How Sweet Are My Splurge Sistas <3

There’s a saying that “Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe” (www.pixelpaperhearts.com has the print to prove it;) Well I must be sending off quite the vibe, cause my tribe is the most supportive, fun, generous one I know. I am lucky to have a lot of girlfriends, and I am thankful for every last one of them. But when it comes to having a kick ass group of girls, I truly won the jackpot with my Splurge Sistas.

One of our 1st Splurge events-Pole dancing class;)

One of our 1st Splurge events-Pole dancing class;)

Six and a half years ago, we decided to form a group of like-minded ladies to each take turns planning a monthly get together, at which we would put money in the pot and one would win it to “Splurge” on herself. From pole dancing class to pottery decorating and potlucks. Yoga, wine tastings, bbqs, movie dates and lazy nights in…we’ve done it all. It was mostly made up of friends from high school, with a few new girls joining in, and over the years, it has grown to include more friends of friends, some sister in laws and cousins. The money was done away with as we really just wanted to have a guaranteed girls night once a month. It gets less and less about the activity, and more and more about the support, laughs, and love we share for one another.

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Past Times pic:)

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Wine party!!!

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Kirsten’s Halloween Stagette;0

We’ve swapped recipes, and borrowed dresses, travel clothes and nursing bras. We’ve exchanged advice on everything from where to go for a good wax, to how to deal with a teething baby. We routinely alert each other when a fave online vendor is having a sale. We celebrate good times together:  weddings, babies, new jobs and houses. We’ve been there for the bad:   moves, break ups and sick family members. I don’t know of another group of ladies who go to such lengths to show how they care. A group gift is arranged for the lucky lady each time another baby is born, but the generosity doesn’t end there:  when one member’s beloved dog passed away, one of the ladies organized a gift in remembrance; when another’s family traveled to the States to access therapy to help their young son, one of the girls pooled together money to help them with expenses.

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St. Patty’s Party at Jen’s:)

We are mothers, daughters and aunts; sisters and friends to more than just one another; we have jobs, demanding careers, hobbies, passions, babies, fur babies, kids at various ages, boyfriends, husbands and houses. So it goes without saying that we have big, busy lives and yet somehow, we try to come together as often as possible to discuss it all, usually over booze and yummy food:  the inevitable and sometimes much-needed bitch fest (thank GAWD for the opportunity to vent to one another!), the advice-giving for relationships, family, health and happiness. And it’s all done without pretense, without judgment. It’s just exactly what we need:  a little time just for us, to be girls, and to have fun.

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Tasting at Oliv!

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Bree Cakes for my send off-So sweet ❤

This is a group that when I was taking a major leap for love by moving from my hometown to live with my British beau in Estevan, SK, surprised me with a send off I will never forget:  while at Kim’s awesome annual Snowflake Soiree Christmas party, the ladies sneakily applied red lipstick in honour of yours truly, then came out with cupcakes adorned with pics of little ‘ole me (I was quite the selfie queen so they had lots to pick from on Facebook, hee hee). Kim played the cutest video montage while I tearfully watched and opened the most thoughtful going away gifts. It makes me cry even now, thinking of the time and effort they went to to make me feel loved and appreciated by the very girls I so adore. They knew that even though I was moving only two and a half hours away, it felt so much further away from my lady loves; they knew I was chasing my dream of starting a family; and they knew that I would never expect but forever treasure such a heartfelt show of support.

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Some of us preggos at my gorgeous shower last summer ❤

And when I was realizing that dream of starting a family, my dear friend Rachelle gathered my favourite ladies to shower me with love and baby gifts for me and little Lily Rose. She enlisted the help of several of the Splurge ladies to create a beautiful friends baby shower:  they decorated, organized fun games to play, and fed my preggo cravings with delicious treats. They all wrote down their hopes for my little girl:  what qualities she would get from her father and I, what she would love and learn in the future. The words they shared moved me to tears when I read them upon our return to Estevan:  sitting on the floor of our almost finished baby room, Jon and I read through the sweetest sentiments, in awe of the love this group of amazing friends and mothers had for us, and our baby, and she wasn’t even born yet.

Someday Lily Rose will look at these keepsakes, and read the words for herself. I only hope she can find a group of girls like I have. Girls can sometimes be cruel, and now with social media, bullying and slut shaming in the mix, I worry about my daughter finding girlfriends to lift her up, rather than tear her down. It may not be while in elementary or highschool; it may take years to meet them, or she may meet some of some as a young girl but grow apart, then happily come back together as grown women, better friends than ever.

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This past Christmas at the Snowflake Soiree:) Lily Rose got to meet my fabulous friends!

This group of girls I’ve been lucky enough to find lifts me up, never tears me down, and I can only hope my baby girl someday experiences the beauty of true female friendship. My Splurge Sistas celebrate major life moments and little successes alike; they offer unwavering support and encouragement through good times and bad; they make me feel better, like the world is a kinder, gentler and much funnier place because they are a part of it. They also offer great examples of strong, smart, sweet, silly women and are fabulous mommy models. I admire them, and strive hard to be a little like the best part of each one of them! And they can also make you laugh till you pee your pants. Really, what more could you ask for from friendship, life and love<3

The Body of A Momma

The first time I really noticed how my body had changed after I gave birth was in the bathtub. My refuge as a new mom, after a long day alone with baby, and after Jon came home after work, was to climb into the tub and soak with a good book, some yummy-smelling candle, and sometimes some chocolate (ok, often a lot of chocolate!). This was also a necessary reprieve as I needed to get in a few sitz baths a day. Before baby, this bath ritual would have involved some delicious bubble bath or pretty bath bomb. Now it was just half a cup of salt, and my new mom body uncovered and ready to be critiqued. I honed in on the bright red stretch marks low on my belly. I’d noticed them at the hospital, and while I was a little surprised by how many there were, the excitement and love for newly born Lily Rose made me temporarily immune to worrying about their sudden appearance. I honestly thought I didn’t have many stretch marks going into labour. Since I already had an assortment of stretch marks from growing, and years of losing and gaining weight, I should have known it was only a matter of time before they appeared. And it wasn’t just the stretch marks, but the way my belly looked, all smooshy, saggy and softer than ever before. Then to add insult to injury, as I got out of the shower after rinsing off, I got the very unwelcome surprise that many new moms get:  I was leaking milk everywhere, from my massive milk bags. I have always had big boobs, and when I got pregnant I knew it was only a matter of time before they grew bigger even still, but these puppies were on a whole other level. I didn’t stay in the bathroom and have a good cry (I have had some since…after substituting wine for the chocolate), because I was too consumed with a gorgeous, but needy, newborn.

20150331_170314No matter how much I didn’t love the look of my belly and boobs, I wasn’t at the place where I felt I needed to be doing anything about it. I was tired, busy, and so in love. And I was more than fine with living in the forgiving new mom’s uniform of yoga pants and long nursing tanks, preferably in all black, and when ready, pouring myself into jeans I wore when I was only 20 weeks pregnant, and a recycled maternity top. And why not, I’d just had a baby. I don’t think the practice of immediately trying to lose the baby weight and get back to your pre-preggo body in a matter of weeks is realistic, or healthy. Life has just changed, immensely,so it’s only natural and normal that your body has changed drastically in the process. Thinking my body would look or feel the same after birthing a baby was in a sense denying that something life-changing and amazing hadn’t just happened. Pictures of celebs looking gorgeous and skinny after having just pushed a baby out have us all thinking it’s normal to rush to get back to where we were 9 months ago. But these celebs have the luxuries of private chefs and trainers, and it’s their job to look a certain way. It’s not right, and it has done a disservice to all us normal chicks, struggling to settle into mommyhood while being stressed about when, how, or if, the baby weight is gonna come off.

