For something that's supposed to be "natural," breastfeeding can be really hard - especially in the very beginning.
You're exhausted and constantly second-guessing yourself.
Even with my 3rd baby - after having successfully breastfed my first two kids well beyond a year - I still had moments when I wondered if I was doing everything right and if baby was getting enough in those early days.
Everyone has their own personal goals for breastfeeding. Those goals might even change as you get started on your journey and that's okay too.
There's advice all over the internet on the best ways to have success with breastfeeding, but honestly, there are a lot of things that work for some babies that don't work for others. Sometimes you just have to figure it out through trial and error, but there are a few things I've learned along the way with breastfeeding 3 different babies.
1-Read up on what's normal
Y'all - newborn babies are just a whole species all their own. They don't follow the rules of normal human behavior.
For example, when an adult eats, it's usually because they're hungry. I mean - I know there are some people who have emotional eating issues that cause them to eat when they aren't truly hungry, but for the most part hungry = eating. (By the way... it's me. I'm some people...)
But newborns aren't like that. They nurse when they're hungry, but they also nurse when they're tired or scared or in pain or when their body is preparing for a growth spurt or any other number of reasons. It sometimes feels like they are eating ALL. THE. TIME. in the early days and it can make you wonder if there's something wrong.
I recommend educating yourself on what is NORMAL newborn breastfeeding behavior, so when you randomly have a day when your nursling will not get off your boob, you'll recognize cluster feeding and reassure yourself that your babe is healthy and growing.
I personally recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding, and kellymom.com.
2-Find your village
They say it takes a village, right? Breastfeeding is no different.
However, you need to find the right village. I have lots of mom friends who make a lot of different parenting choices from me and I love them all! Every mom has to do what's best for herself and her family, but that includes me too.
I have lots of friends who exclusively use disposable diapers, but I don't ask them questions about my cloth diaper wash cycle.
In the same way, I have some amazing mom friends who formula feed, but I don't ask them breastfeeding questions.
You need to find moms who have met the goals you are trying to meet and who understand the different struggles and concerns you might have.
With my first, I knew I wanted to breastfeed for at least 6 months. I didn't really know anyone who had done that successfully. I had a few family members who had breastfeed for a few weeks or the first few months, but never quite that long.
I initially found my village online but eventually became friends with many of them in real life. The right village can answer your questions, encourage you when you think you're doing everything wrong, recommend the best lactation consultants, and help you find breastfeeding-friendly pediatricians.
We are very lucky here in the Charleston area to have an awesome La Leche League group. There are in person meetings throughout the Lowcountry and an active Facebook group to help you find your village.
3-Don't quit in the first 6 weeks
This might be the hardest piece of advice to follow. I don't even remember who told me this anymore, but I remember someone telling me to make small goals and just get through the first 6 weeks.
When you are nursing around the clock and your nipples are sore and you feel like you'll never sleep again, the thought of nursing for a full year can be downright terrifying.
But if you just tell yourself to get through this one day - one week - 6 weeks, it's not so overwhelming.
I'm not sure what it is about that 6 week mark, but something shifts around that time. If you can hang in there, you'll likely find that you're finally getting the hang of this breastfeeding thing and the thought of continuing won't be so daunting.
After that, your next goal can be to make it to 12 weeks. Then maybe 6 months. Then a year or whatever works best for you.
So breastfeeding mamas, what was the best advice you received?
It's the second question people ask when you're pregnant.
First, they ask when you're due and then they always follow it up with, "Do you know what you're having?"
It wasn't so very long ago that finding out the sex of your baby during pregnancy wasn't even an option. My parents' generation had no choice but to be surprised unless they had some complication that required an ultrasound.
However, when anatomy scans became the standard of care around 20 weeks, more and more people began finding out the sex of their babies before birth. This new practice led to the rise of the ever-divisive gender reveal party (Personally, I'm a fan of any reason to party and have cake).
While finding out the sex during pregnancy is still very common, I have noticed a trend among my own friends and acquaintances back to keeping it a surprise.
I've personally done it both ways - we found out the sex with our first two and our third, tie-breaker baby was a surprise.
