Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, March 30, 2009

Petite Anglaise recently posted a link on Facebook to an article by the Guardian on the "rééducation" that many French mothers go through after childbirth. Thanks to other expat blogs, it's not the first time I've heard about this, but I still find it rather funny and so typical of the French culture.

I've had a few conversations about this with French women, and like in the article, they all sort of considered it their duty to get "that area" back in shape for their husband. And many of them didn't even consider breast-feeding because they wanted their husband to still see them as a woman, and not just a mommy or a milk factory. Even my bohemian ex-SIL (who lives in Brest, haha) didn't breastfeed for that very reason. Chalk it up to yet another cultural difference.

Disclaimer - There are of course French women out there who DO choose to breastfeed and to not get the rééducation..............I imagine a lot of them are like Katell though. (Yeah, yeah, I know that's a low blow. But still funny.)


Blogger Emmy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 30, 2009 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Emmy said...

opps, not sure what happened there...

My mum was a midwife for 40 years and so I'm very informed on all things baby and I too am shocked by French ideas on pregnancy, childbirth etc etc. God, if I ever have children here I'm going to have a tough time with my MIL....eek

The oddest thing I find about the brestfeeding thing is the number of french women I have come across that say they stopped brest feeding as they weren't producing enough milk. Imagine how many children in the world would die if that was as common a thing as in France!! It just aint the truth let's face it.

March 30, 2009 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger kim said...

Just a note as I have signed up for these classes -- it isn't all about the buffing up for sexing. By strengthening those muscles, you avoid the dreaded sneeze-peeing and what not (which I would really rather avoid!).

March 30, 2009 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

What Kim said...and the two are not mutually exclusive. But I hear you on French women's attitudes about breastfeeding. When I had my first kid, I got a lot of subtle shit about BFing her from my MIL. When I had my 2nd kid, I was much stronger and was well-prepared to not take any of the BS...and I BFed my boy for over a year. (I lasted about 5 months before giving up BFing my daughter, and those months were a real struggle.)

I can't recommend La Leche League (or any similar organization) enough.

Oh, and one of my SILs? She was dead set against breastfeeding her kids. "Ça ne m'intéresse pas." WTF?

March 30, 2009 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Emily Marie said...

As someone who has worked as a nanny for many French families, I was schocked at how open French women are to breastfeeding publicly as well as taking photos of the process. In at least 3 different homes I saw hanging on the wall or sitting on a shelf a photo of just the mother's breast and the kid attatched. wow.

March 30, 2009 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger PAULINE said...

I'm not French but I had a French baby in France and don't know anyone who does this to please the husband. Frankly who is interested in that sort of stuff right after having a baby: Sore boobs, lack of sleep, depressed, fat, saggy tummy and don’t even mention what’s going to between the legs. Sex you’ve got to be kidding.

Much more to with not wanting to pee in knickers every time you laugh or cough for the next 40 years. . . Much less glamorous but nearer to the truth.

Sam you must know some really weird French ladies . .

March 30, 2009 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger jonnifer said...

Ok, no ability to comment on the truth of this or whatnot. Just wanted to add that breastfeeding burns lots o' cals and helps your uterus contract back to its normal size. My mom credited it with helping her get skinny again after four births.

Pauline's comment about having "a French baby" - too cute!!

March 30, 2009 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger jonnifer said...

Wait, this is the same woman who wrote that French people are cackling over bottles of champagne while everyone else suffers during la crise:

Only the French Would Be Smug About the Recession

She seems to have a rather skewed view when it comes to les French.

March 30, 2009 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger The Duchess said...

I was the only woman in my antenatal classes here out of 25 woman who planned to bf. I was surprised! And I think I was the only one in a 100km radius who used cloth diapers. I guess I kind of thought the local rural French villagers would be all for back to nature, less expensive kinds of things, but apparement, non!
I opted out of the electric shock uterus thingy after my births and my ob/gyn was quite alarmed....

March 30, 2009 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hmm, well the first I have heard about the reeducation- part of me thinks that part of me doesn't need reeducation or even education in the first place. If I ever have kids here, I am sure I will be torn between wanting to go and see just what exactly is involved vs. Oh my god!
My french SIL breastfeeds, but I'm not going to ask about the rest.
And yes, the stereotype persists that American women just get fat and can't handle house+husband+career+kids.
(This mostly coming from older French women who never had a career themselves).

March 30, 2009 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Chrissie said...

I had my last child in France and was told that the pelvic reeducation was to prevent incontinence later in life. I suppose that the sex life aspect is a nice bonus though! I also had a midwife come to my apartment everyday for a week after leaving the hospital to make sure that baby and I were doing well and that the breastfeeding was going smoothly. I never had that kind of support in the US with my first two births so I felt really spoiled.

