Monday, 12 August 2019

What I Actually Used In My Hospital Bag



For those of you who don't follow me on Instagram, you'll have missed that we recently welcomed our beautiful baby boy Benjamin into the world! After a scheduled turned emergency C-Section, followed by a three day hospital stay, both Brian and I (and little Benny) are all very happy to be home.

I had actually filmed a video prior to giving birth all about what I was planning on taking with me to the hospital, for both myself and baby. You guys know that I'm a light packer for all of my trips, and packing for the hospital was no exception to this - I really tried to only bring necessities as too much stuff always makes me anxious. Even with this in mind, there were still a few things that I probably didn't need to take with me, and also a few things that I under estimated just how important they would be.


Now that we're good week out from our hospital stay, giving birth to baby Benjamin and the recovery process after, I'm excited to share with you everything that I brought with me in my hospital bag and if each item was a good decision or not.

My Own Pillow from Home: YES

Bringing your own pillow from home is a total game changer the it comes to a comfortable hospital stay. I used the pillow for extra support when sleeping with my incision, and as a make-shift nursing pillow when trying to get into a groove a breast feeding baby. Brian had also brought along his own pillow, blanket and sheets for staying over with us in the hospital. Whatever you can bring from home to make sleeping at the hospital, which is a feat within itself, more comfortable - do it.

Two Litre Watter Bottle: YES

Not only are you incredibly thirsty after giving birth, but you also need to keep hydrated afterwards to help with your recovery as well as breast feeding. Because I did not want to rely on guests and nurses to help me refill my water, and I was in no position to get up and get it on my own, I'm so happy to have had my humongous two-litre water bottle with me.

Phone and Ear Pods: YES

Can we really do anything without our phones these days? Between photos, to messages, to using it as a make-shift TV to watch Netflix while late-night feeding, the phone is a game-changer. Ear pods came in handy when it was Brian's turn to sleep (we worked in shifts) and I wanted to watch a show while up nursing without disturbing him.

Wallet + Lip Balm: YES & YES

While I certainly wasn't doing much online shopping in the hospital, I needed my wallet for my ID and health card. And lip balm in the dry hospital is a game-changer.

Cloth Bag for Laundry: YES

I'm no germaphobe, but there's something about the hospital that gives me all the germy vibes. I stuck everything that wore into that bag and threw it all onto the wash (along with all sheets and blankets) the second we got home.

Indoor Slippers: YES (with modification)

I definitely was happy to have a pair of slippers to use from home for walking around, although in hindsight I should have packed disposable slippers to just discard after use (those germs again.)

Belly Binder: NO

I had originally packed my belly binder to help with my incision and to also guide my uterus to shrink, however my abdomen was way too tender in the hospital to even consider using it.

Toiletries: YES (with modification)

I was so happy to have my toothbrush, toothpaste and face wash with me during my hospital stay, but because I kept my bandages on until I was discharged, I didn't need any of the shower toiletries. I'll tell you, that first shower at home felt amazing.

Adult Diapers, Menstrual Pads and Nipple Cream: NO

Luckily the hospital provided me with more than enough supplies to manage my bleeding during my stay. Although I probably should have used the nipple cream while I was beginning to nurse in the hospital, my priority and attention was all focused on making sure Benny got adequate nutrition so I didn't even think about it.

Underwear: NO

I used and abused the high-waisted mesh underwear that they give you in the hospital. They are truly the best undergarments for healing post-birth.

Sleep shirt, Robe, Nursing Bra, Eye Mask: YES TO ALL

Although if I had it my way I would have been topless the entire hospital stay, we did have quite a few visitors so wearing PJs was definitely necessary. I was so happy to have my sleep shirt, robe and nursing bra to feel a bit more human when we had our family visiting, and the sleep mask was a huge game changer when it was my turn to get a bit of sleep in the hospital.

