit. The food habit also helped her in the rhythm of the day, for example the nap was always coming after the lunch, the bath after dinner and sleep after bath. In England you don’t have this strong structure for food and snacking is very usual which can interfere in eating, sleeping and general habits.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I was very scared about being pregnant and thats why I did a lot of researching and reading about other people’s experiences (this is not a technique for everyone) but I felt more prepared and relaxed when I knew what could happen in different situations.

In fact on the day of my contractions I shocked myself at how calm I was. I remember the night very clearly where I wanted to make sure the christmas tree was decorated before I gave birth and I started having contractions regularly but not very strong. I sent my husband and his mother to bed and I stayed in the living room. By early morning my contractions were every 5 minutes and I was still calm but wondering if anyone was going to wake up:) My husband woke up in a panic saying he was only supposed to sleep for a couple of hours:) thats when I said ok I think it is time so we called the hospital – they told us to leave straight away as there was going to be a big lorry strike starting in 30 minutes on the road we needed to take. I was so calm, in fact, that I told my husband I really needed to go to IKEA to return something! he just looked at me with his mouth open, then he laughed :)

So my advice stay as relaxed and prepared mentally as much as you can. When it comes to fear and pain, breathe in and out calmly all along your pregnancy, it will eventually help you on the day of the birth. It is good to talk to people, get people’s advice but remember that everyone’s birth is different. And at last, when it comes to the baby, you are the mother, not the doctors nor your friends or relatives. Nobody can force you to do something you don’t want for your baby. It is your choice and the fathers on how to bring up your baby.

So now I have to start all this preparation again:) good luck to me :)

About Asha and Bebe-Monde

Asha bhatia bebe monde (2)Asha is the founder of Bebe-Monde where you can find gorgeous, great quality and original clothing and accessories for babies between 0-4 years. Check out the new organic baby clothing range on Bebe-Monde.

Find Bebe-Monde on Facebook
Like Bebe-Monde on facebook and sign up to their newsletter on the website to receive promotions, articles and participate in competitions.

 

bebe-monde asha bhatia

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Mother’s Day Around My World

Mother’s day is always a challenge for me! Which one do I celebrate?

A few years ago I posted a letter from her to me – an amusing projection from my side – but you can read it here!

My Mummy is Egyptian, I was born in Dubai, I am half English, living in France, and I have my gorgeous Mamas all over the world!

Celebrate them all I guess!

mothers-209x300Mother’s day has a few different dates and traditions across the world.

Here are a three that I mess up all the time!:

1. France: Mother’s Day/Fête des Mères

Napoleon tried to make Mother’s Day a national holiday at the turn of the 19th century but it didn’t happen!  More than a century later, Lyon had its own Mother’s Day celebration to honor women who had lost their sons to the First World War but it was not until May 24, 1950 that the Fête des Mères became an officially decreed holiday. The Fête des Mères is the last Sunday in May but if that Sunday is also the Pentecost, then Mother’s Day is pushed to the first Sunday in June.

2. Middle East: Mother’s Day/Vernal  Equinox

Apparently it’s the story of an Egyptian journalist called Mustafa Amin who introduced the concept of a Mother’s Day to Egypt after retelling a story about a widow who was ignored by her son. Amin and his brother Ali then proposed a day in Egypt to honor all mothers, and it quickly spread throughout much of the region. The story spread and they decided the first day of spring, March 21, was most appropriate day of the year to celebrate Mothers.
Mother’s day was first celebrated in Egypt in 1956, and is still observed throughout the Middle East.

3. United Kingdom – Mothering Sunday

Did you know that it was the Church of England that created Mothering Sunday to honor the mothers of England?
A few hundreds of years ago, Christians were were meant to go to their church each year to give respect to the woman who gave them life.
The 4th Sunday of Lent was the go-to day and it’s become the holiday to celebrate Mummies today!

Those are the 3 countries that most relate to me as far as mother’s day is concerned! !

When I was little I would always ask to get my mummy Thorntons chocolate and candles that smelled yummy!

