Declaring La Grossesse (pregnancy) and What Follows…

I’ve written about the woes of the first trimester, the sudden return of énergie during the second trimester, the craziness of the third trimester, the perks of pregnancy, and whether or not travelling while pregnant is a good idée; however, I have yet to write about what to expect after declaring your pregnancy in France. So, here goes…

As mentioned here and here, once you discover you’re pregnant, you must declare this pregnancy at La CAF (a government agency responsible for familial allocations) before the 14th week (if you decide to follow through with the pregnancy). But, don’t fret if you don’t make it to La CAF before the 14th week. If you end up in the 2nd or 3rd trimesters, you can still declare the pregnancy. Honnêtement, the raison the gouvernement prefers you declare early: the paperwork takes FOREVER! With La CAF, the family has the right to 923.08€* the month after the first birth. After that, the family receives 184.62€* a month until the child turns 3. It’s 4 months after the birth and we still haven’t received our allocations yet. There are a ton of required documents but La CAF is known for not telling you about them all at once, so, you end up having to make several trips just to hand in documents.

Making the decision to continue the pregnancy is only the beginning! After that, there’s finding an hôpital, a mid-wife, a place to take pregnancy préparation courses…the liste continues. This can be quite overwhelming for an expat who has very few French ties in this catégorie.

Once you find the hôpital where you want to give birth, you schedule an appointment to register there. I chose to give birth at L’étoile.

At the registration appointment, mon chéri and I received a folder full of important documents to fill out.

We also received a booklet full of information: Everything from the birthing experience through to taking care of a toddler can be learned from this book.

The hôpital takes very good care of you. As an expat with very few Français connections to give advice in this département, I was lost in a sea of paperwork and questions. The hôpital was my saveur! They gave me a liste of mid-wives who give prénatal preparation courses, which certainly took a load off my shoulders. They also provided me with a gynécologue, a liste of required things to bring to the hôpital once in labor…

…and an explanation of what to expect during my stay. Though, no matter how “prepared” you think you are for the birth, you’re never prepared enough and that’s ok. ♦

*These numbers depict the maximum amount that a family can receive from la CAF. Of course, how much you actually get depends on your impôts (taxes). 

This is part of a series on my pregnancy in France. You can follow my pregnancy and gain helpful insight on what pregnancy is like in France by reading these blogs:


Traveling While Pregnant: Une Bonne Idée?

Traveling while pregnant has its ups and downs. Some will swear that it depends on the trimester; however, I disagree. In fact, I’ve had ups and downs on trips during all three trimesters.

The first trimester: On the train headed to Nice.

I’ve traveled during the first trimester (Paris, Beauchamps)…

I was pregnant when this picture was taken and I didn’t even know it.

…during the first-second trimester (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam)…

The first trimester: Freezing in Stockholm.

The second trimester: Trying not to fall into the canal in Amsterdam.

…and during the third trimester (Beauchamps, the U.S.).

The third trimester: Lunch at Cracker Barrel in the U.S.

When I decided to travel while pregnant, I was full of questions: How will the amniotic fluid react on the plane? Will I experience nausée and throw up in front of everyone? Will flying affect the baby negatively? Is it even safe to fly while pregnant? The questions go on and on. I ended up consulting my Dr. (to make sure that I had the “ok” to fly) and researching “flying while pregnant” just to see what other pregnant women had experienced. It’s easy to fall into the ‘worry wort’ trap when pregnant because, after all, we’re building a life inside of us. So, in hopes of easing others with similar concerns as myself, here’s my travel experience split up into trimesters:

Travel During the First Trimester

The rule of thumb for traveling during the first trimester is simple: If you experience a ton of nausée, don’t get on that avion, or airplane. Chances are that you’ll have the nausée throughout the whole trip and, honnêtement, traveling while nauseous is not fun. However, if you know how to combat your nausée and/or your nausée doesn’t affect you 100% of the time, then I suggest you hop on that avion and make the best of vacationing before the little one arrives

Paris: My first trip while pregnant, though I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time.

I experienced some nausée during the first trimester, but I knew that as long as I had some water and a heating pad, I could combat it. So, I made sure to have those two things and voila! I ended up having a wonderful trip!

Stockholm was freezing, but fun!

Stockholm was freezing but fun!

Not everything was all rainbows and butterflies; however. There was a moment in Stockholm when we returned to the appartement and I couldn’t do anything but lay in bed with the heating pad. This worked out perfectly, though, because it was already late at night, so, it didn’t impede on our travel plans. Also, it started after our arrival at the appartement. It turned out that I ate too much, so, once the food finished digesting, I was myself again.

Who knew that an entire bowl of soup and two grilled cheese sandwiches would be too much to eat at once?

One thing that I was slightly worried about was how my body would react on the avion.

On the flight from Nice to Stockholm.

During the first trimester, I felt the movement of little bubbles as the plane ascended and descended. Maybe this was the fetus starting to move around; maybe this was the amniotic fluid…whatever it was, it was weird. It was nothing to be concerned about, but it was definitely a sensation I had never felt before. Aside from that, I felt no other bizarre sensations.

