Charlotte at 3 Months

Time is moving at warp speed! Seems like just yesterday our little bundle of joy was coming home from the hospital. She was so tiny and fragile and we were equal parts terrified, determined and in awe of her. Fast forward 3 months and Charlotte is entertaining us with adorable performances of smiles, gurgles, squeals and coos. She kicks and grabs and our breastfeeding relationship is better than ever.

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Always talking! Just like her Mother…

It’s amazing how fast they develop and how quickly they pick up new skills. Last week, Charlotte’s hands would flail about at random, but now she holds them together like she’s praying, shoves them in her mouth and grabs things out of our hands! Seemingly out of nowhere, she started to drool and blow spit bubbles (oh great, teething in starting). And she’s started swaying from side to side on her back and pulling her feet up. Any moment she’s going to roll.

As a mother, I’m feeling more confident in my abilities and have cobbled together a schedule that seems to work for us. It required giving up some freedom and sticking to scheduled naps and bedtime, but it’s made the days more predictable for Charlotte and has lessened her mood swings (damn Gemini baby!) In terms of mommytime, I’ve been out a few times without the baby, I’ve joined a few mom groups that have been welcoming and supportive and have even started writing pro-bono for a friend’s publication.

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Having breakfast with my 2 loves

The months past haven’t all been sunshine and roses. The sleep deprivation is unrelenting. Charlotte hasn’t mastered the art of napping yet, refusing to go down more than 40 minutes at a time. This makes for one cranky baby by days end! She’s also developed an addiction to the pacifier and is unable to sleep without it. This means on top of feeding her twice a night, I’m up 10 times popping the thing back in her mouth after she spits it out. Very annoying! I’ve tried to stop giving it to her cold turkey, but she still hasn’t learned to self-sooth, so she’ll cry her eyes out for what feels like hours. And that, of course, makes me cry too. Any tips?

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Oh hey there! Just hanging out doing some tummy time

What has saved me the last 3 months has been the support of family. We are so lucky to have my parents and my mother-in-law close-by and not a day goes by where I’m not checking in. From asking them advice like “Does this poop look weird” or being able to vent “She won’t nap and it’s driving me crazy,” they have shared their wisdom and humor and made this crazy parenting adventure a little less scary. Oh, and they also make sure we are fed and that our house isn’t a pigsty. Thanks for that!

Going forward, we’ll need their help more than ever since we’ve officially SOLD OUR HOUSE! Details to come in a subsequent blogpost.

Any advice for a new mom? Care to share your 3 month sleep tips? Comment below!

No Rest for the Wicked

I am sleep obsessed. I find myself dreaming about a king size bed, with silky, white sheets, mountains of pillows, and a heavy, warm duvet. I spend my whole day wondering when I will get back to bed, how many hours of sleep I will get, and how rested I will feel the next morning.

Alas, sleep has eluded me for the last 2 1/2 months, which has only deepened my obsession. Now I obsess over my baby’s sleep. When to put her down, when to wake her up, how many minutes she’s napping, how many hours she’s sleeping. In the wee hours of the morning, I’ve googled countless ways on how to get your baby to sleep longer and have ordered hundreds of dollars of books. I now understand why they use sleep deprivation as a torture technique…

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Charlotte at 9 days old enjoy a joint nap after feeding.

After we brought Charlotte home from the hospital and got into our rhythm, I thanked my lucky stars that she wasn’t a colicky or reflux baby. Like most newborns, she was very sleepy and very hungry. Every 2 hours she wanted a snack, followed by a long nap. I thought naively, “Yay! My baby loves to sleep, this will be a breeze!” FALSE. Babies lull you into a false sense of security before they quickly change into zombie demons that refuse to sleep, no matter how hard you try.

