EXCLUSIVE: First-Time Mom Solenn Heussaff Talks About The Best Four Months Of Her Life
Despite the ongoing crisis, Solenn and her husband Nico Bolzico find a silver lining in their daughter, Thylane Katana. It's been the best four months, having their bundle of joy around, and she's looking forward to better days with her post-pandemic
“It’s so hard to believe that this is the reality at the moment,” Solenn Heussaff says, echoing the sentiment of many others during these trying times.
The harsh reality about 2020 is that it isn’t off to a good start. And almost halfway through the year, things still aren’t shaping up to become better. In the Philippines, just 12 days into the new year, the Taal Volcano erupted after being dormant for 43 years. Within that same month, in January, the first case of the novel coronavirus disease infection in the country was confirmed.
The harsh reality is that people all over the world are experiencing some of their worst times in the midst of this unprecedented crisis.
But in all of these, we find a silver lining in the children whose future could depend on how their parents would choose to deal with the current situation. When we think about our kids, we wouldn’t want anything but the best to come out of the worst. Because they will inherit this world, it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure they get to live on a livable planet in the years to come. And so through the eyes of these kids, we can see hope.
“We’re going through very difficult times, you know,” this first-time mom tells Metro.Style. “You wake up in the morning, thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’ I wake up sometimes, thinking, ‘This is just a dream.’”
An extraordinary family time
For many new parents like Solenn, the ray of sunshine in these gloomy days comes from their little bundle of joy. This adorable, pocket-sized mini human that she lovingly cradles has been her one true and solid source of strength and happiness in the face of uncertainty.
Solenn gave birth to her and Nico Bolzico’s daughter Thylane Katana on January 1, and for this happy couple, there couldn’t have been a better way to welcome 2020. Her pregnancy came with complications, and so finally having this healthy, beautiful baby in her arms was an experience beyond words.
She knew this year would be one of the best years of their lives, but she never thought she’d say it in the context of a pandemic, or as a way of finding the good in the bad: “Actually, quarantine is the best thing that happened to us, I think,” she ponders. She initially planned to be on maternity leave only until March, but prior to the coronavirus outbreak, she had requested her company to allow her to be on leave until July. So, yes, under quarantine or not, Solenn knew the first two quarters of 2020 would be all about embracing motherhood, getting to know her daughter, and transitioning to her new routine as a mother—only now we know a different kind of new normal. She never imagined it would be an extra extraordinary time for her, Nico, and Thylane as a family—that it would be a time for a lot more firsts than the typical scenario of couples adjusting to life as new parents.
“This would be a part of life that we would have missed out on because we would go to the office; in the office, Nico’s there, like, at 7 a.m. and comes home at 8 p.m. And these are the most exciting times because change happens everyday now… Everyday I see something new, everyday there’s a new expression. So, for me, it’s such a blessing, at least for the father, to be in quarantine because, you know, the first year can’t repeat itself,” says Solenn, who is celebrating her first Mother’s Day this year.
At this point, all that the parents like them could really do is be grateful that their family is safe at home, and make the most of this time witnessing each and every milestone of their baby.
It’s been four months since Solenn became a mother, and she’s been pretty cool, calm, collected, and even candid in dealing with all the needs of her child as well as the changes in her and with her body. She casually talked about the so-called fourth trimester, that phase after one gives birth, when both the baby and the mom are going through physical and emotional changes. For a couple of months, she just wasn’t feeling herself, but being the laidback, optimistic, and disciplined person she’s always been, she overcame that just fine.
Solenn reveals, “The thing is, I’m very patient. I’m not saying I’m a good mom, but I know that I’m gonna do good at the job, because I take time to assimilate things and I research a lot, sometimes too much. But I love taking care of things, especially if it’s for my family.”
Reading up about all things motherhood-related and consulting the moms you know are great preparations for this life-altering role. But what a new mom needs to understand and accept is the fact that she can never be prepared enough for all the little surprises that come with nourishing and caring for a baby.
