Momspiration

Love, Mom and Babe

GET TO KNOW… ASquaredMamaSquared

Allia is a Senior Producer at Verizon Media and Alison is a High School English and Drama Teacher. They are mamas to Kingston Grey, 20 months old.

Very excited to share this feature on our family, from the website Ani and Wren (a maternity-wear and baby store in Toronto, Ontario). All photos are by Trish Mennell.

Momspiration

TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR FERTILITY JOURNEY — CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS, THE CHALLENGES AND THE SURPRISES? HOW DID YOU DECIDE THAT ALISON WOULD BE THE ONE TO CARRY THE BABY?

AC: As a queer couple, we knew that we wouldn’t have what some people see as a conventional approach to pregnancy. We both had an interest in carrying and, for us, deciding what donor process we would use helped to shape our decisions. We wanted our children, if we had several, to be biologically related to one another, so we had to explore some different options. Ultimately, fate decided some things for us.


AM: Because I was older we decided that I would try carrying first. We quickly encountered lots of surprises and challenges. The fertility industry wasn’t as progressive as we had hoped. Forms we filled out didn’t have options like “no man in the relationship” which led to one of our first intake forms saying, “Diagnosis — same-sex couple.” Additionally, we found ourselves having to educate people, including medical staff at various clinics and even at the hospital, about the specifics of how a same-sex couple comes to find themselves expecting. One of these trips to the hospital happened after my second miscarriage. Getting pregnant was easy for me, keeping the baby was the hard part. After two years of trying, I decided to take a break for my mental and physical health. 

AC: That meant that I was on deck. With me carrying, we chose a donor with a similar background as Allia, Jamaican-Irish; it was really important to us, as an interracial couple, that our kids have a similar racial background. It worked out pretty beautifully. Our son looks like both of us and we love that whomever is with Kingston is automatically assumed to be the mother. Obviously we both ARE the mother, but you’d be surprised how many people ask bold, often ignorant questions. A lot of people are still not used to seeing children with two moms, or even with different backgrounds from one or both parents (whether that be multi-racial or blended families, adoption, surrogacy, etc). Of course, we are just happy that he is healthy and ours.

Momspiration - Kingston + Mom

CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU FELT WHEN YOUR SON WAS BORN? WHAT WERE SOME OF THE EMOTIONS THAT YOU FELT? HOW DID THE FIRST “100” DAYS GO (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE MEMORABLE 4TH TRIMESTER)?

AM: You really can’t prepare yourself for the moment of seeing your child for the first time. I was overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude for our midwives and our doula. But I was also fully fearful of the realness of motherhood, and just stunned at Alison’s strength during labour. The first 100 days included moments where we’d look at each other and joyfully say, “we have a baby!” or “we’re parents!” There were also lots of conversations around poop. 

AC: I felt everything! Literally, too, since the epidural only worked on one side of my body. I was so in love from the minute I knew I was pregnant, then even more once he was born. You think you love your partner, then you meet your child and you think “not like THIS.” It’s terrifying to care so much about something, and anxiety-provoking to love and want to protect this tiny, fragile little person. I didn’t know how I would do with “mothering” to be honest. I love teaching high school aged kids, but babies were a bit of a mystery, so I was relieved at how much I enjoyed it. He was a very happy baby, so that definitely helped.

Allison + Allia + Kingston

WE LOVE THE NAME KINGSTON GREY – IS HE NAMED AFTER ANYONE?

AC: It was a natural pick for us and we agreed quickly on his name. I grew up with a cottage on Wolfe Island, spending much of my childhood in Kingston, Ontario. Allia was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and those roots hold a deep significance for her. His name reflects our two worlds and how he is a blend of both. With a mouthful of a last name, we wanted a short, strong middle name. I’m a big fan of Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), with one letter changed, it’s a nod to queer literary history.

Momspiration Family

AS A GAY INTERRACIAL COUPLE, HOW DO YOU PLAN ON ADDRESSING ISSUES OF RACE, RACISM AND SEXUALITY WITH YOUR SON. WE KNOW HE IS STILL YOUNG, BUT HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE CONVERSATIONS YOU WILL HAVE?

