Some first time mothers go into pregnancy anxious about the complications that can sometimes arise. Christine Lafian — entrepreneur and creative director of fashion, homewares and bed linen label Suku — was not one of those mothers.
Chrissy fell pregnant relatively easily, but what followed was a traumatic pregnancy including the loss of one embryo, and the premature birth of her son Enzo.
‘I had limited expectations and knowledge about pregnancy. All I know is that you carry the baby for nine months, you might get morning sickness, and your body will change,’ Chrissy says.
‘There was not a lot of information out there that gets talked about regarding everything that could go wrong during a pregnancy, so when everything started to go wrong with mine, it was a very stressful and lonely experience for me.’
An infection caused Chrissy’s amniotic sac to break when she was just 25 weeks pregnant, requiring five weeks of bed rest, before Enzo was born prematurely in July 2022.
It’s been a long and difficult year for Chrissy, her husband Christopher Zancan, and Enzo that’s changed the couple’s personal and professional values.
‘I want to acknowledge the struggle that some people experience with conceiving, however, I also want to honour my own experience and be honest about it,’ says Chrissy. ‘It is important not to idealise pregnancy because everyone’s journey is so different.’
Chrissy and Chris joined us to share their family story.
When and how did you two first meet?
Chris: We met at an exhibition through Chrissy’s housemate (at that time) and some of my friends. We’ve been together for 12 years.
Chrissy, you’ve been very open on social media about your tough pregnancy journey. Can you share your birth story with us?
Chrissy: I believe it’s important to shed light on the difficulties many people encounter during pregnancy because pregnancy, for me, was a rollercoaster of emotions and anxiety. It’s hard to put into words what you’re going through when you’re the only one experiencing it, and this can leave you feeling isolated. By opening up about my own journey, I hope to provide support and understanding to others who may be going through similar circumstances, because sometimes knowing that we’re not alone can make all the difference.
The first trimester was tough. Not only did I experience severe morning sickness that seemed to last all day, but I also suffered a miscarriage, losing one of my embryos. This meant that Enzo could potentially have had a twin.
Just as I reached the end of the second trimester, my amniotic sac unexpectedly broke at only 25 weeks due to an infection. The doctor informed me that I could deliver my baby within the next 48 hours. I cried hysterically upon hearing about all the potential complications that could arise with a 25-week-old baby. I remember that night, desperately searching for premature baby success stories on the internet, but none of them could calm my fears.
I asked the doctor what I could do to keep Enzo inside, and he told me it wasn’t up to me, but up to the baby. Feeling desperate, I spoke to Enzo from my hospital bed, begging with him not to come out yet because his lungs wouldn’t be fully developed and he might not survive. I don’t know if he could hear me or if it was just a miracle, but he stayed inside for another five weeks. It felt like walking on thin ice during that time. I had to remain on bed rest the entire time because there was very little amniotic sac left to keep him safe inside.
Chris: It was really difficult to see Chrissy go through this. I knew that I needed to be supportive, but I felt so helpless too, and didn’t know how to be strong for us both. When Chrissy stayed in the hospital for two weeks [before Enzo’s birth], my way of giving support was to give her some of the comforts of home so it wasn’t such a sterile environment. I brought in her iMac and set up mobile internet so we could watch shows together, brought in flowers, food, and her Suku pyjamas of course.
Chrissy: Enzo was born at 30 weeks — still 10 weeks too early — and with very weak lungs. The first 48 hours of his life were critical, and I wasn’t able to hold him skin to skin until the fourth day after his birth. It was heartbreaking coming home without a baby. He remained in the hospital for almost two months, and during that time, I watched him grow outside of my belly inside the incubator.
The whole experience was one of the hardest and toughest things I have ever gone through, both mentally and physically. I’m sure Chris would agree with me on this. We are still in the process of recovering from it, but it has taught us a valuable lesson. It has also made our relationship stronger. We knew that if we could endure and overcome that challenge as a family, we could face anything together.
Chris: Definitely concur with Chrissy on that. That time was super tough and we have huge respect and appreciation for the staff at the hospital who took care of Enzo and were so supportive to us.
Chrissy, how did you feel about becoming a mother, and how has motherhood been so far?
Chrissy: As someone who loves her independence and works so much, I initially struggled with the idea of becoming a mother. It took going through what I experienced last year to finally realise that I truly wanted to be a mother. It took us almost two months to bring Enzo home after he was born, so when that finally happened, I cherished every moment of it. Having an extra person in our lives has been so much fun, especially when they’re cute and remind us a little bit of ourselves. I have loved learning about him, myself, and Chris in the process. It has been an unexpectedly enjoyable new chapter of my life that I didn’t know I would love this much.
What has being a parent taught you?
Chrissy: That you can never be perfect at it. Parenthood is not a skill, it’s a relationship. There are no perfect parents but you are enough for them. I learned that kids don’t need many things, just your love, time, and attention.
What is Enzo’s personality like and what are his favourite things?
Chrissy: He has a favourite book called That’s Not My Dinosaur and he is currently going through a dinosaur phase where he makes random noises like a dino.
Chris: I may have had something to do with that. He copies me when I make noises with him and it’s a bit of a game. Enzo is fearless, very funny, and our dog Papi is a little scared of him. They are learning to play together now and it’s getting more fun to watch them.
Chrissy: Enzo is truly fearless. He has overcome all the odds to be here with us. His tenacity is incredibly inspiring. On days when I feel down and question myself, I simply look through his NICU photos and get inspired by how strong this kid is.
Chrissy, how have you found balancing your label Suku and family since having Enzo?
Chrissy: I haven’t found it yet! It’s hard, and personally it’s hard for me because I run my own business. It’s a constant juggling act between the two. However, I have learned to accept these two new roles and find ways to make both work. For example, I’m okay with working at unusual hours; like checking emails while feeding the baby, or having a phone meeting instead of a video call while changing a diaper. I believe I will eventually find a way to make it work.
What’s next for you and Suku?
Chrissy: I want to take a step back and reevaluate everything. I started Suku because I wanted to establish my own rules within the industry. However, I feel like I’m constantly caught up in the cycle of creating and producing. It’s crucial for a business to slow down and assess what’s working and what’s not. In addition to this, I have plans to do something in Japan next year!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.