Māmā Muse: Renata Lardelli

Renata Lardelli

We spoke to Renata Lardelli, mum-of-three, nurse and midwife, and owner of Little Mash Boutique and Lila Jasmine, about motherhood, the importance of the fourth trimester, asking for help, and juggling business with mum life.

Kia ora Renata. Can you start by introducing yourself? Tell us about your family, where you live, and what you do for work.

Kia Ora, I’m Renata Lardelli. My husband Jeremy and I have been married for 16 years, that sounds like quite a long time but it has just flown by – together we have three really wild but equally wonderful sons named Eli, Sebastian and Xavier. We live in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton, New Zealand) in a tiny house that we’ve well in truly outgrown. I’m a full-time small business owner and a midwife on a casual contract who fits in shifts at the hospital when I can around the boys and businesses.

 

How was your journey to pregnancy with each of your sons? Did you plan to conceive when you did?

Jeremy and I were married in 2006 and didn’t have our first baby Eli until January of 2010, almost six years later in October of 2015 Sebastian was born and then only 17 months after that came Xavier in March 2017. None of them were conceived on our timing!

It took us 18 months to conceive Eli, right before I fell pregnant I’d had some testing done where we learned I had PCOS, the likely cause of the delay. The six-year age gap between Eli and Seb wasn’t deliberate – I suffered secondary infertility, have PCOS and prior to becoming pregnant with him we did six rounds of fertility treatment, I had one miscarriage and we began exploring adoption before naturally falling pregnant while on the IVF waiting list. We knew we wanted one more baby, we weren’t purposely trying but after our previous difficulties, we didn’t expect it to happen so soon and were surprised to learn that it was not food poisoning but another baby, our baby Xav!

 

You’ve shared your birth stories on the Kiwi Birth Tales podcast before, but for those who haven’t listened to your episode, can you give us an overview of your births?

Absolutely, I’ve had a variety of births – here they are in a nutshell!

Eli was a planned caesarean section for a large ovarian dermoid cyst that was blocking the birth canal – they removed Eli and the cyst during the surgery and the cyst weighed almost 1kg which is kinda crazy! The birth itself was straightforward and I recovered well from the section. There’s something a little odd about having a planned birth date, there’s no anxiousness about when labour will start and how things will pan out, you just turn up and it all happens in a calm and predictable manner.

I decided on a VBAC with Sebastian and went into spontaneous labour at 40+5. I niggled most of the day prior, we had a relaxing evening and after a few hours’ sleep I got up in early labour dozing between contractions on the couch. We took Eli to school and had my midwife assess me at home around 10 am where I was 4-5cm. At around 1 pm I was ready to go into the hospital and slowly made our way there, we arrived at 2 pm and he was born at 3 pm and in my head that one hour felt like seven! I had sterile water injections shortly after arriving for back pain, they are horrendous going in but worked a treat and provided some relief. I gave birth kneeling beside the bed, had an uncomplicated second degree tear and was home after dinner. While I’d delivered a number of babies, as you can imagine that is incomparable to doing it yourself and now having experienced vaginal birth for myself added another layer to the way I practice midwifery.

I wanted a water birth in a primary unit with Xavier and went into labour at 38+5 with him. I woke in the middle of the night and laboured again quietly in the lounge, dozing between contractions. A stroke of luck allowed us to book Seb into daycare for an additional day so we dropped the boys off, I called my midwife and agreed we would meet at the birthing unit when I was ready to come in – no home assessment this time. I knew I wanted to arrive earlier than I did with Seb so we headed in about lunchtime, I was assessed and was 6-7cm. I went for a walk outside while the pool filled but once I was in contractions cooled right off so jumped out and spent some time upright and walking around the birth room. Once things ramped up again I jumped back in the pool and with a few pushes he was born a little after 2.30 pm. This time my perineum was intact and I was making full use of staying a couple of nights before heading home to the other boys.

 

You’re an incredible advocate for preparing for the fourth trimester, so much so that you’ve developed your own workshop which is loved and appreciated by mums throughout the country! What were your own fourth trimester experiences like?

Shucks, thank you!