AM: For a lot of individuals who identify as BIPOC or are part of the LGBTQ+ community, we find ourselves talking about race, racism and sexuality frequently. As a couple, we have always been open about our fertility journey and our queer identity. And I don’t shy away from conversations around my multi-racial identity. We are conscious of the images Kingston sees, the media he might consume and we recognize the importance of diversity and celebrating difference in all aspects of our life. My hope is that he will feel we have created a safe, brave space for him to be curious about these issues so we can have open, honest conversations.

AC: In some ways those choices and conversations are just a natural part of raising a child. You reflect what you value in the choices you make. And the discussions that might seem awkward or difficult become second nature when you are proud of who you are, who you love and your heritage. Removing shame from the equation really opens up the possibility of raising a child in a deliberate, celebratory way; we hope to raise a little person who is gentle, thoughtful, courageous, open-hearted and with a generous spirit. He is growing in an incredible community of strong, vibrant people. He has great role-models and sees different cultures, sexualities and love all around him. 

Allia + Kingston

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN COPING WITH THE CURRENT CLIMATE IN THE WAKE OF THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT. HAVE YOU FELT SUPPORTED BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY? WHAT HAVE YOUR WORK AND YOUR FRIENDS DONE THAT YOU HAVE FOUND ENCOURAGING?

AM: My commitment has always been to celebrate difference and drive diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives. Because of the positions I hold within my job and my volunteer work, I’ve found myself in daily conversations around race, anti-black racism and diversity or the lack of it. Cue the extreme exhaustion. I’ve learned to lean into the discomfort with these conversations and create a brave space for others to center courage, care and vulnerability over silence. It’s not easy. I’m not alone in feeling the weight of the opportunity to redefine our reality. I have an amazing support system around me, both personally and professionally, who continue to recognize my fluctuating needs during this difficult time. They’ve stepped up their allyship by listening to my experiences and educating themselves on the issues surrounding systemic racism. I’ve seen many start to self-examine their own privilege and move from ally to accomplice by taking actions to support the black community. I’m encouraged by all of this because the issues we are facing aren’t going to be solved in one or two meetings, one or two actions; however, we can start by listening, self-examining, and practicing allyship through continued actions and conversations. My hope is that this is a movement and not just a moment. When anti-racism isn’t trending, will you still be there?


AC: I am committed to making changes, looking at my own bias/privilege and using the power I am afforded as a straight-passing, cis, white woman to make changes and amplify the voices of those within marginalized communities. It’s an ongoing journey and a responsibility to fight for change. At work, I’m part of my union’s Rights and Equity Committee. At my school, I am the GSA advisor, and an Equity Lead, helping to plan and facilitate professional development for our staff, including anti-black racism forums. In my classroom, I explicitly embed diverse sexualities, gender and cultural representation in the media, social issues and discussions, but there is a huge gap in core literature, so I’m doing an inventory and working to enrich our courses with Black and Indigenous content. I’m excited for two upcoming summer PD sessions, a racial justice and anti-racist learning series, to build my capacity in effective allyship and dismantling systemic racism. I want our son to grow up to see that meaningful change is in our hands. I am seeing, more and more, that my board and my colleagues are talking about, but also prioritizing this work and it makes me feel very hopeful. 

Allia

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHARITIES YOU SUPPORT, BOOKS THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING OR MOVIES/SHOWS THAT YOU HAVE WATCHED THAT HAVE IMPACTED YOU?

AM: We are supporters of the Inside Out Film Festival, SickKids, as well as mental health and equity initiatives through both of our work and personal relationships. We try to support local, whenever possible. 

AC: Both of us have been involved in creative projects with an amazing independent Toronto Publisher, With/out Pretend, whose work centers on the idea that “Feelings Can Be Art.” That really resonates with us. In addition to doing a collection and live readings called “On Mothering,” which we loved, they explore concepts of care, mental health and self-expression, featuring writers of colour, women, non-binary and often underrepresented authors and artists. We both have big stacks of books on our night tables; I just finished Empire of Wild, and I’m currently reading White Fragility, Wow, No Thank You and The Book of Joy.