5 Common fears of flying during the first trimester (with vrai and faux to hopefully lessen the fears)*:

  • The screening machines will cause harm to the fetus. Faux. Apparently, these machines use a “low-frequency magnetic field,” not radiation, to detect weapons. In fact, even when the security notices you’re pregnant, they congratulate you and urge you on through the machine. 
  • Cabin pressure and altitude changes will make morning sickness worse. Vrai. Cabin pressure and altitude changes can dehydrate the body (add throwing up to the mix and you’re even more dehydrated). So, it’s important to drink plenty of water during the flight. Usually, this nausée levels off once the body gets used to the change. Also, the cabin pressure is known to reduce a very small amount in the oxygen levels, so, this can cause a slight increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Normalement, this doesn’t pose any problems in healthy pregnant women. I have normal blood pressure and I didn’t notice any changes in my blood pressure nor in my heart rate. Also, my mild nausée wasn’t affected by these changes either. 
  • The pressure will cause the placenta to detach from the uterus. Faux. I took a total of 4 flights during the second trimester and the placenta did not detach itself nor did it seem like it would. 
  • The radiation from the sun will harm the fetus. Faux. First of all, there’s the protection from the Earth’s atmosphere – even in areas where the atmosphere is thin, there is no risque of harmful radiation exposure. Second, commercial flights are not the same as flying in a rocket. So, really (and fortunately), the chances of radiation harming the fetus are pretty much nil (unless you are a frequent flyer).
  • Flying, in general, will 100% negatively affect the fetus. Faux. First of all, if this were vrai, there would be a lot more babies born with disabilities and/or a lot more miscarriages. Flying does not increase the risque for miscarriage. In fact, miscarriages are common during the first trimester: There is a 22% miscarriage rate during the first trimester (whether or not you fly). By avoiding the avion, you do not lessen the miscarriage risque . Second, if this were vrai, ‘flying while pregnant’ would most likely end up on the list of things that pregnant women should avoid. Normalement, flying is not on this list. In fact, at each OB-GYN rendez-vous, my gynécologue mentioned several times that my baby is in perfect, healthy condition. She also ‘proved’ this perfect-ness by explaining the ultrasounds. 

Travel During the Second Trimester

The rule of thumb when traveling during the second trimester is important: Make sure to have an aisle seat. This goes for any of the three trimesters; however, during the second trimester, I found that having an aisle seat on the train and on the avion meant that I had more leg room and an easier time going to the toilettes. Having an aisle seat also made it easier to move around, which was important because I ended up walking around every 2 hours for about 15 minutes. It would have been such a hassle to make people move every 2 hours just so that I could walk around.

When I began my research on whether or not traveling while pregnant was a good idea, I discovered that most people recommend traveling during the second trimester. I couldn’t help but wonder: Pourquoi?, or Why? Normalement, during the second trimester, nausée has passed and some energy has returned. Plus, there’s no threat that the baby can come any minute (like there can be during the third trimester). However, if you don’t experience much nausée during the first trimester, then travel during both the first and the second trimesters is perfectly enjoyable.

Enjoying the canals in Amsterdam.

I traveled at the start of the second trimester and at the end of the second trimester. Travel at the beginning was similar to travel during the first trimester. In fact, I started out traveling during the end of the first trimester and then I returned from my travels during the beginning of the second. On the return flight back to France, I felt the same bizarre bubbly sensation on the avion as I experienced during the first trimester. Aside from that, I felt nothing different until I traveled at the end of the second trimester.

Aside from lack of sleep (and some turbulence), the flight from Paris to Chicago went smoothly.

Travel at the end of the second trimester was interesting. I no longer felt any bubbly sensation, instead when I put my hand on my belly, it was hot! This was so strange. I have yet to find a scientific explanation for this sensation. Perhaps, this was my body making sure that the baby stayed nice and warm during the cold flight…  Whatever it was, it was “normal” (according to my gynécologue). Aside from that, I didn’t experience any other weird sensations.

5 Common fears of flying during the second trimester (with vrai and faux to hopefully lessen the fears)*:

  • The pressure and altitude will change the fetus’ normal movements. Faux. During the 4 flights I took, I didn’t notice any change in fetal movements. Honnêtement, being on the plane did not change the baby’s movements at all; however, her movements changed as I entered a time zone that was 7 hours in advance. Obviously, if the baby moves at 9:00pm every night, that’s going to change with the time difference (9pm in Chicago is 4am in France). There’s often a raison the baby moves at specific times of the day. For example, the mother’s sleep and eating habits dictate a large part of the baby’s movements. I’ve discovered that the baby moves more when I’m relaxed and/or sleeping (according to mon chéri) than when I’m doing housework. 
  • Flying will give my unborn child cancer. Faux. If this were vrai, there would be a lot more babies born with cancer. The risque of radiation poisoning is so slim that Doctors and OB-GYNs don’t even question whether or not a healthy pregnant woman can fly during the second trimester. 
  • I will end up with a blood clot (DVT-Deep Vein Thrombosis) from sitting too long. Faux-ishThere’s no “guarantee” that you’ll end up with a blood clot; however, the risque for developing blood clots during long flights (flights over 4 hours long) is increased for everyone, not just for pregnant women. Though, pregnant women should take more precautions when flying because the weight of the fetus puts more pressure on the veins. This added pressure can prevent the blood from properly circulating in the legs thus increasing the risque for clots. So, wearing compression tights on long flights is recommended for pregnant women. I bought some compression tights from the pharmacie since I knew I would be flying during both the second and third trimesters. They aren’t cheap (about 40€), but they help with blood circulation, so, for me, this justified the cost. Also, the pharmacienne took all of my measurements – compression tights really only work if they are perfectly fitted to your size. Not everyone who’s a size medium has the same size calf and ankle, for example. Even with this added clotting risque, the probability of ending up with a blood clot from a long flight is slim, so, don’t let this slight risque of clotting talk you out of traveling. As long as you wear the compression tights and walk around/stretch your legs for about 15 minutes every hour or two, you should be fine, though here’s a list of signs and symptoms just so that you know what to look for. I was on one 8 hour flight and I did not develop any blood clots; however, I wore compression tights and I stretched my legs every 2 hours.
  • I will have a miscarriage. Faux. Normalement, the risque for miscarriage drops to about 5% after 12 weeks of gestation and then it drops even further – to 3% – during the second trimester. As long as you’re having a normal pregnancy, traveling on an avion will not increase the miscarriage risque. I was on 4 flights during the second trimester and I did not have a miscarriage.
  • Airline meals will harm the baby.  Faux. Normalement, the airline food will not harm the baby. At worst, it will make you gaseous (cheese and beans can expand in your stomach thus giving you gas), which has nothing to do with the baby. At best, it will give you and your baby nutrients. When choosing an airline meal, keep in mind: protéine, fibre, complex carbohydrates, and vitamines. After all, you want something that is full of nutrients as this will give you energy, which is necessary when traveling, and it’s good for the baby.