With Eli I was shocked the instant he was born realising how underprepared I was – I can recall looking over at Jeremy while still on the operating table and Eli on my chest saying,”What on earth do we do now?” I’d been a nurse for a couple of years and was beginning my second year of midwifery training when he was born and naively thought I had a clue. I went back to university when Eli was just six weeks old and it was an enormous struggle completing that degree with such a young child – we made it through with each other and with the help of our village but I’m not sure I would encourage pursuing a vocation that had a heavy practical component with a young family. Eventually, we all found our rhythm but I would have had so much more success and confidence if I’d spent an equal amount of time preparing for life with a new baby as I did pregnancy and birth.

Sebastian was born almost six years after Eli and with those years of parenting, nursing and midwifery under my belt I had much more confidence entering the fourth trimester but, as you know, no two children are alike and I was in for a rude awakening. While we should never compare I will for this exercise – Eli was textbook, Sebby was not. He fed more and slept less and I’d just not been prepared for any variance to the experience I’d had with Eli. The silver lining was that Eli was at school which meant on days where the nights had been long and hard we’d hunker down together at home in our PJs and rest until it was time to pick Eli up from school. In the fourth trimester, I allowed myself to rest and enjoy the moments of having a newborn again.

Xavier was born a short 17 months after Seb and while my brain logically knows this is a normal age gap for many, many families, I truly struggled for that first year with three wild but wonderful little boys. Xav himself was much like Eli, textbook – he was so chill that we’d forget he was there, we could pop him down on the floor in the lounge and he’d not make a peep and often just suck his thumb and nap right there on the floor. What was challenging for me was my inability to do it all and the sleep deprivation, waking several times each night to tend to Xav and Seb – I’d get one down and the next one would wake and it didn’t take long to wear me out. Added to this was Sebby’s antics and I need to tell you this story to give you an appreciation for his personality and determination – when he was a toddler these moments had me frazzled but these characteristics have grown to be one of the things I love about him most…

One morning at about 7 am I was feeding Xavier on the couch, he was only a couple of weeks old and I saw 17-month-old Seb running past the front door. He had pushed a stool up against a bed, climbed up onto the bed, unlatched the window, lowered himself onto the deck, walked down a couple of stairs, and had begun sprinting up our driveway. He was relentless and I developed a sixth sense for his antics, grew two extra eyes in the back of my head and lightning-fast reflexes to stop or protect him. He’s 6 now and the determination has stuck with him – he’s had school rules overturned, achieved goals and has the capability to master something once he’s put his mind to it. That was the moment I realised I had an independent child on my hands and now that he is older I can see it as a strength but it added to my load in the fourth trimester. With hindsight, I can acknowledge that I had postnatal depression (PND) that I hid within the four walls of my home, it is one of my greatest regrets that I didn’t confide in someone and arm myself with tools to better enjoy that first year. As the boys grew, I became more resilient, and the demands of motherhood seemed more manageable, I began to feel more like myself but for a year life wasn’t as stunning as it could have been, had I got some help.

 

If you had the chance to redo any of your postpartum periods again, what would you do differently?

Without a doubt, if I could rewind the clock, I would have confided in someone that I was struggling and gained some tools to cope better cope with PND. I also would have invested more in my pelvic floor – exercises, physiotherapists, SRC shorts…the works! The ability to be able to run, laugh, play and jump on a trampoline without concern is something you shouldn’t take for granted.

 

At Soteria, we love everything you stock at Little Mash Boutique and are huge fans of your Lila Jasmine lactation bars and fourth trimester workshop! Tell us how each business came to be and what the ethos of each brand is.

Shucks [again], thank you!

In 2018, Jeremy and I decided that we’d like to do something together and almost immediately I saw Little Mash Boutique for sale – while it’s certainly not the kind of business Jeremy had in mind, he was just glad to have me showing an interest in business full stop and indulged me. Here we are three and a half years later – I enjoy the pretty parts, the creative parts and running the day-to-day while Jeremy does the “business” end, managing accounts, forecasts, planning etc… he’s our ideas man. Our sole focus for Little Mash Boutique is to bring beautiful, quality, value-adding products to the market for babies, children and mothers

At Little Mash Boutique we are retailers of other brands and we decided really quickly that we wanted to create our own brand. In 2019, we launched our own brand named Lila Jasmine which has a sole focus of nourishing mothers and babies. In business terms, this venture is still very much in its infancy. It began with us hand-baking lactation bars in a commercial kitchen but when the breastfeeding women of New Zealand needed more bars during the lengthy 2020 lockdowns we moved the operation to our home kitchen (wildly impractical). With a constant inability to keep up with demand, we scaled to contract manufacturing where 10s of 1,000s were baked and we still sold out (they’re well-loved). Customers say they work and right now we’re on the tail-end of supply shortages and strive to never go out of stock again. In addition to the lactation bars, I also run a fourth trimester workshop, my passion lies there – I get pure joy in helping the future generations of parents become better prepared. I’m surprised by the enjoyment I get from facilitating the workshop – I’ve never taught anything in my life but this is deeply fulfilling.

