Friday, September 19, 2014

Hat on please!

I never have the habit to put on a hat when it is sunny, a winter hat when it is cold. My parents didn't put a hat on us when we were younger, and in school we were running wild bare head during recess times.

It is very different in France. Ever since Awena was born, whenever I bring her out, I was reminded again and again to put a hat on her. People told me that babies' nook and cranium are fragile, that their skin are soft so they could get sunburn easily. Same goes to the young kids. I once saw a grandma insisted to put a hat on a 5 year old who would just take if of when the grandma walked away. Due to my own upbringing, I didn't pay much attention to bring a hat for Aelig, but you can see that I'm the weird one. Photo below shows a school outing and Aelig was the only one without hat.

I don't know how those Malaysian kids survive, playing sport under 30°C hot sun? Or we are just born differently?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Back to work at 80%

My maternity leaves ended. I have gone back to work since last week, at 80%.

In France certain employees choose not to work full time in order to spend more time with their kids or simply have time to themselves. The most common being:
-  Mothers working at 90% to take care of their kids who don't have school on Wednesday afternoon
-  Mothers working at 80% to take care of their kids who don't have school on Wednesday (my case)

When Aelig was born, this idea didn't come into mind. But with two kids, it suddenly makes a lot of sense, and I'm really glad that I don't have to work on Wednesday. It is such a huge change, my week is cut into two, I'm happy on Tuesday morning knowing that I don't have to work the next day!

The request to work at 80%, or commonly known as 4/5ème, was simple and straight forward. I briefly told my boss about this intention and I got an oral approval. The HR told me to send them a registered letter two months before my maternity leaves end. I will get an amendment to my work contract, where my salary will be cut off 20%, so do my annual leaves. A lot of people who are already working 80% told me that I would be getting some allowance from the government to compensate my lost of salary. It is a win win situation for the government and the employees, as if kids are with the babysitters, the government will be paying the social charges for the sitters. By taking care of the kids themselves, the charges towards the sitters will be reduced, which in return is being paid to the mothers to encourage them to take care of their kids themselves.

Some mothers did tell me that Wednesday with kids are busier compare to working in the office. I can see that it is true as appointments are being booked now on Wednesday, and as Aelig grows older, I will need to send and fetch her to various activities. I'm still getting information on what to do and where to go on Wednesday, I will share when it is more organized.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

France takes good care of me and my baby after birth

France takes good care of mothers and babies after birth. Here are some of the cares I received after discharge from the maternity ward.

Attachment to our health card
Before we got discharged from the clinic, an officer of CPAM (Healthcare agency in France) came to visit us. She gave us the form to fill in order to attach the baby to both me and hubby's health card (Carte Vitale). Within a week, the baby appeared in our health cards so we could get reimbursement from CPAM directly instead of filling a demand form and send it to the agency. This service was not provided during Aelig's time and she could only be attached to one parent. I praise them for this improvement, it saves us the time to deal with the agency and the hassle of having to remember to bring the card where Aelig was attached to.

Home visit from a midwife
The CPAM officer also proposed us a home visit service from a midwife in our area. I immediately said yes. She took the appointment with the midwife and sent me a SMS to inform me the detail of the appointment. The midwife came two days after I went home and once a week during three weeks. She examined both me and the baby. She answered all our questions. This service didn't exist during Aelig's time, how I'm glad they added this as it really reassured me that both me and baby were doing well.
Cost: 27€ per visit, fully paid by the National Healthcare Systems.

Visit to the gynecologist
It is recommended to pay a visit to the gynecologist 6 weeks after giving birth. My gynecologist examined me to know how well I recover, and she reiterated on the importance of contraception. She also prescribed me to 10 sessions of postnatal physical therapy.
Cost: 23€ paid by the National Healthcare, 27€ paid by my private insurance.

Postnatal Physical Therapy (Rééducation périnéale) - 8 sessions
Some foreign reports commented that this therapy is to teach you to make love again so that you will make another baby quickly. Well, it was not presented this way to me. Not once I was told by the medical professionals that this therapy was to please my husband or to quickly get pregnant again or to get back on nice body shape. My gynecologist and midwives recommended this so that I can reinforce the muscles around my pelvic floor, in order to prevent leaking issues in the future. I did 8 sessions with my midwife. I brought both my kids along with me and when the baby cried, she took care of her while I was doing the exercises, how nice!

