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Wednesday 9 January 2019

On January and Weight Loss

Putting it out there because I want to practice what I preach.
My take on the awesome #EveryWomanIsAnAngel hashtag with Knixwear

The first time I was praised for losing weight I was eight years old. I shed some pounds the summer before grade 3 because of a heartfelt obsession with skipping rope and wearing my Skip-Its (remember those?) ragged. I was not skipping to lose weight- it was just fun and it brought me joy. But as a chubby kid, people noticed. "Wow, you've slimmed down!", they said, and, as a child, I just had to smile and nod and assume that was a good thing. Perhaps it was in those moments that exercise lost its joy for me; instead, it was a means to get smaller and, consequently, receive more praise.

Can you tell it was the early '90s!?
Tanned and happy after a summer of breaking three Skip-Its due to over-use.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that I was made aware of my weight, and of being different because of it. I always wanted to join a dance class, but felt that I was too chubby to do ballet. I would eagerly do Jane Fonda workouts with my mom (so delightfully 80s) and long to look like the tall, lean, spandex-clad women on the screen. I was probably five years old the first time I had the awareness that I was a chubby kid and that this wasn't the best thing to be.

I won't write a long melodrama about how my weight and body image continued to affect me growing up, but I'll say in brief that, despite having some pretty awesome qualities as a child, adolescent, and young adult (I was smart and kind, had a sense of humor, had some incredible, supportive friends), my weight it what shaped my identity most profoundly. I always thought I was the fattest girl in the room, I thought I was too heavy to wear what I wanted, I truly believed that I would be properly humiliated if I ever asked a boy out. I did not start dating until my mid-20s because it took me that much life experience to muster the courage.

Fast-forward and I have truly come so, so far in the realm of self-love and body acceptance. I know from many angles (as a therapist and a recipient of therapy) that facing your fears is the best way to conquer them and build confidence. Delving into dating and realizing that I could be liked and loved as I was was simply huge for me. But also, luckily, I was able to build love for myself from within also, not only from the validation and acceptance from others. There was no major turning point, but I think my yoga practice turned on a switch in me- oh, it's about loving and nurturing your body, being in the moment, feeling it all- and if you lose weight, that's just a side-effect of the practice. The discovery of larger-bodied yoga teachers was also monumental. Someone who looks like me can do a headstand? They can be accomplished enough to teach? They don't have to get skinny first? Sounds pretty basic, but taking this all in was really a game-changer for me.

I was prompted to start furiously writing this essay because of the time of year- January, New Year's resolutions, and the media's inevitable obsession with and fixation on weight loss. This year, more than ever before, all of this is getting on my last nerve. There seems to be this ubiquitous obsession with losing weight, number of pounds lost, with the promotion of actual health like some faded issue in the background. But seriously, it has been ingrained in most of us: that losing weight is inherently healthy, right? That I can assume someone is definitely healthier after losing weight and that they are clearly unhealthy if overweight. Right? It has really taken years of deprogramming for me to step aside from this mindset.

I have come to understand that you cannot assume a person's health based on the size of their body. Many fat people are actually quite healthy. Many thin people are unhealthy. I do not want to present myself as some pinnacle example, but, even at my most fit (I'd say when I got pregnant, the Summer of 2017, after I'd been practicing yoga 5-6 days per week), my weight still rendered me clinically obese. My blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels were all perfect (as they had always been), I was perfectly mobile and could keep up in any typical yoga class. I had no chronic or acute medical problems. And yet my body size and BMI would undoubtedly render me unhealthy in the opinions of many doctors and armchair health gurus on Instagram. Yes, you can be fat and fit. "Obese" and healthy. That may still sound wrong to many of you, but we've all been so primed to believe otherwise.

With this mentality at the forefront, I've been especially bothered this year by all of the talk shows pontificating about weight loss this time of year. They parade larger-bodied women and men around like problems that need to be fixed. Lean women and muscle-bound men play the common role as superiors and and the larger-bodied "contestants" drink it all in and try to learn how to be a better person by becoming smaller. I know I'm painting the scene with a broad brush (I don't want to assert that all larger-bodied people are victims,without agency), but this is a scene I've witnessed over and over and I'm ready to change the channel.

Let me just say, there is nothing wrong with being a thin or lean woman. Or with exercising regularly or having big muscles, or with being a personal trainer or a healthy-eating chef. All bodies are good bodies and being strong is awesome! So is eating well. My beef, so to speak, is with the unwavering, conditioned belief that smaller equals better and that we are shameful, bad people if we don't fit the mold or have the occasional slice of pizza. It's with the unquestioned assumption that "yes, this woman has some fat on her body. She must be fixed and must really want to be fixed. She'll be a better person if she gets smaller and we must all applaud her shrinking".

