Tribe Interview :: Lotte James Barnes + Lia-Belle King
Here at Children of the Tribe, we love a beautiful love story so needless to say it was a joy to spend time with creative power couple and expectant parents, Lotte Barnes and Lia-Belle King at their Byron Bay hinterland home recently. The co-founders of online store and Bangalow boutique, Worn, packed up their island home in Bali and moved to a 30-acre property in picturesque Northern New South Wales where they will raise their baby girl, who is due in the coming weeks. We spoke to Lotte and Lia-Belle about their love story, their journey to parenthood and their desire to raise an intelligent, brave and resilient woman.
What are you most looking forward to about parenthood?
Like most people expecting their first child, we’re most looking forward to the creation of our own family unit. To raise a child in a way that encourages strength, intelligence, and independence of thought, bravery, compassion and love. We’re both quite fierce women and to bring a little girl into our love will be an astounding thing. Just to see how she will grow and to nurture her in a way that respects her own sense of self is going to be quite special. I think every day we speak of different things we’re looking forward to when she arrives, but perhaps just sitting back and observing who she is as her own person, is what we’re most looking forward to. That and the heart explosion of love felt.
Do you remember the exact moment you discovered you were going to be parents?
Lia-Belle: We were living at Bali at the time and I had been seeing an acupuncturist to assist in the process of falling pregnant. I had been seeing him weekly for about three months [which is how long it took to fall pregnant], and we were preparing to leave Bali and move back to Australia. It was my last appointment and as he removed the needles that dotted my arms, legs and torso, my brilliant acupuncturist said to me, “You’ll have to send me a photo when you’re back home.” He used his arms to outline the shape of a pregnant belly on his own body and replied, “of your pregnant belly. The hormone levels in your kidneys have changed, you’re pregnant”. After a few minutes and few tears he left the room, the last thing said to me was, “You don’t need to worry about anything. You’re going to be a wonderful mother.”
As Lotte and I left the clinic, and underneath a shady tunnel of bamboo trees, I told her I was pregnant. We embraced in disbelief and pure joy. Two weeks later, we landed in Australia I did a pregnancy test and it was positive.
How wonderful! I hear you have been struggling with morning sickness. It can be so debilitating. How did you juggle work commitments with Worn when you were feeling so unwell?
Lia-Belle: To be honest, for the first four months and until Lotte finished on her own work contracts and was able to work in the business full-time, I didn’t juggle work commitments very well! I was quite literally bed ridden from three weeks until nearly five months and I was too proud to say that I needed help with the business even though it was blatantly obvious. Some days I was able to reply to a handful of emails, and some days I couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow. Throughout it all though I was unshakable in my outlook that work could wait. That whatever my body is going through right now deserves my full attention, and that’s my priority. This baby and my body are more important than money, than the business. I was quite unapologetic about that.
From the day Lotte took the reigns, I have known the business will be better for her involvement. Already - and much to the disgust of my formal control freak ways - I am learning when to ask for help. Lotte and I work best when we work together and the success of Worn is the product of our combined skills and unique approach to growing a business that fosters products with integrity.
When did you decide you wanted to have a baby together, and can you share a little about your journey to parenthood with the Children of the Tribe community?
Lotte: We had been together for about eight or so months when Lia-Belle was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis. She had to undergo emergency surgery on her reproductive organs and it was then that we were told that falling pregnant might not be possible. Instead of dwelling on this, we did what anyone would do and we moved to Bali! We also went travelling around India and Sri Lanka - it was here that we became engaged and less than six months later, we flew home to Sydney for our wedding in February 2016.
Despite the seemingly short amount of time we had been together, we never discussed if having children was something we both wanted. We simply always knew. We both knew so intensely from the moment we met that we were meant to be together. The beginning of our relationship wasn’t easy but there has never ever been a time when we have questioned if the hardships were worth it. We just knew, silently and internally that this is where we are supposed to be and this person was undoubtedly our person.