“I discovered that [motherhood] really does come naturally,” Solenn points out. “When a baby’s born, it just happens. Just learn and go with the flow. Moms are different. You can’t say that I’m right or she’s right. It’s just do what you think is right.” Seeing and experiencing each of their baby's milestones (the first latch, the first time she lies on his stomach, the first time she smiles upon hearing her parent’s voice, or the first time she babbles as if she’s talking to her mom and dad about her dreams) are truly where the fun and priceless moments in parenthood lie, too.
“I wouldn’t say it’s challenging,” she says of her motherhood journey so far. “Because I’m really enjoying everything. And I guess, the most challenging thing about it is that everything is just so new. So it’s about learning quickly and then having those maternal instincts.”
On her own terms
One of the most confusing things for a first-time mom is decoding different baby cries. “In the beginning I was a bit worried because people were like, ‘Oh, you’ll know from her cry whether she’s hungry or whatever.’ And I couldn’t figure it out in the beginning,” Solenn shares. “It all sounded the same for me, so I was frustrated and I was like, ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ ‘Why don’t I know her that well?’”
Solenn shared she struggled a bit with breastfeeding, too. “I’m still breastfeeding but I’m not very gifted in that area,” she admits. “Literally, it was painful the first ten days because I wasn’t used to it yet. But then, I guess her latch was pretty good—I love it! I’m obsessed with the feeling. But the first month, I was literally stuck to the couch because I guess I wasn’t producing enough milk and I didn’t know that, so she would just be there like the entire day, and I couldn’t even pee. Like, I had to pee with her on my boob, that’s how bad it was.”
But slowly, Solenn has realized that each baby is different, and that the same can be said about each mom. Thanks to this realization, she relieved herself of the stress and pressure of overthinking every single thing she does for her child; after all, there’s no rule book in parenting. From time to time, Solenn does consult her own mom, her closest friends (like her bestie and fellow mom Georgina Wilson, who even helped her with her baby shower registry), and her mommy friends in the group chat she’s part of, but it’s very important that she allows herself to enjoy the process on her own terms.
Solenn and her sister-in-law Anne Curtis-Smith—who gave birth to daughter Dahlia Amélie last March and is currently in Australia with husband Erwan Heussaff—would also talk about motherhood and how different their little girls’ personalities are. And because they’re different, the ways of handling them understandably differ as well.
“You do you,” Solenn quips. “You need to listen to how your baby reacts to certain things.” Besides, this is part of a mom and a daughter’s getting to know stage. There’s going to be a lot of experimentation to discover what works best (like, what bottle nipple he is most comfortable with or diaper that won’t cause rashes). It’s all part of the experience.
Of all the pieces of motherhood advice she received, the best one she is grateful she followed is getting a night nurse. It made her transition into motherhood smoother, because she realized that the extra time she got for sleeping at night proved to be good for her well-being. “I didn’t get depressed or anything,” she mentions.
Solenn acknowledges that going through this new chapter has been so much easier with Nico around as a hands-on dad. “Parang I’m more in love na,” Solenn laughs. “I loved him before, pero now that I see him as a dad, may ibang sparkle. Parang when I see him and Thylane bond, it’s like a different feeling.”
Parenthood strengthened Solenn and Nico’s marriage, because they get to exercise their dynamics as a couple as well. They have learned to work together, to make sure Thylane is well taken care of, especially now under quarantine when it’s just the three of them at home. She says, “We have no yaya for now so it’s just me and Nico. So we balance our time. When it’s Nico’s turn to take care of Thylane, it’s my time to exercise or to bake or whatever.”
A father and a mother have different parenting styles. And in the case of Nico and Solenn, his style is tougher and rougher as compared to her soft and feminine, albeit stricter, approach. “Oh my gosh. The way he talks to Thylane is like the way he talks to [our dog] Pochola, seriously. I’m like, ‘Don’t shake her like that’ when he makes gigil,” Solenn shares, smiling. “I guess I’m more of the feminine, softer side. I talk to Thylane in a soft tone. And then everything I do, like when I’m dressing her up, I’m explaining to her what I’m doing—like, ‘Okay, let’s take off your socks now.’ Like I’m going through the process with her. Whereas Nico, when he’d change her clothes, he’s so gigil.”