Makeup: YES

Call it vanity, I don't care - my second day in the hospital when we had the bulk of our visitors, I was very happy to be able to put on even the tiniest amount of makeup to feel more like myself.

Camera: NO

We were able to capture tons of beautiful photos and videos between all of our phones. The quality of phone equipment is really spectacular and it makes it so much easier to capture memories when you don't have to use a bulky camera.

Diapers, Wipes, Diaper Cream: YES

Likely because we had a private room and really didn't need any urgent assistance, we found that the nurses pretty much left us alone. This was great for getting some rest, but not ideal when you needed your change table re-stocked with diapers, wipes and diaper cream. I'm so happy that I brought along my own, and in hindsight I probably should have brought even more diapers (maybe 10) because we used every single one that I had packed.

Bath Supplies: NO

I really wanted to give little Benny a bath in the hospital, with the nurses present to help guide us. Unfortunately due to how busy the nurses were, and again with the private room and very limited checks, this didn't happen. That's okay, we all figured it out with his first bath at home!

Swaddle + Outfit: YES

While Benny was in the hospital, we mostly used their swaddles and kimonos but it was nice to dress him up and use our own for going home.


That's it! Everything that I packed in my hospital bag and if I actually used it or not. Aside from bringing a few more diapers and lots more snacks (although our families had the food situation covered) I'm really pleased with how it all turned out.

What do you guys think? Did you over or under pack for your hospital stay while giving birth? What do you wish that you had with you? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

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Thursday, 25 July 2019

My Prenatal Village [In Toronto]


They say it takes a village to raise a child; my baby isn't even earth-side yet and I already know that to be true. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it also takes a village to grow a child.

My pregnancy journey is quickly coming to an end, at just shy of 39 weeks pregnant today. With a scheduled C-Section on the horizon, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on the past 9 months and have had time to really think about all of the people that have helped me navigate the start of a new chapter in life. Pregnancy is magical and beautiful, but can also be anxiety-inducing, confusing and, at times, physically painful. It's not all frolicking in wildflowers, as my Instagram feed would have you believe - haha!

Knowing the challenges that pregnancy brings along, I'm so grateful to have had so many great individuals behind me helping me along the way: My Prenatal Village. Aside from family and friends who have really stepped up and shown up, there's a few key players and organizations who have truly been a Godsend, and have made all the difference in my enjoyable pregnancy experience. If you're expecting in the Toronto area, I could not recommend them enough.



Riverdale Community Midwives


There are so many choices to be made when first discovering that you're pregnant. The biggest one, to me, was deciding who I would be trusting my prenatal care to. I knew from even before becoming pregnant that I wanted to explore midwifery. To me it seemed like the best fit, especially knowing myself and the questions and anxieties that would come up. I'm so thankful that I ultimately chose Riverdale Community Midwives.

My primary Midwife, Kathy, is a beautiful soul and very patient. I usually come to my appointments armed with a variety of different questions, and Kathy has always taken the time to answer all of them. What I really have appreciated with Riverdale Community Midwives is that they don't fear monger (something I'm very sensitive to) and really focus on the expectant mother. They also consider all aspects of health, including mental health, which in a medical field is refreshing.

Something else that appealed to me when considering midwifery in Ontario is the level of care that you receive after baby is earth-side. This includes in-home visits after baby arrives - or in my case, in-hospital at first as I recover from my C-Section. I also appreciate the open communication that midwives allow. We even did our birthing classes through the clinic!

Choosing a prenatal care provider is such a personal decision, so I would always go with my gut instinct. I'm really pleased that I ultimately chose to go with Riverdale Community Midwives.


My Chiropractor


I've never visited a chiropractor before, never had an adjustment - nothing. Not that I wasn't open to it; it was just one of those things that I never chose to explore.

That all changed in my early second trimester of pregnancy. I started to experience horrible hip pain, sometimes so bad that I would have difficulty walking. The pain was awful, and after watching fellow pregnant (at the time) blogger Marlie of Kale and Krunches document her visits to her chiropractor, I knew I had to partake.

