Fashion and Motherhood

Since Littlest was born I’ve had conflicted feelings about dressing myself.

To be clear, especially since arriving in France, I’ve gone through phases of loving clothes shopping, like my year in Reims, when I even wore jewelry almost every day. I used to be fascinated with the way (fashionable) French women dressed. Shoes have become a burden for me because of my feet, but that’s another story. As for make-up, I subscribed to Birchbox for the past two years and enjoyed testing out and ordering new things, including curly hair products.

When Littlest was a newborn and I was on maternity leave, I made a point of taking a shower every day but I scaled lots of things way back. I only put on moisturizer and foundation. I often let my hair dry on its own. I was jealous of my husband and how it took him 30 seconds to get dressed after a shower. It seemed entirely unfair so I tried to reduce my routine to get as close to his as possible.

When I went back to work I did start putting on a little more make-up, but only for work days. Breastfeeding has limited my wardrobe a bit—no thigh-long tunics for example—and over the past years I’ve thrown out anything that has holes in it (a surprising amount of things). So overall I feel like my wardrobe choices have gotten pretty drab.

There’s also a financial element. Money has been tighter this year (a complicated issue with maternity leave and being taxed on last year’s much higher earnings) and so spending money on clothes means no savings for the month. I put my Birchbox subscription on hold several times this year and finally ended it (though they were also sending me too many things I couldn’t use on my sensitive skin).

I miss taking pleasure in dressing myself, I miss elegance and novelty, and yet I also still yearn for the simplicity of male fashion that my husband gets to enjoy. In men’s fashion, clothing and shoes are comfortable and long-lasting. Even dressy women’s shirts and skirts are made so that you’re tugging at them throughout the day and I have no patience for that now. I feel like my body did something amazing, and I’d like my natural beauty to dominate rather than poking, prodding, and spending time on it, and yet…

I guess I’m wondering, am I the only one who resents and still sort of misses dressing fashionably?

The Past Week

Well, the past week has been a handful. Fortunately my mom was here to help out. Monday, when I was supposed to go to my last meeting of the year, I came down with a 39.5° fever—Littlest had given me his virus. I didn’t get any spots but I did get sores in my throat that just now seem to have stopped hurting.

I let my mom and J take care of Littlest for almost two days and once I got to feeling better I noticed that he is in the middle of a wonder week. He’s almost crawling, he’s started to raise his arms to ask to be picked up, and he’s apparently learning all sorts of other invisble stuff like categories of things.

So it hasn’t been the easy-going, dreamy week I had hoped for, with daily walkies (it’s also really hot), baby pool swims (he cried in it yesterday), and other outings. I’m focusing on maintaining his two good naps and figuring out his new bedtime, and oh yeah, cuddling him through this overwhelming time.

I found some parenting websites and blogs I delved into, though I find myself needing a break from that now:

French Mamma.com: Pregnancy and Parenting in France

Mummy in Provence: Bridging Gaps in Global Parenting

Rants from Mommyland

In non-baby news, J and I did manage to go out for drinks last night and I had a great time (thanks Mom for babysitting). I’m looking forward to going out for our second anniversary in a couple weeks. He’s hoping to take up sewing which is surprising and wonderful, so went and bought some fabric yesterday as well (though I started feeling awful and was of less help than I’d hope to be—story of my week).

In other reading:

Bac 2017 : plutôt que de moquer les « perles » des candidats, une enseignante recense leurs traits de génie

27 Titus Andromedon Quotes That Will Make You Say “Same TBH”: This article (like Titus) is a gift for anyone having a hard day (or a good one for that matter)

+ and – of my French Maternity Ward Experience

Obviously my maternity ward experience was already 8 months ago (omg what?) but I was thinking about it recently, and with the passing of time, my feelings about it have gained a little in perspective.

Here are the things I really appreciated about it, which are of course more or less specific to France and further to my clinic, where I will return if we have another baby (the other option would have been the public teaching hospital):

  1. The three-day stay: Standard stays in France are 72 hours from the time the baby is born. As far as I can tell, this is to make sure the baby is doing okay, to allow the mother to rest, and to help with breastfeeding. At least in my case it seemed that way. I was unhappy (=I cried) when they kept us a fourth night for no good reason (at least, no reason they could not have given us as soon as Littlest was born at a small 2.67 kg, which he regained by his fourth day). However, the morning we left, one of the puéricultrices asked me, concernedly, if breastfeeding was going okay. The tone in her voice suggested that if I’d said I was worried, I could have stayed yet another night for help. (But I wanted to gth outta there. See below.)
  2. The staff really seemed ready to show me everything. The first day I didn’t have to change a single diaper, which was nice because I couldn’t stand up and walk very easily (see, #1, reasons for the 3-day stay). By the second day, standing up straight was easier and a puéricultrice happily showed me how to change a diaper, how to clean his umbilical cord (cleaned regularly with éosine in France), how to clean his face, and eventually, how to bathe him.
  3. The night staff were wonderful, honestly—they were so reassuring and understanding of the fact that I needed support and help, especially with breastfeeding.
  4. Breastfeeding mothers were well taken care of in terms of food. It wasn’t the best food but I ate anything that was put in front of me (still do, pretty much) so I didn’t care. I gobbled up all those 2500 calories. Liter-sized bottles of vitamin-fortified water were also supplied on demand.

