3 DIY Beauty Recipes To Try This Summer

So I have been doing some leg work and have found 3 DIY beauty recipes that are to die for. They all contain simple, natural ingredients, are so easy and so much fun to make at home!

I love trying DIY recipes at home because it makes me feel like a bit of a chemist and I can be assured that my products are safe and natural! Plus I can multi-purpose ALL of these ingredients and its sooo inexpensive!

You should take some time and pamper yourself with one of these this summer and let me know how it worked out for you! They also make great gifts! All ingredients can be found at your local grocery store or my favorite, HEB!

Minty Fresh (and poppin’) Lip Gloss

Ingredients:

  • petroleum jelly
  • lipstick for color (optional)
  • mint extract or flavor
  • almond oil
  • lip gloss container (available at craft stores)

Instructions:

1.    Place about 1 Tablespoon petroleum jelly in a microwave safe bowl. Add a tiny dab of Mom’s favorite lipstick for color if desired. Microwave 30 seconds then stir carefully until everything is melted.2.    Drop in 2 ‑ 3 drops of almond oil and 3 ‑ 5 drops of mint. Don’t add too much! Carefully pour into a lip gloss container.

Charissmatic Citrus & Coconut Scrub

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup H‑E‑B Organics Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest

Instructions:

1.    Combine all ingredients and place in an airtight glass container. Allow 30 minutes for ingredients to bind well. To use: Using a spoonful or desired amount, massage in a circular motion for 30 seconds. Rinse and pat dry. Use on face, body or hands.

Oh So Satisfying Foot Soak

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. fine sea salt
  • 1 c. Epsom salt
  • 2 Tbsp. loose peppermint tea
  • 3 Tbsp. orange extract
  • 4 Tbsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • Jar with lid

Instructions:

1.    Place ingredients into a food processor and blend about a minute until ingredients are powdered then pour into the jar and seal. To use: Pour a tablespoon of the soak into a bowl of water and ease those tootsies into relaxation!

Source: HEB

xo -Riss

carissa

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#CCStyleSummit + My Top 5 Takeaways

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Create and Cultivate‘s Style Summit in partnership with Simon Malls at the Houston Galleria.

As a new mama, being able to attend industry events that are tailor made for entrepreneurial women feels like a super productive mini getaway and I always feel so empowered having connected with other like-minded women. At the event, I saw some familiar faces and made acquaintances with a ton of new ones! I also invited my sister to come with!

I engaged with several beautiful brand activations, (Origins and Rolex were my favorite) and even began the process of securing future collaborations with a major brand that I’m so excited about!

They rolled out all the stops for this one with a fabulous open bar and a panel of influencers that had a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and REALNESS to share! Here are my 5 biggest takeaways from the awesome panel discussion (in which I’m paraphrasing):

  1. Know your worth as a creative. Send your rates sheet, sis. Too often creatives only get paid marginally for their work or in exchange for gifts. It’s time we raise the bar as a collective. Of course there are many factors that go into compensation and everything is negotiable but closed mouths don’t get fed. Believe in the value of your work.
  2. Be smart about what brands you align YOUR brand with. Many of us are our own personal brand. We must be protective to a certain extent of the brands that we are building/ growing. Everything isn’t for everybody. Be sure your partnerships make sense for your brand.
  3. Quality over quantity! Having true influence or impact is not about your number of followers or post likes. What is that engagement looking like? Are your followers genuinely following you because they like your content? If you called them to action, would they move? Companies are wising up to these inflated numbers that are really just colored bubbles for many. Building a real community for your brand with consistency and quality content is the key to long term success.
  4. Remember why you started. Entrepreneurship looks cute on social media which is why many jump in without careful consideration. The truth is, the days can be very long as the grind is continuous. People tend to underestimate the level of commitment and consistency being successful in this business requires. You can look all cute on the gram but at home you’re looking crazy… plugging away like a mad woman. lol! This will also help you maintain brand integrity. At the end of the day, you have to remember why you chose this! You have to remind yourself of that feeling you got when you knew you had to take that leap of faith and pursue your dream!
  5. Relationships are key. Like REAL face to face interaction with humans. lol I’ve always been a very social person but since becoming a mom, my schedule is so busy. It does take an extra effort and planning to come out to industry events. Connecting on the gram is fine in the interim but there is nothing like that face-to-face energy when connecting with someone. The connection is a lot more real and the impression is longer lasting.

I feel tremendously blessed to be able to design the life I love and I hope to continue to make an impact by inspiring women of all ages to live their best life, unapologetically. I thank God for the vision, the freedom, the grind… the journey.

I had so much fun attending this event and definitely plan on attending more Create and Cultivate events in the future! Did you attend? Do you plan on attended a Create & Cultivate event in the future? Leave me a comment below!

xo -Riss

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Tahiti: Our 5 Year “Honeymoon”

The first week of May is always one of my most highly anticipated times of the year. This time last year, I was just returning from Cabo San Lucas with my husband Kenneth and unbeknownst to us at the time, was soon to be expecting our rainbow baby!

