Reflections on Pregnancy

My pregnancy, from the beginning, was both hard and miraculous. Nearly 8 weeks in, I started bleeding heavily in the night and thought I was having my third miscarriage. Bri and I stayed up all night begging God to save her, to change his mind, to give her a chance. We went into see the doctor first thing the next morning and she confirmed our worst fears. That I was indeed losing her to a miscarriage. My doctor pulled a bloody thumb sized lump off my cervix believing it to be the placenta. We were devastated. I was in shock that it was happening again. Angry that even after the joy of seeing our baby’s heartbeat mere days earlier, all was now lost. My doctor proceeded with the ultrasound to make sure everything was out, and a mere moment later, gasping with unbelief, said, “wait a minute…..there’s a heartbeat…..and there’s your baby. Your baby is ok. Your baby is alive.” Dumbfounded I turned to look at the ultrasound machine and there she was, sure enough, heart pumping fire and life into her tiny but strong body. Our tears of mourning literally turned to tears of joy in a wondrous instant, and I knew we were in for quite the journey.


And quite the journey it has been. Days after our that life changing experience, I was hit hard with extreme nausea and morning sickness. Or all day sickness is a more apt description. The throwing up and nausea lasted 7 months. I was put on bed rest during my first trimester and lost over 10 pounds. Despite the miracle growing inside, and the miracle of our little girl’s life, joy was dampened by sickness and depression and isolation. It was difficult even to get out of bed at times. But as always, there were glimpses of grace in the pain, grace found with each beautiful ultrasound picture, each beautiful beat of her heart, and feeling her kick and move.  

When I finally got over the nausea and throwing up and started feeling better, our baby was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction or IUGR. Basically, our little girl’s belly was growing at a much smaller rate than the rest of her body and over all she was small. There’s nothing a person can do make it better. You can’t eat more to make it go away, or rest more, or exercise less. Doctors aren’t really sure what causes it, but there was fear that she wasn’t getting all the nutrients she needed and had to be monitored closely with two non-stress tests and a Doppler every single week. If she didn’t catch up on her next genetic scan, I was going to have to deliver at thirty-four weeks.


But again, miracles happen. After a month of hospital visits, tests, ultrasounds (and worry and prayers) little babe hit a growth curve and completely caught up! The IUGR diagnosis was reversed. And I got the awesome news that I can carry her to term. Our little girl is such a fighter, from the very beginning when we were told she was gone and up until now as we wait patiently through our final days.


I have felt so weak throughout this pregnancy, but reflecting back, I realize that she makes me strong. In fact, there are times where I can feel her strength and beauty inside me, and it is both humbling and overwhelming. I couldn’t have done this pregnancy without her. I couldn’t have done it without her kicking me into shape quite literally as she does all day and all night. And I know that I can’t deliver without her either. Her fighting spirit inspires the fighting spirit in me.

We named our daughter Lila Vienne. Lila after my grandmother who is tiny in stature but exudes grit and grace, fortitude and wisdom. And we named her Vienne which means “alive” because we were told she was dead and then she was alive.

I wanted my maternity pictures to show how extremely beautiful and miraculous this pregnancy has been, so we did the first set all color. My hope is that it reflects the strength I feel with Lila Vienne growing inside me, heart beating strong, regardless of all we have been through.

The second set is in black and white, because I wanted to find a way to authentically and tastefully celebrate the struggle we’ve had for the last 9 months.  For so many mothers, pregnancy isn’t this gorgeous, airy, light-filled, picture-perfect reality. It’s difficult, hard to get out of bed some days, and scary too. But we all pull through and celebrate the miracle that comes.

Lila Vienne, you are our miracle.


All photos shot by Brian. Location is at Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs where we baby-mooned, a welcome, quiet, and safe place that allowed us the chance to process the IUGR diagnosis we received the day earlier. We are so grateful for their hospitality during our stay. 

Love to you all, Johanna (& Brian)

The 2016 Official Dressember Dress

Brought to you by Conscious Closets + Symbology!

I am super excited about this year's dress. Knowing that I needed something versatile and comfy, Marissa and her team at Symbology helped me design a gorgeous dress that not only looks amazing, but feels amazing, and can be worn so many different ways. In this post, I've styled it two ways. The first look is how I'd wear it for a night out on the town. And the second, for a more casual weekend day of play. Check out all the fun below and head over to Symbology to get one of your own. But act fast, this is a very limited addition.

