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Nourish: Simple Soups

 Image by Emily Degroulard Photos
Image by Emily Degroulard Photos

Oh baby has autumn hit us hard or what?! Transitions between the seasons are my absolute favourite in Paris. The beginning of Autumn is so special here before the seemingly endless grey winter sets in. Over here, candles are lit, there’s an apple crumble a week being devoured and we are embracing the season change hard.

To celebrate this cosy autumn feeling I thought I’d share with you my two absolute favourite autumn soups. W’e’ve been making them lately for Nourish Paris clients to some rave reviews and the absolute simplicity of them means that they’re loved by adults and kids alike!

Butternut Squash & Coral Lentil Soup

  • 1 large butternut squash

  • 1 medium potato

  • 1/2 an onion

  • 1 tbsp curry powder

  • 1.5L chicken or veggie stock

  • 2 tbsp coral lentils

  • 100ml coconut milk

This is the absolute easiest soup to make as you just put all the ingredients except the coconut milk into a large casserole, cook for an hour to an hour and a half, add the coconut milk and blend! It has the most delicious creamy texture and gorgeous orange colour. Our boys like to slurp it with straws & we sometimes chuck some crunchy curry croutons on top.

Parsnip, White Bean and Sage Soup

  • 3 large parsnips

  • 1 medium potato

  • 1.5L chicken or veggie stock

  • 400g can of white beans

  • Five to ten sage leaves (depending on how strong you like it!)

Again, we like soups that are just combine, cook and blend and this one is no exception. Cook the parsnips and potatoes in the stock until soft, add the white beans and sage leaves and blend!

Autumn and winter tend to be the busy seasons in our home what with school, holidays, lots of work, gearing up for the Christmas season and just normal family life. I try to keep our meals as simple and easy as possible to make. The slow cooker comes out of the cupboard to its permanent winter place on the kitchen counter.

What are you cooking this autumn?

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Mother: Sleep

When people speak to families with young babies “How do they sleep?” is never far from being asked. Sleep is such a focus in the early years, mostly around not getting enough.

Right now we are on a sleep journey. I am not currently getting a lot of sleep; I’m actually writing this from my bed where I just enjoyed my Monday lie-in (until 8.30!). But yes, not a lot of sleep happening for me right now. I won’t lie, I’ve been struggling a little – I’m not someone who needs a massive amount of sleep but at the moment we’re waking probably around every forty five minutes to an hour through the night.

This is new territory for me. Arthur slept through the night from around six months old. He napped like a champion practically to the minute every single day. What an amazing parent I was! I did everything right, I had the perfect baby! Turns out, he’s just like his dad and could sleep through nuclear apocalypse. Fred is not that child. I’m trying to lean in to it, take every day as it comes and just do what’s necessary to get through. Right now this is what it looks like:

  • Co-sleeping when we need to. Fred goes into his bed in his and Arthur’s room at 19h. It’s taken WEEKS to get him to do that. Before he would just wake up the moment we put him down. Now he will sleep in there from around 19h to 22h-midnight. After that he generally won’t go back down in his own bed so we co-sleep until the morning (this is the part where he wakes up every hour.)

  • Going to bed early. I go to bed between 21-22h every night. It’s a sad, old lady thing to do but it basically ensures that I get SOME sleep.

  • Embracing this season. It won’t be like this forever – I’m choosing to believe that, to lean into it, to take care of myself and my family within this rather than bending it to my will. And there are a myriad of reasons why I won’t try to bend this sleep situation to my will, not yet anyway. I’m trusting that Fred’s doing what he needs to do for now and that he’ll sleep when he’s ready.

Honestly, as someone who loves rhythm, routine and predictability, it’s taking a lot for me to let go of control on this one. I’d love to wave a wand and have two boys sleeping happily in their beds in their bedroom. I’d love to have a clear step by step solution to apply to this but nothing is making itself apparent right now.

