Rillo Schwartz on staying calm, no matter what
Rillo Schwartz first became a mother at a time when her boyfriend, Lukas Forchhammer, was taking over the world with his band. Here she talks about maintaining calm wherever she is on the planet – and not least concerning her impending due date.
“My interest in living more holistically started when I was pregnant with Viola. I met Krista Bella, a private midwife, early on in my pregnancy. I was standing in a queue at a café and she looked down at my belly and congratulated me. I was pretty taken aback, but she told me that she had seen Lukas and I walk around with a yellow pregnancy journal. We hadn’t even considered that people would put two and two together. We had been going out for three years when I fell pregnant. He travelled a lot and we saw each other whenever we could. We lived together with two friends, Muffe and Sigurd, who were doulas at Viola’s birth.”
Five weeks after Viola was born, the family set off on the first leg of Lukas Graham’s US tour. “We came home for Christmas and then left again for the second part of the tour, the Grammys and a subsequent European tour. It was intense. That was my overriding impression of becoming mother and being on a tour bus with 25 others. The day-to-day was scheduled to a fault, and we visited a new city almost every day. We came home to Denmark when Viola was around seven months old. I was done travelling, but Lukas had to commute back and forth.” After Viola starts at day care and Lukas continues to have a fully booked calendar, family life switches between Denmark and abroad. “A third of the time was spent home alone without Lukas, a third travelling together, and the remaining time we were all at home. But, logistically, I’ve been a semi single mum for long periods of time. I have my own routines when it’s just us and I love that too. But to imagine being completely on my own… I take my hat off to single parents.”
The many trips continue, but it works for them as a family and the starting point is now Denmark. Viola has started at the local nursery and her teachers fast become good sparring partners for Rillo. “We’ve been in close contact with the fantastic teachers at Viola’s nursery. On their recommendation, we have made sure that Viola is always in the same place for a minimum of six weeks. She’s signed up to a crèche in Los Angeles which she returns to when we’re there, in the same group and with the same children. In the autumn of 2019, it was the fourth time we lived there. Fortunately, Viola is good at dealing with change and I’m good at making her comfortable, no matter where in the world we are. We try to make travelling a fun thing. When arrive at a new place, we go to a café; I get coffee and she gets a babyccino. She sleeps in our bed at night, whether we’re travelling or not, so it’s the same every night, no matter where we are. I’ve spent a fair amount of time googling how best to make sure children thrive in changing environments. At times, it’s been an uphill struggle to make sure she always feels safe wherever we are, but I also wouldn’t hesitate to fly home earlier if I sensed she wasn’t happy. The last time we were away I was close to taking her out of her American nursery school because it took her a lot longer to adjust than I thought was okay. But all of a sudden, she felt safe and happy there.”
Their bedroom is on the top floor of their house, with large skylights and a huge bed that clearly shows they sleep together as a family. It’s difficult to see exactly how many beds have been put together to make it. “I really hope that Viola will continue to want to sleep with us after Billie’s birth. Having said that, it’s not so great if the baby wakes her at night too. We’ll just have to see how it goes. We weigh in on things quite often. Asking each other questions like, ‘How do you think it’s going?’ We call it a performance review, like the ones you have at work. We all know of relationships where one person leaves suddenly and the other is left thinking, ‘What happened there?’ It should be okay to talk openly about having periods of conflict and how to get back on track. If we have a disagreement we can’t resolve, we actively try to break the circle. One of us usually goes for a walk. Then we both write down what the other has done to hurt us, or if something is difficult to understand. I’ve also learned to say that I need a little time to think if I don’t have the right answer on hand. I’ve read a lot of self-help books as I’ve been bad at dealing with conflict. It feels good to get older and realise that nothing good will come of certain situations. Lukas has also taught me a lot thanks to his openness and hippie upbringing.”
The dream is now
“I think one of the things that I appreciate most is that I have so much love around me and that we have a good relationship.” As our chat falls on aspirations and future dreams, things become quiet. “I’ve been thinking about the future recently. I also talked to Lukas about it. I actually don’t have any clear-cut dreams or goals for the future. I have before, and I know that many people do too, and that goals can be a really good thing. It was a revelation for me to discover that I am actually just really happy to be right where I am in life right now. Lukas was born at home, and so are almost all of his childhood friends from Christiania. It made me consider a home birth with Viola. I wasn’t afraid to give birth at all, and Krista, who I met five times during my pregnancy, played a big role in my mental preparation – especially because Luke was gone seven out of the nine months. I also went to a pain-free childbirth class and learned about the three different stages of labour, which helped me a lot during the actual birth.