AM: I’m juggling Well-Read Black Girl and A Brief History of Seven Killings. We just bought lots of exciting stuff for Kingston, including Hair Love, Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History, I Am Enoughand Red: A Crayon’s Story. Don’t even get us started on television or podcasts!

Allison

WE JUST CAME TO THE END OF PRIDE MONTH — WHAT DOES “PRIDE” MEAN TO YOU?

AC: I came out when I was sixteen and have celebrated every year since, almost always on Church Street. We took Kingston to Family Pride events last year and that sense of fierce pride, celebration and community is what I want to share with him. I have been so lucky to have unconditional support from my family and we want him, above all else, to know that our love for him is constant and unwavering. Raising a son, we think a lot about what kind of man he will become, but also recognize that he is an individual; whether he is gay, straight, bi, trans… our child will be secure in our love. We want him to see us actively celebrating all kinds of people and identities. To help pave the way, we make some pretty deliberate decisions; we don’t steer him towards stereo-typically masculine toys, clothes, haircuts or expression. He is as likely to hand us The ABCs of Equality, as Little Blue Truck; he has pink jungle-print leggings and a baseball cap; loves his black baby doll and his blocks. We want to leave all options open, to see where he wants to go and who he wants to be.

AM: My journey towards self-acceptance was challenging. Raised religious, I struggled with my identity for most of my life. I’ve come a long way to embrace all aspects of myself. Finding power in one part of my identity has helped me feel pride in the others. It’s hard to love all of yourself if one part is being pushed aside. Pride is also about helping others feel comfortable being them self. As a mother, I would never want my son to feel he couldn’t be his full, authentic self. 

Momspiration Family

ANY LAST WORDS OF WISDOM OR ADVICE FOR OTHER MAMAS OUT THERE? IS THERE A QUOTE OR MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?

AM: These words, by Katherine W. Phillips, sum up my personal, professional and mom-mantra: “The environment I wish to create in all aspects of my life will be one where difference is normalized. If you create that kind of environment in your organizations, in your schools, in your families, you will find that the value of diversity is there for you to capture.”

Motherhood

Mom and Babe

Motherhood has bested me. I don’t know where mommy bloggers find the time to keep up daily or even weekly posts!

Accordingly, I’ve let my premium account lapse, so I don’t really know tbh what that will look like for the site. You’ll still find me at stylesavie.com

Now my days are filled with routines, lots of feeding and naps, and so many ups and downs. It has all been a bit of a blur; Mexico, Jamaica, Niagara-on-the-Lake; mommy classes, swimming and park hangouts, playdates; and a bit of time for writing…

I’m being published in this beautiful collection by The Vault, entitled On Mothering.

TheVault_Q3_OnMothering_Cover.jpg

The work includes writing from 20 contributors, Illustrated by Wenting Li.

“In this 94-page collection of honest stories and full-colour visual art, 22 contributors tackle their feelings about the most universal of human experiences: the balancing act of caring for someone else without losing yourself in the process.

The term “mother” conjures different associations depending on our own personal experiences, our cultures, and our desires. We need to consider what care means in our communities, and the value that we ascribe to it.

The stories in this collection are for and by mothers, future mothers, but also atypical caregivers like doulas and pet moms. It is for anyone who has ever had a mother; for parents who have birthed or raised children; for anyone who has ever questioned their relationship to care, emotional labour, or sacrifice in the name of love.”

That’s what I’ve been up to. Very much looking forward to the launch party this Wednesday. If you are local, come check it out, July 11 in Toronto. You can subscribe digitally, to help support the kind of art you want to see, created by diverse contributors, at The Vault.

Let me know, in the comments below, if there are entries and topics you’d like to see covered here. I love a good prompt.

Jet Set – Travel to Jamaica with our Little One

Indulge, Mom and Babe

K getting comfy for his second trip. Photo: @thisiseyecandytoronto

We are off again, this time to Jamaica for a wedding. Last time we travelled, he was 2.5 months. Now he will be 7 months. Here is our list of top tips from our travels the first time, followed by an itemized (to the last detail) list of what is in his (and our) suitcase.

