If you spotted Benita Bensch on the street, you wouldn't likely presume she'd had challenges conceiving. With her four beautiful boys, thriving careers (yes, that's multiple) and infectious smile in tow, she looks instead like a woman who life - and motherhood - may have come easily to.
But as always, there's more to Benita than meets the eye. And having struggled for years with infertility, Benita has made it her mission to help other women who are experiencing the same levels of heartache.
What did your life look like before children came along?<p>Before children I was very focused on my career. I worked in the beef industry for five years, then did a short stint in PR, before establishing Sunburnt Country Consulting – a boutique marketing agency for rural businesses – in Gunnedah NSW in 2008. Sunburnt Country grew to include a team of women, then I downsized it when Adam and I relocated to Back Creek in late 2011. My business continued to evolve through to its conclusion in 2016, by which time I was specialising in branding and coaching services, as well as working on select agricultural and regional communication/training projects.</p><p>Outside of work hours Adam and I both enjoyed sport and socialising at the rugby or races, and we have always been involved in our family farming businesses to varying degrees depending on our location.</p>
Did you always know you wanted to be a mother?<p>Yes, there was no question in my mind that there would be children in my future and growing up I assumed I'd be finished having children by the time I was 30. Ha! Hilariously, I did go through a phase as a girl when I didn't want to marry; I wanted to live happily ever after in a shed with my cattle, horses, dogs and guinea pigs. I'm thankful that I outgrew that phase!</p><p>Children were always on my radar but I wasn't an overly maternal person. I was never the babysitter, or the first one to hold the new baby. I was the high achiever with big dreams and of my friends and family I was probably someone people thought may not have children, or at least not many.</p>
Can you tell us a little about your journey with infertility?<p>My journey with infertility started a long time before I became aware of it, back as a teenager with painful heavy periods that I thought was the norm. After a string of different contraceptive pills, gynaecologist visits and eventually a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy in 2007, I was diagnosed with mild/moderate endometriosis at age 26.</p><p>I went off the pill (which helped suppress the build-up of scar tissue) as soon as Adam and I married in October 2010 and we started trying to conceive two months later. It was 32 months from our wedding to the conception of our first-born and during that time we went through a miscarriage, a cycle of Clomid, three cycles of ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination, another laparoscopy and hysteroscopy, and an IVF cycle. Two years later our twins were also conceived via IVF.</p><p>It was the female factor that contributed to infertility in our case. We presume my endometriosis had an impact but other than that it's unexplained why we had a challenging time creating our family. That's why I titled my book 'The Art of Trying' because becoming pregnant felt like a rare and complex art form to me. I still perceive creating a child and bringing it safely into the world as the most mystical, magical thing in the universe.</p>
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in trying to conceive your children?<p>My mental health was the biggest challenge for me, which I'll elaborate on below.</p><p>The geographic isolation and lack of support was also a big issue for us. We lived in rural areas throughout the entire journey of conceiving, so any blood tests, ultrasound scans, doctor and fertility clinic visits involved many hours and kilometres of travel. Adam was with me for the major appointments and procedures, but the majority of the time I was alone. Probably the only person who knew the extent of what we were experiencing was my Mum.</p><p>During our assisted conception cycles there were also logistical challenges: getting drugs delivered to me before I needed them while keeping them chilled; the stressful process of having blood tests and scans and ensuring the results were received in time; and driving significant distances multiple times in a cycle.</p><p>It was also isolating in that during 2012 when things were at their worst for me I ran my business from a home office in the middle of an 8,000-acre wheat paddock. We were also in a new community, a long way from my family. Adam worked long hours and I spent an unhealthy amount of time on my own. I took myself off social media and there were times that I hid away so I didn't have to face people's comments and questions like: "come on you guys, you better hurry up" and "when are you going to have a baby?" Also, I'm not good at telling lies so I found I didn't even want to answer simple questions like "what have you been up to lately?" How should or could I explain in a light-hearted brief encounter that I'd had a miscarriage, or I'd had another procedure the day before. So instead you smile and say, "oh not much, what about you?"</p><p>You don't want to tell people what you're going through because then they know you're 'trying' and will probably tell someone else. Then you're worried you'll be judged, or you'll have to handle another awkward conversation, or have them tiptoe around you. Then it's also another person you feel you should keep updated. So instead you isolate yourself even further to avoid all of it. It's such an intensely emotional, individual and private journey.</p><p>Another challenge is the physical side of assisted conception treatments – coping with the toll that the procedures and drugs take on your body and emotions. I had ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome with both IVF cycles and that was fairly taxing.</p>
How did this impact your relationship?<p>It impacted us positively from a long term perspective, and negatively at the time.</p><p>Ultimately the journey to create our family has strengthened our relationship and solidified us as a team. The last 10 years has proven to us what we're capable of conquering together. We've been stretched, and stretched some more, to what felt like breaking point at times, but our love for one another and vision for our future got us through it. Adam has endured a lot from me. He's an incredible man; a pillar of quiet strength, calm and consistency when I have gone up and down like a yo-yo. He's my voice of reason. I'm so privileged to walk with him through this life.</p><p>It was really tough while we were going through it. I became consumed by TTC, Adam was consumed by work, rugby and farming, and our relationship suffered as a result. I grew angry and resentful toward him that he could continue on with his normal life (or so I thought) while I was mentally, emotionally and physically dealing with the next thing we were doing to conceive. At times I was too self-absorbed to see the impact it had on him: coping with it himself (and never talking about it to anyone), handling me, the pressure/stigma of not letting it impact on his responsibilities, and continuing to bring in the $ when I cut back my workload.</p>
What about your mental health?<p>My mental health suffered badly at certain points in the journey, particularly by the end of 2012 when I hit what I call the 'black hole', which for me is like a total breakdown. I'd been sliding down the slippery treacherous slope of mental illness for a long time and not addressing it, and eventually, it caught up with me. I was high functioning from the outside, but on the inside I was a mess – anxious, angry, in despair, confused and in a sort of state of paralysis.</p><p>I found it extremely difficult coping with the frustration and lack of control around TTC. What got to me is that everything else in my life that I'd wanted to achieve I'd been able to, but when it came to this one thing that I wanted more than anything, that should have come naturally, I couldn't achieve it. Trying my best wasn't good enough and I felt like a failure. I felt disconnected from my body, I stopped making plans and I'd given up other joys in my life because everything hinged on becoming pregnant. It eats away at you from the inside out month-after-month and all the while you're contemplating "will this be the month?"</p><p>The more we tried, and the more intense the process got, it satisfied that need in me to want to be proactive and control it, but the fall felt further and harder when the pregnancy test was once again negative.</p><p>When I emerged from the black hole I had to learn new strategies to let go and release my vice-like grip on this thing that was beyond my control.</p>
