June 22, 2015

Today I Am Scared

Today I just want to crawl into a shell making sure baby #2 is happy in his current home. I am so anxious to meet him. I can't wait to hold him in my arms and feel his soft baby skin against my own but I don't want that to happen today. Today is a big day for me and next Sunday will be an equally as big as it represents the day that we actually had baby #1. If I can make it through this week, I will feel a huge sense of relief. It will give me the knowledge that I have essentially set a new PR for giving birth - I apologize for the sport analogy but some things will never change.

If you were to align my first and second pregnancies in terms of weeks and months, today marks the day that my water broke with my first. It was seven weeks prior to my due date and my husband was literally across the country, the whole experience was terrifying.

Truth be told, I'm almost as scared today as I was then. Today marks a huge personal milestone in my second pregnancy. I'm reliving memories of time spent in the hospital, consoled by family and friends, under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses, with mounting anticipation and fear waiting for the arrival of our little boy. I spent the the next five days in the hospital prior to the birth of our son. Over those five days I was told what to expect after the birth - lung failure, possible developmental lapses, complications eating and the list went on. I knew that my son would be taken to NICU. I knew that we could encounter a long list of complications. I knew that I had never faced a more terrifying experience in my life. What I didn't know was whether or not I would hold my son.

It was the one thing that keep me up at night, other than the hourly temperature checks to make sure I didn't spike a fever indicating an infection. I didn't know if the possible complications would cause the medical team to rush Austin off to NICU so quickly that I would be denied the opportunity to hold my beautiful baby. Praise Jesus that wasn't the case.

Moments after having him Austin cried a very healthy, beautiful cry and I held him along with my husband. Our family instantly felt more complete and my heart was full. I knew at that point that no matter what would happen in NICU my precious boy was a fighter. He came out with the spirit of a fighter and we were blessed that our time in the NICU was minimal and honestly pretty uneventful. That does not however, mean it wasn't difficult.

Leaving your child at the hospital after being discharged was the single most difficult thing I have ever experienced. I remember the first day when they told me to go home after giving birth. I waited until the last possible second before leaving my baby. I was wheeled to the front doors of the hospital and I sat anxiously next to several other proud mothers as our husbands, boyfriends, family or friends went to pull up the cars. I sat there without my baby. They were beaming with their little ones squirming in their laps. My husband pulled up and I got to my feet but they would not walk forward. The tears were streaming down my face and my heart was racing so fast I thought I was going to have a heart attack. My husband came to my side and my legs gave out. I hit the floor hysterically. I couldn't leave my baby. I couldn't allow him to sit without me in a sterile hospital while I cuddled in my bed at home over 45 minutes away. I just couldn't. My husband literally had to scope me off the ground and carry me sobbing to the car.

As I mentioned in the end everything really was okay with the health and development of our son but that experienced has left an impression. One I hope I never have to relive. One I don't wish upon anyone, ever. Which is why today I am scared.

Be Blessed,
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June 19, 2015

Where to Shop when You're Expecting

For most women we grow up learning how to dress our body type: curvy, athletic, plus size, petite - each and every shape is beautiful. We learn what works for us and what makes us comfortable. Aren't we privileged to live in a world that has such an abundances of choice in clothing and accessories that it can accommodate all these different body types and personal styles?

Here I stand five foot three inches (on a good day) and very busty (on a bad one) - my unique size can be difficult to dress but over the years I've figured out what works and what doesn't. Sure I like to try new things and test the limits, but I have a basic sense of how to rock my assets and hide some of my (perceived) flaws. Now if you were to ask me to strap a basketball to my belly and dress myself  it would be a whole different story - it's not so easy. In fact it's down right difficult!

Expecting mother's face this challenge daily. The desire to look cute/professional/put together {fill in the blank}but with the added challenge of significant weight gain over a short period. In a sense you have to relearn how to dress yourself and the most challenging part is that just when you figure it all out - your body continues to change. It's an evolving problem. Throw in the different body types and maternity shopping can be more than a challenge, it can rock the confidence of almost any already hormonal expecting mother.

In an effort to help you shop and save you some headaches I put together a list of great places to shop for most of your maternity needs. This list is not comprehensive - but please let me know if I've left anything off so that I can added it for all you moms to be. I've only included places that have online buying options, since the last thing I want to do pregnant and with a toddler is go to the mall and try stuff on.

Super trendy dresses, jeans, tops, occasion wear and swimwear won't leave you feeling like you have to rely solely on basics to get you through your 10 month pregnancy.
Sizes: 6 to 20 (UK sizing)

Burlington Coat Factory
Designer labels but for a fraction of the cost. Burlington offers a great selection of maternity and nursing items, including intimates and activewear.
Sizes: S-XL

Destination Maternity 
Trendy options for the hip mama. A sister store to Motherhood Maternity and Pea in the Pod this is their mid-level option with some designer selections available.
Sizes: XS-XL (pre-pregnancy size 0-18) - Designer options from size 24-34.