Our first trip was to Mexico with a 2.5 month old. I was and still am breast feeding, with some bottles to supplement and he is sleeping in a travel crib.  In Nuevo Vallarta, we had a dishwasher while there, but also boiled bottles on the stove to sterilize. We brought a carryon with his formula and diapers and packed his clothes with our stuff.  Since he wasn’t mobile we had his infant car seat and stroller for the car rides and for getting around the condo, amenities and city.

For our Jamaica trip with a seven month old, skip to the next section.

FOR MEXICO

For a 14 day trip, here’s what worked for us:

-our regular infant carseat strapped into back seat of taxis and shuttle, rear facing, using seat belt
-some people hold their babies on transit (don’t know if you’re comfortable with this; I wasn’t)
-beware the cobblestone streets, it made wheeling a napping baby around a bit touch and go
-used coconut oil as sun protection (but kept him totally out of sun/shaded/screened)
-took a baby carrier, but it was quite hot to wear an infant! This was a good option for shorter trips
-people were so lovely with baby and very friendly.
-breast fed everywhere I went – literally everywhere.
-I was nervous for the flight, but fed him while I was going up and down
-take a change for baby (several) and for you (poop explosion on landing made me VERY happy I had a change of top (couldn’t change him due to turbulence)
-took a travel bassinet which was great cause we could drape it (no bugs and shaded) for when he slept indoors and out. It’s a small folding kind that fits easily in a suitcase and under the stroller.
-I took a small rolling suitcase of formula and extra diapers so we’d have what he is used to – ready to serve Good Start (so we didn’t have to mix at all).
-I had a drink while feeding or right after, which meant I didn’t need to dump. Fed him formula if I’d had more than one drink.
-Try not to be nervous. It was a great vacation, but the pace is TOTALLY different than before I had a baby (which I expected).

And I also have a few things to add to the list, now that baby will be older:

  • travelling with a baby I have considered bringing along my nursing pillow for the flight and a large outdoor blanket to use in the airport (one that folds up really nicely – that way when waiting at the airport and at the resort we can let him do floor time)
  • Having a roll of dog poop bags would be handy for diapers
  • Bring a plastic bag big enough to wrap around your baby in case of gate-side blowouts or deplaning incidents
  • quiet activities for the plane
  • hard bottomed shoes for when he wants to ‘walk’ around on public surfaces

FOR JAMAICA

We checked out a great photo popup museum called This Is Eye Candy for these fun family shots

 

GEAR

  • Graco Infant Carseat
  • Diaper Bag
  • Stroller gate-check bag
  • Collapsible umbrella stroller
  • Blanket/quilt
  • Jolly Jumper for playtime at the hotel and my in-laws’ house
  • clip on Inglesina travel high chair (also figure we can leave him in this at the table to play)
  • Inflatable pool floatie/chair with sunshade
  • Milk Snob stroller cover for shade in his carseat
  • UV/solar blocking bug net for stroller
  • Stroller pad with heat-reducing cushion
  • Carabiners for attaching diaper bag to the collapsible umbrella stroller
  • Mattress cover for hotel crib mattress (washable)
  • Beco baby carrier
  • one soft toy, a rattle and a few chew toys 
  • baby stroller clip-on battery powered fan ** a mom friend recommended this!

Health and Care Products

  • Nosefrida and saline drops
  • Camelia and Coryzalia natural remedies for tummy upset and congestion
  • Infant Tylenol
  • Bottles (2) 
  • Formula (premixed)
  • squeezie packs of food, baby Mum Mums, dissolving star crackers, baby oat cereal
  • diapers and swim diapers (plus reusable swim covers)
  • wipes
  • thermometer
  • sleep owl nightlight and sound machine
  • body wash and shampoo, lotion and diaper cream
  • 2 baby spoons, 1 bowl, 1 360 sippy cup
  • noise cancelling headphones
  • sunglasses
  • bibs
  • Change of clothes in the diaper bag (2 for baby, one for mommy)
  • Vitamin D drops
  • Baby sunscreen
  • Anti-mosquito stickers for baby’s clothes
  • Baby cot mosquito net
  • Medication and vitamins for mommy (in my case, daily vitamin and Domperidone)
  • video monitor

