Elsa, co-founder of MotherStories

For the past 4 years, Elsa has been unearthing unique and inspiring stories of mothers, describing them in her own unique way and illustrating them with beautiful photos. But do you really know who's behind that keyboard and camera? Today, we'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the woman behind MotherStories. She, in turn, deserves to be in the spotlight and have her own story. Discover Elsa's interview as seen through Natalie's eyes.

Elsa drinking her tea

Elsa, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I'm a typical Genevan melting pot: a half-Turkish/half-Swiss father, a half-Italian/half-English mother. At the age of 8, my parents divorced and I lived most of the time with my mother and grandmother, who have certainly been my greatest sources of inspiration. Thanks to them, I developed an aesthetic sense at a very early age, which naturally led me to follow an artistic path. At 16, I began studying graphic design at the Ecole des Arts-Appliqués before specializing in Marketing & Communication at SAWI in Lausanne. At 21, I met my future husband and found my first job as a graphic designer, before moving into the world of advertising as an Art Director. I was lucky enough to work on many exciting projects, but after 6 years at a frenetic pace (those who have been in agencies will understand), the desire to create my own project began to germinate until the day I decided to take the plunge.

Why MotherStories?
I wanted to become a mother, so I became interested in everything to do with motherhood. I was surprised at how difficult it was to find answers to my questions, despite the multitude of content on the subject that was either poorly written, poorly explained or poorly presented. My feelings were confirmed after a trip to visit my best friend in London, who had just given birth. Over there, the spirit of community and mutual aid is very strong. Everything is designed and created so that mothers can connect with each other. It's a very "women's empowerment" mindset that's present in Anglo-Saxon countries, which inspired me and made me want to instill it here. From there, the project became clear. I was going to create a community for moms, imagined by moms who had in common the desire to meet, exchange and share their experience of motherhood in a spirit of kindness.

Why the name?
Putting the spotlight on motherhood was the starting point. After putting several variants to paper, the simplest was the best: Histoires de Mères. After that, let's be honest, in English it peps up more (smile).

What's the most frequently asked question?
Why do a project for moms when you're not one yourself?

And what's your answer?
MotherStories is not exclusively dedicated to pregnant women or new mothers. MotherStories is also for women who want to have a baby, or for those who already have older children but have advice to give or an experience to share.

How does it feel to be exposed to such personal life stories?
I'm deeply moved by all the extraordinary women I've met through the MotherStories adventure. Women who, in all transparency, have had the courage to share a chapter of their intimate lives. I'm extremely grateful to them for trusting me. Each story is unique, but together they bring other women together, enabling them to identify and move forward. These testimonies have a powerful impact on community members and an almost therapeutic benefit.

What were the highlights of MotherStories?
There are many, but I'll mention two.

The first was about Lily, an adorable little girl who was suffering from a very serious cancer, and whose wonder-mother Judy I had interviewed. Then the idea came to me to organize an event to raise funds to help parents with the many costs of caring for her. This special day was held at Studio Soham, with an on-site brunch and activities for the children. It was wonderful to see so many people come together for the same cause. Our sole aim was to make a little girl forget her illness for a day. I was very touched and touched by this solidarity. And the good news is that Lily is now in complete remission.

The second was Natalie's arrival on the MotherStories project. I didn't think I'd be able to delegate and let go of my baby so easily to another person, but after 1 year of collaboration, I can confirm that it was by far the best decision. It's not a myth: two people are stronger, and above all we move faster! Natalie and I complement each other, which has given the project a new vision and, above all, a new energy. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank her and tell her how much I enjoy sharing MotherStories with her.

As a couple, were you on the same wavelength when it came to having a baby?
Looking back, I have to admit that there was a time when you weren't. I'm sure you were.

In 2015, I stopped my pill very excited at the idea of getting pregnant but 1 year later, still nothing. Worried (by nature), I wanted to investigate. First discrepancy. In my husband's eyes, we had to let nature take its course and give ourselves time.

I decided to have my tubes checked for blockages, but nothing came of it. The fertility specialist then told me that the next step would be a spermogram. Second disagreement: he didn't want to hear about it at that stage.

Frustration and incomprehension began to set in on my side. I couldn't understand why he wasn't as eager to become a parent as I was. He, on the other hand, blamed me for putting too much pressure on us, with the result that our intimate relationships had become programmed and mechanical.

We just weren't ready at the same time, and yet that's the key...

But not only?
Not only (smile). A few months ago, I was diagnosed with stage 2 endometriosis. I went for medical advice because I was starting to feel more and more pain as my ovulation and periods approached. Cramps, permanent lower back pain, pain during intercourse and, above all, terrible mood swings (doubts, anxiety, crying...). I'm an enthusiastic and positive person by nature, but I couldn't understand what was happening to me. My specialist clearly told me that this was why I hadn't become pregnant until now.

What treatment did he suggest?
To get pregnant today, I'd have to go through an insemination or IVF protocol. This would mean continuing to have pain every month until a pregnancy is confirmed. No more pain (in theory) for the next 9 months, because there's no more menstruation. A few months after giving birth, I could go back on the pill continuously to fight the pain and prevent the disease from getting worse, because with each new cycle, the endometriosis gets a little deeper.

How do you feel about motherhood today?
After years of chasing after it, I've decided today not to resign myself to it, but simply to let things happen naturally. After all, having lived the lives of hundreds of mothers by proxy, I'm not really sure I want a child of my own any more (laughs). Today, I feel fulfilled in my life and in my relationship. I've found a balance that I'm not ready to upset just yet. But above all, I appreciate my freedom. A freedom accentuated by the fact that I'm self-employed.

What advice would you give to a woman trying to get pregnant?
When it comes to motherhood, everyone has an opinion and they're not shy about it. The number of times I've been told: "Just let go, it'll happen". At that moment, all you want to do is beat the shit out of them (laughs). So rather than advice, I'd tell her to listen to herself and trust herself. It's a bit clichéd, but it's the only really winning combination.

An inspirational woman?
My maternal grandmother. A unique woman, beautiful, generous and resolutely modern for her time!

What do you like to do to recharge your batteries alone and as a couple?
Being alone at home (smile). I'm very sociable, but I can also spend hours at home doing and undoing the decor, moving objects and furniture around. My Home Sweet Home is like me and reassures me. Otherwise, I love reading, photography, eating well and massages! If I'm feeling a bit down, I'll book a 30-minute Thai foot or back massage, and it'll give me a boost. As a couple, I'd say a city break really is the best anti-routine remedy.

What has MotherStories brought you?
So many things! Above all, the human dimension. Over the past 4 years, I've met some fantastic people on a daily basis, be they mothers, midwives, gynecologists, teachers, coaches - the list goes on and on. But also the entrepreneurial aspect. I started from 0, without knowing where or what to begin. I learned more in 4 years than anywhere else. Today, I have a lot more self-confidence and feel capable of lifting mountains (smile).

Elsa, what can we wish you today for tomorrow?
May the MotherStories adventure continue unabated. We're currently working on a number of new projects, including a new service that we'll be previewing for the lucky ladies attending MothersNight on 12.03 at Herstreet (more info here). We're looking forward to it.