Pernille Teisbæk – On balancing family and career
Pernille Teisbaek, 34 years, on juggling family life, career, motherhood and being pregnant for the second time. We meet Pernille early one October morning in the couple’s house in Frederiksberg just a couple of weeks before the birth of her second son.
Pernille opens the door at 8 o’clock sharp. We have an hour to shoot the photos and conduct an interview before Pernille has to drop off her son Billy at nursery. She makes coffee and sits down on the sofa with Billy singing ”Heads, shoulders, knees and toes”, ready for the photos. Pernille chats in between the photos while Billy crawls up and down the sofa. She knows exactly when to look at the camera. 20 minutes later she makes herself comfortable in her lambskin-covered Flagline chair by Wegner. She asks if we have managed to get the photos we need and pulls off her large wolly jumper, nice and toasty and ready for the interview.
”I can feel the need to nest, I didn’t have that opportunity when I was expecting Billy because we lived in a hotel or in our summer cottage while the house was done up. There is no need for me to look made up this time, it just has to practical! I remember how I ran about with Billy in the heavy cot part of the pram or in a coloured wicker basket – it was very pretty, but incredibly impratical.” Pernille laughs and adds: ”The amount of times you make it difficult for yourself! This time I have bought the same carrycot from Pif Paf Puf which I ended up borrowing from my sister-in-law. My husband and I found out that I was pregnant when we were at the Design Week in Milan in April. I was super tired and a little cranky so we took a test, and it was quite a surprise when it came out positive to say the least! I like being in control, but that’s what happens when you are only using an app as birth control (laughs). We felt that we had just re-claimed our lives again – at the same time it’s wonderful to know that we don’t have to struggle to get pregnant. It wasn’t planned, but we are going to make it work.”
I have been feeling really poorly during this pregnancy and have had a craving for completely different things – I have been much more into fresh vegetables and eggs which I couldn’t eat at all the first time round. I have been prepared for the changes in my body and I have thought more about comfort this time. My friend and business partner, Hannah (Loeffler, ed.) is back to normal after having had her baby, and that has made me think ” Oh no, I must be horrible to be around” – I can be a bit grumpy at times. My husband Philip is very good at telling me to relax – and that is not only when I am pregnant.” Pernille smiles and looks over at Billy who is in the process of emptying the bookcase of books and games.
“Generally, I have felt really hot during my pregnancies so I tend to wear t-shirts and shirts, it all has to be light and loose. My uniform has been leggings, knits and heels. My leggings are from WARDROBE.NYC, and I like the matte version, but you can also find good ones in H&M and Stræk & Bøj. I have also liked to wear large Levi’s Vintage jeans which I have taken in through the legs.
Before knowing the sex of the baby I was convinced it was a girl so it came as a complete surprise to hear it was a boy! I was, of course, relieved that he was fine and all was well, but to be honest it would have been fun to have had a girl. I am pleased for Billy that he is going to have a brother who can be his best friend because I had that myself. A sibling is the greatest gift you can give your child.
I was in labour for 46.5 hours before Billy was born and he came out face up. So it was a rough birth. It was only after my water broke that they could see how the head was placed, and then we started doing Rebozo exercises for hours. The second stage of labour when I was ready to push was really long, but I was determined that I could get him out myself and I was only a few moments away from a ventouse or c-section delivery, but it worked. The midwife said that I had one more push to go and yes – he bloody well came out!”
”This time we have contacted Mamprofylax who offers antenatal courses. I would like to have a water birth and we have bought some candles with an artificial flame and made a playlist of soothing music. That’s the dream scenario, but I am conscious that the birth can develop in many directions. I have a different awareness of what will happen – and that is both good and bad. I am not afraid of the pain, only how long it will last and I am open to having an epidural once more.
“The start with Billy was marked by him having reflux. It means that the closing mechanism in the stomach has not been properly developed so every time you put your baby down, the milk runs back up like a constant heartburn, and he cried a lot. Our own doctor just said, ’young babies cry’. I remember how he posseted all over and we changed his outfits five times a day – there was posset everywhere. He only learned to lie in his pram when he was 6 months old, so it was a turbulent start for us having a baby who didn’t sleep and would only sit in his baby sling. We stayed at a private childbirth hotel for three days after the birth, and after two months I contacted them again to ask if all this was normal. They looked at him and noticed that he was red all the way up to his eyes. The childbirth hotel referred us to an excellent doctor, Verner Petersen from Taarbaek, who is a specialist in reflux. Subsequently, we chose to medicate Billy and it worked. Babies with reflux need extra attention because they have been in pain from such an early age. It makes them feel insecure when they need to sleep, be alone or just lying on a play mat. That has possibly affected me as a mother and I don’t mind admitting that I still get up in the night to check if he is breathing. I had hoped I would have been able to put the worry behind me.
