Monday, June 18, 2012

Location, locomotion, location

It has been 12 completely crazed and largely emotional days since I last posted.  Since this blog is largely a tool of creation for MY own happiness - and it has been neglected, well, that tells you something!

First, even though I will be giving birth in less than 3 months, I still do not know where or with whom.  This journey has been incredibly anxiety inducing.  It has now led me down the path of just doing it at home.  The more I sat with this, the more it made sense.   Then began finding a midwife who delivers at home search.  I was completely unsurprised to find out that my options were very few and far between.  This is both due to the lateness of my pregnancy and that the French system doesn't support homebirths ... at all.  Luckily I joined a really helpful group called ANPA, Anglophone Natural Parenting Association.  This community of mothers has been imperative to this journey and would highly recommend any natural-parent leaning person join.  ANPA link

Second, French driving school, is just a little slice of hell on earth.  Exhausting, confounding and completely setting you up to fail, partaking in this process now makes me wonder if I am a glutton for punishment.  Yesterday, however I did drive around with Hicham.  While the many bizarre intersections were just that and the road signs did confuse me on occasion, I handled most situations well.  It seems to take most people about 6 months to get their license in France, I feel it necessary to do within TWO (before the baby is born!)  I start driving with the instructor on Tuesday (have to do 8 hours).  More on that soon.

Third, we got sidetracked-once again in our housing situation.  Even though we have made the great use of our 800 sq ft apartment to make our lives fit into this box, we still get urges to move into something bigger.  Of course, it isn't only about size, it is also about wanting to have easier access to nature.  One reason we moved to this apartment was because we are near the forest of Boulogne, the enormous parc de Saint Cloud, the river and a variety of other green spaces but still opening the door to ones' own plot of Earth beckons me. 

Is this the right time to do be driving around looking at houses?  No.  Particularly when you consider that Sabine's education must be taken into consideration when we think about WHERE we will live.  So, then the house hunt becomes combo school research/city study.  I guess, in a sick way, it is an occassional form of leisure for us.  We look at the ads, the houses, google maps, carve out commutes, consider shopping etc.  I guess it is not much different from people who play simcity or other reality type video games.  Imagining your life being lived in a different setting than it really is. 

Rarely does this exploration lead us beyond the computer, but once and a while, we do go through the hassle of going and looking at a place.  This is always because there is something so incredibly unique about the property, that even if we don't buy it, we will have still gotten to see it with our own eyes.  I guess you could call it "House Hunters, Foreign Edition Live". 

For example, once we went to see a house that had so many cool things going on, I was sure it was "the one".  Giant stone fire place, built in timber lofts in the bedrooms with cool ladders creating cozy nooks, a round stone wall kitchen, an extra underground stone room, bay windows, enormous trees, hello?  When we went to see the house, it was incredibly unique.  Sadly, it was in front of a really busy road and more importantly, the cool kitchen was below the house.  Can you imagine having to carry dinner for four people upstairs every single night?  AND, they were slippery, steep, well worn stone step!  Embarrassingly, it actually took me until we got to the last upstairs bedroom to really see the ramifications of that!   

This weekend, we went to see a house that was located on an island... with no car access.  I was thrilled!  Living on an island that didn't allow cars is like a dream to me.  Even though I want to be able to drive in France, the chance of not having to listen to the constant stream of cars sounds really heavenly.  The island is accessible by a small foot bridge which people use all kinds of contraptions to get their groceries over with.  Electric golf carts (small French versions) with trailers attached would fit.  Across the bridge you will find rows of garages where the residents keep their cars.  The entire island was incredibly lush and natural, with one large path going down the length of it and houses on each side.  The house that we looked at was asking 465,000 euros.  Their asking price a year ago was nearly double that.

The property was large, with several extra small buildings, a studio, an above ground pool, patios, a 1400 sq ft house, a woodshop, underground storage room, tons of trees and of course all of this enclosed in bushes, greenery and the gorgeous river.  A nature lovers paradise, right near Paris.  I think we were really interested, for real, until we saw the upstairs of the house.  The downstairs left some stuff to be desired, but it was the upstairs that made me almost retch.    Every square inch of the upstairs was so irritating that the amount of money, time and energy to change it simply made me want to run away fast.  The house was built in three stages, much to my surprise (and yet not) the upstairs was the most recent.  And it was done on the cheapy, cheap.  Carpet on the creaking (1995!) floor, weird shaped rooms with odd angles making me dizzy, a giant mirrored closet IN the bathroom, no closets in two of the 80's wallpapered pastel rooms, the master bedroom barely fitting our bed but with an attached bathroom with both a shower and a tub all tiled in dark blue and bright white.  Need I go on?  Okay, they not only closed the wonderful fireplace from down stairs, but removed it because they couldn't make it work with the "new" upstairs, the oven in the kitchen was mini, the counters were sized for hobbits, the living room was lime green and as is the norm for the French, the dining area was far from the kitchen.  Why?

We told the agent, lovely man from Argentina, to please let us know if another house goes up for sale on the island, because we are interested in living there - but that house?  At that price?  Yeah, no thanks.

So, there are just two more places we will look at in the coming week and then we will have itched that scratch for a while.  It usually comes up about every 6 months.  Not to say that we aren't content in our cozy apt, it is just that we have been here for over three years!  I have never lived anywhere for this long, ever!  It is also ironic, that it was only recently that I painted the living room....

