i started writing this post before eloise arrived, and i remember the feeling of anticipation. we were just so curious to find out who this tiny little human was going to be and what our life would be like as a family of four. i started nesting really, really early on – and basically spent the last four or five months of my pregnancy preparing our home for the arrival of juliet’s little sister.

in my mind, babyproofing our home wasn’t so much about safety (trust me – with a three-year-old toddler in the house, you’ve already thought of everything that can go wrong) as it was about creating a warm and cozy environment for all of us to come home to. when i was pregnant with juliet, i was so busy and stressed out up until the final hours before she was born, our house was a complete mess. we had also just moved there a few months earlier, so int he pictures i have from that time the walls are still bare. add to that my then-obsession with black and white, and it doesn’t make for a very inviting interior.

so this time around, i went all out to transform our living room into the coziest and friendliest place possible. we installed eloise’s high chair at our table, put up a crib for her to relax and play in when she’s not sleeping in our room, and added lots of cute little details in warm colors and materials. i love the wooden baby gym from mum an dad factory, and the golden canopy that used to hang over juliet’s bed (now replaced with a pink one, because PINK) was the perfect finishing touch to mark eloise’s area in the living room. i love how it matches so beautifully with the gold-speckled bedding from les rêves d’anaïs. i’ve also made it a habit to always have fresh flowers around – i think it’s a lovely way to add color and to spread a nice scent (without using overpowering scented candles).

coincidentally, i also added some new items to our collection of pomax table ware and decoration – there are no words for how much i love the gold cutlery and that gorgeous hurricane light. and while the table setting doesn’t exactly have anything to do with a new baby in the house, it does help to make those hasty and hectic dinners (two kids. WHO KNEW.) feel more festive and special. last but not least we added a bean bag from nobodinoz to our sitting area, for juliet to have a cozy little spot of her own when mom and dad are stretched out on the couch fighting off a coma caused by sleep deprivation.

a few weeks after the facts, i am still loving what we have done to our place in anticipation of eloise. we didn’t expect juliet to be such a big fan – her favorite spot to watch netflix on the ipad is in eloise’s crib, with the curtain drawn shut, and it’s all we can do to prevent her from crawling into the stokke baby seat… which does look so utterly cozy! i’m curious to hear from you – what did you change in your home in anticipation of your babies’ arrivals?

photos by stephanie duval • thanks to the brands that allow me to experiment, discover and only share what i genuinely love with you • tableware, cutlery and gold/glass hurricane light from POMAX • black highchair with baby seat by STOKKE via HET LAND VAN OOIT • off-white cuddle bunny from MIES&CO • white park bumper, pillow, blanket and bunny with golden speckles from LES REVES D’ANAIS • peach dotted pillow from CAMOMILE LONDON • wooden baby gym from MUM AND DAD FACTORY • gold canopy from numero74 via LIDOR.NL

Hello Eloise

June 10, 2018 • KidsLife

it took me the longest time to start writing this blog post. for a moment i considered not sharing it at all, but motherhood is such an important part of my life right now, i feel like this blog would no longer be a reflection of my life if i didn’t share this particular story. though not exactly a diary or a journal, this blog has always been two things – a creative outlet through which to explore and develop my storytelling skills, and a place to share those experiences in my life that might inspire others. i have come to realize that lately the focus has been on the first part much more than on the second, and i’d love to find a new balance. so what better way to start than by sharing the story of eloise’s birth, and how it has made our family complete in so many ways.

it’s impossible to write down eloise’s story if i don’t start with that of her sister. nothing about juliet’s arrival went as we had expected. i was induced a week before my due date because we wanted to avoid a c-section. i went to the hospital on a wednesday night at 10 pm, after a last stressful day of work – which i really wouldn’t recommend to anyone. after some 18 hours of hardly sleeping and trying to prepare my body for labor, i was already dead tired and had barely any energy left. i was given an epidural to get some rest, but i was so afraid to feel any pain that i talked the anesthesist into giving me a dosage so high i couldn’t even feel when i had a contraction. obviously that was less than ideal during the actual labor, and while i tried to push for more than an hour – relying entirely on the monitor to show me when i was having contractions rather than feeling them myself – juliet became stuck and distressed, and she ended up being pushed and pulled out of me. i remember the atmosphere in the delivery room changing in the course of that hour – the oxygen mask put on me, the obgyn snapping stern orders at the midwives, the pediatrician called to be on stand-by for an emergency, one midwife even panicking after juliet was born. my husband still refers to that night as ‘the blood bath’ and refuses to talk about it, except when he sees an opportunity to scare some poor new dad-to-be senseless.

