Monday, October 28, 2013

Maternity Monday: The Curse of Women NOT Sharing The Woes of Pregnancy

In light of the tragic passing of a new mother who I've never met, but that many people that I know knew, I felt compelled to write about some of the awful things women go through when they're pregnant that for some reason, perhaps because it's too painful, we don't talk about.  There are so many things that can and do go wrong.  These things are so common, yet unfortunately, often times out of shame and embarrassment, women don't talk about, even amongst ourselves.  Having been through one of these experiences this year myself, I know first hand what a shame it is that we don't openly share such things with one another.  Even though you'd never wish it upon anyone, it is comforting to know you're not alone.  So, I wanted to talk about a couple (of the many) such experiences.

Valentines Day this year was what would be one of the most exciting days of my life.  Mike and I had our first go at trying to conceive about a month before.  He was away on business, and I decided to take a pregnancy test that morning.  I was beside myself and absolutely elated when that test came out positive.  I spent my lunch break running out and putting together the most special valentine for Mike ever- the news that we were going to be parents.  In addition to the gifts I'd already gotten him, I put together a package with the book My Boys Can Swim: The Official Guy's Guide To Pregnancy and the positive pregnancy test. Here's pics and a [very personal] video of him opening it- something I was so excited to capture:

(pardon the excited expletives!)

That video now breaks my heart.  After going to the doctor and confirming we were in fact expecting, just a few days later, I woke up knowing something was wrong.  I had been feeling very pregnant, experiencing a lot of the symptoms of pregnancy- extreme fatigue, breast tenderness, all-day morning sickness, etc.  That morning, though, I woke up and felt great.  I remember telling Mike while we were having breakfast that I kind of miss feeling like crap because it was reassuring; I didn't even feel pregnant.  Mike told me to chalk it up to a good day, and I thought maybe he was right- I should appreciate a little respite from the miserable parts of pregnancy!  Later, I began spotting.  That got me googling.  I found that spotting could be okay, but any combination of things happening, including loss of pregnancy symptoms and bleeding, you should call your doctor.  When I got home that evening, the spotting became bleeding accompanied by sharp pains and cramping, and I immediately called the after hours line at my doctors' office.  They told me to get to the ER.  I cried the whole way there, praying as hard as I could that the baby was okay.  A few hours and lots of uncomfortable tests later, we found out that we had lost the pregnancy.  They told me that I had experienced a very common type of miscarriage called a chemical pregnancy.  Although we had conceived, the fertilized egg, for some reason or another, did not successfully implant in the uterus. It didn't feel common at all to me. It felt like the worst thing that could possibly happen.  I felt like it wasn't the pregnancy that had failed, it was I that had failed.

That's when I quickly began realizing that these things really are common, they're just not spoken about.  The sweet ER doctor taking care of me told me it had happened to her, too.  The next morning (just a few hours later), after tearfully calling my and Mike's moms, my next call was to my boss to let him know I wouldn't be coming in.  And guess what he told me- the exact same thing had happened to him and his wife, too.  And another one of my bosses called me a a few minutes later saying they'd gone through it, too, only their miscarriage was well into the second trimester (which I cannot even began to fathom).  And a co-worker of mine said the same thing.  Then family friends said it'd happened to them.  I was overwhelmed by all the people who it had also happened to.  I was sorry for their painful loss, but in a way comforted in that it wasn't just me.  I was also in disbelief that it took me going through this to realize this was even something that happened... quite often.  The doctors told me that it happens to about 50% of women, and half of those women (so 25% of all women) don't even know it happened to them (they weren't looking for a pregnancy, and thus think it's a really awful period).  Here is another forum that shows how common it is. Even though it doesn't make a miscarriage easier, it does offer some comfort that you didn't do anything wrong and that you're not alone. Mike is a pretty private guy, and I didn't exactly feel like shouting it from the rooftops, but I knew immediately that this was something that I wouldn't be withholding; I knew it was something that women should share with each other and be aware of.

