Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

Alessandra with her daughter on the day her son was born.As part of the series of guest posts on The Global Differences of Baby-Making here is the first post from Alessandra who is had her babies in France. Her story and experiences ring so true to those of my own. Enjoy!

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

I am 28 and grew up in Hampshire, UK. I moved to France for the 1st time in 2000. My children are aged 5½ and 3½ I had them both in Limoges, Haute Vienne, France. My 1st child was born in the CHU (University Hospital) and 2nd child in the Clinique des Emailleurs (a Private Hospital).

Why did you have your children in France?
The main reason was because property was more affordable in the area of France that we were living in at the time, enabling us to own a better family home. Secondly, we were happier with the school system, way of life and statistics such as teenage pregnancy rates being lower in France.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children in France?
I feel that the medical care was better with more examinations & scans compared to the UK. My kids have been automatically brought up learning two languages. Full time education is free for children from 3 years of age. School times and clubs are better to enable parents to work.

As an expectant mother in France how did you feel?
It could feel very lonely especially as at the time my French was not great, limiting communication. Compared to the skinny French women i felt humongous during my pregnancy.  The doctors were more old-fashioned and mostly male which made me feel like i was not necessarily getting the best advise all the time during my pregnancy.  I also did not enjoy the lack of public toilets and often those that were available were stand up toilets which are far from easy to use when you are pregnant!

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in the UK with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
I found things I had learnt from people and books were different in France which was confusing. I would plan from English books how Iwanted to have my baby (such as giving birth using a birthing stool) and they would tell me that things don’t work like that in France and it could get very frustrating!

  • On pregnancy: A lot of the French people in my area did not always understand why I was cutting out certain things out like alcohol and caffeine and some French pregnant woman in the area would be seen drinking and smoking in bars!
    French doctors are of the opinion that you need an internal examination every month of your pregnancy which I believe is different to the UK.
  • On childcare: They seemed to be of the opinion that if the weather was anything other than baking hot then you should drown your child in clothes and were not afraid of letting me know this.  Also, they seemed to think that they should be wearing shoes at a much younger age than I did (having read that children can get flat feet from wearing shoes too young etc.) I found a lot of French people often favour what I consider more old-fashioned parenting techniques such has leaving children to cry and having very set routines. They did not approve of my more caring nurturing techniques giving my baby’s what they wanted with no fixed routine. I had all sorts of problems with my daughter when she started school as she stopped sleeping in the daytime (much to my dismay) since she was about 18 months. The French schools insist that they have to sleep after lunch at school until they are four years old. I also had a few encounters with French women thinking I was a bad mum who did not want to spend time with my children because I wanted them in bed for 20:30.
  • On breastfeeding: French women tend to not be big into breastfeeding so found it very strange that I breastfed my 1st child for 17 months and second for 13 months. My doctor was very understanding and encouraging about my breastfeeding but other Locum doctors were not!

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Learn as much of the local language as you can. Do not let locals bother you when they deicide to inflict there opinions on you! Research where you are going to have the baby as hospitals techniques differ greatly (I learnt this the hard way!).

Understand that there are some things that you will just have to accept and compromise. Take advantage of social networking sites to give you the support you need in you own language. Make sure you that you have the correct medical insurance cover so that you do not end up with a big bill when you leave the hospital!

Keep up-t0-date with Alessandra on Twitter

Like to share your story? Please email me ameena@mummyinprovence.com

11 Responses to Having a Baby Abroad – Global Differences Series: FRANCE

  1. That is crazy how similar I feel and I live in Canada and am from Canada. I am also told to put shoes on Capri or she needs more clothing on (even in the summer). And even on the cry out method (we don’t do it but have been told we should). It is interesting how those are subjects many moms deal with.

    • mummyinprovence says:

      It is interesting how, the world over, new mother’s are up against all sorts of conflicting advice isn’t it? Sounds like you are doing a great job in spite of all the “advice” you have been given … 🙂

  2. Hi there! What a great idea to share experiences from Mummies around the world! I love, love, love it!

    Reading Alessandra’s experience is especially interesting to me as I am 8 months pregnant with my first child in France and am already experiencing many of the things she mentions notably all the advice etc.

