On October 18th 2022 we welcomed our daughter McKenna Josephine into the world! After a rough pregnancy and some complications we were thrilled to finally have her safely in our arms. She was delivered via c-section at 37 weeks. After some hours in the NICU she was reunited with us and we have been loving on her ever since.
After Maddox was born I shared his birth story via blog post. I wanted to do the same with McKenna (just this time in podcast form). Delivering Maddox was a lot more of a difficult and traumatic experience than delivering McKenna. Despite them both being c-sections they were incredibly different in a lot of ways that I share in her story. I thought it was important to highlight that such a positive birth experience can come after having such a scary one.
If you have followed our journey on social media you probably know that both McKenna and I faced some challenges after she was born. I wanted to keep McKenna's birth story separate from the discussion all of those details so this episode really only focuses on her birth story. There will be a separate episode sharing the next part of our story.
I hope you enjoy the story of our spunky, sweet, beautiful McKenna Josephine joining our family earth side.
Listen to the episode below or directly on Spotify or Apple.
I absolutely loved decorating Maddox’s nursery so I couldn’t wait to get started on our little girl’s. I quickly realized it is a lot harder to find time (and inspiration) when you are wiped out from chasing a toddler around. I’d search Pinterest for inspiration late at night before bed, but nothing was speaking to me. With a boy nursery I felt there were more limited options on themes so it just seemed easier to decide on a neutral safari design. It was also perfect because the palms were a big part of the design which was an ode back to our wedding (lots of palm decor). This time around I was just overwhelmed with choices. Before figuring out we were having a boy the first time I had so many over the top girl nursery designs picked out. I always figured I’d go back to those if we eventually had a daughter. Well now looking at it from the standpoint of a tired, pregnant, toddler corralling mom who had to actually make the whole thing come to life… oof definitely having a different perspective. I also have seen how we’ve evolved Maddox’s room as he has gotten older. I didn’t want to have to redo the entire room again in two years. Practicality took over and I wanted something that she could grow with.
Finally I decided that even though we didn’t have a theme I really needed to start getting some stuff together for her. People were asking about my registry and gifts so I had to at least make up my mind on something. My husband, Matt, was really into having it be majorly pink. His stance was we are having a girl so let’s make it girly. At first the kind of pink accent wall he was trying to make happen was a hard no for me, but we compromised on a more muddy (but still bright) pink that we both love. We also had a big piece of art from our old house that was pink/gray/gold that we wanted to repurpose in the nursery. Then I just decided we’re leaning into the pink theme. And animal print.
Quick side story, if you have been to our house you know how obsessed we are with Barefoot Dreams blankets. Specifically the “Into the Wild” ones. Matt even loves them despite him telling me they are ridiculous until he tried using one. We have them all over our house and I made sure Maddox had a beige one for his room when he was born. I knew I wanted her to have a matching one in pink.
I started to build off that and we went with leopard crib sheets too. I started adding texture through her ceiling light, lamp, baskets, and mirror. I found a fun rug with lots of texture that adds more character to the room. I was liking how things were coming together, but we still didn’t have a “theme”. It dawned on me one day that we had a lot of safari themed decor left over from swaps in Maddox’s room or even from our baby shower for Maddox. Our goal with this nursery was to keep the cost low, so utilizing some of this decor we already had seemed to just make sense. Matt was reluctant at first, but when I posed the savings thing to him he was on board. The vibe is more jungle than safari. I don’t really know what the true difference is, but in my head it’s different. I found two prints from Etsy that I absolutely love - a flamingo and a toucan. We also got so many cute flamingo items as gifts so they just work perfectly. Maddox has blackout curtains with animal cut outs in his room that we absolutely love. I tried to find them in a neutral color for her room, but could only find pink. We got them anyway, even though I was worried about pink overload, but now I really love them.
I feel so happy when I am sitting in that room though and I can’t help but to smile. That is the same way I felt about Maddox’s nursery and Maddox’s room now as we have evolved it. They just feel right.
Nursery picks linked below!
Juggling a toddler and a newborn this holiday season has left me less time for gift guide curating this year. For most people on my list I’ll be relying on the other creators who have researched and put together thorough lineups. There is a category which I currently do feel like I am an expert in so I wanted to share a niche, but helpful guide that hits home for me right now.
