Photo courtesy Cadence Kennedy

Hello, friends. This post is so difficult for me to write - I have so many words I desperately want to share, but it seems impossible to begin. It's been over nine months since I've written a blog post, but those nine months have been the most life-changing months that I'll ever experience. Actually, "life-changing" almost seems to not even cover the events that have happened. Every single aspect of my life has been affected, turned upside down, intensified, challenged, and rooted. From my business to my personal life - my days today look ten thousand times different than they did a year ago. I've wanted to sit and write a post for the longest time, but I haven't known where to start. This morning I was reminded of Emily Ley's mantra of "grace over perfection", and I finally decided that sit and simply touch on what's happened, so that I can move forward and get back into a routine.

So, what, you ask, has been going on in the last nine months? If you've been following along on Instagram, you probably have an idea, and you also know I now have two accounts, @sincerelyjackiepaper is my business account and @sincerelymangiolino is my personal account.

Let's start with the business changes first. Since November, the biggest change is that Sincerely, Jackie officially moved out of my beloved home office and into a studio space. I decided to make the move for a few reasons; I outgrew the home office space, my husband and I needed the room to be a guest room again, and as my husband and I began to think about starting a family, we felt it would important to have a space outside the home for my work (which would allow more of a work/life balance). I stumbled upon a rather boring, but practically perfect space in early December. It's located in the heart of Bellmore, Long Island and, on a whim, I signed the lease. To be perfectly honest, having a studio has been a mixed bag. I LOVE the space, the location, and being able to meet with clients there; but I miss the convenience of working from home. Also, the overhead of rent has been a huge source of anxiety for me - I feel like I have so much more pressure for my business to thrive now!

Another huge business change is that I hired a studio manager. I'll officially introduce you to Bethany in a future post, but all I can say is that I adore her. She's become my right hand lady, a friend, confidant, cheerleader, and total life saver - which came in handy when I almost died. Like, literally.

Moving to a new location and hiring Bethany have been the two biggest accomplishments for me in the last 9 months, but I've also hit some other personal goals as well. My work has been featured in dozens of styled shoots, and one of my favorite 2015 weddings was featured, in print, in THE KNOT! I mean, whoa! If that isn't a bucket list moment, I don't know what is! I also did a ton of traveling in early 2016 - I went to Charleston for the Rising Tide Society leaders retreat, and was a stationery panelist at the Annapolis Creative @ Heart conference. It's been a good, good year!

Now, let's move on to the personal side of things, which was the thread and motivation behind a lot of my business changes I just mentioned. In late 2015 my husband and I started thinking about having a family. Me, being the planner that I am, immediately realized that 1 - our home was no longer going to be the ideal place for my business, and 2 - that I'd need help with my business if I wanted to be able to grow both it and my family. Ultimately, this is why I moved Sincerely, Jackie to a studio and hired Bethany. Sure enough, in December, my husband and I found out we were expecting!! Seriously, people, I have never been happier in my life! The first trimester was a breeze - I felt great (heavy, but great) and the hormones actually made me a very happy, giddy, joy-filled momma. We had the most beautiful photos taken by my friend Cadence, and enjoyed every single moment of our changing lives.

However, my pregnancy was riddled with little bumps. Nothing ever seemed to be serious - especially because every sonogram (and I had a lot of them) showed a perfectly healthy baby, and because I always felt so fantastic. One of my pregnancy challenges was moderately high blood pressure. My doctor recommended I take my own blood pressure at home, 3x a day, and I am so thankful that I did - it literally saved my and my sons life. On May 18th I noticed that my blood pressure spiked dangerously high. I immediately went to the hospital. Three days later, at just 25 weeks pregnant, I was admitted to the hospital with severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome (a rare, very dangerous, potentially fatal offshoot of preeclampsia). The only cure for preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome is delivery, but delivering a baby so prematurely is a last resort. It was the worst situation - the pregnancy was causing my body to become toxic and fail, but the baby was safe and sound in the womb, where we wanted to keep him for as long as possible. My doctors did everything in their power to keep my body going so that baby could develop as much as possible, but when the HELLP syndrome began to progress on May 26th, we were forced to deliver my son, Richard Peter Mangiolino. He was 26 weeks (3.5 months early), weighed just 2lbs 2oz, and was 13.75". He was, and is, the most beautiful little fighter.

Obviously, since the birth of Richie, every single aspect of life has changed. I started a personal instagram account (@sincerelymangiolino) to share our NICU journey, which has been like therapy for me. The experience had the potential to be devastating and traumatic, but it's instead been the biggest lesson in grace that I've ever experienced. My husband and I made the joint decision to accept help in any form it came - which was so, so difficult. We were overwhelmed, emotionally wrung out, tapped out financially, and unsure of everything except for our love for each other an our son. And then angels started pouring love into our lives. Friends, family, and strangers cooked for us, drove me to and from the hospital in the weeks after my surgery, did our laundry, cleaned our house, helped us finish home construction projects, donated funds, sent gifts, PRAYED for us, hugged us, and reminded us of how incredibly GOOD people are.

We still have a heck of a journey ahead of us, but Richie is growing stronger and stronger, my body is slowly healing, and we're looking forward to bringing him home in a few more weeks. Bethany has been keeping the Sincerely, Jackie studio running while I work from home most days. During this crazy time of need, things seem to have fallen into place and I couldn't be more thankful. I'm looking forward to this next season of life, filled with a not-so-balanced-juggling-act of baby cuddles, poopy diapers, doctor visits, client meetings, beautiful wedding invitations, and some (believe it or not) new and exciting business ventures.

I'm so happy to be alive - and I mean that exactly as I said it. It's been a scary few months, but I am so, so happy. I look forward to blogging as much as I can, and extending the grace I've recieved to all of my clients, friends, and family.

Thank you, truly, to all of you who have been cheering and praying for us. We love you and appreciate you.