A Pastel Baby

Just after my cesarean with Summer, knowing how disappointed I was with how things had turned out, my midwife looked me in the eyes and said “next time you’ll get the birth you wanted”. From that moment on, I had HBAC (home birth after cesarean) on my mind, and this past September, I finally got there! It was one of the most exciting, redemptive moments of my entire life, and changed my perspective on my first birth in ways I never could have expected, but most of all it gave me peace. Here’s how it all happened:

I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a second baby; in fact, for the first couple of years with Summer I was confident I was one and done. Then I met Jonnie, and the more I fell in love with him and watched him become the most amazing parent to Summer, the more I felt like our little family wasn’t quite complete. After a lot of back and forth, we agreed on a timeline, and the first month we gave it a try, I got pregnant with Penny!

This pregnancy was really hard for me. Physically I felt it so much more – I was sore and achy pretty early on, and baby moved so much that it became really painful in specific spots. While Summer was breech all along and never really descended into my pelvis or moved much, Penny was head down and really low early on, so I had lightning crotch and lower back pain that struck randomly and often stopped me in my tracks long before my due date.

But if I’m being honest, it was the mental game that I struggled with the most.

A lot of birth trauma that I thought I had worked through came up full force, and I was extremely anxious that something was going to go wrong and derail everything I was working toward, just like it did with Summer. While knowledge is power in the world of birth, I found myself almost too aware of all the little problems that could come up, and even my earliest appointments with the midwives I was skipping ahead to all of the worst case scenarios. In the space between my first birth and my second pregnancy I had become a total birth nerd, constantly absorbing every bit of knowledge I could get my hands on, but at some point the interest turned into a full blown obsession, and the pressure of getting it “right” took over.

For those prepping for their own VBAC, here are some of the ways I prepared for mine (aside from the constant worrying):

I was very aware of positioning my entire pregnancy. I sat upright in the car with my legs apart, watched tv from the birth ball instead of the couch, and perched on the edge of every chair or stood if it was an option. I really wanted this baby to be head down!

When it came to interventions, I felt less was more, so I skipped almost every test that was offered, including the NIPT test, gestational diabetes, a third ultrasound to confirm position and non-stress testing when I was overdue (I did test for Group B strep, but with the understanding I’d likely decline IV antibiotics if positive, and opt for close monitoring of baby after birth instead).

I regularly went to chiro, massage, pelvic physio, and at the very end to help induce naturally, acupuncture one time. I also walked at last half an hour every single day without fail.

I planned for a hands-off home birth, not only because it was the place I felt most comfortable after having such a sterile medical experience the first time, but also because the data on avoiding cesarean and medical interventions is overwhelmingly in favour of avoiding the hospital when possible.

And most importantly, I found the most amazing supportive provider who never made me feel “different” or high-risk in any way as a VBAC. No matter what irrational fears I had, they remained calm and confident, and my midwifery appointments always helped settle my nerves.

Looking back, so much of my anxiety was based on a desire to control something so important to me, while knowing deep down I could do everything under the sun and still have little control over what my body and this baby ended up doing. I was convinced she would come early, so when my due date came and went, I really started to spiral into a bad headspace. I was in a constant state of “maybe this is labour!”. Indigestion? Could be labour. Lots of energy? Probably labour! No energy at all? It’s got to be labour. I was doing the miles circuit every day, constantly checking in with my doula (who was living in Calgary and planning to fly in for my birth!) and trying every gentle natural induction trick in the book, but nothing seemed to make a difference. I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions for months, but they never seemed to escalate, and by week 41 I was starting to feel pretty hopeless.

No one really talks about how hard that overdue space can be: excitement can easily fade to restlessness, and the constant unknown waiting for something to happen can be crushing. I knew from everything I had listened to and learned that the most important thing I could do to get the physiological birth I wanted was give my body patience, surrender control, and let things happen without interference, but actually being in that situation was unbelievably difficult, especially with my type A personality. Every night Jonnie and I would lay in bed and say “Maybe it will be tonight!” and by the morning I’d feel so crushed I’d had another uncomfortable, sleepless night, and nothing had happened. There were so many days where I was tempted to ask for a stretch and sweep to get things moving, but with the support of my team and lots of pep talks from our doula, I held off on any interventions. The only step I did take was to come up with a plan for what interventions I might consider if I went past 42 weeks – knowing 75% of women give birth by 41+2, I booked a non-stress test and placenta health check at the hospital for 41+4 (spoiler alert… we never made that appointment!)