Enter Dr. Aliya Visram - famed chiropractor and acupuncturist who not only introduced me to the amazing world of chiropractic medicine, but also single-handily saved my hips and my sanity. Dr. Visram is specially trained in treating pregnant woman, children and babies so that helped to put my fears at-ease when first going in for an assessment. Most importantly, as a mother herself she's a wonderful resource for navigating pregnancy and motherhood in Toronto and has a great, calming presence to her.

People have been commenting how well I've been handling this pregnancy, and how they're impressed that I'm still able to get out and move around as much as I have been in the last stages - I honesty think it's because of the chiropractic care that I've received from Dr. Aliya Visram. I just had my last adjustment pre-baby, and already can't wait to go back and help my body heal postpartum.



Toronto Yoga Mamas


Nestled in the east end of Toronto in Leslieville, Toronto Yoga Mamas is a literal haven for expectant mothers, as well as moms with new tiny babies and tots. It's basically your go-to place for all things motherhood.

I loved visiting Toronto Yoga Mamas for my weekly prenatal yoga sessions and bar classes. At my best, I was going three times a week and the classes really helped with keeping my mobility in pregnancy, increasing blood flow and easing anxiety. Lately I haven't been going to my regular classes, simply because baby is breech and I don't want to do anything to prevent a natural turn (sometimes a deep squat in yoga can do this.) Let me tell you - by not exercising as regularly, I definitely feel a difference in my body.

Another huge resource that Toronto Yoga Mamas offers is a variety of different services for expectant and new moms. One of the biggest services that I took advantage of is the prenatal massages. Oh Em Gee. Lisa, my absolute favourite RMT, delivers such an amazing prenatal massage, that I would honestly feel like a whole new preggo. They also offer pelvic floor physiotherapy, which I had every intention of taking advantage of but time just got away from me. Maybe postpartum.

If you're expecting in the Toronto area, specifically in the east end, I would not recommend Toronto Yoga Mamas enough.



I hope that this little list helps anyone who's currently pregnant in Toronto, or will be expecting soon! Creating and cultivating a strong prenatal village has really helped me to enjoy my pregnancy to the fullest, and I wish the same for every expectant mama in the city.

xo Joëlle

Photos by the lovely and talented Eryn Shea Photography
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Saturday, 20 July 2019

My Hair Care Routine with Pantene


This post was created in partnership with Pantene. All thoughts, experiences and opinions are 100% my own.

Everyone told me when I became pregnant that this would be a time when I would experience the best hair of my life. 

Well, I waited. And waited. As I entered my third trimester with a head of hair that was even dryer than it originally started with pre-pregnancy, as well as more dull and lifeless than ever before, it was time to throw in the towel and take matters into my own hands. Pregnancy hormones didn't magically transform my hair to be healthier as it does with other women, so I needed to rely on products that would help to rehydrate my locks Enter the new Pantene Sulfate Free Rose Water Collection.

Let's talk rose water: as someone with sensitive skin, I'm very familiar with rose water for its calming and hydrating properties in skincare, but I love that I can now use the ingredient in my haircare for the same reasons.  And because the formula is high in vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients, it's been really effective in giving my super-dry hair the boost that it needs. Also, I love the Pantene Rose Water Collection is for what's not in the ingredients list. It’s sulfate-free, paraben-free, dye-free and mineral oil free. And don't think that just because the formula is free of all of those ingredients that you have to sacrifice on lather – I was pleasantly surprised by the rich lather and amazing shower experience. A huge win all around!




So now instead of waiting around for these supposed magical pregnancy-hair hormones, I've taken my hair routine into my own hands. The result is hydrated, more manageable hair that's less frizzy and all-around healthier. I'm so happy to have found this to help me sail from pregnancy to baby with my best hair possible.