Functional, practical and stylish. Gap provides wardrobe staples and plenty of extra trendy pieces to help round out an expecting mama's closet.
Sizes:XS-XL and 00-20

Rock the latest trends without breaking the bank. H&M gives you the latest in fashion and accessories for pregnant fashion mavens worldwide.
Sizes:XS-XL and 2-16

Defined by comfort, luxury and style, Hatch is a high-end maternity boutique that offers the latest in runway-inspired fashions that will leave you feeling good and looking great throughout your pregnancy.
Sizes: 2-10 and Petite

Motherhood Maternity 
Reasonably priced maternity options for the everyday mom. A sister store to Destination Maternity and Pea in the Pod this is their lower-priced option.
Sizes: XS - XXXL (pre-pregnancy size 0-26).

Old Navy
Maternity Clothing for every stage of your pregnancy and options appropriate for nursing.
Sizes: XS to XXL

Pea in a Pod 
High-quality, designer brands give mom's an option for comfort and luxury that can be hard to find when you're expecting. A sister store to Destination Maternity and Motherhood Maternity this is their high-end option.
Sizes: XS-XL (pre-pregnancy size 0-18) - Designer options from size 24-34.

PinkBlush Maternity
"PinkBlush brings the latest trends in maternity clothes to the modern mother so that she can transition into pregnancy without skipping a beat, delivering bold prints in vibrant hues to make sure you stand out in style."
Sizes: S-XL and Plus sizes 1X-3X

Rosie Pope 
Made by a mom for moms. Rosie Pope intuitively thinks about the changing contour of a woman's body during pregnancy and offers a line of clothing suitable for almost any occasion.
Sizes: XS-XL

Liz Lange Maternity dominates the maternity section of Target but isn't the only option that they provide with their wearable, everyday fashions.
Sizes: XS - XXL.

The Loft Maternity
Just because you're expecting doesn't mean you can't shop at your favorite stores. The Loft Maternity offers stylish options for the trend-setting mama to be.
Sizes: XS- XXL

Top Shop
Top Shop offers pieces that you can wear throughout every step of your pregnancy and even afterward. Functional, practical and always fashionable - your growing belly doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style.
Sizes: 4-16

Maternity clothes for all body types and at a price you can't possibly be mad at. Walmart provides very reasonable maternity options and with thousands of locations nationwide it's conveniently located for almost everyone.
Sizes: S-XXXL

There are also department store options like Macy's, Nordstrom, Sears and JC Penny, all which carry a great variety of maternity options.

Where do you like to shop for your maternity needs?

Be Blessed,
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June 10, 2015

The Story of How My Life Changed

My computer is resting just beyond my growing belly. Sometimes it even moves when my little angel decides to kick or wiggle. I'm currently 31 weeks, and as my impending due date approaches I'm taking some time to reflect back on Austin's birth story - when we did this whole crazy song and dance the first time around.

For all you soon-to-be-mommies you're about to be blessed with one of the greatest gifts on earth. I hope one day you'll be able to look back on your pregnancy and birth experience and realize that God has a very specific plan for you and your baby. This was very evident to me when my water broke 7 weeks early (at 33 weeks) with my first little one, who I dare say is now almost two and half. 

To provide a little context, one day while my husband was planning a trip to San Francisco for business, he suggested that we buy my sister a plane ticket to Atlanta for her birthday. She could come see our new house and we could spend some time together before I had Austin. We were so excited that she and my brother-in-law accepted and decided to come down and spend the weekend with me while Kyle was out of town. 

During their stay we planned to go to an Atlanta landmark, Dante's Down the Hatch (now closed). For those of you unfamiliar with the restaurant, it's a fondu restaurant with live jazz music and the inside hosts a replica of a pirate ship. Dinning there is an experience to say the least.

I was able to take a quick snapshot of the inside of the restaurant, sorry it looks so hazy.
The three of us decided to lounge around the house for a couple hours before we went to for dinner. I (being pretty pregnant) needed a snack and I was in the kitchen cutting up some strawberries when all the sudden.....TMI ALERT.... I felt like I peed myself. I was incredibly embarrassed so I ran upstairs to change and acted like nothing happened; until it happened again. At that point I laughed it off and casually mentioned that something didn't seem right. I didn't make a big deal out of it so my sister and brother-in-law didn't either and we certainly didn't let it stop us from having a great evening. We got ready and went to dinner. And it was everything we'd hoped; theatrics, jazz, great food and great company. However, during that meal I had to excuse myself twice because I felt like I had lost control of my bladder. We finished up and headed home and I'd like to think I played it cool the entire time but secretly my anxiety was mounting.

