When you visit Belinda Love Lee’s Instagram feed, you’ll exhale deeply, feeling instantly calmer than you did before (hello, airy, minimalist aesthetic). And then you’re likely to note a faint but undeniable tug at your ovaries (all thanks to her positively delicious baby girl, Nyah). Belinda’s design work is stunning; her home, inspiring. But it’s her heartfelt + deeply relatable thoughts on motherhood that won us over. Read on to learn more about her design studio, the sweet story behind her daughter’s name, and what it’s been like to enter into first-time motherhood during a global pandemic.
Tell us a little about your work as a designer and printmaker.
I run my own graphic design studio, under the name Belinda Love Lee Paperie, and it involves me getting hands-on with the whole process— from initially designing my client’s logo on the computer all the way to finishing the branding off with printing the business cards on our letterpress!
Our letterpress is a real vintage piece from 1912. She runs manually with a foot treadle, and also by hand, where I have to pass each piece of paper in and out of the press. It’s a real hands-on, time-consuming process—a labour of love, but I really do enjoy it! And then aside from the branding/graphic design side of things, I also run my stationery line, where I work with textured cotton rag paper and simple text designs to make timelessly elegant greeting cards and notebooks.
How has pregnancy + motherhood influenced your work?
Pregnancy and motherhood has inspired me to make heirloom, timeless letterpress pieces. It has also made me so much more emotional and in touch with my heart. Like, for example, for my push present to my husband Joe, I wrote this poem and letterpressed it as a keepsake for us to remember. Surprisingly, the poem resonated with a lot of people, and I wasn’t expecting that kind of response at all! So now, I have it available as a poster for others to frame as a keepsake as well. Also, I’ve had so much fun going above and beyond, designing and letterpressing her baby shower book and birth announcement thank you cards.
Your home is stunning. What are your secrets for maintaining a minimalist style and keeping goods pared down to the essentials?
I think the key to keeping a home streamlined and cohesive is by being intentional with each piece of furniture. My husband Joe and I are very particular with our home decor style, so each piece we choose to bring home has to be something we really love! Aside from the pieces we purchase, a lot of our furniture is custom built by Joe himself. That’s one of the many perks of being married to a millwork carpenter! For example the changing table in Nyah’s room was custom designed and built by Joe and his boss Dave at Grown Design, and it is the most precious piece we own! I wrote a whole post about how the piece came together and the story behind it here.
Speaking of essentials, what baby items would you recommend as the most useful + practical?
100% hands down, the Solly Baby wrap has been an essential (and it’s not just because I’m writing this interview at the moment)! The wrap itself has actually been a huge lifesaver!
Especially as a first-time mom when we haven’t had much help as we initially expected from our family due to the pandemic, the wrap has actually been so much more helpful than I’ve ever anticipated. I naively didn’t expect a newborn to be so clingy, lol. Prior to having Nyah, I thought you could just put a baby down and that they’d entertain themselves. I also thought it’d be much easier to put her down for a nap! Oh, how wrong I was! They require so much looking after, entertaining, rocking and shushing, and finding the perfect moment to put them down when they are “drowsy but not asleep,” etc. With a newborn, there’s hardly any alone time. You eat with her hanging off of you, shower with her on your hip, and let’s be real, I’ve taken one too many poos with her sitting on my lap, lol. No one prepared me for how dependent she would be on me, and that was actually a huge lifestyle shock because I felt like all my independence was gone. The great thing about the wrap is that I get my two hands back, while giving her the comfort of being on me! I can actually do things again, whether it’s baking or packing wholesale stationery orders, even letterpressing with her on me—and often that’s when she’ll fall fast asleep! She’s just tucked up so nicely inside the wrap as if she’s in the womb again, and it helps me get on with the day. It’s also helped me keep some of my sanity!
Aside from the wrap, I would say other practical baby things that we have heavily rely on are our Snuggle Me Organic, our Love to Dream Swaddle Up and a good Baby Probiotic, alongside a dose of vitamin D drops!
Your baby was born during a global pandemic. Would you like to share a little about what the birth was like?
Oh my, it’s definitely been an adventure and ride having our first born during a pandemic, and at the height of when Covid hit North America as well! She was born on April 27th, and the Covid lockdown literally happened a week or two before she was born. I, like many other pregnant mamas, was completely stressed out about the situation. There was so much unknown about the virus at the time.
It was already stressful enough to have to be careful to not catch Covid, but on top of that, hospital policies were in flux, with some hospitals starting to ban partners from being in the birthing room with you. It would’ve been absolutely terrifying having to deliver all by myself. So because of the unknown rules at the time, I opted to have a homebirth with my midwives, instead having our birth at the hospital. In my opinion, it was completely worth not having an epidural or any form of pain medication, in order to make sure that Joe was able to be present at his daughter’s birth! It turned out to be the perfect option for us, and I didn’t even tear after four long hours of pushing! I now look back on our birthing experience so fondly!
What’s your favorite thing about this current season?
On top of the newborn season being so special and once-in-a-lifetime, really, our season with Nyah has been even more highlighted by the fact that there is a worldwide pandemic happening right now! At the beginning, when Covid first hit, I was worried that we would feel lonely or even fall into postpartum depression because we had to go through the newborn phase without friends and family visiting. The city was on lockdown, so we couldn’t even have visitors and the help we had initially planned from our mothers, aunts, grandparents and friends completely fell through because of the international borders being closed. It’s definitely been a testing season, but also a season I will never forget.
To my surprise, we actually loved our special time with our girl the first few weeks. It was just us three, and no one else. It was a real bonding experience, and I got to see Joe love me in ways I would’ve never seen if we had tons of helping hands behind the scenes. When I’d be breastfeeding her, he would be holding up a plate to feed me. When I’d be resting up but had our midwives coming that morning, he would zoom around the house and clean it all up because he knew how much I valued a clean home. When I’d be completely exhausted to the point of breaking down, he’d encourage and spur me on, telling me how amazing I am as a wife and a mom.
Also our immediate family and community based in Toronto really came through for us in ways that I would’ve never expected. We had friends and friends of friends, bringing us homecooked meals every evening, dropping them off with through-the-window visits! My brother and sister-in-law came by every Friday (breaking lockdown rules) just to give me a break because Joe went back to work after two weeks.
Even though I would’ve personally never chosen for her to be born during the height of a pandemic, it showed me how strong we really are when push comes to shove, and how amazing humanity really is.
And we’d love to hear the story behind her beautiful name, Nyah Hope.
Nyah was actually the only name we ever had in mind, so thank God she turned out to be a girl! Surprisingly we came across the name ‘Nyah’ about 8ish years ago when we were still living in the UK. We were at a restaurant and the server that greeted us mentioned in passing that her name was ‘Nyah’ and we both clued in and thought that it would be a beautiful name if we were to ever have a girl one day. It was meant to be, in my opinion, because neither of us were thinking kids at the time! We even kept the receipt with the server’s name on it. After doing some more research about the name, we found out the meaning of it is ‘purpose’, and how fitting is it that our daughter is born during such a crazy time right now. It’s helped me to know that she was born with a purpose, even though the timing of it all might feel off or horrible. As for ‘Hope’, the name came about one day after we came back from church (on the rare occasions we do go!). Joe and I really just felt the sermon spoke to us and it was all about having hope, trusting and leaning on God and not putting him in a box. It was really the perfect message for our season and it just felt ‘right’ naming her after it!
Has anything about motherhood surprised you?
Motherhood has definitely been much harder than I’ve ever anticipated. It has been, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, simply because it’s such a selfless process. Everything you do is completely for this human that relies solely on you. It’s been a process of losing any selfish part of me—learning to undo my expectations on myself, on her, on my husband Joe, and also learning to “choose” to love, especially on the days where she is being extra difficult. Any self-serving part of you really can’t exist, not even in the slightest, and that has been such a humbling experience. It’s made me realize how little I know about unconditionally loving someone. It’s the kind of experience where you will never fully understand how and what it feels like until you go through it yourself! It’s the hardest thing but also the most rewarding.