Travel During the Third Trimester

The rule of thumb when traveling during the third trimester is more important than sitting in an aisle seat: Be sure to have that Dr.’s note. Picture this: You started your vacation during the second trimester. Your return flight was set during the third trimester. The last thing you need is to be stranded in a foreign country because you never got that note from the OB-GYN for the return flight. Normalement, travel during month 7 is completely fine; however, once month 8th hits, most airlines require a Dr.’s note.

Enjoying a nice pause at the zoo!

I started my trip to the U.S. to visit family and friends at the end of the second trimester; however, I knew I would be returning to France during the third trimester. So, I made sure to get a note from my gynécologue. I had the “OK” to fly up until 33 weeks.

At the aéroport for the return trip: 3 generations saying, “A bientôt.”

5 Common fears of flying during the third trimester (with vrai and faux to hopefully lessen the fears)*:

  • I will have the baby at 40,000+ feet. Faux. The risque for preterm labor brought on by the stress of flying is low; however, it is advisable to have a Dr.’s note that explains that you pose no flight risque. Especially since most airline companies require a note that says that you are ‘ok to fly until X date’ for travel after the 8th month. I had my gynécologue write a note like this; however, the airline company never asked for it. At one point, I mentioned that I was pregnant and that just sprouted a lovely conversation with the flight attendant about his wife and kids. Éventuellement, he mentioned that this type of note is good to have in case of an emergency on the avion. So, while it was good to have ‘just in case’, I didn’t really need it. 
  • The seat-belt will squish the baby and/or will be too small for my belly. Faux. The seat-belt will not harm the baby. In fact, the seat-belt should be strapped just under the belly, so, it should fit perfectly fine and it shouldn’t bother the baby at all. I didn’t have any issues with the seat-belt not fitting. 
  • The flight will be inconfortable for me and for the baby. Vrai. If the flight is longer than 4 hours, it will most likely not be very confortable. Of course, this depends on the class section. From my experience in economy class, the flight was fine for the first 4 hours. After that, I was restless because it was hard finding the right position. I walked around and stretched every so often, but even that didn’t make a normal economy seat feel like a fluffy cloud. I ended up sitting on my pillow and putting a second pillow at the lower part of my back. The pillows seemed to make the rest of the flight bearable. In addition to pillows, wearing loose, confortable clothing helps make the flight more enjoyable. I ended up forgoing the bras and opting for a loose tunic top with stretchy shorts
  • I will suffer from diarrhée on the avion. From my experience, this one is faux; however, during the third trimester, I did not travel to any “new” countries. I traveled to and from the US/France, so, I experienced food and water that my body was already used to. Thus, the food and water on the flight did not give me diarrhée and I did not experience any problems with food and water consumed in the US and in France. Diarrhée is not a pleasant thing to have, especially on a flight; however, if you take proper precautions, you can avoid it or at least minimize the risque of getting it. Even if you must travel to a country where you’ve never been, you can avoid diarrhée if you make sure your food is thoroughly cooked and you drink water from thoroughly sealed (and not-tampered with) bottles (or, if you’re That worried, you can boil the water before you drink it).  
  • The cabin pressure and change in altitude will make me dehydrated and will make my heartburn worse. Vrai and faux. Cabin pressure is known to be very drying; however, drinking plenty of water during the flight will help combat this issue. The cabin pressure does not affect heartburn; however, the food on the plane can make your heartburn worse. If you know what triggers your heartburn, then I suggest you avoid eating those types of foods. I did not have any issues with heartburn on the avion; however, I made sure to go easy on the cheese, lay off the beans, cabbage, spicy foods, and spinach, and drink only water.

Honnêtement, as previously mentioned, there are positives and negatives for traveling during each trimester. I love traveling, so, I wasn’t about to let a little nausée prevent me from exploring the world. However, I still listened to my body – when I felt tired, I took a pause; when I was hungry, I ate, etc… I took things slow; however, I still made the most of my trips. If there’s anything to take away from this post, it’s this: Listen to your body. Your body will tell you when you need to sit down for a bit, take a nap, or eat something. Honnêtement, you’ll know when you’ve over done it because you’re body will let you know – whether it’s in the form of leg cramps, pain in the feet, etc… So, just take it a little slower than normal and enjoy the trip. During a normal, healthy pregnancy, flying does not pose any risques, so, get on that avion! ♦

*These lists are geared towards pregnant women who are not frequent fliers and who are otherwise in a healthy condition to fly as deemed by a Dr.

This is part of a series on my pregnancy in France. You can follow my pregnancy and gain helpful insight on what pregnancy is like in France by reading these blogs:

For more insight on what raising a bilingual baby is like in France, check out these posts:

Pointing out the Perks of Pregnancy

31 weeks.

As I’ve been experiencing those bizarre, contrasting energy sucking negative aspects of pregnancy, it’s obvious that I’m well into the third trimester. Sometimes, you just need to make a list of perks that make carrying around 17+ extra pounds and dealing with vertigo along with other negative pregnancy symptoms worth it.

27 weeks.

*Let’s be real: being pregnant in the U.S. and being pregnant in France are really not That different. That is to say that we all have days when we’re ready for anytime after the 38th week. From 38 weeks and on, the baby is officially at full term; she can be delivered at any moment! I have about 3 more weeks left until the countdown begins (of course, it’s important to remember that in France the maximum length of time is 41 weeks; it’s 40 weeks in the U.S.)!

