So once again I need to start with a massive mea culpa for leaving it so long between blog posts. But at least this time I have a legitimate excuse. Last Summer, during the hottest week of the year no less, our own little Parisian came blazing into the world. So much has happened over the past year or so; lots of highs, a few lows and oh-so-many funny moments. I’m keen to capture it all, but it will probably take several posts (as I sit down to write I realize how much there is to say … and finding time to write is a challenge!).
I want to preface all of this by saying how conscious I am that becoming and staying pregnant and bringing a healthy baby into the world is an absolute blessing that can, unfortunately, be a real challenge for many, many couples. More than I realized until I experienced it for myself. My heart goes out to anyone experiencing difficulties; I’ve been there. All I can do is send much love and courage and cross my fingers and toes that it works out.
So, without further ado, a few words about some of the perks of being pregnant in Paris.
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PREGNANT IN PARIS: THE PERKS
I often think that being pregnant – and indeed being a jeune maman – in Paris has given me an insight into the type of old lady I may turn out to be.
Skipping lines, using caisses prioritaires (priority checkouts) in the supermarket, taking afternoon naps, listening to France Culture on the radio during the day, sitting in Palais Royal reading books, doing gentle yoga classes and making friends with my camarades, becoming a regular at coffee shops, eavesdropping on peoples’ conversations and offering unsolicited advice, unashamedly drinking gallons of Hepar (the Metamucil of mineral waters), telling people off for riding scooters on the foothpath and expecting people to give up their seat for me on the metro. These are all things that I did with relish when I was pregnant.
And many of these behaviours have continued – or even intensified – since the arrival of bébé. Sure, I no longer get special treatment on the metro (despite apparently still looking pregnant, at least according to one pharmacy worker who recently offered me “félicitations”; I accepted graciously, until I realized that I didn’t have the baby with me), but I still enjoy listening to France Culture on the radio (that is, when they’re not on strike … 56 days and counting!) and attending my weekly yoga class (maintenant avec bébé).
And although I continue to enjoy my daily trips to Palais Royal, you will no longer find me lounging by the fountain reading in one of those surprisingly comfortable green metal recliner chairs. Instead, you’ll see me doing vigorous laps of the arcades with the pram, or standing under the trees (on the sunny side), madly rocking the pram back and forth, trying to lull the baby to sleep or keep him that way.
My adventures zooming around Paris with the pousette (pram) do tend to bring out my inner crazy old lady: I am constantly humming and singing in the street (the other day I found myself singing “Ciao Bella” in double time like a lunatic for at least an hour), talking to myself (under the guise of talking to the baby, mind you), telling people off for taking up the footpath or smoking near the pram and, if the baby is asleep, shushing just about anyone or anything I can, including inanimate objects such as air vents and cement mixers.
But I digress. My point was that, in many ways, Paris is pregnant ladies’ paradise. Sure, everyone knows about France’s phenomenal healthcare system. And some even know about the free pelvic floor re-education sessions (more about those in another post). But there are also a lot of other, inner-old-lady-pleasing perks, too. For example, when I was pregnant:
- Women encouraged me to skip mammoth bathroom queues at the Opera (whoever designed the Opéra Bastille grossly underestimated how much champagne the women would drink at interval) and at Roland Garros.
- I got to use the priority line at Monoprix (and once, while using it, I was given free snacks; true story).
- When out and about, I had no qualms about popping into bistros to use their bathrooms (even in the most touristy of areas where the bathrooms are clearly marked for patrons only), and was never met with the slightest guff from waiters who I’m sure are otherwise highly guff-prone.
- I was stopped in the street by many well-meaning strangers (particularly towards the end of my pregnancy when my stomach was the size of a basketball; see above) and had some lovely chats about pregnancy and babies, including with Colin Peter Field, the head bartender at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz, whose partner had recently given birth to a baby girl.
- My best friend and I skipped the entire queue at the Musée d’Orsay on a sunny day in peak tourist season.
And people do, eventually, give up their seat for you on the metro. The problem nowadays is that people are so engrossed in their smartphones that they often don’t notice you (and, sure, sometimes people can’t work out if you’re actually pregnant or just not really pulling off the high-waisted look). For a while I took to reading pregnancy books such as “Dis-moi bébé qui tu es”, which is both a great read and has a giant baby head on the front cover – very handy to pull out on a crowded RER and wave in peoples’ faces to dispel any confusion.
As you can imagine, I got quite used to this red carpet treatment. So I was naturally a tad disappointed when one of my girlfriends told me about the warning she received from a nurse at her maternité: once the baby arrived, she would no longer be “la star”; the baby would be. This is true, and with good reason. But thankfully not all of the perks have dried up.
Indeed, since the bébé arrived I’ve witnessed a number of acts of kindness which have, on occasion, quite literally made my day:
- One day I took the little man to the Peloton café, a spot over by BHV with coffee so good it is worth crossing town for (just ask the team at Coffee Cops Paris if in doubt!). After getting all set up I saw a little sign on the comptoir saying “cash only”; the card machine was broken that day. I counted out my centimes and realized I fell well short of what I needed for my oat milk latte (yes, I’m one of those people). As I started to pack up, a server came over from behind the bar and asked what I wanted; it was on the house, he said, adding, “I’m sure you need it!” (He also said “don’t tell the boss!”; I later realized he was the boss).
- When Marion at La Guinguette d’Angèle (a fabulous little vegetarian canteen in the 2nd arrondisement) sees me coming with the baby carrier she encourages me to skip the queue (which I only dare do when there is a risk of bébé waking, rest assured).
- Similarly, when the staff at Café Kitsuné Palais Royal see me coming (on my aforementioned laps), they make my coffee and bring it out to me on the next lap.
- On at least two occasions at the achingly hipster Partisan café – currently one of my favourite coffee spots in Paris, where they give you a choice between “new wave” (i.e. exotic-sounding but probably sour-tasting) and “Italien” (i.e., ye olde and boring, “OK boomer”-style) coffee to prove just how hipster you are – patrons have given up tables for me and moved to the communal, high table, so that I can sit with the little man in the pram (with my Italien-style coffee, I might add; oui, je l’assume).
- One time while having lunch at the wonderful Twenty Peas over in the 8th (also worth crossing town for), eating one-handed with the little man on my lap (motherhood has made me realize it’s amazing how much you can do single-handed … except write blog posts!), another diner kindly offered to hold the little man and entertain him while I finished eating.
- Various passers-by have helped me when I’ve been struggling with the pram, e.g. trying to get through heavy doors of Paris (pretty to look at; not so pretty to manoeuvre a pram through) or when I have quite literally been bogged in a gravel pit (not the good kind) in my own street. (To explain, our footpaths are being widened as part of the war of cars being led by Anne Hidalgo (the current Mayor of Paris); this will be amazing once finished, but the travaux – with a bit of grèves thrown in – have been a nightmare).
- And finally a little shout out to Marilyn at Qee yoga – who has to be the best pre-natal pilates teacher in Paris – who takes the little man off my hands whenever she can to let me pack up after my post-natal yoga class (and also shout-out to the lovely Amandine, whose post-natal classes rock and Elodie – my favorite yoga teacher depuis toujours !).
Voilà, that’s about all that my sleep-deprived brain can think of right now. If you know of other perks of being pregnant (or jeune maman) in Paris let me know! Otherwise, on the next post: some of the peeves of being pregnant in Paris.