This post isn't going to culminate in some sweeping thesis or conclusion, but I'm pretty sure my main message is an urge to focus on actual health, rather than weight loss. These are not the same things. When we praise someone on weight loss alone, we don't know if we're reinforcing some sort of illness or disordered eating or exercise in the process. We can aim to focus on health without assuming the health of someone based on their size and without assuming that someone with a certain (often larger) body type must need or want to "get healthy".

So yes, I do have goals this January, but I am choosing to remove the scale from the equation. My lack of yoga practice since I got pregnant has been disappointing to me; not because my body has become softer and a bit weaker, but because my regular practice was so vital to my mental health and overall well-being. I have started Yoga with Adriene's 30 Days of Yoga Dedicate program and feel truly proud to have completed seven yoga practices in the past seven days. I'm thrilled to be finding the time for myself with a baby at home. To reconnect with an activity that fuels me so well, mind and body.

I'm excited to feel stronger and more flexible and even for egotistical pursuits like looking better in certain yoga poses for those Instagram selfies (keeping it totally real). If I shed some weight in the process, ok. But you will not hear me telling you what the scale says, because I won't be looking. I'll be feeling out for length and strength, deeper breaths, satisfying perspiration, and moments of peace. I'll be moving and engaging and feeding my body well because I love it, not hate it. Especially now with a daughter, it is my utmost goal to make this the mantra of our home. She can run, play, dance, and move her body in any way that will bring her joy, but the size, expansion, or contraction of her body will not be a subject of my commentary. I cannot fully protect her from the pressures of the world, but if my change of attitude aids her in her own self-love, even in a small way, then my own process of self-love has truly reached its pinnacle.

I know this is not the most coherent, thorough, or groundbreaking discussion of self-love and weight loss out there, but I'm hoping it maybe resonates in some ways or starts a conversation. Would love to hear from you! 

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Currently Obsessed: Lisa Eldridge Does Lipstick

Hi, everyone! It's no secret that I'm an ultra Lisa Eldridge devotee, so when I learned that she was releasing her own range of lipsticks I was (as the cool kids say) shook. As soon as I received the pre-order notice, I rushed to the website to see what they looked like and I was sold. The Plush True Velvet Lipsticks (26 British pounds each) are a range of three classic red lipsticks that promise full-on colour, a smooth velvety finish, a non-drying formula, and unique velvet-inspired packaging. 

The limited edition collection comes with three variations of red: Velvet Ribbon (a classic, clean, slightly blue-toned red), Velvet Morning (a vivid orange red), and Velvet Jazz (a deeper brick red). 

I picked up two of the shades from the range, budget being the only reason I didn't snag all three. The package came carefully and beautifully packed, with the lipstick in sleek white boxes, a little typed note from Lisa, and a card with the new logo for the brand. 

The lipsticks come in reflective gold tubes with a beautiful glamorous, though minimalist feel. The Lisa Eldridge logo is imprinted on the top for an extra pretty touch. The tubes are moderately weighty and have that satisfying magnetic closure. 

While the packaging is lovely, the truly special aspect of these lipsticks is on the bullet themselves. I really hope that my photos demonstrate this for you because it's incredible- the lipstick bullets have a velvet texture! It really is unlike any lipstick I've seen. Truly mesmerizing! They are 100% lipstick (no actual fabric on them; the texture will smear if you rub the bullet), but with the velvet texture on the outside you will be to enjoy this special aspect until the lipstick's very end, which is so neat. 

 The first lipstick I chose was Velvet Morning, the orange-toned lipstick of the trio. 

Lisa Eldridge Plush True Velvet Lipstick in Velvet Morning 

I find Velvet Morning to be a true warm-toned orange red that really falls half-way between the red-orange spectrum. For me, it has such a 1940s old Hollywood vibe that makes me feel so glamorous. I think it will also be totally beautiful in the summertime or on holiday. Lisa said it was inspired by a holiday sunrise, which makes me want to travel, asap! 

Lisa Eldridge Plush True Velvet Lipstick in Velvet Morning 

The second lipstick I chose was Velvet Ribbon, the classic true, slightly cool-toned red: 

Lisa Eldridge Plush True Velvet Lipstick in Velvet Ribbon

Velvet Ribbon is just as promised: a true classic, balanced red reminiscent of a plush red ribbon. It's a universally flattering shade that is full-on, but sophisticated. 

