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.

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