But in one of these inevitable moments of self pity and doubt, I remember looking back at myself in the mirror in only my underwear, and saying that I didn’t like how my body looked now. I wasn’t skinny before I got pregnant, but I had lost weight, planned on working to lose more and was getting happier with my body. But now, it felt like I was so crazy far from being on the road to body self acceptance. My boyfriend and recipient of the best babydaddy award said that I I had “the body of a momma,” and that I was beautiful. This was sweet, completely needed and appreciated, and made me feel secure that in that moment, at least one of us was happy with my new bod.

IMG-20150414-WA0010It’s now been 7 months, and while the stretch marks have started to fade to pink, I no longer leak after the shower (I know it will be only another 4 or 5 months till my boobs are once again my own…woo hoo!), and continued breastfeeding helped me shed half of the weight I gained while pregnant, my body is still, for a lack of a better word, squishy. It seems as though the weight didn’t leave so much as it got re-distributed.  I wanted to buy into the “It takes 9 months to gain it, it should take 9 months to lose it” advice. I wanted to take as long as I felt like it to enjoy time with baby, without the added pressure of trying to lose weight or get in shape. But I know I’m not the only mom who felt like suddenly, it was time to make a change. Like ok, my baby is getting closer everyday to being a year old, and the “I just had a baby” excuse has gotten a little tired. For some it may come after the look you get, whether real or imagined, over still wearing yoga pants everywhere you go. For others, it may be your own disgust over still eating whatever you can get your hands with no regard for what it will do your ass cause you have a crying infant who needs you like 5 minutes ago, all the while ignoring the fruit on the counter as you stuff chips in your mouth. Or it’s the taunting of your pre-baby clothes hanging in your closet; you may be now able to squeeze into some of your old jeans, but the resulting muffin top you’re sporting, hidden under the maternity granny panties you have yet to pack away because they are oh so comfy and cover your now bigger behind, are all starting to give you complex. For me it was these things, but also climbing up and down the stairs carrying my baby girl, then being too out of breath to sing her You Are My Sunshine before her nap that finally did it. It was the aching back and sore knees (more side effects of having a baby and carrying extra weight) that were starting to be a problem when I wanted to quickly get up and down to play with my baby on the ground. The building anxiety over having to get into a bathing suit for Lily Rose’s first swim lesson may have played a part as well.

IMG_20150308_161712And so I’ve started the journey of getting in shape and eating healthy to lose the baby weight. I want to feel comfortable in my clothes. I want to be able to shop in any clothing store. I want to feel sexy again for myself and my man. So I am doing what is best for my own health and happiness, and doing it so that my daughter has an example to follow. I don’t aim to look like the girls in my workout dvd’s. I like my curves. I want to get to a healthy weight for my body shape. And I want to get fit so that I can crawl around on the ground with my baby girl without feeling so many aches and pains, and run after her once she gets to that stage without feeling out of breath. Yes I would prefer to be napping while baby naps, but instead I put on some new workout gear and get in 30 minutes of exercise. I have possibly the only baby in the world who doesn’t love to be pushed around in a stroller, but I make a point of going a little further everyday on the beautiful trails around our home so that someday, she may be a happy camper for more than a just a walk to the mailbox, and so that I get in more physical activity. And yes, some days I’d prefer to be making and eating a quick meal of KD, chicken fingers and canned veggies, but instead I take some time most days to plan often tastier clean eating alternatives. And I already feel so much better for it.

Jon was right (he’s never gonna let me live this one down!):  I do have “the body of a momma.” And it’s not a bad thing. I have discovered strength I never knew I had:  I birthed a baby for starters. Those stretch marks across my belly will be a reminder that I created a cozy home for our babe and carried her inside me for 9 months. And under the chub I have new mom muscles from now regularly carrying a heavy carseat with a growing girl in it. My breasts, no matter how large and in charge they have become, have sustained that little girl’s life. My daughter’s favourite resting place has evolved from nestling in those boobs to resting squarely on my curvy hip. A mother’s body is a beautiful, strong, amazing thing. It’s not perfect, and it looks different for everyone; that’s the beauty of it. Some have enviable flat bellies and legs for days like the skinny moms in LR’s swim class. A certain other mom in that class may still be soft and squishy, but boasts a great rack and a pretty small waist;) The great part is we can decide what a mother’s body looks like for ourselves, and in our own time. Like motherhood itself, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it; it is each mother’s individual journey,and it may be ever evolving. Attaining the momma’s body I am most comfortable with will be an adventure with a lot of ups and downs I’m sure, but still a wild ride that I’m happy to be on .

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Designed by Love

20140910_140828 (3)Leaving behind Lily Rose’s lovely nursery may have been the hardest part of moving. I loved the designing and decorating of it; I poured so much heart into making it pretty, filling it with special touches in shades of mint, peach and pink. I searched online and in stores in various cities for personal touches to make it a beautiful space. I meant to write about this as soon as I was done with the decorating, but somehow baby’s impending arrival trumped things like blogging about nursery decor. As we finally set about the task of recreating her room in our new home, I wanted to remind myself of where I got certain pieces, and describe the joy of prettifying my baby girl’s room.

I started out with wanting owls and bright green, but when we found out we were expecting a girl, I realized the fashionable combo of peach and mint would make for a great nursery colour scheme. While I was surprised by how many things baby-related came in these colours, pink was still the predominant shade, so it made sense to use lots of it in my little girl’s room. We picked out the sweetest shade of mint for the walls and Jon did an amazing job of painting them (this was the one thing we couldn’t take with us and will have to wait until we own again to replicate). And when looking for baby room furniture, my desire for dark wood soon changed to clean white to compliment the pastel theme. Grey was added in as a neutral when things I wanted either didn’t come in my other chosen colours, or were so ridiculously priced that I had to opt for something else. I wanted to go for a bit of a shabby chic design and was hoping to find an old dresser I could use a change table, before realizing I didn’t want to fight with an old piece of furniture, no matter how pretty, each time I needed to change a nappy. We saved by ordering Stork Craft baby furniture off Amazon.ca and online from Walmart, and instead of getting a fancy bookcase, we bought ones to assemble from Canadian Tire. We’ve since got a sweet white rocking horse from Jon’s parents and it goes perfectly with the rest of the decor.