Lisa Eldridge Plush True Velvet Lipstick in Velvet Ribbon 

Here are the shades side-by-side for comparison: 

Lisa Eldridge Plush True Velvet Matte Lipsticks in Velvet Morning and Velvet Ribbon 

And swatches on my inner arrm (MAC NC15 skin tone):

Lisa Eldridge Plush True Velvet Matte Lipsticks in (L) Velvet Ribbon and (R) Velvet Morning 

And, before my thoughts on the formula, here are photos of me wearing each: 

Wearing Velvet Morning 

Wearing Velvet Ribbon 

As for the formula, it truly is plush and velvety as the name promises. The colour is ultra-saturated and you could totally get away with full colour coverage in just one swipe. It doesn't feel heavy on the lips and, despite its true matte texture, it doesn't dry out or deaden the lips; instead, it leaves a very subtle healthy sheen. In terms of wear, I am also impressed. These aren't fully transfer-proof (if you wipe your mouth with your hand, some will come off), but it did not leave an imprint on my wine glass and took a full plate of pesto pasta to start breaking it down. The lipstick reapplied smoothly afterwards and didn't leave my lips parched at the end of the day. I truly have no complaints about this! 

My only reservations about ordering these, especially from Canada, is that they are on the pricey side (26 British pounds= ~$44 CAD) and I unfortunately did have to pay duties on the package arriving from the UK. 

I knew that any Lisa Eldridge-designed makeup would be beautiful, but she really outdid herself with these lipsticks! I'm sure I'll be wearing them all holiday season long and I cannot wait to see what other creations she releases in the future. 

You can buy the lipsticks on the Lisa Eldridge website, here. 

Are you tempted by these? Which shade is your favourite? Any other lipstick faves at the moment?

Thanks so much for stopping by! xo


Wednesday 21 November 2018

Sephora VIB Holiday Bonus Haul

Hi, everyone! Sephora has been a bit more liberal with their sales of late (not the exciting anomaly as in past years), but I was still looking forward to their recent Holiday Bonus VIB Sale. I had not purchased anything from Sephora since baby was born, so I had a great deal of fun putting together a wishlist and editing my shopping cart for several days before the sale began. In the end, I purchased a tailored selection of goodies, with a couple staples and a few fun treats. 

My first pick was the Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask ($59 CAD), a recent cult favourite of the beauty world. I was drawn to the brand because of its place in the Clean at Sephora range (vegan and free of harmful ingredients like parabens, sulfates, and mineral oil) and to this mask in particular due to its promise of hydration, plumping, and brightening. With the harsh winter months ahead, this sounded like a perfect concoction! I also appreciate that you can use this as a quick mask for an instant skin perfecting boost (perfect before a holiday party, perhaps?) or as an overnight mask. I've tried it a couple times already and I've woken with plump, glowing skin both times!

My next pick was the Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine ($29 CAD). I think this is my fourth of fifth tube of this. I'm not a hair styling connoisseur and am generally fickle with hair products, so my dedication to this says a lot. It's an oil-based styling creme that gives my wavy hair just the perfect amount of definition and frizz control without looking greasy or weighed down. It's a fool-proof finishing touch when I want to wear my hair down and I never want to be without it! 

I also purchased another eternal favourite, the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo in Taupe ($30 CAD). I have been using this brow product for over a decade now and it's by far the best I've tried for my super sparse brows. It allows me to shape and define my brows in such an effective, yet natural way (most people I meet have no idea my brows are so puny IRL) and has a formula that wears all day long (my brows never melt off, not even during my sweatiest of yoga classes). It takes a bit longer to apply than a brow pencil (I use an angled brush), but the result is so worth it for me. And Taupe is such a perfect shade match! 

I purchased one palette from Natasha Denona a few years ago and had since been contemplating which to buy next. In the end, it was the Mini Star Eyeshadow Palette ($30 CAD) that lured me in. It's small but mighty, with a pretty, unique range of matte neutrals and metallic blue, champagne, and antique gold. I think I'll also be pulling this out quite a bit around the holidays. 

My final pick was the Smashbox Always On Liquid Lipstick in Out Loud ($28 CAD). I'd received this recommendation when I'd asked for the best burnt orange lipstick shade out there. When I got this tip I knew I had to follow through because I love the Always On formula. It applies smoothly, doesn't dry out my lips, and wears off in an even, flattering way. I'm so glad I picked it up because it really is a beautiful lipstick for Fall! A unique deep orange brown that is also wonderfully wearable. 

In the end, I was happy with my small(ish) selection of goodies. They will all get much love and attention throughout the Fall and upcoming holiday season! 