Clothes

  • swim diapers (2)
  • rashguard suits (3)
  • towel (if there aren’t ones at the hotel) and washcloth
  • socks
  • 3 pairs shoes
  • bibs (4 for drool, 3 for feeding)
  • 3 footed sleepers
  • 5 pairs of shorts
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 2 hoodies
  • one long sleeve linen shirt
  • 6 short sleeved bodysuit
  • 13 shorties onesies (rompers). We figure he’ll go through two a day of these.
  • 2 burp cloths, 3 large muslins (1 each for the plane)
  • change pad
  • wet-dry bag
  • 2 swim hats, one cap
  • 1 short romper for wedding. 1 longsleeve wedding ‘gentleman’s suit’

 

Off we go! Wish us luck and let us know if there is anything I forgot on this list!

Travel with Baby

style

Planning our trip to Mexico with a two month old, was a great challenge for these new moms. It was a grand success. Check out the photos at the end. Drumroll…here is what we packed:

  • Infantino Carrier
  • Travel bassinet
  • wipes
  • diapers and swim diapers
  • formula (pre-mixed or concentrate)
  • birth certificate, parent letter and passport
  • breast pads/washable inserts
  • pump (we skipped this since I’m now producing enough milk on my own, with some formula top-ups)
  • bottles and tops, enough to have spares
  • lactation aide (we also skipped this)
  • baby shampoo, creams (diaper cream, lotion, etc.), bug repellent (safe for babes)
  • rashguard, swim diaper, sunhat and sun glasses
  • baby headphones
  • pacifier/soother
  • clothes
  • carseat, base (or learn to safely install without the base), stroller attachment
  • changes of clothes for you
  • I’m investigating, in advance of travel, to see if our destination stocks the formula, diapers and other things we like for baby. If we can avoid taking a week’s supply, that will really save on space 
  • Also, look up whether breast feeding in public is safe/legal/recommended in your destination
  • Sleep Sheep or white noise machine
  • medications (like Domperidone, for me)
  • vitamins for you and vitamin D for baby
  • coconut oil for sun protection for the babe
  • a UV protecting cover for the stroller. Jolly Jumper makes a great one and Milk Snob has a great cover that doubles as a nursing screen
  • Diaper cream and corn starch
  • Baby paper and some simple toys (we ended up getting some beautiful, colourful pompom garlands in a market, which he couldn’t take his eyes off. These now hang over his change table! But careful that he isn’t unsupervised, as with anything that involves string)
  • Nosefrida (for air travel and stuffiness)
  • Infant Tylenol
  • Gripe Water if you have a gassy baby
  •  

We upgraded our tickets and baby’s first trip was in Business Class.

First Class Flyer – extra leg room, wider seats and a bulkhead gave us ample room for him. No tears at all on either flight to and from Mexico! Bravo little traveller!
This was the main entrance to the condos we called home for two weeks.
Watching the sunrise. Three generations.
A boy and his Mama
They see me Strollin’


Sun-protected

For Clothes, we knew we’d have access to in-suite laundry, so we packed:

Bibs

Layettes

Shorts and pants

Short-onesies/rompers (this was the majority of the outfits)

Pajamas – for the plane and at night with the A/C

Burp cloths and muslin wraps

Socks

A knit jacket/sweater for air conditioned spaces and the plane

Swimsuits/rashguard

Sunglasses

Hats

Copy of his birth certificate, immunization record, passport, health card

Swimming with baby was an amazing first.

We loved all the time with each other, with him and with our family. For the rest of the trip photos, scroll down, past the last of the items from our travel must-haves.

MISCELLANEOUS:

Fanny pack, a carry on for us, carry on Diaper bag, small purse, big suitcase x 2 (one for us and one for all the baby stuff), a small suitcase of diapers and formula.

We made a call to set up/confirm our travel insurance/health insurance, etc.

We arranged a cat and house sitter, and also opted to use the Park ‘N Fly valet service (plus detailing) so we came home to a happy cat, safe home and a clean car.

Adios, Mexico and Gracias for a great first vacay with our blossoming family.

 

Now, listen…
Always time for a tasty snack.

Enamoured of pom poms


Stroller styles


Our little global traveller


Nautical vibes

Out at the Tuesday Market


Family photo at NickSan

Baby-wearing

Big Baby-sized Beer

Hot Mama, with our Milk Snob Stroller cover

Babiators. And a babe x2
Hard to believe our little one is 11 weeks old!