This year, our annual “honeymoon” was in full effect as we ventured to one of my bucket list destinations, the French Polynesian island of Tahiti.

Preparation for our trip was very organized and well planned. I started packing a week in advance. I’d made packing lists for myself, my child, and even my dog. lol We were to drop “the kids” off at my parents house on the opposite side of town the day before take off and everything seemed to be going smooth. My outfits were POPPIN! I’d packed some sponsored product to enjoy and share with you while I was on my trip. I was so proud of my packing job. I’d managed to remain stress free and even get enough sleep before our red-eye flight traveling from Houston to Denver, Denver to San Francisco then finally, San Fran to Tahiti.

Our original flight to San Fran was canceled leaving our only option to San Fran a flight that had later been delayed 5 hours! Both flights effected by mechanical issues with Southwest Airlines planes (call out)! We frantically had to book a flight from Denver to San Fran on United to be sure we made it for our international flight. Only one flight was going to Tahiti that day! We had to be on it. Our bags did not make it on that flight. They’d be flown to San Fran on that super delayed Southwest flight and the rightful hand off to United was never able to happen. We tried to have Southwest ship our bags via UPS or FedEx but they messed that up as well. I could go into so much more detail, but long story short… we spent nearly a week in the French Polynesia with no bags.

Fending for ourselves without our belongs almost 5,000 miles from home was an adventure in and of itself. We’d gotten by with the clothes we’d worn to the airport and a couple of sarongs that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on that next day. Shoutout to Mari (from California)… my new friend and United Airline stewardess who learned of our situation and give me her brand new black sarong that I later used as a skirt, a waist belt AND a head wrap! Yass!! You can really multi-purpose those things to no end.

Our second day in Tahiti was actually a national holiday… so all the local stores were closed. We utilized the hotels essentials and extremely overpriced hotel gift shop in the mean time before finally on our second full day there, going to the local store to get everything else we needed. You better believe Southwest reimbursed us for EVERYTHING.

We definitely enjoyed ourselves regardless!!! Though I was so excited about my ‘LEWKS’, I was more excited to be in such a beautiful place with the love of my life, doing what I love the MOST! That is adventuring, seeing new places, experiencing new things and new cultures. In a way, not having our bags made the trip more memorable and was a valuable lesson in how little we truly need.

The hotel was nothing short of exquisite. We stayed at the Intercontinental Tahiti with our first couple of nights in a standard room and their deluxe bungalow for our actual anniversary and for the remainder of our vacation. The experience of living in a bungalow in the ocean was a dream come true. Sleeping there felt like I was in another time or dimension. So very magical!

Early on, the trip was off to an adventurous start. Navigating our way with nothing and ‘living off the land’ lol! The the adventure just kept coming… and in the most incredible ways.

I rode a jet ski for the first time. It was nuts! Felt like a roller-coaster in the Pacific Ocean and I was smitten with the dolphins that greeted us so warmly.

We swam with “friendly” sting rays and nearby sharks during our Lagoon Tour at Mo’orea.

We also bonded with locals and attended a local barbecue. Have you ever tasted grilled marlin? OMG so good!

We met other married couples from one married for 1 day to another married for 50 years! Most importantly, we spent some priceless quality time together.

We ate ate and drank like royalty, enjoyed a world class spa, couples massage and facials. The entertainment was off the chain! The views were simply BREATH-TAKING!

This was definitely a very memorable vacation and well worth it trip! I’m in love with the island of Tahiti which helped me to realize I don’t need a bunch of stuff to have the TIME OF MY LIFE!!!

We are so grateful to celebrate each other and 5 years of marriage and we are looking forward to celebrating for years to come!! God is sooo good! All the time!!! More detailed view (and fun videos) in my IG Tahiti Highlight stories: Watch Here!

5 Quick Tips You Should Know Should You Ever Travel to Tahiti

  1. It’s very remote. Especially if you stay on one of the smaller surrounding islands of the French Polynesia like Mo’orea (which is gorgeous and you can also do a day tour here arriving by ferry). There aren’t a ton of people here. You will be in a very remote and overwhelmingly beautiful natural landscape.
  2. Monetary goods are expensive in the French Polynesia… on and off your resort. With our bags being left behind, we quickly learned that prices for even the most basic necessities are 3-4 times what you’d pay in the states. On top of that, the conversion looks flat out crazy. lol For example, $30 USD for a plain cotton t-shirt translates to $3,202 Francs. The conversion rate is approximately .0094 USD to 1 Franc.
  3. These Polynesians speak a sort of Polynesian French. Many are bi/tri-lingual but it’s best to brush up on a few of the most commonly spoken phrases such as “hello!”/ “la ora na!”, “thank you!”/ “mauruuru!” and “where is the restroom?” which is simply “toilette?”
  4. As far as food, the local favorite is a fresh fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk with fresh veggies served over rice and is served everywhere! It is called poisson cru. I’d describe it as a Tahitian Ceviche. It’s wonderful. What we’d consider a traditional breakfast is popular there as well. A good plate of bacon, eggs and potatoes isn’t hard to come by. French classics such a chocolate croissant with espresso are also easy to come by.
  5. You really don’t need a lot. Make sure to have your basic necessities in a carry on bag, but other than that plan to wear very little (it’s perfectly warm here). Men and women live by the sarong. One sarong will yield 10 different looks.