What role did your journal play in this time?<p>My journal was my companion and therapy. I have always found writing to be cathartic and a way of processing my thoughts, so journaling through our TTC journey became an important coping strategy. There's something about seeing the words outside of yourself written on paper. Whether it was a conscious decision I'm not sure, but at some level I think I knew that it was an important story to capture.</p>
You now have four boys - tell us about life with four!<p>Life with four boys is noisy, fun, increasingly chaotic and boy-ish! It's a beautiful disaster really. I'm having to learn to let go and not hover over their every move which always seems like an accident waiting to happen! They will turn 6, 4 (twins) and 2 early in 2020 and we have just come into a new phase where the combination of their ages is like dynamite – there is a lot of physicality, noise, competing and pushing the boundaries. I don't know if it's a boy thing but there is also a lot of wanting Mum – to tell me everything, show me everything, ask me everything, usually all at once, which is so special but also can be challenging to manage, especially now they are all talkative. They are kind, affectionate boys so I do get a lot of cuddles though, which I love!</p><p>It's not lost on me for a second how incredibly blessed we are to have four healthy children. I love my boys to bits. However, I want to be honest and say that it has been, and is, really hard at times. Just like TTC, motherhood takes you to your growth edge, and beyond. That will have to be the subject of another book!</p>
What challenges do you think women (and men) face when they have a baby after experiencing infertility? Is there added pressure to enjoy every moment?<p>I don't think the level of love for a child, or how precious they are to their parents, is any different for people who have experienced infertility vs those who haven't, but perhaps the anxiety and fear may be greater for some. I didn't feel pressure as such, more just a feeling I had to overcome of so desperately wanting things to go right after the long road we'd had to get to the point of holding a baby in our arms.</p><p>Going through infertility you gain an awareness that others may not have about what it's like to accommodate the possibility of not having children, and feeling the deep pain of other people who are struggling, so you certainly feel like you should feel nothing but gratitude about having children. Perhaps there is a little pressure with that.</p>
What prompted you to put pen to paper to tell your story?<ol><li>Knowing that my story and journal entries were what I wanted to read when we were TTC, and a strong gut feeling that it could help other women who are where I once was. I had to overcome many doubts and fears to get it written but the nagging feeling that it was something I needed to do wouldn't go away. </li><li>Because I wanted to document the story, pull together my journal entries, medical records and photographs, so that our children would know how desperately we wanted them and how they were created.</li><li>For my own healing.</li><li>To demonstrate to our boys that you can achieve whatever you decide to, and encourage others to share their stories.</li></ol>
As well as your book, you have built a supportive community for women experiencing challenges with fertility. What motivated you to do this?<p>The Art of Trying brings up some painful but common issues encountered on the road to motherhood, and I suspected it would bring forward those who could benefit from connecting with others around these issues. The Art of Trying private Facebook community is a safe space for women to find support in a closed forum environment. My motivation all comes from a desire to help others.</p>
What tips do you have for women who are struggling to conceive?<ul><li>Focus on what you can control, primarily the health of your mind and body.</li><li>Listen to your body and your inner voice. If you feel like something is wrong, or you want to seek a second opinion, don't hesitate to go do it! Don't let anyone tell you differently to what you know to be true about your body.</li><li>The greatest power we have at our disposal is our magnificent mind. Granted, our mind alone will not create a pregnancy, but the mind-body connection is so strong and regardless of the circumstances we can have control from within.</li><li>One of the best things you can do to support yourself in falling pregnant and experiencing a healthy pregnancy is to develop a positive mental attitude. I don't mean simply telling yourself 'stay positive'; what I'm referring to is deliberately choosing thoughts, feelings and actions that are in harmony with what you want (e.g. a healthy pregnancy and baby), rather than the present circumstances (i.e. struggling to conceive). Daily use of gratitude, and the proper use of your imagination to form and hold the picture of what you want, are powerful practices to support you on your journey. Chapter 13 of my book covers this in depth. Repetition of affirmations can also have a profound effect on our subconscious, which is why I have developed 31 affirmations for women trying to conceive. These are included in Chapter 14 of The Art of Trying, and from them I've created a set of beautiful individually designed affirmation cards. I wish I had this knowledge and these tools at my disposal when we were TTC, as I could have been far more effective with the use of my mind to focus on what I did want, not so much on what I didn't want or have. </li><li>It's okay to not be okay in some moments, and days. Remaining positive is the ideal scenario for sure, but you can allow yourself to sit with the negativity, the pain and the sorrow for a time if you need to, and trust that you will move through it soon.</li></ul>
If we have a friend who is experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss, what tips do you have?<p>Both are such difficult topics that people avoid, not because they are callous but because they don't know what to say.</p><p>If you are supporting someone experiencing infertility, please seek to understand first. Increase your awareness on the topic and be compassionately curious. If they give you an opening to explore the topic, be sure to ask questions, to listen to understand, not listen to reply. Really listen, let them talk. Some simple open-ended questions to get started may be:</p><ul><li>How are you?</li><li>How can I support you?</li><li>What can I do to help?</li><li>Would you like to talk more about it?</li></ul><p>Whatever you do, keep any judgement and sweeping comments to yourself. Resist the good old clichés like "stay positive." You don't need to have any answers or stories, there is no 'right' thing to say. The greatest gift you can give them is to listen and have an open heart.</p><p>If a friend opens up to you about pregnancy loss, say "I'm so sorry for your loss" and give them a hug (if you feel comfortable to do so). That's it, no other comments or suggestions are needed. Again, be available to listen.</p>
Can you tell us about your life now, with your work, your children and the farm?<p>How to describe my life? I would say rich, and full. I spread my time between my family, our family grain and beef cattle farming business, getting The Art of Trying into the hands of the people who need it, our local community, and also personal development under my coach/Mentor Karen Brook.</p><p>Because we still have three children under school age and live too far from a town to access daycare, we engage an In-Home Care Educator during the day four days per week, which enables me to do all of the above. It means I can step away from the day-to-day routine to have space to work, think, create, write, get down the paddock and check the cattle, or attend appointments without children. What I love about In-Home Care is that I still get to see the boys throughout the day so I don't miss out on too much.</p><p>We have also just started to engage a cleaner fortnightly, which is fast becoming the best thing in my entire life! I've become much clearer this year on how my time should be spent to best serve myself and others. I came to the realisation (and gave myself permission) that I can still be a good Mum without cutting up every apple and wiping every bottom. Recently I've been focusing on what I can automate, systemise and delegate. Everything is a work in progress, it's all new territory, and I'm following my intuition as I go. I suspect I may need more help with admin and bookkeeping in time.</p><p>The drought has really taken a hold from a farming perspective but we are trying to get through it and stay positive. Adam and I are continuing to set goals for the long term and focus on what we can do better. We are also looking at developing further off-farm income sources to help us ride the ups and downs of agriculture. </p>
Before we visited Helena Vestergaard in her home on Sydney's Northern Beaches for this photo shoot, I had done my research. I knew that the young mother-of-two would be laid back, incredibly cool and of course, impossibly beautiful. But there was a whole lot that took me by surprise...
