Milestones are something every parent celebrates. It typically starts with an elaborate baby book for baby number 1 and by baby 3 or even 4 we are so busy living, the milestones are often recorded in the modern day baby book: social media. Which in my opinion is a wonderfully inclusive way to document life's special moments.
For Georgia 6 months old feels entirely different. Georgia's 6 month birthday falls on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and it couldn't be more appropriately timed.
The word thankful feels like it is not enough. At first, I was reluctant and scared to share Georgia's birth, her illness, and all of the obstacles she faced. And quite honestly the thought of publicly sharing made the experience more real and hard than I could bear. Over time all of you showed me the power of prayer and love from around the globe, even if we don't know each other. Georgia became not just my baby, but all of ours. She was sent straight from heaven to move mountains, restore faith, advance medicine, bring people together, and most of all show us that the power of love really does conquer all. Thank you for embracing Georgia and welcoming her into your family prayer sessions, daily intentions, thoughts, and life.
Today as I reflect on the past 6 months, I feel as though it is time to share a more in depth look into Georgia's journey. Georgia came into this world and immediately went on life support, but today 6 months later; because of her angel donor, divine intervention, the amazing work of Boston Children's Hospital, and the power of love she is living and laughing and we are planning her home-coming.
GO GEORGIA GO
1. Cardiac arrest at birth. Georgia entered this world took two breaths and went into cardiac arrest. She received CPR in the delivery room, and was intubated moments after birth. My husband Ryan watched across the OR as the code team gave our baby girl chest compressions, all along protecting me and not letting me see his fear while the doctors put my body back together.
2. Georgia's heart grew very weak over the next 8 hours after birth, despite the medicines used to rescue her heart. She needed to go on a machine, called ECMO that would give her body a rest and take over the work of her heart and lungs. The team at Mass General Hospital turned her NICU room into an OR and emergently cannulated our baby girl onto life support. At this time we were told Georgia may not make it. They said now is the time to baptize Georgia, they asked if we wanted her siblings meet her and talked organ donation.
3. At 11:00PM on May 19th Boston Children's Hospital stepped into Georgia's life and brought us immediate HOPE. Knowing that Georgia may not survive the critical transport across town, Ryan and I consented to packing up our baby girl on life support and letting Georgia's angels and Boston Children's Hospital take the reins.
4. Georgia survived the police escorted transport to Boston Children's Hospital, in the mobile ICU, and went straight into an emergency catheterization procedure at 2AM, again we were unsure she would survive. But she did.
5. Georgia went on the next 10 days to have 3 more risky cath procedures, a mitochrondrial transplant to try and revive her heart muscle, all while on ECMO. Her body showed us that she is a fighter by her end organs recovering and labs stabilizing, but her heart still was not strong enough to come off ECMO.
6. The heart failure team, told us she will need a left ventricular assist device as a bridge to heart transplant or her native heart recovering. Until the day we received the call of the gift of Georgia's beautiful new heart we never gave up hope on her own heart that we made together. Georgia was the smallest baby at just 7 pounds to be put on a VAD. It was open heart surgery, a transition from life support to ventricle support. Again, Georgia persevered.
7. Two days after the VAD surgery we saw seizure activity on Georgia's EEG. Georgia suffered a stroke. The team told us if they knew of Georgia's stroke before the surgery they wouldn't have risked the surgery knowing she would have likely not made it through. But she did, her angels and Georgia's strong soul were in charge.
8. Georgia had bloody stools, with x-ray confirmation, we were told Georgia had something called NEC, an infection in her intestines which alone could be a life threatening disease. Georgia responded to treatment and she persevered.
9. For 6 hours Georgia did not receive her medication that kept her pump clean of clots from causing another catastrophic stroke. It typically would only take under an hour for a large clot to form. Divine intervention came through yet again and Georgia persevered.
10. Georgia learned to eat by mouth, she was full on nursing right before her transplant. We were told Georgia may never eat by mouth and most certainly would not breast feed. Again, Georgia blew everyone away.
