Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a mother of two – Ludo and Iona and also the founder of The Bump Class, a London based antenatal class offering professional, and evidence based advice to expectant mothers. I never thought I’d be able to say this, but I’m also a published author! The Bump Class; An Expert Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond I co-wrote with my sister and co-founder, Dr Chiara Hunt. It’s been an Amazon bestseller and we’re very proud of what is frequently described to use as ‘the best pregnancy book out there’.
Where are your three favourite places in the world and why
I’m constantly blown away by how wonderful our world is – to pick just three will be a challenge. I love Austria. My mother is Austrian and we spent as much time as possible there when we were growing up. I feel very comfortable in a dirndl, the Austrian national dress, speak the language and even have dual nationality. I’m trying to speak German to my children but their progress is slow. We spend every summer in a house perched on the side of a mountain, which has the most spectacular views of the copper spires of Salzburg. We’re just where the Alps start and as a result we get the most phenomenal thunderstorms. I love sitting on the terrace, watching the ever-changing view – whether it’s the city steaming in the summer heat or an angry storm approaching.
And then there’s Harbour Island, a small, sleepy and wantonly relaxed island in the Bahamas where everyone just slows down. We have made a bit of a habit of escaping over Christmas and have realized that the decadence of taking three weeks off is an essential.. Both my husband Ben, and I lead busy lives, we’re often apart and wish we saw more of our children.. Having such a good amount of time together, with no work distractions and surrounded by residents who’ve become some of our best friends, is worth its weight in gold.
Finally, it’s Hyde Park. It’s where I met my husband while out running with my dog. His dog tried to bit mine when we eventually talked, but our relationship nevertheless flourished. When his dog Inca died, we planted a tree for her which now has her tag embedded into its trunk. I still go running around the parks twice a week and love watching the goings on – the gun salutes, the household cavalry, the children learning to ride bicycles and the lovers strolling hand in hand. I no longer listen to music while running, but instead take the time to savour my surroundings and get my head straight.
Describe your typical day
I will often be teaching first thing which means an early start. Now that Ludo and Iona are at school, the hour we have for breakfast is sacred, so I try and be ready to go by the time I wake them up at about 6:30am. I’m always flabbergasted at how much they eat for breakfast, which inevitably involves eggs (often cooked different ways), cereal, fruit, toast and yoghurt. I feel like an addled chef cooking for a particularly high maintenance crowd. I’ll drop them off to school and head straight to The Bump Class where I’ll be teaching a group of expectant mothers the things that will really help them in motherhood. While the structure of the classes remains unchanged, the classes vary because the personalities of the girls attending, the questions they have and their concerns are always different. I often get asked if I get bored of teaching the same thing, but it’s such fun meeting a diverse and interesting group of girls and getting to know them over eight weeks that I find myself looking forward to each class despite the fact I’ve been doing this for five years. I’ll had back to my office afterwards but try and pick up the children if I can. I often teach in the evenings, which means I don’t get to put them to bed. I’ve realized the only way not to feel guilty about this is to structure my day to fit in with seeing my children. It’s not always possible, but modern day working has changed and is so much more flexible, that most of the time it works.
What inspired you to set it up The Bump Class
My sister, Chiara, is a GP and she was seeing lots of patients describe the ‘traumatic’ births they’d experienced. When she talked to them about it, she realized that often the circumstances need not have been traumatic, had they been well prepared, not just for the birth they wanted, but for situations that are not-uncommon but more importantly are not scary, if you understand them. We realized how important this was and that we could potentially devise something that delivered what women really needed.
I was one of the first of my friends to have children and didn’t really have a peer group to go to for advice and support. I didn’t expect to take to motherhood – I far preferred puppies – and after a miscarriage I wasn’t sure whether motherhood would be worth the heartache it was taking to get there. But I persisted and ended up being blown away by how rewarding and fun it was. My role during the classes is not professional – a midwife or doctor always joins me – but I bring a kind of amusing irreverence to what can be a dry subject as well as the hands on experience I have of being a mother.
What do you love most about running your own business and what has been your biggest challenge to date.
I love that it’s something my sister and I have grown and nurtured, that The Bump Class is a part of many people’s vocabulary because we had the idea. Technology has changed business and running a company like ours means we’re always evolving, thinking how we can do things better and that’s what I love the most. It’s often what I’m thinking about while running. Today there seem to be fewer obstacles to running a successful business, and that just makes it so exciting.
My biggest challenge professionally was a personal one. Three years ago my son was stillborn. The Bump Class had taken off and pregnancy and birth was my life. Lying in hospital I wondered whether I’d be able to go back to the job I so loved. But once I’d had a bit of time to reflect, I became adamant that I’d already lost so much, I wasn’t going to let fate take anything more away from me, certainly not The Bump Class that I’d put so much work into. I took a bit of time off from teaching but sooner than I expected I started teaching again and quickly realized that it was doable and weirdly even helped with my grieving process.
What can we expect from The Bump Class in the next year.
We are working on expanding digitally and are recording a parenting podcast. While there’s a lot of material out there, there isn’t enough evidence based, professional advice, properly structured, succinct and engaging like our classes with cutting edge research. Because Chiara works in the medical profession, she has access to new research and the specialists who know most about this. Eventually we hope to provide interesting, useful and professional content on everything from pre-conception to the teenage years but our first series will concentrate on that bewildering first year. We have episodes on solids, sleeping, vaccinations and even the dangers of Zika. We’re very excited!
What are your top two Papouelli Picks for each of your Children?
I’ve got to admit, I’ve never dressed my daughter in a particularly girly way. Weekends are spent rolling around in mud in the country. The days when I have to scrub mud off my children’s faces are the weekends where I feel I’ve done the best job as a mother. They can be smart when they’re older, but being a child is about having fun. So for Iona I love the Esi Biker boots – practical but add a little bit of cool into my tear away daughter’s wardrobe. I think sandals are essential for summer – can’t take too many sweaty feet and I love the Cordelia Pom Pom. I just wish you had them in my size!
For Ludo I’d get the Oscar Fur boots to keep his feet toasty during the winter but I also can’ resist the Darcie canvas shoe – such a great and easy pull on shoe for carefree summer days.
The Bump Class runs their highly acclaimed antenatal classes in Parson’s Green and South Kensington. Marina and Chiara’s book, The Bump Class; An Expert Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond is available from Amazon and all good bookshops.
For more information about the classes, the podcast and book look at www.thebumpclass.com.