Practical (+ Thoughtful) Gifts For New Moms
Of course I’ve shared some tried and true favorites which are always good to give to new moms - things like a cozy Barefoot Dreams cardigan, Ugg slippers, or a breastfeeding safe ingredient face mask. This list, though, I put together as I am in the trenches of postpartum. Literally I put this together in the middle of the night while pumping. Here are five things that are not run of the mill new mom gifts, but gifts that are things she truly wants/needs and may not even know it.
Click to shop.
1. Baby Book Journal - Baby books are such a sweet concept, but as a busy mom it’s hard to remember to even respond to an email much less keep up with a baby book. I love this one because it only requires one hour of commitment per year. The prompts are created for you and the layout/design is super chic. Gifting this is something a new mom will appreciate. It’s thoughtful, useful, and not stressful to keep up with. There are a bunch of options out there, but this is one I like!
2. Mini Fridge - This is a game changer if you are combo feeding, exclusively pumping, or formula feeding. Having a convenient spot to stash milk supplies next to your bed makes a huge difference during those middle of the night feedings. She could also use it at her feeding/pumping station, keeping it full of drinks and snacks to keep her fueled up. Once baby is old enough, she can switch it to a skincare fridge for things like face masks and under eye creams. Convenience and a little bit of luxury.
3. Heated Neck Stretcher - The postpartum back and neck pain is NO JOKE. Carrying a baby and delivering a baby are tough on your body, not to mention breastfeeding (where we’re often hunched over or tense). Show a new mom you’re thinking of her with a device that will help ease some of that tension. It will be very appreciated.
4. Audible Subscription - Listening to audiobooks is a great way to keep entertained during those sleepless nights or have something to focus on during the long (sometimes lonely) postpartum days. When adult human connection is in short supply sometimes putting on a good book to listen to throughout the days makes me feel better. The best part about audiobooks is they are perfect for multitasking with the baby. You can listen during feeds, neighborhood walks, or drives.
5. DoorDash or UberEats Giftcard - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could justify getting coffee delivered to my doorstep at 7am. Also, I can’t even begin to count the nights when ordering takeout is the only way we have a chance at getting fed. Meal delivery gift cards are practical, will most certainly be used, and definitely appreciated. Anything that can justify a 7am coffee delivery for a new mom is a win.
The Amazon Prime Early Access Sale is here! It's a great time to grab some fashion finds for a fraction of their regular price and get them delivered almost immediately to your door. Throughout my pregnancy I have been building my bump friendly wardrobe with some essentials from Amazon that I can also wear in post bump life. I've stuck to a very neutral color palette so almost all of these pieces can be mixed and matched to create a chic (and comfy) look.
You can shop my favorites below and check out full looks via my LTK.
Okay, it’s time to talk about potty training. I’ve had so many conversations with other moms about this and I feel like this is a universal rough spot of parenting.
I don’t really have a specific parenting style. I read books and articles, listen to podcasts, and like all of those infographics on Instagram. I feel informed in many areas, but don’t subscribe to a specific method or style. We take what works and discard the rest (or save it for later depending on the advice). This works for us, but sometimes I think it perpetuates the feeling that I’m always making a wrong decision. So many of these methods and styles contradict each other and since I pick and choose what I use I am never following a plan to a T. I’m never getting to check the boxes on everything. All of this means that by someone’s standards I’m always doing something “wrong”. I get now that’s kind of just par for the course in motherhood.
Well potty training was going to be different for us.
Our day one potty training experience sucked. Like obviously, yeah running your kid back and forth to the potty is a lot, and cleaning up pee from every floor in your home is rough, but it’s more than that.
We decided to start training early (a little before 23 months), because there is a local preschool program that we think Maddox will love. You can start once you turn two and you are potty trained. Everyone we mentioned this to was like “wow two is early”, but we read the books, took notes, and had a plan. He could stay my little baby in diapers for another year and I’d be fine with it, but thinking about the fun I know he will have at this program motivated me.