We’re doing ok. We’re powering through. We’re accepting help. We’re being kind to ourselves. And that’s all any of us can really do!

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Nourish Paris

It’s been a little quiet on Tout Simple of late. I have effectively taken a much needed two month holiday but September has crept up on us and here we are again at la rentrée. Tout Simple is officially one year old and to mark this occasion, I’m here to tell you about how it’s changing!

For over a year now I’ve been working on my business Nourish Paris. In the quiet, still moments in between naps, after bed times, stolen moments from life as a mum; Nourish Paris has grown from the tiniest seed of an idea to something that I have taken on full time. I never thought I would be someone who ran her own business, let alone this business, and yet here it is – all mine and I’d like to take a moment to tell you about it.

Nourish Paris home cooks and delivers Real Family Food in Paris 75 (and close suburbs for now.) with a focus on food for post-partum mothers.

There was a time that a new mother would be cared for by her family and community for the first three months of her child’s life. With the rise of people leaving their home communities to come and live and work in big cities, this tradition is massively on the decline. People live away from their families and their villages and mothers are finding themselves increasingly isolated and alone in a time where they should be surrounded by support. Nourish Paris aims to support new parents in a time when their lives are being turned upside down by their new arrival, not just through the practicalities of a home cooked meal, but also through thoughtful, supportive nutrition for breastfeeding, energy and good sleep. 

We believe that families have a pressure on them now that has not been felt in previous generations. Most of the families we know have two parents who work full time, have children in full time childcare and yet have less money and less time available to them than previous generations. The cost of living has gone up, not just financially, but on our time as well. We have less time to spend in the kitchen and however much we might like to be making every meal from scratch for our families – it’s just not the reality of modern family life. Nourish Paris believes that families run on their stomachs and our veggie packed, balanced family meals help to ease the chaos of dinner time.

Basically we have a heart for families and what keeps them running. We want to support the support bases, fuel the fuel tanks and keep your family running at its absolute best. We believe that meal times are a perfect place to start and can’t wait to get serving you!

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Motherhood: Breastfeeding

I never really thought about breastfeeding that much when I was pregnant. I mean – I got all the equipment I was told I’d need; nipple cream, pillow and breast pads – and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t breastfeed. I never even considered what foods to eat, how to rest properly, how much energy it would take to nourish another human with my body.

It was only that I started breastfeeding this second time around that I truly appreciated the energy involved, the dedication and the complex emotions surrounding it – not to mention what to eat and drink to help me. 

Breast feeding is HARD. It’s vital to surround ourselves with help if we want to meet our feeding goals, and so important to be kind to ourselves when things don’t go to plan. 

Some of you might know that I recently launched a small family catering company called Nourish & Bloom. We supply food for every season of family life but my first aim was to support new mothers with healthy, nourishing food that would support their postpartum and breastfeeding journeys. With that in mind I thought I’d write a small post about what to nourish your body with during those first weeks of breastfeeding and into the weeks and months to follow.

 YesMum motherhood affirmation cards from  here
YesMum motherhood affirmation cards from here

The following is just general advice to help support you while you breast feed. I’m not a nutritionist and any advice I give comes from talking with lactation consultants, nutritionists, cooking for other mums, my mother and grandmother and my own experience of breastfeeding. There are no « miracle cures » to make breastfeeding suddenly easy here. Listen to your body and your baby, relax, notice what works for you and adapt things as you go. 

Hydration

Keeping adequately hydrated is something my mum told me about on day one. Many of you will have noticed an almost unquenchable thirst in the early days of breastfeeding and you’ll need to replenish liquids lost in labour and support your body in making breastmilk. I always have a big bottle of room temperature water with me or within arms reach, particularly at night but also drank a lot of herbal teas, broths and soups in the beginning. You can find breastfeeding tea in most pharmacies and bio stores in France and it’s great for keeping hydrated and giving your milk supply that extra boost. 

