Thanksgiving in France

This past week was my 8th Thanksgiving in France. While the first few years I tried to participate in or host a big meal with friends and/or family, the past few years I’ve gone to the restaurant dinner organized by the Lorraine Etats-Unis group I belong to. It’s very French (three separate courses, small portions, not a cranberry or pie in sight), but it’s in a beautiful building, it means no cooking or cleanup for me, and I get to see my friends from the group.

This year I assumed it’d be the same, but because there was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Metz during World War II, there was a group of veterans in town (and their wives, children, grandchildren, etc.) So the traditional dinner was in an even bigger, fancier restaurant, with enough space for everyone. I was sitting next to a 90-year-old veteran, and we talked about all sorts of things. Mostly about cranberries, but there were a few war stories too. It was such a special evening, celebrating Thanksgiving while also thanking these men for what they did all those years ago. They all looked so much younger than 90, so while they all laughed nervously when there was talk of the 75th anniversary, I feel like they’ll all be back in five years for sure.

Me and my husband had a little mini-feast on Thursday, with stuffing, which we’ve done the past few years as well. His grandmother’s birthday is at the end of November, and this year his mom hosted it. What I expected to be a small lunch was actually a huge family gathering with all the cousins and uncles, etc, and bébé got to meet a few cousins he hadn’t seen yet. It all felt very Thanksgiving-y, sitting at a long table with family, talking over each other, telling jokes, little kids yelling and running around. It even started in the early afternoon, and continued into the evening, like the Thanksgivings I had in the states.

I was actually kind of sad thinking about bébé’s first Thanksgiving and how it would just be another Thursday. However, he’s still so little, I know he won’t remember his “first” Thanksgiving (or Christmas) anyway. I was thinking that next year, I want to start doing the dinner myself, so bébé can have a tradition similar to what I grew up with. But I managed to celebrate it three different ways this year, so maybe we’ll just make our Thanksgiving in France tradition to celebrate it as many times as possible during the last week of November!

Running a 10k four months postpartum

10k four months postpartum

I am super happy that I managed to meet the goals I set for the 10k race I ran this past weekend. I ran the whole thing, and I was faster than I had anticipated, despite missing two runs the past two weeks because of a nasty cold.

While pregnant, I read a lot of posts about postpartum running, and wanted to share my own reflections on the process. None of this is intended to replace medical advice, it’s simply what I learned and observed over the past four months.

My big secret: honesty. With yourself, your doctor, and your spouse/partner.

Honesty with your doctor: it means not lying about how you feel just so he’ll sign off on the race (in France you need a doctor’s note to participate in competitions). It means telling him every single problem and concern about breastfeeding, exercise, and sleep and listening to his answers, even if you don’t like them. I thought he would ok exercise at my 4 week appointment, but he said only walking and yoga until 8 weeks. This was frustrating, but in the end, a very good thing. Postnatal yoga focuses a lot on hips and lower back. Guess what runners need to work on too?

Honesty with yourself: it means asking yourself lots of questions and thinking very seriously about the answers. I think these could apply to any hobby, be it quilting, running, writing, dancing, stargazing . . . whatever makes you feel connected to your pre-baby self.

Questions like:

  • Am I willing to give up x y z to make time for it? (For me, TV mainly, and couple time, but my husband just got a new video game so it meant more time for him to play!)
  • Will I really be able to stick with it through the craziness and exhaustion that is life with a newborn? (Even having just 20 minutes to myself a few times a week really helped me stay sane, so I looked forward to my runs as fun, rather than having them feel like an obligation to avoid.)
  • Will I be disappointed if it doesn’t turn out how it did before? (I was okay with a slower time but I knew I’d be a little upset if I had to walk)
  • Do I want to share my goal publicly to help motivate me? (My family and colleagues knew, and they asked about my progress, which I found very motivating. I mentioned it on the blog, but not on Facebook until it was over.)

Honesty with your spouse: it means asking similar questions, to make sure they understand how much support you’re going to need from them.

Some questions for spouses/partners:

  • Can you put the baby to bed/cook dinner/do laundry X times a week? (My training schedule had me running less than 30 minutes two weeknights, which was very manageable for us. More than that would have been hard.)
  • Is it ok if you see me a little less while I do it? (see video game comment above)
  • How will we set up a schedule so we both can do the things we want to do? (It’s only fair to give if you get, so I made sure to make time for his hobbies as well.)

