Monthly Archives: July 2009

Frenchitude Lesson #41 : There’s No Right Way To Give Birth

This topic is very timely for me, as my little sister Jayne (above) is gearing up to give birth to her niblet any day now. She is also sweltering away the final days of her third trimester in a top floor apartment in record breaking heat in Vancouver, for which I think she deserves a nice big hero cookie.

Anyway, back to the birth issue…

I personally think Jayne deserves to have one of those easy-pop-em-out-in-a-few-hours types of births. Karma OWES it to her, because until niblet arrives this is how the count stands: we have 5 children on my side of the family who came into the world via 5 C-sections.

However, Jayne’s last doctor’s appointment stirred up a suspicion that maybe the niblet has done a somersault and is now breech à la Charlotte, who was my first C-section for that very same reason.

While some birth experiences are undoubtedly nicer than others, I am a firm believer that any birth that results in a healthy baby and a healthy mother (even one who looks like she’s been run over by an 18 wheel truck, like I did every time) is a Successful Birth.

I have no problem with people wanting to have a certain type of birth experience and working in that direction, but I DO have a problem when this is taken to the extreme that it compromises the health of either the baby or the mom.

In Canada I am on the receiving end of a whole lot of pity when I say I’ve had three C-sections. One woman who had had regular births said to me (rather smugly, I may add),” I just feel so sorry for women who end up having to have a C-section. It’s just so sad.”

People often talk like I’ve suffered some sort of huge Greek tragedy in my life because I’d missed out on the only “right” way of giving birth. I often was made to feel like the women who had had relatively easy natural births had “succeeded’ whereas because I had been obliged to go the C-section route, I had failed.

But really, how can you succeed or fail at something over which you have so little control? In my opinion, while people who have been able to have a natural birth may have really worked in that direction, they have also been the happy beneficiaries of a significant amount of sheer dumb luck.

True, the three C-sections were no walk in the park, and it would have been nice to have two and three hour natural deliveries like my Mom (and which I hope Jayne might enjoy). But you know what? Mainly I just feel immensely grateful that my babies and I are alive, whereas if I had given birth 100 years ago or even in the present in a third world country, we would in all likelihood have already slipped the mortal coil.

That may sound rather stark, but after university Franck and I volunteered in rural Nepal for a few months helping to run surgical eye camps. The fear in the eyes of the pregnant women I saw in these camps chilled me to the core. I talked to one of the Nepali doctors about it, and he looked at me and said, “Laura, they are several days walk from the nearest medical help, and at least one out of four of them will not survive their birth. Of course they are scared.”

How lucky are we to live in a country where we have the luxury of worrying about what type of birth experience we want to have, instead of merely wishing to come out of it alive.

The French have a very pragmatic take on parenthood in general, and giving birth is no exception. No one method is seen as being infused with any more intrinsic value than any other.

It is a much less competitive society than North America, so there is none of these good, better, best judgements passed on things like giving birth.

If you need a C-section that’s no big deal, or if you decide you want an epidural the minute you walk into the hospital – just like breast vs bottle feeding – that is not only an entirely personal matter but completely your prerogative.

If you want to go for a natural birth and it all pans out, that’s great, but nobody will talk like you deserve a gold medal because of it. It is the end result – the baby – that matters. Everything else comes a very, very distant second.

So Jayne can wrap her Frenchitude about her and comfort herself in the coming days that no way of giving birth is right or wrong, and that she is free to make the choices that she needs to at the time without having any judgement passed on them.

There are a myriad of ways of bringing babies into the world, and they are all miraculous.

Authentic France Travel Tip #40: Consider Flying In / Out of Lyon

I will go to almost any lengths to avoid flying in or out of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which commonly goes by the moniker Roissy.

Granted, there were two things I used to like about it. The first was watching how the French passengers all lit up cigarettes about 30 seconds after disembarking from the airplane in calm defiance of the non-stop “no smoking” announcements that accompanied the click and churn of the baggage carousel (when it was actually working, that is). Nothing to me signified Bienvenue en France quite like it.

The second thing were, of course, those glass tubes that ferried plane passengers through the airport like extras in an episode of “The Jetsons“, or “les Jetson” I suppose I should say.

However, the ultra strict (many French would say “oppressive, pseudo-American, and unlibertarian) smoking fines have now finally all but eliminated the defiant smokers of Roissy, and the fact that parts of the terminals have begun to collapse has made riding the glass tubes a little more dangerous than I am comfortable with as a mother of three.

Otherwise, Roissy does not have much to recommend it.

