Having a kid in France: Part II

This whole pregnancy thing is going by so fast. I am in the 37th week now and I guess Baby Boy Bennett could arrive anytime from now until the 42nd week. Everyone asks if we are ready, and honestly I don’t know how to answer. Yes and absolutely not is probably pretty accurate.

The growth of Baby Boy Bennett and me…

In this post, I wanted to share about how people interact with a pregnant lady here in Paris (case study: me). I can’t compare it to how people treat pregnant ladies in America, so feel free to comment and let me know (I’m curious). Maybe it’s exactly the same. But before being pregnant, and even in the first 25 weeks or so, I was treated like everyone else. Paris is a big city, and like most big cities as a general rule, you DO NOT make eye contact with strangers and you DO NOT talk to strangers. There are exceptions of course, and sometimes Parisians will surprise me with how polite they can be. But it’s a big place and we are all crossing paths with so many people everyday; there is a sense or maybe even a right, that each person has a degree of privacy and personal anonymity in public. This can cause some who aren’t used to the city to experience people as cold and rude, and while they can be at times, as an introvert I often like this personal privacy, because if I interacted with every person I saw, I would be exhausted all the time.

But things changed somewhat when I became visibly pregnant. Here are some highlights to demonstrate how people interact with me differently now.

  • Everyone looks at me, which I mention first because it is strange to go from no one looks at you to nearly everyone does.
  • People offer me their seat on the bus and the subway, and if no one does, normally someone else who is standing will boldly suggest that someone needs to offer me a seat. Sometimes it is embarrassing, but I appreciate the gesture.
  • Many strangers talk to me. In French, instead of asking if I’m pregnant, they will ask “if I am awaiting a child” (“Vous attendez un enfant?”). Many people also enjoy asking or guessing whether it’s a boy or a girl. So far only one has guessed correctly.
  • My new favorite question is “C’est pour bientôt?” or “C’est pour aujourd’hui?” which are different ways of asking if I am due very soon or maybe even today.
  • Lastly, often people will ask me questions with the goal of giving me some kind of advice. They want to make sure I am talking to the baby everyday, or inquire about whether or not I plan to breastfeed or have a natural birth. I don’t mind this, but it is striking to me how in a culture where people don’t typically dive in with personal questions (especially with strangers), pregnancy seems to be an open invitation to ask or say anything to me. It can be rather comical sometimes.

I’ve heard that this openness can continue once people have young children, and I am hoping it’s true. If having a kid helps open the door for giving and receiving more warmth from the people we meet, that can only be a good thing, right? Although, I may have to get out on my own occasionally so I can still experience the solitude and privacy that is also needed sometimes.

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