Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pregnant in Paris

I always have an idea about how things will go in my life. I've been around long enough to know that the way you think it will go is probably not the way it will go, but I still do it: think ahead, envision an event, plan it all out. For example, if I was to ever get pregnant 'some day' I would bring the baby back to the Brookfield Bungalow to sleep in the Blue Room; copious family would be around to get underfoot and to help out; my neighbor Maria would be on hand for mothering advice or a delicious Portugese meal when I was just too darn tired to cook. I would work hand in hand in hand with my dear doctor who has become a friend. I would shop for maternity wear with my girls, and be able to buy all the gear at my local Babies R Us.

Well, like John says, life happened while I was making other plans. We had been settled in our new apartment for about a month when I found out I was pregnant. I first suspected when we were down in the South of France, sampling wine. It made me sick -really sick- and my tolerance is normally stupendous!! I got home, and before making a trip to the pharmacist had to look up the French word for 'pregnancy', which is 'grossesse'....not pretty.

And the grossesse adventure has just continued from there. Having no idea what is available, I have relied utterly and completely on my new GP to guide me though the French medical system. Which turns out is pretty good, although the French think it is going to hell in a handbasket! Imagine of they had to wait 6 months for surgery like in Canada......Generally speaking I get a real, live DOCTOR doing my medical tests, which is wonderful as they diagnose as they go along. None of this 'wait for the results' nonesense. My ultrasounds have been done in English (bonus!) but all my bloodwork and other tests in French, which means I tote the dictionary with me to the clinic (they think this is cute).

And speaking of vocabulary, shopping for baby furniture is a whole new world. As our apartment is so small, we want a crib that turns into a toddler bed; the French call this a 'lit evolutif' which I think has a lyrical ring to it. Lyrical it may be, but it is also expensive!! I can get a lovely solid wood lit evolutif in Ottawa for about $250; here in Paris the average price is 700 euros, and it is MDF. Grrrrr!!! Then there are berceaux (bassinettes) sometimes called couffins (a term that makes me nervous), pousettes (strollers), commodes (dressers) and hautes-chaises (OK, this one I could work out without the dictionary!). I'm scared to even get into diapers, bottles, bibs......

However it has not been all bad: the maternity wear is lovely; I get to use all sorts of toilets not normally open to the public; I get seats on the Metro. And people are very kind, always wanting to know my 'date d'accouchement'. Of course, by French standards I look about ready to pop now......you should see their eyes pop when I tell them I still have a few months to go! What can I say, we make 'em big in Canada.

So being pregnant here in many ways has made the whole process so much more difficult. I am trying to adjust not only to being a new Mom, but to my new city. Some days I feel such despair: if I can't even figure out how to buy blinds for the baby's room, how on earth can I look after the baby? But then I stop and remember that being here has given me the rare gift of time: time to not be working, time to really enjoy being pregnant, time to contemplate motherhood. Greg and I have had to rely on just each other, and are already honing our own instincts for parenthood.

Besides, our little one can always say he was born in Paris!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Enjoying Edinburgh

When my friend Donna from work invited me to join her in Edinburgh, I jumped at the chance (well, did a little skip. I don't think its possible to be airborne at 6.5 months pregnant!) My grandfather had been born in Scotland and its lore looomed large in my mind. And unlike some places that I come to with high expectations, Edinburgh did not dissapoint.

I will admit that weather has a huge impact on my ability to appreciate a place, and surprisingly for Scotland, our weather was perfect: crisp fall days with orange leaves dancing against a blue, blue sky. It did rain just enough to give me a feel for it, and while the city was certainly greyer, I found it no less charming. I noted that the stone used throughout Edinburgh's building is grey compared to teh creamy hue favored in Paris (or perhaps it just needed a good wash?) but overall the city reminded me of its emblem, the thistle: a beautiful, approachable centre set amongst thorny crags.

It certainly is different travelling with a girlfriend than my husband. While I adore travelling with Greg, I certainly get to shop more with a friend! Donna indulged my desire for comfy Clark's boots, and we hit most of the other big name stores as well. Tea at Debenham's and a pedicure at Jenner's rounded out a thoroughly hedonistic day! We did get a bit of culture in by visiting an Impressionist Garden exhibit on at the Royal Gallery, which was very good. Funny that I went to Edinburgh to see artists from Paris..... I also must mention specially that pedicure, which was done quite differently than in Canada. My esthetician a sweet young thing named Jessica, explained that usually they do a pedicure lying down (how??) but since I was pregnant she put me in a chair (good call). However they had no equipment to allow her to work on my feet this way, so she sat on the floor, bless her heart! Normally, they are not permitted to trim toenails, but she took pity on the state of my feet (which I can no longer reach) and did them anyhow.

After a filling Scottish venison stew for dinner, we went back to our lovely B&B to watch English TV, woohoo!

The next morning, I tried porridge and haggis for breakfast. I actually like haggis: its quite rich, but verra tasty, and the oatmeal mixed in with the ground meat gives it nice texture. As I had gotten to do all the things on my list the day before, this day was for Donna, and she likes taking pictures! It was a rainy morning, but undaunted, we and our umbrellas headed to Edinburgh castle for a dose of history. I learned that the 'crag' where the castle is situated has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and is the place from which poor Mary Stuart began her demise. I saw the room where James the 7th (to become James 1st of England and Scotland) was born as well as the chapel that Queen Margaret prayed in (she later was canonized a saint). Since Mary's time, the castle has been primarily used for military purposes so there was a great deal of military history as well. There is even a tiny graveyard for all the regiment mascots who have died over the years!

We then walked the Royal Mile and bought cashmere for everyone back home (oh Ok, some for me too:) I then needed a nap, and Donna carried on taking more pictures (by this point I had dropped my camera, so its a good thing she did take lots!) That night we took in the movie Eat, Pray, Love, a suitably 'chicky' way to end the day.

Our last half day was another bright clear one, so I took the chance to climb nearby Collton Hill which sits opposite the Castle. It was a slow climb for one pregnant lady, and one lady with bum knees, but we made it and the view was totally worth it. We could see to the ocean on one side, and admire Edinburgh Castle and the city's other landmarks from the other. It was a fitting end to a wonderful weekend, which left me, yet again, saying 'when can I come back?'.