The Past Week

Well the school year is winding down and I am in the middle of oral exams, counting the hours left with each class on my two hands. This gives me a little extra wiggle room for getting things done without the baby, since I leave him for his regular hours at the nanny’s even if I don’t have class (I mean, we pay for it anyway, he might as well keep to his schedule). Among those things: I ordered new glasses with my new mutuelle; I have a new neck problem that will mean an x-ray and revisiting the physical therapist; and trying to get some exercise in.

Next weekend we are going to a wedding in the Pyrenees with all of J’s family, so that will be fun and/or frustrating (I love them, it’s just that baby + lots of people in one house can = stress). He’s still not loving eating puree from me or his dad ever since an egg mix made him throw up three weeks ago, so maybe we’ll be able to get around that problem by having other people do it.

Otherwise, since it’s hot here, we put him to sleep in just his jammies last night (no over-pyjamas), which allows him more flexibility, and discovered that he likes to turn onto his tummy and then cry for us to come save him. I think some of the hours we thought he was sleeping (like just before calling for us for his morning feeding), he’s actually playing around in bed.

I’ve read a bunch of stuff the past few weeks, so here’s some of it.

These Illustrations Brilliantly Show Disney Princesses As Civil Rights Activists

If a Pregnant Straphanger’s Bump Isn’t Obvious, Maybe the Button Will Be

Why Teachers Are So Tired

Imomsohard: Really funny videos from two moms. Definitely check out the most recent one about swimsuits.

The Past Week

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The past week has been truly eventful! First, we didn’t elect a fascist! Hurrah! Then, I became an aunt! Double hurrah!

So, yes, enough people slipped a Macron ballot in the envelope to quash Le Pen’s evil hankerings for the presidency and all the ensuing evilness that would have entailed. I am of course truly relieved. I went back to help with the “dépouillement” the evening of the election and that was also an interesting experience.

But all of that seems almost (almost) forgotten with the news that came barely two days later that Littlest’s cousin was born! So Littlest is no longer the littlest in the family—too bad, I will still be calling him that. His tiny cousin has come into the world and I am beyond excited to meet him this summer. Littlest has yet to meet a baby smaller than himself, so that’ll only add to the excellence of the visit. I may have to come up with a code name for him—perhaps Tiniest? Ahh the excitement of a new baby when it’s not your own is so much less LOADED. I wish I could be there now.

This came on the heels of our good friends’ baby being born last weekend down south. There are so many pregnancies and babies in our lives right now, it’s like a wave of procreation. I love them all but of course there is an extra special space reserved in my heart for this newest tiny little man who I hope will be Littlest’s friend forever.

Reading this week:

Sibeth Ndiaye: L’autre star de “Emmanuel Macron, les coulisses d’une victoire” : I watched this documentary when it was showed for the second time on LCI Monday night, and it was interesting enough, and Macron seemed like a nice guy, but as far as his policies go, it wasn’t all that enlightening. I was sort of fascinated by his right-hand woman, though, Sibeth Ndiaye.

Stephen Colbert is Hosting a Daily Show Reunion to Celebrate 20 Years in Late Night (video clips included)

In books, I’m reading Kieron Smith, Boy, which is stylistically interesting, and Kieron is easy to get attached to (unlike his big brother Mattie), but otherwise it’s a bit of a slog. I don’t know if I’ll finish it. I had just read Remains of the Day, though, which is a hard act to follow.

L’Entre deux tours

Last week was a hard one.

I lost a lot of faith in the French left—in Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and in voters.

I felt like many people were ready to leave our family to the dogs rather than vote for someone they didn’t care for.

Mélenchon is someone I admired immediately when I first heard him speak on television a few years ago. He was speaking about, for me, the most important of French values, the “droits de l’homme.” He’s an eloquent politician, and, I thought, a principled one.

I didn’t vote for him on April 23rd because I was wary of parts of his platform. I was a little worried I might regret it. Suffice it to say, I don’t, and I’ll probably never vote for him. I definitely don’t think a politician should “tell” his supporters how to vote. I do however understand the American tradition of throwing your support behind another candidate once you’re out of the picture—and JLM has been utterly unable to do that.