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The irony of this picture amuses me

After complaining to nearly everyone I knew, many suggested that I pick up “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr Harvey Karp. One of the most-trusted pediatricians and child development experts, Dr Karp developed the 5 S’s to help calm babies and get them to sleep longer. He claims that babies are born 3 months too early and experience a 4th trimester from 0-3 months. During this time, calming womb-like sensations will quiet a baby and get them to relax. These include Swaddling, Side-Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging and Sucking. I found that using a combo of these techniques, I was able to get Charlotte to sleep and to stay asleep!

My little one seemed to have mutant strength when I attempted to swaddle her and no matter what I put her in, Charlotte would burst out. As a newborn, I decided to try the SwaddleMe Pods. With it’s simple zip-up closure, it provides a cozy womb-like feeling which is ideal for newborns. I lovingly referred to this as a baby condom. After about 6 weeks, Charlotte was getting a bit big for them and I switched to the Aden and Anais Easy Swaddle, a 100% cotton muslin with simple, adjustable snaps. The combination of swaddling with lying her on her side or holding her on her side with her stomach against mine relaxes her immediately.

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SwaddleMe Pods
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Aden & Anais Easy Swaddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems counterintuitive, but babies sleep better with lots of noise! In your womb, they are constantly bombarded with noise like blood rushing through your veins and your heartbeat. Using a sound machine that has white noise reminds your baby of your cozy womb and will quiet them (I also found the vacuum and static on the TV to be quite useful!) I like the Skip Hop Nightlight Soother since you can set it on continuous and play soothing noises all night long. Once I turn it on, it’s Charlotte’s cue to sleep and she’ll close her eyes #babygenius!

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Skip Hop Nightlight Soother, Moonlight and Melodies

Nap times have always been hit or miss. Charlotte is so darn sociable that she gets FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when she closes her eyes, especially during the day. The only way to get her to nap is to put her in her swing. The movement reminds babies of the constant motion in the womb. From the start, Charlotte loved the 4moms Rockaroo Swing (thanks work friends for buying this!) She would do 2-3 hour naps in it and wake up happy as can be.

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4moms Rockaroo Swing

And finally, sucking. My lactation consultant was adamant to not introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding was established, around 6 weeks. YA RIGHT! Have you ever experienced the magic of the pacifier? A screaming infant will go from inconsolable to calm in an instant. I gave in around the 3 week mark when Charlotte’s screams were ear shattering. I liked the Philps Avent Orthodonic Pacifier because it can be used right side up or upside down – particularly helpful when you’re reaching in the backseat to plug it back in your baby’s mouth.

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Philps Avent Orthodonic Pacifier

The combination of these S’s has helped me immensely! But by far, my most favorite technique of getting Charlotte to sleep is what I call the “off button.” Did you know that if you stroke down ababy’s forehead to the tip of their nose, they will close their eyes? It’s a biological reflex and SUPER helpful when your little one keeps popping their eyes open. #THEMOREYOUKNOW

Wishing you sweet dreams!

 

Want to share your sleep story or comisserate over sleep deprivation? Send me your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

 

Will You Be My Friend?

I’ve always been a naturally social person. One could argue that I’d befriend a plant if I was lonely enough. With a wide, diverse social circle and seemingly unlimited time provided by a generous maternity leave, I was ready to mingle. The first 4 weeks of motherhood were a blur of breastfeeding, diaper changes and naps but now I was ready to start my “new normal.”

However, along with the many physical changes motherhood brings (saggy skin, stretch marks, hair loss), my friendships changed too. New connections bloomed, old ones deepened and grew, and some fell away. Some friends embraced the “new me” with open arms, others welcomed me the mom club, and some just stopped calling.

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My bestie Gen and I with our babies born 3 days apart!

Instead of mourning friendships lost, I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do…launch into intense research mode. I reached out to old acquaintances that had kids, joined a dozen Facebook groups and Googled the crap out of things like “How to Make Mom Friends,” “Moms Near Me,” and “Meet New Moms”.

