Baby 2 Finish Line

The baby’s room back in April

We are narrowing in on the finish line for baby 2’s arrival. Littlest certainly seems to be thinking about it—yesterday during dinner instead of talking to his imaginary dog he told the baby to wait to play with him because he had to finish his dessert. He’s done lots of cute baby-related things, like noticing a baby toy at a store and asking if we should take it home for the baby.

The nursery is all set up, and the suitcases for the stay at the hospital are as packed as they can be in advance. Sheets and car seats have been washed, and the car seat base is even installed in Julien’s car (I have to put the other one in mine still). There are a few things we got or were gifted this time that I didn’t bother with last time, but that I wanted in case they make our lives any easier: a 4moms Rockaroo electric rocker and velcro swaddles (we didn’t bother swaddling Littlest since no one seems to do it in France). I also typed up a birth plan this time for the hospital.

Since it looks like my mom won’t be here right away for the birth (there is some hope from the consulate she’ll be able to come not too long afterward), I also need to call some aide à domicile services to see what they offer families with newborns…. I mean I really just want someone to replace my mom for a few hours a day, mostly in the morning, by holding the baby while I sleep or shower or doing some light cleaning or making a meal. (J’s paternity leave of course will only last a little under two weeks so I’ll be alone most of the time.)

AND I bought myself a new computer. My trusty Macbook Pro is almost 11 years old and finally slowing down despite the upgrades I did on it five years ago. The speakers were going which would have been a major problem for newborn video calls with family as well as for midnight Netflix-watching.

It is getting harder and harder to move around and I am more and more exhausted. Taking care of Littlest, sweet as he is most of the time, is taking it all out of me, especially since he doesn’t nap every day anymore. So this coming week he is fortunately going to the centre aéré (local day camp for working parents) and the week after that he will go to my in-laws. If Baby 2 can wait till the rentrée September 1st, I’ll even be able to take him to school the first day. But who knows if he’ll wait that long.

Next time I write it will hopefully be about a baby.

Pregnancy During Coronavirus

There are a lot of articles out about pregnancy during the coronavirus crisis, and I’ve gotten one or two sympathetic comments from friends about how it must be hard, and seen a few comments on Facebook about how relieved people are their pregnancy was not during this time.

… I don’t feel that way, and I’m guessing most pregnant women don’t feel that way, which is probably not really a surprise. It’s probably different being that this is my second pregnancy, so we did get to do everything normally the first time. Anyway here’s what it has been like for us.

Late December: Positive pregnancy test after strong suspicions that I was pregnant due to familiar symptoms. At this point everything was normal and there was no sign of the coronavirus.

December to March: Absolute exhaustion and just a constant sick-like feeling. Spent most weekends in bed. Again, nothing coronavirus-specific. First ultrasound in mid-February, so a friend came to watch Littlest and we both went.

March: Miraculously, my parents managed to come and spend a week with us the first week of March and left a week before France announced school closures and lockdown. Still we didn’t really know what we were in for.

Mid-March: Maternity wards started sometimes forbidding any accompanying person from the hospital. Most backtracked to allowing the partner or other parent to be there for labor and two hours after the birth, but then not allowing them to remain for the hospital stay. A typical hospital stay in France lasts 72 hours after the birth if all goes well, and there’s no C-section. Hospitals started letting mothers out as soon as they reasonably could.

I did freak out in a minor way about the thought of J not being there with me during labor, mostly because this time I do not want an epidural, and I was skeptical about the amount of support available from over-worked hospital staff in order to help me achieve that goal. I eventually calmed down about it, but also, hospitals seemed to be loosening that rule as soon as they could.

Late April: Second ultrasound. J had to stay home with Littlest as no accompanying people were allowed at the midwife’s office (so far I have been doing everything at midwife’s offices and not at the hospital). So I found out that it was a baby boy by myself. Then once the midwife had checked everything out (well almost, since baby was particularly uncooperative and I actually had to go back yesterday), we video called J and Littlest to tell them the news and show them the ultrasound screen. Emotionally this was all fine. Again, it’s our second time. And going to the ultrasound alone seemed so much less terrible than doing the birth alone.

