How to Live a Balanced Life

It’s butterfly season right now, and this summer brings a happy supply of them where i live. As they are an anchor for me, I’ve been working on creating a tool with the butterfly as the inspiration. I love the quote from Rupi Kaur that reminds us that ‘growth is a process that takes time’ – indeed strength is necessary for a caterpillar to become a chrysalis and then to transform and push out of cocoon. The metamorphosis of the butterfly is the perfect display of the rite of passage we all go through.

I am my own wellness or resilience coach – I work hard to create my own version of a balanced life by making a point to bring joy in, taking care of myself, as well as keeping myself connected to others. With this in mind, i created this worksheet as a guide to help you.

I love the various Wheel of Life tools that highlight the various parts of us – this is similar and a bit unique as it breaks down the parts into the holistic trifecta of Mind, Body and Spirit.

Think of these butterfly parts as a way to create more balance in your own life. Each part is integral to living well. So, the Antenna symbolizes the Spirit; the Head is the mind and mental health realm, and of course the Body represents the physical self-care we need to stay well. The 4 wings around it are for family, friends, work, and community. Now, add what you do that nourishes this part, and what you wish to add in order to create more balance. See what comes up, what’s missing, and what you’d like to add moving forward. We are our own experts, so get to navigate the way we live our life – what do you chose? Use the butterflies you see in nature as a guide – take time to slow down and linger in one place.

what the caterpillar saw as the end, the rest of the world saw as the beginning. lao tzu

I’ve created a free 2-page PDF that you can print and work on yourself, Get a cup of tea, a nice pen and take some time to sit with this. Click here to get your own copy and see what comes up for you!

The Makings of a Good Therapist

I love what I do. It may sound strange to think that I enjoy listening to people share their hard feelings, but what I also see is their healing process and transformation. I’m not so vain to think i made a difference, but rather I was there to bear witness to their own change. Going to therapy is still a taboo topic, as we have not accepted mental health needs support like any other forms of health does.There has been a lot of movement towards accepting therapy, both for people to go to someone for help, as well as a bigger societal shift in accepting that a therapist can help someone feel better, just like a dentist, doctor, or nutritionist can. Instagram has an amazing selection of therapists who use that tool as a way of sharing resources for free. While it’s not therapy persay, it is a great starting point for me. It’s a bit like feelings porn for me too. Have you seen this fabulous account, for instance?

I have a love-hate relationship with how therapists are depicted in pop culture. It’s no wonder people have misgivings about coming to see a stranger and unload secret feelings. Naomi Watts’ character on her show Gypsy (the name itself is problematic) really made me cringe. Anne in Working Moms is another example (though I love her new office). Gabriel Byrne’s character on In Treatment, or Toni Collette in Wanderlust, and more recently the therapist in Big Little Lies gives me hope that we are moving towards more positive portrayals. It helps to lessen the stigma – therapy is not just for extreme mental health needs after all.

While watching the second season of Big Little Lies recently (and no, that therapist is not perfect either), i brought me pause to think about what i think makes for a good therapist. Here’s my short working list.

I will bear witness to your process. I have had clients come to me and say point blank that they want me to ‘fix them.’ I so wish that was possible, but it truly doesn’t work that way. I don’t have a magic wand to do that sort of trick, and more importantly, therapy is not for someone else to fix you but rather you must do this work yourself. It is truly our own work that helps us heal.

I know that I hold a lot of power in my role as a therapist. As a feminist therapist, i make that awareness explicit in our work together. I also play a role in displaying a healthy relationship with the people I support. As an attachment-based therapist, I see how unhealthy relationships have been a great cause of suffering. While it’s important to me to build a trusting and respectful relationship with the people I support, I am not their friend. I do think that therapy works best when there is a reciprocal relationship (relational). One big difference between talking to your best friend about a problem and coming to me is that I am not just a positive cheerleader, but someone who will challenge you if you are wrong and also provide you options, not just agree with you. I am like an accountability partner to help you stay on your task and commitment to yourself.

Some of my favourite words as a therapist are vulnerability, feelingful, courage, curious, compassion, resilience, and reflection. I have a toolkit of resources, tools, worksheets, and exercises to guide you in this process. Therapy is goal-based and an opportunity to establish tools and resources, work on the painful memories, and integrating them into your everyday life now. The ultimate goal for therapy is that it helps you live the life you love so that you no longer need to come to therapy.

As a therapist I am a vault that holds your secrets. Therapy won’t work if you can’t trust that person with your deepest feelings, so much so that you don’t feel safe in sharing them. Building this relationship plays a key role in how therapy works best. It’s also hard for me to say goodbye when therapy is ending, and yet I know that the goal of therapy is to have it be short-term with a clearly structured beginning, middle and end. I get ghosted as a therapist and while I know that the relationship is not about me (and I yield a lot of power), it is still a feeling-based relationship that is built on compassion.

With the new Controlled Act of Psychotherapy in Ontario, changes are being made to what therapy looks like. For instance, some people seek counselling as a way to help them with some life goals on wellness, having a better life and get back on track. A life coach also does similar work on wellness work but their focus is more on helping you live your optimum self. Psychotherapy is a deeper dive to help someone who is struggling with something that leads to feeling stuck, and is based on a diagnosable mental health issue (like postpartum depression or post-traumatic stress from the impact of childhood abuse). I am not a life coach, but my work can straddle any of these three areas.

