Story of 9 Months

 
Words: Emma Howarth
If there’s one thing Courtney Adamo knows about, it’s pregnancy. Already mother to four children (Easton, 11, Quin, nine, Ivy, seven, and Marlow, four), she’s heavily pregnant as she talks to us from her home in Byron Bay, Australia, due to give birth to her fifth baby as this issue goes to press.

It’s no surprise then that when she was approached, alongside business partner Esther van de Paal, by a publisher for a new fact-based book for children, she knew what she wanted to write about. “There was no hesitation,” she says. “Esther and I knew instantly that we wanted to do a pregnancy book for children.”

The result, 9 Months, published in May by Frances Lincoln, is a beautifully illustrated monthly guide to pregnancy aimed at children aged four to seven. “Esther and I have been pregnant four times before, five for me now,” says Courtney. “We wanted to create the kind of book we would have loved to read to our children during those pregnancies to explain what was happening and get them excited about the new baby.”

Courtney and Esther have been friends since 2005, when they met in London as first-time mothers, and business partners since 2011, when they founded the Babyccino Kids shopping portal with their friend, Emilie Walmsley. But it’s not just friendship, business and a penchant for large families they have in common – both women favour a straight-talking approach when it comes to the facts of life, a perspective they were keen to see followed through into 9 Months.

“There’s a famous book about pregnancy called There’s a House Inside My Mummy,” says Courtney. “It describes the unborn baby as being in a house with no windows and a door that’s shut – so many confusing euphemisms. For 9 Months, we wanted to create something that celebrates the beauty and wonder of new life. A book that tells children what really happens and doesn’t try to avoid using the word ‘vagina’.”

For Courtney, talking to her children openly about sex and reproduction comes naturally. “I’ve always answered their questions as they come up,” she says. “We had a chilli plant when my eldest son, Easton, was little, and one day, he started to ask questions about how plants grow – it literally started with the birds and the bees! That led onto questions about how animals make babies, which led onto humans. There’s never been any awkward feeling from any of my children about how babies are made. It’s natural. I don’t understand why people feel weird talking about it.”

 

 

Parents whose views are, for whatever reason, slightly more conservative on this matter might be pleased to know that while the book opens beautifully with the story of  sperm meets egg, it stops short of  describing the act of  reproduction itself, though this is a subject both authors hope to address in a future title.

“The publishers felt the conception story was enough for this book, but we’d love to do a book about sexual reproduction for slightly older children. Anything that helps to open up a dialogue between parents and their children can only be a positive thing,” says Courtney.

By the time this magazine hits the shelves, the Adamo children may have taken their understanding of how life begins to another level. Courtney plans to give birth at home and hopes her older children will be able to watch as their new sibling enters the world.

“I know everything doesn’t always go the way you want it,” she says. “But I’d love it if I could labour through the night while my children are asleep and for them to wake up in time to see the baby being born. When I told my midwife this I thought she’d tell me I needed to come up with a back-up plan, but she said ‘hold on to that vision’, so that’s what I’m doing.”

After an 18-month world tour that took them across South America, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Japan, the family has settled in Australia’s east coast hippy haven, Byron Bay – a move they hope (visas permitting) will become permanent. Known for its beautiful beaches, creative community and free-spirited vibe, the Byron lifestyle is a shoo-in for a family who are vocal about outdoorsy, low-tech living. The Adamo children rarely watch TV (movies on aeroplanes are the exception) and instead spend free time playing, crafting and beachcombing, as documented on their mother’s idyllic Instagram account.

Over 200,000 people have followed the family’s move out of  London, round-the-world trip and arrival in Australia on Instagram (and on their travel blog, Somewhere Slower) and, for fans of  their Bohemian approach to family life, a new baby is the icing on the picture-perfect cake. Followers hoping for more years of globe-trotting, however, may find themselves disappointed.

“When we arrived here from the US in November, I had no desire to ever get on an aeroplane again,” says Courtney. “We’ll go to America in July to visit our families and introduce the baby, and we hope to travel within Australia, but I am so happy to stay still for a while. We feel lucky to be in a community that’s been so welcoming and supportive.”

Being accepted by the locals is a big deal for Courtney. As someone who chooses to share aspects of her life online, she is well aware it’s not all heart emojis. Courtney has found herself up against criticism from people who think her posts are too perfect, or don’t approve of the crossover between her family life and business, or think she’s too privileged or even feel strongly she should shave off the hair on her arms.

“I’m getting better at ignoring the mean comments,” she says. “My skin has thickened. Instagram has many positives. I’m never going to please everyone, nor is it my goal.”

For now, Courtney is happy running her business, plotting ideas for new books and preparing for the birth of her baby. And however the littlest Adamo decides to enter the world, if his/her parents have anything to do with it, a life on Australian soil beckons. If their visa applications are approved, the family plans to stay exactly where they are, and hopes to open a boutique hotel and yoga and surf retreat. “We figured if we can’t travel forever then we’ll bring interesting travellers to us,” says Courtney. “I’ve never lived anywhere in my life where I could imagine growing old, but I have that here and it’s a really nice feeling.”

 

9 Months, by Courtney Adamo and Esther van de Paal, Illustrated by Lizzy Stewart, £12.99,  Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, out in May

 

Check out the current issue of Smallish for Courtney Adamo’s pregnancy essentials.

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