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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ogilby

Reflections as a New Mom in A Foreign City

I hadn’t realized there was oatmeal cemented to my 8-month old’s eyelid until I was sitting in the waiting room. It was one of those mornings where the world makes it blatantly obvious you’re in unfamiliar territory. We had walked 45 minutes to the osteopath (more commonly called a chiropractor in the United States), and I was unknowingly standing outside the wrong address, evidently punching a key code into the door that would never work.

It began to rain, and I realized I had confused the address which began with “Place” with “Rue”.

Thankfully, I simply walked around the corner to the correct address. However, I still couldn’t get inside. After a few more unsuccessful attempts with the key code and a phone call with the poor secretary (a conversation which reminded me that my French was still terrible), a stranger opened the door for us.

Once in, I deciphered a French text, determined the osteo was located on the third floor, and I realized my stroller didn’t fit in the elevator. My body was sore (hence my appointment), and I was not looking forward to carrying 35+ kg up the stairs.

I had planned to be early but was now 15 minutes late, soaking wet, and feeling defeated. I debated going home and forgetting about the appointment altogether. I choked back tears as I lugged the stroller up two floors (with my son inside) before getting another phone call. It was the English-speaking osteo. As I explained my situation, she found me and helped me haul the stroller up the final floor. I practically melted with relief.

The appointment went wonderfully, and my son played in his stroller nearly the entire hour. Afterwards, we made the most of the weather by cuddling in a nearby café until the rain subsided. What had seemed like the beginning of a rotten day turned out to be quite special.

There are days when living in a foreign city doesn’t feel, so… well, foreign. I know where to go for groceries and stamps and how to complete my health care documents. As a new mom, I’ve figured out when to use the carrier or the stroller, which pharmacy has the medications we need, and where to get more diapers. However, there are plenty of days that include moments of frustration and confusion.

The irony in these difficult situations are the positive effects. My husband and I moved to Europe to challenge ourselves, experience new cultures and languages, and grow. We hope to encourage our children to do the same. The magic in our life here is not just in the food we eat and the museums we visit, but also in the ability to navigate (and thrive in) a new culture.

As silly as it sounds, I now know to fold the stroller to fit in most elevators, to double check the key code and address before admitting defeat, and even to assess my son for food crumbs that hide in the most unlikely places. I’ve learned a few more French phrases to help me along.

I am humbled by stroller assistance from Parisians, people who speak three (or more!) languages, and encouragement from a community of Message moms who have already been through it all.

One of the main reasons I can successfully navigate Paris is due to the literally hundreds of moms who support me (many of whom I’ve never met in person). They inspire me to continue our adventure here, try new things, and not be afraid of failure.

These experiences are what help me grow and motivate me to become proficient in my new city!

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Dec 21, 2022

What a wonderful wonderful story of your experiences! From the highs to the lows from the dampness to the tired to the cuddles… From your courage and strength and resilience, and persistence, Rache

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