"As soon as I heard Finn’s first cry, I burst into tears. I must admit it wasn’t entirely from joy; but more from the mixed bag of emotions I was feeling all at once. My 14 hour induced labour ended in an emergency caesarean. I was elated, but beyond tired,” recalls Perth-based mother Michelle Lau of that precious moment when she first met her son...
After Finn was born, Lau was able to have a short cuddle with her son before he was moved to the neonatal intensive care unit. “I got to hold him for literally a minute, and then he was admitted straight into NICU as he was running a 39C fever. I was completely bed-ridden so I didn’t get to visit, feed or hold him for the next 13 hours. I remember feeling so grateful to be surrounded by an amazing and supportive obstetrician and having my amazing husband by my side. I often wonder if I just pushed that little bit longer or if I resisted from having pain relief… maybe things might have turned out differently. Having a caesarian wasn’t the delivery I had planned, but I feel so grateful I was able to deliver my baby in a clean and safe environment – that definitely puts things into perspective,” she says.
It seems fitting that Lau is one of the founders of online lifestyle and homewares store A Cup Of Chic – she couldn’t be more stylish if she tried. Or more of a multi-tasker. She’s a mother, blogger for Vogue.com.au, co-founder and creative director of A Cup of Chic, and founder of A Minute Away From Snowing (follow Michelle here). Ahead of Mother’s Day, we visited the beautiful Lau and her son Finn at home to talk about her motherhood journey, career path and more. We also got a glimpse of a typical day in the life of Lau and her playtime, bath time and sleep time essentials from Sheridan Baby.
Photography by Michelle and Jamie Lau | Words: Georgie Abay | In association with Sheridan Baby | The Sheridan Kids and Baby Collection is now available in their 35 David Jones Kids and Baby concepts Australia wide.
“ On my Mother's Day wish list? A sleep in, cuddles from Finn to wake me up and sunshine for the rest of the day. It’s the simple things ”
SHOP: Sheridan Baby Penley Plaus toy, $34.95, available from David Jones; Sheridan Baby Sebastian Bear toy, $34.95, from David Jones; Sheridan Baby Benay romper, $39.95, available from David Jones
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Creative, bubbly, family-oriented.
What has motherhood taught you?
That being a stay-at-home-mum is honestly the hardest job in the world! I don’t know why I ever complained about my 9-5 job [laughs]. I’ve also learnt the true value of time and sleep and how to do everything one-handed.
How will you be spending Mother’s Day?
Probably on a plane with my husband and Finn! I’m in Melbourne that weekend with the VOGUE Australia team for an event. It’ll actually be Finn’s first trip on a plane, so I’m not sure how relaxing Mother’s Day will be, but it’ll be fun all the same!
THE SLEEP TIME EDIT: Click on the products above to shop or go to www.davidjones.com.au. Toys: Sheridan Baby Penley Plaus toy, $34.95, from David Jones; Sheridan Baby Sebastian Bear Toy, $34.95, from David Jones; Finn wears: Sheridan Baby Benay Romper, $39.95, from David Jones; Sheridan Baby Sonny Towel and Mit Set, $69.95, from David Jones. Bedding: Sheridan Abbotson Marl Linen Quilt Cover, from $599.95; Sheridan Abbotson Marl Linen Tailored Pillowcase Pair, $129.95; Sheridan Bligh Cushion, $179.95
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Save up and see the world as much as you can and as often as you can. There is honestly no better life lesson than the one’s that travelling will give you.
What has been the most challenging part of motherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
So many things. Relinquishing control in every aspect of my life. Not knowing how each day will pan out. Not being able to ‘fix’ things when Finn is sick or distressed. The 24/7 job that is parenthood. Going back to work and feeling the guilt that I should be at home with my baby. I found asking for and accepting help without feeling like a failure, particularly in the first few months, was really difficult. Overcoming these challenges is a constant work in progress for me, but making a conscious effort to live in the present, and enjoy each stage of Finn’s life as challenging as some days are, have allowed me to find perspective and give myself grace.
How did you handle the initial sleep deprivation?
The first six months were so, so hard. At worst, I was up every 20-30 minutes at night for four months. I must say, there was a lot of coffee consumed the next day! Aside from texting my poor husband every day that we were never having kids again, being a part of an amazing mums’ group made me realise we were all in the trenches together. Having that support and solidarity has honestly gotten me through a lot of wakeful nights and tough times. It’s emotionally much easier nowadays to manage the sleep deprivation as I’ve learnt the tough nights come and go and it’s all just a phase that passes eventually. Finn sleeps so well at night now, though, so thankfully the wakeful nights don’t happen so often anymore.
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
Exercise was a huge part of my life before I had a baby. I did a lot of running, reformer Pilates, Vinyasa yoga and boxing, right up until I was 20 weeks pregnant. After Finn was born, working out took a nosedive! Between breastfeeding and rocking him to sleep in the carrier, I was exhausted from burning so many calories, not to mention I had barely any time to sleep, let alone exercise. I recently got back into it though, just to feel like my old self again. At the moment I’m doing one-on-one boxing sessions with a trainer. The sessions are intense and only 30 minutes long, which is ideal as that’s all I can manage right now with a baby and my businesses.