For one, many mothers who show off the free-spirited beachside persona that Helena embodies so naturally will say that they'd like to have a "house full of children." Helena, however, tells me in a no-nonsense tone that, "We are absolutely done with two. Three would be total chaos."
Since we last photographed you, you’ve welcomed a new baby into the world. How is life with two children?<p>It's crazy! It's completely overwhelming but the best fun I've ever had.</p>
What have you found to be the biggest difference parenting second time around?<p>The second time around is so much less stressful for me. I found I connected much quicker and could enjoy all the little moments more because I knew they would go so quickly!</p>
You take a really considered approach to sustainability and the environment. Can you talk us through your mantras?<p>I just believe that nature is the only pure thing we have left and we need to take care of the planet and each other for us as humans to have any kind of peaceful and respectable existence.</p>
What prompted you to take this approach? Or did you grow up with these values at heart?<p>I'm very sensitive when is comes to nature the ocean and other human beings. I've always wanted to help more or do more to make the world a better place.</p>
What does sustainability look like for you on a day-to-day basis - from the products you use, to the clothing you buy …<p>I don't analyse everything I do to harshly. I do put a little thought before I buy a new product to make sure that it doesn't offend any of my beliefs. I try to buy lots of things from second-hand stores and not from the big easy mass produced stores.</p>
What lessons are you hoping to teach your children?<p>Happiness is a state of mind. It comes from within not from anything on the outside of your skin. Our planet the only one we have so look after it like it's your most prized possession.</p>
What type of mother do you aspire to be?<p>A good one.</p>
How has motherhood changed the way you live your life, and the way you work?<p>I find myself not fretting over the small things like I used to. I'm much more efficient with my time and I'm much more present than I ever was. With work, I'm stricter with any job I take as it's one less day with my children.</p>
Can you share with us your journey with mental health and why this is a focus for you?<p>I've always struggled with mental health, it runs in my family and has put some very dark moments into my life. I know how hard it is when you are in that place and for me, I feel like I've come out the other side. So I guess I felt I owed it to myself and others who are suffering to offer support in the sense of 'you are not alone'.</p>
What does an outfit look like for you on a typical day?<p>Most days I don't change out of my pyjamas if I don't need to.</p>
What are some of your favourite brands or places to shop?<p>Op shops! Any sustainable small businesses and I always try to buy local. Markets or local businesses. It's important to support your community as much as you want to buy all the things thrown in front of our faces online.</p>
Talk us through what a typical day looks like for you - if there is such a thing...<p>We always make it to the beach or the park. Being outdoors with your bare feet on the earth is the best way to stay grounded. Plus kids are their happiest playing in nature, you never need to bring toys when there are sticks and rocks and bugs to look at.</p>
How do you manage the juggle in your household?<p>My husband and I share all household responsibilities pretty evenly. We are both pretty much stay at home parents most of the time so for us, we found a rhythm and most of the time it's flowing pretty fine.</p>
Do you feel mother’s guilt?<p>Oh yeah, all the time. I just put both my babies into daycare for two days a week and half the time I'm feeling so bad about it I don't know if it's worth it. But I know it is important for me to get the separation so I can be a better mother on those other five days a week.</p>
Do you subscribe to the notion of ’the village’ when raising your children?<p>I wish I could say yes but my family all live in a different state and Nathan's do too. We would love a village but that's just not how it worked for us. I guess you just make your own situation work.</p>
What was your own childhood like?<p>I remember it being really fun. My sister and I could entertain ourselves in an empty room.</p>
What type of future do you hope is ahead for your children?<p>A really happy one!</p>
As we all settle - or, perhaps, unsettle - into our new normal of self-isolation and social distancing, the news is increasingly bleak. And in the face of our uncertain reality, we're seeking colour, beauty, and simple pleasures. One of our favourite stories from 2018, the Tale of Sabine Getty delivers in spades. She is as vibrant and playful as her spectacular home, enviable wardrobe, and unique jewellery designs (inspired by one of her daughter's bright geometric toys). And with Sabine's unshakeable positivity, and belief in keeping things simple, we felt there was never a more apt time to revisit this Tale…
Luxury jewellery designer Sabine Getty is getting her 17-month-old daughter Gene to climb on her back – much to the delight of The Grace Tales team.