Throughout my pregnancy, I read a ton of articles on what to expect and I must admit that I had my doubts on a few of the perks. Thick, glossy hair? Me? HA, yeah right. They were right. I swear! A quarter of the 17 pounds I’ve gained since being pregnant has probably come from hair growth, er lack of hair loss. This leads me to wonder: What other perks have I noticed? Because, obviously, perks are like ants – once you’ve experienced one, there’s a whole ant-hill of them that follow. (I hate ants; I don’t hate perks.) And now, in the midst of third trimester contrasts, I really need to make that list – as a reminder that although pregnancy can be as irritating as having an ant problem (nausée, vertigo…etc), pregnancy also has its perks.

The Perks of Pregnancy (that I’ve experienced):

  • Naturel, glossy hair – I’ve decided to embrace this perk and let my hair grow out. At the beginning of my pregnancy, my mother-in-law informed me that it will be “very important to keep up with hair cuts” because my hair will get “too long too fast.”Honestly, I’ve never had thick hair, so, aside from the occasional trip to the coiffeuse, or hair stylist, to clip those split ends, I’m not planning on changing the length any time soon. After all, once the baby is born, that ‘thickness’ will return to ‘thinness’. So, why not profit from it while I can?
  • Glowing skin – Recently, my mother-in-law told me that, without looking at the baby bump, it’s obvious I’m pregnant because the “pregnancy glow” can be seen in my facial skin. I took this as a complement because I’ve been ‘blessed’ with dry skin. In fact, I have eczema. Thankfully, there are skin sensitive products from companies such as Dove and Lush that help me combat this very irritating issue (pardon the pun). Before being pregnant, my facial skin was dry, yet I would get pimples because the skin would work extra hard in trying to compensate for this dryness. I managed to find an excellent lotion from Lush that turned this issue upside-down. And then the lotion was discontinued because U.S. laws required anything with the label “can protect the skin from the sun” to be tested on animals (oh, my luck!). Thankfully, Lush is against animal testing. After some time, I managed to find another lotion, called Helping Hands (Coup de Main at Lush in France), from Lush that works just as well. Don’t be taken aback from the title. It only has Hands in the title because it’s such a strong hydrating lotion that it’s target market is for the prevention/healing of dry, cracked hands that come during the harsh winter months. But, I’m telling you: IT WORKS AMAZINGLY FOR THE ENTIRE BODY! Don’t believe me? Try it. Anyway, since I’ve been pregnant, the pimples have practically disappeared (except for 1 because it’s been so hot in Aix that I’ve been sweating profusely)! I continue to use the lotion, but I’ve discovered that my body is no longer trying to overcompensate for its dryness (Yay!). There are some pregnant women who end up with more pimples because of this “glow” aspect; however, I’m thankful that this added “glow” business has helped solve my problem.
  • Big breasts – I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve been blessed with small breasts. Being pregnant has made me appreciate my small breast size even more. Honestly, I don’t how women who started out big (say, a D cup) can really live comfortably for 9 months (plus the months full of milk afterwords)! Any pregnant (or previously pregnant) women out there who started out big, please feel free to explain how you handled the extra weight! Throughout my pregnancy, my breast size has increased at least one and a half + sizes. When I try to imagine starting out with a D cup and then increasing one and a half sizes, I cringe! Even with my small breasts, I’ve had soreness, backaches, chest-aches… you name it! Now, I realize why my small, thin stature was blessed with small breasts (I could do without all the aches). I understand all too well that there really are biological/natural reasons why certain women were just not made to have big breasts. Although, this seems like more of a negative aspect to pregnancy, the perks of bigger breasts outweigh the pain! For example, from conception up until 7 months, I was able to wear all of my pre-pregnancy shirts. In fact, I gained most of the baby weight after 7.5 months, so, I certainly embraced not having to buy a lot of maternity wear. My shirts fit so much better now (well, before 7.5 months came) than they did before my breast size increased. It was so nice to finally be able to fit perfectly into Everything! Maybe, being able to fit perfectly into all of my tops has something to do with reason why everyone gives me this complement (even now, with my big belly): “pregnancy looks so good on you!” Well, when tops aren’t too big, I guess that helps in the ‘looks good’ department. On a side note, I’m still getting used to the heavier, sensitive part of having “pregnancy” breasts (aka bigger breasts due to lactation). It’s been 8 months and I’m still not used them! There are days when they’re just so sensitive that they become perky. It’s bizarre.
  • Desire (in all senses) for partner – There are some things that never really change once you’re pregnant: Sexual desire for your partner is one of those things. Sure, I’ve heard and read stories about pregnant women who lose their libido during pregnancy, but, thankfully, that is not my case! Continuing to desire my partner (and, obviously, vice-versa) is one thing that has helped keep me positive during this pregnancy. I became pregnant for a reason (we had sex and viola), so, it would be stupid to disregard this perk of pregnancy. Unless there’s a medical reason, sex doesn’t just disappear for 9 months. In fact, there’s more blood circulating in a pregnant woman’s body, so, in some ways, this makes sex feel better despite the awkwardly amusing search for comfortable positions. Also, the stress about trying not to get pregnant disappears (after all, it’s too late to worry about whether or not you took your birth control pill this morning), which certainly releases a whole new wild side. Sexual desire is not the only type of desire that a pregnant woman experiences for her partner. The perk of pregnancy is that desire in all senses for your partner – emotional, physical, etc… – never change. In fact, I will go as far as saying that continuing to desire my partner has pushed mon chéri and I closer and closer together. After all, ‘desire’ can be linked to ‘need’. We need each other, so, as a result, we feel secure, safe, loved (in all senses), protected, cared about, etc… all of which make the future (raising a child in today’s divided society) seem less scary and more livable. Also, just because I’ve gained 8kg/18lbs hasn’t changed our love for each other. In fact, feeling and experiencing his love for me lowers my stress levels (thank you, Oxytocin (and THIS article)!) thus lowering the stress that the baby feels. Just the other day, Fly Love by Jamie Foxx came on the radio. What does mon chéri do? Take my hand and dance with me. Even in our petit studio we find a place to romantically slow dance. I could go on and on with examples showing our love for each other, after all, when you’re so in love, it’s all you think about, so, naturally, that’s really all you want to talk about. But, I won’t bore you with sappy lovey-dovey stories. Instead, I’ll leave it at: It’s really the little things we do for each other that form the supporting rocks of our relationship. So, obviously, desire for one another is only heightened throughout our pregnancy.
  • Your partner transitioning into daddy-mode (this is our first child) unfolds before your eyes! – This pregnancy perk is something I discovered at some point during the second trimester and it has only exploded into something wonderful. Before becoming pregnant, I never thought that seeing mon cheri care about a baby he hasn’t even met yet (aside from seeing her during the ultra sounds) would add to the positive aspects of being pregnant. But, it’s such an amazing feeling! There’s just something about the way he talks to my belly (at first, this was weird and took a bit to get used to), tenderly caresses my belly, sings to my belly, his morning, “Bonjour Pitchoune, c’est Papa!” (which is always after he says good morning to me… so, he has his priorities in excellent line 😉 ), the cute noise he makes when he sees her moving around in there and then puts his hand on my belly to feel her… I could go on and on. It all just makes me so happy. Even when I’m really stressed or anxious, he just knows how to calm me down: “Pitchoune, be nice to your mommy. She’s been carrying you around for 8 months, so, let her relax…” *Sigh, gets me every time.
  • Longue, gorgeous nails – Well, they’re gorgeous as long as they’re kept clean. During the first trimester, I noticed my fingernails growing faster. They not only grow faster, but they’re also stronger! This means that I have less fingernail breaks! *Does happy dance. This is a blessing and a curse. Obviously, it’s not only Finger nails that grow faster… let’s not forget about those good ol’ toenails! This wouldn’t pose a problem if there wasn’t that big pregnant belly in the way…clipping my toenails has become a workout.
  • Having a Baby Shower hosted for you! – I consider this is a pregnancy perk because I live so far away from family and friends. I can’t thank my cousine and my belle-sœur, or sister-in-law, enough! This was really the only way to make sure I got to see as many people as possible when I was stateside from June – July. I saw friends I hadn’t seen since a little after high school and I saw family I hadn’t seen since my dad’s funeral a year ago. It was truly amazing. Though, fitting all of the gifts into mine and mon chéri‘s suitcases proved to be a bit of a challenge.
  • Conversing with the world – Believe it or not, once people discover you’re pregnant, they open up to you. It’s like timid-ness is overcome by curiosity and a need to relate. I find it really cool. This started happening to me during the second trimester – when mon chéri and I decided to let people know we were expecting. Let’s be real here, I didn’t look pregnant at all during the first trimester and then during the second, I looked like I ate too many baguettes for lunch.

