It’s a funny thing what we, as adults see now when we look back on our childhoods. I grew up in a lovely, but not massive three bedroom house in the South East of England. All of my childhood memories in that house, where my parents still live, involve my mum and dad working their arses off to decorate, improve, maintain and make that house a beautiful, adapted home for our needs as a family. It never felt small or anything less than perfect to me. Now, when I return as an adult, the house seems huge, the up-keep of it overwhelming and never ending. I have far more comprehension of my parent’s never ending demands to keep it tidy – letting standards go for a little while results in a whole day of playing catch-up. This is, of course, because I choose to live with my two small children and husband in an apartment approximately the size of my parent’s living room.
I’ve spoken before about why we choose to do this and, yes, one of the biggest reasons is necessity. We need to live in central Paris for work and central Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world right now. We cannot afford anything bigger. However, SINCE we’ve been doing this, some reasons to continue have become clear – not least to do with our children. When I was pregnant we started to think about what children really need to thrive and, although it’s still very much a work in process, we came to some different conclusions.
I’ve written before about how we don’t have a bedroom. We sleep in our living room and have given the bedroom of our apartment to the boys. For someone else who does this, check out the wonderful Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves.It’s been an interesting experience, mostly when having guests over but we’ve only really found it problematic when I need to sleep in the mornings (my husband could sleep through the apocolypse!).
Fred currently sleeps next to us in the Chicco Next to Me Co-Sleeper but as of next month will move in with Arthur and share the bedroom with him. I really really think that shared rooms are so great for kids. I shared with my eldest brother for a while and my brothers shared a room until one of them moved out at eighteen. I like the idea of them having a camaraderie and a space that’s theirs away from adult life.
We try to keep the space as simple as possible, rotate the toys out and available for them and easy to keep tidy and clean.
Something that takes up alot of space but I really love is our toddler size table and chairs in the kitchen. This was such a great addition to our home when we were really struggling with Arthur needing to have one of us close by (another advantage of a small space is, let’s face it, that we’re always close by!). With the table in the kitchen I can cook, Fred can be in his chair and Arthur can be playing or drawing at his table and we can be spending time together whilst doing our own things.
We try to keep the living room/bedroom space toy and kid stuff free. This is firstly because there’s already so much of our life jammed in there and secondly because it’s where we sleep – I like it to be as calm and clutter free as possible. We keep a play mat and baby-gym in there and that’s about it.
We try and keep things as accessible as possible for Arthur around the home. He can help with dinner & chop vegetables at his table or he has a step to get up to the kitchen counters. His bathroom stuff is in a cupboard at his level and he can use his step to get to the sink.
Small living is constantly forcing us to redefine what we think of as necessary space. What do we need to have a satisfying home life? I don’t think that having children means that you need to immediately move into a bigger space, or that you suddenly need more storage to store all the extra stuff that traditionally comes with having children. As with all things, a little shift in thinking, a movement in the right direction is all it takes.
Today I want to write about a topic which is always surrounded by much intrigue in our English Speaking Mums in Paris facebook group: Perineal re-education. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a question about this mysterious therapy asked by a mum who’s been prescribed it after giving birth. I asked the lovely mums in our group what they’d like to know about re-education and got some fantastic responses. It seems that there’s a lot of mystery and myth surrounding re-education, what to expect and why it’s practiced so widely here (hint; it’s not, as the myths might suggest merely to make monsieur feel a little more snug!)
I’ve enlisted the help of three experts in their fields to explain to you all the what, why and how of Perineal re-education.
Vicki is a UK based physiotherapist specialised in female health care and she’ll be telling us all about the amazing muscle, or group of muscles that make up the pelvic floor and why it’s considered so important to re-educate them.
Sharon Bales is a wonderful yoga teacher whom I’m sure many of you know personally. She specialises in fertility, pre and post natal yoga and is also now teaching hypnobirthing classes here in Paris. She’ll be talking about how we can care for our perineal muscles in our daily movements and how to keep them healthy.
Diana Powell-Bodrone is a midwife and lactation consultant who works here in Paris under the French healthcare system and is going to tell us all about how to get your free re-education sessions.
What is my pelvic floor and why might it need to be “re-educated”? The pelvic floor is a layer of muscles within the pelvis. Its functions include support of internal organs (bladder, bowels and womb), maintaining continence of both the bladder and the bowel, assisting in bladder emptying and sexual function.
It can be weakened by both pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, recurrent coughing, constipation/straining, lack of general fitness and neurological damage and the common conditions associated with pelvic floor weakness include incontinence, prolapses of bladder, bowel and womb and faecal incontinence.
Why do I need to worry about this if I’ve given birth, either vaginally or by c-section? When you’re pregnant with the growing foetus inside your womb, the muscles are stretched significantly over a long period of time. Without muscle retraining, they will not necessarily spring back into place following childbirth (whether you gave birth vaginally or via c-section). Therefore exercise is needed to shorten and tighten the muscles again, reducing your risk of the above conditions associated with a weakened pelvic floor.
