The last nine months of carrying my first baby have been blessed beyond measure. They’ve been the most challenging and rewarding months of my life so far and I know it’s just the beginning. From two pink lines to a closet packed full of tiny booties and onesies, this time has been a gift that a blog post could never quite capture fully. God has changed Ari and I in profound ways with every little baby kick, fear we’ve conquered and every “first” we’ve experienced together on this adventure. In honor of our amazing Grace, due sometime in the next 20 days, here is a quick peek into the last nine months. Photo above by my dear friend Nancy Ray.
February: The “decision” to have a baby wasn’t an easy one. It wasn’t like we woke up one day and everything was magically in place and the timing was perfect. Ari started talking about wanting to have a baby and all I can say is that God did a lot of things to warm me up to it very quickly. For one, my best friend was pregnant at the time and, the first time I felt the little baby kicks in her belly, my heart exploded! We had always thought it would be a few more years before we’d even think about kids, but God had other plans. Despite all the logistics ahead of us and possible changes and unknowns (and yes, there were a lot of fearful tears!), we both thought, life is too short. Sometime around Valentine’s Day, our little miracle started to grow. It was close to my mom’s birthday and, coincidentally, I had written this to her that week. I was in Las Vegas at the time for WPPI. Even that early, I just had a feeling I was pregnant. An instinct. I was taking my prenatal vitamins, taking great care of myself and just felt like God was making me ready for this. Sure enough, during a visit home to Florida on February 28th, a craving for Chiclets led me to the drugstore for a pregnancy test. I cried tears of joy as those two pink lines appeared!!!
March: We only told my parents and my best friends at first. There was so much excitement coupled with thoughts of a whole new life ahead of us… translation = suddenly overwhelming. My body changed quickly and the morning sickness soon set in. Heavens to Betsy, this was no fun at all. From week 3 to week 16, I was miserable – in bed, nauseated, no appetite, exhausted. I actually prayed for those crazy pregnancy cravings you always hear about to happen so I could get my appetite back! I had to keep at my same work pace and wasn’t able to tell anyone yet why I fell off the radar for a few weeks. I’m so grateful for my friends who prayed me through that time, Ari for holding my hand through all of it and trying everything under the sun to make me feel better and to my parents for taking care of me for a few weeks and trying to feed me all sorts of goodness. At the height of all of this nausea, we had a trip to Grand Cayman planned to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary. I spent most of the trip, once again, in bed. At least it was from a bed with an ocean view, though! At the end of March, knowing that we would soon need a lot more space for baby, we also started hunting for a bigger house. Photo below by Nancy Ray.
April: On April 5th, we finally let the cat out of the bag! What an exciting day! And such a relief. I hated keeping our big news a secret for so long! Work-wise, it was an insanely busy month. With all the morning sickness, I had no idea how I was going to get through it, but by the grace of God – and with lots of help – I did.
2011 has been the year of making a lot of things happen, including some brilliant brands. Photo above (with me covering quite the baby bump at the time) by Gina Zeidler. By the time our little one is born in just a few days, Emily and I will have launched 35 powerful brands this year for some incredible people that we are so blessed to call friends. What started as one of those crazy ideas (sketched on a paper bag on an airplane somewhere over the Pacific on the way to Maui last November!), turned into my favorite work ever. It turned into a mission that Emily and I have to help creatives take wing and live life to the full. Life is too short to play small. In a few days, Emily and I (or just Emily, if I go into labor!) will be launching our new Making Brands Happen site where you can take a peek into all we have been up to. I am so grateful for the last year of rewarding work – that truly doesn’t feel like “work” because I love it so much – with the magazine and our inspiring branding clients. What a gift of a journey this has been! It’s hard to believe that just a year ago none of this existed, nor did I have any idea it would: a baby, a new blossoming business that sets my heart on fire and a magazine and blog that have had their biggest year yet! Back to April, though. I digress. Prego brain. In April, I completed my last wedding with my event planning company – a gorgeous Indian wedding in downtown DC. For those of you in weddings, you know this was no small feat. It turned out beautifully and I am so grateful for over a decade of wedding planning that turned into so much more. I’m happy to finally put my very first company, Bliss Event Group, to rest after this exciting decade. It was hard to let go at first, but there’s so much more on the horizon! Saying “no” to one thing in our lives means saying “yes” to something else.