20140910_140037 (1)I scoured the Internet for inspiration, creating a board on Pinterest, looking on Instagram, visiting other pregnancy and baby blogs, getting ideas from my friends’ gorgeous nurseries. I had never owned my own home before, so decorating was an interest I could finally cultivate, and I developed a passion for it quick. Etsy seemed to be my go-to for a lot of things. I was especially excited for the personalized LR wall decal in grey and white that I found on Urban Walls (thank you to my friend-with-the-best-taste-in-the-world-Jen for showing me this site, as well as starting my obsession with prints…oh and now tissue tassel garlands as well ha ha!). We used the decal to decorate the wall behind Lily Rose’s crib and it really became the focal point of the room, and has since been re-ordered in mint and pink to jazz up the neutral walls in our rental. Someday I am thinking the bow or polka dot decals will be great in her future big girl room <3. I ordered prints prints and more prints from Pixel Paper Hearts, Autumn Grey Designs and Field Trip to add into a photo wall and around the room. To add pops of colour, I ordered tissue pom poms from PomTree to hang in the corners of the nursery. My dear friend Jen ordered the most gorgeous tissue tassel garland to perfectly match the room and added it to the group gift from Splurge and my other great girlfriends. I’m loving tissue pom poms and tassel garlands, but I’m just not crafty enough to make them myself…that’s what Etsy is for;)

One of the things that was just too pricey to splurge on was baby bedding. When I looked into the mint and peach frilly finds I coveted on Etsy, the prices astounded me. Fine if you are Mariah Carey (ok, she’d have something costing thousands, not hundreds!) but for me, it seemed silly. And when I asked my seasoned mommy friends, they confirmed my feelings that not only was it just too much to spend, baby would hardly be using a comforter or bumper pads for who knows how long, and these things, while gorgeous, would maybe keep me up at night, fearing for baby’s safety. Like with the furniture, I found that Walmart, Target and Amazon.ca were great for bedding as well as curtains (another thing I didn’t think it necessary to break the bank on…now if I could sew like my auntie Michelle and friend Cathy, I would have saved myself even more!).

20140910_135724We received so many sweet pieces that only added to the room:  pink elephant book ends from my cousin Brea-Anne, a precious silver bunny from my cousin Diane. The owl theme was still represented with cute white figurines from my Mom and wall decals from my friend Haley to put around the window. When I received so many teeny tiny, frilly baby dresses at my shower from my dear aunts Sharon, Heather and Lois, I knew that they needed to be hung on display on the wall, along with a rose shabby chic outfit from my Aunt Michelle, and cousins Tarren and Dakota. And all Lily Rose’s stuffed animals went up on a floating shelf, including ones gifted from friends and family and even some from my childhood collection, She has since received a cuddly new Care Bear from my friend Lindsay and her daughter Sadie, and two more from my aunts. The most special of her stuffy collection has to be a grey little bunny Jon actually had in his own cot when he was first born, and a pink owl we bought Lily to put in her hospital crib.

20140910_135645We were truly lucky to be given so many handmade pieces. Michelle is so talented and as soon as I saw how she created Union Jack pillows with fun fabric, I knew my baby’s room needed one as an homage to her English daddy. My crafty friend Cathy created a change pad cover in soft Minky fabric. At my baby shower, Jen’s mother Diane gifted me with a homemade mint and white afghan that now hangs over the cozy grey rocker my parents graciously bought us (Lily loves being rocked and it is a big part of her bedtime routine!). Haley’s mom Colleen made the cutest cupacke-themed quilt that brings together the many cupcake pieces in the room, perfect for a momma who has a passion for baking. The Lily Rose bunting Michelle and my friend Rachelle each created for their respective baby showers went up in the room as well.

I had a vision in my head, of what the room would look like. As a bit of a perfectionist, I struggled at times with fitting in so many pieces, different themes and various shades, but Jon reassured me that it didn’t need to be perfect, just perfect for our little girl. And when it was finished, it was even more beautiful than I’d imagined. I know that her room will change with moving houses as it has already done, and change even more as she grows, but creating a lovely nursery for Lily Rose was a true labour of love. Like the old saying goes, it’s not the gift but the thought that counts:  it wasn’t all the things we’d bought, or where we’d hung pictures, or the pretty paint on the walls, it was the intention behind these things. It was the act of nesting itself; it was Jon surprising me by putting together all the baby furniture himself one weekend while I was away; it was me searching for prints that spoke sweet words, looking for old frames at garage sales to surround them and Jon taking the time to paint them. And it was the love in what others gave us, helping us to design a beautiful home for Lily Rose to come home to.

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Moving a Nest

The decision to leave the life we had only just started to carve out in Estevan to move to Regina was not as easy as some may think. We discussed at length what would be best for our family, what would make us happiest in the future. I really wanted to be closer to my family and friends in Moose Jaw (even more so after having a baby!). Having both lived in much larger cities, we wished for the things a bigger centre had to offer. But we both had good jobs and coworkers and friends. We’d only bought our house less than a year before, but we’d quickly made it our home; it was the first house either one of us had ever owned and it was where we brought Lily Rose home to after the hospital. I felt most attached to her nursery, not just because it was my baby girl’s gorgeous little space but because so much time and love had been put into decorating it (more on that in the next post!). I broke down once before we left, and cried in the bath (not sure if it’s a new mom thing, a female thing or just a Bree thing, but I seem to do a bit of crying in the bath…sometimes with a glass of wine to console me;). I was sad that my baby was leaving her beautiful room, and cozy home. And I was feeling overwhelmed by the days and weeks of packing and unpacking that lay ahead.

We chose to make the big move knowing it would be a lot of work and added worry in an already hectic time in our lives, but the pros ultimately outweighed the cons. Jon would be starting an exciting new position in Regina. I’d need to find a new job once my maternity leave was up in the Fall, but I could continue my Master’s at the U of R then too. Finding renters for our house gave me worry, nonetheless renting something newer and bigger was exciting. Jon’s family was all still in Estevan, yet like a lot of things that seemed to quickly work out for the best with this change (including quickly finding renters and securing the new townhouse that was our top pick when we went looking), they too decided to make the move to Regina. On top of preparing for a move, we needed to be ready for two weeks’ away while Jon trained for his new job. Of course this too came with a bright side:  escaping the harshness of Saskatchewan winter in beautiful BC, catching up with friends and seeing the sights in Vancouver!

More than a month before we actually moved, we started the organizing and packing process. We spent nights and weekends sorting; the good thing about moving is it forces you to rid yourself of crap! The major purging took place once Jon had two weeks off at the end of January. Without him being off to help pack, and to do the majority of the work needed to prep our place to be rented out, I couldn’t have done it. Moving always sucks. No matter how excited you are to get into a new house, live in a new city, moving is always a dreaded task. But moving with a 4 to 5 month old is a whole other ordeal. It’s a practice in organization, and a major test of teamwork on the parents’ parts. Every two hours our hungry girl needed nursing, then Jon and I took turns playing with her before starting the often futile process of readying her for a nap (thank god for the swing and bouncy chair that definitely helped entertain and care for her for short stretches!).

Organized chaos!??

Organized chaos!??

Then one week into Mission:  Move House, LR got a cold, bad cough and needed to be put on a nebulizer. It was the first time she’d needed to see a doctor, and if that wasn’t a hard enough experience for stressed new parents, I got sick too. After being useless for a few days, I soldiered up and resumed the cycle of nursing, playing, and attempting to get her to nap, at which point we each attempted to cram in as much sorting, packing, and cleaning as possible.  Whenever I felt overwhelmed by all that was still left to do, instead of crying over a glass of wine in the bath, I reminded myself of the packing and cleaning-free two weeks awaiting us in a hotel suite in Langley. We took quick breaks to eat, see Jon’s family, and a few friends, but we didn’t get to say goodbye to as many people as we would have liked, because suddenly it was the end of January and we had to book it to BC.