Why have I never heard of this reeducation where I am from? Unfortunately, lack of education. This country (The UK) is particularly poor at education in the ante natal period. People are handed leaflets within a pack of information regarding childbirth and pregnancy by their midwife but are not specifically trained or educated regarding the importance of this muscle.
Why is this so important? Leakage of urine is a common and well known problem for women following childbirth. It is known to affect 1 in 3 women.
The incidence of 3rd degree tears is as high as 1-9% of all vaginal deliveries, as recognised by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG). This could have a huge impact on a women’s continence, both bladder and bowel in the short and long term. It can also affect sexual relations due to pain. The incidence of faecal incontinence as a result of these tears is as high as 50%, but is not discussed as openly as urinary incontinence. Failure to manage these conditions at the time of injury could be detrimental to a women’s quality of life and many become socially isolated as a result.
The menopause can highlight problems with discomfort, leakage, pain and prolapse as a result of hormonal and vascular changes. These symptoms can be minimalized in the future with regular pelvic floor training immediately following childbirth and for life. Up to 30% of women who attend physiotherapy on their first session are not correctly performing a pelvic floor muscle contraction. It is vital that you know how to do this correctly for long term protection.
How common are these problems? 1 in 3 women suffer with Stress urinary incontinence 50% of women have some degree of prolapse 1 in 10 people suffer with some form of bowel problem 21.8% of women complain of pain with intercourse
The first step in maintaining a healthy pelvic floor is to establish a healthy connection to it. There is so much bad and old information out there about the pelvic floor. Many women never even consider their pelvic floor until pregnancy or post-birth recovery, and many, many women honestly have no idea what the pelvic floor is. Understanding that these muscle bundles, which should operate in harmony with the respiratory diaphragm are in fact an integral part of your core strength is key.
Another great myth of the pelvic floor is that every woman needs to tighten and strengthen and do kegel exercises to achieve this. Oh dear, this is such an oversimplification that it is simply worthless information. It’s important for the pelvic floor to not only be able to contract and be strong, it is just as essential to be able to relax these muscles. In fact, a “too-tight” pelvic floor, or what is called a “hyper-tonic” pelvic floor, is often the culprit in pelvic pain and other pelvic issues.
Once you can connect with your pelvic floor and it’s clear which muscles we’re talking about, learning to engage these muscles in movement will make you feel stronger… because you are stronger when using these muscles correctly! We have so many movement habits in our lives, it’s important to start thinking about the way we move, sit, stand, and carry things and how this impacts the balance of those muscles.
Connecting with and maintaining the health of your pelvic floor will not only strengthen your core power, but will also do much to prevent prolapse of pelvic organs, allow you to breathe more deeply and efficiently, prevent and resolve some pelvic pain issues including pain during sex. Training those muscles to engage and release properly will usually resolve problems with leaking pee when you laugh, cough, jump, etc.
How can I obtain my free re-education sessions in France? Usually you will be given a prescription when leaving the maternity. This is however, changing a little and is not always prescribed upon discharge to mothers who’ve had “normal” complication free births. This does not mean that you’re not qualified for it. Ask your midwife or gynaecologist at your six week check up for a prescription and they’ll be able to give it to you. You can also ask your general practitioner or gynaecologist at any point for a prescription and they will give you one for ten, or more sessions.
What are the methods of re-education? On the prescription there is usually three things: Sondre (this is a wand used for internal muscle stimulation when there is no feeling) Manual (this is the part when the practitioner goes through various exercises using their fingers to work the internal perineal muscles) Abdominals (It’s really important that this is included in the re-education programme as these are the support of the pelvic muscle) Both sage-femmes (midwives) and kinéstherapistes (physiotherapists) can perform just one, or a combination of these techniques to achieve results. You should ask, upon meeting your practitioner, which techniques they practise and make a choice based off of your preference.
Ladies I just cannot over-state the importance of these re-education sessions, if only if as a tool to get to know your pelvic floor. If a medical environment is not your thing, get yourself to one of Sharon’s classes, take a beginners pilates class (lots of pelvic floor connection!) do some reading about your muscles and learn about how your amazing bodies work! Putting some good work in now can truly make a difference in the fight against some of the above listed conditions and, as women we need to take the time to take care of ourselves and do some preventative healthcare!
If you need any help or advice about pelvic pain, incontinence, pain during or after sex or any other problems, do ask your gynaecologist, midwife or general practitioner what can be done to help. There are options out there!
And finally, these gorgeous designs are by Duvet Days and you can get them here. Designs by Duvet Days Is a subsidiary of DuvetDays.org – An organization that uses design to create awareness, self discovery, and a space for self-love while supporting those affected by rape and domestic abuse.