Things I was less crazy about:

  1. Littlest was only left on my chest a few minutes in the delivery room. I was a really easy-going mother and let things just sort of happen, but next time (if there is one) I think I will ask and perhaps insist on more time to help baby try to breastfeed.
  2. The staff in general asked that we leave Littlest under his heated blanket as much as possible during our stay, which meant not only fewer cuddles but less skin-to-skin, which I didn’t even try because none of the staff mentioned it. Obviously, if there’s a next time, I will do as much as I can get away with.
  3. We were left pretty well alone during the daytime once the first day was past. That first day the staff came in a lot to check on Littlest’s blood sugar and temperature and to change his diapers. But the maternity ward seemed to empty out in the afternoons and Sunday afternoon was ridiculous.
  4. I missed my husband, whose three days off for the birth were rapidly being used up in spite of Littlest being born on a Friday, and didn’t enjoy spending the nights alone without his help (though the night staff were, as I said, lovely). Meals for non-patients were expensive too, so he kept having to leave to get lunch or dinner for himself.
  5. The nursing staff gave us bottles of formula to give to Littlest his first day since he wasn’t latching. When I told this to my neighborhood midwife who used to work there, she was not pleased. Again, I was just going with the flow (and I know some moms feel they’ve been saved by supplementing at the beginning), but if there’s a next time, I’ll ask to get around that problem some other, formula-less way.
  6. That dang epidural that served no purpose and gave me back pain for months. Of course there was no way to know in advance I would have a rapid labor, but if there’s a next time, I hope to avoid it.

In general I was very happy with all my care, as always in France, but on the baby front there are some tweaks I would make if I hadn’t been a first-time mom going with the flow.

The Past Week

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Hand, foot, and mouth disease (obviously the rash was not contained to those three places)

This past week didn’t go quite as planned.

  1. J sprained his ankle last Saturday night, so we spent Sunday at the ER waiting to learn that it wasn’t broken and he didn’t need a cast (phew—that would have seriously screwed up our vacation plans). So he’s on leave till next Wednesday and has been sitting around the house not changing diapers because he can’t hold the baby and walk at the same time.
  2. We have in fact all been home all day the past two days because Littlest got hand, foot, and mouth disease, also known as coxsackie virus, a really common virus among babies and small children. He woke up with spots on Thursday morning but I still took him to the nanny’s. She texted two hours later that he had a fever so I went to get him and take him to the doctor. Coxsackie is really contagious and Littlest’s fever made him miserable that afternoon so he needed to be home with us. He still has all the gross spots but his fever’s gone. So he missed his last two days at the nanny’s before summer vacation. 😦
  3. Our recycling bin was stolen from our sidewalk. I am not kidding. This happened over two weeks ago and it took us two days to realize it, because both of us just thought the other had put the bin away. But no, it was stolen, and I e-mailed the mairie and got no response. J called a few days later and they told him we had to go press charges at the police station in order for them to do anything about it. This was pretty irritating because our recycling was piling up and given that J can’t drive, getting to the police station seemed a long way off. However in true French fashion, without any further explanation, a brand new bin appeared in our yard yesterday evening (with our address on it).
  4. My mama arrived today! She’ll be spending the week with us till my dad arrives on Friday and they go to stay at a B&B.

In French news, Simone veil died yesterday, so I spent the day reading up on her:

IVG: le jour où Simone Veil a partagé sa «conviction de femme» (Slate.fr)

VIDEO. Simone Veil, une vie de combats (Francetvinfo)

Simone Veil, Ex-Minister Who Wrote France’s Abortion Law, Dies at 89 (New York Times)

And a couple other things:

I found this baby sleep site, and especially this article: A Letter to Your Family about Sleep, which I felt justified and confirmed a lot of the attitudes I’ve had about Littlest’s sleep ever since things started working for us at 8 weeks. It has been an interesting read and has helped encourage me in the 3 to 2 nap transition, but I do worry that it puts unnecessary pressure on parents to think that if their baby has sleep problems, it must be something they are doing wrong.