Moving is hard work;)

Moving is hard work;)

After two weeks enjoying much milder winter weather (with both of us asking why the hell we weren’t moving to BC!??), we were greeted by a snowstorm upon our return to Saskatchewan. But besides that, settling in to our new place was fairly easy at first. Yes we were sleeping on an air bed, which wasn’t cool, but we were also not dealing with a barrage of boxes yet, since the big move wasn’t happening until the next weekend. Then moving day arrived, with it freezing temperatures, and suddenly my rosy view of moving was clouded by a sea of plastic totes.

Ready or not...moving time!

Ready or not…moving time!

The stress of moving was back, along with a major dose of mommy guilt. I’d felt it when we organized and packed up our house:  there never seemed enough hours in the day to spend with little Lily and get done what we needed to. And then again in a different way in Langley:  we were in a hotel suite with ample time but missed many of the comforts of home that made Lily a little happier and me a little saner (did I mention she started teething while away!?). I know babies appreciate routine, and while my attempts to start one with LR weren’t proving successful in the areas of feeding and nap times, I at least wanted to provide her consistency in the location where those feedings and naps happened. But with moving, traveling, nights spent staying with family then two weeks away smack dad in the middle, I felt her life was far from consistent or calm.

I found reassurance in what my friend Janine told me:  she had traveled and moved countries, not just cities, with a small baby. When she stressed about not giving her baby boy the consistency his little life required, a seasoned traveling mommy friend of hers told her that as long as the parents are what is consistent, it doesn’t matter that everything else around baby changes. I had stressed myself silly thinking I had wreaked havoc on my little one by choosing to move houses and cities and traveling in between. But through it all, we remained the constants in her busy life. At the start of the unpacking process, I thought I needed to get things put away as quickly as possible, to furnish spaces and decorate as much as possible, so that our new house more closely resembled the cozy home we’d left. But I’ve chilled on this front, and realized that it takes time to settle in, and a house doesn’t become a home overnight. And for a baby, it isn’t the physical structure, appearance or location that matter anyway. They aren’t concerned with moving, they don’t care yet that they have a new room, or notice how long it takes for pictures to be hung or for their nursery to be decorated (it takes most infants ages to even realize the baby they see in the mirror is their own reflection, ha ha!). All that really matters are the people inside the house, the people who care for them. For Lily Rose, that’s us, her mom and dad. For now, she just needs us; we are her home.

Home is wherever we are together<3

Home is wherever we are together<3

Baking Before Baby

She is only 4 months old, but I can’t wait for the day when Lily Rose can start cooking and baking with me. I am really looking forward to our little girl getting messy in the kitchen, laughing and licking icing, taste-testing and seeing how fun it is to make something with our hands, and a very useful Kitchen Aid mixer;) I loved baking with my own mother growing up, but like a lot of people, this love of cooking and baking disappeared for a time, and I lost interest as I grew into a teenager and got busy with friends and new hobbies. In university, cooking consisted of chicken fingers and Sidekicks. Later, while living in Japan, I preferred going out to enjoy the new and exciting cuisine rather than spend time trying to create it in my tiny kitchen. Then over three years ago, I was house-sitting for a friend’s parents and decided to try out their fancy mixer and make fun cupcakes for a St. Patrick’s Day party. I made Guiness cupcakes, and after two trials of Bailey’s butter cream frosting, I produced my first homemade batch of treats, all on my own. They were a hit, and I so enjoyed the experience that I started regularly baking cupcakes for friends’ birthdays, kids’ parties, and showers. I experimented with flavour combinations, tried new decorating techniques, and got that fancy Kitchen Aid mixer from my parents to further pursue my new passion. I even got paid a few times for creating my signature Bree Cakes. And I started to enjoy cooking again when I began my last blog, A Lighter, Brighter Life. I wanted to lose weight, and in reading other blogs and visiting other sites, I discovered so many delicious clean eating and healthy recipes I could replicate for myself. It was fun to test out lighter versions of my comfort food favourites, and discover new meal ideas I would never have discovered prior to my weight loss journey.

Among the sage advice given to me by my experienced mommy friends and family members, was the importance of cooking and freezing meals to have on hand when baby arrived.  With the hectic days and sleepless nights of feeding, diapering and learning to care for a baby for the first time looming ahead, I took the advice to heart and planned out several meals to cook, and things to bake. I dove into this task and ever the planner, I tried to complete most of it by my first week of Maternity Leave. I was scared about labour, and nervous for life after baby, but for a girl who enjoys cooking (just not the clean up!) and really loves baking, this method of preparing for baby got me excited and more importantly, provided for a sort of calm before the storm. Cooking provides me this, a sense of relaxation:  reading a list of ingredients, cutting and prepping, mixing, tasting and tweaking recipes, and watching something delicious be created from scratch. I also love how cooking and baking makes people happy:  Jon’s big grin of approval as he tries a dish; my mother (a great cook in her own right) and family insisting that I make something again that they’ve especially enjoyed; my friends asking me for the recipe of a new treat I’ve mastered.

But taking time to enjoy the process of cooking and the ensuing reactions was not going to happen when Lily Rose first arrived:  those first days and weeks were all about survival. While I tried to maintain healthy eating for most of my pregnancy, there is no denying that I indulged in quite a few cravings. So for the meals that helped make bringing home baby a slightly easier experience, I chose to balance the healthy versions of favourites with some not as healthy, but oh so delicious, treats.

First, the casseroles. I love skinnytaste.com:  it has so many low fat versions of comfort food and family favourites. Mac and Cheese is at the top of my comfort food list, and while I love my mother’s Mac and Cheese, this Broccoli Mac and Cheese incorporates veggies and a low fat sauce that is surprisingly rich. My only suggestion is to add more of your favourite spices to this recipe (Jon loves spice so I often add chili flakes and paprika; I love garlic and how mustard enhances mac and cheese, so sometimes I go that route and add garlic powder and dried mustard; last week I finally tried adding the teaspoon of ground nutmeg so many people suggested and it was by far my best batch yet!). Another great site is thepioneerwoman.com. I discovered her on the Food Network, and love her delicious country-influenced recipes. Another childhood fave, when my mother was busy and she didn’t have time to make something from scratch, was Hamburger Helper. This Sour Cream Noodle Bake casserole brings back memories of the old staple, with sour cream and cottage cheese making it especially yummy.

For protein, I chose to make and flash freeze Turkey Meatballs so that I could add them to spaghetti (and now that I am trying to eat better to lose the lingering baby weight, hoping they go just as well with spaghetti squash). I followed the recipe and added in the grated carrot for added nutrition, and to practice sneaking veggies into baby’s meals, Jessica Seinfeld-style.

pancakes

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes…with some chocolates chips sprinkled in;)

We eat of lot of soup, but need something to make it more of a meal, so I wanted to have biscuits on hand. I don’t think I am the only one who loves the ones at Red Lobster, so I searched online to try and replicate them. I am now obsessed with these Cheddar Herb Biscuits. I took the advice and flash froze them so that I could pop them in the oven to have with at lunch or as a Sunday brunch treat. Speaking of brunch (one of the best things in life!), freezing pancakes is also something I’ve done, and experimenting with healthier recipes became almost a hobby for me. My favourite are the Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes from 100daysofrealfood.com, but I suggest substituting pumpkin puree or blueberries for a seasonal switch-up.

