Stepping back in time: Stari Grad, Hvar Island

Floating in the Adriatic Sea felt amazing on my pregnant body! The water is extremely salty (and turquoise) and allowed for very leisurely swims and hours of floating.

When we first announced that we were going to Croatia for our babymoon, all of our friends who had visited before told us that the best way to see the country is via boat.  While we didn’t think hiring a yacht would be the right sort of vacation for our babymoon (or in our price range!), we did prioritize some island hopping from Split to the famed island of Hvar.

As I did more research, the town of Hvar sounded more and more like it wouldn’t suit our needs on this trip.  It is touted as a celebrity-town for "yachty types", lined with beach clubs that stay open and packed 24-hours a day.  (We later discovered that Hvar is busy but nothing like the above description, and it probably would have made for a lovely stay!).  However, given the fact that I can’t drink, and nightclubbing is out of the question, we opted to stay in Stari Grad instead.  It turned out to be our favourite part of the trip and one of the most beautiful towns we have ever seen.

The skyline of Stari Grad at sundown from our rooftop patio
The town of Stari Grad dates back to well before the Middle Ages. Its quiet streets feature quaint courtyards and outdoor terraces.

Stari Grad is a two-hour ferry ride from Split.  It’s an ancient, well-preserved town with medieval buildings framing a picturesque turquoise harbour.  The town is small and feels like a forgotten fairytale; smooth cobblestone streets wind sleepily around gorgeous restaurants, galleries, and courtyards.  The entirety of the village is quiet, quaint, and romantic.

Rooftop patio of the "Amanda Room" at Hidden House, our bed and breakfast for three nights

I chanced upon our accommodations by Googling “Hvar blog itineraries,” which turned up a random travel blog that raved about a place in Stari Grad called Hidden House.  Closer inspection told me that this was the only place I wanted to stay.  Hidden House is a Bed & Breakfast (not on AirBnB) run by a British couple who happened upon Stari Grad over a decade ago and knew it was the place they wanted to relocate to.  We were lucky enough to book their finest room on the top floor (which is the actual bedroom of the owners!).  It was a charming, spacious suite with unreal views of the city and harbour and a private rooftop to boot!  It was, from what I know, the only room in the building that had air conditioning, and what a relief that was!  With temperatures soaring into the mid 30s most days and nights, I couldn’t be outside unless I was in the water.  I heard from some of the other guests that they found their fan-rooms almost unbearable.

Interior decor of our spacious suite at Hidden House--a real gem!


We loved the king bed, air conditioning, and steps leading up to the rooftop patio.

We spent our first day traveling the island by scooter, which has been a preferred mode of exploration on many of our trips.  We realized, somewhat ruefully, that this would be our last trip on a scooter for years to come, and so we made the most of our time.  The coastal roads around Hvar Island are breathtaking.  We spent the day pulling over to the water at will and jumping into the sea to cool off whenever we found a pretty cove.  A lot of the spots were deserted and special.

Our "last" scooter rental for a while! We will miss exploring by moped!

We also found the food on Hvar to be the best--and cheapest--in Croatia.  Obviously, seafood is plentiful and we did our best to sample fish, shellfish, scampi, squid, and octopus while there!  My favourite dish was a seafood stew cooked in a small pot with tomatoes, red wine, garlic, and parsley.  We also feasted on homemade pasta and risotto that rivalled the ones we ate in Italy last year on our honeymoon.  Hvar Island is known as a particularly fertile region for produce and grapes, and while I didn’t get to sample the wine, the salads and fruits we ate were extraordinary!

Delicious and fresh: octopus salad and pizza!

The best part of our trip consisted of renting our own little boat (a tiny 10-horsepower motor) and navigating the island coast at leisure.  Robin is in his element on the water and expertly drove us around for the day.  We stopped into private bays for crystal clear swims, and sunned ourselves on the deck all day long.  On our journey, we discovered a boat-access-only restaurant/bar called Tiha, and relaxed there for a few hours.  In addition to adorable bohemian and nautical décor, the launch bar housed swimming equipment, floaties, SUPs and a fabulous cliff-side beach, all complimentary!  It felt like stumbling upon a hidden paradise.

Boating for a day of bliss. It wasn't a yacht but we made do scouring the coves around the island.
Spending the afternoon at a seaside bar and swimming hole called Tiha

We agreed that Stari Grad, and Hvar Island as a whole, was one of the most magical destinations we have ever encountered.  It certainly made an impression on us, and we can imagine ourselves returning in the (hopefully near) future with our little family.  If you have the chance to visit Croatia, this is an island of delights.  For a quiet, slower-paced, and wholly memorable visit, Stari Grad is  dream come true.

Diving into the bluest water we've ever seen.

Other notables about Stari Grad:

  • There are two beaches within walking distance of Stari Grad. Both are pebble beaches and busy spots for families.  They make for a quick dip and cool-off if needed, but the better swimming spots are found a little further out (by boat or scooter).
  • Most beach-goers bring padded mats to lie on at the beaches. We were lucky that our B&B provided us with all of our beach equipment including mats, snorkeling masks, flippers and a small cooler.
  • Boat rentals (for the smallest boat) cost approximately $100 CAD per day (which isn't bad considering that you've got the boat from about 9am – 7pm).
  • The prices for food in Stari Grad were noticeably cheaper than Split and Dubrovnik.
  • Temperatures soar in the summer months and it would be wise to choose a room with air conditioning.
  • There are very few gas stations on the island (and none in Stari Grad) so if you're renting a scooter or car, be sure that you have enough gas to get you around, especially since the few gas stations on the island close around 9pm. We almost ran out of gas on our drive back from Hvar Town, and I was a nervous wreck as we scooted back in the dark.  The drive from Stari Grad to Hvar Town takes approximately 30 minutes.
  • You can see the entirety of Stari Grad on foot in about 30 minutes.  Even though the town is small, there are plenty of great restaurants, an amazing deli, gelato stands, and a daily fruit market.
  • If you have a chance to visit the island at leisure, I would recommend staying 3 nights in Stari Grad and 1-2 nights in Hvar Town.  Both are lovely depending on the type of vacation you are seeking.
It was a delight to take baby with us on our travels to Croatia, and we hope to be back with him/her again in the near future!