It is filthy, constantly overcrowded, singularly lacking in amenities (notably toilets – especially clean, free ones). It also boasts one of the most depressing, impossible-to-use underground parking lots that I have ever witnessed. I sometimes wonder if among the many homeless people one sees wandering about down there, there is not a handful of travellers who have been lost in the disorienting rabbit warren parkades of Roissy for years, unable to find their voitures.

For several years now we book our flights in and out of Lyon’s Saint Éxupery airport, which believe me, is a VAST improvement.

Not only is Lyon’s airport named a very cool name – Saint Éxupery after the author of the iconic “Le Petit Prince” – but it is also very clean. Moreover, it has lovely toilets. This is always a big selling point for me – mother of two big girls with small bladders. They are going to kill me for writing that when they are older.

Saint Éxupery is all but located in the middle of the fields on the outskirts of Lyon, so driving to and from the airport is an easy and traffic free dream. There are also a lot of sunflower fields to admire en route, which is an edifying change from the graffiti around the péripherique in Paris.

I have never experienced any air traffic bottlenecks flying into Lyon. In Paris, it was the rule rather than the exception. I loath holding patterns; all that going up and down invariably makes my head feel like it’s going to explode, so this is a big selling point for me as well.

The only tip I would have is to make sure you have lots of 1 Euro coins or jétons in your pocket for the luggage carts (but unlike Roissy, you can at least find a luggage cart in Lyon’s airport). Although Lyon has a very progressive airport, we are still in France, after all.

I mean, free luggage carts?!? N’importe quoi

Frenchitude Lesson# 43 : Celebrate Bastille Day

We got a true Republican send-off two days before we left France.

Despite the fact that we still had tons to do and very little time to do it, we wouldn’t have considered missing Villers-la-Faye’s annual 14th of July celebration.

The 14th of July – or Bastille Day as it is also known – bien sûr celebrates the storming of the Bastille that heralded the start of the French Revolution. All over France the day is an opportunity to drink some wine, eat good food, and sing Edith Piaf songs.

Here is Camille at our seat under the tent that they set up on the Place de salle des fêtes.

He we are serving up a magnum of Hautes-Côtes 1993 that Jean-Francois Bouhey, one of Villers-la-Faye’s wonderful winemakers, brought along for everyone to enjoy.

And here are the big girls, happy after their face-painting, duck bobbing, rifle shooting free-for-all.

Us Germains weren’t village champions of anything this year, unlike last year. No matter, not only did we have the very valid excuse of moving fatigue, but we had a great time anyway (and just for the record, I came 4th in the women’s quilles.)

Last but not least is the background noise of pétards, or little fireworks, going off all day long. And I ask you – who, young or old, doesn’t like to set off fireworks?

So, no matter where you happen to be on the globe for the next July 14th, stop and drink a glass of wine with friends, or eat something delicious, or make some gratuitous noise.

I believe that there is a little bit of Frenchitude in everyone. Like so many things in life, it just begs to be celebrated. Bastille Day is the perfect opportunity.

As for me, I’ll be in Villers-la-Faye on July 14, 2010. How could I possibly be anywhere else?

Posting News…

Sorry posts have been light this past week. Moves are always harder than we expect, on both ends as it turns out. More on this soon, when the dust settles…

Peut-Etre Banned From British Airways

There are some times when parenting isn’t a matter of doing what is best, or what is right, but rather it becomes a simple matter of survival. As in, I just have to get through the next second with this screaming, flailing, biting, and pinching 17 month old on my lap, and maybe if I get through this second I’ll get through another second and then…BUT SEVEN HOURS WORTH OF SECONDS IS A LOT OF SECONDS!!!!

Just look at the photo above – doesn’t Clem look all sweetness and light as we say a final good-bye to La Maison des Chaumes? Ah hah. She had me hood-winked too.

Well, not exactly. She was all sweetness and light…as long as she wasn’t belted in to an airline seat.

Here we are almost 24 hours later in Vancouver. I think the reason I took this photo in the midst of my exhausted travel haze was to prove to myself that we had – despite many dicey moments during the trip – survived.

We’re still recovering, merci. Posts should hopefully resume some resemblance of a normal schedule by next week.

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Older children left to fend for themselves like Gavroche and other orphan children under the bridges of 19th century Paris with only a sprinkle of water.

On days like today when I have a million move-related things to do and a 17 month old who has decided to give up her naps, this whole trans-Atlantic lifestyle thing doesn’t seem like such a good idea after all.

I’m sure it was Franck who first suggested it…*grumble*