Pumpkin Muffins with Walnut and Cranberry

Pumpkin Muffins with Walnut and Cranberry

Instead of relying on store-bought granola bars for snacks that were high in fibre, and also packed some protein, I baked muffins. First I went with fall flavours of pumpkin, cranberry and walnut for some very delicious and healthy Pumpkin Muffins. Next time I make these I’m going to substitute white chocolate chips for the walnuts, as my friend Joanne suggests, making these an even tastier treat! I also made Blueberry Muffins that use Greek yogurt, fresh blueberries and oatmeal for another hearty and healthy snack. And for my eventual chocolate cravings, I made a lighter version of a sweet treat, Pumpkin Brownies. Thanks go to my best friend Haley and her mother Colleen who first introduced me to this quick and easy, but equally delicious recipe. To make it my own, I add a lot of pumpkin pie spice and a some chocolate chips.

Cooking and baking were a passion before Lily Rose entered our lives, and now that life has settled down a bit, I am looking forward to spending a bit more time in the kitchen. This holiday season, I was able to get a good amount of Christmas baking done while Lily napped, but those treats and copious amounts of chocolate, cheese and wine did a number on my already squishy after-baby body. I am now on a mission to find even more healthy but delicious recipes, ones that don’t take ages to make, or rely on fancy ingredients. All this to help keep me healthy and happy while breastfeeding, allow me to slowly drop some baby weight, and make life as a new momma easier, and a little bit sweeter;)

 

The Story of How We Met

I went into the experience of childbirth with extreme anxiety. I would tell anyone who would listen how terrified I was of labour. While my friends’ birth stories, at varying degrees of difficulty, had me scared, it was watching the videos in prenatal class that really sent me over the edge in the weeks leading up to it (the words “mucous plug” got me uncomfortable before the graphic images made me queasy!). It was Jon who heard most of my concerns:  how much would it hurt? how would I cope with the pain? would I be able to push her out (I believed our girl was at least 8 pounds and babies in my family were trending towards the larger side!)? or would I have to have a c-section? Jon was great at calming me down, encouraging me by telling me I could do it. And my closest friends and family, most of whom have been through it themselves, told me I was stronger than I knew, and that if they could get do it, so could I. But in true modern fashion, it was something my bestie Haley saw on-line and texted me that gave me great comfort going into my due date:

blog pic

Then two days after DD, at 4:30 am, I got my first real contraction. When women tell you, after you wonder whether you’ve had a real contraction or not, that you’ll know when you have one, boy are they right! I didn’t wake Jon at first, then when another came, I knew it was time. We stayed like that for hours, in bed and in the dark, Jon timing the contractions on his cellphone. As they got more regular, we got up and I tried to get ready in between contractions that were growing steadily stronger. I attempted to distract myself by finalizing my labour playlists (one titled Energetic, another Chill), while Jon made us breakfast and watched his football (Manchester United lost, which of course our doctor, also a fan of football but of a different team, reminded Jon of later that day;). When my contractions were about 6 minutes apart and lasting about 1 minute, we made our way to the hospital from our small town 10 minutes outside of Estevan. We’d been there only the day before, because I was sure my water had broke. They’d sent me home saying that it wasn’t the case and I wasn’t dilated at all (I also had to wait to see another doctor about an eye infection, not a good way to start things off!). It was obvious something was happening this time by the pain I was experiencing, but upon inspection, the nurse told us I was still not dilated, not even a little bit.  And the contractions weren’t registering on the monitor, but were in my back. After calling our doctor, she advised us that I could get morphine for the pain, but then I’d have to be admitted, and we had no way of knowing how long we’d be in the hospital for. Disappointed that things weren’t progressing as quickly as we had thought, we decided to discuss what we should do (I can’t believe we even contemplated going home to wait!), and as the nurse suggested, walk around in hopes of getting things moving along.

The weather was gorgeous, unusually warm for later September. The leaves were lovely autumn shades, many not yet fallen and it felt more like the first, not last official day of summer. We walked around outside the hospital, me often doubling over in pain, taking breaks to call our mothers to give them updates. We even walked over to a nearby restaurant, as a major piece of advice from my girlfriends had been to eat something before being admitted to the hospital. Jon’s parents came to join us, and somehow I managed to get in bites of lunch between contractions that had me gripping Jon’s hand hard under the table, until the pain finally became too much.

We returned to the hospital, got admitted, and examined again. Things were definitely happening:  I was 4 cm dilated. Over the next several hours, I got morphine which only barely took the edge off, tried to walk up and down the halls and took a shower to try and ease the pain (I wasn’t allowed to bath as my water had in fact broke). I tried the gas for pain, but it only made me vomit up the lunch I had tried so hard to get down. Next time they checked me though, I was 9 cm dilated! As I’d written on my birth plan, I was open to an epidural, but there was no time. Along with all the things my pregnancy books and prenatal class suggested bringing to help through the hours of waiting and then deal with pain, this birth plan never even made it out of my carefully packed hospital bag. Music and massage tools may have helped if I had been in labour for a long time, but Jon did a great job of rubbing my back during contractions, and the nurses’ cheering me on with rounds of “You can do it, girl!” gave me a boost when things got hard…oh and a second round of morphine sure helped! The contractions were intense (I wouldn’t wish back labour on anyone!), but this really gave me the chance to recover and catch my breath in between contractions. I was lucky though, because no matter how painful the contractions were, it wasn’t hours upon hours of active labour. We had expected to be in the hospital for a day or more before baby arrived, so we’d asked Jon’s mum to come support us. She was great at encouraging me, and when I was told it was too late for the epidural, she lovingly but plainly told me in her English accent to “Take it on the chin.” 😉

Possibly even more difficult than the contractions was the strong urge to push, which came on fairly quickly and got almost unbearably strong. I think the hardest thing I did was to not push! So while I had been so scared of labour, and worried mostly that I wasn’t strong enough, when they told me it was time to push, I was relieved. And our doctor must have felt confident, as he announced that our baby would be born by 6 pm. It was only over half an hour away but it gave me something to focus on, a goal to reach (and she was born only 6 minutes past deadline). When the doctor asked me if I wanted to touch our baby’s head, I surprised myself by reaching down and instead of making me feel queasy, it motivated me to push harder to get her head all the way out. The doctor had to use the vacuum to help and Jon told me after that this was because her cord was wrapped around her neck (which I later learned is quite common). But our doctor never let on that there was any cause for concern (I’m glad I didn’t know why the vacuum was necessary at the time; it would have put me into a panic). Our doctor’s calm, combined with the encouragement of the nurses and the support of Jon and his mum, gave me what I needed to carry on pushing. I looked over at Jon and kissed him before the last few pushes; he had been my biggest cheerleader through this whole journey, my greatest source of love and comfort. I thought surely I would scream, swear and cry out during the contractions or while pushing, like women do on TV or in movies. But I didn’t. I was just so ready to meet our little girl; somehow I became a calmer, stronger version of myself. Or maybe I always had it in me, and it just took this experience to bring it out.