Did you take advantage of any of the recent Sephora sales? Have I tempted you with any of my picks?

Thanks for stopping by! xo

Sunday 4 November 2018

Biologique Recherche Skin Care Analysis and Haul

Hi, everyone! We all know my love of skin care knows no bounds and, as a new mom, keeping up with my skin care routine over the past months has been a primary source of self-care and self-love (and alone time, which is invaluable!). The brands that tempt me most are often those with a cult status and generally fall into one of two camps: a) green beauty brands using super clean and natural ingredients or b) clinical brands with ultra effective, cutting-edge scientific ingredients.

There are always a few brands that I've yet to try that constantly tempt me, and Biologique Recherche had been one of them- a brand that actually straddles my two favourite categories (nature and science) amazingly well. Biologique Recherche is a decades-old French brand touting clinical results and potent active ingredients. Most of their ingredients are organic in nature (plant and animal extracts), but they don't take the route of many natural brands. While the world of green beauty is generally much about the sensory experience of fragrant essential oils, Biologique Recherche is all about using ingredients in their most potent raw forms without the perfume. So, on the downside, many of the products smell quite raw and, well, wretchedly stinky ripe(?); on the upside, however, the formulas are not watered down by any sort of fragrance, artificial or otherwise. As much as I enjoy a product with an intoxicating aroma, my sensitive skin doesn't always love essential oils and extra perfume. So I appreciate the ethos! And, although the brand does use animal extracts in many of their formulations (such as their famous Placenta range), they tout a longstanding cruelty-free commitment as well as eco-friendly sourcing practices. So, although the brand isn't vegan, it does promise to be animal friendly in all of its steps of creation and testing. (I've emailed the company to ask about this, so will update the info if I learn anything different!).

My curiosity about the brand had been spiking, but I previously didn't think that Biologique Recherche was available in Toronto. About a month ago, however, a couple lovely bloggers on Instagram let me know that a local salon did carry the line- and I was excited! The brand is carried at One-One Studio (pronounced "one to one"; website here) up on Eglinton West and I'd heard great things about the selection and service. I contacted the spa and they suggested that I book a skin care consultation with one of their trained Biologique Recherche aestheticians for the most thorough and accurate recommendations. The consult was $45, but that fee is waived if you buy any product. I was happy to do so, so I booked my appointment! 

When I arrived at the salon, I instantly took in the beautiful selection of products near the entrance way, including a luxe display of the full Biologique Recherche line. I was quickly greeted by my lovely aesthetician, Angela, and taken downstairs to a private assessment room and treated to a cappuccino. 

I found the skin care consultation to be delightfully interactive and thorough. I first was able to give my own account and description about my skin care history and current concerns. I outlined to Angela how my skin used to experience more notable acne and, after years of acting aggressively with harsh products, I realized that my skin was also sensitive and I decided to take a gentler route (no more products with alcohol or benzoyl peroxide, for instance). I described to her that my skin is currently mildly acne-prone (breaks out easily, but not extensively), is prone to sensitivity and redness and occasional mild perioral dermatitis, tends to get dehydrated in the colder months (and is certainly not as oily as it used to be), and is experiencing the first signs of aging, primarily fine lines around my eyes and burgeoning wrinkles on my forehead.

Then we delved into the signature Biologique Recherche Skin Instant assessment process. The brand believes in Skin Instants rather than skin types- that is, that we don't have one permanent, static skin condition, but rather our skin issues are constantly evolving with factors such as age, stress, environment, etc. The assessment involved probes that are applied to the skin (totally painlessly) to assess for 5 different factors: 1) hydration, 2) sebum levels, 3) pigmentation, 4) elasticity, and 5) skin's lipid barrier. For each issue, my results were instantly displayed on a computer screen and we were able to discuss the findings. 

The results of the assessment showed that my skin is quite healthy overall (yay!) with good elasticity, an intact lipid barrier, and minimal issues with pigmentation. It suggested some mild dehydration and some mild excesses in sebum on some areas of my face (which was totally in line with my perception of my skin as truly combination). I really appreciated how accurate the results seemed to be and that there was no exaggeration of skin issues for the purpose of selling product. 

After reviewing my results, Angela went to work on the Biologique Recherche product brochure, making note of the products that would best suit my skin. We agreed to focus on products that would reduce dehydration (especially in the coming colder months), keep redness and reactivity at bay, treat any mild breakouts that arise, and prevent against further aging and environmental damage. She shared with me her recommendations, outlining the rationale for each, then gave me ample time to comb through all of the products on the shelves. 

