Founder of the Lyla Nsouli foundation gives a life-lesson on positivity
Just a few days after giving birth to a baby daughter, Simone Nsouli is full of zest and energy. Asked if she is napping, she demurs: “Well, I’m sitting on my bed sometimes”. Only a few weeks before this planned c-section, she hosted a children’s Halloween party for 700. Her concession to being nine months pregnant was setting up a desk on-site instead of being constantly on her feet. “It was the fifth year we’ve done the party. Every year I think, can we manage it again? But I have a committee of very close friends who put so much into it and the children seem to love it….” The Halloween party is a mainstay of the calendar of the Lyla Nsouli Foundation, set up to fund research into DIPG, the rare, inoperable childhood brain cancer.
This tragically took the life of Simone and her husband Nadim’s firstborn, three-year-old Lyla. “In the first few months I found the diagnosis so unfathomable, I really stuck my head in the sand. I had to be told over and again because I just couldn’t hear it,” says Simone. “Once we lost her, I could eventually manage to deal with it in a different way. Doing something that was about her and could help bring about change was good way of coping for me,” she says. “But we were hardly in a frame of mind where we were able to push to get something off the ground. Then the Foundation got moving all on its own. Many people, in many countries, were so responsive to it. It got wings, and we went with it.” Although the disease is still fatal in all cases, funding from the Foundation is helping landmark innovations. “A lot of treatments for adult cancers come out of those developed for children,” says Simone. A former hedge fund executive, she now works on the Foundation full-time. “As far as I can do anything full-time having three kids…”
There is a smile in her voice as she acknowledges her new, as yet nameless baby girl along with her two “hyper, naughty, wonderful, hysterical” boys, Zeyd, 5, and Aidan, 3. “It’s so important for them that there’s a public record of what happened to their elder sister and they can see something good came out of it. I want them to feel comfortable with it all. They go along to all the events and I don’t think they feel any fear.” Fearless is the word for Simone, who went into her fourth pregnancy full of positivity. “My boys were so excited, rubbing my bump. It’s a magical time. When you feel the baby moving, but before you start to feel uncomfortable – that is such a special period.”
Born in the Bahamas, she is based in London. During her pregnancy, she came to depend on reflexology sessions at Reflections on Sydney street. She continued to hit the gym through “the first two trimesters”. “Even weights, for a period. Or a casual 20 minutes on an elliptical. Exercise is so important for your mind, your endorphins, your sense of control.” “I’m a big believer in finding things that make you happy – when you’re pregnant you have to indulge.” This is characteristic of Simone Nsouli’s optimistic outlook and owes a lot to her story and dedication to creating a better outcome for others. Confident that the new arrival will bring an exciting new chapter, the past nine months certainly haven’t been slowing this resilient woman down: “Pregnancy is not an imprisonment,” she says. “It’s a minor adjustment.”
In Her Words
NINE LONG MONTHS OR NINE JOYOUS MONTHS?
Is there anything in between? Always joyous, though sometimes I was too busy to connect with the joy. This baby was such a mover, which was so comforting for me because it was never too quiet in there.
HIDE THE BUMP OR SHOW OFF THE BUMP?
If you try to hide it, you can look like a tent. I think it’s nice to show it off in a practical way, with a skin-fitting top that covers your bump and keeps it cosy. The shape of the bump is so nice, or it can be. Mine wasn’t always – with Lyla my waist was just gone from so early, but this time it just stayed.
HYPERACTIVE OR CHILLED OUT PREGNANT WOMAN?
Hyperactive! In the beginning of the pregnancy I was pretty dopey, but later, being busy and having so much on my mind – I wasn’t able to give in to it.
WHAT DO YOU MISS THE MOST WHILE PREGNANT?
Rosé wine, in the summer. And seafood. I went to a birthday party where the starters were oysters and caviar and champagne. I just wanted to go home and cry!
ONE THING YOU COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT WHILE PREGNANT?
Probably Hatch trousers. They’re navy blue with a very gentle elastic waist, very unstructured, made in a light crepe fabric. They work all the way through pregnancy and afterwards. I wore them for each of my pregnancies since 2008. They work around the house or for a cocktail party. I think they are called the ‘slip-on pant’ but it seems they don’t make them any more (shock, horror) which is a situation to be rectified!
YOUR FAVOURITE DESIGNERS FOR EXPECTING?
For dressing up, Valentino does a very clever cocktail dress, cut so that you buy the same size you would normally, but you can wear it through most of pregnancy. I also love my J-Crew silk pyjama pants: so light, so comfortable, in a busy print – I wore my “Drake’s for J-Crew” ones to death.
TOP TIP FOR OTHER PREGNANT WOMEN?
You can still eat sushi. You can still exercise. If you adjust your limits you ought to be able to safely continue to do the things you used to do – people think they can’t continue with their lives but you can.
IF YOUR PARTNER COULD CARRY THE BABY, WOULD YOU LET HIM?
I’d be a bit jealous, I think. This is something very special. Regardless of the discomfort, it’s a great connection with your baby. Since when should men be allowed to carry babies?
BOY OR GIRL?
Girl. With two boys already, we decided to find out during the pregnancy.
Written by Hermione Eyre
Photographed by Eva K Salvi
Hair and Make-Up by Mariam Jensen