I took the time to heal, and Mike and I were able to try again successfully a few months later.  As many of you know, I am the very proud, thankful, humbled, scared sh*tless expectant mother of a sweet bun in the oven.  I am obviously currently in the midst of one the happiest time in my life, almost into my third trimester with our sweet baby boy who I already love so inexplicably much.  I've never prayed harder for a healthy, successful pregnancy and happy, healthy baby.  I am optimistic that everything is okay this time, but still so scared, knowing I might not be one of the lucky ones.  My experience with miscarriage has humbled me so much.  I am thankful beyond words for this baby in my belly, but so aware of the many things that can go wrong.  We've had still birth in our family and amongst friends, and have friends with babies born with tragic diseases as well as non-life threatening but life altering diseases and disorders.  And most recently, which will be my next point, I've learned of horrible things that I would never think would happen to me happen to women just like me after giving birth. I know I am not immune to any of these.  While this is by far the happiest time in my life, I am sensitive to these things and the people who are going through it or have gone through it.  For this reason, I don't complain on social media about my morning sickness or other, normal, crappy pregnancy symptoms.  Because I've been the woman wishing I could have that stuff back, willing to trade anything in the world for it.  You never know what someone on your Facebook friends list is going through, and I've become sensitive to that and have learned to truly appreciate the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes with being an expectant mother.

Speaking of Facebook, just the other week, I saw a friend post something about one of her best friends passing away and sending her love to her friend's widower and their little baby.  Of course, thinking of Mike and our baby alone, that struck a chord with me, and I wondered what had happened.  Soon, other Facebook friends of mine (all from the same area) posted about the same girl, and I learned that she took her own life while experiencing postpartum depression.  I read a beautiful blog posted about her death and was overwhelmed with so many thoughts.  I'd heard of postpartum depression, but never postpartum psychosis or someone going so far as taking their own life from their postpartum depression.  Also, I've spoken to two of my friends with babies who both said they were depressed after delivering their babies.  This, too, is more common than most of us know.  It struck me that, like me, in talking about it, the author of the blog was surprised to learn just how common it is.  When she talked to women who said they'd had postpartum depression, she asked why she never knew this, to which they replied, "I was ashamed. I felt like I wasn't a good mother."  Perhaps what resonated most with me was that this new mother, Alexis, "was strong. She was happy. She was loved. If this could happen to her, it can happen to any of us."  Whenever I think about it, I see the picture of a happy, pregnant Alexis, I girl I never even knew, at her baby shower and see myself in her.  I felt compelled to pass her story on since she can't, and I hope that it can help women be informed, not feel ashamed, and share their experiences with one another.

If you've followed my blog at all, you know that I enjoy and celebrate my pregnancy.  As we should!  Pregnancy is a happy time that should be celebrated.  At the same time, there is SO much that an expectant mother worries about.  I just wanted to share about a few of these worries to hopefully open the door to women sharing and talking with one another rather than keeping painful experiences private, as knowing we are not alone when something bad happens helps.  Women should not be ashamed of such experiences happening to them.  Often times, these things are beyond our control, more common than we realize, and can happen to anyone.  I think sharing our stories can help to diminish the shame that women feel when these things happen.  I know it helped me get through such a difficult time. The other thing that helps, especially in things like postpartum depression, is being informed.  As I've learned through Alexis's story, it really can happen to anyone, however there are things you can do to prevent it, starting with being cognizant of it.

Not fun, not fancy, but certainly simple... not alone and here for you, too, girl...


Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Simple/Fancy/Fun 1st Birthday: Stella's Pink Party!

Our dear friends, Carrie and Derek's sweet baby girl, Stella just turned one!  Carrie reached out to me to help throw her a party for her first birthday.  Together with our very talented friend, Nicole (and Stella's awesome grandmother, Robin), we had so much fun throwing one precious "Pink Party" (like a "white party," only pink, pink, and more PINK!)... complete with lots of S/F/F touches, and all the guests sporting pink, of course!
Stella's adorable invitation and coordinating thank you note From Etsy shop, MommiesInk

The Drink Bar:

Mimosas and Bloody Mary's for grown ups, lemonade (in beverage dispenser and juice packs) and waters for everyone!
Custom matching water bottle labels from Etsy store, MommiesInk

The obligatory mimosa bar!  Carafes and vases from Ikea with juices and corresponding fruit for garnishes; straws from Etsy, Shoppe3130

Stella's Sweet Shoppe:

Bunting banner made by Carrie over a simple streamer/crepe paper curtain (adhered to yarn and hung with balloons)

Amazing cupcake cake homemade by Nicole!

Candy bar for take-home treats!

Custom mini cupcakes from Lilly Magilly's 

Pink Rice Crispie Treats!

Other sweet det's...