A good therapist, like anyone, sees the value of continuous professional development. I am always learning and am a better therapist because of this. Even seasoned therapists of over 30 years need to keep learning about modalities that are evidence-based and validly researched. I also believe that a good therapist does not only use one modality as each person is their own expert and one size does NOT fit all.

I make people cry for a living. That means, while I follow your lead and have no agenda for my own, sometimes there is no emotional by-passing in therapy like there may be in everyday life. I will validate your experience and feelings, and hold space for you in a less biased way. My whole body is my instrument, especially as I use somatic-based therapies and mindfulness in my work. Going to supervision, therapy and peer consultation is a necessity, if not a requirement. I also practice what I preach as self-care is imperative so that I don’t burn-out or feel compassion fatigue. So don’t worry about me – I am a container that regularly gets my tune-up.

If you’d like to work with me, to live the life you love, contact me here. I’d be honoured to be that vault for you.

Tips to Help Keep Your Relationship Resilient


Whether you are in a new stage of life with a newborn, or you’ve been with your partner for 10 years and you’re feeling a lull, or your family has experienced another major transition in your life, it can be hard to stay attuned with your partner. All relationships take work and a commitment to that work. Sometimes crisis or change in our lives can steer us in a different direction and it can be overwhelming to try and figure out how to come back. When you know the love is still there, and you want this relationship to continue working for you, it might be helpful to learn some new tools.

As a therapist who works with couples to notice their emotions and their partner’s, I see firsthand what tools and practices can be effective with staying on track in the relationship you want. As someone who’s been with my partner for just shy of 20 years myself, I can also speak from personal experience. With this in mind, I’ve put together some tips and ideas that can be helpful for you.

1) Attachment Styles for Adults: I may have a bias as i am trained in attachment based developmental psychology and i incorporate it into my own life as a parent. Did you know that our attachment to our parents shapes how we attach to others once we are adults ourselves? We learn a lot from our parents, some of those things are not necessarily intentional. Children need to attach to their adult caregivers in order to feel safe. When that’s not always the case, it can impact how we build relationships as an adult. TIP: Check out this book: Stan Tatkin shares more about these styles in his book Wired for Love: He shares 3 main styles – Anchor (feel secure in relationship), Island (avoidant), or Wave (anxious/ambivalent). There is also a 4th style (disorganized) that is based on a history of trauma – like a Hurricane. Knowing what our attachment style is helps as it can give so much perspective and insight to our reactions when our partner does something that confronts our confidence in the relationship.

2) Love Languages: When i first started dating my partner it was a long-distance relationship for the first year or so. I needed validation and gestures of affection in order to help me feel secure in this new relationship, especially as it was long-distance. This was before the days of Instagram and social media, where i used dial-up free internet access to send emails, and long distance calls were expensive. It was when i learned about the 5 Love Languages did i realize that i was not needy or insecure, but in fact had a different language that told my partner i was into him. There are 5 languages – acts of service (think mowing your lawn), words of affirmation (you look great tonight!), gifts of affection (flowers), loving touch (holding hands), quality time (booking a table at a new restaurant). So, when i learned that I’m a Gifts of Affection gal and my partner is an Act of Service dude, i realized that we needed to interpret our various languages and they could indeed compatible. TIP: Take the Love Languages quiz!

“Remember, love is what brought you here. And if you’ve trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way.” – James Baldwin

3) Plan Monthly Dates: This doesn’t have to be a big night out, let alone a weekend get-away, but having planned and defined time as a couple can really help build confidence in the relationship. TIP: plan an date each month – it can be a movie you picked out for Saturday Night at the Movies on the Couch. Make a special drink and stock up on adults-only snacks. This reminds us why we love our partner in the first place. It also helps us stay attuned to our desire for our partner, a key component to a lasting relationship.

Did you know that we have have individualized pleasure, arousal, and desire blueprints? To take it further, we also have different types of sexual satisfaction styles. Knowing what yours is can help understand how your sexual needs are not met as often as they were, or that you are feeling like you are in a sexual rut. TIP: Take this quiz to see which type of Erotic Blueprint speaks to you! Similar to Love Languages and Attachment styles, when we know what our sexual desires are, and that of our partners, it can help break down the walls in the bedroom and help to more sustainable and thriving sex lives.

4) Plan Time Apart: You are not just a partner or parent, but also an adult in your own right. Being able to have other interests creates a balance in your life. It may seem counter-intuitive but it’s really another key ingredient in building resiliency in relationships. When you want to be seen by your partner, you need to see yourself and become more visible. TIP: Share your pride in your work, acknowledge something you did that was a new challenge, add more of your in your home – the special feminine touches that linger. Think of your favouite flowers in the bedroom AND dining room, photos of you and your lover by the bed, have a book you are reading by the couch. Don’t hide those pieces of you away. When we are practicing a wholehearted approach to life, our interests in life shine through and our partners want to be with us.