    20 weeks. *photo courtesy of A. Elder.

    No one thought I was pregnant until the third trimester. In fact, it wasn’t until the third trimester when my belly bloomed, so-to-speak.

    32 weeks.

    For example, at the airport in the U.S., I told the male flight attendant (about my age) that I was expecting. I wanted to know if he needed to see the letter from my OB-GYN that stated that I could fly until the 14th of July. This opened up the door to interrogation and his way of relating to mon chéri and I. He asked a hundred questions about our future daughter and then went on to discuss his own kids. It was a rather interesting and bonding conversation with a stranger who we’ll probably never see again. Another example: two weeks ago, I was at the marché buying meat from our butcher. There was an older woman in line ahead of me. She turned to look at me as if to say something about the weather or about the meat; however, once she saw the baby bump, she began to ask questions about the baby and about the pregnancy in general: “When are you due?” “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” “Have you picked out a name?” “Pregnancy and this 100F weather is terrible! How are you holding up?” She went on to describe how she had twins (TWINS!?! Thank you, but, no thank you) and that giving birth in the accroupie position, or by squatting, is the best way to do it. Last Wednesday, I ran into her again. She talked to me like we were old friends. It was a pleasant experience. I suppose being an expat kind of exposes my interest in culture, so, obviously, it’s easy to understand why I’d find this aspect of pregnancy a perk. I enjoy the fact that being pregnant has opened up so many cultural conversations.

So, when you’re in that “her due-date won’t come soon enough” slump, just create a list of all of the perks you’ve experienced during pregnancy. It really helps you see that in the end, being pregnant isn’t so bad. And, really, when she’s born, I expect that I’ll be thinking, “it was all worth it” (the positives and the negatives). Until then…I’m left craving an ice-cold Monaco to cool me off during these hot summer months. ♦

This is part of a series on my pregnancy in France. You can follow my pregnancy and gain helpful insight on what pregnancy is like in France by reading these blogs:

For more insight on what raising a bilingual baby is like in France, check out these posts:

The Third Trimester: Pas assez d’énergie !

32 weeks pregnant.

It’s difficult to describe the third trimester because it’s so…bizarre. One minute, there are bouts of nausée … the same type that I experienced during the first trimester (hey, I thought that was left in the past…SURPRISE, it returns!). The next minute, I’m full of énergie – ready to take on the world! Five seconds later, I need a 2 hour nap and I’m having a vertigo spell. It’s really, well, ANNOYING…and, not to mention, unpredictable! The other day, I realized that I can’t go for a tranquille walk in the centre-ville, faire du shopping, and eat la glace, or ice-cream without dreading the walk back home & feeling like I need that 2 hour nap toute de suite! There’s so much I want to do before Pitchoune arrives, but I’m forced to take it slow, which is not usually my kind of thing.