What places are on your travel bucket list? Leave me a comment below. Thanks for reading! See you next time!

xo -Riss

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Celebration, Sip and See for Baby Kamara!

If you’re new here, you may or may not know the story of my ‘Journey to Motherhood’. I wrote a full and detailed blog on my journey which began in January of 2017. If you haven’t read that blog, be sure you do.

Due to the fact I was on bedrest for 12 weeks during the second half of my pregnancy, I was not able to have a traditional baby shower though we were very blessed with so many gifts from our online baby registry. I got the greatest gift of all (my beautiful daughter born healthy and perfect) on December 30th, 2018. So when it came to the things I wasn’t able to do prior to my daughters arrival, like having a baby shower and nesting/ preparing her room, I tried not to be too bummed.

Waiting to design my daughters room after her arrival was probably a blessing in disguise. I was so much more comfortable and actually able to decorate the walls and stand! lol I was truly able to take my time without having so much else on my mind (like having a safe and smooth delivery). I designed her room after meeting her getting a feel for her personality!

When it came to celebrating Kamara’s arrival, my sister had me covered. She insisted that we celebrated the arrival of her magical, rainbow baby niece who has already brought so much love and light into the world and into the lives of those that meet her.

This past Saturday, we celebrated baby Kamara Michelle Stephens with a Sip and See that was so intimately beautiful! My mom and sister did an absolutely amazing job planning the event. I’m so grateful for them and the friends that helped! We had a blast and even played games that were so memorable, also due to the fact that the baby was there in our presence! Gratefulness is flowing from my heart…

Thanks for reading! xo -Riss

carissa

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New York in a Day

My first flight after having my daughter was a direct one to New York, New York and damn was it eventful!

My husband and I squeezed in a two night stay in New York the weekend of his birthday for a little business and a little pleasure. We arrived to our hotel Thursday, March 21st at 11:55pm on a cold and rainy night leaving us just one full day (Friday) in New York City. We had a jam packed and purpose filled day before heading to Florida early Saturday morning to visit family. Here is how we did New York in a day!

I have been to NYC two other times before, once for family vacation and the other time for blogger work with L’Oreal Paris USA. Both of those trips were amazing! But this was Kenneth and I’s first time in NYC together and if it one thing I knew about NYC it’s that it’s a busy and highly populated place. Transportation can be slow… and if your time is limited, you better move fast and plan your route! In just about 24hrs, we had amazing food and drinks, had a business meeting, celebrated Kenneth’s birthday, experienced a dope interactive art museum, went shopping on Times Square, listened to live music in Harlem, attended a comedy show and had romantic alone time. I don’t need to tell you that we literally did not sleep before heading to Florida. lol

Hotel – The Omni Berkshire

When we arrived to our hotel, we weren’t thrilled to find they had put us up in a room with two double beds. Probably because when I husband booked, he did not specify. Naturally, we went back down to the front desk to request a room with a King bed. Due to all standard rooms being booked, we caught a dub and were upgraded to a suite! The suite at the Omni was beautiful. I pampered myself with a bubble bath in my complimentary robe.

I also can’t mention this hotel without giving mention to the amazing concierge! They helped make our short stay in NYC flow perfectly by helping me pull off a birthday surprise for my husband and helping us plan the flow of our itinerary!

Morning Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien.

This a referral from our hotel’s concierge because it is a cozy and cute French bakery offering deliciously fresh breakfast food and beverage options. We trotted in light drizzle and 40 degree weather and enjoy the best breakfast sandwich I’ve had in a long time and my first match latte! Yummy!

The Color Factory in SoHo

We had some time in between breakfast and our business meeting so in route to the meeting we swung by The Color Factory. Lot’s to soak in here. Lots to see, do, taste, hear, feel, etc. It’s a very thoughtful space that flows from room to room and is so carefully curated. I was blown away… pictures don’t do it justice plus I don’t want to give it all away in case you go! You should experience for yourself next time you’re in New York.