Finally, 8 MALE AUTHORS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (McSweeney’s)

S’Epanouir

I know, I know, I know I write a ton about my baby these days. I know babies and children aren’t for everyone and that is cool, like in the strong sense of the term, not as in the I’m cool with it sense of the term. Unfortunately I can’t stop myself.

Littlest’s first eight-weeks were typical newborn-level HARD. Like I didn’t know how I’d manage hard, in spite of the immediate cuteness of things like J holding him above his head, or pictures like these with my dad:

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I mean come on

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Seriously?

I wondered where the joy was and if I was really cut out for this—feelings, I assume, every mom has at some point or other.

But ever since he settled at around 8 weeks old I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like surely motherhood can’t be this good. I didn’t know I would love it this much. Colleagues have asked me frequently how things are going with the baby at home, and all I can say each time is “génial, il est trop mignon” (and get annoyed when they ask if he’s sleeping through the night, as if that’s all that counts).

I’ll keep crossing my fingers that the joy will continue, but I think maybe I can just conclude now that I love being a mom to this little boy, that motherhood has brought out something in me that I didn’t know was there.

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Petit amour et moi

The Past Week

has involved…

  1. Finishing classes for the year and getting my new course load for next year. Things are changing a good bit… and I’m excited!
  2. Dealing with the heat wave, which included buying one of these adorable, super light sleep sacks for Littlest: Grobag Baby Sleep Bags. It allowed us to keep him in a sleep sack without him being too hot—and without a sleep sack these days he gets up to all sorts of shenanigans and we find him legs out of the crib, on his tummy, calling for help. In fact the past few nights he’s been in diaper + sack and that’s it. It’s pretty cute.
  3. Also baby-related, signing up for Tinybeans.com to share baby pictures with my family, and the special surprise was that my sister-in-law did as well —> lots of pictures of my nephew!
  4. Reading the full list of 185 cosmetic and bathing products that have been found to have either endocrine disruptors or irritants. I mostly read to see if any products we use were on the list, and have since decided to stop with the baby wipes (even though our brand isn’t on there).
  5. Playing in another village for the Fête de la Musique. J took Littlest out in Poitiers and they danced the (early) evening away, apparently.
  6. Turning 33. Weird.
  7. Various end-of-year meals with different groups of colleagues and ex-colleagues.
  8. Listening to Littlest start syllables (consonant + vowel) and watching another tooth grow in.

Other stuff, mostly about breastfeeding:

Painting of nursing mother wins BP Portrait Award 2017

Comment l’allaitement façonne le visage du bébé

Orange is the New Bac: Characters’ advice for French students

Change

I’ve written a couple times about what’s changed for us, for me, since Littlest was born. About tears that come easily when watching movies, about looking at other women and parents differently, about having to look at any baby in any stroller that wanders past (okay maybe I hadn’t gotten to that one yet—it’s an obsession).

It took me a long time to find a good song to dance to with my dad at our wedding—every song about love seemed to be about romantic love, or really cheesy mainstream country-style paternalistic crap. I knew when I heard Louis Armstrong singing “Sunrise, Sunset” that it was the right one.

Now when I listen to songs on the radio, I’m intrigued by the rare ones people write for their children. Christophe Maé (Marcel), the Dixie Chicks (Godspeed), Atmosphere (Little Man), Beyoncé (Blue), and, of course, Renaud (Morgane de toi). There are songs that I want to be about children but that don’t necessarily seem quite to fit.

And then there are the songs that I think I always heard wrong, and am only hearing right for the first time.

Mon enfant nue sur les galets
Le vent dans tes cheveux défaits
Comme un printemps sur mon trajet
Un diamant tombé d’un coffret
Seule la lumière pourrait
Défaire nos repères secrets
Ou mes doigts pris sur tes poignets
Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai
Et quoique tu fasses
L’amour est partout où tu regardes
Dans les moindres recoins de l’espace
Dans les moindres rêves où tu t’attardes
L’amour comme s’il en pleuvait
Nu sur les galets

Le ciel prétend qu’il te connaît
Il est si beau c’est sûrement vrai
Lui qui ne s’approche jamais
Je l’ai vu pris dans tes filets
Le monde a tellement de regrets
Tellement de choses qu’on promet
Une seule pour laquelle je suis fait
Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai
Et quoique tu fasses
L’amour est partout où tu regardes
Dans les moindres recoins de l’espace
Dans les moindres rêves où tu t’attardes
L’amour comme s’il en pleuvait
Nu sur les galets

On s’envolera du même quai
Les yeux dans les mêmes reflets
Pour cette vie et celle d’après
Tu seras mon unique projet
Je m’en irai poser tes portraits
À tous les plafonds de tous les palais
Sur tous les murs que je trouverai
Et juste en dessous, j’écrirai
Que seule la lumière pourrait…
Et mes doigts pris sur tes poignets
Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai