Olivia Harris is a 31-year-old landscape designer from Sydney who is currently 28 weeks pregnant with her first baby. A garden lover and an enthusiastic cook, she spent a good chunk of her time in isolation experimenting in the kitchen, swapping recipes and DIY home/garden projects with friends, and keeping her mind and body happy via Pilates, long walks and reading.
We recently spoke with Liv about letting go of unrealistic expectations, what sensuality looks like to her, and how her relationship to her body has changed over time (and especially during pregnancy). Get acquainted with the smart angel below, where you will also find enough book, documentary and film recommendations to see you through winter.
Maddy Woon: When do you feel most alive?
Olivia Harris: I feel the most alive after a big laugh, a dip in the sea or when I’m really inspired.
Par Femme is all about sensuality and empowerment. How has your relationship with these things changed over time?
It has completely changed as I’ve grown up. I started out pretty clueless and unsure of what sensuality and sexuality were really about. Over the years, my confidence has grown, and I’ve learnt more about who I am. Now that I understand and accept myself, I feel I can take ownership over how I want to express those sides of my personality. I’ve found pregnancy to be a pretty sensual experience, even though it can be totally scary and strange at times. It’s not necessarily “sexy” but it is exciting, and I feel connected to, and appreciative of, my body on a whole new level.
Why do you think these things have been taboo subjects, for women especially?
It’s one of those areas that we are still fighting for equality on. Maybe it’s still a lot to do with how women’s sensuality has been oppressed and condemned in the past. We aren’t encouraged to be curious or adventurous when it comes to our own sexuality and so I think a lot of people still feel really uncomfortable talking about it.
What did you discover about yourself in the absence of (physical) socialisation during isolation?
A lot. Mostly how much I bounce off other people and enjoy being around them. Also, how much I enjoy spending time or talking to people one-on-one rather than in big groups or a busy setting.
How has your relationship with your body changed over time? Especially during pregnancy.
I really was uncomfortable with my body as a teen and into my early twenties. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I worked out how to accept and be happy about the way I looked. Most of it was just letting go of unrealistic ideals. Pregnancy has forced me to readjust again in my relationship with my body. I think I always have to readjust my expectations, whether it be because of changes in pregnancy or changes as I get older. Now I try to focus more on looking after myself and feeling good about my body that way.
What is the coolest thing you’ve learned recently?
Well, mostly it’s all around pregnancy. (Which may not sound so cool, but it really is mind-blowing when you get reading about it!). Mainly how intricate and delicate the entire process is. I was quite blown away to find out that the heaviest baby born (on record) was 10.2kgs!
What were some creative ways you stayed connected with friends and family during isolation?
Sharing what you’re up to. My friends and I shared and are sharing lots of recipes and DIY projects that we’ve been doing at home and in the garden. It’s really great seeing what your friends have been up to and getting inspired from them.
What are some simple ways to show kindness during these times?
Ringing a friend or relative that lives alone and doesn’t have many people around to support them. Just checking in and having a little chat can make a big difference to someone’s day, I think.
I know from first-hand experience that you are a great cook. What have been some of your favourite things to cook in isolation (sweet and savoury!)?
Thank you! I really like cooking simple things, because they’re fun… and foolproof. We’ve been making lots of fresh pasta. It’s so easy and satisfying to make. I love getting my hands dirty and it really doesn’t compare to the packet stuff. For sweets, we’ve been playing around with Gelato. Yum. When mangoes were still in season, we made a delish mango sorbet—just mango puree, glucose and sugar!
How are you keeping your body and mind active during self-isolation and pregnancy?
I’ve been doing a lot of cooking as well as small projects, particularly around the house. Talking plants with friends, even a bit of plant propagating of my own. Trying out new ways of exercising has been great—a friend put me onto a Pilates studio that is offering online classes. I’ve been able to get back into reading as well, which I’m so happy about. I’ve got a few books on the go at the moment. I have to say being pregnant is really ideal during this time as it’s motivation to keep healthy on all fronts. There’s a whole new world you can read up on and there’s quite a lot to plan for. Labour, woah. My dog is a big help too! She’s a great little companion and has lots of energy so I’m forced out of the house at least once a day. I’ve found it’s one of the best things for keeping my mind clear. A nice, long walk outside.
Best documentaries/movies/books to read when you’re chilling at home?
Books: Patty Smith's Just Kids, Kate Herd's Native,Jela Ivankovik's Waters,Kaz Cooke's Up the Duff.(This is probably only interesting if you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant— if you are it’s very informative and amusing).
Movies: Incendies, Parasite, The Joker
Documentaries/series: The Australian Dreamand Monte Don’s Paradise Gardens(or anything Monte Don if you love gardens!).
What are you looking forward to doing most when things go back to normal
Booking a holiday and inviting all my friends over for a feast.
All images by Olivia Harris