Being Mama: Elisa Sednaoui Dellal

The Tot talks to social entrepreneur, actress & founder of not-for-profit organization ESF, Elisa Sednaoui Dellal, about Being Mama.


Elisa’s candor and humor in relaying stories such as this one is what makes her such a breath of fresh air amongst today’s often overly moderated mamas.

When she was 15, a doctor told Elisa Sednaoui Dellal that the shape of her ovaries could cause her issues conceiving. So when she and her husband Alex decided that they wanted to have a baby, Elisa met with a gynecologist where she was working in Paris. “In that French, very pragmatic, unimpressed way, she just prescribed some folic acid, or I can’t remember if it was like a French version of Pregnacare, and told me to get on with my business,” recalls Elisa. “I got pregnant literally right after!”

Throughout her pregnancy the social entrepreneur and actress followed the method and diet of Dr. Gowri Motha which is, in essence, the Ayurveda diet – no gluten, no sugar, no raw vegetables, no dairy and very little fruit. “What was most meaningful in Gowri’s approach was that it really promotes the spiritual, emotional, holistic, energetic connection between mother and baby,” says the 28-year-old who gave birth in a private hospital in London with Gowri present.

“I am actually considering home birth if we have another child,” she says. “Even though the hospital was fine, I didn’t like the experience so much. I found the environment, the lighting, sounds, and smells to be a bit aggressive for such a unique and intimate moment. The laughter of the nurses in the corridor, everyone always in a bit of a rush and not taking the time to be gentle, and we could hear the cars outside. I asked to leave a few hours after I gave birth and the moment we entered the house we were living in then was magic.”

Even though the arrival of son Jack Zeitoun (the latter is the name Elisa’s father goes by in Egypt) was almost three years ago, Elisa can remember it like it was yesterday. “I had a very hard time sleeping even if I was terribly exhausted, because I was too excited,” she says. “I couldn’t believe he was finally here. I remember seeing my dad and mom in the same room again after many years … I remember the first time I left Jack to register his birth at City Hall. I was in a type of daze. Getting in the same car and driving on the same roads I had known before didn’t feel the same, my body didn’t feel the same. It was the beginning of the new chapter of my life.”

This new chapter has been one of negotiation for Elisa who not only shot a movie in Rome when Jack was six months old but is also the founder of nonprofit organization ESF which promotes creative learning for children in her hometown of Egypt. “These last two and a half years have been intense to say the least,” she admits. “Truly tuning into my baby’s needs and understanding how I needed to change my life, and accepting that fully, took some time. Now that you’re a mom, and maybe also a wife, you have to face that you just don’t have the same amount of time and energy that you had before. So I had to ask myself: what is most meaningful, what really makes me happy, what is really necessary?”

What makes Elisa happy these days is the quiet, soft, slow moments of life like they cuddle or in the morning when she takes her son to nursery, or when they go to classes such as the cooking one she goes to at Maggie and Rose in London. Elisa and Jack also speak Italian together and have been on lots of adventures including one to Venice when he was three months old.

“Our first pram was the big solid Uppababy, which is definitely great for the baby to chill in, but frankly you should have seen my mom and I carrying it up and down the BRIDGES OF VENICE!” she recalls of a walk around the city which turned into a feat of endurance. “We were laughing like there was no tomorrow going up and down these steps with this ‘regal carriage’, one of us on each side of it, and cursing in Italian at the same time for the weight and effort. I think the best was when we realized that we went down the wrong road and had to go back over a few of the same bridges!”

Elisa’s candor and humor in relaying stories such as this one is what makes her such a breath of fresh air amongst today’s often overly moderated mamas. So how does she deal with the pressure on women these days to ‘do it all’? “Media and society tells us that to be an ‘approved’ or ‘successful’ woman, we need to be the type of mother who completely erases herself for her child, successful in our work and relevant in an extraordinary way to be relevant at all,” she says. “All this whilst being calm, attentive, sexy, passionate but never too aggressive. I think we can only make those lives work if both dad and mommy feel like they are fulfilled and there is a balance.”

Elisa confides that she does have some secret helpers when it comes to maintaining that balance and feeling fully energized. She used lymph draining and massage to restore her body after birth as well as Organic RoseHip oil to avoid stretch marks.

Elisa’s other favorite mama and Tot products include the Gemini baby Carrier, Al Thir the Camel, Dr Browns Deluxe Bottle Warmer and organic pre-natal vitamins by She loves the children’s fashion labels Margherita Kids, Caramel and Baby, Marie Chantal, La Coqueta, i Piccolini and Icelandic brands Iglo and Indi et 66o North. “I also bought a lot of items from the New Zealand brand Nui Organics,” she says. “The warm organic merino wool sleeping bags I found to be very good.”

So what has this mom who describes her family as “genuine, temperamental and funny” learnt from the other wonderful mothers in her life? “My friend Julie Vilmont told me when your child is doing something he shouldn’t be doing, ask what he thinks of his behavior. Is that a good behavior? It’s a calm, ‘non-aggressive’ approach, and it really works to make him more aware,” she says.

And what about the women and mothers she meets through her foundation in Egypt? “From those women I have learnt a simpler, more instinctive, more matter-of-fact and confident approach to motherhood and family,” she says. “Making sure that the household is happy is their mission. And from the children in our programs … that their hearts are so open. They are so endearing. We wish to see them flourish as active and happy members of their communities, who respectfully embrace differences and will be able to work to achieve their dreams.”