It's official... I'm cut off from having children

You know those women who get pregnant on the first try, look fabulous and gush about how much they love being pregnant, then brag about how the baby just popped right out?


My mother keeps telling me that our family produces great children, we're just not very good at making them.  She's right.  I'm now the proud mother of two beautiful boys, who in my oh-so-humble opinion are perfect in every way.  However, getting to this point was not easy. 

Beau was born seven weeks premature, after my water broke in the middle of the night, eight weeks before my due date.  Getting through the five weeks he spent in Neonatal Intensive Care was one of the greatest challenges I've ever faced.

Fast forward three years and as we expected our second child, my husband Joe and I were immediately overcome with fear.  Would the same thing happen?  Would my water break later, or God forbid, even earlier in my pregnancy?  Would the end result be another happy, healthy child or a baby that faces a lifetime of medical and emotional problems?

Given my medical history and a few bouts of early contractions, my doctors put me on bedrest.  Then one afternoon at my weekly appointment, all hell broke loose... AGAIN.  Just shy of 36 weeks, my blood pressure skyrocketed.


I was rushed to the hospital, where tests showed I had extreme preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome.  You've likely heard of preeclampsia, but probably not HELLP, named after its characteristics:

H (hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells)
EL (elevated liver enzymes)
LP (low platelet count)

The mortality rate of HELLP is reported as high as 25%.  The most common reasons mothers become critically ill or die are liver rupture or stroke.  It's scary as all HELL.

Doctors treated me with a cocktail of IVs, including magnesium, for about 72 hours.  Incredibly, mother nature kicked in and instead of needing an emergency cesarean section, I went into labor and was briefly taken off the drugs to deliver Baby Brooks, our 5 pound bundle of joy.

They immediately drugged me back up and the following 24 hours were the most miserable of my life.  I was so swollen I was unrecognizable, I vomited non-stop, couldn't see, couldn't move and could barely speak.  At one point, I asked the doctor in a strained whisper, if I was going to die.  He paused for what seemed like an eternity, then said they're doing everything they can to treat me. 

That wasn't the answer I was looking for.

Seven weeks later, my blood pressure is still elevated to the point that it requires medication and I'm still not in the clear.  Both preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome can reoccur for months after giving birth.

So, I'm not one of those perfect women.  In fact, when it comes to having kids, I suck.

But I'm counting my blessings anyway. 

I have two handsome, healthy boys and thanks to my incredible doctors, I'm still alive and here to see them grow.  As I write this article and glance at Brooks' sweet sleeping face, I realize that at the end of the day... through all the obstacles... I truly have a lot to be thankful for.



Halloween costume inspiration: New Orleans style!

Halloween is a HUGE holiday here in New Orleans and I have to say, we're some of the best when it comes to costumes.  From Mardi Gras to Halloween and all the events in between, the people of New Orleans know a thing or two about dressing up!

So, to offer up some inspiration, here are some of my favorite costume ideas from my family, friends and this crazy city we call home!

Reflections on Mardi Gras 2015

Mardi Gras martians The busy holiday and Mardi Gras seasons are finally over!  As we usher in Lent, I'm actually looking forward to Spring cleaning, home renovation and warmer weather.

The past couple months have been a whirlwind from Christmas to New Year's Eve, celebrating a new life with Beau's first birthday and life well lived at Grandma Stella's memorial.  Of course, we capped it all off with an extraordinary Mardi Gras Day in the French Quarter!

This year's costume theme was "Mardi Gras Martians" and I think we hit it out of the park.

Thanks to free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime (I swear they're not paying me), I ordered inexpensive costume items and accessories from all around the world.  We already had Joey's green suit, blazer and top hat.  After a few crafting sessions and a some serious stroller decorating, our in-style in-vasion was complete!

The partying may be over, but we have plenty to look forward to.  Our backyard is coming along, our upstairs is almost complete and our exterior facade renovation is getting underway!  I can't wait to see what the rest of 2015 holds for both our family and our home.


Shabby chic Christmas decor with rustic burlap and sparkling touches

DSC05252 Merry Christmas, y'all!

This is a big one.  Two years ago, Joe was fighting for our country in Afghanistan.  Last year, I was unexpectedly in the hospital as Beau decided to arrive two months early!  So, it's our first real Christmas in years.

In the spirit of celebration, I decked out the homestead in burlap, silver and gold.  It's rustic and *sparkly*!

For the burlap garland, I used my favorite trick.  I took a roll of burlap (you could also use ribbon) and every two or three feet, I tied a big bow.  Then, I wove it through the swags and tree.  It adds much more dimension than the burlap or ribbon would on its own.

Beau and the beagles are already trying to dig into the gifts.  We'll see if they can hold out until the big day!

Infant Photography: DIY Tips for Snapping the Perfect Pic

Infant photography tips

I can't believe how much baby Beau has grown since charging into this world 7 weeks early!  Long gone are the feeding tube, IV and countless days in the NICU.  We're ushering in a new era of chubby cheeks, a blooming personality and big blue eyes.

A couple of weeks ago, I took Beau to get professional infant photos.  Unfortunately, I wasn't happy with the result.  The session felt rushed and while the photo quality was nice, we didn't get any of Beau's quirky facial expressions we've come to know and love.  So, I decided to tackle them myself.  I packed a whole truckload of patience, along with a few bottles and spare diapers to keep us going.  I'm thrilled with our DIY pics and I truly believe taking them in the comfort of our own home and on our own schedule really helped the process.

So... here are a few tips....

  1. I used a roll of about 3 yards of interior decorating linen for my backdrop.  I took all the pillows off my couch and draped the fabric over the base of it.  For some photos, I kept the fabric flat and for others, I scrunched and bunched it up.
  2. Get creative when bolstering baby.  I used my Boppy feeding pillow, a travel neck pillow and a folded sheet.  I put whatever I was using under my backdrop and arranged the fabric on top.
  3. Gather all of the softest blankets you can find.  Also, get all of your props together and have fun mixing and matching.  Baskets and toys both work great.
  4. Naked shots are nice, but for the rest, just hide the diaper.  We don't want any accidents...
  5. Avoid flash.  It'll stress out your little one and the pictures won't turn out. I used a well-lit room and adjusted the exposure on my camera so the pictures would be brighter.  I also adjusted the color temperature to be slightly warmer and the focus to be slightly softer.
  6. Have bottles handy!  All these photos made Beau a very hungry man.
  7. Bathe baby immediately before you shoot.  It'll help calm him down and take care of the milk mustache.  If his hair is anything like Beau's, also have a brush handy!
  8. Take a variety of shots, changing up your framing and angle.  Also, get some "cutaway" shots of any cute props you're using.  They're helpful to have down the road for baby announcements, scrapbooks, frames, etc.