Laetitia left Switzerland in search of a better life and traveled in Asia for 2 years. An adventure that literally changed her life. In Thailand, she meets Bell, who is now her husband and the father of her two children Lanna 2.5 years and Siam 16 months. Laetitia shares with us, in all transparency, about her pregnancies, her deliveries, and her life as a mother with children who are very close in age (only 17 months apart). A different family configuration, which requires courage, organization, patience, and above all, the ability to let go.
LaetitiaLaetitia, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am 38 years old. I was born and raised in Geneva. After studying psychology, I worked for 8 years in HR. After several unsuccessful experiences and a need to change my life (I was ending a 13-year-old relationship), I decided to drop everything and go to India for 3 months. This trip literally changed my life and marked the beginning of my professional reconversion but, my quest for well-being being far from over, I left for Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand where I met Bell who is today my husband and the father of my children. These different journeys (2 years in total) confirmed to me that I was destined to accompany others by using my hands and my heart. So I practiced different holistic therapies such as reflexology, reiki, and aromatherapy. I finally opened my own center.
In which countries did you spend your pregnancies and where did you give birth?
For Lanna, in Thailand but we returned to Switzerland a few weeks before the birth. For Siam in Switzerland from beginning to end.
How was your pregnancy in Thailand?
Pretty good with sunshine, nature, food and my family-in-law, who took good care of me. I have to say, it's not a myth, there is no stress in Thailand, which was a real treat on a daily basis. But I still decided to return to Switzerland to give birth because the cultural differences in maternity were not easy for me to deal with.
And how was your experience with childbirth?
Very bad for Lanna but fortunately much better for Siam. For Lanna, we came back from Thailand on purpose and thought it would be safer to give birth in Switzerland but in the end it was a disaster. I had very strong and close contractions around 5pm that day. We arrived at the HUG at 8pm, Lanna arrived at 11.45am the next day... When I was ready to give birth, there was no vacant delivery room. Plus, the treatment for the epidural was endless. In addition, they waited too long before taking her out, even though they had already been thinking about a caesarean almost from the beginning. For my part, I felt that it wasn't right but nobody was listening to me, it was awful. It was as if I was watching my own delivery. They reacted when they realized I was suffering from sepsis and that my vital prognosis was at stake. I really think my body spoke for me at that moment. So I had an emergency C-section and then a pre-eclampsia! I was in the maternity ward for almost 2 weeks. I really wasn't ready for that. For Siam, I was so apprehensive about giving birth that we scheduled the C-section.
Your children are (only) 17 months apart, how do you feel today?
I am exhausted. Lanna has always been very sensitive and cried non-stop from birth until she was 5 months old. I think the birth was as traumatic for her as it was for me. When she was 8 months old, I got pregnant with Siam. This second pregnancy was absolutely unplanned.
What was your first reaction? And the father's?
I cried. I was just starting to recover. I wondered how I was going to handle another pregnancy and Lanna was just starting to walk, how I was going to handle a new baby when Lanna was still so little! For Bell too, it was a hard, but it was easier for him to accept. To be honest, the first days were really hard emotionally, but the instinct and maternal love for this future little baby took over very quickly.
Did Lanna understand that she was gonna have a little brother?
She understood that something was going on. I bought her a doll to explain it to her. I stayed 5 days in the maternity ward when her little brother was born and I think she experienced it as abandonment. Back home, she didn't understand that the baby was going to stay with us. Very quickly, she tried to hurt him. I was desperate. As a result, Bell took care of Lanna and I took care of Siam, and she developed a very close bond with her father. She was rejecting me. It was very difficult for me. I felt a lot of guilt. I felt like I had Siam and lost Lanna. But I continued to give her a lot of attention and love and to play while carrying Siam in a carrier.
Now that Siam is 16 months old, are things better?
It's better, but Lanna clearly has a preference for her daddy. When we're the two of us it's fine, but as soon as Bell is around, she only has eyes for him. I've had to learn to accept that she only comes to me when she decides to. She sometimes says to me: "You're Siam's mom".
Does she still fight with her brother?
Much less, but yes. For Lanna, her little brother represents the person who "stole" her mom. As much as she wants to do everything with him, hug him and protect him, she sees him as a danger. Pretty soon, I realized we'd need help from someone else. There's a special service at the HUG called " Child Guidance Unit ". They have assigned us a child psychologist that we go to see on a regular basis as a family, all four of us. On our side, at home, we try to do everything we can to reassure them, explain to them and give them as much love to one and to the other. We hope that when they grow up it will get better.
How are your nights, do you manage to get some sleep?
There are none (smiles) or when there are they are very short. Both Lanna and Siam wake up a lot at night, so we sleep all four together. I was too exhausted to fight trying to get them to sleep in their own bed. I reassured myself by telling myself that Bell slept with his mother until he was 15 (laughs). That's quite common in Thailand. He didn't become troubled or unbalanced because of it. Sometimes I don't understand why people are so concerned about children sleeping alone from the moment they are born. It is certainly not ideal in the eyes of others or society, but for us, it is fine like that.
You and Bell are both self-employed. Is that an advantage in everyday life? How do you plan your day?
It's the lifestyle we chose and it's clearly an advantage for us. I couldn't see myself putting my children in daycare 100% (we didn't get a spot anyway). We prefer to have a lower standard of living, to earn less but to be a maximum with the kids. As a result, we take turns to look after them. Sunday is the only day for the 4 of us. Lanna will start kindergarten in September (3h/day) in order to have a little more social contact. Ideally, it would be nice if they both went to the crèche the next school year if we get a spot.
What sorts of activities do you do with the children?
We go outside to play as much as possible. The biggest disadvantage of children who are close together is that they don't have the same rhythm! It's difficult to make them nap at the same time, they can't play the same games even though Siam would like to do everything like her big sister. In other words, it's challenging (smile).
In all this, do you manage to take some time for yourself?
Time for me... what does it mean (smile)? When you try to take a bath and every two minutes one of the three comes to the bathroom for whatever reason, you end up taking a shower and tell yourself that it's better like that (laughs).
Looking back, what do you think about having children so close together in age? Would you do it all over again?
We're not going to lie, it's very difficult. After all, it all depends on each person's circumstances. If you have help from your family, a place in a crèche and the means, that's fine. We don't, but I wouldn't want another life for anything in the world. I love it even if I feel physically drained sometimes (smile).
If you had to define motherhood in one word?
A cataclysm in the good and the bad. You can prepare yourself to be a mother as much as you want, but you'll never be ready.
What has motherhood brought you?
I am able to test my limits. Motherhood has brought out both my brightest and my deepest parts. But I'm so proud to say I created and gave life.
What values do you want to pass on to your children?
Freedom, tolerance and kindness.
Laetita, what can we wish you the best for today and tomorrow?
Honestly, may my life continue as it has always been, full of beautiful adventures, but with a little more stability both from a material and emotional point of view.