Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Dos and Don'ts of a French Pregnancy
One of the most interesting and amusing aspects of being pregnant in a foreign land is comparing the list of dos and don'ts you get here with the list you grew up hearing about. When you are pregnant (much like when you are a bride) advice comes at you from all angles, charged with personal experiences, political bias and hearsay. Today I want to share some of my favorite dos and don'ts given to me by french colleagues, doctors and official websites...
Do not under any circumstances lift your arms above your head! I wasn't sure what our accountant was talking about when she told me this, so I started to move my arms and said, "What? You mean like this?" Before my arms were at breast height she reached over with both hands and clamped them to my side... "Yes, exactly like that. Don't do it! This means that from now on your husband must scrub the tiles." While I am a wonderful homemaker, I am terrible housecleaner, thus I am honestly not sure what tiles she was referring to... my shower stall tiles possibly? She seemed so insistent that I nodded, looking grave while I assured her I would let Grégoire scrub all of the tiles in our home from here on out.
For those addicted to smoking, up to ten light cigarettes per day is permissible. Whaaaat? And this little tid-bit of advice was on the list of dos and don'ts that my doctor's office gave to me!
Consumption of alcohol is unacceptable, wine is acceptable. This was also on the list my doctor's office gave me. Now, last time I checked wine contains alcohol so reread the sentence... and read it again (consumption of wine is a topic near and dear to my heart) and I then determined that by alcohol they must mean hard liquor. So manhattans are out but a nice glass of red burgundy is apparently fine. What does that mean for beer you say? Well that is clarified in the following rule.
All sparkling beverages should be systematically avoided, especially during the later months of pregnancy. Now in real life (as in when I am not pregnant) I really only like to drink three things: wine, coffee and water. That is it. When hard pressed I will have an Orangina or a ginger ale but I otherwise do not enjoy soda. So what's a girl to do? Two out of the three beverages I drink on a regular basis are shunned by the American pregnancy community and the French have banned fizzy drinks.... A girl can only drink so much juice.
Avoid ingesting dirt or anything that a cat may have peed on. All joking aside this apparently is the most important rule of all for French pregnant ladies to follow. Over here toxoplasmosis abounds and while it has little to no effect on the mother it can kill or seriously hurt your fetus. One way of getting this bacteria is through cat excrement... many French cat owners lodge their cats during pregnancy or add the cat box cleaning duty to their husband's list of chores along with tile scrubbing. Another way of getting the toxoplasmosis bacteria is through dirt that is clinging to your vegetables, some say a good scrubbing is fine others go so far as to say no vegetables or fruit should be consumed in their raw form, especially salad. I am still trying to sort this whole toxoplasmosis thing out, for the time being I am required to do monthly blood tests to confirm that I don't have it... so far so good.... but I can't help but eye restaurant salads more carefully to confirm those black specks are pepper and not dirt sprinkles.
Unpasteurized milk products and undercooked meat must not be consumed. France and America seem to agree here, which is nice. In the US importation of unpasteurized milk products is illegal, so you really have to go out of your way to eat them but here they are everywhere! As soon as you want to eat a fancy bit of fromage or an organic yoghurt they are almost automatically made with raw milk which makes them delicious but which also makes them dangerous for unborn babies. When it comes to meat the French strongly believe that the optimal way to serve it is rare. Restaurants and their staff are so sure of this that when you order it any other way, you are likely to get a look and a lecture on how the meat would be better if you order it, at the very least, medium rare. For me that is apparently not an option. When confronted with the temptation of order a rare piece of steak (both because that is my preference and because I hate being lectured by servers) I conjure up the image of my doctor and her shoe. The day she presented me with the list of rules my she took off one of her brown leather high heels and pointed to the sole saying, "You need to ask for it well done Mary, it should be cooked so tough that you might think you are be eating shoe leather!" Great.