Preparing for Baby No. 2, Part 2: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hi Friends! Despite our hopes otherwise, I once again developed cholestasis with this pregnancy – so our midwives decided to induce me a couple of weeks early. I’m actually writing this post ahead of time – so hopefully our new little baby has arrived by now (I’ll be sure to share any news on Instagram!) and I’m heading out for a few weeks to spend time with our new little person! But first, I wanted to share one final post about an experience from my pregnancy with Sophie. I actually wasn’t planning to share this side of my story. But I’ve drawn strength reading accounts from other women regarding their pregnancy or postpartum experiences and I thought my story might help some of you out there. So here goes. This post may be TMI for most of you, so if you’re not interested please feel free to skip!

As I mentioned before, I developed a condition called cholestasis during my pregnancy with Sophie. If there’s one thing that I learned during my first pregnancy, and now with my second, it’s that my body does not do well with extreme hormone fluctuations. I had rough first trimesters with 24/7 nausea during both of my pregnancies, and my liver decided to go on strike with cholestasis during the late third trimester – so I’ve now had to be induced for labor early on two occasions! Unfortunately, labor is pretty much one giant hormone overload – in my case with some extra prodding and lots of pitocin. I don’t know what it’s like to go into labor naturally, but my body did not react well to the induction and labor the first time around.


I won’t ever be sure if it was the cholestasis or the induction, but after Sophie was born I developed hyperemesis gravidarum. I’ve never heard of anyone else developing postpartum hyperemesis – it typically occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy – but the symptoms were all the same so I don’t know what else to call it.

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My sweet girl turns two tomorrow. Two! A legit little kid on the verge of becoming a big sister (even if she doesn’t quite realize it yet). We could never have imagined how much joy and laughter she would bring to our lives – or how my heart feels like it could burst with love for her. Happy birthday Sophie!








p.s. Sophie turns one

All photos by me via Instagram

Preparing for Baby No. 2, Part 1

We only have a few weeks left before this baby arrives, and the closer I get to my due date, the harder it is to concentrate on anything non-baby-related. Some things are starting to feel urgent – like making sure our hospital bags are packed! – but I’m also trying to make a conscious effort to slow things down and prepare for my eventual maternity leave, including gathering some awesome guest bloggers to help fill in here while I’m away! Today I thought I’d share some of the things weighing on my mind as we prepare to welcome a new family member – and share a few photos from a trip to a little beach along the Potomac River last weekend.


This won’t be news to any of you more experienced mamas out there, but second pregnancies are a funny thing. Yes, there’s all the physical stuff that I’d heard about ahead of time – feeling tired all the time thanks to your rambunctious toddler, showing earlier, etc. – but, at least for me, I’ve been surprised to find that this pregnancy feels just as surreal this time around as it did when I was pregnant with Sophie. Perhaps it’s because our lives are already so full with Sophie, but it has been difficult to wrap my head around the fact that there is going to be another (brand new!) tiny human living with us. Which seems ironic since we know exactly what’s headed our way in just a few short weeks, but it still just feels kind of abstract.


But having been through the experience once before already, I’m less focused on some of the things from my first pregnancy – like making sure we have all the necessary baby gear and signing up for birth classes – but I have more specific concerns this time around.

So here’s what we’ve done so far: switched from our previous OB to a midwife practice, hired our doula, and started both weekly chiropractor appointments and weekly acupuncture appointments. The decision to switch to the midwife practice was really easy; we’ll still be able to deliver at our preferred hospital, but without a million interns, residents, and attending physicians coming in to poke at me every hour or so while I’m in labor. The weekly chiropractor and acupuncture appointments were actually both recommendations of our midwives.


I love this photo for so many reasons – but you can tell from Sophie’s expression that she was not thrilled to be near the water. My sweet girl is definitely proving not to be a water baby so far!


At this point during my pregnancy with Sophie, I was diagnosed with a condition called cholestasis – a rare late term pregnancy complication that affects the liver and gallbladder. Last time, cholestasis came as a complete shock: I don’t fall into either of the ethnic groups for which the condition is most common, and to my knowledge there is no history of cholestasis in my family. But my liver levels skyrocketed and our OB was concerned about the risk of liver failure or stillbirth – so I had to be induced for labor at 37 weeks. That experience was really tough on both me and Sophie (more on that coming in a separate post soon), so this time around I’m doing everything I can to avoid a repeat experience, from acupuncture to diet changes. Cholestasis carries a recurrence rate of 45-75%, so fingers crossed that these things do the trick.