Babymooning in Croatia

Part 1: Split

Split at sunset during our babymoon photo shoot

Robin and I have spent the last several years traveling around the same times each year, due to my teacher schedule and his flexibility as a real estate agent. We knew we wanted to head to Tel Aviv for our friend’s wedding this summer, but we were waiting on the progress of our pregnancy before we booked anything. When we got the go-ahead to travel internationally, I started looking at European destinations that would suit our tastes, keeping in mind that I would be near the end of my second trimester.

Croatia had been our radar for some time. The vivid turquoise waters and Game of Thrones allure had intrigued us, and as I began to do more research, it became clear that this was a country worth exploring. Choosing an itinerary was the trickiest part since we only had 10 days. In the past, we have raced around countries due to FOMO (fear of missing out), but I didn’t want to push myself this time. As a result, we chose three spots: Split, Hvar Island, and Dubrovnik. International flights go in and out of Split and Dubrovnik, and it worked better for us to start and end our trip in Split.

Upon arrival at the sunny harbor (more commonly known as Riva) of the old city, we were spellbound by the ancient charm and coastal luxury of Split. The waterfront was dotted with palm trees and open-air eateries, all backed by the aging and romantic walls of the city. As we walked through the labyrinthine cobble-stone and marble streets, we were seized by the grandeur of Diocletian’s Palace, originally built in the 3rd century! The palace is a fascinating cultural tour in itself, revealing centuries of different religious and political eras. We came in the height of high season, so there were plenty of tourists, but it was nothing like the hordes of people we saw in Italy last year.

Sitting amongst history at Diocletian's Palce in Old Town


Walking along the romantic waterfront (also known as Riva)


The city is clean, safe, and stunning -- a perfect place to begin our babymoon!

I would recommend staying close the Palace for ease of exploring (especially with the intense heat and being pregnant). There aren’t as many hotels as there are guest houses—apartments that have been converted into rental rooms on each floor of an old building. We opted for Procurator7. While the room set us back about $300 USD a night, it was the perfect proximity to the heart of the Split, and boasted a stunning common rooftop with 360 views of the town. We loved the quirky elegance of the rooms, along with complimentary room service breakfast and sunrises on the rooftop.

Our hotel was on the third floor of the building on the right. It overlooked this gorgeous square only steps from the middle of Old Town, Split

I’ll save a more detailed description of food for my next post, but let me just say that food tastes so much better when pregnant! I was in heaven sampling delicious seafood, pasta, and risotto, and there are endless culinary options in Split for a range of budgets.

Although there isn’t a beachfront directly in the old town of Split, there was a city bus station just steps from our room that took us twenty minutes down the road to the local’s favourite beach, Kasjuni.  Be warned: almost none of the beaches in Croatia are sandy, and so water shoes are vital if you have sensitive (read: pregnant and swollen) feet like me and can’t manage to walk on rocks and pebbles. Despite the inconvenience, the water in Croatia is really as turquoise as the pictures, and I have never been so happy to wade in and out of the water. I’ve also learned that my pregnant body floats much easier than formerly, and it feels amazing to be weightless and cool in the Adriatic Sea!

Because this was our last trip together as a couple, I surprised Robin with a sunset photo shoot to capture these special travel memories. In the past five years, we’ve had the pleasure of exploring 17 countries together! It’s still hard to imagine what our vacations are going to look like in the future, and I’m so glad that we have these beautiful photos to keep for a lifetime. It was also my one-year “paper” anniversary gift for Robin, and I can’t wait to have our favourite photos printed!




Other notables about Split:

  • Almost everyone speaks English and it is very easy to order food or ask for information. We found locals to be extremely friendly and helpful.
  • Restaurants stay open late! Dinner establishments open around 11am and stay open until midnight or later. We were told this is because many locals take a siesta in the middle of the day due to the intense heat and then return to work in the afternoon. Cafes and bakeries open early, and many were bustling around 6 or 7am when we were wide-eyed awake due to jetlag.
  • Split was one of the safest European cities we have visited. In the main parts of Split, Old Town, and the beaches, there was no evidence of crime, homelessness, begging, or scammers whatsoever.
  • That being said, everywhere you go, people are smoking and there’s no getting away from hordes of smokers if you’re eating outdoors or hanging out at the beach.
  • Buses are very inexpensive and convenient. Taxis are pricey. Split has Uber, which we used once and found to be decently priced.
  • Split is a great base to explore the surrounding areas of Croatia, including nearby islands and popular excursions inland. While we didn’t visit Plitvice Lakes or Krka Waterfalls (we wanted to avoid the crowds), it appeared like many tourists took day-trips to these destinations.
  • Trogir is a beautiful walled city an easy 1 hour away by passenger ferry (approximately $5 one way), and worth a trip out if you have a free morning. The well-preserved medieval town can easily be explored in an hour or two.
  • The ferry and bus depots are a five-minute walk from Old Town Split. If you are island hopping without a car, the ferries are convenient, cheap, and comfortable. We easily got to Hvar Island (2 hours one way) and only showed up 30 minutes early without buying tickets in advance. You can, however, purchase tickets online and there are two or three different ferry companies that all dock at the same area.


Prenatal yoga shoot

Documenting the changes in my body and practice: the beginning of the second trimester

Lunging at Kits Beach on a glorious summer day

When my photographer friend Sam asked me if I was up for a yoga shoot this July, I sheepishly replied, "Only if you're interested in shooting a prenatal one.  I totally understand if that doesn't work for you!"  I wrongly assumed that he wouldn't want to collaborate with me because my body had already changed a lot, and my yoga practice was slowly but surely becoming slower and less dramatic.