I had lots of fun perusing the shelves, especially as it was my first time interacting with their products in person. Biologique Recherche offers 100+ products (!), which I actually really enjoy. While I can appreciate the minimalist approach taken by other brands, I truly prefer brands that offer solutions for a wide range of skin issues (and combinations of skin issues). I don't believe in one size fits all skin care and brands that offer specific products for my oft-tricky skin type (sensitive and acne-prone and dehydrated, for example) always get my vote. 

After perusing the products, Angela and I had a frank conversation about which skin care products I would actually use given my ample skin care collection, my budget, and what my skin was most in need of at the moment. We honed in on four different products to create a comprehensive regimen (cleanser, exfoliant, serum, and cream) and they were packed lovingly in a chic bag (see below for what I bought!). 

The afternoon at One-One was a true treat for this new mama and I was thrilled to cap things off with some brunch. I found a cute little restaurant down the street called Hotel Gelato, where I savoured a perfect martini and eggs florentine. The pamper was complete! 

So here are the four Biologique Recherche products I ended up choosing: 

I've been using these products for about a week now, so I'll give you some information on each as well as my first impressions. 

Lait VIP O2 ($69.25 CAD for 5.1oz/150mL). The brand is famous for their cleansing milks and this is the top of the line option. The whole VIP O2 range is designed to oxygenate the skin and thoroughly cleanse and protect against pollution and other hazards of city life. This milk also promises to gently exfoliate and brighten while calming and hydrating. 
I am really enjoying this cleanser so far! I find it does everything that it promises- it cleanses thoroughly without stripping the skin and leaves my face looking bright and feeling super soft. I may try one of their more basic cleansing milks next time because the price on this one is quite steep, but for now, this really is the only cleanser I feel like using! 

Lotion P50T ($68.25 CAD for 5.1oz/150mL). P50 is Biologique Recherche's #1 cult product and is what gave the brand true cult status. It is the grandmother of all acid toners and is super popular for a reason! It promises to exfoliate, brighten, soothe, balance pH, and moisturize simultaneously. It contains alpha-, beta-, and poly-hydroxy acids (AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs) and is also known for its strong vinegar scent. There are several versions of this formula, but only two are sold in Canada due to ingredient restrictions- P50T and P50 PIGM 400. The latter is specifically designed for address pigmentation issues and, since that isn't a main concern of mine, I opted for the former.
I'd known about P50 for some time, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is alcohol-free (unexpected for such an old school product). I have to say that I'm really liking it so far! I've been using about 8 drops of it on a dampened cotton pad (how I was instructed to begin use; I can use it on a dry pad in another week or two once my face has adjusted) and I only experience a very mild tingling/prickling sensation with no other redness or discomfort. My skin has been looking very bright and smooth and I have not had any of the purging that some have warned against. I'm happy to finally be testing this product and I think the 150mL bottle will last a very long time. 

Serum A-Glyca ($57 CAD for 0.3oz/9mL). I chose this serum because it is a good all-around anti-aging option. It is designed to prevent glycation (a cellular process stimulated by glucose that breaks down collagen and elastin), which can both repair existing signs of aging and prevent future damage. As a result, this serum promotes brightness and firmness of the skin.
I have to say that I'm loving this too! Patted into my face, it immediately makes my skin look more calm and plump. The only downside is that it is quite watery in texture (think Niod CAIS, if you've used that), which leads me to use several drops to coat the entire face. As a result, I'm already 1/3 done the bottle after a week, which makes this an expensive serum habit. I've gone down to using this only once per day and using different application techniques so that I down drain the serum (and my wallet) so quickly. But I can see this being an essential in my routine! 

Creme Verte Espoir ($90.75 for 1.7oz/50mL). I opted for this face cream because it is designed to be soothing, but not too heavy (perfect for my sensitive, but breakout-prone skin!). It is supposed to help with redness and hydration and to balance and unify the complexion overall. 
Angela initially warned me that this was one of the brand's "brown creams", which is so because it contains yeast, and thus has a very yeasty smell (think an active distillery, if you've smelled that). The smell is potent, but I actually don't mind it that much. Plus, I don't find it to linger on the skin. I am quite enjoying this cream so far and haven't had any issues with breakouts. It does feel comfortable and soothing and a perfect weight for Fall. It might not be quite hydrating enough for Winter, but that's nothing that some hydrating serum underneath won't cure! 