5) Conflict Cycle: This comes straight out of Emotionally-focused Therapy but YOU don’t have to be trained as a couple counsellor to know how to work on conflict in a effective way. Did you know that each relationship dyad falls into a conflict cycle or pattern? It might help to see what yours is so that you can work past them. TIP: Check out Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight. It is a wonderful resource that shares more real-life stories of couples who have learned to recognize their conflict cycle.

I love Esther Perel’s work with couples, and one of her most poignant quotes is “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” We have to truly understand that we can’t control or change anyone else, so when we want to change someone, we have to change ourselves. One part that is key is learning how to take care of your own emotion first, so that it doesn’t impact the repair work. We need to learn how to repair, and that comes with learning helpful self-soothing anger management tools. Learning healthy ways to communicate these needs is especially necessary.

6) Aligned Values and Priorities: It’s interesting how we can feel so comfortable at home that we get into a habit of putting on our comfy clothes when we get home from work, and present our best self for work but not at home with our loved ones. Yes they love us, for better or worse, and yet why is it we present our messiest side for the people we love the most? I saw an episode of The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel once and she had a habit of taking off all her make-up and putting on the face cream only after her husband fell asleep. I think a happy medium on these 2 extremes is much more healthy and sustainable.

As we are constantly evolving and learning, our relationships need to follow the same course. While we don’t necessarily want carbon copies of ourselves, having key values that are shared by both partners can lessen any longstanding tension or conflict. TIP Have weekly meetings with your partner to discuss goals for the week, highlights, plan some time together and hear from them their plans. When we intentionally sit down together and ask each other these questions, we are not surprised when it comes up. Put it in a Google Calendar (i love this program, it really is a relationship tool!). This may help you carve out space not just for a date, but a chance to take a class together, or read a book together. Moments like this serve us as they help us get back to centre.

What are some ways you have noticed you get back on track with your love partner? If you are struggling with this, contact me and i’d love to help you do this!

Perfectly Imperfect in Every Way


This week, my son went skiing for the first time. He went twice this week alone. The first time was cross-country skiing with our family, and the second was downhill with a school trip. I went with him both times, upon his request (and secretly i would have gone anyway). Full disclosure, we are not a skiing family or even sporty. But i grew up cross-country skiing and loved it. Mainly because it was a way to embrace the outdoors during the cold, long winter months. And it is so beautifully peaceful in a forest in the wintertime.

The first ski adventure, we didn’t get lessons because we didn’t think we needed them. His first frustration was putting on the skis. His second was falling and not being able to get up. His third was the first slight hill. So within 10 minutes, he was full of frustration and internalized shame about not being able to do something his sister and cousins were doing. And more so, he was angry at his body for not holding him up. Once this side of him comes out, he can be hard to get him back on track – no pun intended.

Between my partner and i, we took turns and deep breaths to help him. By the end of the day, he was skiing better, and made the right decision to walk down the last hill. Side note: i went down that hill and had the best epic Funniest Home Videos fall. I went right over my face into the snow and came up laughing. And not hurt. Luckily, my kids saw my fall and my reaction and i think it helped them see that it’s okay to fall.

When we went with his school this week, my son embraced the challenge. Maybe it was partly due to being with his peers and the lovely support and connection his has with his classmates. Maybe it was because he’s been skiing once before and remembers what his body can do. Maybe because downhill is easier (that’s what he said). I don’t know. But he did amazing – he loved the hills and he only fell once. At the beginning, when he was going down the very first hill for the first time to learn how to do the ‘pizza’ move to slow down. After that, he was hooked and now wants to ski on the regular. I’d like to take some credit, but i know it’s about his more positive sense of self that day.

Go figure.


Let me backup and bit and give you some context: My son has had 4 broken bones and stitches twice, all from living life in distraction. Besides the healing process and permanent scars (both visible and emotional), my son has carried with him trauma from the various injuries. He goes quickly into freeze mode when he gets hurt, be it a small bump or a bigger fall. As a trauma therapist, i would hope my work and years of training would be able to help him when he is in distress or needing support to self-regulate the hard feelings.

I was pretty wrong about this.

He comes to me for cuddles and connection when he is sad, or lonely. But the anger and frustration feelings are harder for me to support and him to manage. That’s why they are called hard feelings after all. After his initial fear has subsided, and he sees that he’s okay, he goes into fight mode when he’s frustrated. That is his trigger response, whereas I’m a freezer – so an interesting combo to say the least. I also get triggered by his anger as it’s can get quite feral and aggressive. That’s from my own history trauma and fear of intense conflict with others.

My children both know the work i do, relatively speaking. They know i work with women who have been hurt by someone in their lives as well as the parents i support who have just had babies. My son has been learning more about self-regulation, mindfulness, the downstairs/upstairs brain (thanks Dan Siegal), and we both know it’s a work in progress still. So when he recently confronted my attempts to help him he blasted at me this poignant line: “Mom, what works on your clients won’t work on me, I’m your kid”

Mic drop.

