last weekend was one for the memory books. my friend MARTA and i had been trying to get our families together for a cozy brunch or lunch since a few months, but our calendars never seemed to line up. we finally booked a date several weeks in advance – a saturday in october it would be. as the weather stayed nice for so long, we decided it would be the perfect time to do a joint photo session, too. there are never enough opportunities to get some beautiful family portraits, right?

so last saturday we were en route to our lunch and shoot location in the gorgeous countryside close to geneva, when i started smelling trouble from the back seat about twenty minutes into the drive. we figured we’d wait to change eloise’s diaper until we arrived at the restaurant, thinking nothing much more of it. but when another twenty minutes later i opened the car door and lifted eloise out of her car seat, a million thoughts started running through my head – the loudest one being ‘why for the love of god do i never pack a change of clothes for this baby?’ i’ll spare you my other thoughts. her diaper’s contents had exploded all over her beautiful onesie, pants and socks, and i had brought absolutely nothing else for her to wear. we panicked and almost turned the car straight around to head back home and cancel all plans, until we realized that shit indeed does happen in life and it’s way better to just roll with the punches.

so instead of having our lovely photo shoot i packed eloise into her super warm sleeping bag and tucked her under a blanket in the stroller, and we all enjoyed a little walk before enjoying a lovely lunch together. eloise slept through the entire thing. i guess marta and i had also romanticized the idea of being able to carry an actual conversation with so many kids at the table, but hey – it still counts as spending quality time together. afterwards we all drove back to our place in begnins to change eloise into a new outfit and have some coffee and cake, and then we went out for another little walk in our neighborhood. not even five minutes from our home, and of course we ended up taking the most gorgeous photos there. that’s #reallife for you.

the kids had fun picking some of the last left over grapes from the vines, while marta and i got completely snap happy and freaked out about the perfect light and the gorgeous fall colors. our husbands must have rolled their eyes a few times but they were polite enough to let us carry on, even posing for some family photos. keep the momtographers happy, and everyone gets to be happy, right? also – can we talk about these beautiful fall outfits? i am practically living in that red dress i found at MARGARETA, and all the kids are dressed (nearly head to toe) in things we found at STADTLANDKIND, both marta’s and my favorite swiss children’s web shop.

photos by stephanie duval and marta villacampa • my dress is from MARGARETA, all the kids are dressed in STADTLANDKIND outfits • théo’s SWEATER, inès’ DRESS and T-SHIRT, eloise’s CARDIGAN, ROMPER and PANTS, juliet’s DRESS, SNEAKERS, SCARF and POM POM SWEATER

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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