March 30, 2009 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Just like in the USA, there are VERy different approaches to childbirth and childcare in France. There are a lot of women like you describe, Sam. They don't want to breastfeed and are worried about having sex again before they've even changed the first diaper. I also know women that smoked while pregnant so they wouldn't "get fat". It's not that uncommon.
On the other hand, there is a lot of post-natal support here for new moms and a lot of general acceptance of breastfeeding. I think it's great. I hate it when I go to the USA and see a mom and baby huddled in a restaurant toilet so they don't "offend" people.
On the other hand, I DID find it a bit strange that my French MIL took photos of me breastfeeding my twins. Guess that was my Nebraska showing...

March 31, 2009 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Rochelle said...

From what I understand the main reason people have the physio therapy is so they can avoid incontinence when they are older. But I think that French women joke a lot about how it could also be for staying 'tight' as well, but really I think they joke about it to take away from the real issue which is way scarier!

March 31, 2009 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Astrid said...

Hurray for the reeducation and the french health care system! Does that even exist in other countries?

I don't see why it should be a bad issue to worry about ones appearance and attractiveness. Some of the women you describe take it to the extreem of not wanting to breastfeed at all but to want to shape up faster and feel better for you and your husband seem totally natural to me, and I'm not French.

March 31, 2009 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Rochelle said...

Just read the article..that journalist is psychotic. I have the feeling I've read another article by her and it was equally mad and full of incorrect stereotyping.

It's funny how France is one of the few countries where people get away with writing such incredibly racist diatribes against and no one bats an eyelid. If someone tried to write something similar on another country I don't it would have been allowed to be printed!

March 31, 2009 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Séverine said...

I've always heard women in my family say that the reeducation is important for incontinence and that's why they they say you should do it.

Also, for breasfeeding,there are no rules. A lot of women breasfeed in France/the US and a lot don't in France/the US.

April 1, 2009 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger afoos said...

I never did the reeducation with my first two pregnancies just because I was too lazy but am planning on it with this one. From what the midwives and my MIL (a doctor) have explained, it's to prevent incontinence later on in life, another preventive measure by the Social Security.

As for the BF, I find the French culture very open to it, actually more open than to formula feeding. I can't speak for all the husbands out there, but I know my own didn't really care about the bodily aspect of BF but was jealous of the bond between baby and me. But, I don't think that's specific to French culture.

April 2, 2009 at 3:30 AM  
Blogger Mrs C said...

Gads, how to skew other people's perceptions, just write an article as though you're an expert!

Here's another perspective: How about reeducating so that the woman can enjoy sex again? Why the hell not? Does it all have to be selfless selfless selfless for the woman? Reeducating so that the man can enjoy? Screw that noise. No way.

How about taking back her own body? Taking back her own pleasure (eventually)? This whole "woman must be selfless all the fucking time" drives me nuts. Aren't women allowed to enjoy sex? ARGH!

Also. Wee. I don't want to be the one wearing diapers further down the line.

BTW: BFing and reeducation is not an either/or option. In France, you're expected to do both actually. I remember being told off in the hospital because I wouldn't BF my daughter because I wanted my body back. BFing isn't for everybody.

April 3, 2009 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

Such a passionate discussion !
Veru interesting. I had my daughter in France, BF her while supplementing her with bottle for a year. I had #2 in the US and couldn't BF for more than 9 months even with a lactation consultant help (that's what we need in France). Nipple confusion.
I did the reeducation back in France (last year) and I really didn't like it. But I heard about a midwife doing it without any electrical stuff, only exercising and breathing. And yes, it's important to do it.
I think every woman should do what she thinks is right for her an her baby. My (French) IL was shocked I went to a LC and had a helper (a bottle around the neck with special tubes, very efficient)to make my son back to breast ! She felt like I was giving up my body to my son. I feel great BFing him so I didn't care.
I enjoyed going to BFing moms reunions once a week. That is also something we should have in France and I plan to create such a group for #3
My husband was feeling really different about BF because #2 was a boy. That made me laugh all the time !
I am sure I'll BF again for #3, it's such a great bond but I do understand that some women don't like it.

April 8, 2009 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

I've been thinking a lot about this, and I kind of feel like the incontinence excuse is just a cover. I mean, you'd think if it really was so effective at preventing problems later on in life, it would've been picked up by the rest of the world, non??

So I don't know - I still think the origins of this practice lie with the way French women are expected to behave after birth.

April 11, 2009 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger afoos said...

I came back to this post to check on the comments again, after I've just gone through the whole reeducation process and am almost finished.

I don't really agree with the article and believe it gives the wrong idea. The social security wouldn't pay great amounts of money each year just for women to satisfy their men.

Also, there are several other practices in France that aren't done in the rest of the world- one of them being massage therapy treatments for infants who have RSV and respiratory tract infections.

May 8, 2009 at 5:09 PM  

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