Stephanie Gundelach: “I have been extremely anxious about the birth”

The stylist Stephanie Gundelach lives in Paris with her boyfriend, the handball player Mikkel Hansen. They are expecting their first baby. We meet Stephanie three weeks before her due date in her flat in Østerbro, Copenhagen, for a chat about being pregnant, thoughts about the birth and moving back to Paris afterwards.

How did you find out that you were pregnant?

”I was lying in the sun together with a girlfriend in Copenhagen at the end of April. She said, ”Your boobs have got really big”. I bought a test the same evening and it was positive! Over the next couple of days I probably did another five tests and the line became clearer and clearer. I am 32 years old and have several girlfriends who have miscarried so I had not really imagined I would get pregnant so quickly. Before anyone knew about it, I booked a scan at a private hospital. It was a totally bizarre experience to see the tiny little dot and hear its heartbeat. Mikkel was in Paris and I wasn’t going to see him for another two weeks. I really wanted to tell him face-to-face, but I ended up calling him. At first he went completely quiet waiting for me to say it was all a joke. When he caught on that it was true, he was over the moon but was also wonderfully calm about it. It was so strange not to be together at that particular moment.”

How would you describe your pregnancy?

”Seriously, I’ve had the easiest pregnancy. I’ve had no morning sickness and have only felt tired for a few weeks. During the fourth month I was dancing about at Roskilde Festival and partied late into the night and we travelled all the way to Tokyo and Korea without any problems. In September I moved down to Mikkel in Paris as planned.”

How do you feel about your pregnant body?

”I can definitely see that I have gained 20 kg, but I don’t have a problem with it. I think it’s natural and it’ll come off again. Actually, I am surprised I am not any larger because I have eaten loads of white bread, cake and a fair amount of sugar. They are not so big on wholegrain in France, it’s a sweet tooth’s paradise and I’ve literally been living off croissants!”

What are you missing the most while you are pregnant?

”I would sometimes wake up in Paris and go crazy because I couldn’t get a particular type of open sandwich. And it’s been tough not to be able to get a little tipsy to celebrate all this and also the mega long summer we have had in Denmark.”

How would you describe your personal style?

”My clothes need to be comfortable and I don’t like anything tight around my tummy so I have been really fond of dresses. I’ve bought several close fitting dresses in a jersey material from Cos, something I would not normally wear, but it’s been the only things I’ve fancied wearing. I’ve also nicked some of Mikkel’s t-shirts, jumpers and jackets.”

What was the first piece of maternity clothing you bought?

”I’ve bought one pair of maternity jeans which I found in Monoprix in Paris. They are super comfortable.”

Which item have you found the most useful during your pregnancy?

I’ve suffered from cramps in my legs, so I am very pleased with my compression stockings which I’ve used on flights and sometimes at night.”

Which shoes have been the best during your pregnany?

Luckily, my feet haven’t been swollen so I’ve been able to wear heels, but I’ve mostly worn my trainers from Asics.”

Do you exercise during your pregnancy?

”I trained twice a week before I became pregnant, but when I was two months gone I was in the fitness centre and I had the feeling that my body gave out. I respected that and since then I’ve not exercised. I’ve gone for walks and I’ve cycled and moved about as I usually do, and it’s not until now at the end of my pregnancy that I’ve felt any discomfort.”

How was your daily life in Paris?

”I went to French classes and have travelled back and forth to Denmark on styling jobs. I’ve gone on maternity leave early and that’s been lonely at times and I’ve missed my girlfriends from back home. It’s brilliant that Mikkel has so many good friends in Paris who we have been able to see. I still haven’t established a social network in the city, but I’ve not really had the social energy to get started.”

How will it be after the birth?

”I have started a mothers’ group in Paris through the Danish church. I wanted to make an effort to make it a positive experience to be in Paris after the birth. We are nine Danish women and most of us are already mothers. It’s a real benefit to be able to share experiences and tips with other mothers. Mothers’ groups don’t exist in Paris and they usually only have 3 month’s maternity leave. I haven’t yet seen a single pram in the city, my impression is that the Parisians mostly stay inside and are not particularly social with their children. Most women do not breastfeed either and it would be unthinkable to see a mother breastfeeding in a cafe. I intend to ignore that. I will always cover my breast, but I will carry on as I would at home. Mikkel won’t have the opportunity to take paternity leave, but he has a reasonably good work schedule. He has a lot of free time but not so much freedom. He trains in the early afternoon until the evening and unless he is playing a match, we have all morning together.”