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when early labour started, but if I had to guess I’d say it was about 24 hours before active labour got underway, at 41+2. Summer, Jonnie and I went on a walk around one of our favourite parks as the sun was setting. It was one of those perfect East Van evenings – we stumbled upon some live music just off the park where the 3 of us danced together on the grass. Shortly after I had to pee, and when I did I noticed a fairly intense contraction followed right after. Nothing more caught my attention, so we went home to bed as usual.

The next day Jonnie went off to work, and Summer and I got started on what would end up being our last day just the two of us. Instead of the exhaustion that had dominated most of my days, I felt energized and jittery, and together we made pancakes and did a bit of tidying around the house. In the afternoon we set off on a big walk and I was having a lot of light cramps – I even texted Jonnie joking that I wasn’t sure I’d make it home. He must have tapped into some dad intuition, because he insisted on loading up on groceries on his way home from work so that we were fully stocked, “just in case”.

When we got back to the house I was feeling really uncomfortable super low in my pelvis and in my actual vagina, so I did a bit of self examining, and sure enough, I could feel baby’s head through my vaginal wall! I’d never heard of that happening, and I started to worry I’d had some kind of prolapse, so I called the midwife and she offered an exam in-clinic (the first of my entire pregnancy) to ease my mind. About an hour later Jonnie was home, and we headed into the midwifery clinic to figure out what exactly I was feeling. The internal exam confirmed what I had suspected: baby’s head was so low you could feel it bulging through my vaginal wall a few inches in! I had been confused about how that was possible when baby’s head should have been resting on my cervix at the top of the canal, so I asked the midwife to locate my cervix, and it was high and forward (as labour progresses, it moves back and lower to meet baby’s head, which I didn’t know until that point!) Because we’d already gone this far, I went against my birth intentions and asked how dilated I was. Our midwife confirmed she could fit one finger in my cervix at that time, and asked if I’d like a stretch and sweep to get it to 2 fingers, but I declined, as I didn’t want to push my body before it was ready. But as soon as the exam was over, I had my bloody show!

Sunday nights are usually spent having family dinner with my mom, dad, sister and her partner at our place, so we headed home to host as usual, but as they filtered in I felt more and more crampy. By the time we served dessert, I couldn’t take another bite, and I suddenly had the urge to get everyone out of our house immediately. Looking back I was straight up rude! As I shooed them out the door a contraction hit, and my mom, dad and sister all started insisting this was IT (especially when I lifted up my shirt to show my mom how hard my belly was getting). By the time they had left, I was stopping to lean against the wall every time a wave hit, but even then I was in denial. I think there’s a lot of doubt for second time moms who didn’t experience labour the first time they gave birth – I was so afraid to be wrong, to get caught up in the mental game of false labour, that I refused to believe it was really happening for me.

Jonnie and I decided to get some rest “just in case” – it was only 9pm, so we settled into bed and queued up our show of the moment, Winning Time. A few minutes in, as the theme song started to play, I got hit with a contraction so hard I couldn’t sit through it in bed, and right away said “NOPE, no we are not watching this show”. I got into the shower shortly after to test if the contractions would slow or die-out, and when they didn’t, I finally let myself feel what I’d been waiting so many years to feel: elation and joy! I was actually in labour! I let happy tears stream down my face as I soaked up that moment alone in the shower, letting the relief that I had gotten to this point sink in. Then I got myself out of the shower and told Jonnie to call work and let them know he wouldn’t be there in the morning: we were having a baby!

Things intensified very quickly from that point, and sneaking in a bit of sleep so we were well-rested for all of the hard work ahead went out the window. I experienced my contractions most in my hips and lower back, and wasn’t able to lay down in any position without being in excruciating pain, so I mostly stuck to all fours, standing while leaning on Jonnie for support, or leaning over the birth ball (which very quickly became very exhausting, especially with no sleep!) Jonnie and I had really wanted some time to labour alone just the two of us, and for a short time we did, but my contractions continued to pick up speed and were less than 5 minutes apart less than an hour in, so we decided to call my mom to come back for support in case Summer woke up, and call our doula Shania, who had magically just gotten off her plane from Calgary to support my birth.

When our support people showed up, I was still coping really well, but the contractions had definitely gone from uncomfortable to painful, and all of the knowledge I had about positions and counter pressure had completely disappeared from my memory (thank goodness for our doula!) As the contractions came on stronger and stronger, my body only wanted to move more, so I tried to lean into that and listen to what it was telling me to do. I started to feel the tiredness setting in, so our doula worked really hard to find a position I could rest in, but every time I laid down it seemed to almost bring on an extremely painful contraction, so we decided to move me back to the shower for some comfort and I sent Jonnie for a power nap so he could continue to support me through the night and be mentally present when baby arrived.

