Nadia Dolmark-Drejer on children’s shoes and fertility treatment
Nadia Dolmark-Drejer, 33, and her husband have bought children’s shoe brand Petit Nord and created the More Babies Please concept which helps couples going through IVF. They themselves are parents of twins Eila and Maddox, aged three.
We have been sitting in Nadia’s kitchen for about an hour listening to the story of the emotional rollercoaster ride that fertility treatment sends a couple on. From being newlyweds with a great faith in being able to conceive to seeking help abroad. We have also talked about career choices, relationships and family life and as the perfect finale two happy nursery-age children bounce through the door and into their mother’s arms. Eila and Maddox, aged three, are home and ready to have their picture taken.
“For a long time, I thought that maybe I wasn’t meant to have children and instead would lead a more career-focused life. But when I fell in love with Christian, I knew that I wanted children. After we got married, we immediately started trying for a baby. One year later, when nothing had happened, I became very impatient and couldn’t understand why I hadn’t got pregnant yet. Every month new hope and great expectations became equally big disappointments. I began to stress about everything and, unfortunately, stress is one of the things that is particularly counterproductive in this situation. Suddenly, our desire to have children had become something mechanical – and that just kills romance.”
We decided to have ourselves checked out at a fertility clinic. The results showed that we had some problems and we were recommended to start IVF (in vitro fertilisation of eggs – ed.). The doctors weren’t interested in going into detail and finding the underlying reason for our problems and that left us with a lot of unanswered questions. Why were young, healthy people like us having difficulty conceiving? It was a deeply frustrating situation to be in, but at the time I was so focused on getting pregnant as soon as possible that we followed medical advice and accepted IVF straight away. The process wasn’t something we chose to share with family and friends. We felt embarrassed and we saw the fact that I couldn’t get pregnant naturally as a defeat. I remember the IVF treatment as being extremely tough on my body and even tougher on my mind. We tried it once without luck. I was shattered…
Finding help abroad
When we gave up IVF, we started to investigate other options. One day, Christian found Iva Keene by just typing ‘natural fertility’ into Google. Iva Keene is the founder of Natural Fertility Prescription. I was pretty sceptical, but after we’d seen and read testimonials from couples who had succeeded in having children naturally with her help, we were reasonably sure that she was able to do something. We set up a Skype meeting and were then convinced that we wanted to try her programme. Iva’s solution consisted in not going straight to IVF treatment. She focused on identifying the reasons for reduced fertility.
Strict fertility diet
Iva Keene designed a programme that we needed to follow very carefully. The programme, which lasted four months, started with a short detox period in which the body was supposed to expel toxins, including many hormone-disrupting substances that negatively affect fertility. Large parts of the programme were all about changing our diet. We faced more than four months without alcohol, sugar, coffee, dairy products etc. She also helped us to optimise our sleep, remove harmful chemicals from our everyday lives, streamline our exercise and manage stress. Feeling better in ourselves and with each other was also part of the programme. This was really a challenge and sometimes it was hard to stay away from various things. We were living in Dubai when we were on the programme and our work and lifestyle meant that we had a very active social life with great dinner parties and good food, wine and drinks with friends. We had to cut all that out. But the most fantastic and scary part of the programme was that we were able to improve our vitality and health so much just by changing simple things. We felt so much better, had more energy, a better complexion and the programme seemed very rejuvenating which it was as it enabled me to get pregnant naturally – which I did! It was fantastic. We’d managed to conceive naturally contrary to everything we’d been told by doctors at the fertility clinic!
During a weekend wedding on Bornholm, I started to bleed. I was nine weeks pregnant and was not overly nervous and didn’t think that anything bad could happen. On the way home, we decided to drop in at the hospital just to make sure that everything was fine. We were told that there was no longer any heart sound and that the foetus had died. There was no explanation. It was probably just nature’s way of stopping something that wasn’t perfect. Only then did I became aware of the fact that 25% of all pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage. I never thought that that could happen to us – so it came as a big shock! I was so depressed and I saw the hope of getting pregnant disappear again. I thought that we’d never succeed and it was difficult to see other pregnant women around me. I grieved for a couple of months while we again faithfully followed Iva Keene’s programme and after five months I became pregnant again.
Pregnant with twins
Suddenly my sense of smell went crazy, I could smell everything, I felt nauseous and my breasts were tender. I took a test on Christmas Eve and I’ve never been so happy as I was when I saw that it was positive! At the scan, we were told that we were expecting twins. I’d never thought that that would happen. I was so happy and felt very lucky. The fear of losing the pregnancy – as I’d done previously – was there, especially in the first three months. I booked regular scans to ensure that the foetuses were still alive. Luckily, I had a fantastic pregnancy, I loved it and only suffered from morning sickness at the beginning. I thought it was all so enjoyable and crazy to be given the opportunity to experience my body changing like that. Imagine being able to create and carry two small human beings.
I went into labour a month before my due date, so Maddox only weighed two kilos when he was born. We spent 17 days at Hvidovre Hospital. I remember clearly how we counted every gram they gained in weight. We lived in three-hour shifts where we had to wake them, change them, give them a stomach tube because they were too small to breastfeed, express milk, change nappies again and put them to bed. We would then have maybe an hour and a half before the whole thing started again.
Life with two babies
During my pregnancy, I didn’t really think about how to prepare for life with twins. We’d never had small children in my family and I just didn’t know what to expect. My friend Louise advised us to get some help. Through the British agency Eden Agency, we hired Carried, a maternity nurse from New Zealand, who specialised in twins and triplets. She’d looked after more than 25 sets of twins in her career. When we got home from the hospital, Carrie was there to greet us. She was our saviour and showed us everything in great detail; how to swaddle, breastfeed and bathe the children. I breastfed the twins simultaneously every three hours for the first four months. Carrie was at my side to help me and ensure that they attached and detached correctly. Six days a week, Carrie gave the twins a bottle at 1 am so that I could sleep for 5-6 hours uninterrupted. In the beginning, giving my children to someone else felt really strange. But being able to sleep until 4 am was worth everything. We extended her contract twice and Carrie ended up living with us for three months. We’re still incredibly grateful for the help she gave us and saying goodbye to her was very emotional. After Carrie, we got a 26-year-old English nanny who lived with us for ten months.
A new side of myself
Becoming a mother has given me a serenity and a patience that I never knew I had. Being a mother has also made me much more playful. I love when my children dance around like crazy or sit and eat with no clothes on. This oozes life. That’s the kind of home I want them to grow up in. This has surprised me because I would have thought that I’d be much stricter – like my own mother. But the more noise, the more children, the more chaos, the better – I really like it and it’s just so enjoyable! Becoming a mother has given me a new side of myself and when I look at the whole, this is clearly the part of me that I am most proud of. Being a mother brings out the best in me.
Acquired Danish children’s shoe brand
My children have always worn shoes from Petit Nord because their shoes are top quality and offer a fantastic fit. Petit Nord is a 20-eyar-old Danish company that has made sheepskins, knitwear and shoes for children. One day when I was buying some shoes, the shop assistant told me that the company would probably soon be closing. Christian and I saw a business opportunity and I telephoned Jane, the owner, to find out what her plans were. Our children had just turned two and we felt that we were able to breathe again and that we were ready for new challenges. I’d never thought that I’d have anything to do with children’s shoes. But my priorities changed when I became a mother and I thought that it might be exciting to enter the lovely world of children’s fashion.
We allied ourselves with Shirley Bredal, a designer, who already had her own knitwear label. She is super talented and with her onboard we proceeded and ended up buying Petit Nord. We chose to focus on children’s shoes. All our production takes place in Portugal, and I go down there with Shirley and choose the materials, colours and put together the collections. It’s really exciting and Shirley and I complement each other really well.
More Babies Please – a good cause
Before we took on Petit Nord, we knew that there had to be more to it than just running a business and selling shoes. We wanted to give something back. That’s why we developed a donation concept called More Babies Please. Our dream is to help couples who are facing difficulties conceiving. Every time you buy a product from Petit Nord, you support More Babies Please. In Denmark, you are entitled to three courses of fertility treatment paid for the national healthcare service, but if you don’t succeed in getting pregnant in those three goes, you’ll be facing some very big bills. This can be an overriding concern when you’re trying to conceive. More Babies Please was set up to support couples financially and to raise awareness of the major social problem of so many couples having problems conceiving. We know how much trying to get pregnant takes over your life and if we can help just one couple to have a baby, that would be fantastic. That’s also why we support sustainability so much in our production as we know how detrimental to fertility all those chemicals can be.
Top tip for couples trying to conceive
The most important thing is not to stress. But that’s easier said than done – even if the stress is affecting you and your relationship. Try to stay positive and enjoy life as a couple without children. It’ll work out in one way or another.
Top tip for parents of twins
Get help! That’s the best piece of advice I have. Both for the sake of the relationship and family dynamics. If you don’t have the option of help from family and friends or you’re able to pay for it, setting up routines for the babies goes a long way. Sleep-training your children isn’t that popular in Denmark, but it made our lives much easier. Because you know what is supposed to happen when, when they are hungry and when they need to sleep. I’d also advise parents to introduce babies to the bottle early on so that the mother has the opportunity to express her milk and take a break from time to time.’
We’d been together for seven years before we had children and knew each other’s quirks. Having children has made us stronger and brought us closer together. It has also been inhumanly hard sometimes. Especially at night. I think most parents will recognise that. You can become so crazy from the whole thing that you just want to push each other out of the window. You sometimes say things in stressful situations that you then have to apologise for the next day. It’s a phase that you just have to get through and, luckily, things do get better.
We both chose to take a year off to focus on our children. I now see Christian as a superhero because he’s exceeded all the expectations I ever had of him as a father. He is hands-on and takes part in all decisions. We share everything 50/50. Because we’ve worked on this together, we have a shared understanding of what it means when you don’t sleep and feel frustrated.
Top tip for relationships
When you become parents, you often have to set your relationship aside. I think it’s important to remember to nurture each other and to make time for each other. You also have to do that when the children are around and not only when they’re asleep. We believe that it’s important to show our children that mummy and daddy also have needs and they shouldn’t just interrupt if we’re talking to each other. It’s about being together as a family and showing your children that mummy and daddy also have to be present for each other. I’d like to have more children. It’s tempting when you have two such different children. What would the third one be like?
Top tip for buying children’s shoes
I would advise parents to measure their children’s feet regularly. A child’s foot can grow by as much as 5 mm a month. I don’t think that many people know that. Small children cannot feel if they’re wearing shoes that are too small. That’s why it’s important to follow the measuring charts when you’re buying shoes for your child. You don’t want to risk that they’re skating around in their shoes or wearing shoes that pinch. My personal advice would be to go for good-quality shoes and not mass-produced sneakers with poor comfort and fit, especially for very small children. They need a flexible sole and good support around the ankle.
Text Bea Fagerholt Photo Liv Winther.
Meet'n'greetNadia and Christian Dolmark-Drejer are parents of twins Eila and Maddox, aged three. After five years in Dubai, they returned to Denmark four years ago. Together they run children’s shoe brand Petit Nord and the More Babies Please concept whose aim is to help couples with fertility problems.