Well fast forward to day one of getting our plan in motion. We did everything the book said, and we were proud of how well we abided by the plan. Maddox was doing a great job sitting on the potty, but was really struggling with knowing when it was time to get to the potty. We had a day mixed with success and accidents. We stayed super positive through it. By the end of the day though, Maddox started getting so frustrated with himself. He’s smart and knows he’s supposed to be doing something, but he was really struggling to do it. He’s a natural problem solver so I knew he was really trying. It broke my heart. He patiently waited on the potty, allowed us to help him, and listened to our directions. He was exhausted and upset. We were exhausted and upset. Not because of accidents or mess but because seeing our little boy so frustrated with himself was horrible.
In every potty training and behavior book I’ve read about toddlers there is a focus on the independence you are giving your child by helping them learn things for themselves. You’re helping instill confidence in them and giving them the boundaries to explore and succeed safely. I definitely buy into this and we’ve seen it work with so many other milestones. It’s how our family functions each day.
Looking at this day through that lens made me question what we were doing. We were giving Maddox the boundaries, the rules, the tools, the encouragement. The effort was there fully from us and him, but this was not giving him confidence even when he was getting it “right”. Things just didn’t feel right. We were off the rails and fumbling our way through.
I was reluctant to stray from our plan because even the books say you’re “weak” or letting your child manipulate you. I was failing by not making this happen for him. Was I failing him? Or did I feel like I was failing myself? I’m not a quitter I thought. But I also want what is best for my son. If he’s not ready then why can’t we reevaluate? Reevaluating went against my instinct to always push forward and “complete the mission”, but as a parent, my mom instinct was twisting inside of me saying “you know your child best and you know how/what he responds to best. You know how he works. You may not be a parenting or toddler behavioral expert but you are the expert on Maddox.”
As he took a nap I obsessed over fearing I was letting him down by “giving up” on our plan, but then also fearing that I wasn’t doing what’s best for him as his mom who knows him best. Either way I felt like I was making a wrong decision (which honestly motherhood feels like this a lot).
Matt and I sat down at the end of the day and agreed on a pivoted plan that felt best for our son based on what we, his parents, the “Maddox experts” think. The weight felt lifted off of my shoulders and the knot inside my stomach loosened. That should be proof enough we made the “right” decision.
Well fast forward to once everyone is in bed and I’m still thinking about our choice. This has become an entire emotional mind fuck for me. Am I weak and letting my family down because I can’t follow “the plan”. Am I not dedicated enough? Am I not wanting to deal with the challenge? Somehow my entire worthiness as a mom and a person is hinged on this stupid potty training decision. Why.
I broke it down and by pivoting to a custom Maddox plan as we call it there really are no downsides for him. He will eventually be potty trained, when he is developmentally ready. He may not be able to start preschool right away, but he can start when he’s ready. There are plenty of other ways he can socialize, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. All is good.
All of the negatives are based on me feeling like I failed him, me feeling like weak, and me feeling like I didn’t do things “right”. Logically I know this sounds crazy, but once you read enough parenting advice that literally threatens you not to divert from the plan and you’re a type A personality it really can take hold of you.
How could I have predicted that the most traumatic part of potty training would not be accidents all over our new house, but instead the emotional weight of trying to do what’s best for your child, while also trying to figure out what the heck that is.
I guess the moral of the story here is a few things:
You know your kid best, you may not be a parenting expert but you’re an expert at being their parent
Plans, books, and advice for parents read very black and white. On paper it is nice and neat and makes perfect sense. In practice though our kids are all of the messy but beautiful colors in between so we have to figure out how to navigate that. A black and white plan isn’t always the answer.
Parenting really throws your biggest insecurities in your face and makes you face them head on. As you child grows you are growing emotionally too.
So a month out from our original potty training weekend, we are continuing to practice our “Maddox plan”. He is wearing training diapers and practicing going to the potty. He is a lot happier, we are a lot happier, and we will get this potty training thing down fully when it’s the right time for our family.
Back in May we shared the news that we are adding a new little one to the Pickens family! I really wanted to do a cute shoot to announce the pregnancy, but also focus on Maddox becoming a big brother. To us that was part of what made the news so exciting! We had an adorable "Big Bro" jacket made for him, thanks to Amy Scripts. After we say how cute it was we decided to fully embrace the denim thing as a family.
We worked with my friend Jade (Jade Nikkole Photography) to bring the vision to life. We opted for lots of candids (a must when shooting with a toddler!) and wanted to highlight the genuine happiness as we told Maddox what it was going to be like to be a big brother.