The shower was glorious as contractions got harder to breath through – my mom and our doula took turns supporting me by using their arms like a bar I could hang off of or lean into, and eventually we moved the birth ball in so I could lean over it on the ground with the hot water hitting my back. I’m not sure where I got it from, but as every contraction hit, I visualized hiking up a mountain, the terrain getting steeper and steeper until the peak, and then the downhill would come as the contraction started to taper back down, and that was really helpful for me. Around that time I lost my mucus plug, which gave me confidence things were moving forward well.

We had agreed not to call the midwife until contractions were back to back with no break in-between, because once your midwife arrives they stay until baby is born, and for some birthing people that pressure can cause things to stall or slow down. I could feel myself getting to that point in the shower, the point where I could no longer control myself and started to moan, so I asked to call the midwife to come, and also had my mom wake Jonnie up because I needed his support. In my mind that time in the shower was only 20 minutes, but in reality it had been over two hours (!) and everyone started to register that if I didn’t get out of the shower, we’d have no hot water left for the birth pool. I *very* slowly and reluctantly got out of the shower, and it was definitely one of the hardest moments for me. At this point it felt like my pelvis was splitting in half, with unbelievable pressure in my hips, and almost no break between contractions to catch my breath and regroup, so getting out of the comfort of the shower and back to our room where I couldn’t lay down was difficult to say the least. There were also some issues with getting the birth pool hose connected, and I could hear Jonnie swearing from the other room while Shania tried to find a solution, which looking back was a hilarious detail (I love Jonnie so much, but he’s definitely not handy in the least, so this was pretty typical)

By the time I was back on the bed, I started to get really loud, and as a result Summer woke up and my mom went into her room to support her (something we had planned and discussed at great length with our team, and with Summer herself). Shortly after the midwife arrived, and though I’d been quite clear about my birth being as hands-off as possible with minimal fetal heart checks and cervical checks (because both can be so inaccurate and cause more harm than good in many cases), I decided to move forward with both because I was craving some information, even knowing it could mean very little. Baby was doing great, and I was already about 6 cm dilated after only 6 hours, so I felt reassured everything was happening how it should be. That said, I was really struggling to manage the pain, and despite not being fully dilated, I went into the transition phase shortly after being checked.

As much as I had learned everything I could about labour, and knew transition was often the part where all bets are off, nothing could have prepared me for how it would actually feel. I totally lost control and my vision of a calm birth disappeared: I went from moaning to full-on screaming, crying, and begging for help. When a contraction hit, I physically couldn’t stay still, and started writhing around and clawing at Jonnie and Shania like an animal. It was around this point I let myself say out loud “I don’t think I can do this”, and so we decided to move to the birth pool to give me some comfort. I don’t remember being moved into the birth pool, but I do remember how good getting into that hot water felt – such a massive help, if only for a moment. And then I started to feel the urge to push…

CONTINUED BELOW

The urge to push hit me long before I was fully dilated and ready to actually push baby out, which was a big challenge mentally and physically for me. It was around this time that I completely zoned out – I remember looking up from the wall of the pool into Jonnie’s face and thinking “Oh, I’m still here” and then going right back into an out of body experience as contractions rolled in on top of each other. I started repeating “I just want this to be over, I’m so tired, I need it to be over”, and asked the midwife to break my water for me to speed things up, which she calmly told me she didn’t do without a significant reason (something I’m so grateful for looking back). I even half-heartedly asked if it was too late for a hospital transfer, and while no one overtly said “yes, it’s too late”, I didn’t use the safe word I’d agreed to with Jonnie and Shania, so the team knew I wasn’t actually asking to go.

Eventually my water broke with a big gush from the pressure, and the pain intensified even more, but I felt like something wasn’t quite right: as much as I had the undeniable urge to push, baby’s head wasn’t descending, so I asked the midwife to check for a cervical lip. Sure enough, there was a lip holding baby’s head up, and the midwife offered to try and hold it to the side so I could push past it, which I agreed to. Unfortunately even getting through the check trying to lay back was so unbelievably painful for me, and I couldn’t bare to sit through the contraction while she held the lip (it was pure agony!) so I asked her to stop. At that point I knew I needed to try and slow down my pushing to avoid swelling until baby had passed the lip, but it was SO HARD. I did a lot of self checking between contractions, waiting to feel the head move downward, and after what felt like forever, it did!

After writhing around and begging for mercy for hours, the midwife finally gave me the go ahead to push, and instantly the mood in the room completely changed. I called out for someone to get my mom and Summer, and as soon as they walked in I surrendered entirely to my body – it was such a relief to feel like I could start using the pain instead of just finding ways to get through it. Suddenly it was like I had woken up from a trance, and after hours of screaming and feeling totally out of body, I “came back” to myself and even started joking around. I pushed way too hard too fast, knowing I’d likely cause a tear, but I was so eager to be done, to meet this baby, and to FINALLY be able rest on my back (or at least sit down).