Aside from cholestasis, my biggest concerns revolve around Sophie: making sure we have a plan for her when we’re in the hospital, carving out special time for her after the new baby arrives, etc. Caring for Sophie while we’re at the hospital and the first couple of weeks postpartum is probably my biggest concern right now. We don’t have a lot of family near by, and since we don’t know exactly when the baby will arrive (especially since I wasn’t able to go into labor naturally the last time around) it has been difficult to make plans for grandparents to come down and help. This has been a big source of anxiety for me. The grandparents are all willing to come down and help, which is great, but we’ll need to have short term plans for Sophie during labor and until family can get here – and we’re still not quite sure how to handle all of that.

So… more experienced mamas out there – how did you care for your older children during labor (especially if you don’t have family close by)? Any advice or tips to share? I’m all ears!!

All photos by me from my Canon DSLR

OSBP At Home: Garden Update

It’s been well over a year since we moved into our house, and while progress inside the house has been a bit slower than I would have liked, I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the garden. It’s the first time I’ve had any real gardening space since I moved to DC more than 10 years ago, and I’m really really enjoying it. Last year I shared some of my plans for our outdoor space. Time for an update!


Our house is a typical DC rowhouse: long and narrow. We don’t have a ton of space to work with, but I’ve been trying to maximize what we’ve got. We have a small garden bed in our backyard patio, which I’ve filled with lilacs, peonies, roses, and a few other perennial varieties. I save annuals for pots arranged along the fence on the other side of the patio so that I don’t have to worry too much about them once the cold weather sets in.


Our backyard garden is my happy place in mid-to-late spring when the peonies and lilacs are blooming. Everything was late this year thanks to the neverending winter, but once the warmer weather arrived in April everything just exploded – especially my lilacs. I have a total of four lilac bushes, all planted in the back of the garden bed closest to the fence, and the smell was positively intoxicating when they all bloomed. I wish they lasted forever!



The lilacs were quickly followed by peonies – I have five plants in varying colors of white and pink (pale pink Sarah Bernhardt, Coral and Gold, and a hot pink variety whose name I’ve forgotten). This was the view that greeted me when I came home from the National Stationery Show in late May:


I snapped some more photos a few weeks ago, at the very tail end of peony season, and with the exception of the peonies most of these flowers are still going pretty strong in the garden. We planted a border of pink and purple saliva in the garden bed, and my David Austin rose bushes bloom frequently as long as I deadhead regularly. I planted some impatiens under the rosebushes for a bit of added color, all of which seem to be growing quite happily. There is a small white crape myrtle in the back corner, which has been in bloom the last few weeks and I hope will grow to provide some much-needed shade over the next couple of years. Since these photos were taken, some yellow dinner plate dahlias have grown in around the peonies and are slowly taking over the garden much to my dismay – I need to do more research on (successfully) growing those big monsters!







We also have a few potted strawberry plants – Sophie LOVED picking the fresh berries when they were in season. There’s a small bed that runs along the stairs down to our unfinished basement, where I’ve planted a wisteria vine – which surprised me by blooming the tiniest little wisteria this spring! – and a few other partial-sun perennials. I’d love to eventually build a pergola over our back door and train the wisteria to grow over it. I also have a small potted viburnum; I’m waiting for it to get a bit larger before transplanting to its permanent home in the front garden.



Potted plants along the fence on the opposite side of the backyard. We recently added a few marigolds (to help deter flower-eating pests), a dark purple opal basil plant, and a couple of zinnia for some additional summer color. The clematis vine is one of my favorites in the entire garden. The flowers are so romantic! Future plans for this area include a vertical herb garden and possibly a small vertical vegetable garden – next year!



Finally, another small partial sun garden bed that runs along the path next to our garage. I planted a hellebore, some jasmine, a couple of Japanese painted ferns, some impatiens, begonias, purple coral bells, and a bleeding heart all the way in the back (which is now the size of a small hydrangea!). I love love love the combination of the painted fern and impatiens!




And that’s our garden – at least for the moment! Sadly, along with DC summer heat and humidity, the mosquitos and earwigs have arrived in force. The mosquitos in particular make it difficult to enjoy the backyard for long periods of time, so I haven’t been spending as much time outdoors as I’d normally like to. I’m trying to learn more about garden pest control in general, since I’ve also battled rose slugs and normal slugs in the backyard. We’ve also been contending with an infestation of the horrible-sounding Dead Man’s Fingers in one corner of the garden bed. It pre-dates any of the plants in the garden bed (we started fresh when we moved in last year), so I’m worried there might be some dead tree root buried deep in the soil causing the fungus. Anyone out there have any experience successfully battling Dead Man’s Fingers?? I have so much to learn about gardening!

All photos by me, via my Canon DSLR and via Instagram

The Beginning of Oh So Beautiful Paper

As some of you may have seen on Instagram, I celebrated my fourth anniversary of self-employment yesterday. When I first started Oh So Beautiful Paper, I couldn’t really share anything about my profession at the time – and nearly six years into blogging I still haven’t written this story down. So today I finally decided to get my act together and share the story of how Oh So Beautiful Paper came to be!