So, after a bit of an initial reaction, i processed this and realized maybe a bit too late that i need to be his mom first, and therapist second. And i need to be my partner’s friend first and therapist second. And i am human first. Therapist second even for me. We are all works in progress, learning as we go after all. When i am in therapist mode, i am a bit removed and put up the necessary boundaries i need, and yet it may not be what my injured child needs at the time. I am also still learning how to manage my reactions to his injuries, my daughter’s stubbornness, and my own need for quiet. As all therapists, i’m perfectly imperfect with this work too. I know my friends look to me for advice and assume i know what i’m doing. Let me tell you now, i don’t always know. I’m just my best at the time like all of us. One thing i know is to give myself self-compassion and self-care treats on the regular. I have also learned how to sit with the pain of others because i too am a work in progress, who recognizes my own inner work: I can sit more comfortably with other’s pain as i can see the other side of pain. This is a big part of being able to be a container for others. I know healing can happen.

Last night, my kids were excited to tell me about their day. I had a long day of listening to people’s stories and sadness all day. Like most days, i love my work, and i maybe shouldn’t have listened to a powerful podcast about stillborn loss on my walk home. I probably should have listened to my fun music therapy playlist instead. When i got home, i didn’t know i was done listening, until my son was talking AT me for 20 minutes through dinner. We had a good chat about asking first to chat, and also my need to make sure that i was present for my family when i cross the threshold of my door. Back to mom, wife, woman mode. My work day is done.

And yet it never is.

New Moon Self-Care Series – Inner Child Letter

This month brings darkness mixed with celebration. It then doesn’t come as a surprise that this feelings get internalized in us. It’s a perfect time to turn inward intentionally and take care of the shadows and darkness that lingers in you.

As this is the final Fall New Moon Self-Care Series month, i wanted to give you a gift to yourself that is all about connecting to this new moon and planting a seed of future wisdom and self-compassion. This is a time to set an intention of a new path and time to get closure from last month.

This New Moon falls in a busy week – December 6 is the Montreal Massacre, December 7 is National Letter Writing Day and the New Moon in December. In a few weeks, we celebrate the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year. With this in mind, I’m hoping you can spend a few minutes this week in a letter you write to yourself.

As this month seems to be catered to the young and young at heart, it brings up hard feelings for us as adults, especially for those of us that have childhood traumas or more recent traumatic experiences in our life. The holiday season definitely comes with some hard/mixed feelings for a lot of us. Mothers especially need to balance their own needs while nurturing all the wishes and hopes of their wee ones.

So, this month, I’m encouraging you to write a letter to that Inner Child – that version of you that you want to recall or create. Whether they exist only in a memory or a hope, write a letter to that young version of yourself and what you hope for them to receive this month. Think about ideas that allow space for joy, happiness, surprise, eager excitement. You may not have these memories stored as real ones, and that’S okay. This is a time to recreate the memory you wished you had as well.

Steps to Intentional Journal Writing

1) Get into a cozy spot that allows you to writing uninterrupted for a about 10-20 minutes. Light a candle or incense for some mindful soothing smells. It’s now time to slow down a bit. Sit comfortably and chose a writing medium that shakes to you – it can be a journal or piece of paper and good writing pen.

One thing that may help you get in the best writing zone is to listen to a guided meditation on Inner Child work. I like this one a lot – thought it is longer and not just on Inner Child, she calls upon our inner council.

2) Take some deep cleansing breaths and then visualize yourself at a door. The door has some festive greenery and smells like a Pine forest. Knock on the door and see a young child answer. This is the young you. She is excited to see you and grabs your hand, pulling you inside. Once on the other side, you notice the room is covered in silks, trees and the space feels more like an enchanted forest than a room. Everything about it feels right and that it is where you belong.

Your Inner Child gives you a tour and asks you to sit and join her. She is ready for play and to celebrate this time of year with you. What is it that you are doing? What is it that she is excited to show you? Listen without judgement, vulnerability and shyness. You are eager to participate. Finish the visualization by thanking your Inner Child when it is time to leave. Give her a hug and walk back through the threshold.

3) Immediately after this, write a letter to this version of you. Thank her for the visit and time together. Think of words that are an extension of what you just did with her. Recount what she told you, and how you felt as you played with her. What is it that brought you joy, happiness and a youthful spirit? Do not stop to question it rationally or with a logical brain. Stay in the flow of emotional free writing. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling mistakes. Feel free to sketch or draw what you saw. It may be a fun further challenge to write this letter with your non-dominant hand. There is something cathartic about doing the exercise this way.

4) Finish the letter by signing it, and enclosing it in an envelope. Place it somewhere it can be seen by you so that you can give yourself the first gift of Winter – a moment to play and be joyfully present.

I believe that journaling can be a very therapeutic tool and a lot of struggle with it. This exercise is just a suggestion – if you don’t feel safe or ready to meet your Inner Child, feel free to journal about what you hope to do this winter. It is a great tool to plant seeds like this on a New Moon – especially as Winter begins later this month.

The Summer I Saved an Alligator

Each year, at the beginning of summer break from school, my family and I go on a vacation to the cottage. It has become such a family ritual that that we start to anticipate it weeks in advance. It’s a chance for us to unwind, relax, be in nature, and an opportunity for us to get a break from our everyday life.