11. We received the call, the most amazing gift anyone could possibly receive. I still can't believe a family was able to make the most selfless decision at the moment they lost their baby. Georgia acquired a new angel and she made it through another open heart surgery.
12. After transplant Georgia contracted a fungal infection injuring her end organs, prolonging her ICU stay and intubation for 5 weeks. She fought hard and won.
13. Georgia then acquired a central line infection just a week before we were headed home. Again, a potential life threatening set back, but Georgia won.
Moments before we walked Georgia down to the OR to receive her life saving gift.
Post heart transplant holding her Dad's hand and telling him with her eyes that she has got this!
As many of you know, in March I traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras with two other members of the Petit Peony team as part of our Global Giving philanthropic mission. Over the course of five days, we packed and delivered food to impoverished areas, handed out blankets and Petit Peony clothing in the local hospital’s NICU and in villages, and built a house for a single mother. Petit Peony also employed women to sew 300 Petit Peony dresses, which we also distributed.
For me, this trip has been over two years in the making. I was first introduced to the co-founder and executive director of Mi Esperanza, Lori Connell, in September of 2014. I was looking for a way to produce the first ever Petit Peony collection. After realizing it would be way too expensive to initially produce in the US, finding Miesperanza felt like a gift.
I instantly felt a connection to Lori and her U.S. based non-profit’s mission to elevate Honduran women out of poverty through education, financial opportunity and meaningful employment in ethical and fair-wage fashion. The women of Mi Esperanza made my dream of launching Petit Peony a reality when they accepted my first order in October of 2014. To the 12 women who produced Petit Peony’s collection, this work meant they could send their children to school, provide for them, give them the tools they need to go on to University and TRULY break the cycle of poverty.
I loved that Petit Peony played a part in changing the lives of the women of Mi Esperanza in 2014, although it was not until my trip last month that I truly realized the impact each and every production has on these incredible women.
Before this trip, I knew through Petit Peony I wanted to continue to support the women of Mi Esperanza, but after meeting them in person and hearing their stories first hand, feeling their embraces and sharing tears of mutual gratitude, I am committed to producing a portion of the Petit Peony collections through Mi Esperanza, providing work to these women. It is no longer just gratitude or a mission; we are business partners, and I am so incredibly excited to continue our journey together.
After working in Honduras for five days, I realized that the only way to provide real change, is not to pack 100 food bags and hand them out to people in their homes in severely improvised villages; it’s not to give a little girl a brand new dress and feel her excitement and happiness to be given something; it’s not even to build a home for a single mother. All of that giving is meaningful and necessary. It gives each person we came in contact with HOPE for their future, but REAL CHANGE happens one woman at a time. Every time a woman completes her educational courses at Mi Esperanza, she is equipped to provide her family with REAL CHANGE. It took me seeing, smelling, and embracing poverty in the flesh to come to this realization and motivate me to be able to help change the world by elevating one woman at a time out of poverty.
When the future first daughter of the country contacts you three weeks before the Presidential Inauguration and asks you to design an inaugural collection for her children, there's little time to do anything except get to work.
Join me for a personal view of how Petit Peony founding owner and designer Kate Bowen took on this exact challenge when she opened her e-mail on the drive home from a family ski vacation. Three weeks later she watched her designs moving across her television screen with Arabella wearing a navy Blue wool coat and velvet dress to the historic wreath laying ceremony and all three children sporting Petit Peony designs to the National Prayer Service on Saturday. It was a dream come true for Kate to see her designs land in the press alongside world-renowned designer Oscar de la Renta.
Kim: Can you put into one word how you felt when you were asked to design a collection for the inaugural events?
Kate: SHOCKED. But then immediate excitement with the thought that my designs could possibly be on the world’s stage in just a few weeks!
Kim: How did Ivanka discover Petit Peony?