She adds, “When I give her milk, I’d be like, Be calm, it’s coming.’ I really talk to her like an adult. I tell her, ‘I understand you are frustrated, just try and be patient, it’s coming!’ And then Nico’s like, ‘Okay, okay, okay, here’s your milk! Don’t worry!’ He’s like all over the place.”
As she describes these, we can almost picture the candidness of it all. It’s like we’re imagining a #SosBolz or a #BulliedHusbandsClub episode. Through these hashtags, the couple has been entertaining their followers with a hilarious peek into their lives at home even before Thylane arrived. And now, even more so, their social media posts—as parents who seem to be squeezing in some quality couple time as their baby naps—are pure comic relief.
“Nico and I are the worst documentarists,” she says in jest. “I’m not very curated. So my photos of Thylane, it’s like cellphone photos talaga. It’s not like, if you look at Erwan and Anne’s little Dahlia, she has a whole set, while Thylane’s in a sando all day. And her photos are, like, from all angles.”
For almost four months, Nico and Solenn preferred to not share a photo of Thylane’s face on social media; those times their baby girl made it to their feeds, you couldn’t really see her. But recently, the couple finally shared a photo that reveals Thylane’s face, and she’s just as perfect as we had imagined her to be! “She’s so precious and we felt like we didn’t want to share her with anyone else,” Solenn says on why it took them awhile to release her photo. “But at the same time, it’s a mix of emotions because I really wanted to post na.” After all, they’re proud parents. A part of them also wants to document their baby’s milestones and share it to their followers, but they have agreed to only do it sometimes for the safety of their child as well.
Speaking of safety, that’s a huge issue today with a deadly virus out there. Even when the ECQ is lifted, Solenn feels the new normal she had gotten used to in the past couple of months would be her normal routine for the rest of the year. It’s only May, but Solenn says, “In my head, this year is done for me... I’m a little bit scared about this whole lifting thing. I think I also got used to the quarantine life. I have no plans of doing anything much outside of the house.” Work-wise, she would most likely maintain a work-from-home setup and explore ways to be productive even at home.
The talented painter also had an exhibit that was put on hold because of the lockdown. While at home and if time permits, she’s contemplating on finishing some of her paintings, which would explore the concept of global warming and how the world is changing.
In the midst of a pandemic, this topic couldn’t be more apt. The harsh reality is life will never be the same. But it’s up to us, human beings, to turn things around and make the most of what will be left of us after the crisis.
For many people, COVID-19 has been an eye-opener and the life under quarantine, a moment for self-reflection. As for first-time mom Solenn, whose priority now is the safety and well-being of her child, she can only look forward to better days, now armed with more mindfulness not just for her and her family’s sake but the world we all live in as well.
“This whole quarantine has made me go back to basics, like I’ve been living in literally three sets of clothes, my three favorite PJs. I wear them all day and then I change at night,” Solenn shares candidly. This leads her to her biggest realization while living under quarantine. “You don’t really need much, as long as you have proper food on the table for your family, that’s it. Obviously, I’m excited for when things go back to a new normal, you know, to feel pretty or to feel like you’re fixed. You also need that as a human being,” she reminds herself.
At the end of the day, self-love is a mother’s secret weapon. And during this pause in her life, she has had a newfound appreciation for herself, something that will surely play an important role for when the world is back on track again.
Produced by Kat Cruz-Villanueva, Ceia Ylagan, Judy Arias
Photography by Gee
Sittings editors: Geolette Esguerra, Grace Libero-Cruz, and Kate Paras-Santiago
Cover animation by Bria Cardenas
Styling by Eldzs Mejia
Makeup by Robbie Piñera
Hairstyling by John Valle
Production design by Kathy Sy King of Event Styles
Styling assistants: Carl Alberto, Gabby Gamboa, Nix Bueno, Aubrey Cazzandra
Shot on location at City of Dreams Manila
Special thanks to Charisse Chuidian and Romina Gervacio of City of Dreams Manila; C&L Decor, Shop Rent Gala, 4th Wall, 18th Floristry, and Francis Simeon