    I think Alessandra was very brave with the lanaguage barrier as I speak fluent French and still find it hard 🙁 Bravo!

    Thanks for the tips Alessandra, I’m off to check out the local hospitals now in case I end up giving birth somewhere else other than where I’d planned 🙂

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Thank you Piglet!

      Alessandra’s story is so similar to mine except she did it TWICE! She has great advice too!

      Look forward to having your story here soon! 🙂

    • Alessandra Clarke says:

      Pleased people liked my story and found it useful!

      Piglet yes do be careful where you have the baby. The 1st hospital i had my daughter in was a horrible experience and almost put me of having another child!

      All sorts of things were bad like having at least 10 people in the room when i was giving birth, one of which thought i was being pathetic when i said i could not do it instead of encouraging me! Every time they checked to see how dilated i was it would be done 1st by a trainee then by the professional! They did not give me my baby until they had finished washing and dressing her. When i was being stitched up after the birth the woman (a trainee) once she had finished started discussng the best way to do it. The room i stayed in was shared and my two room partners did not speak English or French! The shower was down the corridor & shared with everyone in the ward & you had to leave your baby in a room of other screaming baby’s while you got showered. When i got back once from showering my baby was not there and i panicked saying where is my baby and they said they didn’t know, to then find she had been moved to the room next door and then when i took her no one even noticed or checked i was the mum!!! I even got a verruca from staying there and i have never had one before. The list of things goes on…

      I can not stress just how fantastic my experience in the second hospital was, everything was better! My own room & shower, they put baby straight on me after birth & let husband cut cord and only three people in room during birth etc. Only down side to this hospital was they had no gas & i did not know this until the moment i got there in labour! So had to do it with no pain relief. Whatever you do don’t let your self end up in a university hospital!!!

      • mummyinprovence says:

        Wow Alessandra! I had no idea how different a hospital delivery was to a clinic!!!! Thank you so much for your invaluable insight!

        I had BiP in a clinic and my delivery was an amazing experience. I thought I had an “audience” with DH, gyno, sage-femme (mid wife) and puericultrice (woman who dresses the baby) present but it sounds insane that you have more than 10 people there! WOW. Just WOW. The care at the clinic was incredible. I could just pick up the phone and have a lactation consultant come to the room etc … I feel very lucky that I had a private room and bathroom – I don’t think I could have coped in a shared rom. I checked before my delivery re; gas and they said they didn’t have it so I made sure I was cleared for an epidural which was great. Sadly you are not the first person I have heard who had a bad/ropey experience delivering in a hospital in France. If you can, go for the clinic Piglet!

  3. Hello. I had both my children in France, and they’re also 5 1/2 and 3 1/2. My experience was very similar to Alessandra’s and overall was extremely positive. A couple of other big differences that surprised me was how surprised the French are surprised by such a ‘small’ gap between children, and the ‘re-education’ proposed by the midwife after the birth…
    The one major downside to having our children here was the geographical distance between us and the grand-parents.
    Good luck to Piglet!

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Thanks Claire. I found the “re-education” to be brilliant – I was quite shocked that it wasn’t offered in any other country. Whist its not sexy it is incredibly beneficial.

      I’m surprised that they found a 2 year age gap to be small!

      Glad to hear your experience was a positive one!

  4. A really informative post!

    How frustrating to be a new mother and trying to defend your mothering against all of these contrary opinions! I wonder if it helped you in some way to be a foreigner in this instance–perhaps the criticism would have been worse if you were French.

    I sometimes find people will criticise or express opinions but ultimately will allow me to be different because they’re expecting me to be different as an American in Britain.

  5. I can really relate to everything you’ve said. I had my first 3 children in England and have had 2 in France. Generally I have to say that my birthing experiences were better in France (especially in hospital – I went to a clinic), but aftercare (midwives visits and Health visitors etc) is much better in England. I felt very much alone after I left the hospital, but as it was my 4th (and 5th) child it didn’t phase me, but with my 1st I think it would have.
    I too had similar experiences with breast feeding and was surprised to find it’s not so common here. However, epidurals are far more common in France. They are not encouraged in England so I’d never had one. I decided to try in France and must say I wish I’d had one with the first 3! I was impressed with the level of care, but would say that there seems to be far more medical intervention during the birth in France than in England.

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