May: A week after our DC wedding adventure, at 13 weeks pregnant, we had a fun Southern Weddings team photo session with Millie (where I delicately tried to cover my baby bump) and then three days after that, we moved! A new house and new office! This was a whirlwind – as anyone knows who has moved ever – and such a huge blessing for us. More space made room for all sorts of new growth in our lives, both personally and professionally. And then… the day I hit 16 weeks pregnant, it was like the morning sickness cloud magically lifted. Suddenly, the nausea disappeared and I started to feel like a human being again. Oh my goodness, I was so grateful! I even got some high-fives from the little one growing in my belly. Thankfully, I started to feel better just in time to speak at Engage!11 at the end of May. Just before I headed to California, I did my first maternity shopping and even posted the first baby bump pics for all to see. I got myself on a plane, spent a couple days with my 94 year-old Grandma Bunny (who was so excited!) and then headed to San Diego for Engage!11. Between moving and maternity clothes and business booming as usual, it was an eventful time making all sorts of things happen.
June: Coming back from Engage!11, I was so fired up. We had an epic team meeting when I returned that became the springboard for us to have our best year to date. It’s remarkable to type all of this out and see that all of this happened in such a short time frame. God is so good. We saw over 200% company growth since that meeting in early June. That fire I felt has just gotten stronger since and my team has sprouted some pretty remarkable wings. Thanks to the return of my appetite, I also started to sprout quite the baby belly. I gained a good 16 pounds that month! Go baby, go! Photo below by Gina Zeidler.
Let’s just say it was a month of growth in more ways than one. I ran The Challenge again. I worked hard to rid myself of excuses for not being my best. I knew that, if I was going to have a baby and be 100% committed to this baby when he or she arrived, I wanted to know I worked my hardest up to that day to get things in place. That meant taking my company, staff, work, life and everything with it to the next level. Ari and I traveled to DC together for a conference where he was speaking, I had a TON of branding work that month and – after much anticipation – we found out we were having a GIRL! Yahooo!!!!
The moment we found out that she was a she, the fun really began! Picking names, registering, decorating, oh my! Do not – I repeat – do not attempt to be an overachiever and do all of these in one day, though. I got a little overwhelmed while registering. Understatement. Registering caused my first real prego meltdown. Despite said meltdown, all became well in registry land thanks to the help of my pregnancy angel, Emily, guiding me through it. I could write a novel about how she has truly been sent from Heaven above as I’ve navigated pregnancy. I love you, Emily Ley! Ari and I finished June at my parent’s home in Florida and celebrated with my sister Kathy and my whole family. Here is my June maternity session with Ms. Nancy.
July: How did I do July!? Looking back on it, this month was appropriately packed full of fireworks! On the heels of that fire that started to burn inside me in June, July was my month of taking big rewarding risks. I was determined to take action and give as much as possible. We started layout on our fourth annual issue – V4, I did the Making Things Happen July Tour (Pensacola, Atlanta and New York) and then went straight to Charleston for a big V4 shoot. Pictured below during our model fitting at Maddison Row in Charleston.
Amidst all of this travel and hard work, God was really working hard on my heart. I started to feel a sea change come over me as pregnancy began to settle into my soul. There is a lot of fear when you first carry a child. There are endless unknowns and uncertainties and all of these have forced me to truly learn to trust God more than I ever have… and in ways I never thought possible. My faith started to grow, I started to get more involved in my church, studied the Bible more and I decided to take a scary risk and write to our sweet baby girl. That was a big hurdle for me. I had so much fear that somehow I would lose her. Writing to her – and taking Emily, Gina and Natalie‘s advice and starting to talk to her – opened my heart to trust. Ari and I took a tour of the labor and delivery wing at Ari’s hospital where she would be born. It all started to become very real. The work I did during the MTH tour in July with Emily and Gina really cracked my heart open. What a blessing that was and such perfect timing! I came home from the Tour fired up and so ready to surrender to the changes happening in my heart. My July maternity session with Nancy.
August: I declared war on the month of August, as I knew it was time to start getting things in place for this little dancing baby in my belly. I started the month by flying back to Florida to speak at the Stationery Academy. That was supposed to be my last speaking engagement for the year (I ended up doing another branding presentation here in Chapel Hill in September) since I was about to be barred from traveling. It taught me so many wonderful things.