I went into labour a few days before Christiania’s birthday celebrations, a busy time with lots of small parties and gatherings. I remember sitting on the sofa and thinking that I wet myself. At the same time, Lukas was telling me he wanted to go out for some beers in Christiania. I got annoyed with him but didn’t want him to stay home just because I had to. When I realised my waters had broken, the mood changed and we called Krista. She said I should try to have a nap and call her again later. I remember saying to her that I didn’t think that was going to happen. Immediately after, I started having contractions, one after the other. It was late evening and Lukas wrote to our friends Muffe and Sigurd, who we wanted to be present at the birth, to let them know what was going on. Sigurd was at a wedding and when he saw the message, he came over right away. I stood looking at him with tears in my eyes, asking if he was drunk as usual, haha! I knew that the latent phase was followed by pushing and delivering the baby, where many women hit a wall. Just at that point I remember saying that I thought it was really intense. Had I been at the hospital, I probably would have opted for pain relief, but that’s not possible during a home birth.
Viola was born at 6 am after an intense, seven-hour labour. I skipped the so-called Netflix phase and went straight into active labour. Luckily, I was in total control thanks to the breathing techniques I learned, but I also felt safe and comfortable at home and at no point did I have to take people I didn’t know into consideration.”
The first guests arrived at 8 o’clock in the morning. “I was laid up on the sofa, wearing Lukas’ underpants and a big hoodie. Each day, Luke lined up four glasses containing various homeopathic cell salts, as well as litres of nettle, raspberry and marigold tea and beetroot juice and herbal blood. I was fine with having visitors, but when Lukas’ sister came the same day I had given birth and took Viola out into the kitchen, I had to call out to her, ‘You’re welcome to sit and talk in the kitchen, but come back with my baby!’
This time round, I’ve discovered that I’m anaemic. Despite increasing my intake of daily supplements, I’ve become more and more dizzy. Anaemia affects the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body, in turn causing a low red blood count. The midwives and doctors I’ve seen think it’s a bad idea to have a home birth. I don’t want to go against their advice so I’m planning a hospital birth. Krista is supposed be there but because of the coronavirus, I’m only allowed to take one person with me so, unfortunately, it will be without her this time. Knowing your midwife beforehand is otherwise fantastic.”
Three become four
In a few weeks’ time there will be a new reality in their house in Christianshavn when they welcome another little girl to the family. “I hope that I’m equipped to deal with the new addition to our family; that I can maintain the peace and energy I feel I have the way our life looks now. My worst nightmare is that I’m not as attentive as a mother, or if our new child doesn’t thrive because of the life we lead.
Lukas had the idea of living with my parents when he heard that the house in Christianshavn was for sale. I thought about it for a few days, and then we talked to my parents about it. They have lived in the same house in Gentofte for 30 years, but they went to see the house and soon after we all agreed that they should move into the city. It’s great having my parents so close, especially now during the coronavirus pandemic and lock down. I haven’t always had the best relationship with them, so it’s a gift to have the opportunity to make good on that now. Viola can walk over to them whenever she wants, and we wave to them in the morning when we’re on our way to nursery school.
For the most part, though, it’s just us and we see them at weekends. Muffe, who was present at Viola’s birth, lives here with his girlfriend and their child too. We have our own apartments, but there is also a sense of community; that we are a little village. If it was up to Lukas, it would probably be more like a housing collective, but I wouldn’t be able to share a kitchen with others. It is nice to live with others, but I’m also quite sensitive and need to be able to completely shut off from people.”
“Right now, it’s not much fun being me. I’m due in a few weeks and have symptoms of Covid-19. I’ve become progressively sick over the past 12 days, with respiratory problems that got so bad I had to go to hospital. I turned up at a secluded area of the hospital where a man stood in a car park and shone a torch into the car and told me to go into Room F and put on a face mask. After the examination, I was asked to go home and wait to see if I got better. Fortunately, I did after a few days.
As a pregnant woman, it’s about trying to remain as calm as possible – which is insanely difficult; I know that all too well. My worst fear, after all, is that Lukas won’t be able to be there for the birth, and that I’ll be on the maternity ward with nurses and midwives dressed in space suits and masks. Luckily, I’ve been serious about social distancing and have stayed home. Even before I had symptoms, I didn’t even go to the local bakery and have kept Viola out of day care since before the lockdown came into force. It’s mostly at night that I get scared: ‘What if I give birth prematurely?’ Billie is still in breech position too. Everything just seems more complicated right now. And what if Lukas gets sick and can’t come to the birth?”
Rillo’s focus remains on having a good labour. “Krista is on standby should Lukas become ill. I’ve started packing my hospital bag and writing down my birth plan for the midwife. I haven’t given birth in a hospital before, so I think it’s good to write a little bit about who I am. I think the first thing should be: ‘My name is Rillo. Call me Marie-Louise and I’ll throw you out of the room!”
Once she has given birth, the plan is to return home to the shelter of their little village. “Fortunately, we’re forced to go home and be in synergy with one another, without any visits. That, I think, will be a huge gift for Viola. She can get used to her little sister and not have to worry about guests or having to attend nursery school. I think the universe is trying to tell us something with this coronavirus outbreak.”
Words & photos Liv Winther For To The Moon Honey