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!