Motherhood

Pregnant in Paris

This weekend, my mom dug out a bunch of old photos from when she was pregnant with Lucy and me. They were so much fun to see. My parents had just moved from the U.S. to France, and they thought they were having just one baby (they didn’t expect twins!). My mom described what the experience was like…

“When we moved to Paris, I was already pregnant and very excited,” my mom told me. “We went to French restaurants every night and explored Paris and surrounding towns on the weekends. During the day while Dad worked, I would walk through Le Vésinet, a beautiful residential district, to St. Germain en Laye, where I would have tea and a croissant and write letters home. Some days I would go swimming at a public indoor pool on the way back. I had a fitted black maternity suit–very sexy and French! Once on the way home, I was craving a hamburger, so I stopped for lunch. It was delicious. As I left the cafe, I saw a poster with an outline of a horse, saying that the special of the day was hamburger a la cheval!”

“During my pregnancy, Daddy and I called the baby ‘Freddie’ and whenever we visited a gorgeous French cathedral–Notre Dame, Chartres–we would always light a candle for ‘Freddie.’ ”

“In early January, I was eight months pregnant. My belly was quite big, and my doctor was worried that something might be wrong. Dad was on a business trip, so I went alone to the Hôpital Américain de Paris for a sonogram…

“I was lying on my back with the cold jelly on my belly and the technician said, ‘Je vois un bébé.’ I smiled, and he kept working. Then he said, ‘Ooh la la! Je vois deux bébés.’ I was stunned! Twins! He kept working and then he exclaimed, ‘Mon dieu, je vois trois bébés!’ Triplets! He was a bit flustered and wanted a second opinion so said he was going to get a doctor and left the room. I lay there thinking, ‘Hmm. I only have two arms, but I am going to have three babies!’ When the two doctors came back, they took another look and finally said, ‘Madame, you are definitely having two babies only!’ I thought, ‘Only two! That’ll be a cinch!’ Later I wondered if they had worked some clever psychology on me…”

“When I left the hospital that afternoon, I was so excited. I passed a little shop and spotted this cute mouse doll with two mouse babies! I bought it, and when I met Dad at the airport the next day, I gave it to him. He was perplexed and just looked at it (Why was I giving him a stuffed mouse?). Then it dawned on him, ‘Oh my gosh! Are you serious?’ He was shocked but thrilled. The next week we lit candles at a church for ‘the Freddies!’ “

(Next I’d love to share a few from after we were born, if you’d like to see…:)

  1. molly says...

    This is incredible! What a BEAUTIFUL, sweet story. And how fun it must be to hear about that time in your mother’s life. I love it!!

    It’d be really fun to hear more some day about the years your family was overseas…I know you did a lot of your growing up in Ann Arbor, but I’m so curious about & interested in your life & connections in Europe (your summer trips to visit family in Cornwall always look & sound so lovely!). And the photos of you & Lucy as babies in Paris are breathtaking. Your mother seems like such a gem!! Happy birthday xo

  2. Pam says...

    Thank you for this post! When you were pregnant what did you do in terms of eating cheese in France?

  3. Angel says...

    I love this post! Especially the ultrasound story.

  4. This is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing with us and for letting us into your special moments and memories. :) I love that the internet makes the world so small and makes us feel so connected to people we haven’t met but whom we follow daily anyway! ;) xoxo – your “friend” in Utah :)

  5. saki says...

    your mom is lovely. thank you for sharing, Freddie :-)

  6. This is such a beautiful read! Loved it!
    We moved to Atlanta, GA from Stockholm, Sweden when I was 4 months pregnant with our first child. It was a very cool time to be out in the world, just the two (almost three) of us. We didn’t know anybody so we didn’t really have many social obligations and I wasn’t working. And then we had our little American baby and started our life as a family there. It was such a magical time and Atlanta will always have a special place in my heart. As I’m sure Paris does in your mother’s heart. Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.minipiccolini.com

  7. Wow. I was having a really terrible day and this post just made me smile and then laugh out loud. The weird thing is, I just stumbled across this blog for the first time a few weeks ago and have had it open on one of my browser’s tabs ever since as one of my “to-read eventually” tabs. I’m really glad I never closed it even though I have 20 tabs happening right now and that I decided to read it tonight. :-)

  8. so obsessed with this post! i’ve read it a few times :) your mother is just gorgeous! what a lovely story

  9. This story is so beautiful……Ill admit to a couple of tears.
    Thank you for making all of us feel like your friends.

    x x x

  10. awesome post, thank you for sharing!