What inspired your latest jewellery collection?<p>I was playing with my daughter and I had bought her these geometrical shaped wooden toys in primary colours. I raised two of them next to her face like earrings and I was like, 'Oh my God, they would look amazing'. Straight away I started drawing them. That is where the idea came from – so it's thanks to her.</p>
And why did you name the collection, Big?<p>It has always been one of my favourite movies because of the piano scene, Zoltar and the magical idea of a little boy trapped in the body of an adult who has to behave all grown up. We are all kids inside, that is why he was so creative, so free and so brilliant and that was one of the messages I wanted to come through in the jewellery – that we all have a childish, very creative, dreamy part in us. I wanted people to reconnect with that side, especially because jewellery is something taken quite seriously.</p>
Do you ever feel that you too are playing at being ‘grown-up’?<p>Constantly. That is why I can relate so much to that film. Another favourite movie is Mary Poppins and even when I designed my wedding dress I wanted to look like a Disney character.</p>
How do you channel your inner child?<p>In every way. I think it's a certain innocence and naivety to things. I'm quite simple – that is the best way to put it. I look at things in a more simple way. I look at the shapes and the colours for what they are – it makes you more creative to see everything as if you are seeing it for the first time. I can't help it – it's hard for me to describe how as it's who I am. There is something that's just not quite grown up in me.</p>
Did you find motherhood came quite naturally to you? Were you given any good advice when Gene was born?<p>Yes, it came very naturally. I didn't want to have much advice I just wanted to live it and experience it and learn to really use my instinct and intuition and it was great. I didn't really feel like I had that many questions to ask.</p>
Was your mum very present?<p>She was an amazing help when my daughter was born. That is when you become very grateful (to your mum) when you have a child, it reconciles a lot of things with her.</p>
What do you admire most in your mother?<p>That she is a very genuine person. She is true to who she is. I have never seen my mum being fake to anyone – she has integrity, that is what I admire.</p>
Is that something you have inherited?<p>Yes, I think I have and it is almost a problem because you can really read my face straight away. I cannot pretend even for a second but I think it is a great strength as well because I don't even have an option to not be myself and be completely true to who I am – like it or not.</p>
Can you tell us about your childhood – what do you remember most?<p>I remember nothing. I have the worst memory ever it is so bad. I actually only remember through music, movies, objects and colours – that is probably why I love Memphis so much and I love cinema because it reconnects me to things I have seen growing up.</p>
Is this since becoming a mum?<p>No. I have always had a terrible memory.</p>
Your mother was an interior designer – what was your bedroom like growing up?<p>My mum had so much Memphis furniture when I was a kid so I grew up surrounded by that. I was all about fantasy. I remember at some point I wanted to have a bed that was two metres high that I could walk under and she was like: 'Sure. Fine'. We drew the design together. It was an amazing bed. It had to have a stairway to go up and four floating columns with curtains so you had this whole play area underneath. It was very much a dream room.</p>
What did you want to be?<p>A singer for sure, I wanted to be some sort of singer/superstar. And then it became opera. I did opera lessons and I wanted to become an opera singer. But it was so hard. I have always loved drama and theatre and all of that world, that is why I like to bring it into my jewellery, I bring in characters, almost like characters of a play.</p>
What were you like growing up?<p>I was very extroverted and very much the little leader of the group, I would drag all of my friends to see Hair the musical four times in a row and do dancing and films – I was really creative. At 15 or 16 I became a very shy, insecure teenager. I had a very insecure period but at the core, I was a very happy extroverted person. And then I had to find myself back in my 20s – I am sure it happens to a lot of girls. I did a lot of work on myself. I just looked inwards. I realised I am not how I used to be and I tried to work on myself.</p>
What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mum?<p>Love – to love and connect with the ability to give love and to be more tolerant. It has made me realise it's not easy being a parent, everyone has their struggles that we don't know about.</p>
What has surprised you?<p>The amount of love – I didn't know it was possible to have that amount of love inside of oneself. I'm like a river, a cascade of endless flowing love for her. I have no idea where it comes from. It's insane to know that you have all of that inside of you.</p>
But do you find it hard?<p>I'm lucky, I remember nothing. Again I only remember the good times – it's so worth it.</p>
How do you juggle being a mum with your business?<p>I have it very easy. My office is above my flat so I can come in and out and right now my daughter is my complete priority. She has helped me be creative. She was very involved in my creative process and also in the pictures – it's not that difficult. I don't like to be away from her so I make arrangements so that I am never away and if I have to be, I cancel the plan.</p>
Has your style changed since becoming a parent?<p>Not really. When I am at home I am extremely casual and when I have to go out, I am extremely glamorous – it's like two ends. For day I wear a T-shirt, usually <a href="https://www.jamesperse.com/" target="_blank">James Perse</a>, jeans by <a href="https://shopredone.com/" target="_blank">Re/Done</a> or <a href="https://www.brock-collection.com/" target="_blank">Brock Collection</a> and <a href="https://www.superga.co.uk/" target="_blank">Superga</a> shoes. For evening, I like <a href="http://www.alessandrarich.com/" target="_blank">Alessandra Rich</a>, <a href="https://www.marykatrantzou.com/" target="_blank">Mary Kantrantzou</a>, <a href="http://www.emiliawickstead.com/welcome" target="_blank">Emilia Wickstead</a> and <a href="https://www.ysl.com/au" target="_blank">Saint Laurent</a>.</p>
And for Gene?<p>I love the Spanish childrenswear brand <a href="https://www.lacoquetakids.com/" target="_blank">La Coqueta</a>, <a href="https://www.bonpoint.com/row/" target="_blank">Bonpoint</a>, <a href="http://www.emiliawickstead.com/welcome" target="_blank">Emilia Wickstead</a> and <a href="https://www.stellamccartney.com/us/kids_section" target="_blank">Stella McCartney Kids</a> is so amazing.</p>
The dream home, two gorgeous girls and a beautiful, talented mother living in one of Sydney's most spectacular homes. However there's so much more to this tale (including the most dreamy white interiors - scroll down and swoon), and the real beauty, as always, lies in the reality of the peaks and gullies of this thing called life. For stylist Romi Weinberg and her daughters Bo, 11, and Tatum, 6, this is a tale of love, resilience, empowerment and inspiration...