THE GIFTING EDIT: Click on the products above to shop or go to www.davidjones.com.au
What are your go-to gifts for babies?
I love beautiful baby blankets from Sheridan Baby (the range has been crafted for safety and adheres to the highest standards), hooded towels (monogrammed towels are even better!) and Sheridan Baby does the most adorable knitted dice set which looks so sweet styled on a shelf in a nursery. I love talking about the native Australian animals which feature in the new Sheridan Baby and Kids range with Finn. Also I tend to go for premium natural fibres such as cotton and linen.
Growing up, did you always love fashion and photography? Can you talk us through your career path and what inspired A Cup Of Chic?
My love for fashion and photography has definitely grown over time. I first picked up a camera because this guy I’d just met (who later became my husband) asked me along on a little photography expedition. I was about to move to Melbourne at the time, but as fate would have it, I stayed for him, as my love for photography (and him!) grew. Little did he know he’d one day make a great Instagram husband! We share a love for travel, design and are such homebodies, and knowing we’d one day start a family, inspired me to combine all of my loves to launch A Cup of Chic with my friend, Jess, who is also a mum. Running our online store from home lets us achieve us a work/life balance that I desperately craved during those frenetic years working in the fast-paced word of marketing and communications.
How do you divide your time between your two businesses?
It’s a juggle that I constantly struggle with! My businesses were my first ‘baby’, but since Finn was born, there has been a lot of sacrifice and compromise to meet the needs of a growing business, whilst spending quality time with Finn and keeping a household afloat. The best thing about being my own boss is that it gives me the flexibility to pick and choose when I work and how much of it I take on, depending on the family needs. If it’s a particularly busy period, I’m incredibly lucky to have my mum nearby as well as my Jamie who enjoys a flexible work schedule, too. Being able to have that family support readily available is something I feel very lucky to have.
THE PLAYTIME EDIT: Click on the products above to shop or go to www.davidjones.com.au
What are your time management tips?
I do find prioritising, having a diary app on my phone, and organising/laying out things the night before an early morning does wonders in making me a lot more efficient and less scatter-brained!
What have been some career highlights?
Turning my back on a nine year career in corporate to go out on my own and start a business from scratch. Being a VOGUE Spy Style contributor for the past three years has also been a lot of fun and opened so many doors.
What makes a great picture?
Natural light (always!) and a unique perspective whilst leaving your photos a little ‘undone’. The best images don’t necessarily need to be picture perfect.
THE BATH TIME EDIT: Click on the products above to shop or go to www.davidjones.com.au
“ Bath time with Finn is one of my favourite times of the day. It's so special. He looks so adorable all wrapped up in his little robe ”
Tell us about your own mother – how has she influenced your life?
My mother travelled to Australia by boat in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. With nothing more than a few dollars in her pocket, she had three children and made a life for herself here. She instils in me the drive to make the best out of every opportunity, and ever since becoming a mother myself, she’s inspired me to parent with kindness and intuition. She definitely encourages me to throw the textbooks away and parent with an intuitive and compassionate heart.
How would you describe your approach to parenting?
For the first few months, it was so spontaneous and we didn’t follow any strict structure or approach. Then we implemented a routine and that’s when I started to struggle a lot with post-natal anxiety, which greatly dictated my approach to parenting. My anxiety let me indulge in a lot of (wasted!) time and energy rationalising and analysing things like crap nap days, mealtime battles and bedtime dramas. My husband is my polar opposite and I’m quite sure he thought I’d gone mad. Finn became very routine-based, and I dug my heels in every day to implement it. If we went out for dinner, we had to be home by 6pm. All naps had to be in his cot. He had to eat at around the same time each day. Basically, we worked around his schedule. Funnily enough, it took going back to work for me to feel so much more at ease with going with the flow. I leave Finn in the capable hands of my mum on the days I have work, which has made me realise the world doesn’t actually end if he didn’t sleep or eat much that day. These days, pram naps are wholeheartedly embraced, he can eat blueberries and yoghurt for dinner if that’s what he wants. And now, he tends to works around our schedule. I’ve really missed that spontaneity. I’ve learnt that being a parent will always be chaotic but it doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated.
What about pregnancy – did you enjoy it?
Oh, I loved it! Every single second of it. It helped that I was lucky to not have much morning sickness, and aside from severe pelvic girdle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists and lots of swelling in my hands and feet (I went up a whole shoe size), I experienced a beautiful, healthy pregnancy and soaked up every kick and hiccup! I think the first pregnancy is always so special. Everything is so new and the anticipation of meeting this tiny person you’ve nurtured for 9-10 months is one of the most exciting things your heart will ever experience. What a beautiful miracle and honour it is that our bodies are capable of growing a baby in our bellies.