The timing of this time away is impeccable: I am in the middle of a three-month long course that is offered by the Neufeld Institute. While it’s simply named Intensive I, it’s actually a very in-depth course on attachment and how it helps us reach our full potential. So as I’m taking this course, things are coming to my mind’s eye around the behaviour and emotions that my children are experiencing. This year, I found the time at the cottage to be even more important as it’s a chance for us to be alone as a family. I’ve been noticing my younger child becoming more and more attached to her peers. As an Attachment-based therapist and parent, I know it’s my role to remain the anchor for my children. Being the answer for them helps them to live their life as fully as possible. Watching my daughter become more more attached to her peers even at such a young age has been an interesting experience for me as a therapist and parent who is making very intentional decisions.

So, in order to help re-connect and be that anchor for my kids, off we went to our week away from the world. The weather was glorious, we ate S’more‘s and we swam more than once every day in the lake. Even though it was rather cold, the water has always been our happy place as a family. We could be cranky, tired or bored beforehand, but we always emerged from the water happy, content and refreshed. During one afternoon in the water, we were playing with our beloved water donuts. I of course brought to my favourite doughnut-doughnut, and we also had on hand the inflatable alligator that had been mine as a child. This summer my daughter has a goal to work on her swimming and so she and I were playing with the alligator as an opportunity for her to feel more confident in the water. Luckily she was still wearing her puddle jumper water wings because in one quick moment, the alligator overturned and slipped from under her. My quick instinct tended to her to make sure she was safe and well we were cuddling and checking in together and the allocator quickly started to drift off. I had first thought it was going slowly in the direction that would take it to shore but then I quickly noticed it was actually going deeper into the lake. I’m pretty confident swimmer and had been on the swim team in high school so I was pretty convinced that I would be able to reach the alligator in time. Because in one quick moment overturned from under. My quick instinct tended to her to make sure she was safe and while we were cuddling and checking in together, the alligator quickly started to drift out. Instead of going slowly in the direction that would take it to shore, it actually went deeper into the lake. I’m a pretty confident swimmer and was on the swim team in high school so I was pretty convinced that I would be able to read to the alligator in time. I was wrong. After a leisurely paddle where i was in my donut, i soon realized i was not going to reach the alligator in time. I have memories of this toy from my own childhood, and didn’t want to lose it so soon after my kids were able to play with it. So, i ditched the donut (this time int he right direction) and started to frantically swim at full speed towards the bright green animal floating in the water.

Luckily, we were the only people in the water and it was so calm (or maybe that was a problem). I used all the swimming strokes i learned (front crawl, breaststroke, backwards) and there were a couple of times where i had to quickly assess if this damn toy was worth me drowning or having a heart attack. I have to say there was a moment of panic of not reaching the floating device in time. Of course i did, as otherwise i wouldn’t be here writing this, but wow, was it a stressful moment for me.

I was able to use some de-escalation tools to help me get there, i used all the positive thinking i could, and worked on some radical acceptance that it was truly okay if i did’t reach it. A part of me know it would come to shore eventually. Another part of me wanted to be my kids’ saviour – of the alligator anyway. And you know what?

They didn’t even notice.

They didn’t realize how hard it was to get the floatie. But my partner did, and he tended to me and gave me some space to breathe. Literally.

So on that note, because i’m a glass half-ful gal, i’m going to leave you with some links to great articles about how to embrace summer, and how to make it meaningful for you as a parent. I work from a place where setting intentions help me live the life i love, and that summer means as much for me as it does my kids. So, here are some great resources to help you if you are stuck:

10 ways to stress less and flourish more
Mothering Arts Best Summer Ever list
Summer vacation: Freedom from or freedom to
18 summers – though i think this is too much pressure and not only 18 years, the article has some helpful tips

What are some of your favourite summertime family rituals? How do you spend the summer doing things you love?

The C-Section Club

I have mixed feelings about clubs. I never was a Girl Scout, in choir or on sports teams as a kid. I was a dancer though, but that doesn’t seem like the same kind of club or group like the others. For one thing, the rules and homogeneity that seemed to go along with it felt too forced. And just because one kid likes to play soccer, that doesn’t mean she likes the same music or food as another. And it felt like we had to be the same all the time, like Stepford Wives. I could be wrong though.

One club I never thought I’d join is the C-Section Club. Looking back, i guess it was inevitable: my mom is a 2-time club member herself. I know that cesareans are not exactly hereditary or contagious but it sure seems like they are. Friends who gave birth right before I did also had c-sections. A distant relative on my partner’s side said after the birth, “well of course she (meaning me) had a cesarean, look how small she is (I’m 5”1)!”

And yet I kept turning a blissful and determined eye away from allowing a c-section to be an option. I chose not to fully integrate the conversations about c-sections that were happening at my birth prep class. I skimmed over those chapters in the books I had.

Fast forward to the weekend of the birth of my first child. After 36 hours of early labour, a part of me knew the birth I wanted wasn’t going to happen. A part of my body also trusted that what I was feeling was not within the realm of normal. And yet when my care was transferred from midwife to OB, I was resistant. Who was this person to me? I’ve never met her and she surely did not know my birth plan or dreams. When she confirmed that I was not progressing at stage 2 (what the fuck does the mean anyway!?), they strongly suggested I get an epidural. And then a c-section a mere few hours later. I wish I trusted my body just needed to rest, and that my sweet baby was so eager to meet me so got stuck in the canal, and that my body got swollen from his eagerness. While the decision was ultimately mine, one thing I struggled with is that I never felt a bond or trust in this doctor. And that she did not have my best interest in mind. This is when my birth story turned from something sacred to something hard: I lost my voice and trust in what my body could do. Because I was told I couldn’t do it.