For a comparision, here’s what he said in 2002:

Le vote d’extrême droite doit être réduit au minimum par nos propres forces. Je n’ai en effet aucune confiance dans les électeurs de droite qui n’ont pas voté au premier tour, et qui vont venir aux urnes, ni en ceux qui l’ont fait et qui sont à cette heure la clientèle visée par la campagne de second tour de Le Pen. Et je ne crois pas que Chirac soit capable de convaincre qui que ce soit par lui-même. J’affirme clairement que tout atermoiement dans les rangs de gauche nous expose au minimum à une nouvelle avancée de l’extrême droite qui dégradera davantage le rapport de force social et politique de la gauche aux législatives. Mais nul ne peut exclure non plus que pire encore n’advienne tant les jours qui viennent seront disputés et aléatoires. Quelle conscience de gauche peut accepter de compter sur le voisin pour sauvegarder l’essentiel parce que l’effort lui paraît indigne de soi ? Ne pas faire son devoir républicain en raison de la nausée que nous donne le moyen d’action, c’est prendre un risque collectif sans commune mesure avec l’inconvénient individuel. Plus nous aurons réduit Le Pen avec le bulletin de vote Chirac, plus forts nous serons pour débarrasser ensuite le pays de ce dernier aux législatives.

And I can’t for the life of me understand what changed. Is it because it’s the second time?

In any case, when I say it’s been a hard week, it’s because this election is deeply personal, and all of the “abstentionists” coming out of the woodwork are breaking my heart. These are the ones I thought were my people, that I shared values with, who would fight for refugees and immigrants and gay rights.

I was wrong. Am I being melodramatic? I’ve spent the last ten days trying to understand, and it still feels like it comes down to this: for those who are abstaining, maybe, at first, they won’t feel the difference between the Front National and Emmanuel Macron. Maybe these people are mostly white, straight, rooted in France for generations. For them maybe it does come down to a difference in economic policies (and I do know that those deeply touch people’s lives).

But for us, Marine Présidente, accomplishing her platform, means losing dual nationality. It means losing French citizenship for me. It means losing almost all chance of being hired in any position other than my current one. In short, it means no future here.

Which feels terrible. But I know that, even though it would be a logistical and financial hardship, we would be able to make a life for ourselves in the States.

So many other families don’t have that option.

And some day, of course, the consequences of a fascist president would start to be felt by even white, straight, “français de souche” abstentionists (not to mention the people actually voting FN).

Universality

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My belly at 5 1/2 months pregnant

There’s one change in my life that has come about with the birth of Littlest that I haven’t yet written about. It’s taken a few months to be come clear in my mind.

It started when I became visibly pregnant—I started noticing other pregnant women, other women with young children, and thinking, “We’ve all done this in some way or other.” I felt a secret connection with all these women as I was waiting, regardless of their situation. The universality of bringing life into the world especially struck me as I spent a good three weeks in South Africa during my pregnancy.

These days as I cart Littlest around in his stroller—for example, today, as we went to the “popular” area of Poitiers to request his French passport—I feel it even more so. People love babies, be it in the supermarket, in a cafe, and, I’m hoping, on airplanes. Littlest is usually ready with a smile after a little bit of cajoling and I’m happy to share our joy with others. Recently I answered the door for a delivery with him in my arms, and the delivery man talked about his 9-month-old baby girl, and how important it was to enjoy this time because it goes by so fast. I love these moments. They crack the French façade of stand-offish-ness, which is something I’ve been trying to do more since I came back from Ireland where everyone is so nice to everyone. The feeling of connection reminds me of what we all have in common in the most essential parts of us.

Of course, there’s another side to it. I’m reminded many days of the luck that Littlest has been born into: white, male, middle-class, wanted, prepared for. He’ll have chances in life that lots of other little babies won’t have, and he’s no more deserving than them. I don’t know what to do about that except to tell him, even though he’s still too little to understand, that the most important thing is always to be kind to himself and others.

Le Pen au 2e Tour (and no it’s not 2002)

Today I voted in my first French non-primary election as a French citizen. Hurray! I mean, right? Sort of? I did vote in both the Républicains and Parti Socialiste primaries, because after the clusterf*ck of the US election, I was taking no chances. The catastrophical heartbreak of US election 2016 changed a few things for me politically.

I became a pure pragmatist, at least for this election. The candidate I voted for was not the one I believed in, or really wanted to be president. But he’s one I could live with, and one I hoped could beat Le Pen in the secound round.

After almost five months of Trump, any sort of moderation in governing seems welcome, though I will always be a leftist at heart.

I hope French voters can “faire la part des choses” on May 7th and vote a second Le Pen out of history.

The Past Week

Well I am now on the last vacation of the year. Littlest is as cute as ever and has cut his first tooth, which I noticed first when he stuck my finger in his mouth. It’s not incredibly visible yet but you definitely feel it when he chomps down on your finger. He’s also eating solids and making hilarious faces every time he discovers a new vegetable. So far, cauliflower seems to have been the funniest though I wasn’t present for asparagus.

