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July 13, 2016

Superstar Kiwi shoe designer Kathryn Wilson on her new role as mum to Lola Belle

‘Lola Belle was a wedding weekend surprise. Liam and I got married in April last year, and she was born on New Year’s Day.

My mum was so happy when we had Lola Belle. She’s been really proud of me and my success with the business but she didn’t want me to miss out on this part of life. She wanted me to experience being a family, nurturing someone and passing on all that love. It wasn’t until I had Lola that I really understood what she meant. It makes you stop and consider everything about life because all of a sudden nothing is as important as this little person and keeping them safe. It’s a bit mushy to say but it also surprised me how much love I felt for Liam too. I remember looking at him and seeing another whole side to this big burly man holding this little bundle.

After we found out we were pregnant we were having lunch with our friends Ray and Anna Avery and because Ray’s had a lot to do with neo-natal health [Sir Ray Avery is a scientist and social entrepreneur who developed the Liferaft Infant Incubator] he urged us to go and find out about cord banking. I have the mentality that if you can afford it and it’s accessible why wouldn’t you? Then you know you have a safety net there. When I heard about all the potential uses of cord blood in the future we felt like we’d be crazy not to follow it up. It’s not just about the neurological issues like Alzheimers or types of cancers that it can help with but the other possibilities… The cells can be used for anything like trauma after an operation, skin grafts if they’re in a car accident – any time they might need new cells. And I know more and more uses are being discovered. Liam and I are quite pragmatic people – I’m 35 and he’s 43 and we’ve both got our own businesses and been really career focused – so we wanted to do everything we could to make this little one’s journey as safe as possible. You don’t want to find that they need the cells later on and then wish you’d done it.

When they cut her umbilical cord it was done right then and there and neither mother nor baby feels a thing. Then it gets couriered off to the CordBank Lab from wherever you are in the country.

I was lucky to have a baby without any reflux or tummy problems so she was reasonably easy in that newborn stage. With your own business there’s no such thing as maternity leave but I’d met with a nanny before Lola was born and she was wonderful. From one month old we did one day a week, then two months: two days, three months: three days and now we do four. I either work from home or walk to the office, which is two minutes away. I also trained the team to step up while I was pregnant and I think that’s been a really healthy experience and really invigorating for everyone. It’s great to realise you don’t have to be everywhere every day.

When I found out I was pregnant of course I wanted to do baby shoes! So along came the Lola Boot…

The decision to give some money to Medicine Mondiale with the sale of every pair came after we went to see Ray Avery’s documentary about the work he’s doing in Kathmandu. I bawled my eyes out the whole way through. When babies are born in villages in the mountains and they have health issues they have to survive a journey on a horse or donkey just to get to hospital. Then on the ward they only have a few incubators and some of them rely on fresh running water and power so they may not even be usable. After I saw the documentary, I said, ‘How can I help?’ We decided to give $10 from every pair of baby shoes sold. That will buy three of the Liferaft incubators this year and each incubator has the potential to save 500 babies’ lives because they last for 10 years.

Thinking about things like that puts everything in perspective. You feel so grateful for all that we have in New Zealand in terms of healthcare. It’s such a privileged life we live. 

To get a free information pack and find out how banking your baby’s cord blood could save their life visit or phone 0800CORDBANK 

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