I’d been wanting to experience an interactive art museum like this so I inquired with the concierge who then put us on a list to have us covered at the door. Tickets are otherwise available for $38 each online at: https://www.colorfactory.co/

Business and Brunch – Sweet Chick

We met up with Kandia J., business consultant, boss babe and writer for Forbes, Business Insider and Black Enterprise. She’d previously did a write up on our law firm for Black Enterprise and we wanted to connect to meet face to face and show gratitude for her article which took our business to new heights plus talk shop. We had a blast and the food was delicious! Kenneth sad these were the best waffles he’s ever had. Sweet Chick has 4 locations around NYC as is partially owned by rapper and businessman, Nas.

We also did some research while in NYC on some technology we are developing, and while on Times Square went site seeing and did a little shopping.

The Birthday Boy

Hubby’s birthday was an absolute success! I’d tucked away a couple of gifts in my suite case that blew his mind and I partnered with Beatrice of the Omni concierge to surprise Kenneth midday after our meeting with balloons and gourmet cupcakes that I lit with candles so I could sing to him and have him make a wish. It was super special!

Friday night we took an Uber to Harlem where we had dinner at a Yatenga… a black owned casual French eatery with an eclectic vibe, a recommendation from a friend I went to high-school with who is now on Broadway. The best part about Yatenga was the African music, the savory mac n cheese, their roasted lamb and of course… their henny-colada! It’s apparently the drink to have when in New York! So good. After Yatenga we listened to live music at a nearby spot and ended the day at a comedy club on Times Square. Whew!!! What a day!!!

I still can’t believe we did all this in one day! First was the first trip of several coming up this year so stay tuned if you enjoy following my travel blogs.

Thanks for reading! xo -Riss

carissa

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Carissa Stephens Voyage Houston Magazine Feature and Interview!

I was contacted by Voyage Houston Magazine to offer up advice for their readers who may be facing insurmountable odds and my advice was published in the their #GirlBoss: Redefining What a Boss Looks Like column.

(Press Play for Preview)

Subsequently, they requested a full interview. I am honored to be able to share my story with this publication who makes a habit of sharing local (Houston) stories in their recent #Traiblazers: Rewriting the Narrative column! Check out my interview to learn more about my professional background + how I got to where I’m at now.

Read how my interview went here: http://voyagehouston.com/interview/life-work-carissa-stephens/

I want to hear your stories as well! What field are you in currently? What do you love most about what you do? Leave me a comment below!

Thanks for reading! xo -Riss

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Carissa Stephens As Seen On Houston Life TV | DIY Hair Masks and Natural Hair Styles!

Today, I had the opportunity to return to one of my favorite television sets, KPRC Ch. 2, as a beauty expert and filmed two live segments on one of my favorite topics… natural hair! I loved the opportunity to work with the Channel 2 crew and the hosts of Houston Life TV, Derrick Shore and Christine Noel, who was in for Courtney Zavala.

On my first segment, I shared 3 quick and easy DIY recipes: Optimal Moisture, Growth & Strengthen, and Smooth & Shine. On my second segment, I was accompanied by my 3 models, Nakyia, Amber and Devon. I showcased quick demos on easy-to-achieve, heat-less styles for curly hair. Check out my photos from the day and click the link below to watch my live segments on Houston Life TV!

WATCH HERE: https://www.click2houston.com/houston-life/hl-style/diy-hair-masks-using-items-you-probably-already-have-at-home

Thanks for reading! xo -Riss

carissa

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Motherhood, Marriage, Multiple Businesses, Self-Maintenance… and Finding Balance??

2019 began rather eventfully for me. Prayers were answered and I assumed new roles while letting go of others. I feel a new energy to go after the things I am most passionate about, that are aligned with my purpose. That is to motivate, cultivate and inspire girls and women. I use my platforms to do so and I plan to continue to develop as a blogger/ influencer to make a positive impact in the lives of those I connect with face-to-face and virtually.

Whether by inspiring them to take necessary risks in order to achieve their greatest potential, educating and opening up dialogue about things that affect our community and how we see ourselves, or simply by being a resource, connecting them to tools that ultimately enhance/ improve their life.

I have felt this calling for the past decade and have been intentional about walking in my purpose since God placed this on my heart. This awareness and set intention has allowed so many things to manifest in my life. Wonderful opportunities have been placed at my doorstep. While yet I had to work for them.. the work came easy, naturally. Opportunities that had I not trusted God’s calling for my life, I would’ve never experienced.

Some doors were closed. Doors that because I needed a security blanket, I chose to walk through. Doors that I’d walked through before the vision for my life became more refined. Ones that were meant for just a season. I thank God for opening some doors and for closing some doors, too.

Aligning with my purpose, becoming a business owner and serial entrepreneur, a wife and now mother… has been a whirlwind! There are truly NO DAYS OFF! Between maintaining the house, my baby, our businesses/ brands, my social life and MYSELF… whoo chile! lol

One thing I have come to accept is that “finding balance” is more a satire for me than an actual goal. I am getting my flow though! Some days, finding balance means literally balancing my baby’s bottle under my chin to feed her while wrapping up that email I needed to send… yesterday. Staying organized while keeping my family and our health as my top priority. Multi-tasking!

