Monday, September 29, 2014

our labor of love {rowan's birth story}

When I was pregnant with Rowan I obsessively read blogger birth stories. Even though I knew our birth experience would be fairly traditional(in a hospital and attended by my OBGYN) because my age and gestational diabetes placed in a high risk category I was endlessly fascinated by all of the options that are available. And so, I devoured birth stories of some my favorite bloggers. Sometimes moved to tears as I read about those sweet moments that marked the start of a new season in their lives.

I had hopes of writing our own story and sharing sweet photos as we welcomed our new little blessing into the the world and our family. However, Rowan's entrance into the world was quite a bit different from the one we had planned.

I researched a lot during this pregnancy. At some point I think Doug even suggested that I stepping away from the internet might be really good for my mental health! I obviously came across many birth plans-what to include and what to leave off, how long they should be, etc. So going into this we decided to forgo an official "plan" and put together more of an outline. It was pretty basic. We were taking birthing classes so I was interested in trying to have an unmedicated labor, but I gave myself permission to ask for an epidural if I thought the pain was really intense or if I became super anxious and freaked out. I only wanted my husband and necessary medical staff in the room. We would wait an hour or so to call friends and family so that we could bond with him first. And, finally, trust my doctor. I love my doctors and received great prenatal care. Giving birth was not the time for me to act like I know everything about everything.

*warning things get a little TMI-ish from here*

My due date was May 3. To be perfectly honest my pregnancy was a rough one. I had morning sickness for four months which ushered in a few months of the most vicious heart burn I've ever had. I also had insomnia and would go 24-30 hours without sleep. And, then I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes which required medication to control. I felt like I was failing my baby. I was supposed to provide him with a safe and secure place to grow and I was a mess. So when I woke up on March 24 feeling sick I wasn't that concerned. I had an upset stomach and a headache. I forced myself to eat so that I could take my medicine and then spent most of the morning in bed.

Sometime after noon I decided to take a shower and get dressed so that I could run to the grocery store. I went to the bathroom, took a shower and started to get dressed. At this point I felt some discharge. I checked things out and it was clear, like water.  Because pregnancy is weird I kind of dismissed it. But, as I was getting ready there was more of it. It had been 15 minutes since the last time I checked and my underwear was completely soaked. I think this is when it dawned on me that my it might be my water breaking. Yes, I've had four babies before this but I never had my water break. I've always had to have the doctor break it once labor started. So, I was under the notion that it would be a big gush. However, it was more like a slow leak. I called Doug at work to tell him my suspicions. Then I called my doctor. Even while I was on hold I still didn't really believe I was in labor. It was too soon! We weren't even close to being ready. My shower had been two weeks earlier but there was still so much stuff that needed to be done. The office told me to head over to labor and delivery. This was it! I didn't even have a bagged packed. I had scheduled it on my calender to do the following week. So, I tossed a pair of socks, some lip balm and my bronzer into my purse(because priorities!) and waited for my husband to pick me up and drive me to the hospital.

Once we were checked in and I was examined the nurse informed us that I was indeed in labor and we would be meeting our baby in 24 hours or less. This is when I cried! We were going to have our baby almost 7 weeks early. This is also when I started freaking out about the actual giving birth portion of events!!

We made calls to our family and a few close friends to let them know this little nugget was indeed on his way. We called him to let my son and daughter know that we were at the hospital and being admitted. I also had my daughter pack some of stuff-toiletries,makeup,camera,charger and ipad-in a bag. Our wonderful neighbors had volunteered to bring whatever we needed to the hospital as well as keep an eye on the kids for us. My brother-in-law stopped by to see how we were holding up and to bring phone chargers. Once I was settled in and we knew it would be awhile before I would transition into active labor I sent the two of them off to get a few things that were still missing from my hospital bag. We had short visits from our neighbors and my mother and father-in-law. There were also calls and text messages to other family members assuring them we were fine and everything was proceeding normally just a little earlier than planned.