It would definitely be an understatement to say that I am now fully hooked on Biologique Recherche. The products are so unique and specifically targeted and there are so many to choose from that it really feels that you can fully customize your routine! I'd be lying if I said I don't already have a shopping cart ready to go for my next BR order. While I don't want to ditch the beautiful green beauty products already in my collection, I'm definitely curious to see whether using fewer essential oils and fragranced products makes a positive change in my sensitive skin. I will certainly keep you posted about how I'm liking these products and what I buy next!

And if you're in Toronto, I fully recommend going to the One-One Studio for a skin care consultation if you're at all interested in the brand. It was a thorough and informative experience with lots of information and recommendations but very little sales pressure and no rushing at all. My aesthetician Angela was fabulous! The spa also has an online shop if you're not in the city (here). 

Have you ever tried Biologique Recherche? Have I tempted you?

Thanks so much for stopping by! xo


Thursday 18 October 2018

My Childbirth Story + Lessons Learned

Hi, everyone! Baby Ro is now nearly 5 months old (time is flying!) and I finally feel I have the time and clarity to share with you the story of her birth and some of the lessons I learned along the way. I've told the story to several friends and family members, but there's something therapeutic about properly documenting the experience and sharing it more widely. I hope you find it interesting and helpful, especially if you're a parent or parent-to-be!

Disclaimers before I continue: 

The following sequence of events played out with the guidance of my healthcare team and was in line with my specific needs and history. When you're going into labour, always listen to your team and don't consider my specific timeline as advice :)

Also, I'll be going into some detail about bodily fluids and sensations/pain as well as medical procedures- in case you are squeamish or if these might be triggering for you. 

I'll also be showing some real-life photos from shortly after her birth. Nothing graphic, but some shots from the OR and certainly nothing edited or glamorous. 

Finally- buckle up. Grab a tea. This is a long one! 

My water broke just after midnight and in dramatic fashion. Rewind five minutes: I was a day past my due date and, despite frequent cramps and other discomforts, I had not experienced anything that I could recognize as a contraction. I knew they would be something long and distinct enough to time and I'd yet to feel anything that wasn't super fleeting. I was lying in bed doing a Sudoku puzzle on my phone (as I do), when suddenly I felt a different type of cramp. It slowly came on, hung on for 30 seconds or so, then faded. It was mild, but distinct. I think I had my first contraction!, I thought. Seconds later I felt a gentle popping feeling near my cervix and I had a feeling that something was up. Is this it? I stood up and felt a huge gush of water pour down. I had just emptied my bladder so I knew what this was- my water broke with the epic force seen in t.v. and movies. There was no mistaking it. I called my husband and he helped me to the bathroom. Over the next hour or so there were a few more gushes to deal with- I had no idea there was so much fluid to lose! Luckily, I had some adult diapers on hand (after hearing just how glamorous the postpartum period would be), which saved the sheets. I called my midwife immediately after the first gush. She said that, since I had not had any further contractions, I should just try to get some sleep and that she'd visit first thing in the morning (but to of course call back if the contractions returned). 

One might expect that my water breaking would have led to some anxiety and panic, but it actually brought about an unexpected calm. I found the end of pregnancy quite nerve-wracking (I mean, the fact that baby could come at any time- maybe today, maybe in a week- is quite a trip!). But when my water broke that uncertainty was so relieved- I knew that this 
baby was coming soon!

My last good belly shot- 2 weeks before Ro arrived 

I didn't have any further contractions overnight and maybe scrounged about 3-4 hours of sleep (yes, a calm washed over me, but I wasn't fully zen- I was also pretty excited and antsy!). My midwife arrived around 8am that Tuesday morning and confirmed that my water had indeed broken (no duh- I could've flooded the condo ;)) and let me know what patterns of contractions to look out for. I'd heard that you have to give birth within 24 hours of your water breaking, but she said that I could go a bit beyond this- the most important thing was to listen to my body and to get in touch when my contractions become strong and were coming every 4-5 minutes

At that point, a bit of impatience set in. The day felt like a total waiting game. I started to experience quite mild and sporadic contractions late morning, which gradually intensified throughout the afternoon. I tried to nap but my nerves got the best of me and mild contractions would wake me every so often. I made sure my hospital bag was all ready to go and tried to eat lots, as I didn't know if I could eat once I got to the hospital. 

Come evening, my contractions started to get more intense and to last a bit longer. I remember having to pause our episodes of Breaking Bad to breathe through them. I took a shower and changed into some clothes for the hospital. Then suddenly around 11:00pm my contractions went from every 20 minutes to every 3-7 minutes. This has to be it! I called the midwife and she said I needed to wait another hour to ensure that this pattern was persisting so that I didn't go to the hospital too soon. More waiting! Over the coming hour, the contractions started getting a lot more painful- I really had to start breathing and have Adam rub my shoulders during them- so I called the midwife back and said I was heading to the hospital. Ah, heading to the hospital! Since it's the future, we grabbed our bags and hopped into an Uber. I remember the driver being very kind and calm in the face of his customer being in labour. I had a few contractions in the car and Adam let me squeeze his hand. We got to the hospital around 1am and my midwife met us there. 