That’s when I came across the most amazing (and under-used app) called Peanut. It allows you to connect with like-minded mamas in your area and makes it easy to meet them. It’s basically like Tinder for moms – swipe down to wave at a mom, swipe up to maybe connect later. Ah technology!

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Get the App HERE

I actually ended up connecting with a few different women who I had seen around at pre-natal class, the obgyn, and the mall that I had been shy to approach (I know, right?! Me?! Shy?!) But it’s true…as much as you want to share and connect, striking up convo with strangers is weird. Thank god my experience in a sorority taught me how to approach other women. I always start with a compliment; your baby is adorable, or, I love your diaper bag,

This blog has also been an amazing way to connect with other moms. My heart bursts with joy every time one of you reaches out to connect or to simply say “ditto” to my most recent post. Keep it up! Motherhood can be isolating. So much of your time is wrapped up in your baby and it gets a little lonely. Each time someone reaches out digitally, it’s like a warm hug and instantly brings a smile to my face. Thanks for listening to my complaints…er, I mean stories.

I’m slowly building my mom tribe and would love to connect with you if you have kids (especially if you are in Montreal and on mat leave). Leave a note in the comments! 

Adventures in Breastfeeding

My breastfeeding story isn’t unusual. Before having a baby, I figured that you put the baby at the breast and the rest was nature taking over. WRONG! Never has something so natural, been so difficult! I struggled…a lot! I thought about giving up nearly every day. I cried, cursed, screamed. I spent hours googling remedies for sore breasts. I joined lactation groups, had my own lactation consultant and became obsessed with finding out how I could make my misery end.

Let’s go back to the beginning. One of the questions I was asked repeatedly while pregnant was whether or not I’d breastfeed. My mom breastfed my brother and I, and since she is my guru on all things baby, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. Plus I factored in all the research; breastfeeding protects baby from illness, allergies, SIDS, as well as boosting your child’s intelligence and reducing mom’s stress levels and risk for postpartum depression. But other than that, I didn’t know what I was in for.

Naturally, being the Type-A person that I am, I signed-up for a breastfeeding workshop where nurses demonstrated how to get a baby to latch (i.e. suck your nipple properly) with a knitted boob. “Sure,” I thought, “seems easy enough!” I followed this up by reading my mom’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and felt like I would figure the rest out once baby arrived.

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#NormalizeBreastfeeding

At the hospital, in the post-partum recovery, a sweet nurse helped me breastfeed for the first time. She literally squashed my gigantic 40DD boob into my little one’s mouth. As your body isn’t really your own post-delivery, I went with the flow and was encouraged when she seemed excited that the baby had latched. But, holy shit was it painful! I chalked it up to being a first-timer and continued this painful experience every 2 hours because Charlotte was a hungry little hippo.

The real drama began once the pediatrician told us that Charlotte had a tongue-tie. This means that the piece of skin that attaches her tongue to the floor of her mouth is unusually short. This restricts the range of motion and was the culprit behind the pain. She doctor offered to cut it for us and two minutes later it was done. But the pain in my nipples and breasts continued and was joined by a blood blister, bruises, bleeding and cracks.

When the nurse visited us at home the next day, she was concerned. Not only was the tongue-tie not totally revised, she told us that Charlotte was also lip-tied. Again, the little piece of skin connected the lip to the gums is unusually short and thick and prevents babies from flaring their lips when they breastfeed. Why is this important? A flared lip is what allows the baby to take your nipple deeply into their mouths and suck without causing you pain. To fix this issue, the nurse recommended a laser revision by a pediatric dentist.

Pat and I balked. We didn’t want Charlotte to suffer and it seemed a bit barbaric. I resolved to “tough it out” but after a week, I was in constant pain. Because my nipples were being re-traumatized each time I breastfeed, I developed vasospams. After feeding, they would turn white and burn from the inside. Nothing seemed to help.