We checked in around 3:30 and after several hours I was progressing but very slowly. The doctors ordered pitocin. This was my first indication that maybe things weren't going to go the way I'd imagined. I was concerned that the pitocin would make the contractions unbearable and I would wind up needing an epidural. Thankfully, Doug was there to talk me down. Reassuring me that the important thing was our baby. He wasn't going to care if I had an epidural and giving birth isn't a contest. A few hours later I was at 4 cm, the pain was becoming more intense and I was having an anxiety  attack. I decided to consent to the epidural.

My doctor came in and checked me. Things were progressing nicely and our baby would be arriving some time during the middle of the night. We decided to try to rest before it was push time. We dimmed the lights and listened to some music. At some point I fell asleep.

This is where things get frantic. I don't remember falling asleep and I only vaguely recall waking up. I felt light headed. I had only had a yogurt and some turkey bacon for breakfast so I assumed the dizziness was due to the gestational diabetes and that my blood sugar had dropped. I know at this time I heard beeping. In my foggy brain i assumed it was the fetal heart monitor. He was moving around so much that it was hard for them to get a continuous heartbeat. I pressed the nurses button. I heard them discussing putting an internal monitor in so that they could get a better reading. From her on out I don't have an clear recollection. The nurses turned the lights on, rolled me from my side to my back and pulled back the blankets. It was at this moment that my blood pressure dropped dangerously low-68/32-and they saw that I was hemorrhaging. There was blood and tissue everywhere. I heard someone shouting to get the doctor and something about heading to surgery. I know they put an oxygen mask on me. I was in and out of consciousness. I wasn't sure what was happening but I knew it was bad. I thought I was going to die and if somehow I managed to survive I was sure my baby wouldn't. The nurse told me they were taking me to the OR and they had to get my baby out immediately. She asked me if they had permission to operate and I nodded weakly. As we made it through the doors of the operating room I said to her "I don't care what happens to me but please save my baby!"

There was lots of activity around me. I didn't know what was happening and I think because they were not yet sure if either of us would survive Doug was not allowed into surgery with me. The anesthesiologist, Jack, was so kind. He held my hand and tried to keep me calm. Then I heard a tiny cry. He was here! On Tuesday March 25 at 1:32 am Rowan Joseph made a dramatic entrance into the world. I don't know when Doug was allowed into the room but he was there reassuring me we were going okay. I asked him to check on the baby and make sure he looked good. He was small 4 lbs 11 oz but he seemed healthy. A nurse brought him over so that I could give him a kiss and then he was taken to the NICU. I was in surgery a bit longer and once I was stitched up they moved me into recovery.

For the next few hours I was pretty out of it. When things started to look bad Doug called his mom. I'm so happy that he had someone there with him to help him stay calm. Around 7 am I felt lucid enough to call my mom and tell her that the baby had been born. The first day of my son's life I only saw him for two very brief moments. In the OR right after he was born and around 2 they decided to move to a room so they wheeled my bed into the NICU so I could see him before they transferred me. I was in and out of it. Only lucid for very short periods of time. I was in a lot of pain. The next morning Doug wheeled me down to see the baby. He was so tiny. I was afraid to hold him. I sobbed because I felt like I had failed him. I'm his mom and from the minute I knew he existed it was my job to protect him and give them the best start to life. This, hooked up to wires and monitors. This was not it. My body had failed to nourish him and had almost killed him. It felt like he had bonded with his dad and even the nurses in my absence. So, I just sat next to him and held his tiny hand and whispered a thousand apologies and told him I loved him over and over.

Back in my room the doctor stopped to tell us what had happened. I suffered a placental abruption. Essentially the placenta pulls away from the wall of the uterus. Some women suffer partial abruptions but mine was a complete one. If we had not already been at the hospital I would have most certainly lost the baby. I lost a lot of blood and had to have a blood transfusion on day 2. I wasn't well enough to see Rowan until his 10 o'clock feeding that night.

After the transfusion I started feeling better. I was still in pain from the c-section but I wanted to be with my baby as much as I could. Doug was back and forth between home(checking on the kids and the dog) and the hospital. I would shuffle slowly to the NICU to feed Rowan and hold him when I could. We were warned that they would most likely send us home without him. I didn't want to think about it. We settled in to a routine. Doug would get to the hospital around 8:30 in time for us to head down for the 9 am feeding.  We would spend some time with our baby and then head back to the room so that I could rest. He would stay until I fell asleep and then he would off to check things off the giant to do list! This is how I know I married a keeper!! Not only was he taking care of me and our sweet little one, he was running around town trying to buy everything we needed to make sure our transition from hospital to home was as smooth as possible.