This post is not necessarily a birth story of my first (I did share a bit here), but rather a chance to acknowledge how some of us feel when we don’t get the birth we want. It’s a place to start that work. I know a lot of us feel like the end result of healthy baby healthy parent is paramount, and yet I can’t minimize the mixed feelings we experience when we go through an experience that is out of our control.

Since it’s Cesarean Awareness Month, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that each birth is unique, sacred and magical. They are also scary, painful and intense. Most of all, each is real and natural. I hate how vaginal births or unmedicated births are sometimes mistakenly called natural births, like medically supported or c-sections are any less natural. In an article full of helpful tips for people who are pregnant, Erica Chidi Cohen, one of the founders of Loom (an amazing pregnancy, parenthood and reproductive health clinic in LA) shared this great thought:

We need to stop using the term “natural birth.” The concept of natural birth is divisive and inherently competitive. All birth is natural. It’s as simple as that. If you want to have the intense sensations of labor and you’re coping well, go for it! If you have a hard time with pain or you have bad associations from trauma, that’s totally okay. You have the inherent right to choose how you want to navigate your birth experience, and those choices should be free of judgment. You should be celebrated for moving through the process of pregnancy and birth, however it unfolds, unmedicated, medicated or cesarean. THERE IS NO UNNATURAL BIRTH. It’s not Westworld. It’s all natural.

I also really love the work of January Harshe and the Birth without Fear movement. The quote above is one of my fave ones from her. And yet so many of feel pressure to birth a unicorn.

Here’s why our well-intentioned comments about someone else’s experience can be problematic: it doesn’t take into account their potential birth trauma and how it’s linked to consent and body trust issues. We hear about birth trauma that relates to obviously upsetting experiences of injury or even infant death. But another type of birth trauma is one where the birther has their voice taken from them, and instead the medical expert is calling all the shots. When some of us have experienced sexual violence and later in life get pregnant, this new experience can bring up former body memories and triggers.

We are also told that our bodies are meant to birth babies, and there is an assumption that people who birth vaginally are stronger. Not only did my body not fail me, I am incredibly strong because I grew humans in my body and then birthed them. And yet, I like so many others are made to feel inadequate, scarred and less than. We are already at odds the day we become parents when we birth via C-section; talk about being set up to fail.

So this month is all about honouring our path to birth babies and to be recognized for the hard work it is to have such major surgery on our baby’s first day earthside. I wear my scar proudly – to me it’s not a battle scar but a reminder of my strength and resilience. I’ve reclaimed it and it works for me.

The Shape of Miscarriage

Easter weekend is early this year. While I’m not a religious person, I am in tune with the seasons and feel attached to dates throughout the year. Easter weekend 10 years ago was when I miscarried my first child. So, each year at Easter, I hold space for this memory, pain, and what could have been.

I have written about key dates that we remember before. This is a different kind of post, one that may be hard for some to read. Today I’m writing to share what happened to me when I miscarried. I feel like I need to share this here but please don’t feel like you have to read further.

I was 12 weeks along in my pregnancy, and had already met my lovely team of midwives. I was planning to announce the pregnancy at the various family get-togethers over the long weekend. What better time than Easter and the resurgence of Spring to announce a baby is to be born, right?

No, that’s not a good time after all.

Instead, my partner and I spent the weekend going back and forth to the hospital. We canceled most of our plans to be with others, and hibernated from the world as we knew what was happening.

I had begun spotting at work earlier that week, and instinctually figured out that it was not something to ignore. I have had my period since I was a mere nine year old child, so have always been in tune with my body. A call and visit to the midwife confirmed that my pregnancy hormones were dropping and she couldn’t hear a heartbeat. As it was a long weekend ahead, she suggested I go to to emergency if anything happened. Sure enough, the spotting turned to blood and I got 3 blood tests and a “lovely” intrauterine ultrasound over the course of the weekend.

Instead of eating scores of chocolate eggs, being surrounded by family, and sitting around talking about life with a baby, I cried and changed MANY pads that were soaked with blood. Each day.

Luckily for me, I was able to complete the miscarriage naturally. I mean “luckily” in a sarcastic way of course, and yet a part of me is gratified that I was able to avoid the dreaded D&C. I say dreaded as I had worked at an abortion and reproductive rights clinic and know what ordeal some patients have to go through. I also chose to wait out the inevitable instead of taking the meds that would help quicken the process. Looking back, I can’t quite remember my reasoning for that decision. Other than a hope that we were all wrong, and that I had such trust that my body knew what to do. I have absolutely no judgement for any one who makes a different choice: clearly I am all about choice and doing what is best for our own selves. For me, this is what felt right.