How we met 2

Lily Rose arrives!

When the doctor pulled Lily Rose out, I was surprised by how small she was (which helps explain the not-as-painful-as-I-had-imagined labour) but she screamed like a baby twice her size. I remember only being concerned with her very white hands and feet, which eventually flushed with colour. And I asked the doctor, as Jon cut the cord, to confirm that she was in fact a girl, as we’d been told (the doctor reassured us and I was relieved that we would not have to cover up the Lily Rose decal we had already put up on her wall, or pack away the frilly dresses and headbands ready to be worn). They took her to the table beside the bed for a quick clean and check-up, and then they placed her in my arms. I was finally meeting the little person who had taken up residence in my belly for 40 weeks; who had made me a bit sick to start with, later kicked like a champ and had nightly hiccups. I looked down at our tiny girl, more precious than I had imagined:  a good amount of surprisingly dark hair, a button nose, cherub lips, and round cheeks just begging to be kissed. She was also puffy, blotchy and wrinkly, but she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Meeting the love of our lives!!!

Meeting the love of our lives!!!

The details of that day will not always be clear in my mind, like when contractions started and how far apart they were before we headed to the hospital. Already I have to ask Jon to remind me how some things happened. Even the pain of back labour and overwhelming early urges to push will become weaker in my mind over time. But some memories won’t fade:  the feeling of Jon and I growing even closer as we readied to meet our daughter, seeing Lily Rose’s face for the first time, and the surge of love that came over me as I held our baby in my arms and said to her:  “I waited my whole life to meet you.”

Daddy meeting daughter <3

Daddy meeting daughter ❤

Prairie Lily, English Rose

It has been almost two months since I fell in love. Completely, head over heels, like nothing I have ever experienced before, in love…with my baby girl. I have been so deeply in love (oh and so tired, busy with constant feedings and changing poopy diapers, learning how to care for a newborn, and showing our girl off to family and friends) that I have neglected this blog, which was created in large part to document my adventures into motherhood. But I wanted to be as present as possible for the first few months of baby’s life, and while I still enjoyed documenting this time via one too many images of our little one on social media (#sorrynotsorry), I didn’t feel the need to spend time recording it in detail any other place than her baby book. Now I am ready, while still spending far too many hours a day staring at her gorgeous face, to put into words the experience of falling for Lily Rose.

Me and my love

Me and my love<3

<3

This girl suits her name perfectly:  She’s equal parts spirited Prairie Lily (in honour of me, her Saskatchewan mother), and sweet English Rose (for her father Jon, who’s British). I first came across the two names together as a first name, in of all places, a papparazi magazine, as it’s Johnny Depp’s daughter’s name. But it couldn’t be a better choice for our own child. We chose it months before even knowing we were having a girl, and never wavered, never even considered other choices. It was always Lily Rose, because (like meeting Jon and knowing so early on that this was the guy for me) when you know, you just know!

Cheeky pumpkin;)

Cheeky pumpkin;)

Her personality is so strong already:  she is at once feisty (when hungry or needing a change) and calm (when being passed around by family and friends, out at restaurants or stores, even at a crowded bowling alley!). When Jon and I would lie in bed at night talking about what our baby girl would be like, we hoped for a sweet, yet strong little lady; a girl who was pleasant and smiled readily, but could stand up to boys and bullies. And now that we are getting to know her, Lily Rose seems to be what we imagined, but even better:  she is delicate and girly, and yet strong for her size. She is a little quirky, and pulls funny faces. Jon says she definitely has my temper, but she is one very happy babe:  from wide and gummy first thing in the morning, to a sly one later in the day, and a lazy grin before bed, this girl loves to smile:)

baby one month

Beautiful babe!

And physically, Lily Rose is a beautiful mix of Jon and I, and our family members. While she came out with darker hair (like Jon’s father’s before it grayed), it lightened quickly. We are excited to see what colour it ends up (I was hoping for a ginger!), because although we are both blonds, our siblings have darker hair. Right now, she is rocking a bit of a baby mullet, with her hair shorter and sparser in front (total business), and growing longer in the back (party!), ha ha. Her hands are long and slender, which she gets from my maternal grandmother and aunt, or Jon’s sister. She is also long and lean, not the chubby Cabbage Patch I assumed we were having. Along with hoping she would have her dad’s gorgeous full lips and bright blue eyes (which she so does, yay!) I am hoping she will be tall like him, or at least taller than me! But I’m proud to say that the small ears and nose Lily inherited are from yours truly;)

Besides delicate features and a great smile, she has the cutest dimple in her left cheek, the most kissable face, and is growing fuller lashes to frame those lovely eyes! I know we will have hundreds of photos to look back on, but I want to imprint this cherub’s face forever in my brain. She seems just as keen to stare at me for hours, studying me and holding my gaze.  Like all parents, I feel she is smart as well as beautiful:  from the moment she was born, people commented on how alert she was for a newborn. She smiled for the first time at 3 weeks (I know it was gas up until that point, and while experts may argue that it was still gas even then, her grandparents and I witnessed her smile squarely at her father, and I snapped the pic for proof!).

First smile:)

First smile:)

Morning smiles!

Good morning sunshine 🙂

7 Weeks and getting cuter by the day!

Almost 8 weeks and getting cuter by the day!

So I savour every second with our little one, as I know she will grow and change so quickly:  she is constantly stretching from her once curled up position, kicks her baby legs with such force and bats at her favourite toy, and while she isn’t a fan of tummy time, is lifting and turning her head more and more! My favourite part is the constant babbling, as I may very well have a talkative child on my hands (to rival her chatterbox mother ha ha). While I got to dress this dolly for a whole 6 weeks in adorable newborn clothes, packing them away still made me tear up. It’s all so bittersweet:  I can’t wait for her to get bigger, be active and for all the firsts to come, but there is also a part of me that gets emotional about her no longer being a precious little newborn.

I am quite enamoured by everything about her:  the sounds she makes (cute coos while playing, sweet little whimpers and giggles in her sleep, hilarious “hmm hmm”s of relief when she is about to start feeding), her baby fresh scent and soft skin, even her crazy bedhead. The smiles she gives every morning on her change table, or after naps as I peek into her bassinet get me through the trying times:  marathon daytime feedings, late night nursing sessions, a bit of colic, lack of sleep, and a drastic reduction in “me” time. And nothing can beat the beauty of her favourite spot:  nestled against my boob, where I can look into those baby blues and see my love reflected in her eyes.

The look of love

The look of love<3

<3

The Guy Behind the “Glow”

I have been told several times throughout my pregnancy that I have the “glow”. I am very lucky to have had a healthy pregnancy and actually felt pretty amazing for the majority of it, so this helps produce a healthy, happy appearance. And I am also pleased to know that the excitement I feel inside over becoming a mother for the first time is showing on the outside too. Like most people, I don’t always know how to properly take the compliment, and instead of just saying thank you, I usually give credit to a quality shimmer or the benefits of an Organic Tan (thank you Andrea in Moose Jaw for helping to give this momma-to-be a natural looking tan over her very pale skin!). But besides the shimmer and tan, I should remember to attribute my glow in part to a certain British beau and baby-daddy<3

couple pregnancy pic Jon's best

I ❤ this guy!

