Puck was an IVF baby, a process of 3 years in the hospital before all this, we decide to not go through the whole process to save eggs for later. And we did have two ‘leftover’ embryos in the freezer. So once feeling a bit better, we thought we would give it a shot. Not thinking it would ever work. The doctors said the same: Don’t get your hopes up. I was still in menopause from the chemo. But our little Mia was stubborn right from the beginning and decided she wanted to be in this world.
Kids (name + ages): Puck (6) and Mia (2)
Tell me about you! What’s your background?
My name is Nora, I turned 40 this year and am born in Germany where I lived for the first 14 years of my life.
Where in the world do you call home?
At this moment that would be Haarlem, the Netherlands.
I first “met” you through Instagram shortly after I had Emily and I know Instagram has brought many amazing people into your life. Tell me a little about that journey. Is making friends on the Internet isn’t as scary as people think?
Ha, that’s a good one. Actually, my ‘making friends on the internet’ started a long while ago since I ‘met’ my husband online 15 years ago through a dating site. At that time it was totally not done to date online… so in the beginning, when people asked us about how we met we said it was through mutual friends. Which was a total lie 😉
When I had Puck I remember those days, being stuck to the couch with a newborn glued on you, missing the interaction with grown up people and the outside world. I was a lot on Facebook. Once back to work, not so much anymore. When I was pregnant with Mia I came across Instagram and it was love at first sight. Images are always my first starting point in my work as an Art Director, so you can imagine how it feels to be able to make a mood board of our life as I see it. And how lovely it is to find others, with their own unique sense of style, their own lives in colours and squares that inspire. That’s how I indeed met a lot of amazing people on Instagram, some I got to meet in person and best of all, some became very close real-life friends.
I never thought of it being scary. It does feel like a first date, I mean it IS a blind date. Even if you had a peek into their lives, I know myself it’s still a mood board, it’s the best version of them. I do the same. But don’t we all do it? I had a discussion about it with my parents a while ago, about filtering, not being real. I remembered them that even my mom wouldn’t stick ALL photos taken on a holiday ended up in our album. That we do dress up a bit more when we go out for coffee. I like making an effort.
So yes, I get slightly nervous, do dress up or clean my house (a bit 😉 before I meet new people in real life. Until now, I never got disappointed. But before I met them we did have some chats about all kinds of things. Images are nice, but you can find out a lot more talking to people. A sense of humour and being real are the things I look for. All together I think you can get a pretty good impression in advance. And most of the times it was even better in real.
You’ve dealt with and overcome some major health issues. What were they and how do you feel about that experience now?
Yes, in November 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Puck was 1.5 years old and it was quite a shock. I was quickly transferred to a specialized hospital. I call it the CancerDefeatingFactory, in the beginning I didn’t want to go, since everyone and everything in that hospital was related to cancer. Which made it far too real. But boy does that factory work! So, in 8 months I had 6 chemo’s, 3 operations and 28 radiations. My husband was the best. EVER! He took care of Puck and me like a pro. My family and friends as well. Whenever I needed help or anything they were there.
It might sound strange, but I would never want to go through all this again, but I also wouldn’t have missed it. The experience made me into who I am now. It changed me, in a good way. That being said I don’t wish this to happen to anyone, even not my worst enemy. It was hell.
I had all the side effects of chemo. I lost my taste, swallowing felt like I was eating razorblades, so I lost a lot of weight in a very short time. I lost my hair (I cut it off myself when it was time), eyelashes and eyebrows. But the worst was losing my energy; I didn’t feel like doing anything. Which was totally new to me and I hated it. It scared me the most. Would I be the same again afterwards? Not being able to take care of my 1.5 year old daughter. But she was one of the reasons to keep on going. I did bring her to daycare during the whole process. Sometimes it took an hour (normally it would have been a 5 min. walk) to get there and back. I needed to rest before I went back. But at least I got out of the house and do something. At the end the doctors even wondered how I did get up the three sets of stairs at home, since my blood values were that low. I needed several blood transfusions. I got an infection at the end and had to stay in the hospital for a week. Which somehow was a relief. Since I finally was allowed to be ‘sick’ not having to stay strong for my husband, Puck or my family and friends. I was exhausted.
Now, 5 years on, I am doing great. I got my hair back, I got my appetite and (too much) weight back. They could save my breast, but most important they saved me. I do still feel tired once in a while, which is a normal thing after these kind of radiations.
And the best thing is our little miracle Mia. Since Puck was an IVF baby, a process of 3 years in the hospital before all this, we decide to not go through the whole process to save eggs for later. And we did have two ‘leftover’ embryos in the freezer. So once feeling a bit better, we thought we would give it a shot. Not thinking it would ever work. The doctors said the same: Don’t get your hopes up. I was still in menopause of the chemo. But our little Mia was stubborn right from the beginning and decided she wanted to be in this world.
What most scared you the most about that time and how did you cope?
I don’t remember being scared. I just had to get through this. I did get scared, later. The first check up, about half a year later, they saw something on the mammogram and wanted to do an extra biopsy. I remember thinking, when I comes back now, so soon, I will be getting it back… Also just a few weeks ago, we were watching a movie and the girl in that movie actually died of cancer, it hit me. I could have died too… and leaving Puck and my husband behind. So I guess I coped in that time, and have to cope the rest of my life with it. But it’s ok. It sets a lot of things in perspective.