Other days, finding balance means cutting everything off but my music and taking a nice bubble bath. Even taking the time to wash, condition, and style my hair (a process that is somewhat extensive especially since having my daughter. I swear my hair is so much thicker than before).

Self-care is of the utmost importance. How can we be our best for those that depend on us if we don’t first take care of ourselves? I’m unapologetic about needing “me time”. Further, my husband and I make sure we get our “WE time”. As new parents, life is demanding and it can be challenging nurturing your relationship between work and raising a brand new human. Creativity is key! 😉

Also, understanding the power of “No”. Everything ain’t for everybody! Every single invitation and door that opens is not meant be walked through. Some are meant to distract. Having more discretion about how and where I spend my time has been something I’ve put into practice and it’s helped me out a lot.

All the hats I wear bring be great joy and fulfillment. Writing this almost feels like my declaration… but I choose to live a testimonial and triumphant life regardless of what I am faced with. I choose to design the life I want to live and share my journey with you as it unfolds.

I am here to remind you that YOU DECIDE. You decide what type of life you want to live. Embrace challenges, keep it moving and when it comes to finding balance, regardless of what hats you wear, just do your best. The rest is colored bubbles.

Thanks for reading! xo -Riss

carissa

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Modeling on Live TV ONE Month Postpartum

Yesterday, I had a complete blast on set at Channel 2 studios. I was contacted by a fellow blogger friend, Dawn Darnell, whom I’d met last year as we were both speakers at a woman’s conference.

She was looking for a model for her travel fashion segment on KPRC Ch. 2 Houston Life! She asked me if I’d be available and feeling up to it. Being just about a month from delivering my sweet Kammy Cakes, my initial thought was, “How am I going to look on TV after JUST having a baby?” How would I feel about my body so quickly after spending a season on hospitalized bed-rest and having an unplanned c-section?? Those thoughts didn’t linger around too long as I mustered up the courage to step out of my comfort zone and experience a confidence in myself like never before. A word to my new mama’s…. you can do anything and everything. Believe in yourself!

I learned that there would be several travel looks. The international traveler (ie. Europe, Africa), the cultural traveler (Austin, NOLA), the beach vacation look and the staycation look! I had the luxury of modeling the staycation look for the segment. Comfy, casual… chic.

I was excited to model this look because usually when I plan travel it is for destinations abroad. Now as a new mom, I am embracing all the fun that can be had even locally and am opening my eyes to all the experiences to yet be re-discovered right here in Houston. I am so looking forward to taking my daughter to the zoo, parks and museums and seeing the gems in this city through her eyes!

My look was so comfortable, I loved it! The shoes were sponsored by #DSW and the outfit was compliments of #TheLoft. The look, designed by Dawn, spoke to me as someone who likes to be cute, comfy and be on the go. The army green backpack was actually a diaper bag (cutest ever) and was the perfect compliment to the lounge pant, which I was obsessed with. The blouse I wore underneath was the perfect material to feel light and breezy with my layered look and the jacket provided that edgy pop that really completed the look.

The other ladies who modeled with me on the segment were so much fun to work with and the TV hosts, Derek and Courtney were also wonderfully warm and cool. The energy and vibe on set was so perfect.

If you missed the live segment, no worries. Click here to watch now!!!:

https://www.click2houston.com/houston-life/hl-style/travel-in-style-on-your-next-getaway

Thanks for reading and for watching! xo

carissa

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My Journey To Motherhood

Watching my husband with my daughter while writing this feels surreal… here is my story which until now has remained very private but this testimony is one that I realize needs to be shared, in totality.

THE UNEXPECTED

My journey to motherhood began somewhat unexpectedly January 2, 2017 when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. My husband and I had not been trying for a baby then, we were just having our fun, traveling and building businesses/ brands. That season we’d been focused on producing content for our YouTube series “Married to Business” and were very occupied with planning an EPIC New Years Eve party which was a huge success. Although unplanned, we were very happy with the news of expecting our first child.

As things in my pregnancy progressed… I had the usual first trimester symptoms like tender breasts, fatigue and some nausea. Despite pregnancy symptoms, I continued to focus on my brands. I was still very active, attending meetings and business lunches. I withheld the news of my pregnancy to the public until I reached 12 weeks gestation.

Then, at about 14.5 weeks gestation and at the beginning of the second trimester, I experienced pre-ruptured membranes (complete leakage of amniotic fluid after my water bag broke) following a stressful day. The water breaking and complete fluid leak led to an inevitable miscarriage as a fetus couldn’t be sustained without any fluid to develop in. Attempting to carry to viability with broken water would also put me at great risk of infection which could become fatal. Our hearts were completely broken.