So here we are today. I am still so grateful we got pregnant when we did, because I was so ready for this baby and didn’t want long months of trying and being disappointed. It has been strange that no one has seen be become more and more visibly pregnant. I sent a picture to my colleagues the other day. I didn’t even have time to tell everyone at work that I was expecting before vacation and then lockdown hit! I’ve told the few colleagues I had video conferences with for the union, but that’s only 15 out of over 100 people.

I’m not focusing for now on the unknowns around the delivery, birth, and return home. My plan was (is?) for my mom to come. I wanted her to be here before there was much risk of the baby arriving, because I’m worried he’ll come faster than Littlest in the middle of the night, which means no time to waste. We’ll have to find a back-up plan. I’m worried about having to rely on my in-laws if my mom can’t come for the first few weeks, but I do think some focused communication efforts could make that work. I’m a little sad that Littlest probably won’t be able to come to the hospital to meet his little brother and will have to wait till we come home—but that does seem minor, since that is something some families have always done.

So there have been small losses, but nothing so far that compares to the excitement of expecting someone new in the family. I do worry about the post-partum phase, because that was hard last time. But hopefully it won’t last long and I will know more what kind of help I need and how to ask directly for it. (It’s just, you know, no one compares to your mom, at least mine who was very good at anticipating needs).

Hello from Confinement

Well there have actually been things going on here that are of note, but I’ve held off writing about them for one reason or another. Now we are confined and I’m trying to juggle online teaching with taking care of my pre-schooler (NOT simple let’s be honest). He has been very sweet and his dad was home today, and probably will be other days, so maybe things will be just fine inside the house as long as I don’t put too much pressure on myself—or there’s not too much external pressure—to be super-active for my students. I am a little worried because J’s company has not put him on partial unemployment; they insist on keeping everyone working as much as possible in spite of their jobs’ hardly being essential. Fortunately for us right now there is no work to do since he exercised his droit de retrait at his current assignment for safety reasons. So he is waiting for news.

There are two pieces of good news of varying degree that I can share:

  1. My efforts at the agrégation interne have paid off for now, and I am admissible for the orals which will be who-knows-when, now. (I also took the agreg externe written exams a week or so ago when my parents were visiting to watch Littlest since it was during the winter vacation—and those results are scheduled for May 6th though who knows now?) Crossing my fingers the orals will be before August when I will be less mobile because…
  2. We are expecting baby number two in early September (or late August if he/she comes on the same timeline as Littlest did—unlikely though). I think I have made it out of the first trimester trenches. After the excitement and joy of finding out I was pregnant, things hit hard and it has been rough these past few months. Littlest has been hanging out a lot more with his dad which has strengthened their bond. It has been very weird, not nausea like with Littlest but a sort of achy flu-like feeling that makes me curl up in bed. I don’t want to complain though, we are very happy and lucky and I have been feeling better now that I’ve passed 16 weeks. We have almost finished renovating our third bedroom and Littlest is starting to grasp better that a baby is coming since I told him it will be the baby’s room.

There are a lot of unknowns but for now I feel very fortunate that we had no major travel, no major life events planned for these coming weeks, and that baby is not due till the end of the summer (though obviously babies are still being born right now). We are going to try to call Julien’s grandmother fairly often since she lives alone, and I would like it to make it through this without getting sick. But I don’t know what the chances of that are. The agreg has been a lot of work and I would hate for it to go down the drain but maybe I will be admissible also for the externe and then one or the other of the orals will take place when I’m in reasonable shape to go.

Maybe I will look back on this in five months and feel foolish—obviously what matters is everybody’s health. Sincerely hoping for the best for anyone reading this.

Involuntary Post-Pregnancy Weight Loss

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8 months pregnant

Let me just preface this by saying a few things.

