When we gave up our London lives to move to the French Alps and run a ski chalet business we were young, child-free and ready for the adventure. We didn’t even consider at that stage that we were going for the long term and this would involve having babies in another country. But as these things happen, a couple of years later we were pregnant, and our journey into the French baby system had begun.
I wondered how the process might differ from the UK, and regularly spoke to friends at home to compare various things. Monthly 4D scans seemed to be the first difference, which was actually such a luxury. Although there was a cost involved, the social security system reimbursed me, and going to see my baby on the screen every few weeks gave me real reassurance, and I think even helped me to bond with this little person growing inside me.
My gynecologist had a typically French ‘laissez-faire’ attitude to most things, so after the crucial first 4 months I asked the question about having a glass of wine. His advice was to have as much wine as I liked, as long as it was good wine! “Do you ‘sink that ze French women stop drinking wine when zey are pregnant?” he said – “oh, OK” I said. And questionsabout eating smoked salmon, paté, and mousse au chocolat were met with equal derision.This all made me think about the rules and regs around diet in the UK… I wondered if it’s necessary or just stresses future mummies out? In fact the only thing that the French seem concerned about is the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis, so there were monthly blood tests to check for this, as well as the normal testers.
When our little baby boy Charlie arrived in July 2008 it was a tough natural birth (30 hours of labour followed by episiotomy and forceps – UGH!) but the staff at the hospital were great. There’s no option for gas and air in France so the choice was epidural or no epidural. I had an epidural. No one spoke English – and although my French is good, my range of ‘giving birth’ vocab was limited… but we all managed! Actually it some ways it was quite nice not understanding every single thing that was happening – I knew I was in good hands so that’s all that mattered.
After Charlie, we were quite adamant that we wouldn’t have any more children. So 2 and a half years later we were pregnant again with another little boy.
I was lucky with both pregnancies that I didn’t suffer with sickness or any illness, but the thought of giving birth naturally again was stressing me out, and my gynecologist knew as much – so he suggested a planned C-section. After considering all the pros and cons I went for it. In September 2011 Joshua was born, and afterwards I wondered why more women aren’t given the option of a cesarean… cost, I guess? I think I was lucky being in France, and not sure if I would have had the same choice in the UK. But I can count on one hand the number of women I know who’ve had completely problem free natural births, and so many who’ve ended up having an emergency C after 24 gruesome hours of labour – surely not the most ideal use of hospital resources, and certainly a tough way to start motherhood!
Our boys are now 5 and 2, and attend the local French primary and crèche – both of which are lovely. We very much consider France to be our home, and love having our ski chalet business so much. It’s funny because now it’s actually a treat to go back to the UK and go to Boots and M&S! We sometimes ponder about bringing the children up here but at the end of the day they are happy, they’ll grow up bilingual and most importantly are already mean littleskiers… happy days!
Jo and her husband Paddy own and run ‘NINE & TENNE’, a luxury ski chalet company based in Châtel, France. www.nine-tenne.com
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