The next few days, I carried a baby that I knew I would never get the chance to meet. I went in for my scheduled in-office procedure (D&C) and after no more than 45 minutes, the baby was gone. I saw nothing. There was no blood (that I could see), no pain… just an emptiness as I left that doctor’s office. At that time, doctors never pinpointed what may have caused the pre-ruptured membranes. I had no real answers and that ate me up. Physically, it was as if the pregnancy never happened. Emotionally… a different story. I mourned. I cried. I screamed. I have fallen to my knees. My world was grey for a moment.

I learned about a huge community of women who’d also experienced pregnancy loss and the outpouring was real. This helped me feel less alone in my despair. It had happened to so many women (many who I knew personally) but the topic just was not really talked about. I never realized how common it was until I myself went through it. According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage — most often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant. About 15-25% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. More than 80% of miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy.

I PRAYED for emotional healing and had a lot of people praying for me. Prayer works… because eventually I was healed and my joy fully and completely restored. I dried my tears and I pressed on. I learned to accept what was and that God had a plan. It was greater than I could understand at that time but I accepted His will and I trusted Him completely. Letting go and letting God was how I returned to ME.

BENT BUT NOT BROKEN

The duration of that year March – December ’17 was spent reclaiming my intrinsic love for life and developing a greater appreciation for my own strength. I traveled, I laughed, I created new and ever-lasting memories with family and friends.

I was productive with personal and financial goals. I’d finally decided to leave the corporate world for good and focus my professional skill set on helping grow the law firm that my husband built. Our new found financial situation made the decision a no brainier. Hurricane Harvey happened… which by the way, my first due date would have been right in the middle of the mess Hurricane Harvey made. Kind of scary considering we were stuck in our house for 6 days! God knew! I thanked God for my faith and the resiliency that He allowed me to have. I thanked God for His protection and loving me in spite of me. I thanked God for the lessons and the blessings. So much growth took place during that time period.

DANCING IN THE RAIN

Around the start of 2018, after reflecting on my life and realizing how strongly I desired to be a mom, my husband and I decided it was time to start planning for our family. We tried for months and I felt myself grow increasingly anxious and even impatient to get pregnant again.

Never-the-less, the year was off to an AMAZING start! Our company was growing leaps and bounds, we’d planned some travel and were in love more than ever before. After several months of a negative pregnancy test and disappointment in “Aunt Flo’s” arrival into town… we decided to take a break from the ovulation tracking. We chilled out some to avoid falling victim to being overly task oriented during love making. I never wanted to be that couple!

The summer rolled around and thus, my anniversary. I always look forward to my wedding anniversary and our annual anniversary trip! I had gotten back into really good shape and was feeling amazing. The plan was to travel to Cabo San Lucas for a week to celebrate. The goal was to not even think about getting pregnant and to enjoy paradise in marital bliss with the love of my life!

For the entire month of May, I actually didn’t think about getting pregnant not one time. We had too much fun on our anniversary trip and I had planned back to back trips that month. The second trip was a girls trip with my mom and sister to the Texas Wine Country. I was lit the whole month!


FAVOR is when you don’t look like what you’ve been through!!!

God is has a funny sense of humor. The moment I stopped trying to control the timing of everything was when we conceived. It happened ON our anniversary in Mexico. I know the exact day because we spent the first night alone in our 6 sleeper condo before being joined by fam/ friends that we’d invited the next day. When I realized I was ‘late’ sometime in near the end of May, we laughed (at the irony of it all)… and REJOICED! We were also met with some fear and apprehension due to our experience the prior year.

Excuse me while I take a break from writing to pump… #mommymode

PREGNANT… AGAIN

I somewhat knew what to expect during the first trimester of pregnancy and was ready. This pregnancy, I was more nauseous than the first. I still worked as long as I could at the firm, closing my office door and taking naps when I needed to on my in-office couch. I took my time with everything. Made sure to keep my stress level down, ate like a champ and even picked up prenatal yoga. I’d learned the power of saying “No” to things that weren’t in the best interest of my pregnant state and felt like a woman empowered as I continued my journey to motherhood.

To a certain degree, I sort of held my breath until making it past the point that I had in my first pregnancy. Once I did, and with a new doctor and preventative plan in place, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. My new OBGYN had diagnosed me with an incompetent cervix which is what caused the miscarriage in my first pregnancy. I had a cerclage placed during the first trimester. Finally, some answers and a plan in place to reduce the chance of the same thing happening again. The cerclage was to keep my cervix reinforced as the baby continued to grow and the pressure from gravity made it harder for my body to carry.

I never shared my pregnancy publicly until I was nearly 8 months pregnant. I had NO desire to. I didn’t care about putting the news on the internet. The people who are actually in my life knew and that was good enough for me. I ENJOYED my pregnancy out of the public eye for 8 months.