What are your travel must-haves? Share your faves in the comments!

Holidays with a Newborn

Love, style

I’ve been noticeably busy. Lol

I am planning a post about what to wear while caring for and feeding an infant. Planning. Everything takes longer and best laid plans get complicated and deterred.

Then comes the holiday season. The holiday show must go on. And we made merry like it was no big deal. We are getting the hang of things.

Our son is now two months old and we are smitten. From tree-side selfies to family party snaps … I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Dabbing his way through the holiday.

Money-saving Mama

DIY

I’m a big fan of shopping, but I’m an even bigger fan of recycling and reducing. Especially when there’s a great deal to be found! So, as an expecting mom, how do I save money while preparing for our little one, and making sure we have all the essentials?

I’m anticipating the strain on our budget when I move from a full salary to EI; I’m sure that I’ll find more great ways to save, but for now, here are my top tips:

Reuse! I googled the maternity and baby stores in my area that buy and sell gently used items, and found that right around the corner for me was a great place: Once Upon A Child. I sold five or six items and they paid me cash. In turn, I browsed the racks and racks of adorable baby items, everything from clothes arranged by size and type, to mobiles and baby gates. For less than $30 I got:

Three sleep sacks, swaddles for $3-$5 each

Then, mixing and matching sizes, I grabbed 5 items for ten bucks from the ‘sleep’ section and ten for $10 clearance items; supplementing the wonderful gifts from our shower with these great finds will have our little babe well outfitted. Definitely see what is happening in your local area.

Next, check out Facebook Marketplace and online ‘Mommy Groups’. I got a lead on our stroller AND car seat, which my parents ended up offering to get us as our shower gift, still in the box, never used and with all the warranties and manufacture boxes checked for a cool $200, retailing online for $450. I’ve also been able to locate items from our registry at great prices, so if you happen to have your eye on a particular item, like I do on the Halo bassinet, scouring the Internet and checking reviews on the seller might lend you the item you’re looking for at way less than store price.

Amazon Prime. Save tons of money on your shipping, search for and save items to your wish list and get notifications when the prices go down, and when you create a registry you can get a 15% off completion discount if you decide to purchase items from your registry.

BUNZ it. What is BUNZ, you ask? It started as a local swap site in Toronto, but has expanded to many other major cities and suburbs. The motto is no cash, all trades. Sounds suspect? I have traded lamps I no longer wanted for laundry soap; pants that no longer fit for handbags; a cactus and succulent for picture frames. Now I have my sights set on trading items that of been cluttering up my basement for things like baby wipes. One person’s trash, as they say. Now BUNZ even has an app.

Sign up for store email lists, you can Always unsubscribe later! By registering at Thyme Maternity And Snugglebugz I received a whole bag full of samples:

Use gift cards, trade gift cards, enter raffles. If you have a gift certificate for The Keg, but you’re a vegetarian, why not trade it for one to Babies R Us?

Borrow from friends and accept hand-me-downs! This is especially great if you have parents or in-laws who might need to have items that they use in frequently, like car seats and play pens. Some very generous friends have given us items to keep at my moms house so that when we travel we won’t half to take an extra car seat for Nana to cart our little dude around.

One neat thing about our shower is that people know us really well, and knowing how much we love supporting local, we were gifted a store credit to use at an Etsy store where the owners make handmade baby accessories. So, I picked out three reversible bibs and a teething toy that is also a soother clip. Perfect! Shout out to Urban Rustic Baby Co.

Last but not least, see if your place of employ has a buy and sell for its members. As a teacher we have our own version of Kijiji. Here, from someone I assume it’s not a total creep as they work in the teaching profession, I was able to get a crib mattress, mattress cover and she threw in two sets of sheets … for $125. No kidding. She still had all the assembly instructions and because I picked it up at her house, I was able to see the immaculate place where the crib used to live and feel confident that it had a nice life prior to coming home with me.

That’s my two cents about saving a ton of money. If you have tips please post them in the comments. I am eager to learn!

A long social-media inspired conversation about raising genderless kids, queer identity and… being human

Open Letters