Boosting Production

And speaking about boosting your milk supply, you’ll need to consume around 500 extra calories a day for the first six months of breastfeeding. (I didn’t really find this an issue as I was RAVENOUS all of the time) It’s important to eat properly because when blood sugar drops too low, eating can trigger stress hormones which in turn reduces the production of the hormones that create your milk supply and the let down reflex. Great things to eat include:

  • Good fats: Eating good fats increases the fat percentage in your breast milk and supports growth in your baby – hooray! Good fatty food includes: Avocados, nuts and seeds, olives & olive oil, salmon, tuna, dark chocolate and eggs.
  • Fenugreek, Ginger & caraway have all traditionally been used in boosting milk supply. They’re from a group of herbs known as Galactagogues and adding them to your cooking is a great way to give your supply a helping hand. My favourite way to do this is by making a quick gingery egg fried rice from left over brown rice (which is a great source of selenium – another mineral important during breastfeeding!)

Lactation Consultants

If you are struggling with breastfeeding you are certainly not alone! For something that is so natural, there is so much that feels difficult, strange and straight up painful! Fortunately help is out there if you know where to look.

If you’re in Paris or its suburbs and are in need of an English speaking lactation consultant, Meagan LeCoq is a South African midwife, doula and lactation consultant. Her years of professional experience were vital to me as a first time mum. You can find her website here. I honestly can’t recommend her enough!

Happy feeding! If you have any questions about Nourish & Bloom’s postpartum packages or what else we offer please don’t hesitate to send me an email!

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Here And Now: Early Summer

Making : Progress…little by little
Cooking : Homemade baked falafel pitta pockets
Drinking : A larger amount than usual of black coffee
Reading: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Trawling: Pattern sites for a pattern for that elusive year round skirt
Wanting: To declutter…again
Looking: A little dishevelled today If I’m honest
Deciding: On not venturing out into the rain today…
Wishing: I could pop in on my mum & have a cup of tea
Enjoying: The rest of my maternity leave – returning to (freelance) work in September feels like going back to school!
Waiting: For real sunny summer days to truly make an appearance
Liking: Arthur’s new expression « Ce n’est pas rigolo maman! »
Wondering: If the laundry will ever ever end?
Loving: Re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It. Never. Gets. Old. 
Pondering: How many times Arthur can avoid bed by asking for a cuddle
Listening: To Jack Johnson and imagining that I’m lying on a beach in the sun
Considering: All the options…
Buying: Nothing at all – I’m trying to go this whole month without buying a single thing for myself.
Watching: Six month old Fred playing on the mat next to me
Hoping: That the stars align
Marvelling: That I’ve just managed to send out my first invoices!!
Cringing: At the imposter syndrome I’m feeling because of the above!
Needing: To learn some better I.T skills for what’s to come
Smelling: Mostly the rain. But also my husband’s aftershave on my baby’s head
Wearing: The rose gold GLDN necklace the boys bought me for mother’s day
Noticing: The many ways in which I procrastinate
Knowing: That I can do anything I set my mind to
Trouble-shooting: Childcare! The bane of every working mother’s life
Opening: The windows to let in a breeze
Closing: The blinds to shut out the sun
Feeling: A little conflicted…a big post coming up on this one!
Dreaming: Of our summer holidays
Hearing: All the church bells all the time. We live in between three churches, all of which chime every hour. It gets a little noisy, but in a good way!
Celebrating: Having food in our bellies and a roof over our head
Embracing: Life, Motherhood and all it’s hurdles

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Rhythm: Bedtime

As you may well imagine, bedtime in a home where all four members of the family are of different ages, on different schedules and all basically sleep in the same room can be a little…hectic. I won’t lie, bedtime has been a huge challenge for us lately. Arthur’s at an age where he really should be dropping his midday nap but, as he’s in the education system here in France, will most likely continue napping for another two years. My husband gets home between 2-3am from work and needs to sleep for a full eight to nine hours. Fred is six months old and is our least erratic sleeper right now! Summer adds an extra problem to sleep when you’re a parent. Kids don’t understand why they have to go to bed while it’s still bright and sunny outside so black out blinds and sitting in the dark in the living room for half an hour after they go to bed have become routine. 