Last week-end, we went shopping for wood and accessories to make two drawers to stock Pitchoune‘s towels. We also stopped by Babou to do some early (ok, really early) Christmas shopping as it’s Les Soldes (the big sale time) right now. I thought I could handle shopping around several stores – something I enjoyed doing before the pregnancy, but I was wrong. Once we started picking out stuff for my nièce, the fatigue hit me. I fought it, though, because I was not going to have to return to this store when we were already there. It turns out that after a stop at Subway (yes, mon chéri and I ate at Subway…in France), I was back to my ‘somewhat old self’ with more énergie to hit up one last store, Darty. Sometimes, all you need is to eat something full of nutritious vitamins and minerals as well as protein; other times, it’s rest.

5 unpleasant things that are ‘normal’ to experience during pregnancy (though, not everyone experiences all of these):

  • Nosebleeds – this started during the second trimester. Before my pregnancy, I rarely got nosebleeds. Now, I get them a few times a month. After seeing a Dr., I discovered that nose bleeds are common during pregnancy because the 40-50% increase in blood flow puts more pressure on your blood vessels thus making it easier for the thin blood vessels in your nose to pop. Also, because of this blood flow increase, the blood pressure tends to fluctuate more often. I make sure to keep my nose moist, but even this doesn’t always work. An interesting fact: it’s always my left nostril that bleeds. Apparently, my nose will return to ‘normal’ once the baby’s born. I can’t wait! Until then, I’ve been carrying around Kleenex everywhere I go just in case… because, one time, I was in the Métro and I didn’t have a lot of Kleenex on me. So, what happened? I had a nose bleed that took over 20 minutes to stop. The employees called the ambulance. Of course, the ambulance arrived after it stopped bleeding. They wanted to take me to the hôpital, but after consulting a Dr., they informed me that “nose bleeds are normal during pregnancy” and that if I had no other symptoms (such as dizziness), I could go to work. I was told to “take it slow” and to go immediately to the hôpital if another one occurred later on in the day.
  • Swollen/’squishy’ feet – this started at 34 weeks. I’ve never had swollen feet before. Now, I’ll never be able to say that again. 😦 According to my OB-GYN, this is common in pregnancy because the 40-50% increase in blood flow + the extra weight gain puts pressure on your feet thus causing fluid to be retained in the feet. Apparently, swollen legs and hands are also common during pregnancy, though, thankfully, I haven’t yet experienced these symptoms. Since I returned to France, it’s been scorching hot in the south of France, so, that has added to the swelling of my feet. The swelling is a strange feeling. Today, it’s cool out (finally!), so, I have no swelling; however, when my feet were swollen, they were squishy to the touch. It was weird.
  • Vertigo – this started at 31 weeks. I had 1 minor episode: I entered my mom’s room to look at something. All of a sudden the room started moving around as I walked up to her. I drank some water and then sat down. This seemed to work. At 33 weeks, I had another episode: I was at mon chéri‘s grandparents house. One minute, I sat down to eat lunch; the next, his mom asked if I was OK. Apparently, my face had gone pale. There was a taste of iron/métal in my mouth and I thought I was going to pass out. So, I ended up laying down for 2 hours and during this time, it passed. But, it scared mon chéri and I, so, I brought this up at my OB-GYN appointment. My OB-GYN prescribed iron pills to take. Since then, I haven’t had any more episodes…and I hope it stays this way!
  • Backaches – I don’t remember when this started; however, it makes sense that this would be a ‘normal’ pregnancy experience. The added weight (I’ve gained about 8kg/17lbs), the relaxing of the joints (making it easier for the baby to leave the body), and just hormonal changes in general puts more pressure on the back and on the feet. I feel the pain in my upper back after doing laundry, walking for about 25 minutes straight, cutting vegetables… etc. It’s very annoying to have to ‘take it slow’ with even the simplest things. For example, before my pregnancy, I never had a sore back after cutting vegetables. Sometimes, the pain is in my lower back; however, this is due to Pitchoune‘s position. Normally, I can combat this pain by positioning myself into the yoga Child’s pose or the Cat pose and then let gravity do the rest. She moves around thus relieving the pain in my lower back.
  • Heartburn – this started at the end of the second trimester-beginning of the third trimester. It’s awful! I’ve since discovered that eating smaller portions throughout the day as well as saving bigger meals for the middle of the day significantly reduce the amount of heartburn I have. I’ve read that limiting spicy foods and carbonated beverages also helps prevent heartburn. I don’t drink a lot of carbonated beverages, but when I was in the U.S., I loaded up on BBQ and Mexican food, so, heartburn was at its peak during those 3 weeks. Since my return to France, heartburn has been much more bearable.

Of course, these 5 negative experiences are not the only type of ‘normal’ negative things to expect during pregnancy. For example, I know several friends who experienced terrible, throbbing migraines. Thankfully, I haven’t had this problem. Other friends and family experienced high blood pressure, low blood pressure, or gestational or pregnancy diabetes. I haven’t been diagnosed with either of these things, either. There are many more negative aspects (advanced hair growth…EVERYWHERE…what purpose does this serve?); however, thankfully, pregnancy is not only composed of these negative aspects. If this were the case, the human race would’ve become extinct a long time ago! Thankfully, there are several perks to pregnancy, too (see my list of pregnancy perks in THIS blog post)!