We got home around 10PM and the uncontrollable bladder continued (my pile of laundry was growing rapidly). At that point, I started to get worried and I texted my husband that I thought my water broke. He was at a business dinner, in San Francisco (we live in Atlanta) so I didn't want to bug him but then it happened again (sigh) and I asked him to call me. We chatted for a minute and I told him I was going to call the doctor, which I did shortly after that, around 12:30AM on Sunday morning. 

I was reluctant, but the doctor wanted me to come to the hospital to make sure that everything was okay. My sister and brother-in-law came with me and we left the house around 1:30AM (count your blessings - we missed all the horrible Atlanta traffic because it was so early).

They checked me in and ran several tests. Later the doctor came in, sat down and told me that I was correct; my water had broken. I had a slow-leak so that's why I never had the "gush" that some women experience. At this point several nurses swarmed into the room and I suddenly started having contractions (blessing - I went for more than 10 hours without contractions after my water initially broke). They were able to stop labor at that point and we called my husband to fill him in on everything that was happening. He was simultaneously going to the airport in an attempt to catch a cross-country flight. The doctor explained that there's a big risk of infection when the baby stays in your womb after your water breaks, but there's also risks for under-developed lungs (amongst many other things) when your baby is born early. The doctor made the quick decision that I would be on bed-rest in an effort to keep him in my belly until my husband could be there. Once he arrived we'd reassess so long as my health and the health of the baby was stable.

This is when things get foggy. There were lots of tests, little sleep, lots of hurrying places just to wait, and lots and lots of doctors, nurses and experts explaining what life would be like raising a premature child. They said the baby was fine and the plan would be that as long as I didn't spike a fever (an indication that he or I was developing an infection) he would remain where he was until I was 34 weeks. That meant I spent the next five days in a hospital bed hooked up to IVs and monitors with nurses in every hour to check my temperature. If I developed a fever I would need to have an emergency C-section, so it was vital that the nurses were diligent in their monitoring. (Blessing - the doctors, nurses and professionals that worked with me were beyond supportive and nurturing during my entire stay). 

We crossed off days on the calendar until February 7th, when I was 34 weeks and they induced me. Since I was induced it took me several hours (6ish) to become fully dilated but the labor itself went incredibly smooth. I pushed 3 times and had Austin in less than 15 minutes. I had an epidural about an hour before his arrival and my advice is DON'T WAIT. If you're planning on having an epidural, in my mind, there's no reason to put yourself through painful hour-after-hour of contractions. 

To say I had a birth plan would be a stretch, but I did know I wanted an epidural (if possible) and I knew that I would trust my doctor's judgement. I expressed these things to my husband and doctor prior to the actual labor. 

I knew that Austin would go to the NICU, regardless of his condition, and the chances were good that there would be some sort of complication, be it underdeveloped lungs or infection. To say I was nervous about his health is an understatement but the moment that he was born I heard the greatest sound that has ever hit my ears; a beautiful, loud and healthy cry. The doctor laid him on my stomach and my husband cut the cord. Moments later I held the joy of my life.

Austin's first picture. Prior to his feeding tubes and IVs.

The experience of having a premature baby in NICU was one of my greatest life lessons and challenges but that's a story for another post. We've been so blessed to have this incredibly resilient, strong, and beautiful bundle of joy join our family and to do so with the support and love of so many family members and friends will be a memory that I will never forget. 

If I had to give you soon-to-be mommies one word of advice it would be to educate yourself but don't over strategize. You and your baby are a part of God's greater plan and that becomes most evident when you have a child. The saying "God laughs when we make plans" has never resonated more for me. I wish you a healthy and easy pregnancy but remember all the pain, stress and discomfort is worth it in the end.


Do you have an interesting birth story or words of encouragement as I approach round #2?

Be Blessed,
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June 4, 2015

Great Skin Care Products for Everyday Use {Takeover}

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May 28, 2015

A Diaper Bag Debate Plus a Giveaway

My family is quickly approaching the arrival of our second beautiful boy. I'm almost 30 weeks pregnant and I'm now in full nesting mood. That means I've got check lists and to dos lined up for days and I'm anxious to get it all done before the baby comes home.

With my first little I was a stressed and busy working mom, always hustling from point A to point B. Some of the decisions I made were for utility and functionality purposes - one of those happened to be the purchase of my diaper bag. My husband and I decided we only needed one diaper bag between the two of us and we thought it was more valuable that the bag connected to my stroller for easy portability. It was not sexy, or beautiful or stylish. In fact it sadly looks like a man bag. It functioned great but there was nothing feminine about it.