Carrie made a Shutterfly album of Stella's first year for guest to sign with a message for Stella.  We placed it on the gift table with a name sign made by Robin

Birthday banner handmade by Robin using patterned paper and yarn

Deck setup with toys for the tiny tots, including a pop up castle from Amazon
Simple pink Gerbera daisy centerpieces on the outdoor tables
The brunch spread by Robin, including a "baby buffet" with gold fish, pirate's booty, and Cheerios for the little ones

Happy Birthday to our favorite little Chunk!!

the mastermind dream team ;)

What a cool family?!

The family donning pink for Stelly Belly!
4 generations

Gifts galore!

We hope you had the BEST 1st birthday, beautiful baby girl!!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fav Things Friday: Primp Yo' Self

From drugstore picks to fancier finds, here are some of my favorite tried and true beauty products:

Gradual Self Tanning Body Lotion:

St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Body Moisturizer
Having flirted with lots of different brands of self-tanning products, this is by far my favorite.  My two pet peeves with these products were the mineral-y smell and the orangey color they'd turn your skin.  My fab mother-in-law gave me a little tube of this product, and I'm committed.. no more flirting for me.  Not only does it give me a great, even bronze, but it smells delish, and perfumey, too.

Makeup Tool:

I have a confession to make.  I suck at makeup brushes.  At any given time, I have like 4 in my arsenal and that's it.  And they're never that great.  Like, of the 4 I have now, 2 are from a cosmetics outlet and 2 came with products (and all cost me less than 30 bucks each).  Yeah I said it.  I'm not ashamed.  I don't even care because these mamma jammas are baaaad.  Between this and the much cheaper Up & Up Latex Super Blender (which I bought at Target before the BeautyBlender was available in stores at Sephora), I don't even use brushes on my face anymore (just eyes).  When I got the cheaper, latex version, I youtube'd it and found this tutorial video for a similar one that was life changing.  Changed my whole makeup routine.  I now use these bad boys to apply everything except for eye makeup.  They're quick and easy to use, you can transition between products with them without a problem, and the finish is better than any other makeup applicator I've encountered.  I prefer the BeautyBlender for foundation and blending, and the firmer, cheaper latex one for concealer around my eyes, powder, bronzer, and blush.  Get one, even the cheaper one, and watch that video.  You're welcome.

Favorite Drugstore Line: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Products:

Palmer's Swivel Stick
Hands down my fav chap stick.  I've been using "the gluestick" for years. Glides on so smoothly, you don't want to stop (I often wonder if people who might see me putting it on for way longer than what's socially comfortable are judging me), and leaves lips moisturized and kissably soft with just the tiniest sheen.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Lotion
Another longtime go-to, this body formula is non-greasy and has a light , sweet scent that makes me want to eat it.  I used it back before I met my husband in my late teens, and still count on it as my post-shower all over body lotion... and he still comments on my soft skin!

Palmer's Cocoa Butter- Stretch mark lotion
Preggo fav! This is now my everyday after shower body lotion.  Keeps me nice 'n moisturized all day, even as my belly stretches.  No stretch marks yet (knock on wood)!  To supplement, I also use Bio Oil on my belly, boobs, and booty before bed (alliteration station!). 

Skincare Secret:

Clarisonic Skin Cleansing System
As someone who has battled "bad" (acne prone) skin for a long time, this is arguably my best beauty find ever.  One of my fancy friends who has also dealt with unfavorable skin for a long time recommended it to me.  She is a product junkie though, so before splurging on a $150 product, I decided to do a little research.  Its by the same makers as Sonicare toothbrushes (which I also love), and if you've ever used, you know there's a legit difference between them  and a regular toothbrush or motorized toothbrush.  I also stumbled upon a review by one of my fav style inspirationistas, Emily Maynard on her blog where she said that she doesn't really know why it works, but it does.  She explained that sometimes, if she happens to skip using the clarisonic, she definitely sees a difference in her skin, and said there must be something about the little vibrations that help acne.  She was spot on. This has worked better for me than any dermatologist prescription, and I love that I am able to use it while pregnant (can't-do with the prescriptions, and don't even need to!).  Oh and a secret for cleaning the brush- soak in a solution of 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part hydrogen peroxide.... you won't have to replace the pricey brush heads nearly as often!