In France it’s more flowers and but chocolates are always appreciated! I have had gorgeous drawings and cute little craft projects from BiP for Mother’s Day, but nothing beats a hug!

What do you do for mother’s day?

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

Next up in the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making I talk to Phoebe who is a British/Australian TCK and had her sons in France. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

I’m a British/Australian expat since birth currently living in France. I’m really not « from » anywhere having lived in 9 countries, I’m what’s called a TCK (third culture kid). I have 2 boys aged 15 and 9.

having a baby in france

Why did you have your children abroad?

I had my boys in France as it’s where I was living. It didn’t feel like « abroad » as I don’t have a « home » other than where I’m living in the moment !

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

As there was nowhere else I’d go to have my kids I can’t really say what the benefits were over anywhere else. But I can say that France has excellent medical care and everything to do with maternity and childbirth is 100% reimbursed by social security making it completely free. As I was considered an older mum for my 2nd baby I had a higher risk of certain problems and I really appreciated all the extra tests/ultrasounds etc I was given throughout my pregnancy. I was massively in pain towards the end of my 2nd pregnancy and hugely appreciated having my baby induced 2 weeks early to end my pain. This pain wasn’t life threatening for either me or the baby but my comfort and ability to function was considered important. My sister had exactly the same thing at the same time in UK and had to persevere till the end. I know which option I preferred and certainly felt the benefits of a more medicalised approach in France at this stage. For the births I had a double room for my first child, though there was no one else with me for most of the time I was there and a private room for my 2nd child. Both had private bathrooms. My babies were with me in the room but could be taken away and looked after if I wanted to rest. In France you stay in hospital for longer than in many countries and for me the benefit of this was that I felt rested and confident handling my newborn by the time I went home.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

For my 1st baby I’d only been in France for a couple of years and my French was OK but not great so I chose to give birth at the Franco-British Hospital in Paris as I thought there’d be more anglo influences and some English spoken. It turned out the only English thing was a portrait of the Queen Mother in the lobby!! At the time there were no parenting blogs or online help so I relied on English books on childbirth/pregnancy etc. All my influences and ideas were very British, not French; things like birth-plans & pain relief differed hugely and I went into the birth process feeling disappointed that nothing was how I wanted it. For my 2nd child 6 years later I was much more confident and my French heaps better so I chose the local “clinique” which turned out to be way nicer than the Franco-British Hospital! I also chose to go with the flow and do it the « French way » not fighting every bit of advice I was given and in doing so had a much happier and satisfying birth experience. « When in Rome and all that.. »

having a baby france

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

If I take my « home » country to be UK then yes I continually came up against differences of opinions, particularly concerning what was OK to eat and what wasn’t during pregnancy, drugs during birth and the whole medicalisation of pregnancy. However, unlike many of the others talking about France in this series, I was fully encouraged to breastfeed and continue as long as I wanted. Yes, many health professionals were surprised to hear I was still breastfeeding at 8,9, 10 months but they were impressed and encouraging not negative. And as I mentioned above, once I’d accepted more of the French way of doing things I was much more relaxed. Differences of opinions continued throughout babyhood and toddler years (and still continue now I guess), I had the French side saying things like put shoes on very early to encourage walking, and the English side saying wait till the baby can walk before putting shoes on so as not to harm the feet ! Let’s face it, in the end all French and English babies learn to walk at pretty much the same age and neither has obviously more or less feet problems when older, so many of these things are just cultural differences, neither better nor worse.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

I would say go with your gut feelings but try not to fight the host country’s ideas too much as it’s likely to all work out all right in the end. Stand up for what you believe in but listen to professional advice too. (I’m referring to pregnancy and birth here rather than parenting choices). If you don’t speak the language of the country you’re in do your best to find an English-speaking doctor/midwife as it’s hugely important to feel like you can communicate properly. Try not to assume your way is « better », learning to accept other cultures is enriching and if you’re like me at all then ultimately it’s more relaxing!

Find out more about Phoebe here: 

 

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What’s the difference between Potty Training and Elimination Communication

I’m often asked what’s the difference between Potty Training and Elimination Communication (EC).