But that week, when I still was off from work, my body expelled what was left of my ovum. It came out with such a force, that it was intact and full. It fit perfectly in my palm. My partner was at work, and I remember how scared I was. I was so depleted, both emotionally and physically. I had to call him to come home as I knew my body was in such turmoil. I left what was left of my pregnancy in the sink. I was able to catch it when it came out, but after that, I remember not knowing what to do. I had lost a lot of blood, and I remember being as white as a ghost. I left it there to hold space for the baby that never was, and also to show my partner what I had to endure. We chose not to give it any more weight. So instead of burying it and doing something more meaningful, I said bye and discarded it. I remember the polarizing mixed feelings I went through – as a Feminist who believes in having choice, for being in charge of my own body, it felt like I shouldn’t do more. And yet as a woman who wanted to have a baby, I felt like I needed to grieve more.

Soon afterward, I remember events that will always be tied to this part of my story. Maybe that same week or the one following, I went to one of my favourite restaurants with my partner. No one there knew our secret. We went there during lunch, when things are typically quiet. And yet there I was beside a very pregnant woman, who was sitting beside a new mom and her tiny newborn. What are the chances of that – it felt like a Klimt painting come to life – the Stages of Motherhood.

Soon after that, I was in a therapy session with a client. She had news for me – she had been unexpectedly pregnant recently too and miscarried. While she was not as far along in her pregnancy, it was just as painful for her. I was not ready for this news. I did not self-disclose then as it was much to raw, but I realized I was not ready to return to work yet. Sometimes, going back to a routine is key, but we also need to the time we need to process, grieve and heal.

I had scheduled a follow-up with my midwife. I had to have some final lab work down to confirm that I was no longer pregnant. But since I had officially miscarried, I was told that I was no longer a patient of the Midwife clinic. While this made sense logically – their services are for pregnant people after all, I felt abandoned and left alone. And I remember being sad that I couldn’t say goodbye to them. I still had the continued support of my family doctor, but I remember wishing that I could have more. This article was recently published and the author also talks about how confusing it is, to feel at fault when there is nothing to be at fault for.

This is one of the reasons i now do this work, providing support to women who experience miscarriage or stillborn loss. We can’t do this alone. We deserve better than that. The stigma of miscarriage needs to be addressed and abolished. I really admire the work of such organizations as The 16 Percent, We the Mamas initiative and I Had a Miscarriage Instagram account. The stories that are shared bring a communal voice to something that had been quiet for too long. I was told to “wait” until I got past the 12 week mark. My own mom experienced 2 miscarriages and 1 stillborn loss before (and after) I was born. Forty years later, we are still being told to wait. Well, I sure could have had the support of my village when I experienced my loss.

I recently read this article and it really resonated with me; when her therapist suggested that the journal she had been using was not as helpful as she thought. I also learned that when I write, it needs to be cathartic, and not just a place to purge.I started to write in my journal and turned even more inward. When that wasn’t enough, I started to practice the tools I suggest to my own clients, around mindfulness and body work like dance classes and yoga. I started telling people about my experience, and friends shared their experience with me.

For months after, going my period was such an ordeal. It was messy, heavy, and triggering. The first cycles were especially hard as they were accompanied by severe cramping, a different colour and level of blood, and they were filled with worry that I may not get pregnant again. I will always remember my trip to New York City with my mom and sister. One of our only trips with just the 3 of us and it was July. It was such a hot month and my period came early and with such a vengeance. But I fought back and am glad that i had already told my mom what I had experienced – we have that in common now, and I trusted I would have her compassion. After that month, my cycle returned to my normal.

And I conceived again in October that same year; my first-born Earthside will be 9 this year. That’s another story for another time.

If you have had a similar experience, please don’t hesitate to contact. WE don’t need to do this alone.

After the Vacation

For March Break this year, our wee family was gifted a vacation to Costa Rica, along with my partner’s extended family. It was a trip of a lifetime. I learned a few things about myself, my kids, and how to hold on to it.

I need to tell you first that in another life I was a hippie at heart, and feel like in an alternate universe I’m a surfing beach bum. So while I loved the adventures and walks in the mountains, I am truly one of those people who feels most at peace and relaxed on the beach. So I was able to enjoy my time away from home. I’m not going to pretend that travelling with kids is relaxing, but I did find ways to slow down and be mindful.

Luckily for me, we spent a week on a glorious beach, surrounded by lush rainforest, monkeys and sloths, and the most vast array of butterflies I have ever seen. It was a sensory overload but in the most fantastic way. I was able to eat fresh mango, see butterflies each day, hear the birds chirping, feel the warm salty water on my body, and smell the sweet orange blossoms. As a body and sensory based therapist, I definitely practice what I preach. We brought back a few treasures to help us hold on to this trip away. And now I can locate a specific place in my mind’s eye when I am needing to calm down or distract my monkey mind. These 2 DBT based tools are so great to help with a mind that is stuck or having racing thoughts.

I have mentioned already my love of surfing, or rather the idea of it. I have only done it a couple of times and my body is not quite the typical surfing body. I say this because I had an insightful talk with myself while in Costa Rica. I had wanted to take a lesson there. But then I saw a photo of me in my bathing suit and thought of the crowds of people that would bear witnes to my lesson. I also realized that my 20-year old self was the surfer, not the 40 year old one. I chose instead to body surf and boogie board. And you know what, that made me pretty darn happy too. I squealed with laughter and joy and realized that my body now birthed two babies and is 20 years more wise and strong. My initial shame around my body turned into a moment to enjoy the present. I also realized that I don’t want to model body shame or hesitancy to do things I love. So I put on that rash guard (to help me keep my bikini on in the killer waves – I have no idea how people surf with bikinis!) and I jumped on my boogie board.