I wanted to watch our baby come into the world and catch her myself, so I tried to lay back just for the final few pushes, but it continued to be too uncomfortable, so I went back to all fours as everyone around the birth pool cheered me on and Jonnie held my shoulders, switching between encouraging words and shouting profanities. I dug deep as I felt the ring of fire, gave one big roaring push, and her head (along with one of her hands) came popping out! I had hoped for this stage to be completely hands off, but one of her shoulders was pretty stuck, so our midwife did a bit of maneuvering (which in the moment I didn’t mind, I just wanted her OUT). And then there she was – I laid back against the pool wall in Jonnies arms, and brought her up to my chest. Penny Lilah Garrison Carfrae, my little lucky Penny, was here, and I’d done it. I went from complete shock, to smiling so big, to sobbing, and everyone in the room sobbed along with me. It was everything I had ever wanted, and more.

In the end I had pushed with so much intensity that I caught our team off guard, and the second midwife only walked through the front door at the same moment Penny was born! She got herself setup while Summer came over to the pool to officially meet her baby sister. It was the sweetest moment, and instantly those difficult 9 months melted away. Every single second had been worth it.

The final stage of my labour was a bit of a wild ride: I had asked to birth the placenta naturally, with no oxytocin shot and no traction. Unfortunately the pool had gotten really cold, I was completely exhausted and the contractions were so painful, so I just couldn’t get relaxed to nurse and cuddle Penny the way I’d hoped. I honestly felt like I could hardly hold onto her at all. 45 minutes later, the placenta still hadn’t made an appearance, and knowing bleeding can get dangerous if it’s been over an hour, I asked for some help to get out of the pool and make my way to the bathroom to warm up in the shower and let gravity work it’s magic.

Long story short, the chord wasn’t as long as the midwife thought, and as the lifted Penny to pass her to Jonnie, it started to pull. I was so panicked the chord would break off inside me or the placenta would tear, that I reached up to grab the chord instinctively, and it ripped in my hand! The majority of the blood had already transferred to Penny, but the residual blood in the chord spattered everywhere, including onto everyone in the room. Though ripping the chord in the middle had avoided a possible emergency outcome, the shock of the blood and the fear of the moment really affected me, and even after Penny had been safely passed off to Jonnie for skin to skin and I got wrapped in a towel, I still felt really shaken (plus, I was actually shaking). The midwife ended up having to apply some traction to help get the placenta out, and in retrospect I wish I’d made a better plan for that part of the birth so I could have been resting and bonding with my baby in bed a lot sooner.

When I finally did make it to bed, I had to have about 5 stitches for a second degree tear (which I hadn’t even felt until that moment), and then I finally got my chance to relax. Summer, Jonnie, Penny and I all piled into the king size bed and basked in the warm morning light, fighting our sleepiness to savour the moment together. It was an incredible feeling and I still have a hard time believing it really happened.

I learned so much from this empowering, life-changing experience. For one, no birth is perfect or predictable! I may have had my “dream birth”, but that doesn’t mean it was easy or smooth by any stretch of the imagination. Both my vaginal birth and my cesarean had moments of pain, of fear, of joy and of beauty, and both presented their own unique challenges. My VBAC also helped me accept and even appreciate more aspects of my cesarean: having a scheduled delivery was definitely easier on my anxiety because I had some sense of control, and being forced to rest in bed with nothing but cuddles and naps postpartum was a part of my first time becoming a mom that I took for granted. Having a vaginal birth this time with much less obvious damage to me body, I didn’t really allow myself much rest time (especially with an older kid to chase after), and it ended up making bonding with Penny a lot harder than it was with Summer. My cesarean also meant my support system was airtight – my mom stayed with me for a few weeks while I was healing, and that time just the two of us with newborn Summer holds some of the most precious, special memories of my entire life.

Overall, I’m so grateful for the peace I finally feel about both of my vastly different, but equally beautiful births.

I’ve listed some of the resources that helped me below:

PODCASTS //

The Midwives Cauldron

The VBAC Link

Evidence Based Birth

SERVICES & RESOURCES //

The Chiro Culture

The Village Acupuncture

Nurturing the Mother Massage

Spinning Babies and The Miles Circuit

Expectful Pregnancy Meditation

Special thanks to my incredible team! The Orange team at Pomegranate Midwives, and our doula Shania Lane.