When he was super enthusiastic about the prospect, I had to give myself a pep talk.  I was nervous about what I'd wear (and what I could still fit into!) and if I'd be comfortable showing my growing belly.

Finding beautiful spots amongst nature in Vanier Park, Vancouver

I've always loved capturing my yoga practice in beautiful settings around the world.  But since becoming pregnant, I've posted far fewer pictures on my social accounts.  I know that it's mostly because I'm self-conscious about my body, and I'm slowly working on embracing the massive changes that are occurring and trying to greet them with gratitude and excitement.  Every day that I get bigger means that Baby is growing more healthy!

Finding my foundation in Warrior II at one of my favourite beaches in the city

The last time I worked with Sam, there was snow in Vancouver and I nearly froze my toes off (and we only shot for one hour).  This shoot was the exact opposite, and it was only a matter of minutes before we were all drenched in sweat from the sun.  Nevertheless, I was so happy with how the shots turned out!

It has been very interesting (and a little frustrating) to witness the changes in my yoga practice.  I started losing the ability to do certain postures early on, particularly deep back bends.  But at around the 14-week mark, I realized that I couldn't do all of my arm balances anymore because my belly was getting in the way of folding forward.  Each week, I feel like I'm letting go of another posture.  This bothered me a lot at first, but now I'm actually excited to re-learn them all over again after Baby arrives!

I still enjoy practicing inversions and will try to get upside-down at least once a day!
I always remind myself to be gentle on forward bends and to never push myself past about 60%
Some of my flexibility has remained unchanged, such as my hanumanasana (splits). I wonder when I will also lose it!

Overall, the journey to motherhood continues to bring newness and surprises almost everyday.  While it was initially hard to look at these pictures without thinking "Wow, I look huge!" I have already grown so much since this shoot and am almost at the halfway mark of my pregnancy.  I hope I can continue to look at this journey with pride and gratitude, and that I'll be open to sharing more of this incredible process!

Thank you so much, Sam, for your talent in capturing these precious photos -- the first ones of my pregnancy!  I will cherish them forever and can't wait for the day when I can show them to my little one.  Namaste!

Wearing: Leggings by Arthletic Wear, Tank Top by Public Myth, and Sports Bra by RYU Apparel.  Mat by Warrior Mats.

My first trimester -- learning to say "I'm pregnant"

Robin is extra careful when he's flying two of us. This was taken at 12 weeks when I still fit into most of my yoga clothes.

When I was younger, I used to daydream about becoming pregnant "one day."  I wondered what it might feel like to grow a human inside of me, what sort of maternity clothes I'd wear, what names I'd want to give my future children ...  As a young adult, it never occurred to me that I might be infertile, that none of these daydreams were likely to become reality.

Beginning a fertility journey is terrifying, but it was initially exciting too.  We received a lot of positive feedback from our doctors, and when we tried our luck with IVF for the first time, we were filled with hope.  My in-laws pre-emptively bought us a pair of baby shoes that we proudly displayed in the living room.  But as we began to experience disappointment after disappointment, we eventually hid those shoes away in a drawer.  They were a painful reminder of my failings, and they only served to make me feel more broken and desolate.

Our 10 week ultrasound, next to our very first baby present (a swaddle blanket), and the original booties that my mother-in-law gave us back in April 2016.

When we received the news of our positive blood test on April 18 (and for several weeks following), the most common emotion I felt was disbelief.  I had gotten used to the idea of my infertility, and so saying "I'm pregnant" out loud was completely foreign.  I also spent the first several weeks as a bundle of nerves, fearing miscarriage.  An astonishing 15-25% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, and even though we wanted to celebrate our miracle, I was wary of becoming too hopeful.  Instead, I counted the weeks, hoping they would rush by quickly because I knew that each week that passed lowered the risk of miscarriage.  It wasn't until we saw the baby on our second ultrasound at 10 weeks that we started feeling more secure about this pregnancy.

The day after finding out I was pregnant, I flew to Newfoundland to chaperone a school trip for a week. It gave me some time to myself to process what had happened, and what would begin the next nine months of this new journey.

Despite the stress and unknowns, I immediately noticed a difference in my body.  My acne-prone skin started to clear.  My hair got longer, thicker, and glossier.  And I started to put on weight right away.  While this last part was a difficult adjustment, I tried to greet the pounds with a smile because it was a clear sign that my baby was growing!

I was very lucky that I didn't throw up once during my first trimester, since I know that morning sickness can be a debilitating and painful experience.  While my first two months went by with only mild fatigue (hello naps!), the last four weeks really challenged me.  At around 3pm everyday, I became sore all over with flu-like symptoms.  I would need to sit or lie down, and while I never vomited, I felt nauseated, achey, and tired.  It made for a long, irritable month, and I'm so glad that those days are behind me!

Other interesting symptoms during my first trimester included:

  • early rising (I woke up everyday by 5am for the first month of my pregnancy)
  • increased visits to the bathroom to pee (this was especially annoying at night)
  • salty food cravings (it started with asian noodles and pasta and moved on to chips, chicken pot pie, fried chicken, and anything spicy!)
  • emotional outbursts (sometimes a good laugh would lead right into a good cry, for no reason at all)
  • allergies (my throat got itchy and my eyes watered...and I think I was actually allergic to my dog for the first month!)
  • requiring at least an hour long nap every day -- the pregnancy pillow is a lifesaver!
  • feeling too tired to exercise, walk the dog, or do any movement in general, save for lying on my yoga wheel and groaning :P
Baby's first handstand! After we passed the 8-week mark, I slowly began to integrate more yoga back into my life.

A couple friends recommended joining some pregnancy apps, and so I downloaded "What to Expect" and "The Bump," which I read voraciously each morning, and continue to open first thing when I wake up.  I loved reading about the new developments in my baby and my body, and I felt proud each week when I could proclaim that "my baby was now the size of a ______ (insert fruit of wildly varying sizes)."