Now that I'm a stay at home mama I take my little everywhere and I'm looking for diaper bag that is functional and fashionable. I don't want to lug my purse around AND a diaper bag - I'd rather the two work hand in hand. Here are some important factors that I'm considering for a new diaper bag:

Size - The bag itself needs to be large enough to accommodate all the needs of an infant and toddler while also doubling as a purse.

Fashionable - I want the bag to look great on my shoulder but be neutral enough that I can carry it with almost anything that I wear. Unlike my other bags I don't want to invest in multiples - I just want one. I want one option that can work seamlessly with most of my outfits.

Organization - When you're carrying around littles you never have a free hand so organization is key - think screaming infant, you need to grab a bottle or a pacifier STAT. The last thing you want to do is scramble around searching the bottom of your bag. Organized pockets, with a thermal space for bottles, is key to sanity in my opinion.

Portability - I'm looking for a bag that I can sling over my shoulder when necessary but that I can also carry like a speedy when the mood strikes. Having multiple handle options is definitely a plus in my book.

So naturally I've been doing some shopping, here are some of my favorite options:
Chic Diaper Bags

Help me shop - which of these do you like best?

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Be Blessed,
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May 26, 2015

Let's Be Friends Blog Hop #4

Welcome to the Let's Be Friends Blog Hop!

A blog hop is a set time frame for current or aspiring bloggers to find new blogs and quality content. It is a great way to make new friends and find inspiration! It is also a fabulous way to promote your own blog and posts.

Dear Friends,
What a day to celebrate! This is the 119th week of the Let's Be Friends blog hop! Thanks for joining us on this special day. Chelsee and Tiffany are extremely delighted to see the way this hop has grown and love to see your faces each week!
Join us every Tuesday at 7am (MST). This blog hop focuses on content. LINK UP YOUR FAVORITE POST from last week in this fun content-sharing blog hop! I love the idea of blog hopping, but I love the idea of reading posts and quality content on new blogs I've never been to even more. Instead of simply linking up your blog button, you are now able to link up your favorite post you recently wrote. Have a delicious recipe to share, DIY tutorial, or heartfelt post? Share it with us! All hosts and co-hosts put up some unique and fun content from the past week. Make sure to check them out. P.S.- you may still link up your blog button and blog name, but it is encouraged to link up your favorite post instead. You will get more page views and interest if you do so! Some of the most successful blog hops I have participate in focus on content rather than just exchanging follows. You never know who will become a loyal follower or pin that delicious new recipe you posted!
The BEST part of this blog hop? Each week there will be a WINNER! That's right, each week we will choose one lucky blog to feature from the previous week's hop. This hop receives thousands of page views every week, so your blog will have the chance to be center stage for free. You must follow all the hosts and co-hosts in order to win. Only those who link up a specific post are eligible to be featured! *You must follow all the hosts and co-hosts in order to win.
The last exciting change is that the co-host spots will now be available to all sponsors of The Dwelling Tree or Southern Beauty Guide. If you are interested in co-hosting the blog hop, email Tiffany or Chelsee about sponsorship opportunities and how to co-host the weekly hop!
There are a couple of great giveaways going on right now at Southern Beauty Guide and The Dwelling Tree. Go check them out! :)

Let's Be Friend's Blog Hop Guidelines
1. Link up your favorite post from your week.
2. Follow your hosts and co-hosts.
3. Grab the button and post it on your blog so we can share the love.
4. Visit 3 other blogs, comment, and follow them along!
5. Tweet about this blog hop, using #letsbefriends
6. Pin the button on pinterest so we can spread the news!

***Once a week, one blog will be chosen to be the featured blogger from the previous blog hop.
Meet your hosts:
The Dwelling Tree: Blog, Bloglovin'
Southern Beauty Guide: Blog, Bloglovin'

Meet this week's co-host:
PicMonkey Collage
Christine @ So-Called Homemaker
Brittany @ Everyday Thoughts

***This weeks featured post from last week's hop:
Thank you all once again for continually linking up at our blog hop. It is such a fun time and I am so impressed each week with all the amazing posts. Please continue to link up an actual post instead of your blog. We want to keep reading your content and it makes it more fun to pick a winner!
Is there anything we can do differently or better? Please share in the comments!
...on to the Winner!

Hi friends! This is Chelsee this week! I can't explain how much my family loves Mexican food. Especially tacos! I knew when I saw this recipe from Winks and Eyerolls I had to pass it along to all of you. Doesn't this look gorgeous! I think this is the perfect time of year to try recipes like this and I plan to be try this asap!
Check out Winks and Eyerolls from Sierra and Faith! They have the cutest blog and I can't wait to see what else they can come up with, because these tacos look amazing!

Keep posting awesome content! You make it so fun for us to read all your posts! If you can, please link up a specific post. It makes it easier for us to come and visit!