A Pastel BabyOh so Pretty

The season to show your skin is almost upon us – temperatures rise, pants get swapped out for shorts and boots take their place in the closet while the sandals get ready for their days in the sun. It’s a time to celebrate, to lean back and feel the warmth on your face – but warmth and sun is no fun with dry, cracked winter skin!

Canada’s often extreme weather conditions, especially over the wintertime, can leave skin suffering long after the season has passed. When it comes to dryness, I have three main problem areas – my hands, my heels, and my lips! It often feels like no matter how many products I layer on to keep the dryness at bay, I just don’t see the results. And unfortunately for Summer, dry sensitive skin seems to run in the family – any weather changes or shift in our environment turns us both into flaky, itchy messes!

But finding Flexitol this past year finally turned my cracked painful problem areas into smooth skin that I actually want to show off, and their children’s line Happy Little Bodies has worked wonders for Summer too! Created in Australia over 20 years ago, Flexitol’s product line is specifically formulated to improve dry skin quick, and provide visible long-lasting results.

A few of our favourites //

Heel Balm //

I am really neglectful when it comes to caring for my feet, and I can’t remember a time in the recent past where I didn’t go to sleep with dry, itchy, painful heels after a long day of running around. Over the years I’ve tried so many different creams and tools to try and soothe my nightly burning heels – I’ve asked for help at pedicures, slathered my feet in slippery lotion and special socks, the WORKS, but nothing ever seemed to penetrate the problem and provide any relief. I felt like I was constantly just scratching the surface – literally, just scratching at my heels endlessly!

Honestly I expected Flexitol’s heel balm to be another failed attempt, but it turned out to be a total game changer! What makes it different? This formula has 25% Urea, the highest formulation available, which means it moisturizes and exfoliates all at once, breaking down dead skin without any scrubbing or scraping. Plus it’s not slippery or greasy and absorbs super quickly, so I don’t have to worry about slipping around after application (no special socks needed!) I’ve been using Flexitol’s heel balm every night when I get into bed for a few months now, and my burning hot itchy heels are officially a thing of the past!

Rapid Relief Hand Balm //

Suffering from dry, cracked hand-sanitizer exhausted hands? I think we’re probably all in the same boat on this one. I constantly struggled with keeping my hands hydrated over the past year (and then some) until I found Flexitol’s Rapid Relief Hand Balm. Formulated with vitamin E and 10% Urea, this isn’t your average hand cream – I saw a visible improvement almost immediately when I started carrying this cream in my bag and using it daily.

Lip Balm //

No matter what the season, I always seen to have chapped, dry, peeling lips. I even struggle to wear lipstick because it applies unevenly and gets chunky! Flexitol’s Lip Balm is the #1 selling balm in pharmacies across Australia, and my lips and I are happy to report that it’s worth the hype. Just like every other Flexitol product I’ve tried, this formula really works, and continues to work long after you apply!

Happy Little Bodies Eczema Moisturizing Lotion //

With natural ingredients like Jojoba seed oil and Colloidal Oatmeal, Flexitol’s moisturising lotion for little bodies is extremely gentle, but super effective. It’s clinically tested to provide 24 hours of moisturization from just one application, which makes it the ideal product for a busy mom. It also helps to soothe itching caused by bug bites, rashes, poison ivy, and more – definitely a must have for Summer’s summer fun!

Flexitol is now available at Amazon.ca – shop the full line here

This post was a part of a paid campaign with Flexitol, but all opinions are authentic and my own. I am not a medical doctor, and my personal story and opinions should not be taken as medical advice. 

A Pastel Baby

When I mention my unique journey to motherhood, I’m almost always met with assumptions. Specifically assumptions about how I got pregnant in the first place. So today, on Mother’s Day, I’ve teamed up with Mosie Baby to share more details about at-home insemination, and how the Mosie Kit could help you conceive on your own terms! 

When people hear a woman purposefully chose to have a baby on her own, they picture Jennifer Lopez in The Backup Plan, Leslie Mann’s character in How to Be Single or even Jane from Jane the Virgin (though obviously, in her case, the insemination wasn’t intentional). All of these pregnancy journeys started out and came to fruition in a fertility clinic, with a patient waiting on a table, legs spread and ready for semen delivered via someone in a lab coat. 

Even when I knew Single Motherhood by Choice was the path I wanted to pursue, I knew the process I’d seen depicted in the media was not the path for me. 