The "What to Expect" app also signed me up into a group forum of mothers who are also due in December of this year.  While I was more of a voyeur than an actual participant in these online discussions, I was fascinated to hear about other's experiences being pregnant, and, at many times relieved that I wasn't the only one going through such radical changes in body, mind, and mood.

Making my first announcement on social media was scary, but I knew that I wanted to share our story of hope with others who may be going through a difficult time as well.

The first trimester is a confusing time, especially for first-time moms.  Everything was new and it felt like each day was a different experience in a different body.  I was also trying to process my emotions and come to terms with my 3-year fertility journey, and there were times (mostly during yoga class) where I'd weep because my emotions would pour out unchecked.

Although most couples wait until the 14 week mark (end of first trimester) to announce their pregnancy, we told most of our close friends right away.  I told my boss at 11 weeks, and we announced it on social media shortly after that.  My trepidation about "the announcement" didn't stem from worries of miscarriage or genetic abnormalities.  It came from feeling self-conscious about our fertility journey and wondering if we would openly share about IVF.  It still makes me quite uncomfortable to tell someone about our struggle for the first time, but I am slowly starting to transform my insecurities about being judged into feelings of pride and strength.

We received so many amazing words of love and congratulations. They touched my heart -- especially this one from my brother and my beautiful niece who live in Louisiana.

While motherhood is one of the most natural occurrences in the world, it was anything but natural for me.  In the end, it took a massive team of doctors, nurses, embryologists, and genetic counsellors to help us achieve our dream becoming pregnant.  But after being weaned off all of my fertility medications, I started to actually "feel pregnant" in my own right.  And even though there isn't much of a connection between a mother and the growing embryo for the majority of the first trimester, I felt great love and gratitude for my tiny baby, right from the start.

My next milestone will not be just about saying I'm pregnant, but actually looking pregnant, too!  Stay tuned for my second trimester updates and other pregnancy musings along the way.

Although my yoga practice has changed dramatically, I still turn to it whenever I want to connect more to my breath and body. I always feel closer to Baby whenever I spend time on my mat or in meditation.
I still haven't determined if Lola knows what's happening, but she loves this pregnancy pillow almost as much as I do. Highly recommended for ultimate comfort!

Trying to conceive how we managed to conceive

Our unconventional road to parenthood

I was 24 years old when I was first told that motherhood might not be in the cards for me.  I had gone into emergency surgery for what the doctors thought was a rupturing appendix.  What they actually discovered was endometriosis -- a menstrual condition accompanied by the following advice: "You should start thinking about children in the near future.  It might be difficult for you to get pregnant after the age of 30."

The newly-graduated, burgeoning high school teacher that was me those many years ago had no immediate plans for children.  But the incident set my biological clock in motion.  Sure, I wanted to have kids someday, but it was a difficult conversation to broach while I was dating in my 20s.  More than one guy got cold feet when I brought up my condition, and it took me a long time before I figured out what kind of man I wanted for a life partner.

When I eventually met the love of my life, I was 32 years old.  Two years later, certain that we were ready to start a family, I went off the birth control pill.  Even though I wasn't very optimistic (I'd been off the pill before with no luck), I still hoped and prayed that this time it would be different.  We bought a handful of pregnancy tests, and, when month after month proved negative, we bought a bunch more.  We started tracking the days with a thermometer and over-the-counter prediction tests.  And each month we got the same, deflating news.  It didn't look like I was going to get pregnant the natural way.

We eventually sought help at a nearby fertility clinic.  Extra emphasis should be placed on the word "nearby" since little did we know that we would be regular visitors to the clinic for a total of three years.  Thankfully, it was only a 10 minute drive away.  I say this because I know that people from all over the province and beyond also need fertility help, and we were lucky that monthly (or weekly) visits didn't cut into our professional lives.

My first year of treatments consisted of a myriad of tests (some innocuous, others indescribably painful), oral medications, and a series of IUI's.  Along the way, we were told not to give up hope and that all of the tests had come back with good results.  While this was a relief, it was also frustrating because we didn't know the cause of our infertility, or have any specific information to place our disappointments.  We could only continue to keep trying and hope for the best.

Nearly a year later, we were recommend for IVF, a prospect that was terrifying. We met our nursing team for orientation in the spring of 2016 and then began the painful process of growing my eggs with daily injections to the stomach.  My partner (now husband) painstakingly mixed the solutions each day and gave me the shots while I cringed, and it was a stressful and expensive process.  We were grateful that some of the drugs were covered by my insurance, but the many procedures were still a financial burden.  On the day of our egg retrieval, I was given fentanyl to help with the pain of the surgery as they vacuumed out 13 eggs for fertilization.  It wasn't a very romantic process, but we were thrilled with the result and hopeful that the worst had been endured.

Only three of our fertilized eggs survived the 6-day growing period, but we were told that this was a great result and began to make plans for our embryo transfer date.  To skip through the long and discouraging story, none of the three eggs (on three separate occasions) implanted successfully.  In fact, we were advised to begin another cycle of IVF, which we did (this time, without any insurance coverage), and which resulted in two embryos.  This time, we also paid a hefty fee to have the embryos biopsied for genetic viability, and it turned out that only one was a good embryo.  All that effort and energy for a single chance.

We implanted our solo embryo shortly before Christmas of 2017, and found out the heartbreaking news the day before our trip to Central America.  I spent a good portion of my time in Honduras in tears, unable to leave the hotel room or to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings and scuba diving.  We had put so much hope and emotion into our two IVF cycles and four separate attempts.  I didn't know if I had it in me to try again.