 

How do you juggle running your businesses (and hospital shifts!) with motherhood? Has your outlook on work changed or evolved since having your boys?

I’m human and sometimes I don’t juggle it very well. My husband uses the analogy of spinning 10 plates – you can’t keep them all spinning equally, one or more will lose speed and possibly even fall and smash. Life is a bit like that, certain areas will always lack but all I can do is try my best. I have become aware that I’m triggered or frustrated by the boys if I’m trying to work with them around so I simply don’t work around them – if I have a deadline I either work early in the morning or once they’re in bed. We’re trying to enforce our ‘no phone till dark’ policy once we’re home from work so we can be undistracted and present.

Five things that have helped me balance the juggle:

  1. Time blocking my day and working for X number of minutes before taking a break.
  2. No phone till dark policy + we’re also not supposed to bring phones to bed.
  3. Having a synced family calendar with EVERYTHING in it.
  4. Exercising 3-5 times a week and going to bed by 10 pm.
  5. Incorporating self-care and things that I enjoy into my month.

My outlook on work has totally changed over the years with the boys – before business, when my primary job was working at the hospital, we made a decision that I would always work as little as we could afford, placing time with the boys over money. One of the beauties of being in business is that it has awarded me even more freedom over my time – we continue to place our family first and in the retail/business world we operate incredibly short hours but it has served us well and I think our customers really respect us for that.

 

Does mum guilt come up for you as a working māmā, Renata? If so, how do you manage it?

Yes of course and in those moments I try to focus on the big picture, what we’re working towards and that ultimately the sacrifices we make now are all for the future of our little boys. I don’t find that I miss many things because I have the luxury of flexibility and can rearrange my day or week to support them if needed. What’s more of an issue is how busy we all are so we prioritise things like – eating dinner together and chatting about our days, we have takeout and watch a family movie every Friday night, and Sunday is a day of R&R that we enjoy together.

 

 

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A post shared by Renata Lardelli (@renatalardelli)

What does self-care look like for you now that you’re a māmā?

1. Right now it’s my new love – my kindle. I’ve had it for about a month and I’ve never read so many books. Why didn’t I get one sooner?!

2. I’m trying to become a runner – it is not going very well but I cannot deny that I feel better, I’m more pleasant to be around and I’m more productive when I exercise. So, I try to do something 3-5 days a week, either a run, long walk, play a game of social netball or take a reformer pilates class.

3. Regular haircuts, brow shapes and Tuesday lunch dates with Jeremy.

 

What has motherhood taught you about yourself?

Motherhood has taught me that I’m capable and resilient far beyond what I ever imagined possible. It has also taught me that I don’t like lots of noise and my patience wears out at precisely 7.30 pm – bedtime! The age-old saying the days are long but the years are short is nothing but a nugget of truth. Over the years, I’ve tried to find the good in the season because I know in years to come, no matter how difficult it felt at the time, I will look back on that season with great fondness. 

 

Tell us about a māmā who is your muse.

The answer to this is always my own māmā, Rhonda!

For some of my childhood, she was a single parent, my memory recalls that it was tough but as I’ve become an adult and mother all I have is adoration for her sacrifices and the choices she made for my brother and me. I’ve inherited her work ethic – neither of us quit the task until is done but sadly I didn’t inherit her green thumb (once awarded by the council for her pretty garden) or her talent for knitting or sewing. She is my māmā muse. 

Follow Renata on Instagram @renatalardelli, Lila Jasmine on Instagram @lilajasminenutrition, and Little Mash Boutique on Instagram @little_mash.

 

Shop with Little Mash Boutique at littlemash.co.nz and find the Lila Jasmine lactation bars and fourth trimester workshop at lilajasmine.co.nz.

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