Jon won’t love me dedicating a long blog post just to him, so I will try to make this one as short as possible ( but for anyone who knows me, limiting my words has never been my strong suit!). I need to give credit where it’s due:  I am the happiest Bree I have ever been, and that is in very large part because of Jon and the amazing little life we have created in the relatively short time we’ve been dating. Making the move from my hometown to live with him in Estevan was the best decision I have ever made:  we have since been able to make our shared dreams reality by purchasing our first home and getting pregnant…not quite in that order;)

Like most supportive partners, Jon has never missed accompanying me to a doctor’s appointment, has held my hand reassuringly or squeezed my foot excitedly during ultrasounds, and read books geared towards preparing expectant fathers (I think he was finished his first one before I had even cracked the first in my pile of pregnancy books!). Ever the responsible one, Jon was reading car seat and stroller reviews while I was busy picking out the chicest diaper bag online. And he has dedicated his time to excitedly preparing for our baby girl’s arrival:  when I spent a week of vacation at my mother’s in Moose Jaw, Jon spent several nights after work putting together all the baby room furniture on his own, hoping to surprise me!

couple pregnancy pic us and red barn

Love!!

And from the start of this pregnancy, he has shouldered the majority of the housework; while the control freak in me has yet to hand over the cooking duties (I couldn’t even let him prepare Kraft Dinner for me the other night…being the Canadian in the relationship, I felt I must be the only one qualified to make it right!), Jon is the one to make coffee, breakfast and prepare our lunches every weekday morning. This comes from him being a morning person, me SO not being one, but also from watching his own dad bring his mum coffee each morning for years. Jon takes care of the dishes every night, does our laundry rather than have me climb the steep stairs down to our unfinished basement to get the job done, and usually tidies the bathroom so I don’t have to worry about using possibly dangerous cleaners.

couple pregnancy pic kiss

Thank you Jon!!!

While all this makes me a happy and rested preggo, it is more the way he takes time every morning and every night to make sure I feel loved and appreciated, and to reassure me that I am not in fact fat, just pregnant…even gorgeous in his eyes;) This guy can make me smile even in my moodiest moments! And it is his calming nature, his chill demeanor, in the face of my growing anxiety over labour that has kept me from completely freaking out. I already know he will be great at encouraging me when we actually get to the whole labour and delivery part!!

I am so thankful to have Jon to navigate this sometimes scary, often emotional journey with.  And I look forward to our daughter witnessing how great her father is to both his girls. I want her to know that she too deserves this kind of love from her future match:  someone who makes her laugh and shows her how to enjoy the little things in life, who appreciates her independence but can be her rock when she needs it, who celebrates what makes her beautiful and loves her just for being herself. Someone who makes her feel brave enough to tackle anything life throws at her, because she has the love and support of a true partner behind her.

Showered with Love…and Lots of Pink!

I’ve been to a million showers. Ok, not a million…but a lot! When you have a large group of friends, are part of a big family, and are of a certain age, you get a lot of experience attending wedding and baby showers. I have never been annoyed that I was attending yet another shower for a friend or family member, but had yet to have one myself; I was just excited to celebrate them and their major life event. I love a good party, no matter the occasion. I like helping any way I can, whether it be making cupcakes to enjoy at these events, or just attending to help shower my friends and family with gifts. At every shower I have attended, I  got to enjoy the yummy food, partake in fun visits with friends, and view the decorations and personal touches that made each one unique and memorable.  But no matter how happy I have been to attend others’ showers, there is something to be said for finally getting the chance to be the guest of honour at your own:  at last it was my turn to make favourite food requests, be celebrated and showered with love and gifts.

I was lucky to have not one, but two, baby showers this summer (more on the second one and the best group of girlfriends in a future post). The first was my family shower, organized by my amazing mother, beautifully decorated and graciously hosted by my dear aunt Michelle and sweet cousin Diane. I have a big family:  my mom is the youngest of nine, and my father is the second of four, so I have plenty of relatives both near and far. And I am extremely lucky to count many of my cousins as my closest friends, and lots of my aunts as second mothers.

My mom met with my aunt and cousin several times to organize the event, and then they ran with the theme of pink, with lilies and roses (in honour of our baby girl’s name, Lily Rose). Seriously, these ladies should run their own party planning business! I walked into the most perfectly decorated, pretty in pink baby shower…it was beyond anything I could have imagined, from the decorations to the food!! My aunt Michelle said the look on my face when I walked in was worth all the planning:  I was amazed at the work they had put into the event in my, and Lily Rose’s, honour. And everyone commented that I was in my glory, surrounded by so much pink:)

The deliciously pink decorations and treats!!!

The deliciously pink decorations and treats!!!

There were gorgeous lilies and roses in vases on the table, a tiered dessert tray of beautiful cupcakes that my cousin Dakota helped my aunt Michelle bake and decorate expertly as roses (half of which were made using my mom’s, originally my grandmother’s, white cake recipe…truly the most delicious cake in the world!) and there were even more chocolate cupcakes with Lily Rose spelled out on top in bright pink. Over my chair Michelle hung a homemade shabby-chic Lily Rose sign that now looks perfect in the nursery<3.

The gorgeous decor and delicious pink punch;)

The gorgeous decor and yummy pink lemonade;)

Michelle and Diane dipped strawberries, rice crispy treats and pretzels in pink and white chocolate too. Diane went wild with coloured candies overflowing in bowls throughout her gorgeous home. She had pink sugar and dyed pink creamer for coffee! They even decorated martini glasses with pink jewels, for the punch…which was of course, pink lemonade;) And my mom got my favourite croissant sandwiches for the occasion (truly appreciated by this hungry preggo!)!

 

My mom, aunt and cousin were so generous with their time and effort, and the money they spent, to produce the most special day for me!!! My mom is not a big party planner, but she made sure to get the two women together that she knew possessed the creativity and talent to create the most lovely shower for her baby, and baby’s baby;)

Thank you Michelle!!!

Thank you Michelle!!!

Thank you Diane!!!

Thank you Diane!!!

Thank you Mom!!!

Thank you Mom!!!

 

 

 

All my family did a great job of completely spoiling Lily Rose! As I am finally getting to the thank you cards, and recording the gifts everyone got us in our baby book, I am overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity (and thank you to my soul-sister/cousin Tarren for being an amazing secretary by recording the gifts list!). Seriously this little girl is going to be one fashionable baby, with fancy dresses, chic sleepers and adorable accessories galore. And we got so many lovely pieces to make her nursery even more special, and some very necessary things to help us be as ready as possible for the journey ahead.