When we came back from our winter trip, we met with our doctor again, who continued to encourage us to keep trying.  He attributed the failures to bad luck since we had passed all of the tests with flying colours.  With heavy hearts, we decided to try a third round of IVF, a third egg retrieval, and in February of 2018, we harvested two good biopsied embryos.  After the retrieval, our doctor put me on a new course of medication that included some experimental procedures like intralipid IV treatments and daily injections of blood thinners.  While this seemed like a long shot, we followed the instructions to a tee, even adjusting the hours when we traveled across the world to Paris to wake up at 4am so that we could take the medications at the right time.

On April 8, 2018, I taught a yoga class in the morning from 10-11am.  My embryo transfer was scheduled for 11:15am (see, it really helped to have a fertility centre nearby!).  Still in my yoga clothes and on that "yoga-teacher high," I went into the operating room with a calm mindset.  My husband held my hand as we watched on the screen the embryo being transferred into my uterus--luckily, this procedure was almost pain-free and surely the easiest part of the entire IVF cycle.  This was our fifth time doing the exact same procedure, our fifth embryo transfer.  We would know in 10 days if we were pregnant.

The post-transfer days are the most gruelling, emotional days of them all.  I tried to lose myself in work so that I didn't have time to worry or stress about something I couldn't control.  By the 8th day, I felt like I was coming down with the flu.  My body hurt everywhere and I could barely move.  On the 9th day, it was all I could do to take my dog Lola around the block and to grab some take-out pasta before going to bed at 9pm--something that never happens to me.

A schedule of the medicine I took on a daily basis for twelve weeks

On April 18th, 2018 (three days before my 37th birthday), I was conducting interviews all day, but I'd asked Robin (my husband) to text me the news when he got it.  I knew it would come before 3pm.  On my 5th interview of the afternoon, I saw the blink of my cell phone go off with Robin's name, but I couldn't see the message.  Then there was a second alert from him.  My heart started to pound and it was all I could do to focus on the 30 minutes remaining of our last interview.  When it was over, I went to the bathroom and locked myself into a stall with shaking hands.  I felt like I already knew the answer was NO ... that if we were actually pregnant, I would have received 10+ messages from an elated husband.  I took a few deep breaths and prepared myself for the worst.  After all, I had already been through this kind of immense disappointment four times previously.  But I opened the text message to find this:

I could hear my heart beating as I opened this message and tried to process what it meant

I sat there is shock for several minutes, not realizing that I was breathing heavily and shaking all over.  Tears began streaming down my eyes and I had no idea what to do or think.  Eventually, I went for a quick walk outside before heading back to teach my last literature class of the day, and I still have no idea what I said or how that lesson went.

The news shocked us so much that we are still processing what it actually means.  To be pregnant.  To have a baby--now 14 weeks old--growing in my body.  After three years, unbelievable amounts of money, heartbreak, disappointment, shame, and doubt, we are finally beginning to believe that we can be parents.

We found out the news three days before my 37th birthday

On May 8, 2018, we went to the fertility centre for our first ultrasound.  Even though we were only 6 weeks pregnant at the time, we were able to see the baby and hear its heartbeat.  Two weeks later, we returned for another ultrasound, this time seeing a more defined fetus and being told that we had officially "graduated" from the clinic and could now be handed off to an OB doctor or midwife.  It wasn't until we received that news that things really began to sink in.  We could finally accept the news that we were pregnant and carrying a healthy baby.

A glimpse of our miracle baby; the second ultrasound at 10 weeks

There is so much to process.  At any given time, emotional outbursts come to the surface and range from mania to full-body sobs (and sometimes both at the same time).  I know that part of this comes from pregnancy hormones, which were in high doses since I had to supplement my first 10 weeks with progesterone, estrogen and blood thinners.  But I also know that there are three years worth of emotions that I've been carrying around, largely on my own, that are deserving of time and reflection.

Through our four failed IVF attempts, we had the support of a few, amazing friends and family members.  There were so many times that I thought we should give up--that we were crazy to keep trying after inconceivable time, money, and emotion.  I couldn't have gotten through this without the encouragement from my girlfriends, who never passed judgment on our journey, but kept me afloat with a never-ending supply of love and faith.

Infertility is more common than one would think.  In Canada, 1 in 6 couples struggle when trying to conceive, but it is rarely a subject we talk about.  I felt a great deal of shame and embarrassment as I grappled with my infertility--emotions that I had a hard time processing.  I regret not speaking up more or taking the time to find a support group or counsellor.  Instead, I buried myself in work and travel so that I would always have something else to focus my attention to.  But even as I went after the next promotion or planned our next trip around the world, I knew that there was deep-rooted grief and loss that I was trying my best to suppress.

As my body grows and changes on a weekly basis, I am now overcome with gratitude.  I am very proud that my husband and I kept trying when so many odds were against us, and that we will be welcoming our first child into our lives this winter.  With a due date of December 25, 2018, this little angel sure feels like a Christmas miracle!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.  I would be happy to answer any questions you have about my experience or IVF in general, and I hope others will be inspired to share their own journeys to parenthood --however unconventional those journeys may be.

Friendship in the Age of Instagram

Twinning with Su at sunrise in Stanley Park

When I first started my Instagram yoga account, I didn't expect to form meaningful, lasting friendships.  Perhaps like most people, I was skeptical if this platform could foster genuine relationships.  When I began participating in yoga challenges, I started to see how friendships could be formed, but I was still a little hesitant to "put myself out there" in the virtual world.  I even felt a little embarrassed to call the yogis I met on IG "friends."

As time went on, I began to interact with a few yogis more regularly, and I'll never forget the day I found Su.  I had made a post about recovering from my Achille's tendon rupture, using some kind of #achillestendon hashtag.  Out of curiosity, I clicked on it, and it wasn't long before I had discovered Su, a fellow Achille's-injured-yogi, beginning her road to recovery.  I was blown away by her dedication and spirit.  Having completely torn both of my Achille's tendons (a story for another day), I knew all about how difficult this injury was, and I felt compelled to reach out to Su.  I left her a brief but encouraging message about her post.  I didn't expect Su to respond back, but she did, and throughout the last year, I've interacted with Su in one form or another nearly every day.