For look one I was inspired by the starkness of the black and white star print, so I styled the dress with mixed metals, primarily silver and gold. I like the play of opposites. I used statement earrings and a statement bracelet from Rebecca, an Italian jewelry brand. And I went for more minimal, but no less chic, necklaces from California designer, Hadley Frances. My clutch is a gold and silver vintage metal clutch that I picked up at the Long Beach Flea. And lastly, I chose strappy black heels. You can find a great similar brand at Susi Shoes

SURPRISE! This dress is reversible! And I love this grey print too. It has a cool Southwestern vibe to it. For look two, I styled my dress with small handmade earrings from Bless the Theory, one of my favorite necklaces from Enrou, and a fun statement bracelet from Noonday Collection (I love these bracelets). I love this boho clutch from Cleobella, the fun belt that I've had for years, and lastly......THOSE BOOTS (yes I still wear them to remind me of how my journey started).

Conscious Closets + Symbology

I'm super excited to share a little collaboration with my friend Marissa and her beautiful brand, Symbology. The dresses and tops at Symbology are statement pieces for sure, and what I love most about them is the conversation that wearing her pieces create. Conversations, not just about how beautiful the dress is, but then how it's made (ethically, of course, to empower women in India)! Each collection centers around a common theme or symbol and the prints are block printed by hand, making each piece extra unique and special.

Check out my favorites from her summer line below and look for more from Conscious Closets and Symbology coming to the Darling blog soon. 

I styled the Peacock Kimono Wrap dress with my favorite gold Tieks that I've had for years. Necklace is from UNCVRD

I kept the accessories to a minimum to let the gold leaf design speak for itself. Bracelet from Tribe of Dreamers.

Symbology Founder and Designer, Marissa wearing the Butterfly Caftan.

Lastly, Conscious Closets readers will get a whopping 20% discount on any purchase at Symbology using the code WEHEARTCC at check out! Woohoo!!!! 

Photos by Brian Tropiano

Empowered Women Empower Women

Empowered women empower women.

Clothing certainly doesn't change us intrinsically, but it's amazing how what we choose to wear can either enhance or diminish our personalities. 

I know that I am strong, but there are days where I struggle with depression or anxiety. If I get up and get dressed and put on an outfit like this, I immediately feel that strength returning. Then I can go out and give and serve. 

I believe the stories behind our clothes add to that as well. These pants are made by thriving women rescued from sex trafficking. Call me crazy, but I can literally feel their strength and courage when I wear them. And I too am empowered. 

Every purchase in this post goes toward empowering women. And I truly believe, they will empower you too. 

Top is from TWENTYTWO|FORTYFOUR's Black Ash Collection; Pants are Punjammies from Sudara, available at Enrou; Necklace is available at Enrou; Bracelet is available at Tribe of Dreamers; Clutch is from Hayden Harnett, sold out but get a similar one here; Shoes old

Conscious Closets + Enrou

I love Jessica Willison and Ann Wang, the entrepreneurs behind LA fashion brand Enrou. One thing I'm learning on the Conscious Closet's journey, is that shopping is hard! Finding pieces that are both affordable AND fashionable? Nearly impossible.

Enter Enrou and clothing designer Mayamiko! Not only are the materials ethically sourced, but the pieces are handmade in Malawi providing over 15 hours of work for women there. 

I loved learning more about Enrou and the ways they are using fashion for good. Take a moment and check them out!

All photography by Brian Tropiano

Outfit details above: Mayamiko Celtic Thistle A-line Skirt: $46.75; matching shell top: $32.73. I paired it with a turtleneck from Gap, an old faux fur vest and old boots. 

This little Mayamiko designed Shift Dress is made from 100% reclaimed Italian wool and retails for $80.75. I paired it with my white hat from Westerlind, dainty necklaces from The Brave Collection also available at Enrou, my favorite bracelet from Tribe of Dreamers, and black Nisolo Austins for something unexpected. I'd love to see it paired with this little denim jacket from Urban Renewal. Maybe my next Conscious Closets purchase?