Keep that belly looking fly with Le Tote Maternity

anne cutler le tote maternity

You've heard me talk about Le Tote before.  It's a brilliant concept.  Starting at $39 per month, they'll send you a box of clothes and accessories to wear as long as you'd like.  When you're ready for a new shipment, you can purchase anything you'd like for a discount.  Then, send back what you don't keep and they'll immediately get you a new box!  Le Tote will style it based on your measurements and preferences or you can individually pick the pieces you'd like.

I've been using the traditional service for months now, but recently switched to Le Tote Maternity.  It's easy to spend a fortune on maternity clothes that barely get worn.  As a television personality, it became almost impossible to keep my closet fresh with a baby in my belly.

The maternity program works just like the traditional service, but they offer a range of belly-friendly frocks, from dresses to lounge wear.  Plus, you can still access the non-maternity clothes for your early trimesters and those first few months post-partum when you're not quite 'bumping'... but not quite yourself either.  It's a time-saver, money-saver and has done wonders to keep my closet fresh.

Check out some of my favorite pieces below! 

Reflections of a mom with 'Preemie PTSD'

It's not in any pregnancy book and you won't hear it from a doctor, but 32 weeks, this week, is a monumental milestone in my pregnancy.

Beau's first day in the NICU, born 7 weeks early.

Beau's first day in the NICU, born 7 weeks early.

This is the week my water broke during my first pregnancy, in the middle of the night, while I was in bed sleeping.  It was a "perfect pregnancy" until that point.  I didn't have gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or blot clots.  I was active.  My weight was just right.

Then, for reasons still unknown, all hell broke loose.  I would spend 9 days in the hospital hooked up to monitors and IVs, receiving magnesium sulfate to slow every muscle in the body and allow the doctors to administer corticosteroids to speed up baby's lung development.  I would fight contractions for a full week.  I was covered in bruises from the IVs.  I used a bed pan.  I didn't shower.  The highlight was Christmas Day, when I put on makeup and my neighbor Tina brought us a stuffed chicken and cheesy grits.

Christmas dinner with Joe and mom in the hospital

Christmas dinner with Joe and mom in the hospital

At 33 weeks and after 38 hours of labor, Beauregard Arthur Mason was born.

Baby Beau was whisked to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where our second battle would begin.  Our 3 lb 15 oz boy would fight for 5 weeks to breath, hold his temperature, learn to eat and grow.  In the early days, holding down 1 ml of breast milk through a feeding tube was an accomplishment.  In case you're wondering, that's 1/5th of a teaspoon.

Beau with his leads and feeding tube in the NICU. The nose tube was a big improvement over the one they originally had in his mouth.  At this point, he was also off of oxygen and no longer required an IV.

Beau with his leads and feeding tube in the NICU. The nose tube was a big improvement over the one they originally had in his mouth.  At this point, he was also off of oxygen and no longer required an IV.

I treated it like a full time job.  I'd wake up every three hours, around the clock, to pump and keep up my breast milk supply.  I'd spend 8 hours a day, 7 days a week at the NICU.  And to perfectly honest, I cried very little.  We were in crisis mode.  We did what we needed to help baby Beau survive and thrive.  The single hardest part was leaving the hospital on NYE and going home without my baby.

Three years and one healthy toddler later, I cry.  You might not guess it looking at our happy family, but I cry a lot. 

Christmas 2016 family photo, roughly 3 months pregnant

Christmas 2016 family photo, roughly 3 months pregnant

Our second boy isn't due until June 3rd, but the panic, stress and fear set in much sooner.  Countless people have tried to comfort me by pointing out that Beau turned out fine.  However, that's not always the case.  Some preemies have cerebral palsy, mental retardation, visual and hearing impairments, learning difficulties, behavioral, social-emotional, poor health and growth, among a host of other problems.  Other preemies die.

Yes, Beau turned out fine, but there's no guarantee this baby will be so lucky.

Because Beau was premature, my second pregnancy is automatically considered high risk and because we have no idea why he was born premature, there's almost nothing I can do to prevent it.  It's like knowing I'm going to be in a car crash.  I just don't know when it's going to happen or how bad it's going to be.  It could be a fender-bender.  It could be deadly.

I asked my doctor if it's normal for moms of a preemie to feel this way and she said, absolutely.  Like anyone who's experienced a traumatic event, I'm now experiencing 'Preemie PTSD.'

One of Beau's many days in the isolette.  At this point, he still had an IV, feeding tube, leads and temperature control.

One of Beau's many days in the isolette.  At this point, he still had an IV, feeding tube, leads and temperature control.

We've taken what few precautions we can.  I get a shot of progesterone in my butt every week.  It's painful and studies show it only reduces the likelihood of a second preterm birth by 30%, but anything helps.  My doctors also pulled me from work after I was hospitalized twice with early contractions.  Now, I sit at home all day, every day, thinking and worrying and stressing.  It's miserable, but it's helped.  My contractions have slowed considerably and I feel good.