When I pictured getting pregnant, even if it wasn’t the “traditional way”, I pictured being at home, comfortable and relaxed, with candles and crystals and music and all of my favourite things surrounding me. My vision was much more Jennifer Anniston in The Switch than J-lo or Jane. I think because the majority of my more serious, long-term relationships have been with trans* people, queer folks, or other women, I had already put a lot of thought into how I’d like to conceive if “the old fashioned way” wasn’t an option.  Back then I pictured a turkey baster might be my instrument of choice, but later I’d read about hopeful parents using everything from various plastic medical syringes, to menstrual cups (which as you may know, is what I ended up trying!)  There was nothing on the market really specifically aimed at home insemination (for couples who are TTC, same-sex couples, or single parents by choice) until Mosie Baby came along! 

 

Mosie Baby was created by a couple who were trying to conceive for over two years; two years of invasive tests and costly procedures, that all added up to more unknowns and no results. Before their first IUI appointment (for those who are unfamiliar, IUI is a medical procedure where semen is injected directly into the uterus to optimize chances of a successful pregnancy) they decided to go rogue and inseminate with a syringe together at home. As Maureen (the co-founder) says on their site, “It was obvious that traditional syringes weren’t made for the vagina”, so this crafty couple created the first Mosie Syringe, and soon after created the first Mosie baby, their son! 

Though I didn’t personally use Mosie when I was TTC, I couldn’t love this brand and everything they stand for more. Their kits are delivered in subtle, nondescript packaging for privacy, and the designs inside are colourful and inviting. A clinical study has found Mosie “as effective as IUI and timed intercourse” (source here), but the cost is a fraction of what you might pay for a clinical IUI, and it’s totally safe to try from the comfort of your own home. They have truly thought of everything, including super accurate pregnancy tests and ovulation tests to help with tracking and timing – so if you’re a single mom by choice like me, you just need to source your sperm! (If you don’t have someone in your life who is willing to donate, you can always checkout a site like coparents.com)

Most of all, I love that Mosie is providing an accessible alternative for so many couples and single people who are trying to conceive, and challenging the assumptions and taboos surrounding at-home insemination along the way. I’ve received so many messages asking how costly buying donor sperm was and what the selection was like, what clinic I used, and how I navigated the system on my own – the assumption is almost always that I spent an arm and a leg to get pregnant in a medical setting, and when I clarify that was not the case, I often feel judged or like my story is somehow less legitimate. One person even asked outright if my pregnancy was actually just an accident! Though using a fertility clinic and paying for testing, drugs and procedures is the only option for many people who are TTC, it doesn’t need to be the first plan of action in so many cases, including mine. Mosie Baby not only makes the path I chose more legitimate, it normalizes looking outside the doctor’s office for fertility solutions, with a healthy dose of cheerful positive branding in a realm that can so often feel hopeless.

A few of the reasons home insemination felt right for me //

I wanted to avoid medical intervention /

I haven’t opened up too much about this in all the years I’ve been writing this blog, perhaps because it feels too vulnerable, but I struggle with childhood medical trauma. Growing up I had chronic UTI infections and spent a lot of time undergoing really invasive tests, checks and procedures. I am extremely anxious in any medical situation, especially anything that involves me laying on a table and opening my legs for a doctor, so avoiding that route when it came to making a baby was a big priority. 

I wanted to have a relationship with my donor /

Many folks choose to purchase donor sperm because they want as little attachment as possible, but personally I wanted to know my donor and have a relationship with him in real life. When I think ahead to Summer growing up and asking questions about the other person that provided the “missing ingredient” to bring her into the world, I don’t want the donor to be a mystery or someone unreachable. 

I wanted the process to feel as natural as possible /

Obviously getting pregnant without a partner automatically made my journey to motherhood somewhat abnormal, but I still wanted the moment sperm met egg to feel intimate and special. At-home insemination where I felt safe and in control was an amazing way to make conception comfortable – I just wish I’d known about Mosie Baby!

A few reasons you might want to try Mosie Baby //

You haven’t had any luck getting pregnant with intercourse 

You are in a same sex relationship or have a trans* partner

You are on the path to becoming a Single Mom by Choice 

You want to avoid costly fertility clinic bills and invasive procedures if possible

The list goes on and on! If you’re interested in trying out Mosie Baby, or know someone who might, click here to order.

Cute dress is this one from Evernew!  

This post was a part of a paid campaign with Mosie Baby, but all opinions are authentic and my own. I am not a medical doctor, and my personal story and opinions should not be taken as medical advice. Please contact your doctor if you have questions about fertility.

A Pastel BabyDear Diary

For many years, Mother’s Day was a holiday that made me feel left out, a reminder of everything I wanted and couldn’t attain (take this as a reminder to reach out to friends who are yearning for a child, struggling with infertility, or who have recently lost their moms on May 9th!)

Now that I do have a daughter of my own, I believe more than ever that it’s important to shower the moms and mom-type-figures in our lives with a little bit of extra love one day a year – this job is TOUGH, unpaid, and so often thankless. I’m also a big supporter of any excuse to eat extra special food, and spend time with family, and give gifts!