Eye Brighteners:

A makeup pet peeve of mine (more on myself than others) is lining the waterline of the bottom eyelid in a dark color.  You spend all this time on eye makeup, trying to make your eyes look bigger, and then you go and make them smaller by putting a dark color there.  Don't get me wrong, I like bottom liner, just under the waterline on the lash line to open the eye.  Then I was introduced to a light color on the waterline and love it.  It really brightens the eye and whitens the eye whites.  I've used the $20 Benefit version for a while now (I liked how it held up better than others I'd tried from Sephora), and recently saw a commercial for the Rimmel version, and being the sucker to marketing that I am, snagged it while strolling through Target (gets ya every time!!).  I couldn't not try it for under 5 bucks!  So glad I did, because I often find myself reaching for it over the Benefit version, even, especially when I'm going for a more natural look.  

Primpin' ain't easy...


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Throwback Thursday, Special Edition: Meagan's Bridal Shower and How to Co-Host A Shower

Whether you're a bridesmaid, loving friend, or family to the bride/mommy-to-be, throwing a bridal or baby shower can be a daunting task.  Here, I will outline how it doesn't have to be by featuring one of the least stressful and most fun showers to co-host, which was in honor of a dear friend of mine, Meagan, becoming a Mrs.!

In the beginning, you'll want to figure out who is interested in hosting.  Most of the time, this will be bridesmaids, sisters and mothers of the bride, and family of the groom for a bridal shower; and aunts and grandmothers of the bun in the oven, and best friends of the mommy-to-be for baby showers.  There may be a sprinkling of people who are not in the wedding party or family who want to help.  Depending on how many hostesses you have and how much needs to be done, you can gauge priority of who will be a hostess and who may be able to help in another way, like bringing a dish or something else they want to contribute.  For instance, for Meagan's [east coast] shower (she had another shower given by her family who lives on the west coast), we had the 4 [local] bridesmaids and the mother of the groom, which, for the small size of the east coast shower was plenty.  So when other people offered to help, we told them thanks and we would let them know if we needed anything (which we would!).  On the other hand, there might not be a lot of willing and able hostesses or the party may be overwhelming, in which case, the more, the merrier!  The last couple showers I've hosted, I've been lucky in that the mothers and mothers-in-law of the guest of honor have wanted to foot the bill for a large portion of the shower (the clubhouse rental fee, the catering, the bill at a restaurant, etc.), so the bridesmaids/other hostesses took charge of everything else.  That might not always be the situation, in which case it's great to have a number of hostesses to divvy everything up.

In any circumstance, the most important thing is to keep lines of communication between hostesses open!  What we did to plan Meagan's shower was a group email where I initially put a few invitation ideas out, we collectively decided which we liked best, and from there, our theme was decided (to match the invitation).  From there, as we did, you may have one or two hostesses take charge with details (design/decor, menu, etc.), or everyone may be full of ideas.  In any of these situations, be sure to acknowledge other people's input/ideas/opinions.  If there's something you may not necesarily love, you can suggest something to make it work (or something else altogether), explain why you're not a big fan, or put it out to the group for debate- just be nice and tactful- you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or overstep any boundaries.

Also, trying to keep it fair and stay within people's budgets (which may vary) can be tricky, especially since sometimes this isn't even discussed.  Compiling a list of all the ideas/everything that needs to be done and allowing people to pick what they'll take care of is a great way to start, and allows people to pick what they're willing to contribute.  Breaking it up into details/decorations, food, and drinks is also a great way to keep you organized.

Spreadsheet from my sister-in-law's baby shower, compiled by one of my co-hostesses