I started delaying feedings because I was fearful of the pain that I knew was to come. Charlotte had lost nearly 10% of her birth weight and wasn’t gaining as quickly as desired. I cried and winced each time she latched. The beautiful, tender loving moments between mother and child were non-existent. Instead, my baby was a little devil, intent on destroying me. I knew I couldn’t continue on like this, so I started going to a local breastfeeding clinic. The nurses were incredibly helpful and sympathetic. They showed me how to compensate for the lip and tongue-tie issues. They suggested doing breast compressions while feeding, changing my breastfeeding hold, taking vitamin D, calcium and magnesium for the vasospasms. All of this helped, but still, Charlotte’s latch issues remained.

Finally, after discussing with nearly every parent I knew, we decided to have the dentist do the laser revision. I was scared – what if it burned my baby? I was sad – why am I putting my needs before my child’s? But I was hopeful. If this could change our breastfeeding relationship and I could continue without pain, then I would do it.

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Poor Charlotte pre-laser surgery, screaming her brains out. But looking so cute in this sunglasses…

The surgery itself was 2 minutes. The most awful part were Charlotte’s screams and the post-surgery exercises I needed to do 6 times a day to guarantee that the skin didn’t grow back. That was traumatizing for both her and I. But thankfully, I noticed a difference in breastfeeding  almost immediately. She was able to open her mouth wider and my nipples began to heal. And over time it keeps getting better and better!

Like I said at the beginning of the blog, my story isn’t unusual. But for some reason, nobody talks about the difficulties. The pressure that new moms feel to breastfeed and love it, is tremendous. When issues arise, we’re reluctant to speak out and seek help because we are ashamed. We feel like we’re not good enough, that we don’t love our child enough to be able to provide for them. ALL FALSE! FED IS BEST. Whether breast or bottle, what matters is that you child is being fed and thriving. My story had the outcome I wanted, but had I decided to switch to formula, that would have been fine too.

Did you have trouble breastfeeding? I want to know! Share your stories & thoughts in the comments below.

 

Social Media Guru

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Being a Pisces, I have a tendency to dream big and get lost in fantasy. Over the years, my career goals have oscillated between actress, lawyer, psychologist, journalist, professional shopper, curator, party planner, and my personal favourite, matchmaker. Little did I know that I would end up working in a field that combined all the things I loved! Read on to learn about how I ended up working in social media!

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Starring in my Youtube segment “In Jen’s Closet”

The essence of social media is storytelling. It’s about finding out the story behind the person, place or thing. We are all curious creatures by nature; we love hearing stories from our friends when we catch up, we spend hours absorbed in TV and movies, and, we lose ourselves in stories from our favourite books. Why? Because stories gives us meaning and allow us to make sense of our own experiences. That being said, social media helps brands build a personality – through this “profile”, fans can identify what the brand stands for and what makes them tick, and this allows them to make sense of their own lives.

Phew – that was philosophical…back to me…

I’m a storyteller by nature. My flair for the dramatic and my incredibly extroverted personality have always served me well in this regard. I love to talk! Talk about my experiences, my feelings, my opinions…I could talk to a wall and have a perfectly lovely conversation. I also love to write. I’ve always put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) in one way or another. I’ve kept diaries, written short stories, blogged, wrote a thesis, written research papers, and short articles. And I’m a real “people” person. I love meeting new people, making new friends and I love nothing more than connecting people together. All of these skills have been useful once I started working in social media!

Back in 2011, I was working at Zara at a General Manager and hated my existence. The hours were long and I had a difficult time connecting with the corporate mandate. Coming from a small high-end boutique where I was the buyer/mananger/jack-of-all-trades, the hands-off approach of Zara really wasn’t for me. I missed people!

As I was searching for jobs in the fashion industry, I came across “online copywriter at fashion company” and immediatly applied. My BA in Art History and my freelance writing experience was exactly what they were looking for. Plus, the brand that I would work for, Addition Elle, specialized in 14+ fashion. Being the voluptuous fashionista that I am, I knew I would intrinsically understanding the needs and wants of the customer because I AM HER!