Romi has created a stunning, original, cleverly designed home – the minute you step inside, you feel like you've been transported to a luxe Mediterranian villa – has two healthy and happy daughters and enjoys a covetable lifestyle, but like most of our motherhood journeys, it hasn't been without life-changing challenges. "Without a doubt, the most challenging part of motherhood has been being thrown into it, as a single parent unexpectedly three days before Tatum was born," reflects Weinberg. "The saying that what kills you only makes you stronger could not be truer. I am a completely different person today in spite of it. I'm stronger… I'm more resilient. I'm more compassionate and understanding of others and above all I'm more capable. Becoming a single parent means you can't rely on anyone else. You have to do most things on your own and you realise you can. I've most certainly learned not to sweat the small stuff and focus on what and who is important in my life. Whilst I'd never in a million years choose that path for anyone it has shaped me into the mother and person I am today. And I'm better for it," she says.
How would you describe yourself in three words?<p>Creative, resilient, capable.</p>
What has motherhood taught you so far?<p>Most definitely to be selfless. My decisions in life are almost always centred entirely around my children and how they will impact them. I've definitely learnt not to sweat the small life.</p>
What’s your approach to raising girls/teaching them self-love?<p>I like to think that I am a good role model for my daughters – being raised by a single mother is hopefully modelling strength of character. I make sure that I listen to their feelings and they feel validated, safe and secure that they are loved and cherished.</p>
What advice would you give to your younger self?<p>Not to expect life to go to plan! And that is ok!</p>
Where are your favourite places to go when renovating?<p>I sourced most of the furnishings in our home from Australia. Scouring vintage shops for doors, window treatments and even a large ladder which is suspended in my kitchen. I've mixed this with more contemporary pieces such as my Gervasoni couch and a custom designed dining table to retain a fresh and clean aesthetic.</p>
What are some vivid memories of your childhood?<p>I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and lived there until I was 10 years old when my parents made the enormous decision to immigrate to Sydney, Australia with my younger sister and I. I had a wonderful upbringing there and have the fondest memories growing up with both sets of grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins. Many of them are no longer around… Cape Town for me symbolises my family and my childhood and still holds an incredibly special place in my heart. My parents were big entertainers and I have vivid memories of Sundays spent with our closest family friends. I recall hot summer days around our pool, having a braai (South African term for bbq) and rolling down the garden that I remember as being enormous. Years later as an adult I went back to our family home and peered into that garden only to discover that it wasn't quite the massive rollings hills I'd remembered as a child!</p>
Talk us through your journey to motherhood – what were the highs and lows?<p>Both of my children did not come especially easily. Prior to my first daughter, I had trouble conceiving and needed to use the assistance of a fertility drug called Clomid. This was coupled with frequent scanning and blood tests. My first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage at five weeks. Fortunately, the next one was successful though and I fell pregnant with my beautiful Bo. When it became time to start thinking about another baby I discovered that my situation had changed and there was no hope for a successful pregnancy using Clomid. After a year of unsuccessfully trying we moved on to IVF. This was a very stressful and difficult time as anyone who's gone through IVF will know. I suffered another two miscarriages and only went on to have a successful pregnancy after the 3rd round of IVF. This became an even more difficult period as I separated from my then husband at 38 weeks. I went on to have Tatum under extremely stressful times. The joy of having the perfect little girl I'd dreamt of was very much clouded by the beginning of my life as a single mother.</p>
How did you handle any sleep deprivation?<p>I'm very fortunate in that my girls are great sleepers and always have been. They both started sleeping through the night from 6/7 weeks so I don't recall much sleep deprivation. I also always left an array of toys in their cots so early mornings were spent playing for some time. Now as they are older they adopt a similar routine on weekends and amuse themselves till its breakfast time. Weekdays aren't quite as leisurely. I have to wake Tatum… she would happily sleep till 8.30/9 if I let her!</p>
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?<p>I've always had a sensitive gut and have always maintained what I thought to be a healthy diet. It has only been in the past year and a half that I have discovered the benefits of a completely gluten/dairy and refined sugar-free diet. It has helped me enormously and I have almost completely resolved all my stomach issues since. I love Pilates for the toning and strength benefits it gives my body.</p>
Who are your role models?<p>My parents are most definitely my role models. They have a partnership which is based on an enormous amount of respect and love for each other. They are completely devoted parents and grandparents and are the biggest support to me in every way. I truly value and look up to the way they do life.</p>
What does the year ahead hold for you?<p>I always like to be working on a creative project and I have a few things in the pipeline that I am excited about, one of which is a new renovation on a house. I love the anticipation of creating a beautiful home.</p>
Describe a typical day in your life...<p>Due to the nature of my work, no two days are the same! My girls are my centre and I work my styling commitments around their needs. I am always sourcing, researching or creating something! I also love to cook, so you will always find me in my kitchen happily producing the latest "clean eating" dish which looks as good as it tastes!</p><p><br></p>
What’s a typical kids’ dinner in your household? Do you all eat together?<p>We all eat together… I try to cook at least three times a week. I love cooking and have brought up the girls to eat well. I make one meal for all of us and am forever testing out new recipes and experimenting. Food is exciting to me and I like my girls to share in that passion. I encourage them to try everything once. If they don't like something then that's fine but they have to try before they form an opinion.</p>
How do you juggle everything? We’d love your time management tips...<p>This is something that I always feel I need to perfect! I tend to stay up late at night making sure that everything gets done! However, as my girls are getting older I am finding that it is getting easier.</p>
Are you an early bird or night owl?<p>I'm a night owl… I really don't love mornings. Never have. I do often wish it was the opposite but my body naturally prefers night to morning. </p>
What makes you laugh?<p>My kids… seeing the little isms that they have got from me always makes me laugh. They are both quite animated but each in different ways. I find them both very funny!</p>
How would you describe your approach to parenting?<p>I'd like to think I don't accept nonsense. Especially being a single mother I don't have the patience for it. If they are rude or badly behaved they get reprimanded or punished. I believe consequences are important. But I also pick my battles. I don't believe that every single little misdemeanour requires a punishment… there are phases and stages. And also often there is an underlying cause for a certain reaction which needs to be addressed rather than discipline.</p>
Where are your top 3 places to go in Sydney with your kids?<p>In summer we love a day at Camp Cove in Watsons Bay. A night trip to China Town is top of our list. We have a seafood restaurant that is our fav… sharing a whole steamed mud crab is a treat the three of us love. Our home away from home is my parents holiday house in Wagstaffe on Sydney's Central Coast. The house is one big playground for the kids and their cousins. I love cooking for the family whilst we are there or floating on a lilo with a glass of rose. The girls are in their element running a muck freely.</p>
To say there's more than meets the eye to Stacey Duguid is somewhat of an understatement. The seasoned fashion editor and magazine writer is now the Fashion Editorial Director at Harrods, where e-commerce, digital content and styling merge to create the perfect modern-day fashion publishing role.