Has your beauty routine changed during your pregnancy?

”I have bought Rudolph’s Mommy& Me and Bodylotion. I have only paid more attention to my body products as I don’t use much makeup on a daily basis. I’ve recently had my lashes tinted, I thought that would be nice before the birth.”

Have you taken any supplements during your pregnancy?

”I have taken some French pregnancy vitamin pills, omega 3 from Puori, and iron and magnesium in the evening. I make sure I eat a fair amount of bananas because they are supposed to help against the cramps in my legs.”

How have you prepared yourself for the birth?

I have been extremely anxious about the birth and have always been scared of it, so I knew from the start that I needed some preparation. I get so annoyed when people say, ’oh, but women have been giving birth for thousands of years and their bodies are made for it’. Yeah, yeah, but to avoid getting traumatised it’s important to be prepared for what is going to happen. Jeg started at Smertefrifødsel (’Painfreelabour’), but it wasn’t really me. I thought the breathing exercises were unpleasant. Then I had a website recommended, The Positive Birth Company, which is much more my style. It’s a super nice online course with manageable guides and sound files. I feel properly prepared now because I am so well informed about all the phases. I’ve become a member of The Positive Birth Company’s Facebook group where people share their birth experiences – I can sit for hours reading the stories and I always end up in tears because it is so touching. Before, I had only heard horror stories about births and they have done men o good.

We hired a midwife from Riget (Rigshospitalet) to come to Paris to prepare Mikkel for the birth. I’m in no doubt that Mikkel is going to be a tremendous support during the birth. He knows everything about the body and about the importance of the mental state when your body is physically stressed. He will be aware of fix points such as the jaw, neck and hands and will ensure they are not tense.”

Do you have any wishes for the birth?

”Mikkel gave me a massage at the Ritz in Paris as a present. They played classical piano and it was wonderful so we have put together a similar playlist for the birth. I’ve also packed some lavender oil and would like dimmed lights so it can feel as secure as possible. I love having a proper bath so I hope to be able to have a water birth. I’d like all the pain relief I can get even though I’d prefer to stay at home for as long as possible once I am in labour, but I’m worried about missing the window for an epidural. Unfortunately, my due date is is completely impractical as the last maternity hotel at the hospital closes on the 17th of December. So we can expect to be sent home four hours after the birth. Consequently, we are considering checking into a private maternity hotel and getting some private breastfeeding help after the birth. I just can’t help thinking about all the women who don’t have the opportunity for this.

I think it’s complete madness that a welfare society such as Denmark, where we pay such high taxes, keeps cutting the funding for women who have just given birth. Getting support at the beginning is of paramount importance in order to get off on the right track! If they can protest in Paris and set fire to cars because the petrol prices are going up – why are Danish women not getting on the barricades about this? In Paris you stay in hospital for several days where they keep an eye on you, and there are also many more check-ups during pregnancy.”

What do you still need to do before the birth?

”I have a long check list with all the stuff I need to buy and I need to finish packing my hospital bag. I’m almost there. Apart from that I have a few Christmas parties and cinema trips I hope I will be able to fit in before I pop. And then I am going to sleep as much as I can and for as long as possible.”


Words Bea Fagerholt Photography Liv Winther TO THE MOON, HONEY

Paris by Stephanie

 Have breakfast at the small and cosy cafe Fragments, @fragmentsparis

Try out the city’s best cinnamon bun from the top bakery Circus Bakery, @circusbakeryparis

Shop at The Broken Arm, which sells a carefully curated selection of clothes and shoes from brands such as Céline, Jacquemus, Asics, and Calvin Klein, @thebrokenarm

Right now I can recommend Basquiat at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Gustav Klimt at Atelier des Lumières and the On Air exhibition at Palais de Tokyo.

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Patricia Lavenant

Hello, I suscribed to your letter but I receive it written in Danish on my mobile.
How can I do to get it in English ?
Thank you.