Kate: Ivanka was introduced to Petit Peony last spring. She became a customer and featured Petit Peony on her #womenwhowork campaign last fall. I sent Arabella a few custom designs for fall with a patriotic flair for the campaign.
Kim: With a controversial political climate, did you hesitate at all to accept Ivanka’s offer?
Kate: No, I’m not a political person. Ivanka Trump is so much more than our first daughter. She is a fashion mogul herself, a mother of three, a female entrepreneur and someone who is dedicated to elevating other female entrepreneurs through the Ivanka Trump #womenwhowork campaign. She proved her commitment to this mission by asking me, a designer without formal design training, to create designs I had never created before such as wools coats, formal dresses, blouses and jon jons for a momentous event in our country’s history that world famous designers take part in.
Kim: What were the steps you took as a designer to create a unique collection from scratch in only three weeks?
Kate: Ivanka sent me inspirational photos and colors she was interested in. I then quickly got to work sketching, and went for a run. Running is where I find inspiration and clarity during design sessions. I love traditional tailored looks and relied upon what I would dress my own three children in. Within three hours I had the collection drafted and sent over to Ivanka for her review. She was vacationing in Hawaii and responded very quickly. When I received her response, my stomach dropped. She loved everything. She even used capital letters LOVE on certain pieces in the collection. Being in fashion herself, she did have a few suggestions. I tweaked the specs slightly and immediately got to work. I was so fortunate to find a company in Massachusetts that has a high end sample room. Kathryn (founder and owner) of Good Clothing Company cleared her schedule and committed to producing this collection in just ONE week since we needed time for fittings. I skyped with the children to get their exact measurements, and then worked with my design firm who also dropped everything to create tech paks and specs in ONE day. I sourced fabric from NYC over the phone for the wool, used one of my tried and true US suppliers for the velvet, and Kathryn helped me source the silk for the lining.
I visited NY three times coupling the trips with other business. The navy blue wool coat and velvet dress fit Arabella perfectly. We had zero alterations for the first fitting. I had a couple of suggestions, but I was told that everything was beautiful and they were so incredibly gracious. After that fitting I was asked to design a SECOND set of clothing for another inaugural event. I was ecstatic! That is where the ivory wool coat and dress Arabella wore to the National Prayer service came into play, along with the boys wool coats and rompers. Being in sales I’ve taught myself to never celebrate until the deal is done. When my friend Becky sent me a photo from the daily mail of Arabella wearing the Navy Blue ensemble on her way to the wreath ceremony, I immediately had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I also realized I hadn’t really taken a breath in three weeks!
Kim: What is different about creating a collection for a specific customer versus designing a collection for your overall audience?
Kate: The main difference was I had a color scheme to work within. I do believe Ivanka presented me with this opportunity because she feels a connection to my brand and confident in our designs. She loves traditional, tailored looks as much as I do.
Kim: Can you share a moment during your design of the inaugural collection that panicked you at the moment but at which you can now look back and laugh?
Kate: YES! This moment I will never forget. I received a phone call the evening before the family was leaving for Washington; a button popped off Arabella’s ivory coat while Ivanka was trying it on her! I nearly dropped dead. Everyone remained calm and asked me to send backup buttons. The Good Clothing Company whipped up a sewing kit, and off to Washington it went. Due to increased security, the family never received the package. I was incredibly disappointed. I was visiting my Dad in Florida at the time and realized the button fiasco could mean the end of the coat. I didn’t realize Arabella would wear the ivory coat until I saw the live news coverage! I was swimming with my kids and heard from my mom via text; we were shocked and questioned if Arabella was even wearing the Petit Peony coat! We replayed Arabella walking down the church aisle countless times and determined YES that is THE coat! All I could think was- wow this really happened- the first grandchildren wore Petit Peony to two out of three inaugural events. I later found out that the button was super glued on the coat for Arabella. I will be forever grateful.
Kim: In what way has Ivanka's willingness to give such a huge opportunity to a small business elevated you and the Petit Peony brand?