#ECchatAs a mother who started ECing Baby in Provence (BiP) when she was 3 months old, I’ve never had first hand experience of traditional potty training as she decided a few months before her 2nd birthday that she wanted to wear no longer wanted to wear a nappy/diaper. Amusingly, her decision to stop wearing nappies was just as we were boarding a long haul flight and she was very determined to have her own way!

Before I get into the differences between Potty Training and Elimination Communication I’d like to start with the definitions:

What is Potty Training?

Toilet training, or potty training, is the process of training a young child to use the toilet for urination and defecation, though training may start with a smaller toilet bowl-shaped device (often known as a potty). Cultural factors play a large part in what age is deemed appropriate, with the expectation for being potty trained ranging from 12 months for some tribes in Africa to 36 months in the modern United States. – Wikipedia

What is Elimination Communication?

Elimination Communication (EC) is NOT potty training. It is a gentle, natural, non-coercive process by which a baby, preferably beginning in early infancy, learns with the loving assistance of parents and caregivers to communicate about and address his or her elimination needs. This practice makes conventional potty training unnecessary.- The Diaper Free Baby

 

What’s the difference between Potty Training and Elimination Communication?

In short, Potty Training is about training the child whereas EC has nothing to do with training the child – it’s about training the parent to understand the child’s rhythms, cues and signs to help get them to a potty. EC is not about sitting around staring at your baby waiting for them to pee or poop! For more information on EC and our personal journey you can read all about it here.

Other differences between Potty Training and Elimination Communication include:

  • Signs of the child’s readiness are important in Potty Training vs. with EC readiness isn’t even acknowledged.
  • Some Potty Training methods have a reward scheme for the child who uses the potty vs. having little reaction to a child who goes to the potty with EC, as rewarding a normal bodily function is thought to be bizarre.
  • Potty training is often treated as a mission – something to get done vs. EC which is a journey with your child.

What are the similarities between Potty Training and Elimination Communication?

Obviously there are a lot of similarities between Potty Training and Elimination Communication! Pee, poop, more pee and poop, and accidents!

Other similarities between Potty Training and Elimination Communication include: 

Nappies/diapers – lots of them are used with both methods!

Equipment – both methods use Potty Training equipment; potties, steps, training underwear, cloth diapers etc – I did buy a fair amount of my potty training equipment from Tesco.

Mixed emotions – Potty Training and EC can frustrate you as a parent, at the same time you discover a level of joy about seeing a poop in a potty that you never knew was possible.

Criticism – no matter which method you chose to use you will be doing it wrong by someone – this does seem to come with the territory of being a parent!

Relief – Neither method lasts forever – eventually you will no longer have the need for nappies, you can carry a smaller bag and you’ll probably become an expert on the public toilet locations in your local area pretty quickly!

That’s a brief look at the differences (and similarities) between Potty Training and Elimination Communication.

What was your experience?

Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: ITALY

This week I talk to Angie, a Canadian who had her son in Italy as part of the series The Global Differences of Baby-Making. She talks about experience of having a baby abroad!

Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself?

unnamed-4Hello, I’m Angie from Reasons to Dress, my lifestyle blog. I work in fashion for my husband’s exotic leather belt brand, but decided to stay home and raise my son 2 and a half years ago when he was born so that he could be bilingual. I still work part time from home, but without any of the special events, traveling and glitz and glamour of working in Fashion. I was sure that becoming a SAHM would leave me frumpy, outdated and with no reasons to dress! I couldn’t have been more wrong. Italy is filled with reasons for moms to get dressed up and go out on the town WITH THEIR KIDS!

I’ve blogged about going out for “aperitivos” as a family, the Italian ritual of the “passeggiata” and the importance of Saturdays for Italian living (and fashion!)

This is a country where any occasion to be seen is taken and neither moms nor kids get left out. I blog about what I wore, where I went, expat stories, travel and what life is really like in Italy. I also feature real stylish moms that I encounter while I’m out and about as part of a Real Mom Street Style Series.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and have been living in Italy for about 6 and a half years. I am now living in Modena, Italy which was Pavarotti’s home town and also home to Balsamic vinegar and the Ferrari! If you are interested in knowing more about Modena, I’ve done a whole series about it here.