  11. Leah says...

    I read your blog often but have never commented. This post was really lovely. The real reason I was compelled to write though is that my Mum and Dad also moved to Paris when my Mum was pregnant with my older brother. She tells such similar stories of happy pregnant days in Paris.
    The twin part is unique to you though!
    xxx

  12. This was lovely to read, Jo.

  13. Ah! I’m comment number 201! I love “The Freddies” and this is such a charming story! Your momma looks so pretty, and so quite much like you!

    I think you’re cool, Joanna!

    Good luck with your baby boy :)

    Love,
    melly
    singapore

  14. your blog brings so much joy!

  15. Anonymous says...

    i’m not sure why but that made my eyes well up. how lovely that your mother has photos in such good quality of that special time.

  16. Laura says...

    Hi Joanna:

    I love this story, because it is adorably sweet, and because it reminds me of the story of my twin brother Peter and me. My mom found the day before Christmas 1978 in Seattle that she was having twins, about six weeks before she was due. I’m guessing ultrasounds weren’t very common then (since your mom also hadn’t had one until late in pregnancy). The doctor had given my mom a hard time about gaining weight (even though she was very thin, except for her big baby belly), and then was flabbergasted when it was twins. She was ultimately induced two weeks early because we weighed 7 lbs. 15 oz. EACH. My parents had my sisters who were 4 and 5 at the time write the birth announcements, which said “At first when we found out we were having a baby, we called it Teeny Weeny. Then we found out it was Teeny and Weeny.” Love being a twin to my 10 minutes younger, but 10 inches taller than me brother. :)

    Laura Fagan

    P.S. I’m a recently relocated NYCer to SF for my husband’s job. He is a Cali native like Alex. We were married 11.21.09 at Grace Church in Manhattan. :)

  17. wow i never think of posting stories like that on my blog…i have tears in my eyes, it is sooo big feeling!

  18. What a very touching story. It sounded like she was even disappointed to have only twins. But still, I’m pretty sure she’s very happy. Was she wearing maternity bands while pregnant? I’d love to see the sequel of this story.

  19. what a darling story! awwwwwwww!

  20. Oh my gosh, these photos and story brought tears to my eyes! What a beautiful beginning you had…your parents look so alive, in love, and free. The image of you chewing on the baguette is priceless! The little stuffed mouse with two “petite mouselettes” is utterly adorable. Thanks for sharing this, Jo!!!

  21. what a heartwarming story. Imagine, TWINS! And the pictures of your mom are so beautiful! She is stunning. Your dad is a lucky man!

  22. yes wonderful story!

  23. What a wonderful story. I have to get my mom to tell me a story before I was born. What a treasure to have!

  24. How sweet. Your mother seems lovely.

  25. my favorite post of yours, yet. love the pictures and the story is adorable (i SO hope someone still has the mamma mouse!).

    happy birthday, freddy!

  26. This was such a nice story to read!
    And happy birthday!

  27. Anonymous says...

    What an adorable story :)

  28. Kelsey says...

    Oh wow, this is so cool. Thanks for sharing!! I heart Paris.

  29. alexa says...

    oh my gosh i loved reading this!!!! You should post more things like that. You’re mom sounds like so much fun! And going to Paris for a little – and all the stuff she did – just sound awesome.
    p.s. i love that mouse idea!

  30. Oh my gosh! I love this story! Made me smile! Thank you! Looove the mama mouse with the baby mice!! : )

  31. oh my gosh that is the cutest little story ever…your mom sounds adorable.

