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

i promised you another post about the little trips we took during our stay at CHATEAU ST. PIERRE DE SERJAC in the french languedoc. we have spent three extended weekends there so far, so it’s safe to say we know our way around the property and have taken full advantage of all the comforts their privately catered homes have to offer. so this time we took their advice and ventured out for two lovely expeditions. at 36 weeks pregnant (and carrying around well over 15 additional kilos) i couldn’t exactly plan entire day trips, but the crew at ‘our serjac’ knew exactly where to send us for family-and-pregnant-women-friendly little getaways.

first of all, we were taken on a guided tour of the vineyards that surround the domain. kerry and her dog oscar took us on winding little paths, and while juliet took turns chasing the dog and running away from him screaming like a terrified little diva, we listened to kerry’s fun and completely un-boring explanations about wine making, grape harvesting and vegetable foraging in the wild. we gathered wild leeks and asparagus, admired the beginnings of spring blossoming on trees and bushes, took a walk through the nearby olive grove and safely returned to the property before my back started protesting. (if you’ve seen THE LITTLE VIDEO we made about our trip last fall, you’ll see the vineyards that we filmed from up in the air.) the only thing i regretted was being pregnant at the end of the walk, because that meant no wine tasting for me. it’s a good reason to go back though – and then i also plan on visiting their brand new wine production facilities on site (and tasting everything they make!)

the other trip was my absolute favorite discovery in a long, long time – the restaurant of oyster farm TARBOURIECH. this was a true insider tip from the serjac crew, who organise private boat tours out to the actual tarbouriech oyster farms, ending with an apéritif and lunch or dinner with a view. we didn’t want to commit to more than two hours, so we opted just to have lunch at their restaurant, and that was a completely amazing experience in and of itself. when you drive up to the property, you’d never guess what you’ll find behind its walls. when we walked through the kitchen (well, the area where they keep and clean the oysters anyway), we had no idea what we would find two meters further… you guys – it’s like you walk onto this cool little ibiza-like island! the view is amazing, the vibe is relaxed and spontaneous, the decorations are nonchalant yet on point at the same time, and the food… oh my god the food. there are only maybe four options on the menu, most of which are raw, and obviously i didn’t sample any of the raw oysters. but i had the steamed mussels and heated oyster dish and it totally rocked my world. the husband had the unthankful task of sampling everything else, and it’s safe to say he was in foodie heaven. luckily we brought something for juliet to eat, because adventurous as we try to raise her, she wasn’t having any of it. but she loved the environment, there were plenty of kids looking for oyster shells on the little beach in front of the restaurant, and she had fun looking for fish in the water. it definitely was our favorite part of the entire trip, and it’s going on our ‘return-to-once-baby-two-is-here’ list.

just for your information – there are plenty more things to do around the chateau st. pierre serjac. you can rent a bike and explore on your own, or have the team come up with a good plan for you. we also wanted to visit the noilly prat production facility and museum in marseillan, which comes highly recommended and looked really pretty from the outside, but unfortunately once we got there juliet was super tired and we decided to return to the domain for her nap (ok, i admit i took a nap as well!) but that one, too, is going on our to-do list for next time. to be honest – whenever we go to serjac we think to ourselves for a split second ‘what if we get bored this time?’ but we’ve never actually thought this once we’ve arrived there. there’s something about the environment that is so relaxing and beautiful and peaceful, that makes us perfectly content just sitting in a chair on the patio – glass of wine in hand and something fresh cooking on the bbq. if you haven’t seen my previous post and don’t know what i’m talking about, then BY ALL MEANS CHECK IT OUT.

photos by stephanie duval

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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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