all jokes aside, after the birth both my husband and i were entirely depleted, and we had to ask the midwives to care for juliet during that first night because neither of us were making any sense. the next day i was horrified to learn how much my body was suffering and hurting, and i was so shaken from the entire experience that i wasn’t really enjoying those precious moments with juliet. i felt guilty for not feeling happier, and that feeling worsened by the day when it turned out juliet had hidden reflux and an intolerance to cow’s milk protein. she and i were in a lot of pain for most of those first few weeks and none of us got much sleep. i loved juliet from the second i held her in my arms, but it took our family about six months to conquer all physical ailments and for me to achieve some mental stability, so that we could finally feel like we had a normal life again.

needless to say, my husband and i were more than a little apprehensive going into this second pregnancy. it took us more than two years to decide we wanted to risk going through all that again, but in the end we couldn’t imagine juliet as an only child and we longed for another little one to complete our family. we were over the moon when we learned we were having another girl, but overall the pregnancy was more difficult than the first one. even though it had been so long, the second i started feeling nauseous and i felt the heartburn return, i felt like i had been pregnant for years (i wonder if this is how elephants must feel). so many people expect mothers to suffer through their pregnancy, putting the interests of the baby before anything else, but this time around i was less hesitant to stand up for myself and protect my own well being. i had more massages than i can count, took medication against the heartburn and started slowing down work a month before i was due. as a result i was less tired and in much better shape at the end of this pregnancy. once again my obgyn recommended i’d be induced about a week before my due date, and this time my body was actually helping things along, so i didn’t have to stay at the hospital the night before.

we arrived at the hospital around 8 am on wednesday april 25. before heading to the delivery room, we first took the time to unpack our things. i brought so many soft toys, pillows, blankets and clothes my husband cursed me for having to return to the car twice to unload the trunk, but it really made our room feel cozy and like ‘us’. already i couldn’t wait to return there with a little baby in my arms to spend the next few days. i also took the time to fix my hair and make-up, because unlike my previous experience in the delivery room, i didn’t want to look like a drugged zombie even if i ended up feeling like one. we headed back to the delivery room – the same one in which juliet was born – in high spirits. i was hooked up to the iv, and while we waited for the drugs to kick start labor, we watched a couple of episodes of modern family on my laptop.

by noon the contractions had become fast and furious, so the anesthesist was called to give me the epidural i asked for. i explained to her what went wrong the last time, she checked the dose i received during juliet’s birth and adjusted it so that i wouldn’t be in pain, but i would still feel the contractions coming and going. it was such a different feeling compared to the first time, i couldn’t believe i had managed to push juliet out at all. this time around i actually started feeling the urge to push, and my water broke naturally. my obgyn asked me to wait as long as i could before starting to push, so eloise could move down on her own during every contraction. i’m not gonna lie – even with the epidural these were some of the most painful moments of my life. but it was worth it, because by the time he ordered me to finally start pushing, she was already so far down that fifteen minutes later the midwives were already telling me “she’s almost here, enjoy this moment”. they were right – there she was, carefully placed on my stomach – a tiny, blue-ish little alien with a head full of jet black hair.

it took me a few moments to realize what was happening. surely it shouldn’t have been this easy? but it was, and it was such a beautiful experience. the delivery room was peaceful and quiet except for eloise’s first little cries. i could take in everything that was happening, savor every second of the entire experience. after a couple of hours we could return to our room, and we enjoyed those first few hours together, just the three of us. juliet was at home with my mother-in-law, who had flown in to take care of her while my husband stayed at the hospital with me those first two nights. they came to visit us the day after eloise was born, and as i described ON INSTAGRAM, it was the most beautiful moment in my life so far. to see juliet embrace eloise with warmth and such apparent love, to see ma petite crevette and mon petit chaton together, to hold them both close to me, it was a rush of love i had never felt before.

in the end i don’t know what has made the biggest difference between the two experiences and the way i felt after them. i didn’t experience anything remotely resembling a pink cloud after juliet’s birth, but i felt like i was high on love for most of the time after eloise’s. perhaps because her birth was so much more peaceful and easy, perhaps because the second time around i knew better what to expect, perhaps because eloise doesn’t seem to have the same health issues as her big sister and sleeps like a champion… in any case i am so relieved and happy that i was spared the agony and sadness the second time around – it definitely provided some closure to my previous traumatic experience.

so why share this with you, except for the fact that writing it down helps cement the experiences as memories in my head? i know many of you who read this blog or who follow me on social media are parents-to-be or new parents. perhaps you have a little one on the way, perhaps you are trying for a second or perhaps you’re wondering whether having kids is a good idea at all. in any case i hope my story adds another perspective to the arsenal of stories you’ve already heard or that you will hear. perhaps your experience is nothing like mine, but if any part of it helps you realize that life doesn’t always go as planned and neither does it always go as feared, then it’ll have been worth sharing.

photos by stephanie duval and matthias rabaey


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my name is stephanie duval, and i am a storyteller. this blog is where i share my favorite stories about design, travel, fashion and the nice things in life.


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