Gifting is my love language, and though I’ve been slacking on blog gift guides since becoming a mom, I truly love putting them together. This gift guide features so many of my favourite products, and most of them are from Canadian small businesses too! But first…

Pre-done gift sets to consider //

With all the shipping delays and added stress this year, a curated gift set could be the way to go! Four different versions caught my attenton:

The Cross Mom Boxes

I’ve had a love affair with The Cross for so many years, and it’s no surprise their Mother’s Day gift boxes this year check all the boxes for all different kinds of moms. They were kind enough to send me the “Cooking Mom Box“, a sweet little set that includes a ceramic berry bowl, tea towel and beautiful bottle of hand soap. There are four options created to fit any budget and spoil any mom on your list!

The Gift Refinery Spring Box

This Canadian company puts together gorgeous into a seasonal box that’s delivered to you! You can sign up for a whole year, or purchase an individual box to keep or gift to someone else. They were kind enough to send me their spring box and it would make such a perfect surprise delivered to your favourite mama’s door.

Crying Out Loud “Mother of The Freaking Year” Care Package

This awesome box from mental-health focused Toronto store Crying out Loud is the perfect way to remind the moms in your life to take a moment for themselves! Plus a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Mamas for Mamas to support moms and caregivers in need! Find all three options here.

Mother Mother Shop Mama Self Care Bundle

This set is available all year round, but it’s such a good one for expecting parents and pregnant people! They also do an amazing Postpartum Recovery Bundle that’s a must-have for new moms.

Individual gifts //

Find the shopping links here //

1 / Mala Sundays Candle

2 / Land of Daughters Aroma Spray Palo Santo

3 / Mandy’s Gourmet Salads Cookbook – https://bit.ly/3tq0bHf

4 / Bee Friendly Seeds – https://bit.ly/3dpjv24

5 / Bluboho 14k gold Mama Script Necklace (look for a giveaway on my Instagram page this coming Sunday morning!)

6 / Well Kept Safety Razor (Pairs well with their Shaving Oil too!) 

7 / Blume Blue Lavender Blend Latte Mix – https://bit.ly/3doIthM

8 / Pedestal Planter – https://bit.ly/2P0NDaE

9 / Mumgry Peanut Butter – https://bit.ly/3dqtdkC

Ok and just a few more favourites because this is too fun!

The best comfy all-season Lululemon sweatshirt

Organic Canadian-made super soft sheets by Tuck Bedding (my gift to myself this Mother’s Day)

What’s on your list for Mother’s Day gifts this year?

A Pastel BabyDear Diary

I’ve been wishing I had this piece published on the blog for over two years now, so it’s about time I’ve finally done it! One of the best parts of sharing my story so publicly has been the ongoing messages I still receive from others who are considering becoming single parents by choice too. It feels like every other day I’m connecting with new people who have just stumbled across my account and are either seeking advice, or hoping to delve deeper into the details of my story. With every new DM or email I kick myself for not yet having created a resource with all of the information I’ve put out into the world about my experience in one convenient place. So here it is. You’re welcome future Alyssa!

Now aside from wanting to put all of the links related to my story in an updated roundup post, it also felt like a good opportunity to do a little update and circle back to some of my opinions from early on that have shifted over the past two years and nine months (give or take). Like everyone loves to remind expecting parents, there’s no way to know how much having a baby changes everything, and that rule definitely applies to single parents by choice too! Here’s a bit on what I’ve learned, and a touch of advice for those who’d like to take it too.

It’s ok to have boundaries //

When I first started trying to get pregnant, I was so eager to share my story. I felt so empowered and proud of myself for taking my dreams into my own hands, and I assumed my “why” would really resonate with people who had similar dreams. What I didn’t expect was the focus on the “how” that came hand in hand with sharing my news, and as my story picked up steam, the questions only got more personal. Truth be told I was caught totally off guard, like I was being asked to validate my story by proving that I went about getting pregnant the “right” way. When I was open about using a known donor instead of a clinic, the scrutiny only intensified.

Let me be clear – there is no correct way to become a single mom by choice! Whether you purchase sperm and go through a clinic to be inseminated, DIY getting a known donor’s semen into your body with something you read about on the internet (oh hey menstrual cup), or have wildly enjoyable sex with your (consenting!!!) next door neighbour, you are just as much a SMBC as anyone else who made the choice to dive into parenthood without a partner. I recently had a follower ask via DM’s if Summer was actually even planned because I got pregnant outside of a clinical setting, and though I was a bit offended, it solidified the judgement I’d felt in the passive remarks and endless questions I’ve received since announcing my “non-traditional” pregnancy.