  32. So cute! I love the Mouse Mommy with the two babies and that your parents nicknamed you the “Freddies!” My heart is melting.

  33. aw this got me a little teary. So cute!

  34. That was just incredible to read. Your mother is simply beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing such a heartwarming story.

  35. such a lovely story!

  36. buon compleanno! what a sweet story, thanks for sharing

  37. i’m a twin too and my mom also didn’t know she was having twins until two weeks before we were born!

  38. precious! it is absolutely no wonder that you are such a darling girl! xx

  39. Adorable photos, would love to do a painting a few of them. I did paintings of my children from old photos and it was a great experience. It makes me happy every time I look at those paintngs.

  40. your family is awesome I guess! :)

  41. what a sweet story, i love those mice :)

  42. so lovely story!!! And nice pics!!!

    Happy Birthday Joanna!!

  43. Adorable story!

  44. Wow! The pictures are just beautiful, and I love, love, love the story!! How awesome!

  45. TrishR says...

    Thanks so much for sharing that story and the photos! Happy Birthday!! When my mother was pregnant with my twin sister and I, she didn’t know either. Of course, back in ’65 at an Air Force hospital, there was no ‘birth options’! So she was sort of out of it when I was born. She tells us the last thing she remembers is hearing a nurse say “Doctor, there’s something else here…” Don’t think I didn’t enjoy tormenting my “little sister” from time to time, reminding her she was first called Something. Mom also tells us of how her mother, my tough-as-nails Irish Nana, stood at the foot of her hospital bed, hands on hips and said “3 kids at home and now 2 more. So what the hell are you going to do now?” And my Mom, to this day one of the calmest people I know, replied “I’m going to take them home and love them.” Indeed!

  46. oh my goodness! I’m tearing up at work- this is so beautiful!

  47. Such a cute story. Thanks for sharing.

  48. I absolutely ADORE these photos and this wonderful story. It all looks&sounds idyllic. I am so happy you posted, it Joanna! And I am just about to read the second part.

    How romantic to be newly married and give birth to your first children in Paris♥

    xoxoxoxoxo

  49. I’m a first time visitor and I loved this post! My friend sent me the link because she knew I would love it. #1– I adore France (have been there twice) and #2– I am a mom of twin girls. How I would have loved to have been pregnant there! What a wonderful story and the photos are great too.

  50. What a beautiful story. I actually had to keep myself from tearing up!

  51. What a lovely story! I can picture your sweet mama learning about Paris and her babies and all the joy that must have been shared between her and your dad. So sweet!

  52. Oh, what a sweet story! My sister is pregnant with her first and all emotional, so of course I shared your story with her.

  53. These photos are so lovely! Your mom is a wonderful storyteller, it’s so cool that she lived in Paris throughout her pregnancy! And I love that they called you “the Freddies” that’s the great quirky stuff couples do:)

    Happy Belated Birthday!!! XO

  54. What a fantastic story! :) The little mouse with two babies, that is so sweet. Your mum looks so beautiful. I love the last picture of her lying on the carpet. Thanks for sharing, I would love to read some more stories. :D

  55. aww what a delightful story!! it sounds like the doctor was using some clever psychology on her :) and what a clever and cute way to share the news with your dad!

  56. The picture of the mouse with those sneakers explains why you wear/like the sneakers you do! We all become our moms, don’t we?

  57. more more more!!!

    oh my gosh

    this is adorable!!
    so sweet to have these memories from your mum.
    i still remember the story my mum used to tell me about the day i was born!

    can’t wait to read more tomorrow!
    -L
    http://www.thesphinxandthemilkyway.com

  58. I don’t know why this is making me cry, it’s just such a beautiful story and you really have such an amazing way with words. This was really really beautiful, thank you for sharing!

  59. Wonderful story! Of course we’d like to see the post-birth pictures!!

  60. SUCH a cute story! I would LOVE to hear more. I am so impressed by your mom’s romantic attitude about being pregnant with twins in Paris…it sounds lovely!