Just one of the beautiful little dresses we received...many of which came from my dear Aunt Lois, sent with love from Calgary<3

Just one of the beautiful little dresses we received…many of which came from my dear Aunt Lois, sent with love from Calgary<3

It meant so much to me to see so many of my aunts and cousins, and some with their own babies, in attendance. Summer is busy for everyone, and there are lots of family who live too far away, so I understood that not everyone could make it. I definitely felt all of them there in spirit none-the-less! Lily Rose is so lucky to be born into a family of such amazing women. The love and support they show one another is extraordinary, and was on full display and directed towards me and my soon-to-be-born daughter the day of our shower. It really wasn’t about the gifts, or the delicious food, or even the beautiful decorations. It was about having women I love and admire join in on a very special day for me. They all know how much I have wanted to become a mother, so for them to celebrate my dream becoming a reality is what I will always treasure.

Embracing the Shape Love Takes

Women are told they should feel beautiful and all glowy during pregnancy, but for many, this is far from true. Being pregnant can have its fair share of ugly side effects. It’s not the same for every woman, but they can include stretch marks, bloating and swelling, weird rashes, aches and pains (and don’t get me started on the gross heartburn and embarrassing gas ha ha!). Oh and the weight gain! For some, it’s scary and shocking, watching helplessly as their butts, boobs and bellies expand. As a result many mommies-to-be dispel the myth that you are going to feel gorgeous during pregnancy. While I haven’t always felt my very prettiest, and sometimes had to apply a good shimmer to get that glowy look (Nars highlighter in Albatross from Sephora does the trick!), pregnancy has made me learn to really appreciate my curves, and truly embrace my shape as it changes with my growing baby.

If you know me well, or if you read my previous blog “A Lighter, Brighter Life”, you will know that I have struggled with my weight and body image issues since my mid 20s. Like many women, I couldn’t embrace my shape, and was always looking for a quick and easy way to shed weight. I would lose weight, but it never seemed to be enough, and then I’d gain it back eventually. Finally, I learned the only way to lose weight and keep it off was the healthy way, through a balanced diet and exercise. I eventually lost almost 40 pounds. It took me a long time to actually like my body, to not focus only on my weight as a marker of my success, and to learn that I couldn’t wait for life to start when I had lost another 10 pounds.

I was there before I got pregnant. Yes, I wanted to really get in shape and slowly continue to lose more weight by eating well, but I was a happy girl and for the first time, not focused on the numbers on the scale. So getting pregnant initially worried me:  how would I deal with the weight gain? would I go back to being unhappy as my shape changed? would I freak out as the numbers on the scale climbed higher with every passing month? I wasn’t worried about returning to previous unhealthy habits, but I was worried that I would go back to hating my body:  it’s not a good place to be in, and I didn’t want it to overshadow such a happy time in my life.

24 Weeks and lovin' my Old Navy dress-much cheaper than most maternity wear!

24 Weeks and lovin’ my Old Navy dress-much cheaper than most maternity wear!

After finding out I was pregnant at 5 weeks, and getting through 7 weeks of pregnancy sickness, I started to gain weight around week 13. After I got passed the “Is she pregnant or just gaining weight!?” phase, and my belly really grew, I started to love it. Going shopping at a maternity store for the first time, I got really excited. I loved how the maternity clothes fit, and felt that my curves were finally getting put to good use. I put on a fashion show for Jon when we went to Motherhood Maternity:  I felt so cute in the maxis, empire waist dresses, leggings and flowy tops. I spent a small fortune but felt amazing (I was very happy to learn Gordman’s in Minot carries Motherhood Maternity, and it’s cheaper…the perks of living near the border!)! Over the next months, I bought more maternity clothes and became more bold with my choices:  I got horizontal stripes and white jeans, fitted dresses, shorts and tanks; things that I usually avoided prior to pregnancy. I didn’t want to just hide behind slimming black anymore:  bring on the pastels and bright colours! And no longer did I feel I needed Spanx under a snug dress:  I was finally proud of my belly, hips and thighs. I wanted to show this new, even curvier, more confident me off!

Maternity wear has come a long way since the days when women felt they had to hide their bumps under layers of loose, unflattering clothes. Maternity clothes were modest, even into the 70s and 80s, and the trend was for expectant mothers to hide their growing curves under flowy fabric, peasant blouses and tent dresses. Then in the 90s things changed:  Demi Moore flashed her bare belly, and more, on the cover of Vanity Fair, making it known to the world that pregnant women can in fact be sexy and show it all off. While we may not all be ready for a naked pregnancy photo shoot (I for one do not want a visual reminder of all of my cellulite at this point…or ever!), we are lucky that we get to choose whether or not we show off our baby bump, and we now get to do it more fashionably than ever before. We have a variety of chain stores that cater to women looking to stay fashionable through pregnancy, not to mention all the designer brands that now have maternity lines. Although even the maternity chains might be more costly than where we regularly shop, or it might pain us to know we are splurging on a new wardrobe that will only get us through the next two trimesters, they really do help us preggers feel pretty, at a time when we may need all the help we can get.

28 Weeks and just brave enough to show off my maternity swimsuit;)

28 Weeks and just brave enough to show off my maternity swimsuit;)

As I head into the home stretch, and the numbers on the scale begin to climb steadily higher, I try to have no fear, but I am still just a girl. Gaining weight is never fun, so I have to keep reminding myself it just means my baby girl is growing, and that is a very good thing! I have been at the weight I am now before, but it’s for a great reason this time! I have been heavier than this, so I tell myself it is not the end of the world and that I can work to get back down to pre-pregnancy weight after baby arrives…or after life settles down and I have the time and energy to get back to eating well and exercising. I can even work towards my goal of really getting fit and lose more weight over time…but that’s what I have:  time to reach these goals! For now, I can just be happy with where I am, busy growing a baby ❤

30 Weeks and so happy to be at my beautiful baby shower wearing my favourite pattern-polka dots! (Dress is from Motherhood Maternity...on sale!)

30 Weeks and so happy to be at my beautiful baby shower wearing my favourite pattern-polka dots! (Dress is from Motherhood Maternity…on sale!)

The hardest part for me has been the little changes my body encounters, things that only I can see:  namely my boobs. I used to see a woman in a movie and wonder, “What is up with her boobs!?” Well now I know, she’s a mother. One friend said she wished she’d taken a picture of hers before she got pregnant, cause they will never look like that again. It’s not that they are ugly all of a sudden, it’s just, they are very different…and for some, they are huge! I had big ones to begin with, so you can only imagine how much more they’ve grown!! And I am only 33 weeks!!! The first trimester they were so tender, heavy, and just getting in and out of a bra was excruciating. Now in the third trimester, I started getting sharp, shooting, pains. I am told this is likely due to baby’s first milk, colostrum, coming in. Another dear friend said while this pregnancy side effect might be painful, it is also beautiful, as it means my boobs are getting ready to fully produce.

After the boob pain subsided, I let my friend’s advice sink in, and knew it to be true:  amidst the sucky side effects of pregnancy, there are great things happening too. They may be unexpected and strange, but still, they are wonderful. Growing a life inside you is hard work, and it takes a toll on the body, but it is still a miracle…it just so happens to be one that occurs daily. I got to experience the good side effects, including shiny, healthy hair and good skin. So even though I may now be gaining more weight than I would like, and my body has changed in ways I never imagined (oh and I have yet to experience what labour and delivery does to my body…that will be a whole other post I’m sure!), I am happy knowing that each change brings me one step closer to becoming a mother, and to meeting the new love of my life.