Monday 20 November 2017

The bebe wait is over, but maman is left holding her

Despite the Sarkozys' lowkey strategy, rarely has there been so much fuss about a newborn, writes Aoife Drew

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla
PRESIDENTIAL COUPLE: Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla

Enfin! At long last, la petite Giulia Sarkozy has finally joined maman and papa on terra firma.

The most anticipated French 'bebe' of the year made her debut in Paris on Wednesday of last week, much to the delight of her parents, but also to that of the entire French media pack. The Sarkozys' strategy has been to act low-key and to refuse to make an official announcement, but very rarely has so much fuss been generated about a newborn child.

"There's not a lot to say about it. There are lots of pregnant women out there. This is not terribly interesting for the French," said Carla during a recent interview with the BBC.

Well, "bof" to that, as the French would say with a dismissive shrug. As much as they may pretend not to care about celebrities or "le people", in recent weeks in Paris there has been nothing short of frenzy about the arrival of le bebe. Everything is up for discussion -- this baby's vote-creating power, the brand of clothes she'll wear (Bonpoint or Tartine et Chocolat?), will Carla breastfeed and just how long will it be until she goes back on the fags?

Yes, it's been a long journey since Carla first publicly wished for a baby during a visit to an Indian temple with Sarkozy back in 2010. First, there was the charade of "is she or isn't she", with Carla feigning a wish to keep her pregnancy secret, but making her bump plainly obvious for all to see. Then there were the "stolen" photos taken by Paris Match during the summer, with Carla looking unfeasibly well in her swimming togs being fawned upon by her adoring husband.

And most recently the acres of press generated by Carla protesting too much that she would never let her baby be photographed and that she wanted to keep the arrival of her newborn child totally private, which of course engendered even more buzz.

Indeed, the excitement generated by this pregnancy has had a less than delightful impression on the rest of us in Paris. In the village of Auteuil where Carla lives, the presence of paparazzi has been even worse than normal, with a crowd of them posted at the bottom of her street with their long-range lenses.

When she emerged last Wednesday to move only five minutes up the road to her clinic, a hoard of the paps followed her on scooters to camp outside, where amazingly vendors of baby products (food, bracelets etc) tried to promote their wares to the press pack. And, of course, traffic was cordoned off all around the clinic, making it impossible to navigate through the streets by car. Not terribly charmant for your average Parisian.

But your average Parisian doesn't arrive in the world the same way that Giulia did. Maman checked into the very chic Clinique de la Muette, favoured in recent times by ex-justice minister Rachida Dati (famous for taking only five days maternity leave) or the singer Charlotte Gainsbourg. Not only did maman have a private room with a terrace, but she reserved the entire eighth floor, mainly to house her troops of security guards.

Only the best would do for the first baby ever born to a French presidential couple during a term in office. Giulia is a first daughter for both Nicolas and Carla. Nicolas has three sons and Carla also has a son, so this little girl will be a very welcome addition indeed to her male-dominated household.

Not that Sarkozy will see his daughter very often in the coming months. While his wife was in the clinic last week, he had to jet off for a hot date with Angela Merkel in Frankfurt to discuss the future of the eurozone. Not terribly romantic, but c'est la vie. Papa reckons he has entire countries to save, so Carla will have to sacrifice her husband for the greater good.

And Papa doesn't want to go losing his job. His term is up for renewal in only seven months. The Socialist Party is looking very strong in the polls and now that it has elected a candidate in the form of François Hollande, it is in with a fighting chance of knocking the very unpopular Sarkozy out of government.

But Carla has understood one thing. The French don't want overt displays of joy and happiness from the First Couple, while they suffer through the economic crisis. If Sarkozy wants to have his term renewed, he'd be better off focusing on his country's problems rather than his new baby.

However, given her parents' media power, it is unlikely that Giulia will stay invisible all her life. So while a full-on spread in Paris Match probably won't happen, perhaps we'll see more "stolen" photos in the glossies? Stranger things have happened.

Sunday Independent

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