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On the set of “Jen’s Closet” doing my thing!

As companies began to acknowledge the power of social media, my role at Addition Elle grew. I was no longer simply writing product descriptions, I was focused on building the Addition Elle “tribe.” I looked for ways to connect with our audience, to surprise and delight them and to let them know that they weren’t alone in their plight for fashionable clothing in their size. I developed a segment called “In Jen’s Closet” where I offered fashion advice and outfit building suggestions. I launched the Addition Elle blog, curated the Instagram account and conceptualize viral campaigns with slogans like “Sorry, Not Sorry” and “No More Rules.”

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At Etail Canada, speaking on a panel about social selling

One of my proudest accomplishments was the work I did for the Addition Elle runway show at New York Fashion Week, especially directing the Facebook Live Stream event. (Sidenote – I was 4 weeks pregnant and had no idea!) I hosted the pre-show, interviewing models, hair & makeup and stylist, while coordinating the live coverage. The footage was actually used by Facebook as a case study for their live stream abilities. Very cool!

Over the last 6 years, Addition Elle’s social media presence has grown and become admired in the industry. We aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable for plus size. I am so thankful to be part of a team that directly impacts people’s lives. Who knew that the little girl who used to pour over Vogue and wonder why nobody looked like her, would become the voice of a brand that seeks to empower the plus size community. As the “voice” of Addition Elle’s online presence, my own self-love has grown. To hear other plus size women share their stories and struggles and to see them unabashedly share their bodies on social media makes me feel proud to be part of this community.

Have a social media question? Want to know more about my career path? Ask away in the comments below!

 

Motherhood is Hard

It’s been a minute…sorry, I’ve been busy tending to my little nugget. Every day is a new challenge, a new lesson to learn and a new reason to fall deeper in love. I spent so much time leading up to Charlotte’s birth worrying about the actual birth process, that I think I neglected to realize the life changing reality of actually having a baby. Read on to see what I’ve learned during the first month of motherhood.

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Trying to stage a photo – Charlotte had other plans…
  1. Being a mom is physically demanding! Between the 24/7 breastfeeding and the hours of rocking my little Charlotte in my arms, being a new mom is hard on the body. My back aches, my boobs are swollen to the size of watermelons, my nipples look like old chewing gum and I wonder if I will ever sit comfortably again. My biggest mistake was not taking care of myself from the start. I thought I was doing the right thing to neglect my body in order to take care of my baby. Big mistake, HUGE! At week 5 I’ve finally clued in…back rubs from the hubby, therapeutic baths and face masks…here I come!
  2. No routine is the new routine. As someone who thrives on routine and organization, being flexible in my expectations and schedule is a huge adjustment. I’m so used to having places to go, and people to see, that to go with the flow is like taking a full-loaded freight train to a complete stop. Some days Charlotte wants to sleep all morning and others, she’s wide awake and crying. Learning to just let go and accept the day as it unfolds has been a mind-altering experience.