On Friday we were given the news that we would be able to take Rowan home the next day! The doctors and nurses were astonished at well he was doing. He was only on an IV for two days. He was feeding and even nursing like a champ and his lungs were strong. They never had to give him oxygen which is amazing for a preemie! And on a rainy and cold Saturday morning we brought our little guy home!

And so, our birth story is not filled with tender moments,congratulations, and smiling photos. Even though I didn't have a plan, I guess I had a general idea of how things were supposed to happen and there's a part of me that feels cheated out of that experience. I've grieved the "ideal birth story" whatever that is. I've had to make peace with the fact that I was so terrified of losing my son or dying that I couldn't allowed myself to fully form a connection with him. It took me months to be able to think about our time in the hospital without crying. I still don't believe that I've fully processed everything. I will occasionally ask Doug questions about what happened or what he remembers. I'm working through some PTSD/anxiety issues and postpartum depression.

I've attempted to write this post dozens of times and this is the first time I've managed to get through more than a paragraph. It's long and rambling but it felt important for me to share. There is so much judgement and pressure for women to have this perfect "natural" birth. I think that those of us that don't have can feel some shame-we didn't really labor. Our bodies didn't perform the way they were meant to perform.

In the blogosphere there is a tendency to present life as a pretty picture. But, life is messy and complicated and sometimes ugly.            

This face. This sweet boy has changed our lives so much already. I'm so lucky that I was chosen to be his mom!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

worn{flights of fancy}

Once upon a time I blogged about my outfits. That blogger would find my new mom wardrobe a bore! I will admit that I've lost my sartorial spark. If I'm being completely honest the main reason I have no desire to get dressed let alone dress up is the baby weight I haven't lost. Looking at a closet full clothes that barely fit is depressing. Buying things in bigger sizes is even more depressing. Staying in my pajamas all day is also depressing. So now you see my dilemma.

My daily look has become pretty basic-jeans,loose blouse/top and sandals/booties.Thank goodness we've had a fairly cool summer! Looking at this photo I'm trying to focus on how much I love this butterfly print on my top rather than how heavy I look. Goal for this week is to be a little nicer to myself.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

all business

A few years ago I started my own business, paperwhites+whimsy creative events and florals,with the goal of  specializing in weddings and other major events. My business grew primarily through word of mouth and I was proud of what I was doing. I wasn't making much money but I felt like I was growing at a manageable pace. I was also making a concentrated effort to learn more about the business side of running a creative enterprise and broadening the scope of what I was capable of doing creatively.

The plan had always been for me to work up until the month before my due date, take another month off and then dive right back into the game. A difficult pregnancy made this impossible. I had to stop working after my last at the end of October. I didn't even have the energy to do consults to set up my schedule for the summer/fall 2014 wedding season.  

It was discouraging to see the business that I was working so hard to build get pushed to the very bottom of my list of priorities.  But, at the time I didn't have the energy to dedicate to it. I wasn't even sure if it was something I wanted to continue doing. I had also fallen victim to the social media comparison syndrome. I love that my instagram feed is full of beautiful things-florals, events, tablescapes,stationery-but it's so hard not to compare myself to all of those talented creatives doing amazing things(the same things I want to do), booking dream jobs and working with the coolest clients. Most of the time I feel inspired by them but it was hard to keep the self doubt at bay. Am I as good as they are? Do I have any talent? 

Six weeks after Rowan was born I hosted a pop up shop for Mother's Day. It went better than I anticipated and it felt so good to get my hands in buckets of flowers again! The pop up confirmed two things for me- I love, love, love what I do and I hate spending that much time away from my baby.

