As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew I had to pick up a copy of Bringing up Bébé (and in case I didn’t pick one up for myself – nearly everyone I know offered to lend me their copy!). Of course, there’s a little confirmation bias when reading about the French approach to pregnancy and parenting as a Francophile, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely agreed with the French and saw so much of my mother’s own parenting in the book’s pages.
While I felt a connection to French parenting, I found myself diverging a bit more with the French approach to pregnancy than I had anticipated in certain regards. Curious as to how our American pregnancies differ from the French, I dug deeper researching French articles and even perusing a copy of the booklet every French woman receives at her first pregnancy OB appointment.
I was interested to find that there is a lot more pressure on French woman not to gain very much weight while pregnant. In America, we are told 25-35 pounds is an acceptable amount of weight gain. However, in France, women are encouraged not to gain more than 10 kilos total (about 22 pounds). French women are strongly reminded that they are not, in fact, eating for two. And although you may expect French women to indulge in daily trips to the boulangerie, most French women do not see pregnancy as an opportunity to indulge more than usual. Personally, I don’t think there would be any physical way to stop me from enjoying a daily croissant if I found myself pregnant in Paris – but perhaps that’s just the American in me!
Another surprising fact? French doctors tend to recommend complete abstinence from alcohol while pregnant. This runs counter to my own previous beliefs that French women are encouraged (or at least not subject to the same stigma) to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner now and then. Additionally, despite being the land of unpasteurized goods, French women are also told to avoid those delicious soft and runny cheeses beckoning from every fromagerie and bistro menu.
But my biggest takeaway from French approaches to pregnancy has less to do with health guidelines and more with the overall mentality. On this point, I’m very much in agreement with my fellow French mamas. Being pregnant isn’t viewed so much as an affliction or a time to withdraw from your world in France and women continue to do almost everything they did previously to feel feminine and sexy. Fashion tweaks to accommodate a growing bump are of course necessary, but maintaining one’s style is de riguer. Women are encouraged to bounce back quickly after pregnancy, not just from a physiological standpoint (pelvic floor recovery is 100% covered by France’s healthcare), but from a lifestyle perspective as well. None of this not showering for days, martyrdom for being covered in spit up, loss of social life we see in the American approach to the early weeks of parenting. Rather, French women put on some lipstick and take the pram to get a glass of much-deserved wine as par for the course.
I’ve tried to incorporate this final point into my pregnancy as much as possible. I have to admit, it’s easy to fall into the dry shampoo, shapeless maxi, no makeup rut when your bras look straight out of the 1950s, your body is rapidly expanding and you’re just too tired to even wash your face. A lot of days I don’t put myself together but I try to do so as much as possible because I really do feel so much better about myself when I do. I also decided to take the plunge on an at-home maternity shoot, complete with boudoir style photos in an attempt to embrace the sexier side of pregnancy. My dear friend and photographer, Amberlee, captured this season my life so beautifully (she’s also a magical wedding photographer if you’re in the market!). I also highly recommend treating yourself to lots of blowouts during your pregnancy. I cannot even begin to tell you how much better I feel after Monica from Concihairge comes to do my hair. I literally just sit in my dining room and chat with her while she makes me feel pampered and pretty. If you’re expecting or a new mama, I highly recommend you try it out! I must say, I felt trés belle during the shoot and that feeling buoyed my spirits despite pregnancy growing more and more challenging with each passing week. This lace dress didn’t hurt either ((I also love this one). Maybe the French are on to something…
Photos: Whimsical Imagery by Amberlee
Hair: Monica Bada at Concihairge
Makeup: Emily Dimant