One major factor in easing some of the downsides to pregnancy is the partner pre-natal/birth preparation courses. In France, these classes are 100% covered under the Sécu (the French health care – I have (and I’m happy with) MGEN). Mon chéri and I have been attending yoga-inspired birth preparation courses. Through these classes, I’ve learned several breathing techniques and postures that can help ease the pain of contractions. I try to practice them every day…some days are better than others. I’ve also learned exactly what goes on in the birthing room. I guess it’s good to get the fear of an emergency C-section out now rather than at the time of the birth. Also, there’s another Américaine attending the classes! The rest of the women are Françaises except for 1 Spanish woman (all of the partners are Français). All-in-all it’s been a great experience – even language-wise! Thankfully, mon chéri is there to answer any of my “huh? X word means what?” questions. Also, he’s learned a lot, too. His main question/fear was how to keep me calm through the contraction/birth pain. He’s very concerned about the fact that he can’t share some of the burden, so, he wants to make sure he says and does the right things in order to help ease the pain. Thankfully, this course has given him a number of techniques to try once the contractions start. I know he’s still a little worried, though, about having to watch me suffer. But, we’ll get through it together. ♦

This is part of a series on my pregnancy in France. You can follow my pregnancy and gain helpful insight on what pregnancy is like in France by reading these blogs:

For more insight on what raising a bilingual baby is like in France, check out these posts:

The Second Trimester: Attaque de Sinusite !

Unlike the first trimester, the second trimester opens the door to freedom from nausea. At the start of my pregnancy, I did quite a bit of online research about what to expect in the coming weeks. EVERYONE mentioned that the second trimester was the most enjoyable because the nausea disappeared and energy returned. They are right.


Things were going so well, that is, until one Wednesday afternoon at the start of Avril…It came with clear blue skies and the (da da dum) Mistral wind.

I had no choice but to be outside during this wind-attack (seriously, the Mistral is fierce!) because I had to teach in Marseille and then visit the Consulat Général des Etats-Unis d’Amérique. On Wednesday night, the sinusite started. Normally, I take Allegra D, which helps to prevent an infection from settling in. Unfortunately, Pseudoephedrine (the ‘D’) has been shown to elevate “blood pressure or cause vasoconstriction in the uterine arteries, and potentially adversely affecting blood flow to the fetus.” This interruption in blood flow has been linked to Gastroschisis, a birth defect that involves the intestins and other organes forming outside the baby’s body. What I would later discover is that the risk for Gastroschisis is most powerful during the first trimester when the baby’s abdominal wall is still developing. Of course, after a moment of reflection following hours of research on decongestants and pregnancy, I remembered that I took Actifed D before I even knew I was pregnant. Thankfully, the baby shows up healthy and normal in ultrasounds and blood tests.

pitchoune 3

What I would also later discover is that the risk is all but minimal when taken during the second trimester. If I had known this information in advance, I would have been able to avoid this two-month long sinusite. So, while it’s good that I wanted to avoid things that may cause birth defects, I ended up feeling misérable for over 2 months. It got to the point where I had no energy (I’m a teacher – I need energy!), I was coughing until I threw up and until a blood vessel popped in my nose, my whole body was in pain, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. I could tell that my weakened state was taking a toll on the baby, too, especially with the coughs. Coughing created contractions, which judging by Pitchoune‘s movements after a coughing spurt, startled her. Through this experience, I’ve learned that sometimes, the mom’s health outweighs the risk of certain medications on the baby. In the end, I ended up on antibiotics for 10 days, which kicked this infection in the butt; however, my ear is still popped (I blew my nose constantly for 2 months…what did I expect?). So, until my right ear returns to normal, I’ve been taking an antihistamine. Plus, I’m trying to keep from getting a second infection.

Other precautions I’ve been taking include:

  • Wearing a scarf – I pull it over my nose and mouth when it’s really windy, when the pollen count is up, or when pollution is high. I may look ridiculous, but at least I know I’m protecting myself.
  • Wearing a hat – it protects my ears from the wind.
  • Keeping water on hand – it keeps me hydrated.
  • Using a nasal spray – it’s a saline solution, so, it cleanses the nostrils and keeps them moist.
  • Using breathing treatments – I boil a bowl of water and then put 50 drops of Aromasol (essential oils) in it. Then, I cover my head with a beach towel and breathe in the oils for 10 minutes. It’s a temporary fix, but it works wonders in opening up the sinuses! The downside is that I can’t leave the appartement for an hour after doing it. But, 3 breathing treatments a day was recommended by my Dr.; however, I’m lucky if I can fit in 2 (morning and evening).

Being sick is one thing; however, being sick and pregnant is an entirely different ball game! ♦

This is part of a series on my pregnancy in France. You can follow my pregnancy and gain helpful insight on what pregnancy is like in France by reading these blogs:

For more insight on what raising a bilingual baby is like in France, check out these posts:

Expiration Date: Visa Éternel, please?

IMG_7141 “When does your visa expire?” a friend recently asked. “It expires on May 15.” Does this mean that I’ll be heading back to the good ol’ USA on May 15? No. Absolutely not.

Y'all know you want to stay in France! ;)

Expats united to fight against bureaucracy to stay in France! Those smiles are killers!

There’s some confusion as to whether or not expats can overstay their visas. After weeks of research, I still don’t know that actual answer (do the politicians even know?). One thing is certain: without a visa, US citoyens can stay in France (and in the Schengen Zone) up to 90 days within a 180 day period. The catch: US citoyens must have their passeport stamped at the start of the 90 days. IMG_7139 Récemment, I visited the préfecture to beg for an extension on my visa. I decided not to take any chances with the 90/180 day business since I’m pregnant and I need to be in France once I hit 7.5 months (can’t fly after that). As I anxiously approached the counter, I thought my task was impossible. Mon chéri began by politely explaining that I’d like to extend my visa. After that, all hell went loose. That is, for the next 5 minutes or so, I babbled and babbled and babbled about why the nice lady at the counter should give me an extension. She tried to shut me up at one point (and Martin tried, too) but I kept going (I was nervous…). Eventually, she got a few words in: “it’s ok; relax.” To my surprise, she was willing to work with me when I mentioned the anticipated job contract, so, adding pregnancy and PACS, the French version of a civil union, were just bonuses. It’s possible that she found me amusing. Now, I laugh about the encounter. At least I can say that my first encounter at the préfecture was a pleasant one. I have forms to fill out and documents to conjure up before I can return the forms, but all-in-all my case is NOT hopeless! Yay!