  61. Please do share more – these are wonderful! And you mom looks so chic in Paris. My mom had the opposite happen when she got so huge so fast, they thought I was twins. ;)

  62. Hahahaha!
    I’m a twin sister too! (but of brother twin) and my story was similar!! My parents knew we were two in her last visit to the doctor, she was too big, fat, gigant! and the doctor told her…ok ok… what would happen if you would be mother of twins in 10 days?? hahaahha! And he makes a radiography and they could see that we were two! :)
    (sorry for english, it’s a little…basic…!)
    xoxo from spain!

  63. Becky says...

    This is my first comment here! That was a lovely story! Please do continue with after you and your sister were born! Thank you!

  64. Anonymous says...

    What a great post! Please keep them coming. How sweet!

  65. so sweet story and excellent photos. thanks for sharing :)

  66. Oh Joanna that is such a sweet and envy-inducing story. Somehow the thought of being pregnant-in-Paris is enviable, even though I’m 25 and not ready for one baby let alone two : ) I want to walk the streets of Paris with tea and a croissant and go swimming in the afternoons. I loved your mom’s anecdote about the doctors working some psychology on her– it’s true though huh? If you think you’re about to have three, suddently twins would be a relief! Suchhh a sweet story and the photographs are lovely. I particulary love the one of your mom lying on her back on the rug with the light streaming through. It looks so vintage and so 1970’s and has a nostalgic feel to it. Are any of your middle names Freddie?

  67. How sweet! :)

  68. me says...

    love this post … yes more please :0)

  69. What a great story! I think maybe they were playing a trick on her… think there are three for a minute and two will seem like a piece of cake!! I’m currently pregnant with twins and love to hear about other twin pregnancies!

  70. elena says...

    lovely!

  71. lovely

  72. Your mother is gorgeous… and the story very moving… waht a great DNA to inherit.

  73. love this! i also have a twin sister and my mom had a similar story, originally thought it was one big boy and ended up being two little girls:-) my mom had to go and tell my dad as well! oh technology today:-)

  74. BronP says...

    This is a lovely story, I can’t wait for the next instalment!

  75. and oh yes— happy happy birthday!

  76. Reading your blog from France, this story is so charming ! And the pictures, so beautiful and full of emotion.

  77. what a sweet story! how amazing to be pregnant in France… I know pregnancy isn’t always a picnic but it seems it would be so much more romantic and fairy tale-like there :) thanks so much for sharing the story! your mom is a real doll. she sounds so lovely, and funny!

  78. You are so sweet! Such a lovely person! Your son is very lucky with such a mom!
    Mirela

  79. This comment has been removed by the author.

  80. Your mum is gorgeous ! Very nice story…

  81. Aren’t 70’s Mummy’s just beautiful?

  82. Oh man, that was a great story and beautiful photos! Funny, my instinctual reactions seeing those photos was to assume that they were photoshopped to have that nostalgic glisten…haha, no, that is actually how photos used to look.

    ‘Ooh la la! Je vois deux bébés.’ — that is so great!

  83. MartuciaAstucia says...

    Guau, Joanna: Qué tierno…..
    Wow, Joanna: So sweet……

  84. how beautiful!

  85. lovely pictures and super cute story! so exciting that your parents moved to Paris! So are you actually born in Paris?
    Viele Gruesse, Kristina

  86. wonderful memories. there’s something incredible special about these moments that you were a huge part of but not physically around to see. thank you for sharing them, they’re gorgeous. have a fabulous birthday. xx

  87. I have wanted twins since i was a very little girl. Show us more!

  88. Best blog post I have read in months, love to here about the months after…

  89. This story is so sweet! How lucky she was to enjoy her pregnancy and be in beautiful Paris of all places! Would love to see more photos.

  90. SDL says...

    What beautiful photos, and what a lovely recollection of her pregnancy from your Mom. So sweet.

  91. Gorgeous. Happy birthday from Down Under!

  92. raquel says...

    yes please, do share! what a beautiful way of sharing you have.
    kudos, ur site is lovely.

  93. This is so beautiful!

  94. What a great story!! Love the photos!