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!
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