What do you guys think? Did you experience more dryness in pregnancy? Have you tried the new Pantene sulfate free Rose Water Collection? Let me know!

xo Joëlle


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Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Expectation Vs. Reality: Pregnancy Edition


I first remember when I was settling into being pregnant. There were so many expectations that I placed on myself; how I figured I would act, dress, think, etc. Isn't that always the way with any new life change?

Flash forward to present time, and I can honestly say that a lot of my expectations that I have placed on myself have flown out the window. Now that we're in the home stretch of pregnancy (37 weeks, holy crap) I can look back at my expectations in early pregnancy and how things have panned out and just laugh. Here's a few of the expectations that I swore would be my reality in pregnancy, and how off-the-mark they eventually ended up being.


1. I Wouldn't Bump-Cradle In Photos


I'll admit, I was someone who would roll my eyes at the amount that women would touch and hold their pregnant bellies in photos. "We get it," I would think, "you're pregnant." I was confident that I wouldn't fall victim to over touching my bump in photos as I grew into pregnancy.

Flash forward to present day, and a few scrolls through my Instagram feed reveals that there aren't very many photos of myself in the last few months where I'm not cradling the bump! What I've learned in these last 37 weeks, particularly after the 24 week mark when I actually started to show, is that there is a very fine line between baby belly and burrito belly in clothes - and that hand on top of a protruding stomach is that line. Also, the more that I eased into pregnancy, felt baby move and kick from within me and grew, the more I wanted to enjoy and celebrate what was going on! Listen, I don't know if I'll ever be pregnant again - if I want to celebrate my body and touch the life that's growing within me for photos, I will damnit - haha.

So as I enjoy the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, I will be touching the bump as much as humanly possible and documenting it all through photographs. No shame in my game.


2. I Would Continue To Travel To The End


I'm happy with the amount of travel that I was able to accomplish while pregnant. Once I hit 30 weeks, and international plane travel became more restricted, I remember telling anyone who would listen that I would be continuing to galavant with many road trips, sight seeing and hotel stays. I wasn't going to let a little something like pregnancy get in the way of my summer plans.

Well, I can officially say that my last plane trip to Charleston was my last trip of the pregnancy. Road trips? Ha! Y'all, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm tired. The third trimester hit me like a ton of bricks, and while I'm grateful to still feel pretty good, I was relieved to make a conscious effort to slow down. Not only that, but I found that I began to feel more content just staying in and organizing our condo making room for baby instead of driving to Montreal to complete my ambitious itinerary.

It's an interesting shift, learning to slow down for someone who typically takes comfort in a chaotic schedule. Hopefully this is preparing me for a more content fourth trimester when baby arrives.


3. I Would Continue To Exercise 


Now, this assumption is one that I wish that I had kept up with, but sometimes it's not in the cards. I was doing great with exercising for most of the pregnancy; between walking, at-home workouts, barre and prenatal yoga. Something shifted at about 30+ weeks, where my body stopped being able to handle it. I found that a workout would drain me for the entire day, or would trigger swelling within my body. Couple that with the fact that my baby has been breech for the majority of the pregnancy and I didn't want to do anything to make it worse (deep squats, etc.) and my fitness routine fell to the wayside.

I do worry that this lapse in exercise will make it harder to get back into a healthy routine when baby arrives, but honestly I've been trying hard to listen and follow the cues of my body. Everything within my body has been telling me to slow down, and I'm respecting that. Barre class can wait. Until then I'm continuing to walk, albeit at a very leisurely pace these days, making sure to take the time to enjoy the view.

What do you guys think? Have you broken any expectations that you had for yourself in a new situation? Let me know!

xo Joëlle
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Friday, 5 July 2019

Prenatal Anxiety: My Story


It's hard for me to think of an appropriate way to start this very personal blog post. Let me just start by saying that this is a hard subject for me to talk about, as is anything deeply personal that delves deeper than the superficial and lightness that I strive to keep throughout this blog. It's just who I am; I like to keep any problems I'm experiencing to myself, both on and offline.

