Momspiration: Karin Hesselvik
- Datum: 27 juni 2019
- Tekst: Evelien Erichsen
- Fotografie: Heidi Riekerk-Boomgaard
- Leestijd: 7 minuten
The ambitious, Swedish Karin Hesselvik (43) lived with husband Charley (38) in Portland when pregnant with her daughter Frankie (3). She went from being a successful full time career woman to a full time mother. During her transition into motherhood, she felt isolated, emotionally and mentally unprepared, and had a lot of questions. So she started Pom Pom Social, an inspiring community for moms who believe in connecting with each other and having real and sometimes difficult conversations. Now she’s 34 weeks pregnant with a second girl and lives in Amsterdam with her family.
You have daughter Frankie running around, still work three days a week, organize events and content for Pom Pom Social, all while in your last term of pregnancy. How do you feel?
“I feel a little tired. Old I guess. – Laughs – I would say in general it feels a bit heavier because I’m older this time around and have a toddler.”
Did Motherhood change you?
“It was a huge identity shift. I think I lived my life quite selfishly and independently before becoming a mom. And then suddenly you have this tiny being arriving into your world, whom you care for so much and love so deeply. It’s a big shift. Besides that I used to identify only through work up until Frankie. The first year of parenthood, work was not the biggest part of my life anymore. Now that I can reflect on it more; Motherhood didn’t change me at the core, it brought my core out. Becoming a mother allowed me to get more in touch with myself, and I feel my intuition getting stronger every year.”
You lived in The States on and off for over 20 years and also during your first pregnancy. Before that you lived and worked in Amsterdam. Why did you move back to Amsterdam?
“It was a lifestyle decision. I don’t have much faith in the American system and how its set up for the long term, especially when it comes to family life and working. Companies are unable to operate with flexibility with an ‘all or nothing’ kind of mentality. If you’re pregnant, you work until you give birth, trying saving as many days possible after the child is born. And within twelve weeks or six weeks or even sooner you are expected back full time. If not, you often end up having to sacrifice your career. It’s not sustainable and such a shame as it doesn’t retain talent.”
In what way is Amsterdam more family friendly?
“In many ways. It is a place that allows flexible work. Working part time is normal here. Amsterdam has accessible child care. We have four different daycares within walking distance from our home to choose from. I have grocery stores around the corner. The schools are of a high quality and free. This all makes a huge difference, and we feel way more supported as a family. It helps to create more balance and structure for our family life.”
You lived in Portland during your first pregnancy and birth. What is the biggest difference being pregnant in the States compared to The Netherlands?
“In The States I would be considered a high risk pregnancy because of my age. Here the attitude is; this is a normal pregnancy, and as a result, I’m also feeling more ‘normal’ and less stressed. I’m excited to have my second birth here in the Netherlands. It’s nice to live in a country that truly believes in the midwifery and in postpartum support. I do wish the parental leave, especially for fathers, was better though! Also, in the US the focus is on the pregnancy and the baby, but the postpartum mother often gets forgotten in the process. Luckily Portland is more progressive and I found an amazing doula who really helped me through it.”
In which way did the doula help you?
“She took the fear out of the whole ‘business’ of birth and the postpartum period, and explained things in a way I could relate to. Not so scientific and fear based. A lot of American literature and the medical field is based on the worst things that can happen, so automatically you start to anticipate that instead of learning to trust yourself and your intuition.”
Could the doula help you whilst in labour?
“During birth the heart rate of the baby was dropping following the epidural. The doctor rushed in and told us that they wanted to do a cesarean section. The doula told me to check in with the baby, with calming thoughts, and tell her that we were ok. Within ten seconds her heart rate went back to normal and I was able to give birth without any medical intervention. Our doula empowered me to feel calm and in charge and it had huge benefits, not just for me but also for my partner, and ultimately for Frankie of course.”
You are due the 2nd of August. How different is this pregnancy compared to your first?
