As a Christian, this time of year is a season of contemplation of my faith and the reliance I have on Jesus Christ. And now that I'm a mom, each year when I think about Jesus being born over 2,000 years ago, I often think about Mary, and all of the feelings she must have experienced becoming a new mom, carrying the Savior of the world, and birthing him in less than desirable circumstances (in a barn, no family around, and during a time when young boys were being slaughtered by King Herod). Regardless, of whether someone believes that Jesus was the Messiah, giving birth like Mary did is a victory alone. When I compare it to my my birth stories (they were hard just because it's frickin' child birth), I can't imagine how any person could get through that experience without a greater power to rely on. In this installment of The Real Mom Series, we are sharing our birth stories. My religious beliefs are my own and this topic just happened to fall during Christmas, so be sure to read everyone else's stories and experiences.

REAL MOMS: Thoughts by Natalie, The Effortless Chic, A Daily Something, Design for Mankind

Elle and Levi are opposites in every way - gender, interests, ages, personality and even their birth stories. 

Elle was my first. We took the classes and read the books. I went into the idea of birthing not wanting any pain medication and having a set birth plan (like many first time moms). Everything was as planned as I could make it be. And then my water broke three weeks early in the middle of the night just after celebrating Ryan's birthday, and, well, that wasn't in the plan at all. We went to the hospital, and once we were admitted we needed to make sure we had a baby within their set timeframe or it was straight to c-section. Looking back on it, it was definitely not an ideal birth situation. I didn't progress, so they hooked me up to pitocin (grrrr...I HATE that stuff). My contractions got super intense without dilating past a 3 cm for quite a while. I was in sooooo much pain and the contractions were coming so fast I couldn't catch my breath. I finally opted for an epidural, but since it was Labor Day weekend (ironic, right?) no one could get to me for an hour. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I got stadol (worst drug ever). I don't remember much that happened when I got that, but I know I said some CRRRAAAZY things to the doctors and Ryan. I finally got an epidural after that, but then my body started shaking non-stop, and the epidural didn't take right. My legs were numb, but I could feel every contraction. So, several hours of labor, without being able to walk and shaking made for super fun times at the hospital. 17 hours of labor total, and two pushes and then she was in my arms. And then the world just melted away because I became a mom in that moment. 

For Levi, it was text book for the most part. I labored at home without really knowing I was laboring for the majority of it. It was about 5:30pm on a Saturday night when things started getting more intense, but I was still functioning through it and doing my usual tasks. I had a feeling it could be "the day," so I told Ryan to go take the dog and Elle over to his parents' house. During that short hour that he was gone things intensified quickly. When I realized that I was actually in labor I wobbled upstairs to take a shower (knowing it would be awhile before I could do that again), and then packed my bag. I was huffing, puffing and screaming through it all. Finally he came home, and when I couldn't even have a conversation I knew it was time to go the hospital. There were so many swear words that came out of my mouth while driving to the hospital. I seriously thought I was going to have a baby in the car. When we got to the hospital I was already at 8 cm. It was crazy! They rushed me back into a delivery room, and told me that I was going to have a baby in the next hour. By this time it was 8:30pm, and there was no one at the hospital. I had such great care and attention by the staff. I ended up being able to get an epidural, and I'm thankful that I did because the only snag in the perfect birth experience was that the cord was wrapped around his neck. It took two and a half hours of pushing to get that guy out. They had to put me on oxygen because his heart rate would drop with every push. I don't think I realized how scary it was for the doctors until afterwards. They were just trying to keep me focused, and I was. He finally arrived at 1:21 a.m. on a Sunday. It was perfect. He slept forever, and we just snuggled. (Read more of his birth story in a past post here).

My post-partum experiences with both of them were the hardest part of it all, but that's for another Real Moms installment! Merry Christmas everyone!


It has almost been a year since I gave birth to Levi, and I wanted to share an update on how my body has changed in hopes it brings encouragement and a real perspective to motherhood. Being someone that is entrenched in social media, I often see other moms or celebrities "bounce back" within six months to their pre-baby bodies. Not me. It takes me longer, and it takes the majority of people longer than six months. 