On August 15th, I wrote one of my favorite posts ever where we announced our little girl’s name. I’m printing this out for Grace’s baby album because I feel so connected to every single word. God is so good! Grace Austin Isaacson. Oh, how I love that name! My mom threw a wonderful shower for Grace . August brought so much growth and gratitude in my heart, which – looking back – prepared me for a difficult personal transition in our family that we didn’t expect. It just made me more and more grateful to God, Ari and my dear friends for so much prayer and support. I love you Emily, Gina, Natalie and the whole MTH family! At the end of August, my parents came to visit us here in Chapel Hill. This was a very special visit that I will never forget. My mom brought so many goodies for Grace, including many of my baby clothes, books, photographs and precious family heirlooms. My August session with Mrs. Ray and my parents.
September: This month was marked by magazine layout, final shoots, long days at my desk and a whole lot of exciting baby kicks!
Grace started growing like a weed and, as I neared 30 weeks pregnant, new things started to consume my thoughts. New questions. New fears about labor, delivery and being a mom. I started reading every book in sight. For those of you that know me, you know this is not like me. I readily admit that, besides reading the Bible, I’m not a big reader in general and I don’t like reading instruction manuals. I’d rather just figure it out myself. I like being hands-on. But, it started to dawn on me that a baby wasn’t something I wanted to just figure out. For me, the changes in my heart have come in profound waves. God really does have perfect timing. At first, you think nine months sounds like forever. Turns out, it’s just right. I’m so grateful for this time that God has used to flip my heart inside out. I felt such deeper clarity and confidence as each day passed. The weather started to grow cooler and, seamlessly with the change in season, I started to see more what was most important in life. For me, it has been – and continues to be – a remarkable season of letting go of what I thought mattered to make room for real love and joy. A peace that passes all understanding. What a gift – no matter how challenging – that has been! Ari and I both experienced this change and started to feel closer than ever. I started to set new boundaries to plan for my maternity leave and we sent V4 off to the printer at the end of the month. Hallelujah! My September session with Nancy.
October: October began my official transition into maternity leave. With all the hats I wear around here, I knew it would take me several weeks to get things in order for our company to essentially function without me. It was not easy at first to think of letting go. As with every month, new fears and questions surfaced. From crafting my birth plan to strong realizations about my priorities to unexpected tears to the gift of Sundays and seeing the big picture to more tears and remarkable love from my husband to seeing Grace’s beautiful face for the first time (oh my stars!!!) …
… to realizing this is really happening soon, God has been stretching me to truly TRUST and let go. I’m getting there. And I’m so grateful for the women I work with. Words just can’t express how they have all blessed me during these months and especially now during this transition. Emily, Emily, Marissa, Whitney, Sierra and Nicole have truly made me – the slightly OCD control-lover – feel like I can genuinely let go soon and turn over the reins to them with confidence and calm. It’s a gift I know Grace will thank them for someday, too. This week, V4 is on shelves nationwide (YEEHAW!!!!!) and very soon I will be turning my email over to Marissa and the ladies here as I move into the last days of my pregnancy. I plan to take three months of leave, so I won’t be taking on new clients, meetings or projects until likely March 2012. I know I’ll never get this time back, so the months ahead are just for Grace.
So much has happened and I couldn’t possibly include it in one blog post. Writing all of this out makes me see so clearly how radical change in our lives is so possible. You just never know what God will have in store for you, but you will only know if you listen, welcome all the “failures” and mistakes along the way as lessons and just. let. go. There have been tears and so much fear and – all the while – a new joy. I’ve laughed more in these nine months than I ever have. Pregnancy has genuinely been nothing like what I thought it would be. When this all began, I was scared that a part of my life that was ending. Well, it certainly was. I just had no idea that one chapter had to close in order for a much better chapter to open!
November: yet to be written. Most likely to be awesome. God is truly good and I owe all of these blessings to Christ. From that blessed day in February to now, I have been changed. I pray for more and more change every day. Thank you, Jesus, for nine months of your amazing amazing grace.
I can’t believe we have less than 20 or so days before we meet Grace! The days are flying by now and I’m so excited to be a mom! A HUGE thank you to so many friends who have cheered me on through these nine months. Words just can’t begin to express my gratitude. Ari and I feel so blessed to have such a supportive community of loved ones and can’t wait for this little dancing babe in my belly to meet you all very soon! You can follow my journey daily, as Grace’s arrival grows closer, here on my Tumblr.