Q&A with Georgie Abay of The Grace Tales
The GRACE Tales Founder and former Deputy Editor of VOGUE Australia, Georgie Abay, talks life after two premature births, surviving her postpartum hemorrhage and why she will never compare herself to others.
Q: What were your pregnancies like and how did they differ from each other?
A: Um, how long do you have? My first pregnancy was really exciting. We did the whole colored cake cutting thing to find out the sex of the baby. My mom found out we were having a girl and then made a cake, which was pink inside. When we cut the cake together, we discovered we were having a girl. My gosh, it feels like so long ago! It was a really special moment (I’m a girly girl and really wanted a girl!). At the time, I was working at VOGUE Australia magazine as the deputy editor. I worked my entire pregnancy and then in my 34th week, I woke up and said to my husband, “something isn’t right. This baby is going to come today.” I just knew. I could feel how engaged she was. I was due to have a scan that morning and the nurse immediately picked up that I was going into labor. I went to the hospital and had steroid shots (they help the baby’s lungs and heart to develop quickly and you’ll be given them if you’re at risk of a premature labor). I was put on bed rest and sent home. A long story short, I went into labor that day and my daughter, Arabella, was born at 34 weeks. My second daughter, Lottie, was also premature. However, I went into labor at 23 weeks and was put on bed rest. I managed to hold her in until 33 weeks. Both girls spent time in the special care unit at the hospital and I’ll be forever grateful to the nurses who cared for our girls. They really are saints.
Q: Did you face any issues or challenges with any of your pregnancies? If so, how did you overcome them?
A: Having two premature labors was without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I get teary just thinking back to that time. Lottie’s birth was even more challenging. When she was six weeks old, I started hemorrhaging. I was in bed breastfeeding and it felt like my waters were breaking. I looked down and realized it was blood. I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and needed five blood transfusions. I remember lying in the emergency ward getting blood transfusions while simultaneously pumping milk. It’s crazy how something so terrifying can become your reality. You have no choice but to just deal with it and make the best of your situation. I was in and out of the hospital for a week and then had a curette which removed the leftover placenta which was causing the hemorrhaging.
Q: What were your children’s birth like? Did you follow a birth plan?
A: As I mentioned earlier, very unplanned. I didn’t have a birth plan. I don’t believe you can follow a birth plan and all that matters is that you have a healthy baby at the end of it. I had an epidural with Arabella and no drugs with Lottie. I had an amazing midwife with Lottie who talked me through what was happening and massaged me through the contractions. The recovery was a lot easier after Lottie – I didn’t even tear and I loved that I could get up straight away and go and see her in the special care unit. (I remember sitting there numb after Arabella waiting for the epidural to wear off). However your birth pans out, I think mothers should just feel so proud of themselves for creating a little human – I mean how extraordinary is that?!
Q: Did you attend any labor coaching/birthing classes?
A: We attended a two-day calm birth course and I went into labor the following day. It was a great course, but there was a lot of focus on having to instantly bond with your baby post-birth. A lot of talk about how your baby must latch straight away or you wouldn’t bond. I didn’t have that opportunity as they were premature and I can happily say I am very bonded to both my babies! Don’t listen to everything you hear – we’ve all got our own unique journey and no matter how it begins, you’ll work it all out.
Q: Were you particularly conscious of nutrition and fitness during your pregnancies? If so, how?
A: I did pregnancy yoga with my first and ate what I liked (this included big bowls of oranges, lots of steaks, quiche, milkshakes and other weird cravings). I’m a bit of a sugar addict and loved eating caramel slices! With Lottie, since I was on bed rest for most of the pregnancy, I couldn’t exercise, which was okay because I take things very slowly when I’m pregnant. You just need to do what feels right for your own body.
Q: Talk us through a typical day in your life.
A: Since I run my own business there’s not really a typical day. The girls are at preschool Monday-Wednesday so those are my ‘official’ workdays where I plough through as much as I possibly can. I’ll often get up around 5.30am and do an hour’s work before the day begins. It’s the most productive time of the day for me – I turn my email off and focus on something else. My husband always talks about not being a slave to your email and I find that past 9am it’s hard to juggle the incoming emails with other work that needs to be done. Everyone seems to want a response instantly these days!
We have a fantastic German au pair who helps me with the pick-ups and drop offs on those days. The girls get home at 5pm then it’s straight into dinner, bath, books and bed. My husband makes our dinner (he’s good at cooking and I’m good at cleaning!). I’ll often get back on my computer after the kids are in bed or else my husband and I will watch a good TV show (Blacklist is our current favorite). Thursdays and Fridays are a mix of a bit of work and spending time with Lottie who is now three. She has ballet class and it’s always one of my favorite times of the week – so cute.
Q: What was returning to work like after having your children? When did you begin working again?
A: I went back to work part time when Arabella was seven months old, and honestly, I really struggled. There wasn’t a big enough financial incentive for me to keep going (you get great perks in magazines but the salaries are low). She’d be in bed by 6pm, so I’d rush through the door (having already felt guilty leaving the office at 530pm while everyone else was still busy working) and she’d be asleep. I missed her so much and I guess, I felt like I was missing out. I love working and always have, but I needed to find a different way to make it work. My mom always ran her own interior decorating business from home. After Lottie was born and all the problems I had with her, I resigned from my position of deputy editor of VOGUE Australia. It’s funny – there hasn’t been a moment of regret since I left to focus on The Grace Tales. Working for VOGUE was the dream job. But for me, it wasn’t compatible with motherhood and I did it – I did the travel, I did the fun parties, I interviewed incredible people – I ticked that box. It’s certainly not easy running your own business – in many ways it’s a lot harder – but I’m so grateful now that I have so much flexibility and work on a brand, which is all about inspiring mothers. Living the dream (most days – ha!).
Q: What was your inspiration behind The Grace Tales?
A: I’ve loved fashion magazines for longer than I can remember and was lucky enough to work for both VOGUE and Harper’s BAZAAR in Australia and Dubai. But there was a disconnect after I became a mother. I also became a lot more interested in interiors than I was in my 20s and loved peeking inside people’s homes and seeing how they live. I wanted to create a beautiful, glossy, magazine-style site for mothers like me – women who were still interested in style, but wanted something a little more relatable and rawl. We rarely retouch our images unless it’s a big celebrity and they request it. Our interviews are honest and real. And the pictures are beautiful (we have a killer creative team who make magic happen). I’m so proud of The Grace Tales and it now has a global following. We launched our digital magazine GRACE last November. Australian actor Teresa Palmer was on the cover – what a gorgeous woman she is! Our bumper spring/summer 17-18 issue launched today featuring Lara Worthington.
Q: Who’s your mom crush?
A: I love Australian actor Teresa Palmer who lives in LA – she’s obviously incredibly talented and accomplished and so beautiful but she’s also down-to-earth, approachable and refreshingly real. How many celebrities can you name like this? Her Your Zen Mama site is fantastic. I also love Australian media personality Kate Ritchie – she’s just so nice and so gorgeous. I’m a big believer that nice girls finish first. Kindness will take you places in life (my mom taught me that).
Q: Do you truly believe in “work-life-balance”? If so, how do you achieve it in your own life?
A: Honestly? Not really. I’m a big believer in “you can have it all, just not all at once.” Pick what’s important to you and forget the rest. Some weeks will be busier than others. I get anxious quite easily and don’t like feeling overwhelmed. When work gets really busy, I pull back on social commitments and try to only focus on my family, work and exercise. Exercise is the key to balance and mental health! Be realistic about how much you can fit into your week (I’m guilty of often misjudging this!)
Q: How to you treat yourself to ‘me’ time?
A: I go to the gym a few times a week – it’s my happy place and they have a kids’ club so it’s easy to get there with the kids.
Q: What is one piece of advice your mother gave you that has really resonated in your life?
A: Don’t ever compare yourself to others.
Q: Any advice for your children?
A: With hard work and determination, you can do anything you set your mind to. My mom also taught me this.
Q: What are the attributes you find to be most important and that you’d like to impart on your kids?
A: Kindness. Generosity. Forgiveness. My mom and nan are extremely generous people. I also think forgiveness is important – life is too short and no one is perfect.
Q: What do you find most difficult about being a mom?
A: Again, do you have all day? It’s without a doubt the hardest job I’ve ever done. I find sibling fighting the hardest thing to deal with. My girls are 17 months apart and fight non-stop. Seriously. It’s really exhausting and tips me over the edge (insert glass of wine here). I think it might be getting better though… please just get along!!! I’ll keep you posted.
Q: What do you love about being a mom?
A: The love. I’ve never known anything like it. I would do anything for my girls. When they arrived, life finally made sense.
Q: How have you changed as a person since becoming a mom?
A: I’ve never been the last person on the dance floor (ok, maybe in my late teens, early 20s). I’m a huge homebody and love pottering around our house. So I don’t mind spending more time at home. I love time to myself too. I’ve become more anxious – the anxiety I used to feel when I heard my babies crying was like nothing I’ve ever experienced!
Q: Most surprising thing about motherhood?
A: The bonding with other mothers – we all just get it and my friendships have become even stronger since having children. Honest women are my favorite – there’s no need to sugar coat it!
Q: What learnings have you taken away from motherhood?
A: Being grateful. We only get one life and time moves so quickly – be grateful for what you have and never compare yourself to others.
Q: One piece of advice for new moms or moms-to-be that really helped you?
A: This is terribly cliché, but everything is a stage and it will pass. It’s just so true!!! You will eventually get a full night’s sleep – I promise! My girls screamed through the night for months but eventually, they slept!
Q: Describe your parenting style…
A: I’m pretty organized and love a routine. I wasn’t one of those moms who could take her baby out to dinner – my girls were too unsettled and would cry the whole time. Now, I’m pretty strict but do tend to spoil them a bit (guilty). I tuck them in most nights and make sure they feel as loved and secure as possible. Love is all you need.
Q: How does your style of parenting differ from that of your own mom’s?
A: Hopefully it’s quite similar. My mom was/ is a wonderful mother – she’s so kind and thoughtful. When I was little, she’d do little things like put our PJs on the central heating vent so they were warm when we got out of the bath. My dad would always scratch my back and be there at every netball match. Mom would always be at the school gate with afternoon tea ready. They were firm but loving parents and they taught me to always work hard (I had my first job in an ice cream store at 14 and have worked ever since!). It’s the mix I strive for.
Q: What are your greatest personal and professional achievements?
A: Going to the London College of Fashion for a semester. Working on the launch of Harper’s BAZAAR Dubai in Dubai. Becoming the deputy editor of VOGUE Australia magazine. Launching The Grace Tales and GRACE magazine. But ultimately, marrying my gorgeous British husband and having two beautiful children with him.
Q: Biggest mom fail?
A: I once dyed my hair pink by accident in the shower. I’d been sent a shampoo by a PR agency and didn’t really read the label. (I was in a rush as usual!) I ran out of shampoo so grabbed it and jumped in the shower with my girls. Before I knew it pink foam was dropping to the floor – I’d colored my hair pink. Let’s just say it was rather expensive to go back to blonde.
Q: Biggest mom win?
A: Getting through two premature labors and a post-partum hemorrhage. It took me a long time to feel normal or healthy… but I got there.
Q: Has your style changed since becoming a mom?
A: It’s still the same really – although I don’t do mini lengths anymore. Luckily, the midi length is still very on trend! I love a great statement skirt (I just bought a fabulous black one from Regina Pyo) and a classic shirt (I love La Ligne).
Q: 3 wardrobe staples for busy moms?
A: A great pair of jeans. I love Re/Done, shirts from J.Crew and lots of sneakers (Veja is my current favourite!).
Q: What’s your favorite weekend family activity?
A: The beach! Sydney is filled with the most beautiful beaches. I feel very lucky to live there.
Q: What is your most important family tradition?
A: We watch the film Love Actually every Christmas. The girls obviously aren’t interested in it yet, but it’s something I do with my family every Christmas day! We also try and go for a swim in the ocean in the morning.
Q: Describe your children in three words each
A: Arabella – thoughtful, loving and cheeky. Lottie – cheeky, hilarious, loveable.
See more from Georgie Abay at The Grace Tales.