After climbing the fashion ranks at the likes of Harvey Nichols, Prada and Giorgio Armani, and then establishing her magazine career at ELLE for years, Stacey went freelance to allow for more flexibility while caring for her two small children, a move that both cemented her love of publishing and fashion but also confirmed that working in an office environment with a team was more her style…
"I worked from home for five years after leaving ELLE in 2013. I loved being around for our children when they were little, taking them on trips and playing in sandpits, but I also hated having to go back to my desk once I'd put them to bed. I loved being around to pick them up from nursery and school, but no-one tells you when you're freelance you might need to work on a holiday.Everything has its ups and downs, and things change, I worked at ELLE for a decade and was ready to leave in the end, but I just hadn't prepared myself for a career at home with two babies in the house. A maternity cover role came up at Net-A-Porter and given how much I'd missed the camaraderie of working in an office full of like-minded creatives, I decided to do it for a year until I figured things out.A year in an office proved I could no longer stand talking to the dog at home. Time to stop lingering around coffee baristas trying to force them to chat to me, time to get a full-time job, sister!"
You’re the Fashion Editorial Director at Harrods, can you tell us exactly what this means day to day? Being a fashion editor is often so hard to describe to anyone outside of the fashion industry, would you agree?<p>When I joined <a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb" target="_blank">Harrods</a> back in October 2018, I had no idea what to expect. <a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb" target="_blank">Harrods</a> had never had a Fashion Editorial Director before and with that, my job title was new in the business and there were no handover notes to gaze at. I just had to get on with it. On the first day, I sat at my desk and thought, 'tackle one bit at a time.' I saw the whole picture of the task ahead, which was to reimagine the fashion imagery for menswear, womenswear and childrenswear across all publishing platforms, and there was no way everything could be done at once. So, I started with the magazine, commissioning incredible photographers and stylists I've worked with over the years.</p><p>Overseeing fashion creative content that plays out across the Harrods' platforms, I also oversee E-commerce styling and we are about to re-platform with FarFetch, so that's super exciting. I have a team of in-house stylists, who create fashion shoots across dot com, social media and all the men's, women's and children's shoots across our portfolio of men's and women's magazines. I also host monthly talks in-store, meet regularly with our buying teams and work across new brand launches and in-store activations. When I say no two days are ever the same, I really mean it. It's such an exciting place to work. Harrods is a heritage brand and the iconic store is brimming with so many stories to be told. We're moving towards the future in a way that is respectful and elegant but also fast and dynamic. I'm learning something new every day. </p>
You worked at ELLE magazine for years before the birth of your daughter, Martha. What do you remember about this time working at the height of the magazine-era, and when did you notice the industry was changing?<p>I loved working at ELLE – the team was amazing and Anne Marie Curtis, the then fashion director who later went on to be editor, is still a good friend. As is Lorraine Candy, the editor at the time, who put together this crack team of women who, in my opinion, produced one of the most entertaining and joyful fashion magazines out there. One of my favourite parts of that job was writing my column, Mademoiselle, Confessions of an ELLE Girl. I had so much fun writing it. She was my alter-ego, my better dressed slightly richer self, who had great handbags and super swanky dresses. I think the reason the Mademoiselle character was so popular is she made fashion relatable – this is all pre-blogs and Instagram, remember. She was also wild and a bit daft, dated all the wrong guys and spent far too much money on shoes. We've all been there…</p>
You launched your own blog and fashion consultancy business after ELLE, was working for yourself really the dream that so many women envision once kids come along?<p>I worked from home for five years after leaving ELLE in 2013. I loved being around for our children when they were little, taking them on trips and playing in sandpits, but I also hated having to go back to my desk once I'd put them to bed. I loved being around to pick them up from nursery and school, but no-one tells you when you're freelance you might need to work on a holiday.Everything has its ups and downs, and things change, I worked at ELLE for a decade and was ready to leave in the end, but I just hadn't prepared myself for a career at home with two babies in the house. A maternity cover role came up at Net-A-Porter and given how much I'd missed the camaraderie of working in an office full of like-minded creatives, I decided to do it for a year until I figured things out.A year in an office proved I could no longer stand talking to the dog at home. Time to stop lingering around coffee baristas trying to force them to chat to me, time to get a full-time job, sister!</p>
What do you love most about your role at Harrods right now? It seems to combine all the right things - fashion styling, writing, digital content…<p>This role is as challenging as it is creative and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I learn something new every day – digital, marketing, digital marketing! I even know what BAU stands for (business as usual, in case you were wondering!) But what's most inspiring, is taking an already established brand and pushing the creative fashion vision somewhere new. Working with a truly talented in-house team, I also love commissioning freelance stylists and photographers and seeing the work they produce is just mind-blowing. I always used to think I worked at ELLE during the heyday of print, and yes, print was king back in 2009. But we live in a golden age of storytelling where retail publications and platforms can be as interesting and culturally relevant as a newsstand product. Print is not dead, as <a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb" target="_blank">Harrods</a> magazine proves and there are so many more ways to tell a story these days. (I'm a big fan of an extended Instagram caption, for example).</p>
You met your now-husband Matt online and soon after welcomed your son Nathaniel and daughter Martha. What was it like including and involving them in your recent wedding last year? Did they understand the occasion and celebration?<p>To be honest, we kept their involvement to a minimum. They were invited to the registry office in the morning after which we sent them packing with their cousins in a taxi whilst the adults had a riot of a lunch. The speeches are our wedding were outrageous. Mum of the year? It was for their own safety. What a blast. I never wanted a big white wedding and shocked myself by the fact I suddenly wanted to wear a white dress. I loved my Preen frock. It had a vintage feel to it. I'd wear it again (I mean out, I'm not suggesting I want to get re-married!)</p>