Cake topper by AHeirloom

Most people assume that I have a design background that led me to start blogging about paper. And while I definitely grew up surrounded by art and design, my professional background is actually in the field of international diplomacy! When I first started blogging in 2008, I was working as a civil servant (aka U.S.-based diplomat) at the U.S. Department of State, in the Bureau of African Affairs. Not exactly a direct correlation to paper and design.

But I should back up a bit. I was raised by two artistic parents: my dad worked as an advertising copywriter for most of his career, but now works as a semi-retired freelance photographer. My mom also worked in advertising (her job involved media buying) before switching to a different career in the late 1980s, but she’s also a talented painter and interior designer. I grew up in a very artistic environment, surrounded by art supplies and attending summer art camps. In high school, I took my first photography class and decided that I wanted to become a magazine photographer. But after a semester in college I quickly decided that I didn’t enjoy art school (Emily’s post from a couple of weeks ago will give you a pretty good idea of why it didn’t work out). So I took a few random elective classes… and switched majors to International Relations. It seems like such a random choice, but I was really, really good at my chosen field. It just felt like the right fit.


My time at the State Department began with an internship during my last undergraduate semester in the spring of 2003, and my office hired me permanently at the end of my internship. I was all of 22, but working in a position normally reserved for mid-level employees in their 30s: it was an overwhelming introduction to the world of international diplomacy! For the next few years, I worked in the Office of East African Affairs with responsibility for Somalia and Djibouti (both located in the Horn of Africa).

It’s hard to explain what my job actually entailed, but my work involved everything from writing briefing memos for senior officials to preparing internal budget proposals and documents, and from collecting study materials for U.S. ambassadorial nominees to writing U.N. Security Council resolutions. Some of the tasks were mundane, and some of them – like traveling overseas – were really amazing. I was lucky enough to visit several European capitals and almost every country in East Africa – Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland, and Djibouti – and I even lived in Nairobi, Kenya for about a month on a special assignment. In 2009, I transferred to the Office of West African Affairs, working primarily on Liberia and Ghana.

I learned a lot during those years. I learned how to prioritize urgent tasks and objectives. I learned how to distill a complex set of issues into a two-page memo. I learned a lot of other things that are harder to put into words. At the State Department, most people rotate to a new position every 2-3 years, so I worked with and for a lot of different people over the course of my seven years there. I learned what it means to be a good boss, a good manager – and sadly what it means to be a bad boss and mismanage an entire office. I saw people around me sacrifice their personal lives for their careers, and I learned that I didn’t want that for myself. I learned what it meant to burn out. I learned that a fulfilling career – and a fulfilling life – can mean a lot of different things to different people.


Print by Alli Coate

Everything changed when Andrew and I got married in 2008. I discovered wedding and lifestyle blogs (yay!), and I fell in love with the world of wedding invitations during our 9-month engagement. After our wedding, Andrew encouraged me to start blogging as a creative outlet, and Oh So Beautiful Paper was born a few weeks later! My original goal was simply to showcase amazing wedding invitation design and connect couples with the designer that suits their personal style. I never intended for blogging to replace my career at the State Department, but the blog slowly grew and evolved into something more than a hobby.

Coincidentally, Oh So Beautiful Paper was growing at the same time that I was becoming increasingly disenchanted with my office job. I attended the very first Alt Summit in 2010, and one of my most vivid memories from the entire conference was listening to Maxwell from Apartment Therapy during the keynote session. Maxwell talked about his own decision to take Apartment Therapy full time: how it felt like jumping off a cliff, but also that he had to put in full time effort to see full time rewards. In April 2010, after a year under one particularly awful boss (which in turn was after two years under an equally terrible boss in another office), I made the scariest decision of my life: I gave notice at a stable, salaried job to pursue Oh So Beautiful Paper full time. I gave myself six months to make things work – and here I am four years later!


Quote by Our Wild Abandon via Artifact Uprising

I’m proud of a lot of the things that I accomplished during my years at the State Department, and I have a lot of regrets about things that I didn’t accomplish or that didn’t go the way I wished they had. I’ve been away long enough that I can forget most of the bad experiences and just hold on to the fond experiences and memories, and I’m so happy to have those stories to tell Sophie someday. But nothing compares to the satisfaction of running my own business, even if it can be super scary and ridiculously exhausting most of the time, and I still don’t know that I’ve reached a level that I would define as successful. I’ve made so many wonderful friends through this amazing community, and I’d never trade that for a million years.

Okay, enough sap! I’ll stop there, and thank you for reading this ridiculously long post!