Kate: After speaking with Ivanka the Monday after the Inauguration and hearing her genuine words of gratitude and encouragement for me and for the brand, I was inspired to do more and to give more. Ivanka elevated me, she elevated me as a designer, a business owner, and elevated my ability to perform under pressure. My gratitude for this opportunity pushed me to want to continue doing as much as possible for others, particularly other women.
Soon after the Inauguration, Petit Peony brought on a philanthropic director, and we created our Global Giving philanthropic mission. Since the fall, we have had a mission trip planned to Honduras to elevate and support women and their children living in extreme poverty by providing, clothing, blankets, food and building homes. We continue to work with a local Boston charity Room to Grow, providing low income new moms with clothing for their babies.
Elevate is dedicated to supporting our amazing customers by telling their stories. I’m so inspired when I reach out to a customer after an order and organically we exchange stories on how we are raising our children while striving for balance every day and trying not to lose ourselves in the process.
Finally, as Petit Peony continues to expand, I have brought on an extraordinary team of women to support, celebrate and grow the world of Petit Peony!
Although she may not even realize it herself, Kate is also touching the lives of women in her community in an impactful way. As she has expanded from a one-woman show to a team of five women, she has done for us just what Ivanka did for her. Kate has connected in some way with each of the women she has brought on to the team. She never asked for resumes or sat any of us down for interviews. Just as Ivanka connected with the Petit Peony brand and put her faith in Kate, Kate offered an opportunity for each of us to be part of her growing business and put her faith in us. This opportunity changed my life in a way that Kate may not even yet know. But more of that to come in a future post.
Welcome to ELEVATE, a blog aimed at celebrating motherhood, empowering women and connecting with Petit Peony’s extraordinary customers through raw interviews that we hope will leave our readers laughing, nodding and reflecting along the way.
As the Petit Peony team gets to know our customers on the surface, we also want to get to know our customers on a more intimate level. Our blog posts will take a personal look at Petit Peony customers who inspire us, and we hope to leave you, the reader, feeling inspired along the way. We want to celebrate women and explore their true identities, and we want to promote ways in with mothers can bring quality into the precious time they are able to devote to their children in an increasingly busy and demanding world.
Lastly, we want to give customers a look into the Petit Peony world: a glimpse at who makes up the team, discussions of where the company has been, and previews of where it is going. This is an incredibly exciting journey, and we want to take you along for the ride; we hope that you will join us.
Happy (almost) Halloween!
I love everything about this holiday - fun crafts, pumpkin carving, costumes, and of course, trick-or-treating. Halloween truly celebrates the magic of childhood.
That being said, Halloween can be a little tricky at our house. Our daughter, Scarlett, has severe food allergies. At eight months old, she had a reaction to yogurt. Her face turned bright red and continued down her neck. After a quick dose of Benadryl, a terrifying trip to the ER, and allergy testing by our pediatrician, we learned Scarlett was allergic to peanuts, tree-nuts and had a slight milk allergy.
Needless to say, I spent the next two years watching this little lady like a hawk, always fearful of what she might find and pop in her mouth, or what someone, unknowingly, might give her to eat.
I’m sure the anxiety I feel is similar for all parents of children with severe food allergies, especially on Halloween night. Candy bowls are filled with all sorts of goodies that either contain nuts or were likely processed in a facility with nuts, making them off-limits to children like Scarlett.
That’s why I was so excited to learn about the Teal Pumpkin Project. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) hosts the project in an effort to encourage people to raise awareness of food allergies, while providing non-food treats so that all children can partake in the joy of trick-or-treating safely. By painting a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and placing it outside your home, parents can take a deep breath and know your house is offering something their child can take with them on halloween night, dump out on their family room floor and excitedly thumb through the treasure they acquired on their hunt.
Before participating in this initiative, I would have had my head buried in each bowl Scarlett would walk up to, desperately searching for a safe treat for her to take home. Not anymore. Now my entire family can enjoy trick-or-treating by making our route along the map of “teal” houses.