But today I’m not going to be writing about any of my boys or their various sleeping issues. I’ll be writing about mine. I am twenty seven years old and I have a stricter bedtime routine than my toddler. 

Why?

  • Self care is my absolute number one priority once the kids are sorted. I have two children who for some reason have decided that they are morning people. Ugh. 
  • A bedtime routine means that I start the next day on the very best foot possible every single day. Everything is prepared, everything is ready for me to just make it the best day possible. 
  • I’m a control freak and it pleases my control soul to have little things I can control to make the most out of my days.
  • I need to take intentional pauses. I can slowly feel myself turning into my mother. Not an entirely bad thing but she does not stop. Ever. 

How?

  • A Lack of Distractions: Keeping my evenings past 8pm free of housework, kid stuff, paperwork and other stuff on my to do list really forces me to make the time for self care. Two blogs that help me do this are The Organised Mum Method and Organised Motherhood . They’re two seriously inspirational ladies who make my life a lot easier!
     
  • An evening beauty routine: This miraculous little oil from Aesop and coconut oil are my evening beauty staples (coconut oil used for everything from makeup removal to moisturising!) and once or twice a week I do a full facial with a mask. I use Aesop products but I’ve been lusting after all things Eve Lom for ages.
     
  • Cozy Pyjamas: I am obsessed with all things Monoprix, but especially their pyjamas. The ones I’m wearing are theirs from last season and so soft! I really think that The White Company have gorgeous GORGEOUS Pyjamas and lounge wear too, and TOAST if you have the budget!
     
  • Screen Replacements: This, I am not so great at. Screens are easy, my phone is RIGHT there, Instagram is addictive, Netflix is bottomless, I really NEED to watch all eight seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer this week (but we all do, she’s timeless). I’ve been trying to switch off at least half an hour before bed and read, but I’ve not found a book that’s really gripped me in ages. Any recommendations? 
     
  • The Perfect Candle: For me, there’s nothing more soothing than NEOM Organics’ Tranquility candle. Light it an hour before bed, spritz your pillow with their accompanying pillow spray and that’s the deepest night’s sleep around. I’m actually not using it right now because it works TOO well and I need to be able to rouse myself sufficiently to feed Fred during the night!
     
  • A Calming Drink: France has a staggering amount of Tisanes to throw at this issue. My favourite is the Pukka nighttime tea but in the winter Whittard’s hot chocolate will be seeing me through. This also helps with the Wine O’Clock issue which I’ve written before about here. Drinking alcohol before bed may seem like it’s making you tired but really doesn’t contribute to a good night’s sleep. 
     
  • A Bit Of Help: We can’t do everything on our own. When I’m having trouble sleeping it usually means I’m having trouble turning off my brain and it’s stressing me out. Something that helps is keeping my notebook by the bed to jot down anything that comes into my head, keeping my phone on the other side of the room so I can’t start scrolling and playing a sleep aid meditation over the speakers. My absolute favourite right now is Clementine which I pay for but there are lots of free options like Buddhify on the app store. 

What about you? How are you getting your eight hours a night? 

 

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Our Tiny Home: Office & The French Admin Hunger Games

Hey beauties! I thought I would do a little combined post today about our tiny office space AND the apocalyptic Hunger Games situation that is French Administration. I’ve been talking loads lately about the Admin situation with various people. From those who want so badly to get control of it and understand it, to those who willingly give it up to their French other-halves (with mixed results!). I wanted to share my plan of attack, how I combat it so I don’t find myself drowning under the sheer amount of paperwork required by this country to be completed for every little request. 