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    Tired AF, nursing non-stop, blotchy skin…but loving ever minute!
  3. Pinterest perfection is bullshit. Any mom-to-be will tell you that she has a baby board on Pinterest where she keeps all her inspiration – nursery, newborn photoshoot, baby “hacks.” I meticulously curated my gallery, clinging to picture-perfect ideals of what motherhood should be like. And it’s a lie, a big, giant lie! Motherhood is messy, chaotic, scary and confusing. Hundreds of so-called “experts” will advise you on how to get the perfect baby photos, what your baby sleep-schedule should be and how to get a rocking post-baby body. And it’s all garbage! Listen to you instinct, embrace the mess and let go of expectations – that’s when the little moments you treasure will happen.
  4. You will hate everyone but desperately need them at the same time. Surviving on 3 hours of sleep a night (if that) and listening to the ear-piercing screeches of a newborn has made me highly irritable. My tolerance for people is at an all time low. I want nothing more than to totally disconnect from the world…but at the same time, I can’t bear the thought of being alone. Motherhood is isolating and having people around (whether you can stand them or not) makes the day more enjoyable and less scary. Sometimes you just need to bounce your crazy thoughts off someone: “Is Charlotte’s breathing normal? Should I be worried she never burps? Are belly buttons supposed to look like that?”
  5. And most importantly, what I’ve learnt as a new mom is: motherhood is a secret club, where love and selflessness grants you access. My mom always warned me that when I had children, I would understand her devotion to us. Our joys were her joys and our sadness, her pain. She said that I would spend sleepless nights worrying about everything under the sun. And she promised that things that were once so important, would all seemed trivial compared to the bond between mother and child.  I didn’t know love like this until Charlotte’s little finger wrapped arond mine. I didn’t know I could survive without sleep, a hot shower, food and water until I rocked and rocked a sleepy (and very stubborn) baby to sleep for hours. Mom, you were right!

I know there’s more wisdom to learn as I embark on this adventure in parenthood – so please feel free to share your best bits of advice in the comments below!

#NoMakeup

I’ve never been one to embrace going “au naturel.” I can remember in 5th grade, BEGGING my mother to wear her old blue eyeshadow and clumpy mascara. I’ve done my hair and makeup every day since then. I’ve always found there was power in having your face “on,” especially working in fashion, where your “look” is everything and standards are high. Your style is your calling card and I’ve always rose  to the occasion. Until I got pregnant…

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Wearing the entire MAC store on my face at my baby shower

Once pregnant, I no longer had the energy to put into my normal routine. Every morning I would wake up with what felt like the worst hangover of my life and stare at the mirror and think “not this again!” I stopped blow-drying and styling my hair, opting instead for air-drying and signature hair-flip. I stopped wearing the bold lipstick I was known for, sticking to ultra-moisturizing lip balm. I stopped wearing primer, foundation, bronzer, blush, eyeshadow and brow gel. And you know what? For the first time in 20 years of wearing makeup, I liked what I saw.

Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in public with a bare face and bad hair. I hated my under-eye bags, my pale complexion, my forehead wrinkles and enlarged pores. I hated my limp, straight hair that looks greasy after 1 day. But, there was something about being full of life that changed my perception. I had a greater purpose than just my looks…I was going to be someone’s mom, someone’s everything. And it was that realization that gave me the boost of self-love I needed to go fresh-faced into the world.

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Makeup free and 37 weeks pregnant

Skin care became incredibly important to me during this time. Pregnancy had effed with my normally smooth complexion and gave me acne and a weird discolored patch of skin on my forehead. I tried a number of different skincare cocktails, but my favorite products were the following:

 

  1. Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet : Gel-cream that intensely moisturize and calms dehydrated, irritated skin.s1424266-main-Lhero.jpg
  2. CaudalieVinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence : Brightening essence that sweeps away dead skin cells to reveal brighter, smoother, more even skin.s1943026-main-Lhero

  3. Biotherm Aquasource Total Eye Revitalizer : Eye revitalizer to give eyes an awakened look.s1785120-main-Lhero
  4. Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment : Moisturizes, protects, and smooths the lips with a blend of moisture-preserving sugar and nourishing oils.s1148113-main-Lhero

I have not put on a stitch of makeup since the end of May when I started my maternity leave (that’s almost 8 weeks without makeup!) I’ve gone to restaurants, family events, the mall and doctor’s appointments with a bare-face and haven’t given it a second thought. Even though I’m suffering from severe sleep deprivation and haven’t showered in 3 days…I still feel as beautiful as I do with a face full of makeup. Maybe that’s because of the enormous smile that hasn’t left my face since little Charlotte Adele arrived in the world.

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My under-eye bags have bags and I’ve never been happier!

Do you wear makeup every day? Want to embrace the #nomakeup trend? Need some skin suggestions? Let’s talk about in the comments…