In terms of a birth plan, I was planning to give birth vaginally, if possible, and to forego any pain management for as long as I could (e.g., to avoid an epidural unless pain was unbearable and/or if labour persisted for some time). I thought it was important to empower myself with a preference for how my childbirth would go, but at the same time I wanted to allow for some flexibility so that I wouldn't be crushed if things didn't go as planned. I know that sometimes our bodies have plans of their own, so I also prepared myself for some unpredictability. 

Once registered at the hospital, the midwife started monitoring mine and baby's heart rate and checked me for dilation. I'd been having painful, frequent contractions for a few hours at this point, so my stomach sank when the midwife said I was only 1cm dilated. Really?! She said that given that I wasn't too far along yet, I had two options: 1) to take some pain medication and go home to wait things out or 2) to get an epidural and try to get some sleep until labour became more active. Although it had been my ideal to avoid an epidural, if possible, I decided to go for option 2. I chose this because a) I really did not want to go back home and have to come back and b) I was in lots of pain and had hardly slept the past 24 hours, so I decided to give myself a break

Once you decide on an epidural, your midwife defers your care to an obstetrician and anesthesiologist (though, wonderfully, she still stays with you for support). Shortly after I decided to proceed with pain management, the midwife let me know that the o.b. was in back-to-back surgeries and would not be able to do my epidural for a little while. I took a deep breath and tried not to panic. You wanted to really feel labour presently and mindfully, so now you'll get to do it, at least for the next little bit! Over the next two hours I really did get to experience active labour in all its excruciating glory. The contractions intensified and started coming every 2-4 minutes. They were a mixture of strong pain and pressure and would build up gradually, last for 1-2 minutes, and then start to fade. I found that the pain was most manageable while standing up and rocking side-to-side, so that's how I stayed. Adam rubbed my shoulders during them and I did my best to breathe deeply and slowly. I remember Adam bringing me a yogurt cup during this time and me feeling very grateful that I could have a little bite to eat, despite the pain. 

At around 4am the doctor and anesthesiologist come into my room and I finally anticipated some sweet relief. I thought I would be more nervous for the epidural (it's inserted into your spine), but at that point the contractions hurt so much that a needle in the back felt like child's play. The doctor first inserted the port for the epidural in my back (staying totally still during a contractions was fun- eek!) and said that before they could administer the medication they had to double-check my blood pressure and baby's heart rate. I was fine, but the external monitor kept showing baby's heart at around 100 bpm, which is lower than they would like. They then attempted to measure it internally (via the top of baby's head), but I started getting the sense that they still weren't happy with what they were getting.

In the course of 10 minutes I went from the midwife saying "soon you'll be able to relax and sleep" to the room being crowded with doctors and nurses. It started to sink in- something is not right here. People look concerned. Luckily my midwife, at a previous appointment, had gone through the various scenarios that might warrant an emergency c-section, a low fetal heart rate being one of them. Also, everything happened so quickly that I didn't have a ton of time to panic. My midwife shortly after confirmed with me that I needed to have a c-section because, no matter how they tried, baby's heart rate was not fast enough. I was soon wheeled quickly into the hallway, doors crashing open ahead of me, as in a medical drama. I'd be lying if I said no frightful thoughts entered my mind, but I did my best to keep hopeful and to keep breathing.

They got me onto the operating table and set up the curtain above my waist (typical for c-sections, so that you can't see the procedure while it's happening- good call). I had had no pain medication at this point, so the freezing the anesthesiologist administered was the first bit of numbing I'd experienced. Unfortunately, no one prepared me for the fact that even with the local anesthetic, you can still feel a great deal of the c-section- lots of pressure and some dull, but notable pain. As I hadn't expected this at all (I thought I'd feel nothing), I started to panic and yell "I can feel it! I can feel it!" (to the horror of Adam, waiting outside). The anesthesiologist was patient and kind and tried to convince me that lots of pressure was totally normal.

Then I heard it. The doctors exclaiming that baby was out and totally fine. I heard her crying for the first time, before I could see her, and I don't know if I'd ever felt so much relief in my life. Rowan Joan was born at 5:09am on Wednesday, May 23rd, weighing 6lbs 4oz. She came about 29 hours after my water broke, the culmination of a whirlwind, near-sleepless day. She came two days after my due date and was tiny, but perfect. 

