When it comes to raising babies, most of us city mamas waver (often) between our love for urban life and the draw of a great big yard somewhere far beyond city limits. For photographer and blogger Belle Savransky, there was never any question. Since the moment she arrived in NYC’s East Village at just 18 years old--she sold everything she owned, bought a one-way ticket to JFK, and flew across the country with her whole life in two Goodwill suitcases--she knew this was “home.” And now this die-hard New Yorker is teaching that same passion for the city to her daughter Biet Luna, 4, and son, Lucien Hunter, 2.
This month, Belle and her husband Gaby (in true NYC fairytale-style, they were married in Tompkins Square Park by the man who tended bar at the place they first met) will welcome their third baby into their home. We recently stopped into her East Village apartment--which has more style in its 800-square-feet than you could possibly imagine--with our friend Mariliana of Stylish & Hip Kids Photography, and got a glimpse into a typical NYC morning for this anything but typical New Yorker. Below, she chats with us about her design aesthetic, baby prep and some of the most important mom lessons she’s learned during this third pregnancy.
Want to see more of Belle? Head over to our Instagram feed, where she’s taking over our account for the day!
Why do you love having kids in NYC?
I love living in NYC. I love the culture, the creative energy, the diversity, the history… experiencing all of it every day has changed me as a person over the years in the best possible way and opened up the world to me. Now I am able to give that to my children by raising them here, and it means so much. To grow up somewhere where there simply is no norm, where everyone from every culture can live and be free, where it’s okay and celebrated to be an individual, where you can truly be anything you choose to be, is such an amazing thing.
Do you ever get frustrated by the challenges of city living?
The culture here makes the hardships of city living worth it every single day. On an average day out and about, we’re likely to see gorgeous street art, literally painted onto the landscape of the city on the side of buildings, hear beautiful musicians playing in the parks or subways, taste a new food from a different culture at one of the local street stands or cafes, and have countless conversations with people from all walks of life, all on a walk around the neighborhood. And that’s not even stepping foot into a museum, which the city has plenty of! The richness of our life in the city makes raising children here the only choice for us.
How has this pregnancy been different from the others?
This pregnancy, and perhaps this is true of nearly all third pregnancies, was one one of the most physically taxing periods of my life. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or the running to keep up with two other kids, or the close spacing of my children, but it’s been an exhausting ride, from morning sickness to aches and pains to a complete lack of stamina. I lucked out the first two times and felt pretty energetic and great the whole time, and naively imagined this would be the same, but it’s been much harder.
However, through it all, I’ve had to learn and practice the art of slowing down and asking for help, which has been a really beautiful lesson. I think that sometimes, as a mom, you pile up all of your responsibilities and power through your days, and the days weave together, and before you know it you’re completely burnt out. And there’s this underlying idea we all have that you’re supposed to be able to “do it all”, all of the time. I know that I felt that way, and I pushed and pushed myself juggling work and kids and marriage and family and city life and pregnancy.
I wish more women would stop and tell each other, hey, its okay to need help. It’s okay to take days off, and to order take out for dinner, and to take naps instead of catching up on emails, and to decidedly not do it all. It’s okay to take as much care of yourself as you do of your kids, and it’s okay to ask for help once in awhile. It’s okay. This pregnancy led to me learning all of this, and, in turn, to building a really strong community of friends, which has been life-changing.
What are you most looking forward to about having 3?
I think I’m most looking forward to watching my children grow together and build lifelong relationships as a little tribe of three. I look forward to seeing my daughter, who’s ecstatic about getting the chance to take care of another baby, flex her muscles as the little matriarch that she is. I look forward to seeing my son, who has always been the baby, grow into his new position as a big brother. I look forward to witnessing every part of this new baby’s personality emerge, and to getting to do this whole motherhood thing all over again from scratch one more beautiful time.
How would you describe your home style?
I don’t know if there’s a name for our style...maybe eclectic/artsy/lived-in? It’s much more toned down than it used to be. When Gaby and I lived separately, my apartment looked like an old victorian castle, all antiques and mirrors and art and dusty books, and Gaby’s looked like a musician’s dream pad, piles of records and guitars and equipment and a string of Christmas lights hung across the ceiling. We merged them, and pared down over time, and it turned into this. I love antiques and plants and textures. He loves music, clean lines, and instruments. When we had kids and moved to our current apartment, I gave up crown molding and chandeliers for a real kitchen and a dishwasher. He gave up his music room for a great school district and a short commute to work.