  1. In putting this out there (and I already have in other ways) I am by no means trying to throw any shade on anyone else’s pregnancy or post-pregnancy or motherhood weight gain. I’m very aware that what I’m going to talk about can be frustrating to hear for people for whom things have gone the other direction.
  2. I have, in the past, gained amounts of weight that I was unhappy with and then struggled to lose weight and deal with the shock of a new body image. That is an experience that I have also had.
  3. I know that weight is annoying and uncomfortable to talk about in general.

That said…

I’ve lost, to me, disquieting amounts of weight since Littlest was born. To start with, I felt underweight at the beginning of my pregnancy; I had just dealt with the flu, which involves a lot of not eating, and also was nauseous through most of my first trimester. On top of that I didn’t gain all that much weight during the pregnancy—about 8.5 kg (19 pounds) on top of my normal pre-flu and pre-morning sickness weight.

Add that all up and since Littlest was born I’ve lost 16.5 kg (36 pounds). I went back down to my regular, “ideal” weight and then kept slipping. For a while it was unalarming—and then it was more and more curious. At a few points I tried to make efforts that seemed fruitless: eating avocados, peanut butter, allowing myself “unhealthy” foods that I used to steer clear of. Since I kept losing, I sort of gave up. But in retrospect think those efforts were actually making a difference because the weight loss seems to have just accelerated since I gave up.

Here’s the thing: I was happy weighing 15 to 20 pounds more. We make lots of assumptions about losing weight being a positive thing, or some sort of judgment on other people’s NOT losing weight. It’s a hard thing to bring up, and I swear I try to bring it up less, but my whole body image is changing and I’m starting to wonder if this is just, once again, the new way that I look. (But also, will I stop losing weight?)

I know it’s not a medical problem, since I went to a “bilan de santé” a few weeks ago and my thyroid and iron levels are normal. So it’s a lifestyle/metabolism/breastfeeding thing. I asked Littlest’s doctor about it and she said that lots of new moms actually do lose weight after they become mothers, because their whole lifestyle—sleep, for example—has changed. So I’m not convinced it’s just a breastfeeding thing. Moreover, I would hate to stop breastfeeding in order to gain weight just to find that it actually wasn’t the driving reason behind it.

So, I guess I’m writing this just to say that yes, this is also something that happens to new moms, and it is confusing. It may not be as soul-crushing as weight gain can be, but it is preoccupying. Part of me doesn’t want to get comfortable in this new body because I’m wary that the previous one will come back and I’ll have forgotten how to love that one. I looked good twenty pounds heavier. There’s nothing inherently better about less.

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Whose body is this?

He’s Here!

Ça y est, our little Paddy is here!

He arrived Friday morning at 8:34 am after an extremely rapid labor and let me tell you, rapid labor = not fun!

I won’t go into too much detail but we arrived at 3:30 at labor and delivery because my water had broken, and Paddy was in our arms five hours later. They let me into the delivery room at 7:30 when I was 4 centimeters dilated, and a half hour later I was at 10. So… I’ll just let you imagine how that half hour felt as we waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive to give me an epidural that MAYBE helped during the delivery but otherwise was just really silly by that point.

In any case Paddy made his debut with no complications and a nice round head with some hair and we are all now at home after a equally pointless fourth night imposed on us by the midwife* at the maternity ward (seriously, I cried when they said we had stay longer). He is quite small but already back to birth weight and speaks fluent English and French (ha just kidding).

*Otherwise, the midwife was great and managed to calm me down during some intense contracting (as a result of that 4-10cm business).

The last person we saw before leaving the hospital this morning was my OB, who stopped by to bring me my prescriptions and told me “De toute façon vous avez été parfaite.” Which is kind of just the thing you need to hear and endeared her to me forever.

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Still in my belly (just after we arrived)

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Out of my belly and getting warmed

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With Papa

The Past Week

So hey, turns out maternity leave is really boring. Everyone else is at work all day so there’s not really anyone to bug, and I’m uncomfortable doing a lot of things that involve excessive walking or standing. But I’m sleeping so erratically that I am really grateful for the extra sleep in the mornings.