I began to rethink what I wanted my business to be and seriously consider some of the ideas that had been floating around in my head during my pregnancy. So, I'm shifting the focus of my business from weddings and large events to more intimate celebrations and corporate events. I'll also focus more holding workshops, classes, styling, and pop up events. This shift plays to my strengths and what I love about this business the most. The changes are also making me feel better about balancing work with my desire to spend as much time with Rowan as possible.

I'm working on a couple of styling projects, collaborating on an exciting projects (which I can't wait to share) and planning some fall workshops.  With that being said, I'm in the process of rebranding and a relaunch is coming soon! 

all florals designed by paperwhites+whismy||baby shower invitations designed by addie ink and styled by paperwhites+whimsy||wedding invitations designed by addie ink and styled by paperwhites+whimsy
Interested in hiring me for your event or styling work? email 
Be sure to follow the paperwhites+whimsy instagram

Monday, September 22, 2014

homegrown {oktoberfest zinzinnati}

September in Cincinnati means Oktoberfest! To kick off the weekend's festivities we headed downtown to Fountain to have Henry run in the Wiener Dog Race. It doesn't get much cuter than 100 dachshunds dressed in buns running across the square.

He didn't win or even place in his heat but as always Henry ran with heart!  Next year he'll be 9. I think he's got one more race in him before retirement.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

the heart of life

There were times after my divorce when it felt like the kids and I were this very small, very select army-us against the world. It was that way for a long time. And then I became obsessed with giving them the "nuclear family" experience I thought they were missing. Since I like to make unrealistic demands on myself I arbitrarily decided that if I wasn't married again by the time I was thirty all hope of creating this family would be lost.

What's that happens while you are busy making other plans. I didn't even meet my future husband until shortly after my thirtieth birthday. We dated for nine months before he met the kids. After another year and a half we moved in together. And it took another five years for us to get married.

During this time we became a family. It wasn't always easy, particularly between him and the girls. Tween and teen girls...oh man...they aren't for the faint of heart!(#thestruggleisreal LOL) I think a lesser man might have bolted at the thought of all of those hormones raging at the same time. He loves them and they love him. But, we always knew that we wanted to have a baby. We struggled for three years before getting pregnant with Rowan. One of my worries with having another baby especially with such a big age difference between them was how the older kids would react.

Considering that they're old enough to know how babies are made their reactions were better than we expected! I wouldn't say they were deeply interested in the pregnancy but they asked how I was feeling, dutifully looked at sonogram pictures, reassured me that I didn't look like a whale and weighed in on the name debate. What more could you ask for from a sixteen year old boy and his sisters? 

When we brought Rowan home my youngest daughter fell for him instantly but he was so small that Zachary was too nervous to even hold him. The older two weren't living at home so their interest was more perfunctory. A few months ago Logan moved back home and she's quickly become smitten with her baby brother. Over the weekend he charmed his oldest sister. She's definitely not a baby person but even she couldn't resist loving on him!

It's strange(unexpected and delightful) but I think that we feel more connected to each other as family. After Doug and I got married I wasn't sure that it would feel different, but it did. It felt deeper and more substantial. That's what I feel Rowan has brought to us. Having this new baby has made us a stronger family and the house has a lightness to it that wasn't there before.When I see my oldest son playing with his brother or listen to one of the girls talking softly to the baby in his crib my heart melts! This thing, family, it's sometimes difficult and complicated, but it's a good thing!   

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


This past weekend there was a party to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday. The oldest of our girls is in the navy and stationed in Virginia Beach. We haven't seen her since she graduated from A School and left for east coast in March. She surprised us all by coming home and she finally got to meet her baby brother for the first time!

Her overnight visit was way too short and we hated to see her go, but fingers crossed she'll be able to get home again for the holidays!

I'm not sure when it happened but all of sudden my kids are so grown up. I know that my job is to raise them and send them out into the world but letting go is so hard.  

My mom, the birthday girl, and dad. They're both in their 80's and pretty damn awesome!  

Friday, September 5, 2014

homegrown {the city flea}

We've been trying to do as much as we can this summer. I foolishly thought we would keep our usual summer schedule, but you know with a baby in tow. Ha! I don't know if it's my age or what but the idea of packing up Rowan and all of his gear and getting ourselves ready seems a little daunting most of the time.