Ok, so honesty is great and everything, but non-runners may still be wondering how running a 10k at 4 months postpartum is actually possible. (Or maybe there are runners like me going through their first pregnancy wondering that as well.) A few things to keep in mind:

– This is not my first race. Or my fifth. I actually don’t know the exact number, but I’ve been running at least one or two a year for 9 years. This means I know my body, I know what my limits are, how fast I can go, when to run through a cold, when to stay home (and do yoga!), what a real injury feels like, etc. If I’d only ever run one or two races, I probably would have set a much easier goal with less distance, and more months of training.

– I trained with a walk/run plan. This kind of felt like going backwards, but again, knowing my body meant knowing that after almost a year off, it wouldn’t be ready to only run at 2 months. Or 3. But by 4, I got to a place that felt like running the whole 10k would maybe be possible. Maybe not. But at least with a walk/run plan, I knew I’d be able to finish it either way.

– I worked out during my pregnancy. Swimming, yoga (so much yoga!), light weights, walking. While “knowing” my body didn’t really apply during pregnancy, since it was doing all sorts of crazy things I couldn’t control, I did listen to it. And I often felt really great after an easy workout, so I kept at it as long as it felt good. But if I was too tired or achy, I didn’t do it.

– My husband is working part-time right now. Since he can do laundry/shopping during the day, evenings are free to pursue our different hobbies. He is also really really great about dealing with the bébé at night, which means I can sleep, since I have the more demanding work schedule, and so that I can be rested for my runs.

It’s definitely the support of my husband that has helped the most these past four months, and obviously not just for running, but for everything. Even when working full-time, he didn’t hesitate for a second to take a crying baby so I could get out of the house for 20 minutes, or to get up three times a night to change diapers. I told a friend that running this race didn’t make me superwoman, but it definitely made me realize I’m married to superman!

Four months

My fourth monthly letter to my son . . .

Dear bébé,

This month was a big leap forward. Everything seems to be getting better all at once. Sleep, rolling and scooting, using your hands, laughing and gurgling . . . You don’t get a bottle at night anymore, but you still sleep for 8-9 hour stretches from about 7 until about 4. Sometimes you don’t always go back to sleep after you wake up to eat, so momma’s been a bit tired at work. But since daddy takes care of everything else so well at home like cooking and laundry, it’s not so hard to manage.

What has been hard for momma is to miss so many of your smiles and hearing you “sing”, which you do more and more. Certain songs and sounds make you giggle, and you’re even a little ticklish on your neck. Daddy gets down on the floor to play with you sometimes, and you love grabbing his ears or nose. You can hold onto your toys pretty well, but still aren’t reaching much. Kicking is more your thing right now. When you see momma come in the room, or spot a favorite toy, you kick like crazy.

You’re still getting used to the nanny and though you don’t always sleep a lot with her, most days you’re laughing when daddy picks you up. The days you stay with mamie are filled with visiting cousins and friends. Once you even spent the night with mamie so momma and daddy could go on their first dinner/movie date since you’ve been born. It went okay at first, but you were so excited to be in a new place you “sang” almost all night!

It was the same during a visit to the American consulate in Strasbourg. You were up much later than usual just laughing and gurgling, and didn’t sleep as much as usual. But you behaved very well at the consulate the next day, and now you have both your French and American passports.  You seemed particularly fascinated by the consulate employee who explained everything; maybe his deep voice or different accent caught your attention.

That’s how you seem to react to most new things: fascinated, curious, serious. You don’t have many smiles for new people; you’re too busy trying to figure them out. You like to use your hands to explore your mouth (or are your using your tongue to discover your hands?). You like to grab the pages of your books, and you really like books that make noises.

You didn’t gain much weight this month, and it might be because you’re more interested in looking around than eating. But the doctor isn’t worried and everything else is on track. You’ve grown a few centimeters, hold your head up very well, and move around the way you’re supposed to. You’re still losing your dark newborn hair, and the new hair is a lighter brown. Your eyes are a gorgeous blue and they seem to sparkle when you’re smiling.

Everyone is still getting used to the new work/home rhythm and this next month may be a little challenging. There are lots of things planned (like momma’s 10k race) and you’ve already caught your first cold. But you still managed to smile despite being sick and while you take your time to adjust to and figure out new things, you always do in the end, so everything will probably go pretty well this month.

Bisous & kisses,

Your momma