In retrospect, I wish I’d kept the door shut when it came to that part of my journey – it felt private and too sacred to share, but I panicked and answered the questions in the moment as best as I could for fear if I didn’t, those asking would assume I was covering up an accident. No one asks heterosexual couples exactly how they got pregnant – imagine asking someone if they needed clinical help conceiving with their husband? Or what position they were in the moment they conceived? You wouldn’t, because it’s private! Just because the way you got pregnant isn’t “the norm”, or wasn’t necessarily with someone you romantically love, doesn’t mean you owe anyone an explanation! Especially because sharing details when a known donor is involved could jeopardize anonymity. When I get similar questions about DIY insemination now I advise doing your own research online, speaking to your doctor, and following one golden rule: whatever way you feel most comfortable getting semen into your body will probably work just fine!

*not totally related but I recently came across this cute new syringe product specifically created for at-home inseminations and I love that a brand is making that route more accessible / acceptable!

You can prepare, but you won’t ever be fully prepared //

This point applies to ALL parents, not just the SMBC / SPBC folks. I did everything I could think of to prep for having a baby, and for the first few months, it worked. Aside from my unexpected c-section, life with a newborn was blissful – I could work whenever I wanted, she slept very well from day one thanks to the SNOO, I was free to go pretty much anywhere I wanted with her strapped into a carrier on my body, she napped on the go when necessary and breastfed on demand.

But once she started moving, so many of my plans went out the window – a lot of the support systems I had carefully put in place fell through and I hadn’t really made arrangements for daycare or a nanny because I didn’t think I’d need it as someone who works from home and has such a flexible job. The reality is, being a mom is a full time job. Period. Even with a career path I had specifically chased because it was so well suited to being a solo mom while still making a living, I learned the hard way how truly impossible it is to work full time and mother full time without some form of childcare in place. I would call this my biggest blind spot when it came to planning for single parenthood, and I’m still struggling to find a balance that works for us (suggestions welcome – I’ve been on a waitlist for the only affordable daycare I could find over a year and there’s still no availability in sight!)

There’s no such thing as “too soon to tell” //

So much about my journey to motherhood was not traditional, but I did stick to the old “wait until you’re out of the first trimester” to share my pregnancy news, and looking back I wish I’d had the bravery to break that taboo. First off, I think it does birthing people a huge disservice to encourage the isolating practice of keeping a pregnancy secret, when that person is likely to need support and understanding, especially in the case the pregnancy doesn’t make it to term. In other words, we don’t expect parents to stay quiet about miscarriages anymore, so why is it still the norm to keep pregnancies a secret “just in case”?

Building on this point, I also wish I’d had the courage to share how much I wanted children before I started trying. As someone who hasn’t had many long term relationships and spent a lot of her time single, I often felt like my desire to be a mom was misplaced because it’s frowned upon to be open about parenting dreams when you’re single, especially in the hetero world. In an effort to avoid being labelled “baby crazy” and turning off potential partners, I mostly kept quiet about how much I wanted to be a mom, and looking back I regret keeping my goals to myself until they were well underway. I say, let’s normalize people, especially young single women, being open about wanting kids without it being attached to the word “crazy” or becoming a deterrent. If it’s acceptable for women to be anything they want, motherhood shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. It should be just as celebrated to talk openly about wanting to be a mom as it is to talk openly about wanting to run your own business, or be a basketball player, or whatever you care deeply about doing!

Acknowledging my Privilege //

I’m constantly learning, and over the past couple of years I’ve re-examined the way I originally discussed my path to parenthood. When it comes to this conversation it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is able to make this decision, and that I was able to make it for myself from a place of privilege. Yes I worked hard to get here, yes I built my career on my own and saved up to be able to support myself, but that doesn’t mean being white, cisgender, and non-disabled didn’t impact my ability to make this decision in the first place, and that should always have been a part of the dialogue.

Ready for more? Scroll down for every link related to my story that I could find…

Written on this site //

Early days Q+A

Halfway There Pregnancy Update

My Birth Story

Written Articles Elsewhere //

Flare Magazine Announcement

Flare Magazine Dating While Pregnant

Huffington Post Article

FASHION Magazine Interview

Toronto Star Article

Parent Canada

Happiest Baby Blog

Podcasts //

Knix Faces of Fertility Podcast

The Fill Your Cup Podcast

*This one is the most recent interview I did, from Spring 2020!

Other Media //

That time my story was up for discussion on The Social

Global News Mini Video

If I’ve missed anything else, please send me the links in the comments and I’ll add to the list!

Photos by Scarlet O’Neill