A new beginning
I would have liked to have had the opportunity to give myself the first 3 months without having to work – but I have arrived at this situation a little sooner than expected. Luckily, I am privileged in that I can work from home and noone expects me in the office at a particular time. Of course, it’s a distractive element that I have to work during the first months, but that is a part of our reality – when you run your own company you are your own worst employer and I ask a lot of myself. Philip will be taking Billy to nursery in the mornings. In an ideal world I will go to the office at the same time with the new baby. I hated coming into the office with Billy when he was a baby, because we were like sardines in a tin and I couldn’t breastfeed in peace, so that wasn’t ideal. Consequently, I have spent some time creating a framework which will work better for us all. I have now got my own office, which I have tried to make comfortable with a sofa and stuff from our home, where I can breastfeed and nurse in peace. I also know now that the first 3-4 months are easier and then it starts to become properly demanding. The fact that Hannah (Loeffler, co-owner of Social Zoo, ed.) also has a baby provides 100% understanding. That we are both in the middle of it all results in a mutual accept of what is possible and that means an awful lot.
”In the time Philip and I have know each other, I have been pregnant for longer than not. It’s only now I have realised how important the person you decide to have baby with is. It’s massively overwhelming to have a baby both emotionally and for your relationship. I feel that I have found the best partner for this. We are a team and we are on a joint mission. However, it has also been a challenge and because we became parents so early on in our relationship it has been important to us to have time on our own, not to be just be mum and dad. I am still in complete awe when I see what a good dad Philip is. He is totally committed to being a father, he is not the type who comes home late at night and goes off on holidays with his mates, his priority is being together with his child and me.”
Before you become a parent, I think, you have to prepare yourself for a completely different life. To me, it has both been a lot more demanding than I expected, but also so much more rewarding. This explains why you are able to even consider having another baby after the first one. Otherwise, you would think it was completely suicidal to have children so close to one another.
It’s incredibly hard to be away, and I believe it’s even tougher on me than it is on Billy. He hasn’t really got a sense of time yet, so it’s me who suffers the most during the times when I have to be away. The first time I was away from Billy for a week, I came back and then Philip had to leave two days later on a business trip to New York. That affected Billy a great deal. Philip came home after six days, and it was visible to see how Billy then relaxed and became himself again. From that we learnt that our trips have to timed and must not be on top of each other. Luckily, we have become better at it along the way. We Facetime and Billy kisses the phone and thinks it’s fun, but he doesn’t really understand. It has come as a complete revelation to me that whereever I am in the world, Billy is right at the centre, he is my lodestar. Whether I am at a Cartier dinner or a show in New York, I know precisely where Billy is in his daily routine.
The combination of too little sleep and a bad conscience is pretty tough. I have to prioritise all the time. I constantly struggle with a bad conscience when I am travelling. When I am at home and not working, I also have a bad conscience – it’s a self-destructive feeling which is of no use to anyone. I am desperately trying to find a balance, and when I work out the recipe I will share it with you! When I was away from Billy for a week, I had to think ’ there’s nothing wrong with being away. He is having a party being with his dad.’ I went to see a reflexologist who said that if I were to keep the rhythm in my career, I had to get some proper helpers in my life. We are privileged and are able to have help in the house, so we don’t have to spend time on much of the practical stuff when we are together with Billy. Our parents are also happy to help whenever we need it.
I am good at taking care of myself. It’s a priority of mine to have massages, cranial osteopathy treatments, and to have my nails done – I book a new appointment whenever I finish one. I know how much it adds in the long run. I have massages at Naturlig Smuk on Frederiksberg Allé, and she does a fantastic pregnancy massage too.
Instagram are the superficial moments from my life, and I am probably more of a lion-mum than I show. Sometimes it’s almost too much because it makes it difficult for my parents-in-law and my mother to get involved. I have been really stubborn in insisting that Billy’s routines are kept, they can be anything from bedtime to his diet, and I prefer that they carry on when I am not there, because I know that Billy thrives on routines.”
From the time I pick up Billy from nursery about 3 pm until he goes to sleep I use my phone very little, but if something comes up I have to deal with I’ll do it. I would rather he is together with me even if I have to write a quick mail than he has to stay longer at the nursery. When he is asleep I will work again. To me Instagram is a work tool, and of course it’s also nice to be able to see what’s going on in my friends’ lives.
I moved away from home when I was very young because my mum moved in with her new husband who also had children. I had been used to it being just me, my mum and my brother. At the time, my brother was sailing across the Atlantic so I was alone, and I also didn’t feel particularly welcome in the new household. The fact that I had to fend for myself from quite an early age has probably toughened me up. I am not afraid of taking on new challenges and I am not scared of the unknown. I stopped studying dentistry to follow my dream of working in the fashion industry. I have taken a lot of chances in my career, gone from one magazine to another, and have started up my own business. That has created some challenges, and I have always been a worrier: would I meet the the right man and would I have the children I wished for? And would I be able to have children?” Pernille caresses her pregnant tummy and looks at Billy. ”If I were to say something to myself as a teenager, I would probably tell myself that everything is going to work out OK and I shouldn’t be so worried about the future.”
Original text Bea Fagerholt Photo Liv Winther. To The Moon, Honey
Translated by Anne Wilson