You’ve spoken publicly about your sixth sense and ability to hear voices, how does this impact your life day to day? Can you ever switch off from the spirits?<p>Everyone has a sixth sense. The gut instinct of knowing the right thing to do, that feeling of warmth that inexplicably buzzes through the body, the intuition of knowing something is wrong, feeling the room when there are good vibes and bad. We all connect to spirit, to something we can't explain, to something bigger than us. I choose to listen, rather than ignore. I believe because I've seen and heard too much from 'them' not to. It's been happening since I was a child. </p>
Are the voices ever frightening to you?<p>Only when I say something to someone I couldn't possibly know. Witnessing their shock at the situation can be frightening. </p>
Do you feel a sense of responsibility as an “accidental psychic”? Have you ever had to deliver someone a message that you didn’t want to?<p>I don't get bad messages, only helpful ones. Often focused around fertility. It's very odd</p>
Do your kids know or understand of your communication with spirits? Do you know if they carry a similar sixth sense yet?<p>They do, and we talk about spirituality, but they are too little to understand. I'm vegetarian and yet I cook meat for them, belief is the same thing – they can make up their own minds when they are old enough. I am hugely spiritual, as are they, but if one day they start to believe in organized religion, so be it. I'd never force my opinion on anyone.</p>
How do you approach buying each season now - do you have a shopping plan? You seem to mix high and low dressing so seamlessly, is there a system in place to keep on top of trends without overspending?<p>I'm not a slave to trends anymore and tend to wear the same labels over and over again. <a href="http://www.net-a-porter.com/Preen/Dresses%E2%80%8E" target="_blank">Preen dresses</a>, <a href="https://www.acnestudios.com/dk/en/woman/tailoring/" target="_blank">ACNE tailoring</a>, <a href="https://www.jbrandjeans.com/" target="_blank">J Brand jeans</a>, <a href="http://adalexander-mcqueen.farfetch.com/McQueen/Trousers%E2%80%8E" target="_blank">McQueen trousers</a>, <a href="https://stinegoya.com/" target="_blank">Stine Goya</a> for the weekend, <a href="https://rejinapyo.com/" target="_blank">Rejina Pyo</a> for going out, <a href="https://www.celine.com/en-us/celine-shop-women/shoes/boots/" target="_blank">Celine boots</a>, equipment shirts. I'm more obsessed with styling details picked up from poring over street style shots of my favourite editors at fashion week. And from sitting alongside them at the shows.</p>
What are some of your favourite online fashion brands to buy for yourself and your kids?<p>I buy kidswear from <a href="https://www.arket.com/" target="_blank">Arket</a> – I love the smart but easy style of the clothes from Arket, it's always a winner, especially for boys. Now I work at <a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb" target="_blank">Harrods</a>, I tend to shop in-store. If I have a break between meetings, I walk around the shop, asking the staff what's hot etc (it helps me figure out what imagery is working on our Instagram feed and what isn't). Then I earmark the pieces I like. I always give myself a 24-hour breather before purchasing. Just to make sure I really "need" it. (Currently, have a pair of white <a href="https://www.isabelmarant.com/au" target="_blank">Isabel Marant</a> shoes on hold).</p>
Do you have any tried and tested mum hacks that make getting out the door a little easier each morning?<p>I have a kids banking app called <a href="https://www.gohenry.com/uk/" target="_blank">Go Henry</a>. I put the kids' pocket money into it on a weekly basis and it allows you to top up for tasks undertaken. My son is saving up for a Nintendo Switch at the moment and is doing really well considering he gets £3 per week pocket money. The thought of earning an extra pound towards his goal is enough to make him clear his dishes and get dressed. Amazing…</p>
What is your favourite part of motherhood?<p>Getting to know my children as they grow up and become their own people with their own opinions feels like such a privilege. It's an honour to be part of their lives. Not everyone gets to go on this journey, I realise that, especially given I had them in my late thirties.</p>
How do you handle the more stressful parts of motherhood?<p>A small glass of wine helps alleviate level 7 stress (10 being the worst). When I reach level 10, I tend to leave the house and sit in the car. I hate shouting; it makes me feel wretched, them scared and it gets us absolutely nowhere. So rather than shouting, I sit in the car for a minute to calm down. Weird, but it works. I also do a 30-minute HIIT class at 6.30am most mornings. It's a total stress buster.</p>
Social media is often a highlight reel void of reality, particularly when children and fashion are involved, but you seem to depict the good, the bad and the hilarious at all times. Is this a conscious decision to keep things real?<p>I was out at an event the other night, and a guy came up to me and told me how much he appreciated my post at Christmas about loneliness and how dreadful Christmas can be. I am incapable of doing things without humour and feeling, so the idea of posting a perfectly curated version of my life is alien to me. I do sometimes wonder if I've gone too far. Overshared, said too much, gone overboard. When I joined <a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb" target="_blank">Harrods</a>, I archived some riskier posts, like the one where I peed all over the arm of my jumpsuit during my first month at <a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb" target="_blank">Harrods</a>. I had to go back to my desk wearing a jumpsuit drenched in wee. I archived that post a week later, but then the head of content told me she loved it and it made me think, we are all human, no matter what we do or who we work for. I love the random human connection. Instagram can be good for that, but it's better to see friends as often as you can. Social media can give us a fake sense of closeness, which is why I came off Facebook – social media is no replacement for a hug and a chat with an old pal. I turn off my phone at 8 pm. </p>
What is your relationship with social media like - do you impose any scrolling bans or give yourself digital detoxes when necessary?<p>8 pm curfew, no work emails at the weekend unless there's a shoot happening, no scrolling before 9 am.</p>
Life with kids and work is often hectic, what keeps you sane?<p>Exercise, friends, my husband, my Monday night painting course. Not always in that order.</p>
What is your definition of self-care and how do you make time for it?<p>My husband works in mental health, and so I'm acutely aware that for some, self-care is as basic as being able to get out of bed and have a shower once a week. For others, it's a regular manicure or a massage and I get that. But for me self-care is facing the things I fear the most – tax bills, unpaid bills, checking bank accounts, monitoring credit card spend. There is nothing worse than having The Fear. The Fear makes me unstable, so I face it every day.</p>