The weather has been kind of meh. Alternating between cool and rainy or sticky and humid. A few weeks ago the stars must have been in perfect alignment. We had energy to burn, the weather was glorious and we actually remembered there was something fun happening downtown that weekend. That something was the City Flea. The City Flea is a curated outdoor market in Washing ton Park. There are all kinds of artisans selling everything from handcrafted soaps, jewelry, and wooden toys to beard elixirs, vintage clothing and original art. And of course my favorite part, food trucks.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

august reads

I used to read all the time. There were always books in my purse, in the car, on the night stand. All waiting for me to finish one and move on to the next. Then I got lazy. I started spending more and more time surfing the internet and zoning out in front our television. A few months ago I realized it had probably been close to a year since I read a book. That's an embarrassing confession! Last  month I rediscovered the joy of my library card and I managed to read seven books-can we say amen to the babe sleeping through the night!

My favorite of the bunch was Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith. This was actually written by JK Rowling under a pen name. Please tell me I'm not the only that didn't know this. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy a good mystery-Agatha Christie is my jam!-and this was a good one. I think I read over the course of two nights. It's an easy and engaging read.  

My least favorite was After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman. It's not a terrible book. I actually breezed through it in a few days but by the end of the month I'd forgotten that I read it. So, yeah, I didn't hate it but I didn't like it enough for it to make any sort of impression.

 I've picked out some interesting books for September that I can't wait to start.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

on to the next one

Saturday I turned 41. I think I'm okay with it.

My thirties were fantastic! I met a man that would become my husband. I saw three of kids graduate from high school and start the next chapters of their lives. I started a blog and a business.

The year I turned forty I was blessed with healthy baby boy.

So, yeah, I have a feeling the my forties are going to be pretty great!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

monthly manifesto {september}

Despite my best attempts to go with the flow, I'm not that person. But, I'm not particularly "Type A". Basically, I operate best when I know what's happening around me. I'm a list maker and a planner at heart so I'm not sure why I try to fight it as much as I do. Maybe because it seems so rigid. Inflexible. Babies require a certain degree of flexibility. I think it's safe to say that it's necessary in order to survive those first few months.

We've started to establish a bit of a routine. And now it's time for me to ease back into real life-accomplish more in the day than showering(which make no mistake about it is a huge victory for new moms!).

There are days when I think, "I should work on..." and I look up and it's two weeks later! Oh, where does the time go. Setting monthly goals will be a big help for me in terms focusing on exactly what I want to do and tracking my progress. I'm hoping that it will also ease some of the anxiety I've been feeling lately.  

So here we go September...
  1. Figure out a blog schedule that works for me. I'm really happy to be blogging again but I don't want to stress myself out with feeling like I have to post something, anything. I want this space to feel authentic and not forced. Ideally I'd like to post three times a week. We shall see.
  2. Writing|editing|scheduling. I think carving out time to write,edit and schedule posts will be the most helpful in keeping the blog up and running.
  3. Unplug! I spend a lot of time on social media and looking at various devices. It's really important to me that we raise Rowan in a way fosters creativity and independent play that comes from actually doing and not simply staring at screens. We need to model that behavior for him sooner rather than later.
  4. Read. Read. Read. At least four books this month.
  5. I'm not happy with the shape my body is in right now. The only way to remedy it is to clean up my diet and exercise. I'm challenging myself to workout for the first fourteen days of September. Consistently. No rest days. Once I've made it through those two weeks, it's four times a week until the end of the month. No Excuses!
  6. Menu planning. I hate the daily what do you want for dinner text messages. Right now we go to the grocery several times per week. It is the worst!! My goal is to plan for the week so that we can go to Findlay Market on Saturday or Sunday and then supplement our list with things we need form the grocery store once a week.
  7. We haven't had a night out, just the two of us, since we had the baby. Time to get cleaned up, put on a pair of heels and go out with my husband.
  8. I have lots of thoughts bouncing around my head for the business. Some of them more doable than others. This month I really want to flesh some of them out a bit and create a timeline of when I can potentially execute some of these ideas.  
Ok, September, let's do this!