So what did I do? We started with exercises to tighten the pelvic floor. My midwife inserted two fingers there in order to feel my movements. She then taught me how to hold up my body without breathing, so that the organs can get back to their normal place. I would tightening and releasing my pelvic floor, then do a round of hold up of my body, then the tightening and releasing exercise again. The following six sessions involved a lot of gymnastics for the pelvic area, which would indirectly exercising the abdominal. I did 8 sessions instead of 10 as prescribed because we cancelled two sessions and after an examination the midwife felt that I didn't have to replace the two missing sessions.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience, as beside practicing gymnastics I was able to ask her questions regarding my recovery and the baby's development. I didn't do this after having Aelig because I was not convinced that it was important. Now I'm convinced!
Cost : 19.60€ per session fully paid by the National Healthcare Systems.

Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI)
PMI is local healthcare center for mothers and children. The baby should go through medical checkup once a month and we could do it with our family doctor or PMI. During Aelig's time they only had a nurse but this time around, they have a nurse plus a doctor who could give vaccinations to children. I was impressed since the first appointment. The nurse was very friendly. A friend told me that I could ask for BCG vaccination (not mandatory anymore in France but recommended if one is to go to Malaysia) in this center. Indeed. The center was equipped with all kind of vaccines so the doctor immediately agreed to give the vaccination. I'm so glad that it was done and that I didn't have to go through the painful experience to get someone to give BCG vaccination! Another improvement is that instead of getting the vaccination every month like what Aelig did, a baby now only needs get the pain during his/her 2nd, the 4th and the 9th month of life.
Cost : Free for the parents, the PMI gets 28€ from the National Healthcare Systems per visit.

We are so blessed to have all these good cares!

The Giant Long Ma (龙马)

Nantes seems to be the expert in creating the machinery giant. After the Giant Grandma , and the Elephant (quick becoming the main attraction of Nantes), we now witness the giant Long Ma (dragon horse in Mandarin), prowling around street of Île de Machine.

Long Ma debuted its first show end of August and is heading to China. It is a gift from France to China to mark the incoming 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It will settle in Beijing and becomes another attraction there, just like the giant elephant in Nantes.

We were there the last day this Long Ma made its appearance. I thought it will walk as slow as the elephant but to my surprise, it actually walks fast / runs and spews fire. I heard a French commenting : well, it will walk in China, they have the space so it has to run fast! It also pretends to eat some bamboo leaves, and I heard a woman saying : Oh, how come it eats leaves? It is a Chinese dragon, it is supposed to eat fish in the sea! Ok, frankly, I have not heard of this Long Ma, an ancient legendary creature in the Chinese culture. We always say "The Spirit of Long Ma" (龙马精神) to describe a strong and prosperous spirit, and I thought it means the spirit combining the two animals: dragon and horse.

Anyway, I observed that dragon in Chinese and the European culture is somehow different. Dragon is considered an audacious animal, it brings good luck in Chinese culture whereas in the Western world, it could be a vicious and dangerous animal. Besides, they don't look the same physically. Photo shows a typical Chinese dragon, it is slim and long and doesn't have wings even though it can fly. Western dragons on the other hand have wings with frightening looks. (see photo below).


Hope the audiences in China will enjoy this amazing art giant machine!

Friday, August 22, 2014

5 days in the maternity ward (法国生产记之住院)

We stayed in the maternity ward for 5 days. I don't know why, but I was sad to leave the day we got discharged.

I chose the same clinic as I had good memories from my first delivery. The team (doctors/midwives/nurses) was very professional and provided good advises. The foods tasted yummy but I could be biased since breastfeeding made me hungry all the times. I had breakfast around 7am, lunch at 12pm, snack at 4pm and dinner around 6pm.

My typical breakfast. I ordered hot milk but they gave me hot chocolate instead. They only corrected the mistake during the last day of my stay.

Lunch. It was amazing, I didn't have the feeling of being full anymore. For my first delivery, I actually ate the hospital food plus confinement food my aunt prepared.

Every day the midwife came to see me and gave me painkiller. I didn't really need it because I didn't feel too painfull, just uncomfortable. I was told that Jun, July and August are peak months for delivery so all the staffs were overwhelmed. I had a different midwife everyday and I felt that they were in rush everytimes. Nurses came to check on the baby everyday too. There was one that I adored, she gave me plenty of advises. She told me that I can let the baby cry as long as she is fed and her diaper is clean.

I prefer to have plenty of rest so only close family came to visit me. Aelig came everyday and accepted well that I had to stay in the clinic with the baby. She was proud to be big sister.

We had to learn how to bath a baby and all that jazz again. Frankly, I forgot some of the details, but it just came back after several practices.

This time around the nurses proposed to take care of the baby in the nursery room during the night (They didn't propose me when Aelig was born and I didn't ask). For three nights they came to fetch the baby then sent her back three to four hours later for nursing. It was heaven as I could sleep for several hours straight without a crying baby beside.