Falling pregnant wasn’t any different. Despite the huge obstacles, we never entertained the thought of it not happening. During our Sydney visit, we had an appointment with the specialist and we started to learn the process and options in regards to falling pregnant - IVF or donor inseminations, known donor or unknown donor, timing and costs. We were told 12 months was about all we had to fall pregnant before the odds fell to about one per cent and not in our favour. But despite this, we boarded the plane back to Bali full of love and knowing that whatever happens, will happen just the way it’s supposed to. Oh, and that we better start thinking about a donor.
Upon our return to Bali in March 2016, we cooked a delicious dinner for one of our dearest friends who, after about three bottles of wine, surprisingly offered to be our donor, without our even asking. By the end of the year we were pregnant.
The ease of the process for us, was, and is still mind blowing, and our donor deserves much of the credit. For us the process was done at home, in a way suited all three of us, it wasn’t clinical or impersonal. We are fully aware that the system in Australia doesn’t work in favour of same-sex couples wanting to fall pregnant with a known donor. There are timely and costly processes that need to be adhered to in order to be supported by medical professionals. We do not take for granted how lucky we are.
Which of each other’s characteristics do you hope your daughter will inherit?
Lia-Belle: Lotte has the most incredible ability to love. It’s quite incredible to see. She just has this huge aura that exudes love for everybody. Positivity, support and love just oozes from every part of her and spills out onto friends, family and strangers on a daily basis. I’ve always been quite closed emotionally, and am selective which those whom I choose to show the same kind of emotion and contact with. Lotte is a beaming light of total acceptance and unquestionable love. I hope our daughter inherits this trait and Lotte’s complete and utter hunger for life. She just wants to eat the world up and I willingly seek to feed it to her spoon by spoon. We’re a great pair.
Lotte: Undoubtedly Lia’s fearless nature and grace. I was always drawn to both of these assets immensely as they are such a powerful combination. The way Lia holds and carries herself is strong, honest and real. She’s clear in her opinion, intelligent in her actions and doesn’t hold back from taking risks and diving head first into anything, from the moment we met she always said yes to eating up the world with me. I hope our daughter has that same fearlessness and grace in all she sets her mind and heart on.
Do you have a birth plan?
The plan is…there is no plan.
We have a list of things we would like done, if possible, during the birth and afterwards, but we are open to things not going to plan and if they don’t that’s okay. The baby will come on her terms, all we can do is to ensure we are educated and make decisions that enable her birth and the first hours of her life earth-side to be as calm and safe as possible. We’re birthing at a hospital that only accepts low-risk pregnancies. So there’s no epidurals or C-sections on offer and the focus is on natural birthing, which is totally our thing.
I know you are advocates of marriage equality – us too! – it must be your dream to raise a child in a world in which we all have a right to legally marry our soul mate regardless of gender and sexuality?
Same sex parenting isn’t always an easy topic to navigate with people as there are always questions from friends, family and strangers, from methods of conception to the last name. We’re looking forward to having a family that is entirely and purely ours, founded on the love we have for one another, and raising a child in an environment that whilst may not be the standard, is ours. We look forward to challenging social norms with our family dynamic, and setting an example for other same sex couples and heterosexual couples embarking on parenthood.
You are from Sydney, recently lived in Bali and now reside in the Northern NSW hinterland. Why did you leave your island home for the Byron region?
We moved to Bali after both closing our businesses in Sydney. During our time there we explored, discussed and discovered the type of life we wanted to be living, and how we could sustain that long term. Our priorities shifted and we started making decisions that supported the ‘type’ of life we wanted to live, rather than the priority being what kind of work do we want to be doing, and making lifestyle choices based around that.
Our geographical location, daily routines and practices, food we ate and items and people we chose to surround ourselves with all began to reflect a certain quality of life. We still worked, we launched a new business, and did all the same things we did before, only now there was so much more conscious intention behind our daily decision-making. Where we lived was dictated by how good our quality of live would be, opposed to a location that made work more accessible, or getting to the shops easier. Where should we live that offers plenty of space, where we can live in a large house, proximity to the ocean, is affordable, and where the energy is most aligned to our internal energy.