You’ve recently gone back to work as well as running your beautiful party shop, La Fête – how did that start and how do you juggle the work/life balance?
The big question of my life right now 😉 La Fête started when I was regaining my strength after being sick. I just couldn’t do nothing, but also couldn’t go back straight to work. Besides, I quit my job just before I got cancer, because I wanted to start as a freelancer. So that never really happened. Once I was done with all the treatments, I was very lucky and we fell pregnant with Mia. Not the best time to try to get back to work fulltime. So again, it was put on hold. When Mia was about 6 months we bought a new home and moved from Amsterdam to Haarlem. In between all that I did have some projects coming along, bigger ones, smaller ones. Once in Haarlem I had to finish a huge project. I remember I was working on the top floor, working my ass off while the painters downstairs still worked their way through our new, still empty place. To finish it I had to work a few nights until the next morning. Once the project was done, I got the worst flu ever. And the thought hit me, for who am I doing this? So. We decided I would be at home most of the time, taking care of the girls. Now I am able to pick Puck up from school. Mia goes to daycare 2 days a week. She loves it and learns to play and interact with other children of her age. And I can get some work done. I have a few regular clients, and whenever I have time left (which turns out to be never 😉 I can make and create for La Fête. Which I really love and enjoy, but it’s impossible to earn enough with the things I make. Everything is made by hand by me, myself and I. But I don’t want to give up on it, since it brings me so much joy. I am looking forward though to the time when Mia goes to school as well. Which will give me a lot more time. For myself and the things I love to do. But for now, this is just perfect. They grow up so fast, before you know they move out. And I really don’t want to think about that right now 😉
Do you have any advice for other mamas wanting to start something, but are letting self-doubt hold them back?
No, not really. Maybe that you should be realistic about how much you can do with kids around. At least if you don’t want to stick them behind an iPad or Tv 24/7. But I think if it is something you put your heart in, something you really love, so not with the aim to earn a lot of money, just go for it! Start small, and most important: be original and true to yourself.
Describe a typical week at your place. What care arrangements do you have and what tricks make things run smoothly for you?
Mondays we have a slow start, Puck goes to school at 8:30 until 14:45 so Mia and I stay home. Do some laundry, and go for a bike ride or to a child friendly cafe so she can play and I can knit and have someone make my coffee. I put her to bed around 12:00-12:30 to nap, and I have time to answer some emails, be online or finish some orders for La Fête. When she wakes we go and pick up Puck from school. We have tea with some sweets, and they play and I do some housework and early dinner preparations. Most of the time we eat early, dad joins in later and helps put them to bed around 19:00.
What’s the biggest parenting fail you learnt from?
Not being patient. It just doesn’t work. They need time to learn, to explore, to be independent. As soon as you try to rush anything, it takes even more time….
Motherhood is a full time job, and it’s often easy to forget to take time for you. How do you take care of yourself amongst the busy demands of daily life?
The decision to bring Mia to daycare two days a week gives me some time to do the things I like, the things I really need to recharge. Because sometimes I forget I am a smart grown up individual with a good set of brains with actual good ideas, while wiping mouths and butts, washing and folding underwear and feeding grumpy kids.
If you could fly anywhere and do anything in the world for 24 hours, where would you go and who would you take with you?
That’s a trick question…. I guess I would take a plane, by myself, and fly down to Sydney. It would combine a few of my favourite things right now…. some alone time, some sunshine, some shopping, meeting new, likeminded people and travelling to a place I’ve never been before.
You have a really unique and fun style, especially in the way you dress your girls. You aren’t one to follow the latest trends. What are a couple of your favourite brands and websites?
Ok, first of all, the dress themselves. Both girls have a very strong opinion about what they like and don’t like since they are about 2 years old. But, I am the one who pays for the clothes, so still have the final say. YAY! I shop at all kinds of places for them. It’s not so much a shop, more a design or brand I am looking for. Most importantly are the colours and quality of the design and fabric. We do love strong colours. And since they dress themselves I try to avoid prints, since combining them with other items will end up in a circus. Which sometimes happens anyway.
So basically it’s a mix from big and small brands. Bobo Choses for their, colours, cuts and comfort. Yellowpelota for blouses and dresses for Mia, in an amazing colour palette. Amy & Ivor makes the best lace ups for little ones. Dresses and salopettes from Le Carrousel Paris. Barbara from Les Zigouis makes the most amazing clothes, all designed and made by herself. I like Bang Bang Copenhagen and Beau Loves for the fun they bring into kids clothes. Youngsoles is one of my favourite shoe brands, next to classics like Bergstein gumboots all year round and natives and saltwater sandals for summer. They have a pair each season.
Knits I mostly make myself and since Puck really has a very strong own taste I started sewing again. So I can finally make her that red princess dress she is asking for since quite a while.
If you could go back in time to before you were pregnant, what is the one piece of advice about motherhood that you would tell yourself?
Be patient. Which I am still not.Photos by: www.cloudcuckoo.nl