But well, sometimes you just gotta look at what else is out there to realize how good you got it, am I right?  

To end this entry on a cute note, here is Sabine washing carrots:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Update on the midwife meeting (dun dun dun dun!)

Aaah, life in France.  What magic, what wonder!  By that I mean: I wonder what they will pull out of bag of tricks next.  By "they" I mean, ALL French people, all the time.  No, just kidding.  But since I have just returned from the states, the contrast in culture is all that much more stark.  Soon, probably, as the memories fade - and as I grow again accustomed to just how difficult life can be made at nearly turn - I will become comfortably numb to it all.

But til then, allow me to update you with the result of my  previously mentioned "debriefing" with my former midwife, the midwife who broke confidentiality with me as I shared with her my previous birth experience during an interview and the psychologist who was to determine if I was still very upset by Sabine's birth and therefore not acceptable to return to their services.  Funnily, when I had told midwife #2 whom we will call by her name, Muriel, that I wanted something different than I had will midwife #1, Willy, she strongly urged me to find somewhere else to go.

What continues to amaze me is that there appear to be about five or so midwives in this giant city who actually speak English.  Okay, there are probably some in the American Hospital or the British Hospital, but they are both incredibly expensive and you are not "followed" by the midwife, meaning that the person who is in the room with you as the baby is born could be a complete stranger.  They also don't take Social Medical card soooo, not an option anyway.  I told Muriel, that there really was NO where else for me to go that would provide a less-medical model style of birth.  They don't have cozy birthing centers like in the states.  There is ONE that is close, but still the birthing is done usually in the hospital after laboring in a lovely room.  I mentioned it in a previous blog and while it is great, no speaka the English.

Anyhoot, the meeting went well.  Even though, it was held against my wishes and if I didn't go then I was out,  the meeting did go well. Nor would I say it was worth MY time, per say, as the rendezvous was done at the urging of "the team" to ensure that there was peace between myself and Willy.  But to put the team's mind at rest that there wasn't a raging (and ranting) woman dragging Groupe Naissance name through the mud, I went.  And I found that I felt much more understood at the end (always feels good to be understood) and I felt more compassion towards Willy. 

I highlighted how I felt completely under-prepared for the birth, though I was led to believe that I was prepared.  How Willy's style of complete non-nonchalance when I didn't know what to do but was scared was incompatible with what I want for the next time.  We talked about how tense my muscles became and basically left the meeting with the clear understanding that for the next birth, I intend to get to the bottom of these issues and hopefully not repeat them.  I was reading in my "HypnoBirthing" book that "fear is the cause of tension within the body, in particular the uterus" p4.

For Sabine's birth, at Willy's strong urging, we did not read or become informed about birthing, breathing, techniques or even how to use the birthing ball.  He was of the mind that the body just knows what to do.  I actually totally agree with him, that the body was designed to birth a baby without medical intervention (in most cases) and that given the time, space and respect the mother can deliver a baby without her having a medical degree.

But, for me, what was missing was the basic idea of what was happening and what was going to happen.  I was also not told that things that were worrisome were normal and fine.  Being that vulnerable and frightened just made everything tense up.  I am not even talking about the labor, which I got through fine with music and my breath.  That part, I had a handle on.  But when the urge to poop was overwhelming, I had no knowledge that that was the push the baby out urge and so, not wanting to poop on the floor, I resisted.  No one told me at that time.   

I am only now learning about HOW to give birth.  Because hot-damn, there are helpful tips out there!  As of yet, however, I still do not know where I will give birth nor who my midwife will be.  But even if we do end up going to the nearby hospital, I will be more equipped to extract our daughter confidently and without fear.  (Who knew breathing like blowing a balloon helps?)

Because it wasn't the labor pain, which was without excess pain.  I found the pain tolerable with Libana's singing lulling the pain like the ocean washing up on the shore- and gushing back and washing up and gushing back.  It was invigorating and cosmic .... right upon until the harsh change of room, hallway, elevator, medical bed, fear, confusion, tension, variety of ineffective change of positions each one more painful than the last (the change of position), the incorrect breathing, no more music, no more candles, just commands to PUSH for three hours.

Ah well, I am thrilled that I get a do-over on this one.  Worth mentioning that this HypnoBirthing book by Marie F Mongan is really great and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is pregnant.  In about three months, I will let you know how it worked!

Pictures of our incredible journey coming up, really, I promise!  I have been busy unpacking and organizing.  Don't believe me? Take a look at how Sabine's (+new baby) room has transformed:

Those drawers on the left will hold Sabine's clothes soon.

This changing table will start being used again, heavy sigh.

We needed new book shelves (left) thanks to all the wonderful new books!  Thanks to Joan for some of the really special ones :)

Got more vertical storage, got rid of some clutter and decided how to resolve the bed situation.  When the new baby is ready for her own bed, she will take Sabine's crib and Sabine will sleep on a trundle mattress kept under the crib.  I pondered the idea of getting an elevated bed, but decided to keep it simple for the moment.  Who knows, we will hopefully be moving next summer. 

So, almost entirely ready for the baby!  Now, focus on the French driver's license!