We always hold onto our music and our art and a few pieces of furniture that are meaningful, but everything else will eventually be ruined by the kids anyway, so we don’t worry about it too much and don’t have any real “investment pieces” yet. We like to have a space to really live in, where everyone is welcome in all rooms and the the spaces belong to the kids as much as us, without looking like “play-spaces”, and I think we found a good balance. I still have the two suitcases that I originally moved to NYC with, but now my kids use them as toy boxes and to run around with when they play pirates.
What are some of your very favorite, most meaningful pieces in your home?
The most meaningful pieces in my home are the paintings on the walls. Most of them were painted by my mother when she was in her twenties. She was an amazing professional painter who passed away when I was four years old. After a lifetime of foster care and moving homes, all I ended up with were a couple of photographs of her, and stories. Then a few years ago an aunt of mine was cleaning out her attic and found my mother’s portfolio from when she was in art school in San Francisco in the late sixties and early seventies, and it was full of these beautiful figure sketches and watercolors and prints. My sisters and I divided her work, framed it, and hung it in each of our homes. Now I feel like I have a little piece of her for my children to know as they grow.
Tell us about your morning routine.
Our morning routine is pretty relaxed. Since my husband works mostly nights in the music industry and I work freelance, mornings and early afternoons are our time together as a family. When Biet starts school our routine will need to be moved up a couple hours, but for now, this is a typical morning.
8:00am -- Lou wakes up first and jumps out of bed. Like his dad, he’s an early riser. Gaby wakes with him and they head out to the living room together to choose the music for the morning. This is a ritual that will never be broken in our home. Gaby is an avid music collector and for as long as I’ve known him has always put something on the stereo first thing in the morning. Now he's raised our children listening to the entire catalogs of the Stones, the Beatles, and Dylan, so usually our mornings start with one of those three. Although sometimes I’ll get lucky and he’ll put on Lou Reed or Leonard Cohen.
8:15am -- Lou and Gaby come wake me up with fresh brewed coffee. Gaby has been making me coffee every morning and bringing it to me in bed for as long as I can remember. That’s one of the reasons I married him, haha.
8:30am -- I’ll finally roll out of bed and drag Biet, who at this point is snuggling with me half-asleep, with me. It usually takes me about half an hour and a cup of coffee to really wake up and screw my head on straight. Like her mother, Biet has never been an early riser. We ladies like our sleep.
8:45am -- We all make breakfast together. Biet and Lou fight over who gets to stand on the stool, so we’ll drag a chair into the kitchen to make room for everyone to help. We usually start the day with green smoothies, eggs, and buttered toast. We like to all eat together every morning if we can swing it.
8:50am --Time to feed Nico breakfast. Biet and Lou have a daily schedule of who gets to feed her, and it always alternates to give each one a turn. Even though this entails all of us putting a scoop of food in her dog bowl, the kids take this chore very seriously and never forget whose turn it is.
9:00am -- Everyone gets dressed and does their hair. This is the most dreaded time of the morning, because my kids inherited their father’s curly hair, and it is not an easy task to get a brush through their wild manes. I’ll usually put a kid’s movie on my phone to try to distract them (right now their favorite is Reading Rainbow, which makes me deliriously happy and nostalgic!), but there’ll still be a fair amount of crying and screaming.
9:15am -- Tidy up the apartment and get ready to head out. The kids play as everyone runs around and does their own thing for awhile to get ready. Lou likes to grab one of my old tripods to use as a microphone and will put on a rock and roll show for the whole house with his little ukulele. Biet plays along with him or goes off on her own to work on her own projects, Gaby and I take turns returning emails, tidying up the kitchen after breakfast, and getting the laundry together. We try to tie up whatever loose ends we can at home before we head out for the day, even though it often feels like the mess and the laundry situations are never-ending.
10:00am -- Take Nico out on her walk. We like to frequent a few different parks and playgrounds, so we’ll walk down Avenue B and decide where to head for the day. We often stop at a local coffee shop for more caffeine, haha, and to say hi to friends. Our favorite playgrounds are Tompkins Square Park, Joseph C. Sauer Park & Garden on 12th, and El Jardin de Paraiso on 4th, which has gorgeous willow trees and a tree house for the kids. We’ll let Nico lay in the sun for awhile as the kids play, and enjoy some time outdoors before heading home to start on lunch. We’re trying to send as much time as we can in this beautiful warm weather before the summer ends.
Photography by Stylish & Hip Kids.