Stacey's Little List of Loves...<ul><li><a href="https://www.penguin.com.au/books/lost-dog-9781785039195" target="_blank">Lost Dog by Kate Spicer.</a> It's a brilliant love story about a mid-life woman losing her dog. Please ignore the part where she calls me a "fashion monster". I did say that about her UGGS though. It was late. What can I say.</li><li><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Open-Up-Power-Talking-About-ebook/dp/B07H7S8BC9" target="_blank">Open Up – The power of talking about money by Alex Holder.</a> Because talking about money is a can of worms worth opening.</li><li><a href="https://www.hampstead-school-of-art.org/" target="_blank">Abstract painting course at Hampstead School of Art</a>. My teacher is an art therapist and I find her incredibly soothing to be around</li><li><a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-science-of-happiness/id1340505607" target="_blank">The science of Happiness podcast</a> – perfect for the morning</li><li><a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/recode-decode/id1011668648" target="_blank">Recode Decode podcast</a> – in particular, Scott Galloway on love, Chipotle, and the other forms of happiness. </li><li>The Northumberland Coast. We go once a year. It's cold, but there is no one around.</li><li>And speaking of no one around, I recently went to the <a href="https://www.louvreabudhabi.ae/" target="_blank">Louvre Abu Dhabi</a> and have never seen anything quite like it. It's bucket list territory!</li><li><a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/111/1117056/how-to-own-the-room/9781787631120.html" target="_blank">How to Own The Room by Viv Groskrop</a>. Read it from cover to cover on a flight recently. If you fear public speaking, this book is for you.</li><li><a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/in-store-services/beauty/the-wellness-clinic" target="_blank">Harrods' Wellness Clinic</a> is incredible. It's there I found out about Louise Parker, the health and fitness specialist. I just bought her book, The 6 Week Programme and plan to do the exercise from home.</li><li>I recently had three sessions of <a href="https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/style-notes/beauty/expert-tips/treatments-on-trial-emsculpt" target="_blank">EMSculpt at the Wellness Clinic</a>. A small handheld machine forces muscles to contract via electromagnetic waves – I chose to have it across my stomach, but you can do the buttocks and thighs too. My stomach was definitely more toned after three sessions, especially when combined with my morning HITT class. </li><li></li></ul>
Alexandra Kimball is changing the conversation surrounding infertility with her new book, The Seed: Infertility is a Feminist Issue...
As a pro-choice feminist who has endured a history of miscarriages and infertility, Kimball discovered that femininity had a long way to go in accepting and supporting the notion of work that goes into conceiving, gestating and birthing babies not the in the "natural" form.
Why is infertility such a marginal and misunderstood issue within mainstream feminist discourse?<p>It's a complicated answer, but the first point is feminism's longstanding critique of the motherhood mandate (the idea that women are culturally pressured to become mothers). Challenging the motherhood mandate was a big part of feminist work to make birth control and abortion safe, legal, and accessible. An issue here is feminism has been largely white and middle class, and thus erasing the concerns of women of colour and poor women, many of whom faced barriers to pregnancy and motherhood and wanted access to those experiences as much as they wanted birth control and/or abortion. Supporting women who want to be mothers but can't was a raced and classed issue in feminism as much as it was about fertility (and infertility affects some groups of women of colour more than white women).</p><p>A second piece is the feminist critique of reproductive technology. Most infertile women who want to have babies want access to reproductive technology like IVF, which put them at odds with feminists who understood this technology as a male incursion into women's bodies. There's a lot of feminist criticism still about the patriarchal nature of reproductive technology, but virtually nothing about what they think infertile women should actually do if access to these technologies were restricted. Though some come right out and say "your grief over your infertility is patriarchal conditioning, learn to get over it."</p><p>All of this has deeper roots in the idea — which is bog-standard misogyny — that women are passive vessels for pregnancy. That we're impregnable, that we sort of have pregnancy just happen to us instead of striving for it and making conscious decisions towards it, which is what all infertile women have to do. Mainstream feminists have deconstructed this partway with regard to birth control and abortion but never got there with infertility, because (I think) it would mean having to go beyond this black-and-white thinking around reproductive technology and desire for motherhood.</p>
You explored what the silence around infertility in feminism tells us about how we understand motherhood - what did you find?<p>Motherhood isn't an identity — it's a practice, it's work. An ongoing theme in feminism is about validating the invisible labour of women, things like housework and pregnancy and childcare and emotional labour, but when it comes to infertility, in which we are working to conceive, there is still this stigma and invisibility that feminism hasn't really challenged. What does it mean that we, as a nominally feminist society, validate the work of pregnancy and caring for one's child, but not conception? It's a very powerful example of how we understand motherhood, still, as something that just happens to women, that motherhood is an inevitable and essential part of femininity. I don't think we're ever going to truly understand the "work" of motherhood unless we include conception in that conversation.</p>
You’ve said infertility was a very isolating and difficult experience for you - what can you share about that time in your life and how you got through it?<p>I think being very open about what I was going through with everyone—even people who found it uncomfortable—helped me resist completely socially isolating as much as I could. I decided early on that no matter what happened, I was not going to contribute to the stigma around infertility or pregnancy loss, and that helped me maintain some dignity through a very debasing process. I'm also lucky to be in a great partnership and my partner and I were constantly communicating about what was going on.</p><p>The most important thing I think I did though, is read the stories of other people who had faced challenges in starting families. Not just infertile women, but gay and lesbian couples who need to use technology, single people, and people who had decided to move on from treatment and be childfree. There are so many when you look for them, and all made me feel not only a little less alone but part of a community of pretty wonderful, strong people. I'm still grateful for everyone who shared their story, because I think this sharing is the most healing thing.</p>
Despite the occasional insensitive "he just looked at me and I fell pregnant" comment and also what you might see on various Instagram feeds, fertility is rarely a straight-forward journey for many women...
And it has been anything but straightforward for nutrition and wellness advisor and founder of Krumbled Foods Keira Rumble, who has inspired women all over the world with her honesty and openness. Over the past five years, she has experienced four pregnancy losses.