The French elections are this weekend and I am in denial as I am with most politics these days. I haven’t yet decided whom I’m voting for in my first election as a French citizen, and I’m finding this two-round system pretty annoying in that it seems you don’t ever really get to vote for the person you believe in, because you have to worry about the second round and ending up with a potential Le Pen-Fillon nightmare. I would make some joke about fleeing back to the States but we all know that’s a huge clusterf*ck now.

So, like I said, denial.

Only two things this week, NOT ABOUT POLITICS:

From WaPo: From “Girls” to “I Love Lucy”: How realistic are New York apartments on TV shows?

And I usually hate viral videos, but this one of mom and baby keeps making me laugh: This is what true love looks like

Traveling without Baby, at Five Months

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Ducky with Littlest’s gift from Ireland, a sheep apparently named Daisy

Back when I was pregnant with Littlest, my colleague told me he was planning a trip to Ireland this year, including Northern Ireland and its Giant’s Causeway. I love Ireland, as I may have mentioned, and have been dying to go to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway for a few years. There were also some students I really love going on this trip. When I told J it was basically the trip of my dreams, he told me to go.

Of course when I said yes back in September to going, I hadn’t really thought out a couple of things. Number one: breastfeeding. Number two: How hard it would be to leave Littlest behind after carrying him in my tummy for nine months and then leaving his side only for work and the occasional coffee or rehearsal for five months.

1 As for breastfeeding, I tried to build up a stock of frozen breastmilk once I went back to work, by giving the nanny one less bag per day than I could have, and replacing that with formula. By the time I left, I had about thirty bags of milk in our downstairs freezer. Now, thirty bags of milk did not mean thirty full bottles, especially since he had upped his intake to about 200 ml/bottle the week I left. So he was drinking half and half. But J and I were both surprised that there was still milk left when I got home.

Unfortunately, some of it suffered from this weird lipase souring effect from the freezing, and Littlest (understandably) didn’t like the taste. So some of it went down the drain.

The other concern was keeping up my supply while traveling. I took my little handheld pump with me and pumped mostly in the bus toilets. It was NOT glamourous and often stank really bad. The good news is that your nose adjusts to bad smells pretty quickly. The other problem was being jerked around every time we went around a roundabout. All in all it will not have been my best pumping situation, and the hand pump took a long time. I also had to get up at 6:30 every morning to spend a half hour pumping. I’m still not sure my supply is as high as it was when I left, since pumping isn’t giving much this week—but I hope the coming weekend and vacation will set things right.

2 As for leaving Littlest, it was really hard. I wasn’t sad about it until the day before, which was my weekly day off with him. I took him on a new walk down by the village hall (where J and I got married), cuddled him lots, and sang him a new song about how he was sweet and giggly, which cracked him up. I got sadder and sadder as the evening went on. The following morning I had meant to keep him with me until I had to go to school at 9:30, but I ended up dropping him off at 9 because I realized I was just going to spend the whole time crying. I started to wonder if I was making the right choice, and had to remind myself that it was good for me to spend time without him, that J was a great dad, and that they would have a good time together bonding without me.

They did indeed have a good time bonding together without me, though I think J is happy I’m home, especially since Littlest has gone back to waking once most nights and the boob is way faster than the bottle. J said he spent a lot more time communicating and playing with Littlest than he does when all three of us are at home.

I got over the intense sadness within a day, though I continued to miss him all week and got really excited whenever J sent me a photo (at least twice a day). I bought Littlest some Ireland-themed onesies and a stuffed sheep (see photo). I pumped six times a day watching videos of him and dumped my hard-earned milk down the drain.

And then I came home. I’m not gonna lie, I was driving over the speed limit on my way home where I scooped him up in my arms and shed a few tears. He, on the other hand, was definitely mad and wouldn’t even look me in the eyes. I nursed him and put him to bed without getting a single smile!

The next morning things seemed slightly better, and by the time I picked him up to spend the afternoon with him, he was definitely thawing. By the end of the day I felt like I’d gotten my boy back, and I even feel a little reassured by his reaction, as though I know he felt my absence, the way I felt his.

I’ve noticed changes for him and J, as well, as though they’re closer now, and J likes to do things he didn’t usually insist on doing, like put him down for naps, and play with him while watching TV. So overall, I think it was good for us… and I’ll keep thinking that as long as my milk supply goes back up!