Sharing the sunrise with Su in matching outfits by Public Myth

As I got to know Su a little better online, I began to recognize in her things I really admire.  I respected how dedicated she was to her yoga and fitness practice, especially given her busy career as a lawyer in downtown Toronto.  I loved the way that she interacted passionately and authentically with her IG followers, and how diligently she responded to every comment on her posts.  I also looked up to her honesty.  I'll never forget the time she bravely called out a famous online yogi for posting a picture that (intentionally or not) made light of animal abuse.  Su showed me how real IG could be, and I cheered as her following and friend-base grew.  I had found a true IG role model; it is through Su that I have learned what I now know about online authenticity, respect and conduct.

When Su told me that she and her husband were coming to Vancouver for Labour Day weekend to visit her family, it felt like a dream too good to be true!  Meeting for the first time in person was a confounding experience.  I went to pick her up for a yoga date, and had to pull into the alley behind her sister's house.  When I got out of the car to greet her in person for the first time, Su pulled me into a fierce and real hug that took me by surprise.  I wasn't surprised that she hugged me or that the hug was real.  I was surprised by my own emotion and realization about how much she had come to mean to me. I had to quickly brush away my tears and choke down the sobs of joy so that I could get back behind the wheel ... but enough sentimentality!

Over the course of just one weekend, I was lucky enough to see Su a LOT!  We were outfitted by Public Myth at their headquarters, we took a class together at YYoga, we had a BBQ on my rooftop, attended one of my yoga classes at the park, woke up early for an epic sunrise shoot with Catherine Byrdy, drove up to Whistler for a night, and hiked down to beautiful Brandywine Falls.  It was a whirlwind of mostly unplanned, unforgettable adventures.

Big-time heart-opener

We had the honour of shooting with the incredible photography talent, Catherine Byrdy, and I'm still reeling from her gorgeous captures of sunrise and emotion.  These keepsake photos run deep to my core, and I am struck by how enriched my life has become--all from the power of IG and the real people behind those little squares.

Headstand trivia -- can you tell which one is Su and which is me?
Who knew the water was so warm at 630am?
Finding more than the sunrise to make us glow

Making shapes with Su and the sun

Just like nothing beats taking a yoga class in person, there's nothing like finding a real-life friend, feeling and sharing in their energy, breathing the same air, and being able to smile about it together afterwards. I can't wait to share more about Su and her charity KEY -- stay tuned for some very exciting news for the month of October!

The Good Life: Under the Tuscan Sun

"Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast." - William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet

After battling the crowds and heat for two days in Florence, we rented a car for the most relaxing stretch of our honeymoon: Tuscany.  It was finally time to take things slow, to really savour the beauty around us, and to acknowledge that we were doing it together.

This was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to: stretches of golden hills, picturesque wineries (not to mention the wine itself!), gastronomic riches, and life at a slower pace.  Tuscany did not disappoint, and I can see why it has become a major destination in Italy.  For a taste of the serenity-imbued Chianti region, check out a short yoga flow we filmed at our home-base:

Most of the accommodations in Tuscany are what is known as agritourism — farms or wineries that have converted some of their buildings into quaint rooms for a laid-back and authentic experience.  We chose Borgo Del Cabreo based on incredible reviews and its proximity right between Florence and Siena (only 40 minutes by car in either direction).  It is situated near the tiny town of Greve in Chianti, and the property was a paradise all on its own. We loved our airy and thoughtfully-appointed suite with windows in several directions—giving me the opportunity to luxuriate in the breathtaking Tuscan sunsets.  Although Borgo didn’t have its own restaurant, it included a free al fresco breakfast.  Each morning we were treated to cinematic views of vineyards coming to life as the sun crept over the hills.

Breakfast al fresco at Borgo Del Cabreo
The grounds at Borgo Del Cabreo

There are unlimited wonders within a few minutes drive in the Tuscan region, including gorgeous estates, restaurants and wineries—most which offer tastings and tours.  We sampled some Chianti Classico (famous in this region) and picked up a few bottles to take home with us.  We also made a day trip out to Siena to see the famed medieval town, and followed it up with a long haul to Assisi, a remarkable white town built high up on a hill in the province of Perugia.  My husband’s grandfather is buried at the Assisi War Cemetery.  Robin had never met his grandfather who died in WWII while serving in Italy (at age 36, in 1944).  We had the solemn and emotional experience of visiting the grave and paying our respects; I wasn’t expecting to feel so overwhelmed, but it was a very powerful experience to stand in the presence of thousands of graves, reflecting upon each life that was given in service to protect others.

Cemetery in Assisi honouring fallen Allied soldiers from WWII
Exploring medieval Siena

After Assisi, we made our way back to Chianti via the Val d'Orcia (another highlight of the trip).  This UNESCO-protected land is some of the most beautiful in all of Italy.  Steep mountaintop towns emerge as vantage points to take in the rolling yellow hills.  We managed to catch the sunset on our drive back, pulling over a few times to watch the light change as the sun dipped lower.  The following photos are some of my favourites from the whole trip:

Dancer's pose in the Val d'Orcia


Capturing the sunset

Our final day in Tuscany was spent relaxing in our pool and enjoying the sun before visiting the marvellous estate Villa Vignamaggio for a tour and dinner—definitively the best meal of our entire trip (€69 per person for a one hour tour and four-course dinner). The estate is expansive and private but you need to book the tour in order to see the grounds.  It was one of the most magical and romantic experiences of our entire honeymoon!

Dinner and wine tasting on the terrace at Villa Vignamaggio
Overlooking the splendour of Tuscany in the garden at Villa Vignamaggio
The main building and gardens at Villa Vignamaggio

Tuscany provides a welcome counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of "the other Italy." It also reveals a glimpse of life being lived a little slower and and a little simpler.  And, it is these qualities that make it more grand and appealing.  Although we didn't get to visit Verona (the setting of Romeo and Juliet), being in Tuscany hearkened back Friar Lawrence's wise words -- giving us both inspiration on our honeymoon, and also a mantra to keep close to our hearts throughout our marriage.

