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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?

I AM NOT ONE OF THEM.

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.

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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.

 

 

Design inspiration from the Dalmatian Coast

Hvar, Croatia, Dalmatian Coast

It's been nearly a year since I first laid eyes on the crystal blue waters of Croatia's Dalmatian Coast.  Last August, Joe and I set out on a life-changing tour of Croatia, visiting Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar, Split and Plitvice Lakes in one whirlwind trip. 

Long worn-torn and under the thumb of a socialist government, the country formerly called Yugoslavia, is now opening its doors to tourists.  It boasts a rocky coast, walled cities and fortresses, glistening blue waters, more islands than you can count, and natural wonders if you choose to venture farther North.

The people are friendly, the food and wine are superb and the homes are beautifully simple.  Many residents still live in hundreds-of-years old walled cities.  And everything is built with breathtakingly beautiful limestone.

It's a way of life I can only dream of.  And maybe visit on very, very special vacations.

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!

Historic Rountree house saved by New Orleans renovator

New Orleans Rountree Bland House Courtesy Cygnette

This thing was ugly.  Dangerous too. When we moved into our home, looming behind us was a behemoth of a Gothic New Orleans mansion.  In its day, the Rountree house was a treasure, but through the years it became dilapidated- propped up with 2"x4"s and covered in blue tarp. 

Think I'm exaggerating?  Just read the articles below...

Over time, many people tried purchasing the historic home, designed by famed New Orleans architect James Freret.  However, caught up in a divorce proceeding, the owners were never willing to sell.  That is, until Andrea Bland came along.

Andrea is a true gift to New Orleans.  She's spearheaded incredible Uptown renovations, bringing homes many thought were too far gone back to their original glory.  She's been honored as Preservationist of the Year by the Preservation Resource Center.  It was a hard-earned title.  

When Andrea took on the 4,200 sq ft Rountree house, it was leaning a whopping 13."  A strong wind could have knocked this thing down.  Not to mention one of our famed New Orleans hurricanes.  Andrea straightened the home and stripped it down to the studs.  She then came back, carefully re-crafting every original detail, down to the ornate tin-lattice under the eves and the plaster medallions on the ceilings.

WGNO News reporter Deepak Saini followed her work on television.  Uptown Messenger writer Owen Courreges documented the progress in print.  Their research and storytelling weave an incredible tale.  The images are breathtaking.  Now complete, it's almost impossible to believe just how far Rountree... now Rountree-Bland...  has come.

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Read more (and check out BEFORE pictures) here:

Deepak Saini: Rountree Renovation: Preserving an iconic home

Owen Coureges: The slow, painful death of Josephine's leaning tower

Owen Courreges: The good, the bad and the ugly




Surprise visit offers a look at my old home's rich history

When you live in a 130 year old house, it's just assumed a whole lot of other people lived there too.  If walls could speak, mine would have plenty to say! 

A month or so ago, I got a call from my neighbor who was standing outside with a few tourists.  It wouldn't be the first time.  I once had an entire family stop by.  And another neighbor has said his family lived in my home too.

These sisters, Jane and Mary, told me their grandmother lived in the house.  Their excitement to see it again was utterly contagious.  I brought them inside, where they reminisced about holidays, cats and sewing machines, even getting a little teary at moments.

This morning, I was lucky enough to get an email from Jane, chock full of old photos from their childhood!  It brought me so much joy knowing we're helping preserve these memories... one floor board... one paint job... one renovation... at a time.