This is our second year participating, and I couldn’t wait to get the girls painting their pumpkins to put in front of our house! Not only is it for a great cause, but it’s a great crafting project. So much fun, why paint just one?! And, invite a friend to join in on the fun.
Go teal this Halloween - even if you don’t have a child with a food allergy. For ideas on non-food treats to hand out, visit Teal Pumpkin Project.
Every child deserves to be a part of the fun. And, honestly, how much candy do they really need, right?!
Has it been two years already?! It was summer of 2014 when I originally started Petit Peony as a small Etsy shop; so much has changed in such a short period of time. I went from sewing clothes for my daughters in my Vermont country home, to launching a brand, taking on two strategic investment partners, and now Petit Peony has officially anchored in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
It’s all in thanks to you, my loyal customers, the support from my family and friends, and taking a much needed “break” from the hustle and bustle of city life to spend time with my family in Vermont, that this dream to start a children’s clothing line is now a reality.
For those of you new to the brand, see our full story here. 2015 was an amazing year - a year of true growth. So many things have happened since I last wrote. It’s been a whirlwind, but one amazing ride so far.
Building the Brand
Petit Peony left gorgeous Charlotte, Vermont, and now resides in Duxbury, MA. For my non-New Englanders, Duxbury is an amazingly quaint, coastal town situated between Boston and Cape Cod. It has everything that Petit Peony needs for inspiration - traditional New England colonials, boats and fishermen, four beautiful changing seasons…and maybe an occasional mermaid sighting?
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why we would ever leave Vermont? I’ll be the first to say that I LOVE Vermont. It was, after all, the birthplace of my son, and Petit Peony. Vermont’s community and values were a huge inspiration to me. It was what allowed me to start this company, and I’ll always keep Vermont close when thinking about what’s next for the brand.
But, like all things, we must move forward to see growth, and I’m really excited by what this new move means for us. For one, we have officially opened our first office and store! Louisa Birkett, of GRAPEVINE Interiors; my interior decorator and new fabulous neighbor here in Duxbury, designed the interior of the store. She
couldn’t have executed the brand more perfectly! It looks classic and clean, nautical and fun all in the same breath. Added bonus- our view overlooks Duxbury Harbor!
Adding to our new location, I’m excited to announce a new member of the Petit Peony Team. Melissa Maloney has stepped in as our operations manager, and what I like to refer to as my ‘right-hand woman.’ She will be handling all of the day-to-day business, allowing me more time to focus on expanding the brand.
We have recently been featured in Vogue and Glamour UK magazines. Petit Peony was also a participant in Ivanka Trump’s #WomenWhoWork Fall Campaign, a non-political decision centered around helping support her movement to raise awareness around equality for women in the work place. In addition, Petit Peony designed a few patriotic pieces for Ivanka’s daughter, Arabella this fall. This recognition helps sets our brand apart from competitors, gains exposure, and validates the quality and classic styles that we are creating.
So much excitement in the coming months! We’ll be launching our boys collection in the spring, as well as a limited women’s collection, making it that much easier to coordinate your family, while being comfortable and still stylish for all of those precious moments that are worthy of your memory books.
We are working on growing Petit Peony globally. Boutiques in Japan have signed on to carry our designs in the spring of 2017. Additionally, Melissa and I will be headed to a tradeshow in Paris in January, to further promote the designs throughout Europe.
We are truly on our way. It is serendipitous that this all started because of my passion and inspiration for my children and my love of creating wholesome childhood moments to cherish forever. I think of those early times, pregnant with my son, sewing dresses and leggings in my attic because I couldn’t find sweet, simple, timeless clothing that captured the magic and innocence of childhood.
Childhood is a fleeting time in our lives and I want to cherish every moment with my children. It is important to me that my kids, and yours, are comfortable playing while looking adorable. #comfortablyadorable
As always, thank you so much for joining us on this incredible journey! We hope to hear from you soon!