And in the spirit of moving "wisely and slow," check out this compilation of acro yoga fails from Tuscany (and what most of our acro practice actually looks like!):


Venetian Dreaming

"Venice never seems quite real, but rather an ornate film-set suspended on the water." - Frida Giannini

Disclaimer: The Venice in the pictures below (all taken by my husband or me on our iPhones!) is not the Venice you'll find during main hours.  Most of the shots were taken at sunrise--hence the lack of tourists!

I always knew Venice was one of the most romantic cities in the world, and for good reason!  It defies logic with its series of labyrinthine canals and narrow streets, all infused with elegant Venetian charm.  We arrived by train at 6:30pm and were awarded with the most illustrious sunset vaporetto cruise along the Grand Canal as we made our way to our hotel.  It was like floating into another dimension.

Sunset from our rooftop lounge, Hotel Rialto

That being said, every blogger and blogger-wannabe wants to be in Venice, and so be prepared to share the romance in pretty tight quarters!  We had to laugh at the number of fashionistas posing for their camera-clad boyfriends at every bridge and canal.  This was particularly evident on our visit to colourful island Burano.  I thought I had hit the jackpot when I found Burano on a google search.  It claimed to be a quiet haven, away from touristy Venice.  Apparently…the secret is out!  We spent over an hour crammed into a vaporetto in the stifling heat before reaching Burano with the hundreds (if not thousands) of other tourists en masse.  It took some searching and waiting to enjoy the pastel streets without the hordes.  Despite the foot traffic, we loved this quaint island town and would still recommend it as an excursion (just maybe not in August).

Colourful houses line the canals of Burano
A handstand along the rainbow strip in Burano
Pretend posing along a brick wall (emulating the many bloggers in town)

Since we’re on our honeymoon, we splurged and footed the 100 euro bill for an evening gondola ride (approximately 30 minutes).  Many tourists are willing to split the cost, so if you’re not picky about privacy, you can really save by asking the people in the line if they want to go halfers.  Nevertheless, we loved our brief boat-ride along the Grand Canal just as the sun was setting, and it was definitely a highlight of our honeymoon (and probably some of our favourite pictures ever).

Sunset in style. A gondola ride to remember for a lifetime.
My husband by the Rialto Bridge
All the romance in 30 minutes

On our second morning, we set the alarm for 5:30am in order to see Venice without the masses, and it was the best thing we did in this city.  By 6:15am the sun was alive but the city stayed asleep; we got to take it all in without a soul in sight, and the majestic views will stay with us for the rest of our lives.  Even by 8 am, the city was pretty empty, so I would highly recommend getting up early to experience a quieter side of Venice.

Combing the streets before the crowds.

We didn’t have time to take a yoga class in Venice, but there are apparently three studios on the islands!  Instead, Robin and I practiced together along the shore and he indulged me with a few more pics throughout the city.

V for Venice - practicing our flying crows together at dawn
Taking it all in. A rarely deserted Academy Bridge at dawn.
One of Venice's over 400 bridges

Venice is pricey, hot, tourist-infested and a little sewer-smelling at times, but none of that can take away from its undeniable beauty.  It’s worth battling the crowds for a glimpse of a fairytale world surrounded by water.  Be prepared to have your breath taken away!

Hotel: We stayed at Hotel Rialto, an over-rated 4-star adjacent to the famous Rialto Bridge.  What the hotel lacks in service and finery it makes up for in location.  We chose a suite over-looking the canal and bridge, and it was superb.  You can’t do better for an accessible home-base in Venice.  We regularly saw lost tourists touting their luggage throughout the tiny streets, so we were really happy with our central spot along the Grand Canal.

Thank you for the memories, Venice!

When In Rome...

“Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city."  Anatole Broyard

Mid-August is probably the worst month of the year to visit Rome.  Tourism and prices are at their highest.  Temperatures push 35 degrees Celsius for most of the day.  Many of the shops close down for a week or more during Ferragosto (August 15)—one of the most important summer holidays across the country.

We had these considerations in mind while planning our honeymoon and even wondered if three days in Rome was too long.  Therefore, we were entirely taken aback by how much we loved our time in the Eternal City.  I would say that three days is the bare minimum to experience the splendours of Rome.  If time weren’t an option, I would have stayed a week!

Although I didn’t design this website as a travel blog (especially since my travels generally don’t revolve around yoga), I hope you’ll enjoy some highlights from my honeymoon — with a fair amount of yoga pics sprinkled along the way!

Rise and warrior. Taking some yoga to fight off the jet lag.

Piazza Navona is the area we chose as our home base, thanks to a recommendation from my cousin.  It was the perfect place to situate ourselves in and amongst the action (which we love), but not too noisy or raucous into the wee hours.  I chose a small, boutique hotel in Campo De 'Fiori called Mama’s Home Rome, and we loved the “rough” renovations of glossy cement and exposed beams of our large room with a king bed (an unexpected luxury in Europe).  From Mama’s, we were able to walk to every single attraction (the furthest taking only 25 minutes), which gave us time to digest all the pasta!

On our first morning, we awoke at 4:00 am.  We were wide awake from jet lag and itching for something to do.  We waited until the sun rose and then spent an hour roaming the empty streets.  I’m still struck by those first impressions of the city.  Every corner revealed new and more impressive architecture and history.  It didn’t seem possible that so much culture and beauty could exist in one place…but then again, Rome is nearly 3000 years old!

Robin indulged me by taking my yoga photos first thing in the morning.  It was a magical experience to have the entire piazza to myself in the sunrise!  We tried to take a yoga class in Rome while we were there, but they were closed up due to Ferragosto.  Next time!