BEDREST

Following my fabulous yet high activity birthday weekend in September, at a regularly prenatal check-up… my specialist MFM doctor noticed my cervix had shortened, suddenly and drastically. The cerclage that had been placed almost 10 weeks prior was my saving grace. I was instructed to go straight to the hospital next door with only the clothes on my back as I were to be admitted to strict hospitalized bedrest for the next 10 weeks (at least). Needless-to-say, I was pretty much in shock for a few days. Those 10 weeks ended up being 12 weeks as my doctors are very conservative and regardless of how I felt about it at the time, would do everything to keep this baby in as long as possible.

So from mid September – mid December, I spent my days in a small hospital room laying down, incubating my baby girl. For three months I ate mostly hospital food, I got up only to use a bedside commode and I took bed baths the majority of the time. That little room was my kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.


Things in the hospital took some adjusting and some tears of frustration in the beginning. I’d missed one of my best friend’s weddings that I was a bridesmaid in and my sister had to fill in for me. That was one of the hardest things about being on bedrest. I missed other events and opportunities that were important to me and that I was excited about. I missed my sweet furbaby, Josie, tremendously but was so grateful to have a newly retired mom who gladly took care of her the entire time I was in the hospital. She got spoiled over there, enjoying her regular groomings and my mom’s two other dogs to play with.

I watched from my window as the seasons changed craving to feel the outside air. The corner shelving in my room served as my focal point for seasonal decor. I began to realize NOTHING else in the world mattered. Nothing that I could’ve missed was worth taking a chance and not giving my baby the best start at life possible. God had to clear my plate so there could be room to receive my greatest blessing of all in a way that could be none other than for His glory!

On Halloween I played dress up. I became a pro at doing my makeup while laying down in bed (though most days I wore none). The hospital invited all the expecting moms in the Antepartum unit to participate in trick-or-treating and true to form, I went all out. All of the children of the other bedrested mommies and hospital staff came and went trick-or-treating door to door. Social workers made sure the bedrested mamas got big bags of candy to pass out to the kids… the good, expensive candy too! It was a great night as we played Michael Jackson’s – Thriller and other fun songs in my room. (Picture my sister Amber doing the Thriller dance with those long legs of hers. #Priceless).

My family all came by and my mom brought party foods. The kids were so cute! Everyone from all around the hospital came to my room because they’d heard great things about the lioness costume in #3042 and had to come check it out. I ended up (the only patient) with my picture on the hospital news letter for that month. I’m so extra. lol

Ok, I need another pump break. Yea, so apparently I’m a #milkfactory!

I kept myself busy and entertained with new hobbies like crocheting, occasional business related phone conferences, lots of visitors, journaling, day time television, all the seasons of Game of Thrones lol, reading up on all the mommy/ parenting tips from books, apps and google searches, game nights with friends, taking good care of myself, and lots of reflecting, meditation and prayer. I can honestly say I never got bored… which amazes me.

“LET US NOT GROW WEARY IN WELL-DOING, FOR IN DUE SEASON WE SHALL REAP, IF WE FAINT NOT” GALATIANS 6:9

A peace which surpasses all understanding came over me during my extended stay at Hotel Woman’s Hospital of Texas. lol I experienced REST that I had never experienced up until that point. I am usually always so go, go go! Once I got over the surrender of my total independence, I could really appreciate everyone waiting on me hand and foot. Nurses and staff at the hospital were simply amazing. Ultimately, I came to realize being on strict hospitalized bedrest was a blessing in disguise. Better that than to not have caught the cervical shortening in time. I told God when I first got pregnant again that I would do anything for this baby that he’d blessed me with if he’d just let this baby grow to term and arrive healthy and beautiful. That prayer was put to the test, chile!!! So worth it and I’d do it all again for my Kamara… He is ABLE!!!

LOVE AT IT’S BEST

My husband Kenneth stayed in the hospital EVERY DAY. (Ok, here come my tears…) Living in the hospital to and from work, sleeping on the couch next to my bed, only going home on briefly on Sunday evenings to wash our clothes, check mail, check on the house and re-pack our things for the upcoming week. I could not have done 3 months in the hospital as happy and as comfortable as I did without my husband, my superman. He helped keep me calm and give me a great sense of normalcy in the hospital despite our situation. He made me laugh everyday, made me feel pretty when I know I was looking crazy, and comforted me during my sad and scared moments. All while having so much else on his plate. He is the real MVP!!! MY ROCK!!! I’ve really gotten to see the stuff our marriage is made of over the last couple of years and I am so grateful for my life partner who’s a reflection of God’s goodness, mercy and love for me. My daughter couldn’t have a more amazing father!!! #BlessedByTheBest

Hubby helping to keep me well moisturized

My mom, dad and my sisters would visit regularly. In fact, I think I saw my family more frequently being in the hospital than I had since being married. Mama Pam, Pappa Keith, Sista girls Amber and Kendra… thank you so much. You guys are the BEST! Other relatives that visited, Andre, David, Chrissy, Nicole, Madi, Aunt JoAnn, Minka and Ren. I love ya’ll!