Office Space

Office space is the smallest need in our small space. I work from home right now but it’s still pretty mobile – I can work at the desk, on the sofa, in bed etc. The main thing we need office space for is our vital family documents, communicating with various government agencies and our pretty basic filing system. 

I have a big ring binder with file dividers that houses all of our paperwork, a printer that is also a scanner and a photocopier (vital equipment that I’d recommend to every French family!) and internet access codes and the app for every government agency I deal with. 

Admin Advice

  1. File it as it arrives. There is nothing, NOTHING as important as this for being able to find documents when you need them. Open letters as they arrive and file them into the correct folder.
  2. Have a clip-board in-tray. One of your folders will be stuff that needs to be filled in, dealt with, sent back. I like having a clipboard. It all sits behind my monthly calendar so it doesn’t take over my desk space. Every month, when I turn over my calendar I see what’s left to do and it gets done. 
  3. Admin day. Once a month, usually within the first week of the month I sit down and get all our filing, admin and finances in order. I send all the forms that need to be sent, update all the « situations familial et professionel » that need to be updated on CAF and make sure our various dossiers are up to date. Keeping it to one day of hell, occasional tears and need for a massage by the end of the day keeps my marriage safe, my mind clear and my filing organised. 
  4. Keep a « Dossier » of vital documents to hand. In the front of our filing ring binder I keep a selection of documents that I’m most likely to be asked for when presenting a « Dossier » for anything and everything. (Things I’ve needed to present a dossier for include; creche, school, giving birth, renting apartments, signing up for CAF, signing up for social security, joining the library, extra-curricular sports, joining a gym, applying for child benefits, applying for jobs, maternity leave, parental leave etc etc etc…) The documents I keep there are our passports, marriage certificate, the boys birth certificates, each of our last three pay slips, our last two tax returns, a « justicatif domicile », our latest electricity bill…Keeping all of this stuff together in a smaller folder in an easily reachable place means that you can grab it on the way to the Mairie, when you sit down to fill out the endless online forms, whenever! 
  5. Sign up to do as much as possible online. This one is obvious, it makes so much sense. Save the planet, reduce the amount of paper you have to keep in your apartment and reduce the amount of shredding you have to do every couple of months. Having said this, sometimes the only thing to be done is to go to whatever office you’re currently battling with and cry at them until they give in. 

Other Vital Equipment For Admin Day

  1. Coffee
  2. Anti-stress essential oil roll-ons
  3. Leuchtturm Notebook
  4. A relentlessly optimistic attitude

That’s it! If you’re in France and need help sorting out your admin life, there are many many knowledgable women on the facebook groups « English Speaking Mums/Moms living in Paris » and « Mums Space France » both professionals and just old hands. There’ll always be someone around to help!

As I went to hit publish on this post I picked up a phone call from the crèche where Fred is due to attend in September. They told me that the Mairie has NO record of Fred even existing, or the application to the crèche system which we made when I was six months pregnant. Fred’s dossier is due to be examined by the Mairie in order to approve his Crèche space THIS WEEK. So on Monday morning I will be hot-footing to the Mairie at 8h30 to give them an original of his birth certificate and some ID. Which brings me to my final but potentially my most vital piece of advice.

Be Assertive.
Don’t just trust that your applications, dossiers and various documents will be seen to in a timely fashion. Make the phone calls, send the follow up emails, call the person in charge, demand to speak to supervisors, put in the leg work. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, it’s seemly never-ending but you can do it. It might mean being a little more « direct » than you’re comfortable with but you will get there. May the odds be ever in your favour. 

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Pilates: Conscious Movement with Elena Falida

As those of you who know me well know, « fitness » is not my thing. In all my years of searching, I’ve never found any sport that I don’t find, to be frank, boring. I’ve never had that rush of endorphins that fitness fanatics claim keeps them coming back for more. I find exercise in general to be, well, not for me. 