Meeting baby for the first time :)

Can you tell I had two doses of anesthetic, lol? A beautiful moment nonetheless. 

Adam had been let into the operating room during the c-section and soon I could see him looking at her and the joy and love on his face was everything. They took baby Rowan over to a station where they cleaned her and did their initial checks. I could tell that there was no further concern or emergency, so I could finally breathe easy. Until I realized that I could not feel myself breathing. Because I panicked during the c-section, the anesthesiologist gave me a second dose of freezing and now I could only feel my face and hands. As much as I wanted to bask in these first moments of Rowan's life, I was all of a sudden concerned for myself. I felt almost totally numb and worried that something was going wrong with me. As someone who gets panic attacks, it was incredibly anxiety-provoking to not be able to feel myself breathing and to not be able to move anything aside from my hands and face. The anesthesiologist assured that it was only the extra freezing, that I was breathing fine, and that it would start to wear off in an hour or so.

The next half an hour was a bit of a blur, as I tried to calm myself down while being present for this incredible moment. I remember the midwife teaching Adam how to put on Rowan's diaper, which I razzed him about because he was was squeamish about diapers. I do remember the midwife laying Rowan on my chest for the first time. What an amazing mix of emotions. I felt so much love, but it was also incredibly surreal and clouded by the fact that my chest was still numb and I could not feel her lying there. Eventually, Adam held her beside me so I could fully take her in. She was beautiful and she was here! 

After they stitched me up and Rowan was fully tended to, they wheeled me out of the OR and the three of us were brought to a private recovery room. They laid Rowan on my chest as we were wheeled there, and I remember her sneezing along the way. Her first sneeze- so soon! So cute! That time in the recovery room was the magic that I had hoped for that I could not soak in right after surgery. The freezing began to wear off and I was able to have skin-to-skin contact with her on my chest and feel every moment. I called my parents and shared the good news. Adam brought me a muffin and I was able to enjoy a few bites. Things still felt surreal for sure, but I was able to feel present and calm and happy. We were now a family of three!

Since this has been such a long post, I will end the story there for now, but here's my quick take on lessons learned from my childbirth experience:

1) Have a birth plan but allow for things to not turn out as planned. I do think it is empowering to be able to map out and express your desires for childbirth. To take ownership over what happens to your body during this incredible and often stressful experience is your right. That said, I have heard stories from several mothers who felt devastated when their labours did not go as planned. Please don't beat up on yourself if there needs to be a change in plan- baby and your body often have an agenda of their own. The most important thing is that everyone is healthy and safe! Be kind to yourself and allow for some flexibility. You have done nothing wrong if you need a c-section or opt for an epidural, for example. 
2) I am glad to have fully experienced a portion of active labour without pain management, but I now fully understand why epidurals exist. I really wanted to use labour as an opportunity to be fully present and practice my mindfulness skills. I wasn't trying to "be a hero" as others have suggested- I really just wanted to soak in the experience, knowing that the pain was natural and safe. I'd also heard that recovery from labour could be easier if there was not an epidural. That said, contractions really, really hurt (though I know all mothers' sensations and pain tolerances are different; this was my experience, though). By the time the midwife told me I was only 1cm dilated, I had been having quite painful contractions for a few hours and even after that relatively short time, the option of pain management felt incredibly enticing. I do not regret requesting an epidural, even though the c-section happened before I could get it. 
3) It's ok if the first moments with your baby are not "perfect" and euphoric. I'd heard mothers say that "Once you meet your baby for the first time, all the pain and anxiety totally disappear." For whatever reason I had fully trusted this notion and initially felt a great deal of guilt that my first moments with baby were clouded by the fact that I felt numb and anxious, essentially concerned for my own well-being. I felt bad that I could not put the concern for myself aside in that moment. Luckily, I was able to quickly let that go, allowing for some self-compassion. You have just been through an incredible experience- your body and emotions have been through so much. You are not selfish for not being able to slip into nirvana after all of this, even with baby on your chest. You will have time for those perfect moments; it doesn't have to be right away

I really hope you enjoyed reading this. Bless you if you made it all the way through! If anything, I am pleased to have documented my childbirth experience while it was still relatively fresh in my mind. It will provide a lasting journal of those two days and our welcoming Rowan Joan into this world.

Let me know if you'd be interested in any other motherhood-related posts, such as c-section recovery, breastfeeding issues, or postpartum mental health.

Lots of love and have a beautiful weekend :)