Lilia Khousnoutdinová got into the public consciousness thanks to her relationship with the controversial visionary, mathematician and philanthropist Karel Janeček, whom she gave a daughter, Isabella. Together they underwent a wedding ritual, which is not recognize by the Czech law, but for Karel and Lilia it meant an anchor. Lilia devotes herself to topics that combine femininity, childbirth and motherhood. The mother of two children also finds the time to be active in fashion. When you sit down on the couch opposite her, you feel peace and serenity. That doesn’t change even when Karel enters the room and starts interrupting the conversation.
Lilia, you are enjoying a beautiful motherhood, but you mentioned that you were also working all the time. I would like to talk about how you’re handling your work life and two children.
Karel: And me on top of that…
Lilia: That’s the most difficult task here... (laughs) I'm doing great. I was worried about how I would feel after having another baby because I’d been through quite a difficult period after giving birth to my son. Especially because I often spent long stretches of time alone when my husband left for military missions.
With Isabella, it’s been just wonderful. Actually, I feel like it can’t even be possible that she’s going to turn one in the spring. And the problems I used to have back then - fatigue, isolation, feelings of helplessness - are avoiding me completely. Nothing like that happened to us this time, and I think it's mainly because I’ve already found all-round support. First of all in the sense of taking care of myself - physiotherapy, rehabilitation, massage, to get my body back in order after giving birth. Also, I started to look for babysitting support very soon. We have an amazing full-time nanny that chose very carefully, and she’s often here even when I'm at home. So it's not necessarily that I’d leave my children with someone else and go out.
Rather, I find it very unnatural if a child is raised only by one person. I think it's nice if at least two people are involved, but ideally a whole village. (laughs) That's why I have another adult at home, an extra pair of hands that can help with something, take over some responsibility. That enables me to stay at home, work in peace, spend time with my son, while my baby girl is being taken care of. Or, on the contrary, I can be with the little one, knowing that my son will have his dinner ready, homework finished and so on. I find that awesome.
Karel: Wait, are you saying I’m not helping...? (laughs)
A lot of moms find such support in grandmothers. How about your mother, does she like to help?
Lilia: My mother was very young when she became a grandmother for the first time, only forty-four. For which, I would say, she was a little upset with me, because she hadn’t been planning to become a grandmother at such a young age. Mom does spend time with Isabella, she comes to watch her every now and then, but she definitely can't be a full-time grandmother, seeing as she herself goes to work, got married recently and has a small child. My brother is younger than my son, so it would be a little unfair to expect it from her.
How old are you?
You must be planning more children...
I am. When I mentioned the minimum of three children, I meant of my own. I also have three step-children by Karel now. I already have a big family, but I'd like it to grow even bigger. Mainly, I really enjoy pregnancy and childbirth. That’s something I wish to experience multiple times.
Really, I don't mean it ironically.
I have friends who have already given birth, and neither of them told me that it was the most beautiful time of a woman's life. How is it possible that you perceive it that way?
Of course, I'm lucky, and I realize I probably have good genetic equipment, so I'm usually healthy during pregnancy, I don't have the problems that some women face. I understand that it's very colored. But in general, the "2in1" existence seems to me as a wonderful miracle.
I know there are a lot of fears and unpleasant stories circulating around childbirth. Thanfully I’ve stumbled upon a documentary once that completely shocked me - in the most beautiful sense of the word. And so the work related to this topic began. I found out that one can indeed give birth in a different way, beautifully, with joy, with dignity and in an empowering manner. It's not even about giving birth at home, or in a maternity hospital, those are polarized debates about nothing. No matter where you give birth, it can be beautiful or horrible, even though some conditions are certainly more helpful than others. That's why I’m currently involved, for example, in the project "Ať stojí" ("Let them stand") for the building of birth houses in the Czech Republic.
With Leo, it was a beautiful but challenging childbirth. I’ve once described the experience in my book Female Stories. But with little Isabella, it was so great that it surpassed even my very high expectations.
But you already knew what was going to happen…
Actually, it was completely different. Births are never the same, many people say that. I’d expected it to be wonderful, but long and challenging. Yet it was short and almost painless.
The active phase lasted for an hour and a half. I returned from a walk on Kampa at midnight and she was born at about one fifty-five. And in the meantime I managed to make tea and call the photographer. I didn't even get into the pool, because I still had the vision in my mind that I was only at the beginning and there were many hours before me.
At some point, the rational part of me that had some knowledge extrapolated that the child was rotating out through the pelvis, but I kept telling myself it was not possible, because that wasn't supposed to be happening before morning. And within ten minutes, she came into the world. I mainly expected there would be pain. My first childbirth had been beautiful, but it had hurt. The second one was almost painless, except for the last few minutes. Which was something I’d always appreciated as a theoretic concept, but found hard to believe.