Sunrise in the Eternal City
Emulating the obelisk at Bernini's fountain in Piazza Navona

I think part of our hesitation towards Rome stems from our general distaste for guided group tours.  We stay far away from them if we can, preferring to rent our own transportation and find sites that are off the beaten track.  That being said, I would highly recommend booking guided tours to the major sites in Rome, and here’s why:

  1. If it's your first time in Rome, the major sites in Rome simply cannot be missed.
  2. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’re going to be up against an influx of tourists.
  3. The heat might kill…or at the very least, put a damper in your attitude or make you need a major air conditioned siesta in the middle of the day.  It's worth the money to pay a little more to skip the queues.

For these reasons, we booked tours in advance and were extremely thankful that we did.  We used “The Roman Guy” for the Express Tour of the Vatican (2.5 hours), and it was the perfect way to see the most extraordinary museum of our lives, with an intelligent guide and only five other people.  The Sistine Chapel was particularly fascinating to me since I regularly teach Paradise Lost by John Milton and have lectured about the iconography of Adam and Eve…so seeing these paintings in real life almost brought tears to my eyes!  Okay, enough geeking out!

We didn’t have the foresight to book The Colosseum and Roman Forum in advance but got in with a group tour at the site (which we would definitely not recommend).  We were rushed along with over 50 other people in the scorching sun, and despite the amphitheatre being the most extraordinary piece of architecture we have ever seen, we were not particularly pleased with the experience itself.  My recommendation would be to go on your own during off-season or to book well in advance with The Roman Guy if you are heading to Rome in the summer.  That being said, the Colosseum is fascinating and its history even more so, and it makes such a difference to learn about this brutal and charged period in time from a knowledgeable guide.  Book a small group tour if you can!

The Vatican Museums and St. Peter's from the outside.
The monstrous Colosseum

Days are long in Rome but happily broken up by meals—essentially our raison d’être for the entire trip!  There is utterly too much to describe, but if you’re headed to Rome, here are some of our favourite gastronomical experiences:

  1. Borgo Ripa - in nearby Trasterverre.  This is an expansive outdoor courtyard for dinner and/or drinks and decidedly Italian.  You will not find any tourists or English menus here, and it is a hopelessly romantic place to dine al fresco as the sun goes down!  Great prices too!
  2. Da Michele - known across the globe as “the best” pizza in Naples, Da Michele opened a pop-up shop on Tiber Island this summer.  Serving only four types of pizza, you are in for a treat with this traditional neapolitan fare!
  3. Gelato - everywhere!  I’m actually not much of an ice cream fan, so I was hugely surprised by how much I loved gelato.  I read in the Lonely Planet guide that you can tell the best gelato bars from its pistachio gelato (be on the lookout for pale green rather than artificially-coloured green).  I sampled at least one gelato a day and could honestly not rank them apart.  Every one was delicious, which probably means that I’ll need to continue sampling throughout Italy to become a better judge ;)
Dinner at the romantic restaurant and grounds, Borgo Ripa
Enjoying a late summer's evening at Borgo Ripa in Trastevere

There is so much more to say, but I’ll leave you with two other tidbits in case you’re heading to Rome.  The Tiber.  In the summer, it’s dotted with outdoor bars, markets and restaurants that really come alive at night and stay open until late.  Go.  It’s a fantastic melange of fun.  Other than that, Rome is a surprisingly dog-friendly city!  We saw people and their dogs everywhere, and shops / restaurants seemed very accommodating to canine guests, which was refreshing and sweet.

Ponte Sisto at night

Next stop Venice!  With love,


Dancing in a Roman square

Sunset Photoshoot - Wreck Beach

"Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset."  - S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

Summer is what most Vancouverites live for: long, sunny days, warm temperatures, and gorgeous stretches of Pacific Northwest coastline!  Unfortunately, the province of British Columbia is currently in a state of emergency with over 130 active forest fires burning throughout the region.  This has created a smoky haze all across the province, polluting the air quality and displacing thousands of residents from their homes to the north and east of Vancouver.

Just a week ago, I had the pleasure of shooting with Laura Zeke, local dance photographer extraordinaire. It was my first time (ever!) to Wreck Beach, which is funny because I did my first two degrees at the University of British Columbia, and the stairs climb down directly beside the campus.  The beach is famous for many reasons, not the least of which is because it is clothing optional.  It's also an incredibly beautiful, wild expanse of coastline below staggering cliffs, and the perfect location for an evening shoot!

Top by Public Myth, Leggings by My Inner Fire

I'm sentimental on the best of days, and a good sunset gives me all kinds of feels.  This perhaps stems from my nostalgia at reading The Outsiders each year when I teach it to my grade 8s.  Perhaps it comes with age, but every year, sunsets seem take on more meaning and I find more enjoyment and depth each time the sun dips behind the horizon.  It's like the most outstanding display in the universe, and it's totally free and unpredictable every single day.

I loved doing this shoot because it combined some of my favourite things: sun, sand, the coastline, some of my favourite yogis, and the sweetest, most talented local photographer!  But looking back on it now, what made the shoot so special was the pristine quality of Mother Nature at her finest--before all of the heartbreaking forest fires.  In sharing these pictures, I am harkening back to the summer we all long for and cherish, and I'm sending out my plea for bluer skies, cleaner air and greater conservation of our collective earth.  Enjoy!

Top and Leggings by Public Myth
Outfit by Public Myth
Making shapes with Rebecca Holgate
Side plank partner yoga with Julie Angeletti
Hearts wide open with Rebecca Holgate
Quiet reflection
Handstand on the shore
Dancing at the edge of the world

My awe and thanks go out to Laura Zeke for her talent and eye.  I'll leave you with some of my favourite lines from Lord Byron's "Apostrophe to the Ocean," whose words resonate even stronger as I look to future days by the deep Sea:

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal."

To help those affected and/or evacuated during the BC forest fires state of emergency, please consider making at donation here: Canadian Red Cross