And then I met Elena. Elena is Pilates Movement Paris, her own Pilates personal training company and studio which she runs out of her gorgeous apartment in the sixteenth. I first contacted Elena after my physiotherapist suggested Pilates as a helpful exercise for women after childbirth and, although I was skeptical at the time, I am so glad I did!

Within just a few weeks I am feeling stronger in my body, more aware of my muscles and how I’m using them, more energized and finally, not bored at all! I’ve done a quick interview with Elena so she can talk about why she loves and practices Pilates and earlier this week I got to visit her home studio, Pilates Movement Paris for a class with six month old Fred in tow. A true Parisian, Elena has embraced her tiny apartment and runs her studio out of her gorgeous, minimalist space. It was seriously inspiring to see small living taken to the extent of running a business too!

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to Paris
I was born and raised in Athens, Greece but after having lived in the UK for many years, Brussels and Luxembourg we came to Paris for an unmissable job opportunity my husband got. We will have been here for two years in June.

What about pilates drew you towards it? 
I first started pilates when I was living in Brussels in 2011. Up until then I had tried different types of excercise. In my teens, I swam a lot and played volleyball. At university I went to the gym and later, I started running and attended boxing classes. Thats when i started to consciously realise that moving my body makes me feel my best. 

Pilates was completely different to what I had experienced until then. After attending consistently 3 times a week at a pilates studio in the centre of Brussels, I felt stronger in my body than ever before, I had a lot more energy and my lower back problems completely went away. Now I want to pass on the huge benefits of conscious movement and especially Pilates to others. 

Why is pilates helpful for women and mothers? 
Pilates was designed by a man named Joseph Pilates. Today, the majority of those who practice pilates are women but generally pilates is for men and women, for all types of bodies and all types of ages. 

After pregnancy our bodies change and pilates can help women regain their core strength and flexibility. Most importantly however it helps body and postural awareness. This is hugely beneficial for women who carry their babies, breastfeed, push the pram, etc. and who suffer from lower back issues and/or tight shoulders and neck. Pilates also helps regain pelvic floor strength. Last but not least, the breathing aspect of pilates can help mothers feel more energised.

How can we apply pilates principles in our everyday movements? 
What you learn through pilates you can take away and apply to your posture in everyday life or to any other sports you might be doing. Pilates is particularly good for runners, horse riders, tennis players and Golfers. For example, focusing on engaging inner thighs and glutes, pulling your naval in and up while drawing your shoulders down when you’re going about your life works muscles that would normally not be working and brings focus and mindfulness to your day.

Joseph Pilates named his method contrology. So, pilates differs from other forms of exercise in that its focus is on the quality of movement rather than the quantity of repetitions. 

How often should we practice pilates? 
Through pilates we aim to replace unhealthy movement patters with healthy ones. This requires some consistency so ideally three times a week but if you attend a private class or small group classes with a lot of one-on-one attention by a good certified instructor then twice a week could also suffice  

Where can we find you and your business? 
Pilates Movement Paris is a home based pilates studio in the 16th that specialises in private and small group classes, with or without your baby. 

My website is www.pilatesmovemlentparis.com 

My Facebook and Instagram are under @pilatesmovementparis 

For me, it’s such a great experience to put my body in the hands of someone experienced and qualified. Elena is passionate about giving her students the one on one attention that they deserve in her classes and I’ve found such a difference already in my body, in my confidence and in my energy that I’m so happy to recommend her to all of you lovely Parisian Mamans. Taking the time out of my day two or three times a week to focus completely on myself is so important and has already made a huge impact on my life. I hope you get the chance to do the same!

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Our Tiny Home: Kids

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.

Bedrooms

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. 

Kid Spaces

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. 

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Pelvic Floor Re-education…What, Why & How?

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.

Vicki

  1. 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. 
     

  2. 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. 
     
  3. 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. 
     
  4. 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.
     

  5. 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

Sharon

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.  

Diana 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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!

You can find all of Sharon’s details here.

And all of Diana’s details here.

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.