The week of Thanksgiving, my in-laws, Kenneth Sr. and Esylen, came in town from Florida to surprise me and spend several days with us!! I am so blessed to have them in my life and my daughter has the most amazing grandparents there could be! While in town, my father-in-law who is also a Pastor, blessed the baby’s room in our home. Thank you for helping my Thanksgiving be the best and most memorable EVER and for praying over me/ us. I still can’t believe we got all that food in that room!! #OMG

Kamara’s grandparents

TRIBE

To all my girlfriends who came to spend time with me in the hospital… Marj, Vorice, Free, Manda, Tay, Jenn, Angela, Shara… what a clique of phenomenal women you all are. You’ve all been rocking with me for so long. Kamara will know you each as her aunts. To homies who are more like family… Faran, Megan, Chike, Jeff, Bresha, Nakyia, Jay, Ike, Reggie, Gabby, LaDarien, Corlon, Chelsea, Devon, Sage, Isis, Sammy, Ogechi, Amber B., Nicole M., Brandon C., Symone, Princess, Avery, Rebecca, Karen… thank you ALL for taking the time our of your busy lives to come and visit me while I was on bedrest!! I have so many wonderful pictures and can’t wait to put them all together so I can someday show Kamara all the love that surrounded us while she was baking.

To the team at Woman’s Hospital who loved on me and took good care of me… Carol, Liz, Megan, Sherry, and my favorite nurses ShaRay, Dinah, Maggie, Comfort, Sarah, Chika… thanks for holding it down!! Of course my doctors, Dr. Robinson and Dr. Hare who are truly more like my Auntie’s now… thank you for the tough love. My doctors are already discussing ways we can try to avoid strict bedrest in my next pregnancy. Each pregnancy we learn more and more about my tricky cervix. The next time will be easier, in Jesus name.

I made sure to keep my hair and nails done in the hospital thanks to amazing people like Jennifer, the in-house spa technician and stylists, Brittany and Tiffany, who didn’t mind leaving their shop to come and tend to my head! It was important for me to keep a strong sense of self through all this and I’m so grateful for those that helped me.

I managed to take maternity photos and am so grateful for Kyiera Williams Photography for helping me feel more comfortable in my own skin despite having an entire photo-shoot while pregnant on bedrest in a hospital. I debated about whether to take pictures or not, but she kept me encouraged. I was so happy with how they turned out and proud of myself for taking lemons and #MakingLemonade.

BTS

I am so grateful for all the love, prayer and support shown by those who knew our situation. I’m grateful for my praying church, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and the Deacons who came to visit and made sure we got our communion every first Sunday while in the hospital. To everyone that visited me during my stay, those that made me for forget I was actually in a hospital, everyone who sent messages, everyone who came out to my husband’s Diapers and Cigars party, and everyone who bought from our online registry… thank you!! With my incredible support system, we all contributed to such a positive outcome. They say it takes a village!

THANK YOU GOD for keeping me, mentally and physically!!!

When I first got wheelchair privileges shortly before before being discharged

AFTER THE RAIN…

Two weeks before Christmas I got to go hooooommmeee!!! *Insert praise hands* This was an indescribable feeling. Since I was much further along and in the safe zone with baby (9 months pregnant), I was able to move around a lot more. I enjoyed the days leading up to Christmas, catching up with friends in the comforts of home and even taking a drive with my sister to Town Center to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday.

Christmas Day was magical and spent at my house with family. My mom made it happen in the kitchen and made sure her baby and her grandbaby ate #well! I got my Christmas wish and then some!! #AllIWantForChristmas

Kamara Michelle Stephens arrived on the eve on New Years Eve following intense contractions on December 30, 2018 at 11:23pm weighing 6 lbs, 7 oz. She arrived perfectly and beautifully. She spent every moment with us while I recovered and we brought her home on January 2nd, 2019. She surpasses all my expectations and we are enjoying her sooo much!! I can’t stop looking at her! My daughter is most definitely the #rainbow after the storm. She is our greatest work and our biggest blessing! I am so grateful to be her mama!!!

BE ENCOURAGED

If you are going through anything that can be classified as a journey, remember that there are blessings even in the hard times. God uses our experiences to make us better and prepare us for our blessings! Trust Him and His timing. Embrace every challenge and handle it with grace. Praise Him even in the midst of your adversities. Take your lemons and make lemonade! Be encouraged to proclaim His goodness and share your story. Your best days are ahead of you!!!

“He that has begun a great work in you, is faithful to perform it.”

This is MY TESTIMONY! Share this story with someone it can encourage.

Thanks for reading! Love & Light xoxo -Mama Riss

#ShesChaRISSmatic #CarissaStephens #Pregnancy #Journey #Testimony #RainbowBaby #KamaraMichelleStephens #PrincessK #StephensPartyofThree #AnsweredPrayer #2017Lemons #2018Lemonade #2019LemonadeStand #ImNotCryingYoureCrying

carissa

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