On that note, what you'll need to nail down (decide on and divvy up) for a simple/fancy/fun shower:
  • Venue (someone's home, a rental facility like a neighborhood clubhouse, a private room at a restaurant, etc.)
  • Invitations 
    • *S/F/F note: Always always always do paper invitations (no e-invitation) for these milestone celebrations, and always have them printed or print them yourself.  No handwritten, fill-in-the-blank dollar store-esque invitations, people! We aren't turning 4 and this isn't 1987.  There are TONS of options to fit any budget.  You can get a custom design from Etsy and then print at home for well under a dollar per invitation.  Many websites (like this) offer varieties for under a dollar per invitation (price goes down with quantity), as well.  If there's one thing that's non-negotiable to me, it's this.  
    • A common question I'm asked is how far in advance invitations should go out.  My rule of thumb is at least 4, preferably 6 weeks before the shower.
    • Someone will have to be in charge of sending these out, as well.  Whoever this is will have to account for postage in their budget.
  • Menu 
    • Food and drinks
      • If you are supplying the food (rather than having it catered or hosting at a restaurant restaurant), decide who will bring what
      • What meal will you be serving
      • For drinks, I always suggest having at least one alcoholic option and one non-alcoholic option.  Usually, I'll do wine and a signature cocktail or mimosa bar, a beverage dispenser with lemonade (or other beverage), and still and sparkling water.
    • Dessert
  • [It's all about the...] Details, details, details!
    • Decor- centerpieces, banners, special touches, balloons, flowers, etc.
      • Often, things like serve ware can be incorporated into this, like we did at Meagan's shower (as you'll see below) and the flatware roll ups at Mike's 30th bday
        • Plates, cups, flatware/utensils, napkins, wine coolers, beverage dispensers, beverage tubs, tablecloths....
    • Favors and game prizes
    • Shower games
  • Put it all together!  The day of, show up early to set everything up, and have a plan for a tentative schedule/flow of events ready beforehand (approximate time guests will be arriving, allot time foe games, eating time, and opening presents).  
If you're hosting alone and/or want to keep costs down, I always suggest a brunch.  For food, you could do bagels with cream cheese on the side as well as a homemade egg salad and tuna salad, lettuce and tomato for bagel sandwiches, and a couple easy, versatile sides like fruit salad and a simple green salad.  Another great option is a tea party or spa themed party (or a cocktail party for a bridal shower), between meals (at like 2 or 3:00) where you can keep food light and to a minimum.

Here's some snapshots from Meagan's "Bubble Trouble" Bridal Shower:

Doc Milo "Bubbles and Pearls" Invitation- the decor inspiration

 framed invitation displayed on dessert and drink bar,  Cupcakes by Georgetown Cupcake (with to-go boxes for guests to take home if they want)

more desserts! chocolate eclairs, brownie bites made by co-hostess Melissa, and beautiful chocolate covered strawberries made by co-hostess Lauren served on tiered serving platter

mini "bubbly" champagne favors with Doc Milo flag straws- these were a labor of love! We removed the original label and scrubbed the adhesive residue off, replaced them with personalized labels, spray painted the foil tops silver to match, and tied the strays (which we stuck the flags on) to the bottles with ribbon.  All in all, took 3 girls about an hour- and hour and a half.

Framed favor sign (made in Word): "Bubble and Kisses... Here's to the Soon-to-be Misses! xoxox Please take one!" displayed with personalized hershey kisses next to the mini champagne favors

Herhey's Kisses with printed labels

coordinating flower arrangements

Signature Cocktail: "Bubble Trouble Champagne Punch": sparkling wine, lemonade, vodka, St. Germaine elderflower liquor, vodka, sprite, lemon twists; tag made by the very talented co-hostess Melissa (one day I'll convince her to open an Etsy shop!)

the bar!

Cupcake cake by Lilly Magilly's

We set the food out (appetizers first for when guests arrived, then [an organic!] dinner catered by Zoe's Kitchen) in the dining room decorated with a balloon/bubble "chandelier" with pictures of the groom growing up on one side, the bride growing up on the other, and pictures of the two of them together in the middle).  

"bubbly" ballon chandelier

Note- the pictures do weigh down the balloons, so you have to trim them to be light enough to stay afloat!

coordinating silverware roll ups with faux engagement rings (found at Michael's) tied on

Gazpacho shooters made by moi!

Shower Mad Libs- we punched holes in the top and tied them together to compile a keepsake booklet for the bride

Game prizes: Philosophy Shampoo, Bubble Bath, & Shower Gel in Bubbly (of course!), and coordinating washcloths from Target, tied with matching ribbon

The Newlywed Game with the happy couple (when the groom made his cameo appearance)!

The butler saying goodbye and offering another parting gift- bubbles, duh!

Framed sign for embellished bubble wand favors made in Word: "Bubble Bubble, There Goes Trouble!  Thanks for being here!"

A lot of collaboration by "the dream team" of hostesses made for a fabulous celebration for our sweet Meaggie!  You can do the same with a little love and coordination skills for your guest of honor!  Remember, we're always here for suggestions- just leave a comment if ya need help!

Cheers (wish I had some bubbly!),

The hostesses with the then bride-to-be and flower girl!