Gordon Neufeld talks about how vacations can be a great opportunity to create a deeper connection with your kids. It acts as a time to get away from our daily life and the distractions that can get in the of the bond with our kids. Daily after-school activities, play dates, and time spent on gadgets are replaced with jumping in waves, spying sloths and eating quick-melting popsicles together. The key word is together. We took a couple of toys that the kids like but for the most part, the toys stayed in their bags. This really worked for my son, the eldest of my two kids. He said “I love you, mom” so often that my heart was bursting at the seams. While he has said that at home, it has never been to the same degree. The hugs and hand-holding were also so special. I see first-hand the merit in this purposeful time away as a great time to go deeper with your kids. It may fade sooner than I want it to, but I’m so happy to have gotten it regardless. That photo there is of me snorkelling and my son excitedly spotting me in the water.

Travelling with extended family can be a blessing. My kids got ample time with their cousins, and we created our own village of support. One thing I recommend is making a point to get time away from your kids. This helps you re-charge, especially in such a small space as a hotel room. I was able to indulge in a surf date alone with my partner, go on a spice tour sans children, and do a morning meditation routine most days. If I didn’t get this time alone, I don’t think I would have been as present and happy. It can be hard to navigate this request with family, but when you can share the responsibility and take turns with childcare, everyone wins. My kids were just as happy at the pool while I sampled vanilla products. So don’t shy away from asking for help, it’s your vacation too!

It was my daughter’s birthday while we were away. She was not happy about being on an airplane on her birthday. While we tried to highlight how special it was, looking back I don’t know if it was worth it to go then. Or at least I needed to prepare or celebrate it differently. We are a family that really values our birthdays. We all play hookie from school and work on our special days. For Miss M this year, we rushed through the day to get to the airport. As the youngest member of our family, I’m sure birthdays are even more special to her. Instead of showing her that Costa Rica was more important, I needed to focus on her. That is one regret I have. Luckily she is resilient and the most fun-loving person I know. So, she bounced back quickly.

My daughter is our resident risk taker, and she is a fierce, independent and friendly child who I’m raising to trust her body and instincts. Sometimes that instinct can be in direct contrast to what I need from her, but that’s another story. I noticed in this trip that she is clearly more peer-oriented than I thought, and some of her risks are in relation to her peers. That’s not exactly what I want so we had some head to heads while away. I also had to take pause and notice my own shyness or hesitancy, so that it didn’t influence her. She takes no shit from others, including her parents. One example of this was when we were on a cruise and there was a water slide that went directly into the ocean. I at first thought she was too young, small, and not a strong swimmer. She saw the slide as a great obstacle to have fun on. So, I took a deep breathe and stepped in her shoes – she is not me after all. And she slid down that super fast slide. Three times. But with my agreement and encouragement, and a great safety net in place.

We have been back 3 days and I am starting to feel the daily grind already. I have written before about the impactful going on vacation has on our mental health. So I’m going to work extra hard to keep the Costa Rica sun in my soul.

28 Days of Self-Love

The card i pulled from my deck in January was Brigid – she came a month early for me as she’s the Goddess connected to Imbolc in February. She is a Goddess of healing, and brings fertility to the land and its people. She is also closely connected to midwives and newborn babies. She sits at my alter all month to remind me of her energy so i’m sharing her with you now.

February is a tricky month for a lot of us. If you are like me and you live where Winter really visits, then February is cold and full of snow. It makes it hard to go out and do things, to be spontaneous and have fun. I’m not opposed to getting cozy at home, in fact i kind of treasure it. But it can lead to a bit of Cabin Fever.

Another pitfall of February is that Valentine’s Day is in the middle of it. This holiday carries with it a love-hate feeling, whether you are single or not, as it pushes a lot of us to DO and GET and BE so much more than we typically are. The pressure is on for sure. A few years ago, i heard about a reclaiming of the day, a way to re-connect with our own selves, as to focus on self-love more than an arbitrary outpouring of love that is dictated by stores telling us how to show love.

So, since my word of the year is LOVE, i thought it was a good time to create this helpful tool to intentionally provide myself with some gifts of self-love. Each day has a simple and gentle suggestion for you to practice. Some take a few minutes, and others are a bit longer. I also made sure to connect it to key dates in the month – February 2 is Candlemas/Imbolc so a good time to plant seeds or get fresh flowers, February 14 of course, February 15 is the New Moon of the month (did you know there is NO Full Moon? So interesting…). Feel free to change up the days, but do try to give yourself these moments of self-love. Click HERE for a full size copy of this guide.

I see a lot of connection between self-love and self-compassion, and also the need to steal time as a working mom of two young kids. I may not have the abundance of time to leisurely eat brunch as i once did, but i do have the right to eat the best chocolate i can get my hands on, and to take a break from self-judgement and critique.

Please join me this month!