How old is your son and where did you have him?

I have one 2 and almost a half year old. He is a feisty red head and I had him in the Italian town of Sassuolo (A Series for soccer fans), which is about 20 minutes away from Modena where I live.

Why did you have your child abroad?

There was no way I was going to take a flight back to Canada while pregnant (even though I did contemplate it)! I had already made the decision to live in Italy so I try to rely on the Italian health care system, Italian government (scary I know!) and soon the Italian educational system for my son.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?

It certainly wasn’t easy, but then again I don’t think having a child anywhere really is. I have to say that overall I was quite pleased with my experience. Well, not ALL of my experience. In Italy there is a public health care system that supplements most of the cost of care. You pay a “ticket” for whatever portion you are responsible for, but in general it is all very affordable. The problem is, that in a country with 60 million people the public health care system is often really back-logged and it can take months to get an appointment. This is actually not new to me, since in Canada, where health care is also publicly funded, this is often also the case.

I had some really bad pains in the beginning of my pregnancy and since the public doctors were giving me appointments for three months down the line we ended up going to a private gynecologist. He was VERY OLD. I think he helped give birth to the entire city of Modena! His office was FILLED with pictures of babies that were ranging from the 1960s to last week!

His wife was his assistant (not a spring chicken herself) and their views on a few things were very old and set in stone. How do you argue with a man who has helped give birth to literally THOUSANDS of babies?

Each time I went for an appointment I would wait for close to an hour and a half in the waiting room (standard Italian wait times), I would pay between 100 and 130 euro for a visit (standard Italian gynecological visit prices) and often I wouldn’t get a receipt (it’s also standard practice for EVERYONE to work under the table!

He wanted to know EVERYTHING. What was I eating, drinking, watching, wearing? At one point I would have to call his wife every single night with my blood pressure reading!

I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy but I was not alone. I felt cared for, and that’s what counted.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?

I know first hand that giving birth in a country that is not YOUR country is very scary. Apart from the language barriers that can occur when you are unable to describe something or unable to understand something being described, you are often treated as a foreigner. I think the best thing to do is to go online and seek out the appropriate communities and associations that may exist to help get you informed.

For example I had no idea how the system worked in Italy. You can’t just go to a specialist, for example, you need a “ticket” and an “impegnativo” which is like a request. Plus you must pay this ticket in advance and you can pay it at a grocery store! There are all kinds of roundabout ways for getting something simple like blood work done that it is enough to drive anyone crazy, let alone a pregnant woman.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?

Of COURSE. I wanted an all natural birth, my gynecologist suggested a C-Section! I wanted to do cord banking, my gynecologist said it was a waste of money. I wanted to keep the placenta attached, my husband, gynecologist and just about EVERYONE I told this to got totally grossed out and asked me if I was getting enough sleep!

There is a whole world of differences between how Italians wean and interact with children as well….but that’s another story!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?

ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. To everyone and anyone that will listen and answer you. If you want to get information and understand how the system works you need to ask questions, know that they aren’t dumb and get answers. Don’t be afraid to speak up if there’s something you don’t understand and don’t be afraid to stick up for your ideas.

At the same time you must remember that things really are different here and if you are not getting the support or information you need from one hospital / doctor than try out another. Instead of giving birth in Modena’s hospital, which followed a very traditional birthing policy, I went to the neighbouring town which was much more natural and supportive of mother’s choices. They offered bouncy balls, a water birth option, music therapy, no epidurals, lactation consultations and a huge birthing shower. You can read all about my birth story here.

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Three ways to help poor children without giving them money directly

Three ways to help poor children without giving them money directly

130930_DX_KidsKarachiPuppets.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeWhen you walk down the streets of third-world countries, scenes of children begging for alms are a common sight. Knowing that these innocent kids have been suffering from their homelessness, as well as possible physical and emotional abuse from parents and peers, saying no to them when they ask for some loose change can be very heartbreaking.