7 1/2 months pregnant, enjoying a picnic with friends and family at City Park

7 1/2 months pregnant, enjoying a picnic with friends and family at City Park

Beyond that, we wait.  We wait and we pray.  We ask that you do the same, not just for us, but for all the women who know first-hand that fertility, pregnancy and childbirth are not easy.  Our story is not unique.

Moms should be able to look back on photos of their children as newborns with happiness and warmth.  I look back with anger and sadness.  I'm ashamed to admit I still feel bitterness and jealously towards moms who have healthy, full-term babies.  They say time heals all wounds and I'm sure that'll be the case.  Until then, I'm just praying for every day I can keep this baby growing inside the womb. 

At the very least, a little longer than his brother.

Beau as preemie holding my hand

Oozing style in classics from Seraphine Maternity

seraphine maternity dress anne cutler

Every pregnancy is different.  I never would have believed just how different, but it's true.  Apparently, that holds true for my clothes as well.  This pregnancy, I've discovered darling maternity brands that I didn't know existed last time around.

One of those brands is Seraphine Maternity.  You can shop their collection in Seraphine's online store, at A Pea in the Pod, Nordstrom and select boutiques.

This is where you want to go for those few, well-made, stylish pieces, you'll wear over and over through your pregnancy and beyond.  Many of the looks are intended for both pregnant and nursing moms.  Plus, it's a Hollywood favorite.  Don't be surprised to find yourself wearing something an A-list celebrity has been spotted in!

I got two gorgeous items, myself.  The first is the Gray Bamboo Nursing and Maternity Sweater ($89).  It has to be the softest sweater I have EVER owned!  It's long, so it works great with leggings as a tunic.  That's how I wore it to work and it looked polished and professional on Good Morning New Orleans.  It would also be darling with jeans or layered with a jacket or vest.

The second piece is Seraphine's Black Zip Detail Maternity Dress ($109).  They use some kind of witch-magic when they make this thing, because my 7 month bump minimizes the moment I put it on!  The fabric is high-quality with just enough stretch to be incredibly comfortable.  The neckline and zippers offer the perfect little details while still being simple enough to wear often.  If they made this in non-maternity, I'd buy it in an instant!

Valmont: My favorite new addition to my beauty bag

Skin after using Valmont Prime Renewing Pack with no face makeup and no retouching

Love at first sight! It's not something I say often (or let's be real... ever) when I see myself without makeup. However, that's exactly what I thought after my first Valmont facial.  In fact, that evening, even my husband raved about how my wrinkles had disappeared and my skin was glowing.  For him to notice that is basically an act of God.

I started looking into the company and learned why it's better than what I have been using. Valmont's based in medical research and the latest cosmetic cellular findings.  The key ingredients are patented Triple DNA, liposomed RNA and DNA.  As a result, their products penetrate deeper and work with your body to renew and repair.

To keep up that amazing post-facial glow, I tried one of Valmont's flagship products, the Prime Renewing Pack.  They've sold more than a million jars, so it's tried and true.  What I liked most was the versatility.  It can be used as a mask or daily cream.  I found both methods incredibly effective.  While I used it as a cream at night, it was surprisingly light enough to even use under makeup.

Valmont Prime renewing pack

As either the mask or cream, I was impressed with how moisturized my face felt without being greasy.  Much like that facial sent from the heavens above, the Prime Renewing Pack also plumped up my skin, which reduced the appearance of fine lines.  The next morning, my heavy television makeup looked smoother and didn't sink into wrinkles.  

The photo above was taken after just a few days using it.  I have leftover eye makeup from work, but absolutely nothing on the rest of my 33 year old, sun-damaged skin and did absolutely zero retouching. My smile lines and forehead wrinkles are drastically reduced. My skin is also noticeably smoother.

The Prime Renewing Pack retails for $210 and is available through Valmont's online boutique. This month, Valmont also debuted a limited edition at Saks with glamorous gold and white packaging.  You get 125 ml priced at 100 ml and it retails for $420.

Valmont Limited Edition Prime Renewing Pack

All on a Mardi Gras day

southern sea creature mardi gras costumes anne cutler

Us New Orleanians have a saying: "Everywhere else, it's just Tuesday."  Down here, it's much more than that!  Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a city-wide celebration.  Businesses are closed, streets are shut down and people are partying as far as the eye can see.

The stunningly beautiful Society of St. Anne marching parade has become my family's Mardi Gras tradition.  In lieu of big floats and beads, revelers dress in the most elaborate and creative costumes you'll ever see.  You can't buy these at your local party supply store.  They're hand-crafted works of art, months in the making.

Our theme this year was "Southern Sea Creatures."  I handmade Beau's octopus legs using fabric left over from a recent baby shower.  Like a good Southern boy, he already owned the seersucker suspenders, bow-tie and fedora.  All I needed to do was add eyeballs and the costume was complete!

Joe broke out his favorite top hat, paired with his seersucker suit and a whole lot of embellishment.  For my costume, I transformed a $2 party store crown with seashells and embellished a dress found on Amazon with fish net, pearls, rhinestones, more shells, plastic seaweed and moss.

The end of carnival ushers in a much quieter Lenten season, but until next year, "Laissez les bon temps rouler!"