The reason that I wanted to open up a bit and talk about my experience with prenatal anxiety is that it seems to be a reoccurring theme when talking to expectant, new and seasoned moms alike. "How are you feeling?" they would innocently ask and in the odd time that I would open up and let them know that my biggest pregnancy symptom was/is anxiety, it was more often than not met with women telling me that they experienced the exact same thing while expecting. In fact, I would say that the vast majority of women I've spoken to about prenatal anxiety have their own experiences, anecdotes, memories and battles. For a pregnancy symptom that is seemingly so common among women, why is it that I rarely - if ever - hear it mentioned in any of the information available that coaches women on what to expect when expecting?

That's why I wanted to share my story today. Hopefully someone who is struggling, or has struggled in the past with prenatal anxiety will read it and know that they're not alone.

My Story


My story with prenatal anxiety begins almost right away after holding my positive pregnancy test. Our first attempt to conceive ended in a chemical pregnancy, so I was so happy to see that we were able to get pregnant again so soon after. While I experienced all of the "typical" reactions to a positive pregnancy test (excitement, overwhelm, disbelief, etc.) I also has this nagging sense of guilt. Why should it have been so quick for us, when others struggle with infertility? It was a feeling that I tried to shake, but ultimately ended up manifesting itself into a cloud of doom that seemed to follow me around the entire first trimester.

The first trimester for me was tough, and when my prenatal anxiety was at its absolute worst. Some days it would present as just a nagging feeling and weight on my back that would follow me around and other days it would be full-blown episodes of panic that prevented me from leaving my condo. In fact if I look back at my first trimester I rarely ever left our place, didn't see anyone unless it was family and just spent hours frantically Googling anything from miscarriages to pregnancy complications or anything else that could possibly go wrong. This would then lead to feelings of crippling guilt that I was ruining what may the only time that I was ever pregnant, and therefor was undeserving. It was a vicious cycle that I could not seem to pull myself out of, despite rationally knowing how destructive my behaviour was. The feelings seemed to be beyond my control, and despite knowing that fresh air and a good laugh with friends would make me feel so much better, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So inside I stayed, alone with my thoughts and Google. It was miserable, isolating and seemed like it would never end.

Thankfully the fog lifted in the second trimester as my hormones regulated. It's then that I finally allowed myself to feel joy and excitement, without feeling like I was jinxing anything. I started to travel again, see my friends and just feel good. It was such a relief to have the monkey on my back finally leave. Even with my brief hospitalization and a short bout of anxiety that came along after, it was amazing how different my second trimester was from my first.

Fast forward to my third trimester, and with another shift in hormones that damn cloud of doom came back. Thankfully for me, it was then late spring and Toronto was experiencing more sunlight and milder weather and it made a world of difference. I also had developed some coping mechanisms in my second trimester that really helped; namely yoga, starting a gratitude journal and listening to classic rock all day (yes, that actually did help.) And while I definitely don't want to insinuate that yoga and Elton John is the solution to struggles in mental health, it seemed to work for me so I just went with it. Everyone is completely different.

Now here we are in the home stretch, and there are definitely more good days than bad. I also feel as though I've gotten a glimpse into what postpartum depression can feel like, and have taken preemptive steps to make sure that I have outside support should I need it. This experience has made me realize that maternal mental health goes far beyond just the 'baby blues' and if you're feeling these feelings of panic that seem to be beyond your control that you're not alone and it's not something to feel ashamed of.

So that's my story. While this was a hard one for me to share, since I don't want to look back on this very fleeting time and remember anything but the joy, I do think it's important to speak to my experience with prenatal anxiety. Hopefully this helps anyone who's feeling panicked, isolated and alone in what is thought to be a magical time.

You are not alone.

xo Joëlle

Disclaimer: If you're experiencing uncontrollable feelings of prenatal anxiety or depression, please talk to your doctor, midwife, or someone that you trust.
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