Thing is, some countries have rules against giving alms to the poor and for good reason. A lot of street kids are being used by underground syndicates. The money that these poor children get from passers-by, of course, won’t be used for their benefit but as funds for illegal activities done by the very people using them.

So instead of giving street kids money directly, here are a few alternatives that you can do.

Volunteer

There are a lot of charities no matter where you live in. Help in soup kitchens, gather clothes for the homeless, and reach out to schools that are in dire need of teacher volunteers. Sometimes, there comes a point that charities have more money than volunteers, so it’s always great to help physically. Share your talents to the world! If you’re a doctor, participate in medical missions. If you’re an engineer, help build schools for kids. If you can, help your local charity instead of giving aid to international ones. Chances are, your local charity isn’t given much attention compared to globally-recognized agencies.

Child Sponsorship

There’s a saying that goes something like, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. But teach a man to how to fish and he can feed himself for as long as he lives.” Child sponsorship is a great way to give children a second chance in life. By providing them with basic needs and education, you will be able to help a kid get out of poverty forever. So instead of giving out some loose change to kids on the streets, why not sponsor a child until he or she is old enough to be employed? There are a lot of charities that help kids break away from poverty. UnaOil Kids is one of them, and is particularly dedicated in helping children from politically-unstable countries.

Give them food and talk to them

If you can, give food instead of money to street children. Giving street kids food and talking to them is a great way to make them feel that they’re loved and remembered. Talking to them would also allow you to know how to help them best. Treat them to places where healthy food is served. Most fast food joints don’t really serve healthy choices that are necessary for a child’s growth.

Kids are the world’s future and each of them deserves a good life to live. Sometimes, money isn’t the answer to break them out of poverty but long-term commitment in making their lives better.

 

Photo credit: Eric Johnson

Why you won’t see my kid’s face online (or know her name)

Just over two years ago I wrote a post about why I will never post my daughter’s face online.
Nothing has changed, you won’t see my kid’s face online, or know her name, at least not on my profiles.

BiP (Baby in Provence) is 4 and a half now. A huge fan of selfies, being filmed, making dance videos – you name it. But they are all OURS!

A few years ago I was accused of being a fake mummy blogger because I didn’t show my daughter’s face online – I even had people ask me if she had a physical deformity, which is why I wasn’t showing her face. I was stunned. No. She’s perfectly fine, adorable, a smart cookie and a real firecracker – it’s actually hard for me NOT to share publicly what she gets up to! Inspite of the scorn I still got voted #5 of the Circle of Moms European Blogs.

Not to repeat what I wrote 2 years ago, but BiP one day may hate her name. She may cringe at pictures of herself but she has the choice as to where they appear!

And if you ever need a reason to reconsider what you share online then Take This Lollipop.

Last time I shared this with a friend she deleted every picture from her social media accounts of her children.

It’s easy, we can do it in a second. But is it necessary?

One mother had her Instagram profile taken down for a fairly innocent pic of her toddler’s belly and it sparked a big media storm.
I was interviewed – click the pic to view (and the headline was off but hey, sensational reporting!)Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 11.06.05 PM

It’s too easy to snap a pic an upload today. But we don’t really know who is looking nor what they are doing with the images.

Do I need to see your kid’s genitals? – NO

Do I need to see your kid’s face covered in cake/food/poop/some random crap – NO

Do I need to see how much your kids epically f-ed up something – probably NO but I’d LOL! I
If you posted it I guess you might be ok with deeming them idiots for eternity.

See how it works?

In this digital age where most things have an archive and a history, do we really want everything we posted about our kids available for years to come?

Maybe you do.

I chose not to and will uphold it until she’s old enough to read and understand.

It will be an interesting journey from my side (and I look forward to when BiP is old enough to fully embrace her own online presence).

We all have the choice as to what we post, how much me share and to think for our kids.

I don’t judge those who share pics of their kids and I often like them, as often as like cat pictures.

What do you think? Do you share your kid’s photos freely? Or do you do censor?