“My body instantly knew that it was pregnant. I felt everything sooner. The tiredness, the pressure around my belly. Mentally I’m also in a different place. With the first one I felt more insecure. Now I feel more confident. But at the same time, I am also a bit less focused on it, chasing after a toddler everyday. This time around, maybe I’m also feeling more cautious.”
Why are you more cautious?
“In between I had a miscarriage around ten weeks. It came as such a shock and I wasn’t prepared for the impact it would have on me or on my partner. It was a big thing to process and it took me almost two years to get through that. There’s a secrecy around loss and miscarriage in our society. If we would be more open about it, I think a lot of us would feel a lot better, and not so alone.”
What helped you dealing with this loss?
“The second I started to open up, people around me started sharing their stories. It turned out that many women in my inner circle also had miscarriages. I didn’t know their story. We are all carrying all this sadness on our own. But to let it out, it’s a first step towards healing. Also creating a Mizuko Kuyo ritual to honor what happened helped me.”
What can friends do?
“Starting by saying “I’m here for you, if you are ready to talk.” It helps knowing that you have someone else that can sit with you and share the silence. Friends who are listening, instead of trying to fix things. It’s about honoring a feeling, whatever feeling it is. Let it be there, without any judgement or instant solution.”
Did you follow any pregnancy courses during your first and your second pregnancy?
“I’m reading a couple of books on birth Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth from Ina May Gaskin. And The Post Natal Depletion Cure from Oscar Serralach, a book about postpartum wellness. I just ordered Like a Mother from Angela Garbes which I can’t wait to dig into. I also take prenatal yoga classes at Samana Yoga Centre. In The States I did a course around birth and how to prepare for delivery. With my husband I also took a partner class – he had to learn to wrap a plastic baby in a swaddle. He thought it was quite hilarious at the time, but he turned out to be a really good swaddler. ”
Was that the reason why you started Pom Pom Social?
“I felt very lonely and isolated through the process of becoming a mother. I had just left a full time career, I felt a bit lost and I had so many questions. I wanted to find other women with whom I could relate to and start conversations with.”
Can you tell us more about Pom Pom Social?
“I started it up as an experiment in fall when Frankie turned one. It was ‘my passion project’ but quickly took on a life of its own. For the first time I met all these women who felt the same and whom I could connect with, addressing themes of motherhood that no one really was talking about, either through in person events, or through published content and interviews on our site. After Portland we moved to New York and I was able to continue my work with Pom Pom there. Every city has a different community of mothers, with different needs. But ultimately, moms need moms (our pom pom social motto) wherever you are.”
Will the community of mothers in Amsterdam get to know Pom Pom Social?
“Yes I’m at the beginning stages of forming the community here and hope to host the first event this fall. Please stay tuned!”
We’ve understood from your site that you don’t have to choose between being a mom and being your best self, celebrating the beautiful mess of motherhood. Is that the essence for you?
“Before motherhood I was quite idealistic about the life I thought I should live and what I needed to achieve. Now I am more accepting of the strange twists and turns life takes you on, allowing myself to celebrate the process, and take it step by step. That can be messy, take a long time and sometimes be disappointing. But that’s ok.”
What has Frankie taught you?
“She has shown me a whole other side of myself that I didn’t know was there, a new form of humility and patience. And every day, she helps remind me of the importance of believing in magic, and seeing things in different ways.”
What values or words would you like to give Frankie?
“Stay curious, believe in yourself and in your intuition. Trust yourself, even if the world is trying to tell you something else. And never ever stop believing in magic!”
Kids Store: The Yo Store. | Kids Brands Polarn o Pyret, Mini Rodini | Family destination: Tulum. And we look forward exploring spots around Europe and Japan. | Kids transportation: For now Frankie lives on her Micro Mini step and we can’t wait to try out the new Bugaboo Ant for travel friendly strolling when it comes out this fall. | Mom gadget: A cross body i-phone case strap from XouXou Berlin. It has changed my life!
Curious? Check the Pom Pom Social site to read more.