This is my second pregnancy, and both of my pregnancies I gained 35 pounds. I lost that baby weight gradually over the course of a year. Back in March, I shared pictures of my body taken 4 months post-partum in size 12 pants and weighing 148 pounds. I'm now wearing size 8 pants and I weigh 134. You can see a side by side above.

My pre-pregnancy self was 127 wearing size 4, but I was also working out three times a week at the gym. I have not been able to exercise at all since the birth of Levi because I have had a flair up of arthritis and my Hashimotos disease has caused my thyroid to get out of whack. We are still working on finding the right dosage to reduce the inflammation in my body, but once I'm pain free I'll get back to the gym. 

But regardless of working out or not, these are just numbers and pictures. How do I really feel about myself? Do I feel normal now? 

I feel great about myself now, and, yes, I feel normal now. I finally feel like I can invest money in clothes I love and not just wear a cheap postpartum wardrobe from Target. I don't find myself self-conscious about my stomach anymore. I also feel confident to wear a swimsuit again. (Below, is an un-edited picture of me 9 months postpartum.)

Is there room for improvement? Of course, but muscle tone is totally different than just simply wearing clothes that feel like you and being in sizes that feel "normal" to myself. Can I wear all of my old clothes yet? Nope, but I'm not discouraged by that. It takes time my friends, and it will take more time for me. Give your bodies grace. It took a year to grow a human and it takes a year to feel and look like yourself again. And it may take even longer than that (like me) to get back to your pre-baby self. I just want to tell you that it's NORMAL. What's not normal is getting back to your pre-baby body in six months or less. That's amazing! Congratulations to the women that can do that, but it's not the norm. Don't put that pressure on yourself.

Be patient and realistic with your body. In time you will feel like yourself again, and in the meantime, pat yourself on the back for creating a beautiful baby.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer. All photos of my body are un-edited to give an accurate depiction of my body.


I am so happy to finally be sharing our beautiful family photos with Levi. Rennai of Ten 22 Studio did an amazing job capturing our new family of four. I also thought I would share his birth story along with them in case you are curious.


I prayed for my labor to be quick with Levi, and I'm so thankful that my prayers were answered. The weeks leading up to my labor I had a ton of contractions, but they would stop after an hour. They were also inconsistent in the time intervals, so I knew it wasn't go time. I had a feeling I would be early with Levi since I was three and half weeks early with Elle, but I was hoping I could make it much closer to my due date. I suspect a lot of my breastfeeding issues with Elle were because she was born so early, and I was really hoping for a different experience this time around.

My labor started around dinner time on Saturday, September 12th with a strong contraction here and there. At this point I was so used to it I didn't really think it was labor. Plus, we had already called my in-laws to come over and grab Elle a couple of times and I didn't want to cry wolf yet again. After dinner had passed and it was almost time to put Elle to bed, I had a little inkling that this could be the day. So, Ryan brought Elle over to his mom's house just in case.

While Ryan was gone I decided to take a shower just in case we were going to go to the hospital. Last time I was in labor I had to wait over a day to take a shower (so gross), so I wanted to make sure I could wash my hair while I had the chance. The contractions got stronger as my body relaxed, and they took my breath away. I quickly got dressed and checked our "go" bag in-between the pain, and by the time Ryan got home it was time to go. Although, I kept doubting myself because I was waiting for the contractions to be exactly five minutes apart and sometimes they would be six or seven, so I thought maybe it still wasn't time yet. But when Ryan saw my face when the contractions came on he knew this was way different than the others and told me to get in the car. haha.

He hurriedly drove the hospital, which is about a half hour away from us. I was holding onto the car with all my might screaming in pain. In between breaths I was yelling at his driving because every jerk and stop made my labor that much harder.

We arrived at the hospital and I thought I was going to have the baby in the parking lot. I seriously couldn't walk, but I had to just to get the entrance. They really need to have a doorman with wheelchairs for the labor and delivery wing. Yeesh!

We got to triage and they checked me to see how far dilated I was. I was already at 8 cm! They wheeled me back right away to the delivery room and told me it wouldn't be long before I had a baby. It was pretty empty in the hospital that night, so my nurse was able to stay with me the whole time. She was AMAZING! She asked me if I wanted to try to do the whole thing naturally since we were so close to the end, but you guys, I just couldn't. At that point I couldn't even catch my breath the contractions were coming so fast. So, I got an epidural and then things slowed WAAAAAY down. We went from thinking I was going to have the baby in an hour to hardly any contractions. They gave me a bit of pitocin to get me back in gear and that sure worked. I was finally at 10cm at midnight!

