It’s a sentiment we often hear time and time again, but one that never fails to have the collective heads of mothers nodding in agreement - motherhood is so hard, but so worth it…
Model Helena Vestergaard went head-first into her role as mum to baby River (now almost one) with fresh eyes and a fresh spirit, but her self-confessed naivety when it came to dealing with babies was tackled with a fierce amount of love and determination. “I had no idea what it was going to be like having a baby, let alone a newborn! I didn’t even know that babies woke up during the night…I guess I was quite naive. The love that you have for your baby gets you through it.”
Helena and her pro surfer partner Nathan Webster live an idyllic life in Sydney’s northern beaches filled with sun, sand and waves, and when they’re not swimming in the local beaches, rock pools or lagoons, they can be found happiest at home, eating healthy food and taking on a shared and committed responsibility to look after River in between work (you can find Helena’s store of vintage, hand made and small low impact ethical brands over at www.pourlebien.com).
We caught up with the smitten mum to talk birth (“no one can prepare you for something like that”), the early days of motherhood and why family will always come first.
Tell us the short story behind your home. How long have you lived here?
I have lived here for two years now but Nathan, my fiancé, has had this house for over 20 years! And being a woman, since I moved in with him I have obviously made a few changes to make it a fresh space ha!
How would you describe the aesthetic of your space?
Simple, stylish, welcoming, comfortable and tranquil.
What are your thoughts on kid stuff taking over your space? Is every room a playroom or do you keep it corralled?
We try to keep it contained. Every now and then I do trip over a toy though.
How has life changed for you since becoming a mother?
Life has become so much better! I honestly feel like my life has only just begun. I have a whole new fresh understanding of my world and what is really important in life. Yes, I have lost some freedom but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but right next to my beautiful little girl.
Can you tell us about your birth?
Wow, birth! I was so lucky to have a 100% natural birth in less than three hours at 38 weeks. No one can prepare you for something like that though, the strength it takes to carry your child and then the birth itself, what an empowering and surreal experience it is! You look at women differently after going through childbirth. We are so much stronger then we give ourselves credit for!
What was the first month of motherhood like for you?
Bloody hard! I had no idea what it was going to be like having a baby, let alone a newborn! I didn’t even know that babies woke up during the night… ha! I guess I was quite naive. The love that you have for your baby gets you through it. It’s also so exciting and amazing having this tiny little human to look after. Having a very strong loving partner also helped me so much, but my gosh it really does take a village to raise a child! And it’s all so worth it.
What excites you most about motherhood?
Everything! I truly love being a mother so much.
What makes you the most nervous?
Bringing up a child in today’s society. With social media and women being so overly sexualised, it scares me that my little girl is going to be thrown into this weird world of everything being so in your face. I hope I can teach her the really important things in life are not on a cell phone screen.
Describe your parenting style...
I’m probably quite relaxed now and laid back… but I do love to stick to a good schedule!
What was your own upbringing like?
We moved around a lot as kids, which was always interesting. I was born in Sydney and then moved to Melbourne when I was five. My sister and I were lured south with the promise of a puppy… and we got two! Ever since I have absolutely loved animals.
Helena wears Sir. River wears PLAY etc.
What advice would you give to a woman about to have her first child?
Go with the flow, babies have their own agenda! Make sure you are taking care of yourself as much as you would want your baby to be taken care of. Hang in there and don’t be afraid to always ask for help. I found it really hard to ask for help in the beginning but now I love it! Also, schedules really do help the baby sleep!
Any words on trying to juggle parenthood, a relationship, and a career?
For me, they all go hand in hand. I’m lucky enough to have such a supportive partner who takes equally the amount of responsibility for our daughter so I can go to work when I need to and vice versa.
Tell us about her name? How did you decide on River?
Well, we actually thought we were going to have a boy, we found out later in my pregnancy the sex as we both just wanted to know. We had already fallen in love with the name River so it kept it! And it really does suit her perfectly.
What is the best/most useful piece of advice you have received about motherhood?
Be mindful with advice! Advice is so hard because everyone is so different. I think everyone’s experience is so varied and most of the time you’re learning more as you go.
Do you have any mum icons or role models, either celebrity or real women you know?
My own mum is so special. But I also once met a woman at an airport who was travelling by herself with her five children all 18 months apart, the youngest being 11 months old. She was so relaxed and patient and kind to her children. Her kids in return were so well behaved. Both have really inspired me as a mother!
What do you love most about raising River in Sydney?
We get to take her to the ocean every day!
What's a typical day like?
Lots of ocean time and playtime and big healthy meals for everyone!
What are some of your favourite kid-friendly local spots in your area?
We just love the beach. There are rock pools and a lagoon that are great for kids.
When you're low on time, what are some of your go-to family dinner options?
We swear by Thai delivery at least once a week.
How would you describe your personal style?
Tell us about your beauty routine...
I moisturise a lot, whole body and face. I exfoliate maybe twice a week but I always forget to wash my hair!
Helena wears Peony one-piece
What about your wellness routine - do you exercise/meditate?
I love yoga, that’s my thing. Nathan and I play tennis a couple times a week and I try to surf whenever I get a chance.
What are your favourite designers?
Zimmermann and vintage.
What kind of clothes/brands do you love for River?
Summer and Storm is my favourite! Their stuff is so simple, easy and beautiful!
Tell us about what you do professionally...
I guess my main income is from modelling. I also write music and sell vintage clothes on the side. I love to have a few things going at once.
Tell us briefly about your background...
My mother is South African and my father is Danish. My parents moved to Australia and had my sister and I.
What do you like most about your job?
That it’s flexible and I get to spend more time with my family.
How has motherhood affected your career path?
It’s opened the doors to different and exciting opportunities.
What's up for you next, career-wise?
Family comes first at the moment and I am just really enjoying where I’m at.