Since I’ve experienced it with her, I know it's really possible. And now I'm trying to formulate for myself what the key was.
Here’s something that interests me. When women see your website and read what you talk about there, do they want a recipe how to do it?
Of course, but there is nothing to guarantee an ecstatic childbirth, no money, no agreement with the head physician, not even the best classes in the world. We can only increase the likelihood of it going well.
In a way, that’s the magical thing about it. To some extent, a certain amount of humility is the main key. Then there are things we can do for ourselves to increase the probability of the best result. We can talk about them, develop exercises, give recommendations… And here, I believe, I already have a quality recipe. After all, for example, the most famous Czech orgasmic childbirth discussed in the interviews and in the book was experienced by a woman who used to come to my circles. With a good overall preparation, the options are open.
After all, the stories and feedback from which I get to know that it worked are the main reason why I love my work. It is well worth it, knowing that I may have contributed to letting a baby enter our world in a better way and enabling a mother to enjoy a beautiful birth.
That's the content of your work? Do you lead discussions with women? How do the classes work?
I offer two kind of classes, "offline" seminars and online education. One of the classes is actually focused on antenatal preparation. In the past, I have held many antenatal training seminars for couples. And I used to attend childbirths. I'm not doing it anymore, because with my two kids, it's no longer possible to be on call. But a doula needs to be available in the time around the birth.
That’s one part of the work I do and enjoy, but I also have two companies - we import goods, sew clothes, I design jewelry and guide tours. We also organize adventure trips to many interesting destinations. I was involved in the production of four books in various roles, usually as the main author. With my colleagues, we run a Happy Czechia Foundation, which, in collaboration with the STEM Sociological Research Center, explores the Bhutanese model of values. And I’m pretty sure I forgot about something...
All this is extremely interesting, we would need more time for it. But I'd like to hear about Bhutan…
Bhutan is amazing.
Why this country?
By coincidence I was paired up with the Crown Prince of Bhutan in college, in the sense that we were supposed to help each other as students. Back then I didn't know that Bhutan existed.
I remember thinking that his fairy tales about it being the most beautiful, most amazing country in the world were a nice show of patriotism. However, I decided to visit the country after graduation, and I was thoroughly surprised. Bhutan surpassed my wildest fantasies.
One of the things I find fascinating about Bhutan is their ecology. The country is truly a world leader in animal welfare, environment, and in the way they think about their own sustainability. They behave in an equally sustainable manner to their traditions, crafts and heritage, which we have often lost here in Europe in the last hundred years. No one even knows how it happened, but few people know how to weave, sew, embroider or carve nowadays. A hundred years ago, women still knew how to do it. And men could do the basic household things, make a stool for instance.
Lilia: That you could make a stool? (laughs)
Karel: Sure thing.
I understand, crafts are dying out.
In Bhutan, people focus on preserving their inheritance, including the artistic side of it, such as folk costumes, fabulous fabrics… That's actually what we’re importing and sewing our clothes from.
So that’s what you draw from for your business? And are people interested in it here?
Yes, a certain category of people, because the fabrics are naturally more expensive due to their origin and the fact that they are handmade. If something takes nine months to produce, it can't be as cheap as H&M. At the same time, it is a group of customers who are interested in sustainability, art and a bit of extravagance, because these materials are not completely conservative, on the contrary, they are very colorful.
It's beautiful. I've always tried to do everything to fill a hole in the market in the sense of what I was personally missing. I take myself as my target customer. There is a certain group and I’ve never actually tried to expand it or go mainstream because doing things this way is comfortable and natural for me. Whether we’re talking about services, books, jewelry or clothes, I create everything for the coefficient of myself. It also has a positive impact in that I have a lot of friends and acquaintances today that I have met through my work.
I'm also interested in the rituals. You told me you participated in a ritual in Bali...
Yes, in January we attended the traditional ritual of blessing on the new moon.
And you had a kind of wedding in Bali, too.
That was in Bhutan, a long time ago. A year and a half back.
When will you get married for real?
Karel: How do you mean for real?
Lilia: That we should have another wedding, you know?
I can’t see any rings...
Karel: That’s never gonna happen, I don’t wear rings.
Lilia: We have pendants, we're not completely out. (laughs)
Do you wish to legalize your relationship within the Czech legal system or are you happy with its current form?