There’ve been a few final preparations for the baby as well as the last couple midwife classes. I have to say I’m pretty disappointed with what’s on offer in France in terms of bras for breast-feeding. I’m not a totally exceptional size but shops do not seem to have space for women with small rib cages, and maternity bras also seem to be sold mostly in places where you can’t try them on. WTF? So I’ve bought one at Auchan (not the best size) and I ordered another online… and I’m waiting for the second to come before deciding whether to return the first. Also did I mention they’re not very pretty? And lingerie stores don’t sell them? I think the idea of the French being good at lingerie is a big old myth.

Otherwise we put together the bouncer (finally learned what a bouncer is) that J’s family gave us and it’s sitting in the living room next to the couch just waiting for him.

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So enough about the baby, here’s what I’ve been reading to stave off the boredom:

Let’s Stop Posting These Kinds of Travel Instagram Pics Now

Hillary Clinton Was Every Woman During the Debate

Throw Your Top Sheet in the Trash: I have never used a top sheet with a duvet, but I only started using a duvet in France. So is the top-sheet-less thing European?

Obama Reassures Foreign Tourists: “No Other American Man is This Horrible”

The Weirdest Friendships You Find Yourself in When You Hit 30: I skimmed this because it’s pretty long and these didn’t all seem familiar to me, but some of them were pretty interesting.

What Is Up with Trump’s Ill-Fitting Suits? A World-Famous London Bespoke Tailor Explains: Seriously how can a man so rich look so terribly dressed.

Linguistics Explains Why Trump Sounds Racist When He Says “the” African Americans

When Your Old Life Becomes Someone Else’s Internet Sensation:  Fascinating, though it did not make me want to live in a yurt.

 

 

A Baby Shower (in France)

Baby showers are not a thing in France, though like everything American, I did discover they are becoming a little bit trendy among trendier crowds than mine. Who knows if they will soon be ubiquitous like wedding photo booths, or if they’ll go the way of Halloween.

In fact the French are mostly superstitious that it’s a bad idea to give a gift before the baby arrives, though lots of people don’t really believe that. It’s a common enough attitude though that I wasn’t counting on having a baby shower. But my friend Maggie almost immediately raised the question when she learned I was having a baby, and so we set out to make it happen.

The guest list was a mix of people who already knew what baby showers were (=Americans or people familiar with American culture) and people who had no clue but thought it sounded fun (the other French people).

I hesitated on whether to say no gifts or not, because I was inviting people to whom I hadn’t given anything when their babies were born—either because I didn’t know them very well yet or because I was just that dumb person who doesn’t get that it’s really nice to give a gift when a baby is born. (Kind of like how I didn’t realize till my own wedding that you can give a wedding gift even if you can’t make it to the wedding.)

In the end we left the question of gifts wide open and I let Maggie field questions about gifts, since both our e-mail addresses were on the invite. I did order real invitations which was fun and festive, including little “You’re invited!” stickers (in English) for the envelopes.

The shower was pretty low-key as far as showers go because there were no expectations since most people didn’t know what it was. We planned four activities:

  1. Decorate cupcakes
  2. Couple and baby trivia quiz
  3. Match the baby photo to the guest (I got them ALL RIGHT)
  4. Measure the belly

We had the shower at 2 pm at my place, which meant no one was hungry and the cupcakes were plenty as far as food went. We made a last-minute punch with vanilla ice cream which some of the French guests found very strange, but I had other Americans present to explain the concept of an ice cream float.

We decorated a little bit, putting down paper table cloths and blue table runners, buying pretty paper plates, but didn’t go all out by any means, and it was a uni-generational and small party so nothing needed to be very formal. Almost everyone did bring a gift and some of them were handmade which was really touching. I didn’t buy a special dress or anything though I did wear lipstick. We made little favors of candy bags for the guests and gave out condoms as prizes. I actually didn’t take any pictures except of the cupcakes!

So you’ll just have to believe me that the rest of it was fun and cute. I’m really glad we did it—everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it was nice to see everyone again, especially some people I don’t see very often, before baby arrives in about a month (theoretically).