⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

November 23, 2011

Franco-americana update.

When we first moved to Paris, this blog was chalk-full of my perceptions about the French, Xavier as a Frenchman, French women, realizations about Americans and on and on. Cross-cultural observations (whether they are in adoration or condemnation) meet many rebuffs. Someone can always find a counter example, a better example, a contradiction, an exception, etc. Absolutely. And I love that. I love that people can't be snugly fit into their cultures and their iterations always prove general observations inaccurate and misfigured. At one point, I wished I were one of those die-hard francophiles - the kind like so many American women I met in Paris - positively dripping with praise for every aspect of the French, even when contradictions were fierce and meeting them squarely in the face. Now I find that a pretty boring assessment of any culture (your own, or one you want to adopt or into which you'd like to be adopted). But my relationship with the French remains complicated - I still find myself criticizing, bum-cheek clenching and adoring them all in the same moment.

I've actually taken so much heat for my observations about Frenchies that I've all but stopped commenting. You can't imagine the fights that have occurred in my house about my Parisian observations and the fact that I am not intrinsically a francophile. Nonetheless, the commentary runs on in my head when I observe Xavier and Marguerite in wonder. I can't help myself. Living in France for three years and being with an incorrigible Frenchman (pronounced in the best of humors) and his adorable daughter have just given me a lot of exposure.

We will likely return to France one day soon or far into the future. Regardless of where we reside on the map, the cross-cultural analysis is about to inflame. A baby is to be born and this baby isn't going to be on one clear side of the line like the rest of us. The baby will be both French and American and our sometimes divergent approaches will be in competition (to be fair, the competition part might be Xavier culture more than anything else. Xavier loves to check in with me regularly to review/keep tabs on who is better at computers, bricolage, everything else). In any case, co-parenting in a culturally mixed relationship will provide lots and lots of entertaining stories to be sure.

I've addressed my cultural concerns about birth in the United States (because if I am critical of the French, I am at least equally so of my own) and recently, Xavier and I were talking about differences in birth culture between France and the US. Refreshingly, in France, midwifery is a strong and healthy practice. Most babies are delivered by midwives, with the recognition that births, for the most part, are natural affairs without a whole lot of medical intervention required. That said, most French women still use epidurals and give birth lying on their backs. One interesting hospital practice that differs between France and the United States is the treatment of the baby as an individual once it is actually born. While babies are often whisked away in both countries immediately after they are born for analysis, cleaning and appraisal, in France, hospital workers often react in a more proprietary fashion. When parents in the United States insist on keeping the not yet cleaned baby with them and ask workers to hold off on weighing the baby, etc - they often yield. In France, however, babies are often treated like state property - because, in fact, they are seen this way. I've touched on how the French view of citizenship as being primary takes precedence over other forms of identity (think of laws in France when it comes to religion, veils, sexuality - other forms of identity that get trumped by French-ness) and how French citizenship is often viewed as the keystone piece of anyone's identity. Well, this plays out even in a hospital room when the French citizen is born. The state's interests are professedly as strong as the parents'. Infant mortality rates are low in France and the medical profession will whisk a baby away to ensure its chances of being a strong Frenchman or woman. It is fascinating how views of citizenship affect practices in medicine, education - in all institutions.

Hopefully we will return to France while we are still having babies. I would like to opportunity to experience such a life event in another country.

5 comments:

Xavier Joly said...

I am so much better at computers anyway.

D1Warbler said...

But SHE is infinitely better at having babies!

Aralena said...

French attitudes toward femininity and birthing practices... hot potato! I'd also venture that a laboring woman in a French hospital is also perceived as state property, to the extent that her desires to do things "differently" i.e. not on her back, w/out pain medication or pitocin, w/o and episiotomy, wanting immediate skin-to-skin, etc. are treated as requests that go against state protocol - and are about as easy as getting as a carte de sejour in Paris.
How about the pathetically low rates of breastfeeding in this country (land where gastronomy has been elevated to UNESCO heritage status), undoubtedly due to those fabulous notions of femininity (merci Elisabeth Badinter.)
Pfffffff.

Emilie said...

i love you aralena...

Julie said...

One really fascinating exception is Michel Odent - a alternate birth demi-god who written books on birth and is a big advocate of water birth. He has a research center in England now called "Primal Health Research." I am sort of fascinated that he is from France considering the kind of radical research and philosophy he advocates for birth.

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