In answer to your original question - when... Once he gets down on one knee with a ring, then I’ll say yes. I have no idea when that could happen, or if it could happen at all. For a long time I’ve seen it as pointless, but all that has been going on in terms of the affairs around our relationship made me realize that the legal institute of marriage really has tremendous power in our society. In fact, it provides a great protection and shield, to women in particular, not only when it comes to security, but mainly in terms of dignity, respect, social recognition and "non-vulgarization" in general. I just wanted a ritual wedding, but due to what followed, I came to the conclusion that a legal wedding would be a good thing for Isabella and myself.
But you’re currently living in a free-minded relationship. After the wedding, it might happen that you will have to get a divorce one day. Don't you see that as a risk?
Not really. If we get divorced, so be it. For the duration of a serious relationship, marriage already seems logical to me. When it breaks up, we’ll get a divorce. On the contrary, I find it illogical when people live together for ten years without being certain that it's the right partner. But they keep up with it, because they’ve already been together for ten years, so why not. And the stamp is not what interests me most about it, even though I am now able to admit it’s a good thing to have.
I find the wedding ritual intriguing, which is another reason why I enjoy modern rituals and the opportunity to do the whole ceremony according to one’s own needs and beliefs. That might be connected to the free-mindedness, as you call it. To give each other wedding vows that are meant seriously. Not something dictated by the registrar because the law demands it, but what "marriage" really means to a particular couple. Which can vary for different people, and it is good to clarify it - what I'm actually signing up for and what I want to commit to. For example, this is something we do during the bride's preparation ritual - we discuss what the wedding means, what is its purpose, how the before and after differ from each other, what’s the reality of it, for what period of time we are making the promise…
But that’s not something you can ever really know...
True, but they can think about it. And then they can make vows to each other that are genuine, that have a profound meaning to them, and that are not just parroting of a paragraph dictated by the law. In this respect, a wedding as a ceremony is very interesting to me. And the paper is more of a safeguard.
What would you promise there? And for what time period? Loyalty, for instance...
Lilia: So far, my relationships tended to last 7 years...
Karel: With me it’s gonna be at least seven times three, so 21!
Lilia: That's a good start, I think. I would promise to give the relationship and our family top priority, time, energy and create a beautiful background for joint growth, creation and children. Of course, to take care of our love and passion, nurture our feelings of trust and intimacy, support in every respect, including work. And yes - loyalty, the way I understand it.
There is the question of what loyalty means, because for me, loyalty is honesty and sensitive discreetness. I see my partner as faithful as long as I know about everything that is happening abound him, I agree with it, and know that if it were to cause me pain, he wouldn’t be doing it.
I am aware that I am quite tolerant - and I believe more so than the majority of women - towards what I think is interesting, playful, fun, nice and what can be experimented with in a relationship. I definitely wouldn’t call that infidelity, for me infidelity means lying, and I have zero tolerance for lies. I find them very lewd. And completely pointless. For me, once there is a lie in an intimate relationship, that relationship can never be deeply intimate, because a wall of withdrawal and hiding has already been erected.
Do you think that if you trust each other like this, if you're not to each other, or at least believe you're not, your intimacy goes much deeper than what is the case for people who sometimes hide things from each other?
I don't want to speak for other people, but it is like that for me. If I were to be hiding something, I wouldn’t be able to achieve certain depth of intimacy, which I find very interesting.
Mr. Janeček, I can see the look in your eyes... Would you like to add something?
Karel: I may add that I perceive our connection as phenomenal, I've never experienced anything like this before. I am excited to be with a woman with whom I see eye to eye in every respect, and we can build home together as well as cooperate on work projects. The beginning of our relationship was what it was, but I believe it served its purpose. The truth came out, and so did our respective natures. After everything we've gone through, I know I can trust Lilia implicitly. And I believe that I will make up to her for all the wrongs soon.
Lilia: Well, yes, it’s been hell for the larger part of my pregnancy. But external influences were to blame... Ever since Karel ended his relationship with Mariem for good almost a year ago, it's only been getting better. The last thing we need to solve is his divorce. And I am delighted to see how, despite all the crazy complications, Karel keeps fighting for his time with little Yanis. He’s great with kids and loved them unconditionally. My son included. I believe that everything will be solved soon, and we’ll be able to enjoy our family happiness in peace.
How many children would you like to have?
Do you have a recipe for being both a perfect wife and mistress?
Describe in one sentence what Bhutan means to you.
What is the last think that made you cry?
What do you find most charming about your partner?
When you want a man to relax and stop being nervous on a date, what dish do you serve?
What would you like to change about yourself?
Who is the sexiest man on the planet for you?
How do you think an original piece of jewellery gifted out of love looks like?
What was the last ritual you took part in?
When was the last time you felt shame?
What one topic do you consider taboo?
Which number is important to you and why?
What would you like to say to all the women who look down on you?
Do you enjoy your work?
I can see that.