So, we decided it was time to start pushing, and my nurse was amazing and brought me a birthing bar to hold onto. I could still feel the contractions coming on for the most part, so I started to push with Ryan on my left and my nurse on my right. Oh man was I out of shape! I was huffing and puffing after a couple of pushes. This was going to take awhile. Unfortunately, with every push Levi's heart rate dropped significantly. They had to give me some oxogen and lay me on my side in between contractions to bring his heart rate back up. Poor little guy. The doctor finally came in, and she started putting some mineral oil around my lady parts to make sure things wouldn't tear. She said she could see his head, but it looked as though he was turned to the side. (sigh). So, with every push she gently tried to turn him so he was face down. They got a mirror for me so I could see the whole thing, and when I could finally see his head full of dark hair I got so motivated. I couldn't wait to hold him!

After an hour and half of pushing he was born, and it turns out the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Poor guy! He arrived at 1:27am and was 21.5 inches long and weighed 7lbs and 5 ounces. They laid him down on me right away and I held him for almost an hour before they did all of the poking and prodding. It only took 4 hours in the hospital before I got to see his face. I couldn't believe it.

It has been a month now since we have had him home with us and I can't remember what our family was like before he arrived. When I look at these pictures of our family I feel so proud, humbled, thankful and at peace. This is my family. Nothing feels like it's missing. Everything feels just right and beautiful.

Photos by Ten 22 Studio

What's In My Bag


As you may have read in my last post, I'm traveling this week with my family. We spent this past weekend celebrating the wedding of one of my cousins, and the remainder of our vacation is going to be lakeside soaking in some sun and rest. Woohoo! With the wedding came a rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, bridesmaid duties the day of the wedding, and, of course the ceremony and reception. There even was a brunch Sunday morning, so our weekend was definitely busy. It helps to be able to pack all of your go-to makeup with you in a very chic bag like this one by XO Monica Lee. It's high quality leather with a detachable strap so you can use it as a clutch or a purse.

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The Henry042web

I put it in my oversized tote bag for the day, and just used this clutch for the rest of the night. So, what's inside my bag that I would use for bridesmaids makeup? Here you go:

1. Benefit's boi-ing concealer. It easily blends and I have been using it for about three years. 2. Benefit's Erase Paste. It's an under eye brightener that I swear by. It always helps me look more awake than plain concealer. 3. Lorac's natural eye shadow palette. It has every color you could want for a natural glowing look. 4. NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer. It actually has enough pigment to be full coverage without the weight of a foundation formula. 5. MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot. I have gone back and forth with eye shadow primers and I still find MAC's paint pots to be the best. 6. Bare Minerals Touch Up Veil. It's great setting powder to keep everything in place for a long day. 7. Revlon Colorstay Eyeliner. I've spent money on expensive eyeliners and they aren't half as good as this one.

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The Henry061web
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The Henry049web

All of these products I use on an everyday basis, for photo shoots and for weddings. I swear by them. Go try!

Outfit: dress from Motherhood Maternity; Clutch by XO Monica Lee. Photos by Gina Meola.

Travel Style

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The Henry105web

Call me crazy, but I just flew across country 32 weeks pregnant and I made it safely to the east coast to celebrate my cousin's wedding and to enjoy some r & r with my family. This is our last trip as a family of three (tear).

I mentioned on Instagram last week that I've lived in maxi dresses throughout most of my second and third trimester. I can't imagine wearing anything else in this summer heat. I'm loving this white lace one I found at Target. It's lightweight and airy - perfect for the summer.

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The Henry107web

My new favorite travel accessory is this weekender bag from ModCloth. It was my birthday gift my from  hubby, and it embodies my love for east coast preppy style completely. I love that it comes with a cross-body strap for carrying convenience.

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The Henry111web

I'll still post some updates while I'm on vacation, so stay tuned! For now, enjoy your weekend!

Get the look: Maxi dress from Target; Weekender from ModCloth

Photos by Gina Meola.