My happy face.

My happy face.

A few days ago, I received a letter in my inbox regarding my application to renew TAPIF.  It wasn’t exactly news that I wanted to hear, but what can one expect when every assistant d’anglais who wants to do the program a second year in a row fills out the same form? There’s nothing on the form to set us apart from one another, nothing to show our accomplishments and diplomas. So, how does the CIEP choose? I’ll be the first to tell you that “knowing people” has very little to do with it as the directeurs of my schools put in a good word for me. Also, submitting your application several weeks before the deadline makes no difference, either, though, it’s better to submit early than after the deadline. Perhaps, I wouldn’t feel as disheartened if my conseilleur pédagogique hadn’t made it sound like I was sure to be immediately accepted. Rule of thumb: never trust someone who’s retiring at the end of the year. At least I haven’t been completely let down: I’ve been placed on a waiting list. I suppose this news means that I should use my degree for something better than 12 working hours a week. But, as I reflect on what I should do after Pitchoune is born, I’m left feeling torn. I enjoyed the steady paycheck that came with teaching (and I enjoy teaching) during the school day; however, it might be more practical if I teach a few after school programs. In this case, we would always have a secured ‘baby-sitter’ for Pitchoune and it would enable me to have a longer adjustment period if I don’t start working until La Toussaint (Fall break). After all, a newborn is quite an adjustment. Due to this fact, I’m not looking into full time work until the baby turns 1; however, I’m keeping my options open. In any case, I have a lot to consider as I send out my CV to formulate a Plan C. Any ideas/advice are welcome! So, while the job issue is up in the air for the moment, my rights to stay in France are much more secured. At least least there’s something positive to look forward to. ♦

The First Trimester: Où sont les toilettes ?

When I finally arrived at la Gare Routière (the bus station), I was thrilled! It’s always comforting when I make the descent from the bright blue CarTreize bus because I know that after about 10 minutes I’ll find myself unlocking my front door. Despite the fact that it had been a long day at work, I still hiked up the 5 flights of stairs that leads to my home. I really don’t like elevators. Finally, the hour commute was done. The first thing I did was find a chauffrette and let it heat up as my head hit the pillow. The first trimester is really as bad as everyone says.

I’m now well into the second trimester, but I’ll let this post be a reminder of my woes during the first trimester. Maybe when I think about having a second child, I’ll re-read this post and change my mind.

5 First trimester must-haves that will save your life:

  • A heating pad or a chauffrette. It works like magic in getting rid of stomach pain.
  • A bottle of water. Having this on hand is a great way to combat on-the-spurt nausea. A few sips and I noticed a difference immediately.
  • Small snacks. These are necessary for several reasons: on the spurt hunger, an energy boost, and to combat nausea.
  • Clothes that are ‘baggy’ (aka a little bit big) are perfect for those days when anything slightly touching your ovaries/uterus makes you want to hurl.
  • A bed and a pillow and a toilette. Several naps a day are necessary for allowing your body to regain energy. Plus, you’ll be so tired during the day since you wake up several times a night to pee.

So many friends and family have asked me what my pregnancy is like. Well, it all boils down to one question: “où sont les toilettes ?” Seriously, I pee all of the time! During the first trimester, I noticed that if I tried to wait to pee, I felt even more nauseous than before. So, a word of advice: be aware of the location of the bathrooms – they’ll save your life!

In addition to constantly peeing, the embryo took all of my energy. By the time I began to get used to the nausea and the lack of energy, in came the second trimester. Before getting pregnant, I worked out regularly, engaged in fun physical activities (such as mountain climbing and laser tag), and stayed up late. So, this was certainly quite a change. I can’t count the number of times I said, “I’m never having another kid,” “I have a new respect for women – they’ve kept our species alive by going through this pain over and over again!” and “I don’t understand how women could have more than one!” And I really didn’t have it That bad during this trimester (despite all of the nausea, I never threw up). But, apparently this feeling is normal.

All these woes began about a month into the pregnancy. In fact, I still had all of my normal energy until about 4-5 weeks after conception. I was pregnant while I was in Paris for Christmas. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time.

Le Palais de Chaillot.

I walked everywhere and even climbed several monuments without feeling winded…

La Tour Eiffel.

La Tour Eiffel.

The only problem I had was a cold …because it was cold. Oh, and I never got my period… I guess that can count as a ‘problem’.

Speaking of problems, try finding a gynécologue in the middle of winter. My pregnancy declaration ended up late because it took so long to book an appointment. No one was available until March! During the first trimester, it’s obligatory to declare your pregnancy to la CAF. It’s actually simple: the gynécologue gives you the cerfa 50040*05 form (sadly, the médecine généraliste couldn’t give us this form). It’s actually a packet consisting of 2 blue forms and 1 pink form. The pink form goes to CPAM (or, in my case, MGEN). The 2 blue forms go to la CAF. And that’s it! Of course, this was easy because I’m already on file with la CAF. Filing for la CAF is a whole different ball game…best for a separate post.

The good news is that there’s hope! Look forward to the second trimester because it’s exactly as everyone says: you’ll have more energy and less fatigue, I swear! ♦

This is part of a series on my pregnancy in France. You can follow my pregnancy and gain helpful insight on what pregnancy is like in France by reading these blogs:

For more insight on what raising a bilingual baby is like in France, check out these posts: