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Birth stories: Melody - Two Births, Two Countries

Melody and her husband Quentin moved from France to California in January 2017 for his job. They went back to live in France in 2021 and they have been back in San Jose since the end of 2023. Their first daughter was born in California and their second daughter was born in France so she got to experience both countries' maternity care.

In this interview, Melody talks about having a first “perfect pregnancy”, being very positive and confident that everything was going to be fine but having to deal with a very different outcome. She had to face a painful and stressful delivery, postpartum complications, and had to go through a craniosynostosis diagnosis for her baby shortly after her birth. But with her husband, they managed to go through this difficult time and made sure their daughter received the best care possible. We talked about their desire to have another child and how this time her optimism gave way to a lot more stress during her pregnancy. Except this time she was determined to be more prepared for the delivery, to get the “perfect birth” she dreamt of.

When you got pregnant with your first child was it something you had planned for a long time?

Melody - When we arrived in the US, I was 25 years old and we were not planning to have kids at this time. We were supposed to stay here for 2 years and enjoy this time to explore California and the West Coast. The plan was to have kids probably when we would return to France.

What happened is that my IUD fell in September 2017, we had a discussion and we thought that maybe it was a sign to start trying to have a baby. And it happened immediately because I got pregnant the following month, in October.

How did it feel to get pregnant right away? Did you feel ready or were you scared?

No, I was not scared because it was not a decision taken lightly, and as we both are always very impatient in life we had even taken ovulation tests since the start.

When you discovered that you were pregnant with your first child, where did you choose to have your prenatal care? Did you already have an OB-GYN here?

No, I didn't have any ob-gyn, and at this time we didn’t have a good health insurance, we had planned to switch to Kaiser for the next year. I didn’t even know how the health care system worked in the US, I wanted to do a blood test to confirm the pregnancy because I only had done a urine test and I thought I could just go to a lab test site like in France but they told me I needed to see an ob-gyn first to get a prescription. We just chose a random ob-gyn for this first appointment and she told us to ask for the uninsured price for the blood test.

In January we were able to switch to Kaiser in Santa Clara and chose an ob-gyn who spoke French because at the time my English was far from perfect. We were in France during the time frame for the first ultrasound to evaluate for the nuchal translucency so the ob-gyn offered us to do a Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) when we came back at the end of January, we found out that we were expecting a baby girl and that everything was looking good. I really enjoyed my pregnancy, I didn’t experience any complications and everything went well. We had a very positive attitude, we prepared the baby nursery very early in the pregnancy and looking back we thought it was a bit crazy because you never know what can happen.

Did you take any classes to prepare for the birth?

So we did take classes at Kaiser but mostly about newborn care and not about preparing for labor, which was a mistake. They had a class catalogue to choose from and I don’t know why we didn’t take this one. But our ob-gyn spent some time explaining the different stages of labor to us and we read Kaiser’s guide to pregnancy and labor which was useful.

Did you do anything specific to help during your pregnancy or to prepare for your delivery in terms of sleep, nutrition, activity, stress management or self-care?

No, I didn’t do anything specific, I just took prenatal vitamins and followed the recommendations for pregnant women regarding food. At the time I was not exercising regularly.

Did you plan for your postpartum before the birth?

No, I didn’t realize what was going to happen after the birth. I knew about baby blues but that’s it.

How was your delivery? Did the labor start on its own?

We were home during the evening of June 29th when my water broke, I was 38 weeks pregnant at the time. My husband called Kaiser to let them know, and they told us we could take a little bit of time to prepare and take a shower but then we should head directly to the hospital. I had some contractions during the drive but nothing bad. The contractions were weak so they told us we could stay there and wait for labor to start, which could take 24-48 hours, or they could induce the labor with oxytocin. As I didn’t take any childbirth classes I didn’t really know about the pros and cons of induction so being impatient as always we chose the induction! We were so excited to meet our baby girl.

After the oxytocin administration, the contractions really started and they were painful so as soon as I was 3 or 4 cm I was able to get an epidural, which was a no-brainer for me at the time. But unfortunately the epidural numbed my legs and the top of my body but not my midsection so I was still in a lot of pain. They did a perineal injection of anesthetic when I was closed to full dilation to relieve the pain and it helped.

Were you able to rest after that? Did you feel like the time was passing slowly?

It felt like an eternity. We arrived at 3 am and I was fully dilated only at 5 pm. I was never able to rest because I was in too much pain.

At 5 pm my ob-gyn came to see me, I was lucky it was her shift that day, and I was really happy to see her. She was the one who did the delivery. I started pushing at 5 pm. But I was not pushing correctly, and once again I regretted not taking a childbirth class. In the meantime, we received the results from a urine test that indicated pre-eclampsia so after one hour of pushing she told me that if pushing did not start being effective quickly we would need to do a C-section.

Did you have any signs of pre-eclampsia during your pregnancy?

Not really, at one of my prenatal check-ups my blood pressure was high, so they monitored me closely every week after that but it was good.

What did the prospect of a C-section mean to you?

So after the ob-gyn told me that we might need to do a C-section, I started pushing more but I was not feeling good, they gave me an oxygen mask and there were 7 people in the room so it was a bit overwhelming and I felt like I was going to pass out. I remember one nurse looking at me in the eyes and telling me to stay with them. After 3 hours of pushing, our baby girl was finally here. The ob-gyn needed to do an episiotomy and do a vacuum delivery using a ventouse to speed the delivery.

Was your baby doing okay after this eventful delivery? Did you realize you just became a mom?

Yes, she was doing fine, I was able to have her on my chest right away. I don’t really remember how I felt in the first seconds after she was born. I think I realized when I saw her in my husband’s arms. I remember feeling very relieved that it was over, that she was here, and that I didn’t need to have a C-section.

Was your husband able to help you during your delivery?

He felt useless because as I had an epidural there was not much he could do, but his moral support was essential to me. He was the one to cut the cord after the delivery but he didn’t really like it, he felt the texture of the cord was weird.

How did you feel after the delivery? Were you tired?

It was not too bad, I was sore of course but not in terrible pain. The nurse helped me get up and go to the bathroom and then we were moved to our postpartum room. They told us that they usually bathe the baby 5 hours after the birth so at 2 am. In retrospect, I don’t understand why they couldn’t wait for the morning to do the bath and let us rest during the night.

Did you plan to breastfeed your baby?

I wanted to try but I didn’t put pressure on myself. I wanted to do skin-to-skin immediately after birth, try a first feeding, and then see how it goes. What I liked is that even though the maternity stay was short, three lactation consultants came to see me. I didn’t take any breastfeeding classes so I didn’t know much about it. I remember a couple of weeks after the delivery sharing with friends that my baby’s poop was green and one of them told me to be careful that my daughter probably needed to empty my breast completely so she could get to the fattier milk. I had no idea!

You said three lactation consultants came to see you during your stay, did you ask to see them?

No, they were just coming to check that everything was going fine. They looked at how my baby was breastfeeding, they helped me find a good position so that nursing was efficient and not painful for me. I was lucky with Eleanor, breastfeeding was very easy and I never experienced any pain.

Did you have any friends or relatives who had babies and shared their experiences with you?

I just had one friend and one cousin so I didn’t have a lot of babies around me. I mainly talked with my mum and she didn’t have the same experience as me. I loved my pregnancy but not the delivery while for my mum giving birth was the best day of her life.

Did you feel it gave you false expectations?

Yes, because I was really expecting it to be wonderful and didn’t think for one bit it could not be like that. Meeting my baby was extraordinary but the before and after were really hard for me.

Why do you think this day was really hard for you? Was it because the peridural didn’t work and you were in pain?

Yes, the pain definitely played a role and there was also the stress due to the preeclampsia risks. And the following days were really hard with the hormone drop and I wasn’t expecting it.

How much time did you spend in the hospital after the birth?

So I gave birth at 8 pm, I could have left the following day but because of the preeclampsia, I could stay for another day, which I did. I spend 2 nights there. My hospital stay was great, my only regret is that they woke us up for that first bath.

Were you excited to go home after these two nights?

Yes, we were! I was not too much sore but I was still really tired and I started having panic attacks. My heart was racing and I started crying without any reason.

Did it last for a long time?

Yes, I think for a good month. I also started fearing death for the first time. Being a mom, it felt that I didn’t have the right to die, I was responsible for someone.

What also happened is that the first afternoon after being back home a large piece of placenta, maybe 5cm in diameter, fell when I was going to the bathroom. I was really surprised and I didn’t know what it was. I called my husband and we put it in a ziplock bag to show it to the doctors at Kaiser.

When you gave birth how did the delivery of your placenta go? Was there any complication?

No, nothing special, that’s why I was surprised. So we called Kaiser and they told us to go to their hospital in San Jose. They took my blood pressure and it was very high. I could sense that the nurse was worried. She chatted with me, probably to see if it was just because I was nervous and she took the pressure a second time but it was still sky high. They then checked what was in the ziplock bag and confirmed it was a piece of placenta. They took again my blood pressure at the end of the appointment and it was the same so they asked me to go to the ER because they suspected it could be postpartum preeclampsia. At this point, I was crying because we couldn’t go to the ER with a 3 days-old baby and my husband had to take care of her so that meant being alone. At the ER they checked my blood pressure regularly and it started going down. They were not really able to explain what had happened. I stayed for the day and I am not sure they gave me anything to lower the pressure.

Did they check your uterus to make sure there was no more placenta left?

I had an ultrasound but it was an external one because it was too painful for me to have a vaginal one just after the delivery. The nurse didn’t see anything so she said I was good to go.

Two or three weeks after that I found again a smaller piece of placenta. This time they decided to do a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) to make sure there was nothing left. I was afraid I would need to stop breastfeeding because of the local anesthesia but it was not the case and after the D&C everything was fine.

After that, did you experience any more health issues?

Well, I still had heart palpitations. I remember holding my baby in a baby wrap and feeling that my heart was beating very fast, I checked on my watch and it was at 115 bpm. So I made an appointment with a doctor to try to understand what was going on.

I had also lost a lot of weight in 2 weeks, more than what I had gained during my pregnancy. I knew that breastfeeding could help mothers lose weight quickly so at first I was happy but I soon realized it was not normal. I was also still really tired and yes having a newborn is tiring but it felt worse than it should be.

During the appointment, the doctor tried to reassure me, that I was tired because I just had a baby, and that the heart palpitations were probably due to stress, so I didn't get a diagnosis or anything.

I made an appointment with my ob-gyn after that and in the meantime, I tried to find some answers on the web. I saw that thyroid issues could be the cause so I asked my ob-gym if we could do a blood test. She didn’t think it was the problem but agreed to prescribe the test. It turned out that I had hyperthyroidism, so my thyroid was overactive and causing all my symptoms. Hyperthyroidism can appear after a pregnancy, and sometimes you will experience 6 months of hyperthyroidism followed by 6 months of hypothyroidism and then it either stops or you keep the condition your whole life.

In my case I did experience hyperthyroidism for a little less than 6 months and right after hypothyroidism.

Were you able to get treatments?

When I had hyperthyroidism, I didn’t take any treatments because most of them are not compatible with breastfeeding but when I started having hypothyroidism I was put on thyroid hormone replacement. The endocrinologist I was seeing was able to find the right dosage for the treatment right away which was great because I heard that for many patients there is a period of trial and error to find the right one. I was also lucky because I didn't experience any side effects. After 6 months unfortunately the hypothyroidism didn’t stop and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease.

How were things going for Eleanor since her birth?

In the first days, everything was going great, except that she was putting on weight very slowly, but the doctors were not too worried. When she was 10 or 15 days old we had a pediatrician appointment. At this time we thought that the shape of her head was a bit strange, it was very long and narrow. Because she was born using suction cups, at first we thought this was the reason her head was oddly shaped but with days passing we didn’t see any improvement and it was not just a cone-head shape like in the case of suction cups. The pediatrician agreed that her head shape was a bit odd so she took pictures and sent them to a specialist to get his opinion. While doing the physical check-up she also heard a murmur when she listened to her heartbeat. A pediatric cardiologist was able to see Eleanor that day and did an ultrasound. There was a small hole in the muscle between her two ventricles. He told us that this kind of hole usually closes on its own when the baby grows, there was nothing to do but wait.

We then had an appointment with a plastic surgeon, who specializes in craniofacial surgery regarding her head. He diagnosed Eleanor with craniosynostosis, this condition occurs when the bones in the skull join together before or shortly after birth so before the brain is fully formed. Normally a baby has 5 bones in their skull that are separated by spaces called sutures to allow for the brain to grow and they will fuse when the child is around 2 years old. When one or more sutures fuse early, like it was the case for Eleanor, the skull cannot easily accommodate the growing brain which will put pressure on the skull, giving the head an abnormal shape, and also potentially slowing down the brain growth.

Have you heard about craniosynostosis before?

No never, which is surprising because it is not uncommon, ​​about 1 in every 2,500 babies is born with craniosynostosis in the United States.

What are the treatments for craniosynostosis?

He told us we had three options.

The first one was to do nothing. The consequences would be having a very misshapen head and probably developmental delays.

The second one was a surgery in which they would break the skull bones into smaller pieces like a puzzle, which would then allow the brain to grow before the skull bones would fuse back together. This is a long open surgery, which often involves a loss of blood and is often made after the baby’s first year. We knew that this was the option that was used in France.

The third option was endoscopic surgery, which the surgeon had been doing for 16 years, where he makes two small incisions in the skull and removes a rectangle of the bone that is fused. After the surgery, it is as if the baby has a giant fontanel that will slowly close. The baby will then wear a helmet both to protect the brain, since a part of the bone is missing, and to give a round shape to the growing head. This surgery can be made as soon as the baby is 3 months old.

After taking the time to think about it and doing some research on our side we decided to take the third option which seemed less risky and she had the endoscopic surgery in the fall.

It must have been stressful for you and your husband.

Yes, it was. Even if the surgeon was really reassuring telling us that it was a straightforward procedure. But still, we couldn’t shake the feeling that something could happen to her brain. A neurosurgeon was present during the procedure to put a guide to protect the brain before the surgeon could break the bones. I don’t think it was stressful for Eleanor because she was only 3 months old at the time but it was definitely stressful for us.

How did the surgery go?

The surgery went well. When she woke up it was easier than I anticipated and her face was not swollen too much compared to some pictures of babies I had seen. And her head shape was already more round even if she obviously had a large bandage on the head. After the surgery, she quickly started gaining weight normally. The surgeon said he had no scientific explanation but it was something that happened nearly every time after the surgery.

Five days after the surgery we met with the helmet specialist who removed the bandage and took measurements to design her custom-fitted helmet.

She had to wear the helmet 23 hours a day, 7 days a week for nearly a year. The surgeon had told us it was not really hard for children to get used to the helmet and he was right but it was a bit hard for us because parents like to stroke their child’s hair and kiss their little head and we couldn’t do that.

Unfortunately, after several months we found that her head shape was not progressing much. My husband has a hard time trusting medical professionals so he searched on the web to see if craniosynostosis surgery or helmet treatment could fail. We felt that there was a gap between her head and the front of the helmet which was not supposed to happen. Thanks to our insurance we could ask for a second opinion which we did. The Boston Children's Hospital reviewed Eleanor’s case and we also wrote to the surgeon at Kaiser who did the surgery. He was surprised because he had been doing this type of surgery for 16 years and he had never needed to operate a second time. When he saw her head measurements he agreed it was not right and that her head should be more round at this point. He advised us to do a second surgery. The Boston Children's Hospital recommended waiting to see if the helmet therapy could still improve her head shape and if by her second birthday it had not, then do a second surgery.

She was 9 months old at that time and we were afraid that doing the surgery when she would be 2 years old would be more traumatic for her than doing it right now. Another thing was that for us it would be really stressful to live in this limbo, not knowing if everything would be ok in the end. So we decided to do a second surgery right away as advised by our surgeon from Kaiser.

We could see that she was older for this surgery. It was harder for her this time, she was crying when she left us for the operating room and she was really upset when she woke up from the surgery because they didn’t allow us to be with her as soon as she woke up.

After the surgery, she had to wear a helmet again but we changed specialist because we didn’t trust the first helmet specialist anymore. No one said it was his fault, but for us it was clear that it was because he didn’t make the helmet tight enough that this happened. So this time we went to see a specialist at a Kaiser’s hospital in Oakland, the first specialist was independent and not affiliated with Kaiser.

Eleanor kept the helmet for 6 more months and this time it worked, her head was perfect.

So this first year of motherhood was quite stressful from the start, were you still able to enjoy the newborn stage and the following months?

Yes, we were, but I think we were very focused on her so we didn’t have the time for anything else. A friend of mine who recently had a baby told me that parenthood was really hard on her relationship with her husband and we tried to remember how it was for us with my husband, we feel that we were always a bit worried about Eleanor so the rest was not really important at this time.

Going through this experience what were your thoughts about growing your family? Did you feel like having other kids despite what happened?

Before having kids my husband wanted to have one or two kids and I wanted to have two kids. After having Eleanor my husband was afraid of not loving another child as much as our first one so he was leaning toward an only child.

After what happened, between my complicated delivery and postpartum and Eleanor’s craniosynostosis, it took me some time to start thinking about whether we should have a second child or not. When we saw the surgeon for the second time we talked to him to know if we had an increased risk of having another child with craniosynostosis. He told us that even if craniosynostosis is not due to an inherited genetic condition we were still facing an increased risk of 1 in 500, instead of 1 in 2500 if we didn’t have another child born with the condition. Our first thought was that we didn’t want to go through this again but at the same time, we thought that the probability was still low enough to maybe take the risk. We took a couple of months to think about it and I was the first one to feel ready. My husband still had this fear of not loving another child as much. We also knew that we were going to move to France and that if we had another child with craniosynostosis only the long riskier open surgery would be available to us there. But despite everything we agreed to try and see if I would get pregnant. I remember we decided while we were in Yosemite, we had just seen a family of bears with their babies and it was really cute! We thought that it would be nice to have our own baby bear! This time again I got pregnant on my first cycle.

Did you feel the same joy as the first time?

Yes, we felt the same excitement and once again we couldn’t wait, I took pregnancy tests very early to check if it worked. Eleanor was 2 ½ years old at the time and we decided not to tell her right away to make sure that the pregnancy was developing well.

Did you feel that this time you were more aware that a pregnancy could go wrong?

Yes, maybe because I was older and more mature or because of what happened with Eleanor. But also probably because I was more informed, after having my daughter I listened to a lot of podcasts about motherhood. This time, I was not as positive as I was the first time. I was still regularly taking pregnancy tests, it was the small strips that are supposed to turn darker as your pregnancy moves along. It was turning darker but after some time it started being lighter and lighter so we became worried and unfortunately, it turned into a miscarriage. It happened really early in the pregnancy but it was still very hard for us because we were so looking forward to having a second baby and even if I was anticipating problems this time I was not really anticipating a miscarriage.

My husband was really rational and said that it was just nature, this embryo probably was not viable so it was better that the pregnancy stopped early. It was harder for me because I couldn’t help myself, I was already envisioning this baby and planning for everything.

When the pregnancy tests turned negative did you see a doctor?

Yes, we went to see my ob-gyn. She checked that there was nothing left so we could start trying again, I think we were advised to wait for a new cycle to start, which we did and I got pregnant shortly after.

This time I was really stressed, I didn't feel the same joy. I was exercising regularly after having Eleanor but I decided to stop as soon as I was pregnant. I knew that exercising was not what caused my miscarriage but I felt like I needed to stop to avoid taking any risk. I was also always worried when Eleanor would jump in my arms that she would bump the baby.

The beginning of the pregnancy was happening in the US and the delivery was supposed to happen in France, right?

Yes, the first few months I was still in California and my ob-gyn at Kaiser was doing the routine check-ups. We did the first ultrasound and we decided to take the NPIT test this time again to discover the sex of the baby early, we were once again impatient, some things don’t change! We received the test results at the airport while boarding for our flight to France! We were expecting a little girl again and knowing our baby's gender helped us envision things more peacefully.

How did you feel about moving to another country during your pregnancy? Was it stressful?

No, I was happy about it in fact. I didn’t want to have another baby in the US because of what happened during Eleanor’s delivery. I am not sure that I was right to think that but that’s what I was feeling. I had heard about studies showing that postpartum follow-up for new mothers in the US was terrible and that’s what I experienced. I feel like in the US they are very good with newborn check-ups but there is absolutely nothing done to make sure mothers are okay except the 6-week postpartum check-up. But 6 weeks is a very long time to go without seeing a doctor. In France, you can have midwives checking on you at your home several times during the first few weeks. And being in France I could have my family around to help me with Eleanor during the birth and the first few days.

Did you have help in California when Eleanor was born?

My parents came from France two weeks after she was born and stayed with us for two weeks, which was nice. But we didn’t get help other than that, which was okay for us because we are independent and we like it that way. For example for Eleanor’s surgery, our parents wanted to be there to support us but we preferred to stay just the three of us and we had friends here to give us moral support so it was good.

But when you are having your second child it’s different I think you need more help, especially to take care of your first child so it was reassuring to be close to family for this birth.

How was this second pregnancy? Were you able to manage your stress?

It was okay. We had a more detailed ultrasound to look at the baby’s head. They didn’t see anything abnormal so that was reassuring but we couldn’t know for sure that the baby was not going to have craniosynostosis since it’s not easy to see on ultrasound and also because the bones can fuse right after delivery.

The pregnancy went well overall, but this time I really didn’t like being pregnant. After having Eleanor I was exercising and I had lost a lot of weight so I was feeling good but seeing myself put on weight and having my body change was hard for me. I also experienced a lot more pain and discomfort during this pregnancy and each time I started feeling pain in my belly I was worried that something was going wrong. Plus having to take care of a toddler while pregnant makes it harder than the first time when I only had to take care of myself.

Did you manage to get the delivery you had hoped for this time?

So one week before my due date I started having painful contractions and I started using an app to track them. My parents were supposed to take care of Eleanor during the delivery but their house was a 2-hour drive from us so we had to anticipate the car drive but at the same time we couldn’t have them come for nothing.

These first contractions stopped and several days later I started having painful contractions again that lasted longer and were still there after one hour so I called my parents. We drove to the hospital with my husband and my daughter. It was in 2021 and because of the pandemic, there was still only one support person allowed so my husband had to stay outside with Eleanor until my parents arrived to take care of her. I was dilated at 3 or 4 cm when I was admitted the nurse asked me if I wanted the peridural and this time I wanted to try without it.

Once my parents arrived, my husband joined me. They had advised me to wait lying down so that the labor didn’t progress too quickly before he was able to come.

Was it not too painful to manage the contractions lying down without an epidural?

It was okay, I was able to manage them quite well. This time I had taken childbirth classes with a midwife so I was more prepared than the first time, it was really useful.

When my husband arrived I was dilated at 5 or 6 cm and I was able to stand up and walk again. When I reached 8 cm the pain intensified and I was not able to manage it anymore so I asked for the peridural, I was afraid that maybe it would be too late to get it but it was okay. I was relieved right away from the pain so I could feel the difference with my first delivery when the peridural didn’t work. It was great because I didn’t have any pain but I could still feel my body. My water broke when I reached 10 cm and the delivery was very quick, I only had to push twice. So yes this time it was the perfect delivery, as my mother had described. I was able to really enjoy meeting my baby girl and this time I cried when they put my baby in my arms.

Did you look at her head right away?

No, I didn’t even think about her head in the first few minutes but everything was okay this time.

How did you feel after your delivery this time? Were you worried about experiencing problems with your placenta again?

I felt pretty good. I told the medical team that I had retained placenta fragments after my first delivery so they really checked everything after the placenta delivery. This time I didn’t experience any anxiety, and my postpartum was really easier.

Did you prepare differently for your postpartum this second time around?

Yes because when you have an older kid to take care of you need to be more prepared. I had cooked and froze meals in advance. The first time I was really improvising!

Did the first weeks as a mother of two go well?

Yes, the meeting between the two sisters was magical. Eleanor was really excited to meet her little sister and even after that, in the first weeks and months, she was always happy to see her sister, there was no jealousy, she was like a little mother to her sister, she always wanted to help me take care of her.

So this postpartum was easier than the first one?

Definitely but Ambre, our second daughter, was more difficult during the first two months than Eleanor. She cried a lot during the evenings which was difficult to handle. But I was feeling great both physically and mentally.

Was your husband able to get paternity leave both times?

Yes, he had a 12-week paternity leave the first time. He took 2 weeks after the birth and before my parents arrived and he used the rest so we could visit our family for several weeks in France. The second time he was working for a US company in France and he had again a 12-week paternity leave from his company plus 4 weeks from the French paternity leave, I think he was not even able to use it all. He was able to really share the duties with the kids. I breastfed Ambre, as I did with Eleanor, and he would wake up to pick her up and bring her to me when she needed to nurse during the night.

Was breastfeeding as smooth as it was with Eleanor?

No, it was not! As I breastfed Eleanor for about 18 months and it went very well without any help, except the lactation consultants who came to see me at the hospital, I thought it would be the same the second time around. So I didn’t take any breastfeeding classes but this time no consultants came to the hospital. Breastfeeding was very painful and I experienced cracked nipples.

Did you think about stopping breastfeeding?

At some point I did but I bought breastfeeding shells and it really helped. In 24 hours it was healed and I didn’t have any pain.

How was the transition from one to two kids?

My husband and I both found it harder as a couple going from one to two. Because when you have just one kid, if one of us wanted to take a break the other one could take care of our daughter whereas with two kids, especially with a baby and a toddler it is more difficult to be alone with two kids.

Your husband was afraid that he was not going to love his second child as much, how did he feel once she was here?

Very good, his fear disappeared instantly!

So you were both happy with two kids?

Yes very happy, even if it is tiring and hard sometimes. We feel that our family is complete. Ambre is now two years old. It was when Eleanor was 2 that I felt the need to have another child. This time I really don’t feel the need to have another one! My husband prefers toddlers and older kids to babies so he likes the stage we are in now. For me, even if I really enjoy the newborn phase and I always love seeing babies I don’t feel that I want to have another one myself.

Did you feel there were significant differences between your experience of having a baby in the US compared to France?

The hospital stay in France postpartum is longer than in the US and it is not always something great. In my case, because it was my second child, with a smooth delivery and a healthy baby, I was eager to get home to be reunited with my older daughter but they didn’t agree to let me go after the first night and I had to spend more than 48 hours at the hospital.

The postpartum care for the mom is better in France because you have a midwife that comes several times to your home in the first days and weeks after the birth to check both the mom and the baby not just the ob-gyn appointment 4 to 6 weeks after birth. And then postpartum women get 10 to 20 free pelvic floor therapy sessions which I think is essential. I really saw the difference when I did them after my second delivery, I didn’t experience urinary incontinence like I did after my first one.

In the US there are however more check-ups on newborns than in France during the first weeks and months, which is probably a good thing.

Do you have any advice for expectant moms?

Take childbirth classes! And breastfeeding classes if you plan to do it. Being positive is great but being prepared is better!

Melody’s favorites

Favorite kids stores

Family favorite places to eat

Favorite places to have fun