I felt that my recovery from the birth was slower this time. It was very uncomfortable to move around. The first few days I felt dizzy after standing up, I didn't have this problem last time. One nurse told me that was normal as some of the organs were displayed during the pregnancy, it takes time for them to get back to their original position. Another new experience for me was the painful uterus contraction. One night after sending the baby to the nursing room, I was hoping for a good night sleep. I was waken up by a sharp pain from my stomach and couldn't sleep for the whole night. The doctor told me that it was uterus contraction, that women with more than one delivery will feel it stronger compare to the first one. The sharp pain came from time to time and I had to take a stronger form of painkiller to ease the pain.

I was happy and relief to have the single bedroom. It was important for me to be able to rest without being disturbed. It costed 70€ a day and it was fully paid by the insurance.

Baby diaper changing area.

Private bathroom attached to the room.

Once the baby was gaining enough weight, we asked to be discharged. We had to get approval from the pediatrician and my gynecologist. My gynecologist actually came to see me the fourth day while I was taking my breakfast, so she said she would pass by again the morning after. She came again at 8am but I was sleeping (after a long night fight with the baby), so she left. I went to see her after being discharged as her clinic was located at the same area.

As for the baby, she cried a lot during the stay, hubby came to help me out everyday. Anyway, we were happy to bring her home!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Hairdressing at home

Isn't it nice to have your hair done at the comfort of your own house? I heard about freelance hairdressing several years ago but have never tried it myself. Ok, I'm not talking about those under the table services but rather a legal professional hairdressing services.

We were having vacation in my in laws' house, and my MIL had an appointment with her hairdresser, at her own home. She suggested to trim Aelig's hairs. Her appointment would last for 2.5 hours and it would have 20 minutes break in between her treatment. I figured I could also use a haircut.

The hairdresser arrived on time. She started with mixing some colors for hair dying. Oh my I didn't know dying hair would take so much time. Anyway she managed to trim my hair and Aelig's during the break.

Charges : 58€ for hair dying, 11€ for trimming Aelig's hair. Free for me (she explained that she was using the break time so she didn't want to charge me).

Love the service and the reasonable fee.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Free calls to Malaysian land-lines and cellphones from France

Finally, my turn!

I know, our internet provider Free Telecom has offered free calls to cellphones in USA and China since long time ago, but Malaysia was not in the list.

Now Malaysia is included! Yes, I can call both land-lines (can do so since long time ago) and cellphones (beginning probably since July 4, 2014) for FREE!

Countries that are enjoying this free service include USA, Canada, Hawaii, China, Macao, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and many more.

For the complete list please refer to:

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Bad eating habits?

Even since Aelig was a baby, she follows the French eating habits : a meal every 4 hours. Basically, she has her breakfast around 8am, lunch around 12pm, snack around 4pm then dinner around 8pm. This is very different from my own habits as I can eat anytime anywhere. French parents in general discourage nibbling between meals. This is stated in Pamela Druckerman's Bébé Day by Day : 100 keys to French parenting. Pamela is an American journalist who currently lives in Paris, raising three kids. She observed and wrote some parenting books about how French raise their kids. Her books were translated into other languages including Mandarin, and they have been a bit in the parenting world.

Anyway, seeing that I eat all the times, she quickly asks to do the same. When she comes back from school, around 6:30pm, she would tell me that she is hungry. I consider that fruits are no harm and could be consumed at anytime, so I prepared a fruit basket so she can help herself whenever she wants.

One day she asked her dad's permission for a banana before dinner but it was refused. She then came to see me and I overruled her dad. This caused some tension between me and hubby. During dinner she didn't eat much and hubby blamed this on the banana she ate earlier. True, if she hasn't eaten that banana, she might have taken more food. But, I considered fruit as part of the meal and provided the same good nutrition.

On another occasion, Aelig was hungry and asked to eat between meal again. This time hubby gave her some bread. He told me that bread is allowed and it is the way it is. True, he eats bread at anytime. Now, the question is why nibbling on bread is ok while savoring fruit is not ok?

We have not come to any conclusion about this. I agreed that I need to stop Aelig from eating all those biscuits I bought (I miss salty biscuits as breakfast as French breakfast are usually sweet). I still think eating fruit between meal is ok but if she eats fruit and bread between meal then it would be too much.

There are many conflicting studies about eating. Some say eating frequently with smaller portion is better for the body, some say we should not eat between meals. Some indicate we should eat fruits at the beginning of a meal instead of having it as dessert. Asian don't have habit to eat bread during meal but French do it all the times. At the end, it really depends on each individual.