On paper, Sydney offered us things like close proximity to family [helpful when there’s a baby on the way], our business could be run more effectively from Sydney, Lotte’s meditation school is in Sydney so she wouldn’t need to fly every time there is a weekend seminar, our friends are all in Sydney, Lia-Belle had begun her post grad psych degree and her uni was in Sydney, external work is more available in Sydney. These were all very valid points and reasons why we should definitely move back to Sydney.
But the thing that Sydney didn’t have was quality of life. And so we asked ourselves, if all of those things were worth sacrificing for a better quality of life? Definitely.
So instead we chose life. We live on 30 acres in the Byron Bay hinterland in a beautiful house. We have spare bedrooms so our friends can stay for long visits, a pool, we even managed to get ourselves a divine puppy named Gray, chickens, home-grown produce, as well as opening the first Worn boutique in Bangalow. From the moment we arrived to Northern NSW, things just started presenting themselves. We were completely in flow with where we were meant to be and the universe in turn has supported us immensely.
The nourishment these things bring to our life far outweighs the work and ease-related benefits of living in Sydney. Plus, everyone vibrates on a much calmer energy up here; it’s infectious.
What do you love most about this area?
Lotte: The true sense of community and support, we have met so many likeminded people, who are gracious with their time, help and open hearts. We’ve felt at home since we got here. I also love the creative community. It’s full of creative humans and doers. There’s this energy that ideas come to life here and being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, it takes a huge amount of commitment and love. There’s such a supportive network here that embraces this and there’s no jealousy or rivalry, but genuine support in your craft.
I also love the empowered women that reside up here. They are strong woman and they are leading the way in breaking down old fashioned roles and beliefs; they are free and proud of motherhood and won’t be shamed to breastfeed hidden under a throw, or in a baby change room. They are openly proud woman, who are young professionals, creatives, artists, designers and mothers. They wear many hats and they wear them damn well.
Lia-Belle: The power of the female tribe! I’ve never experienced an area that is so rich in strong women, and not just women but women who are professionals and mothers. Since settling in our little village, I have found myself the most supportive and inspiring group of women. Most of them all have children, and they are driven on a daily basis to expand their understanding of their world and their place within it. We’re all navigating new terrain and we’ve founded the most incredible tribe. I know I can turn to these women for any reason at any time and they will be there for me, just like I am here for them.
I also have a real appreciation for local produce and there is no shortage of it here. Every day there is a farmers market within close driving distance and the joy the both of us get from purchasing organic, locally grown produce direct from the person who grew it is a real heart warmer. I eat my food with more appreciation and by purchasing direct from the source, we also live with less wastage. We rarely eat anything from a packet and we visit a supermarket once every two weeks for things that we can’t find at the markets or the health food store. Our home is nearly chemical-free as is our diet and this is common within most households in the area.
You both have impeccable taste so I am guessing you will have the best-dressed bebe around! Have you made any special purchases for the baby as yet?
We’re fans of beautifully made, simple pieces in organic fabrics and relatively neutral colours.
At the moment we’re not planning on purchasing a pram as we feel our lifestyle doesn’t really warrant the investment. Instead, we have purchased a beautiful leather and suede Intrasafe ‘Arlo’ capsule for the car that we can transport into the shop or house when she’s asleep to save waking her.
For the home we have one our own Worn bassinets [an essential for any house-proud parent], which we will keep in our room even though we like the idea of co-sleeping.
We also have a Charlie Crane rocker.
Do you have a name for your baby or is it a secret?
We do have name but we’ll be keeping it a secret for a little while longer!
What is the one dream for your child?
That she be more intelligent, braver, more openhearted and more resilient than we are. That she always follows her intuition, and that as a woman, never compromises her self esteem, her morals, or personal and professional goals to suit any person, job or social environment.
Thank you both so much.