It’s finally happened. Nap time is totally off the table. To be totally honest, it’s been off the table for a while now but naps were still happening occasionally and when they did, choirs of Angels sang praises from the skies. I loved nap time.
However, we’ve transitioned to “Quiet time” and while it’s not always quiet…and not always a lot of time…it seems to be working for us. The basic concept is that Arthur does a quiet activity in his bedroom for one hour. It sounds simple enough but finding a way to keep him chill and happy for quiet time has taken a while to get right. That’s where audiobooks have come in. We get our audiobooks from a variety of sources, but first – why have quiet time at all?
For your own sanity. Now seriously, life in a tiny space with a tiny tornado of a two year old can get a bit intense. Throw in a husband who works at night and sometimes needs to sleep during the day, a baby who needs to nap, no second bedroom and a thousand tasks that need to be done & quiet time is literally saving lives.
Allows children time to reset, be with themselves and rest. Important stuff for little bodies and minds that are on the go and learning all day long.
It increases confidence, creativity and independence. This is the time of the day that Arthur is really alone to play. I’m not there for him to bounce ideas off, play with, or even talk to. This is generally the time when he does his most imaginative playing, challenges himself with what he plays with (our dominoes, lotto and matching cards get used a lot in this time) and also what books he looks at.
Audiobooks have been a fantastic addition to our quiet times. We use a wireless bluetooth speaker that I control from my iPad or phone. This has been useful because I can control the volume, turning it down or off totally if Arthur, by some incredible chance actually falls asleep. As the stories for his age group are generally shorter than one hour, I can also control what he listens to next. We get our audiobooks from a variety of places:
CDs that come with books. Yes it’s still possible to buy books with audio CD’s attached! We don’t have a CD player but I just pop them on the computer and then onto my iPad or phone. We’ve got a few lovely ones like this including Emma Thompson’s Peter Rabbit stories and a really gorgeous version of Peter and the Wolf.
YouTube. Often it’s possible to listen on YouTube. We just play the sound on the wireless speaker while the video plays elsewhere. It’s not our favourite way to listen but it works and we’ve found some lovely classics like Wind in the Willows and lots of Beatrix Potter stories.
Record yourself or a loved one reading. This is currently our favourite way to listen to stories. My Grandma recently found a recording my Grandpa made in the eighties of him reading bedtime stories to my eldest cousin Hannah. Hannah’s managed to put them onto a memory stick for a few of us cousins who have small children and so, often Arthur will be read a story by my grandfather, who died when I was thirteen. It really is incredible and heart rending to hear his voice reading to my son, whom he never met. I wonder when he recorded it, if he could have imagined that Arthur or any of his other five great-grandchildren would be listening to his stories fifteen years after his life had ended. It really is magical to me that Arthur can hear his voice and it has encouraged me to record myself and others reading stories too.
With an audiobook playing in the background, Arthur will happily play in his room for at least an hour at a time. We try to time it for just after lunch, when everyone needs a break before diving into the afternoon’s activities. Do you implement a quiet time in your house? Do you love audiobooks too? Let me know your favourites & where you’re getting them! We’re always looking for more.
If you’re anything like our family, you get to the end of a week and the vegetable tray of the fridge is left with some sad looking strays. A bunch of coriander you only needed a couple of stems from, an ambitious aubergine not yet used, some slightly wilty spinach, an extra avocado, you get my drift. For us it varies from week to week but there’ll generally always be some spare veg lying around.
For this exact situation, I always keep various things in my freezer and cupboards to transform sad, wilty leftover veg into sexy, healthy bowls of goodness. It obviously depends on your taste, but I like to keep around:
Beef, Chicken and mushroom broth, frozen in portioned baggies
Seven veg tomato sauce, frozen in portioned baggies
Pesto, chilled, rolled into sausages and frozen in parchment paper
Herbs, diced, frozen on a baking sheet & then put into paper bags or boxes
Olive oil & balsamic vinegar
Herbs and spices (Turmeric, coriander, fennel seeds, paprika, chilli flakes, cumin, masala etc)
Buckwheat noodles, egg noodles, rice noodles etc
Couscous (so quick!)
Brown Rice and risotto rice
With a decent stock of flavourful ingredients on hand, it’s possible to make a delicious; healthy meal out of the very dregs of the veg drawer – no meat needed! The bowl pictured above was a sweet potato, spinach, coriander and a slightly over ripe avocado that got roasted, sliced and sautéed in sesame oil, turmeric and chilli flakes and popped in a bowl of mushroom broth miso and buckwheat noodles. Today’s bowl is going to involve some kind of roasted turmeric cauliflower, sweet potato, red and yellow peppers and whatever else I can find! Cooking like this turns me into a braver cook, trying more varied flavours and combinations of ingredients that I would normally overlook. Give it a go & see what you come up with!
PS. For the Parisian cook; I get all of my soy, tahini, sesame, miso & seaweed at the Japanese supermarket on Rue Levis 75017. xx