I shared a few of these precious photos in our social media announcements, but wanted to give them a moment here too since they are so special to us.
I have been a Pete Davidson fan for forever. The reasons I started to really love him are that he has Crohn’s Disease (so do I) and that he is so open about mental health. These two things are so close to my heart.
A few years ago during his Ariana Grande days, people were making fun of him for having “butthole eyes”. Grande fired back on Twitter explaining that Davidson has an autoimmune disease and one of the symptoms is having sunken eyes due to dehydration. Later in an interview with Tan France, Davidson replied to the comments by sharing that he has Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune condition that causes chronic inflammation throughout the digestive tract. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, vomiting, pain, and fatigue among many other ailments ranging from mild to severe. While it is commonly regarded as an invisible illness, there are visible manifestations that sometimes occur. There is currently no known cure. There are very few public figures who have openly shared their diagnosis of and experiences surrounding their Crohn’s Disease. Pete’s admission is one of the first times I had heard Crohn’s Disease talked about publicly since my diagnosis in 2015. Obviously the reactions to Pete’s revelation were not favorable and only fueled the already present stigma of Crohn’s Disease. Pete was at the end of an insulting and downright rude joke.
Now, fast forward a few years to today. Davidson is a successful person in his own right and his fame has been inflated even more with his recent relationship with Kim Kardashian. This man who openly shares his struggles and has a disease that is often taboo or considered “gross” is not only super successful with his own accomplishments, he is also dating one of the most successful, influential, and beautiful women in the world.
In the recent episode of “The Kardashians” on Hulu, Kim gushed about Pete and how she is having some of the best moments of her life with him. Now that Pete is majorly in the spotlight, I haven’t heard anyone mention Pete’s Crohn’s Disease (and certainly no “butthole eyes” comments). This shift in public commentary is a welcome one I’m sure, as no one wants to be defined or ridiculed by their illness. With Pete’s ever rising fame and influence, I do wonder if Pete and/or Kim speaking out now could help change the stigma around Crohn’s Disease and invisible and chronic illnesses in general.
Pete has already done so much for changing the stigma around mental health through his openness about his own struggles. Mental health with men is a hugely under discussed issue and he sheds light on it in a humorous and approachable way. Kim is no stranger to mental health struggles either. Her ex-husband, Kanye West, has publicly suffered from his own mental health issues over the years. Kim has been an important part of the mental health conversation acting as a supportive partner and addressing how she’s handled this with her family.
Together Pete and Kim are a powerhouse of influence who have already made an impact in the area of mental health. They have the opportunity now to shift the stigma not only around chronic illness, but also being a partner to someone with a chronic illness. Of course, this is all extremely personal so if Pete chooses not to ever speak about his Crohn’s Disease publicly again, I respect that completely. I just want to put it out into the universe that if he does feel comfortable sharing his experience, I know there are many of us who would welcome it with great appreciation.
As a Pete fan (and a Kim fan), I have to close the article saying that I love that they have found such happiness together and I send them the best wishes. I can’t wait to see what this powerhouse couple does, whether it’s being blissfully in love away from the spotlight or sharing more about their experience together.
Every year I use the Nordstrom sale to grab a few pieces that will be staples in my wardrobe that Fall/Winter. These are my choices this year. Versatile + easy to mix and match. Also all are bump friendly so I don’t have to wait until after baby gets here to wear them.
I also use the Nordstrom sale to stock up on my cozy essentials. A new Barefoot Dreams cardigan and these short sleeve pajamas are on my list every year. This year I added another cute set, a pair of leggings I’ve heard great things about, and Ugg slippers.
The Nordstrom sale is also a great time to stock up on gifts. Here are a few ideas that are sure to be crowd pleasers. All are under $75 and are perfect for a variety of occasions.
What are the top items on your list this year?
Mental health advocate.
Sharing my raw and real journey through motherhood and navigating Crohn’s Disease. CrohnicallyBlonde is a place where I serve up my unfiltered commentary on chronic illness, mental health, pregnancy, and motherhood alongside lighter lifestyle content like beauty product reviews, travel tips, and book recommendations. My hope is that by authentically sharing my story I can help others going through similar situations not feel so alone and maybe even laugh along with me.