If you aren't sure which approach you want to take, I thought I would break down some of the pros and cons from both experiences here to help you decide.
Finding Out During Pregnancy
Pro: Picking a name
If you're anything like my husband and me, you struggle to choose names together. I grew up with a fairly uncommon name, so I like unusual names. My husband grew up with an extremely common name and likes really traditional names. He thinks the names I like are weird, and I think the names he likes are boring. When you know the sex of the baby beforehand, you only have to choose a name for one sex instead of having to agree on two different names.
Con: They might be wrong
I know this sounds like one of those outlandish stories that never really happens, but I actually know of a few people personally who were told the wrong gender. Can you imagine planning and preparing for a girl only to find out at birth it's a boy?
If you're a Type A person, the planning aspect of finding out will really appeal to you. I'm not a Type A by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a creative and love making things for my babies. I loved crocheting adorable little baby sweaters and headbands for my daughter and sewing custom curtains with tractors on them for my son's nursery. There's still plenty of planning and organizing to do when you don't find out, but knowing the sex just gives you one more piece of information to work with.
Con: Everyone's opinions
Every pregnant mama knows that being pregnant opens you up to everyone's opinions about everything - and the sex of your baby is no exception. When I was pregnant with my first son and people found out I was having a boy after already having a girl, they almost always said, "Lucky you! You get to be done already!"
It drove me absolutely nuts. I always wanted more kids and the genitalia they possessed had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I wanted more kids. I would have been just as thrilled had I been having another girl at that time, but I know people would have instead said, "Oh... are you going to try again for a boy?"
Then, of course, they give their opinions on the names you've chosen and everything else. Once the baby is here and named, most people are too busy cooing over the beautiful new baby for all that mess... although some people will still drive you nuts.
Being Surprised at Birth
Pro: The moment of birth
This is honestly the big reason most people give for keeping it a surprise. It really does add a certain extra level of excitement during labor knowing that you're about to finally find out who you've been carrying all this time. Also, everyone's reactions to whether they were right or wrong in their guesses is really fun. (For the record: I have been 100% wrong for all 3 of my kids. That whole mother's intuition thing just does not work for me when it comes to guessing the sex of my babies apparently)
Con: Gender disappointment
This isn't something that happens to everyone, but gender disappointment is real and it's normal. Some people have very valid reasons for hoping for one sex over another, and when that doesn't happen, it can be disappointing. I know moms say that once the baby is here, you don't care anymore, but I would never want to risk my first reaction to my newborn baby being one of disappointment if I could help it.
Also, moms aren't the only ones at risks of feeling disappointed. We are done having children, but if I were to ever have any more, I would seriously consider finding out for my daughter's sake. She has always wanted a sister, but instead she has 2 little brothers. She absolutely adores them, but if she were to find out she would have a 3rd little brother, I think she might need some time to adjust to that news.
Pro: Gender neutral stuff is getting a lot cuter
Long gone are the days of harsh yellow being the only option for gender neutral baby items. Baby items now come in a wide variety of gender neutral color and pattern options. Just check out this photo of my surprise baby visiting with his big brother in the hospital after he was born:
Con: Limited shopping
If you ask my husband, this is actually a pro. I loved shopping for my babies when I was pregnant. I always got plenty of gifts from family and friends, but I enjoyed picking out a few outfits and items that were especially my style. With my surprise baby, I bought a few things because I knew he would need to wear something for a few weeks before I had a chance to get a more specific wardrobe, but I really didn't shop as much. Every time I would go to buy something for the baby, I kept thinking to myself I'd rather just wait until I knew what sex the baby was and buy more clothes then.
Overall, I honestly don't think either experience was better than the other. I bonded just fine with all 3 babies and enjoyed pregnancy each time. Both experiences were really fun in their own ways, so if you feel strongly that you want to find out or keep it a surprise, go for it.
If you're truly on the fence and don't know which way you want to go and this list didn't heavily influence you one way or the other, I'd say keep it a surprise just for the heck of it. It is really fun keeping everyone guessing until the very end.
I know what it feels like.
You see all of these beautiful birth photos on Facebook, but you struggle to find anything that represents your birth experience.
C-sections are often under represented in birth photography for a variety of reasons -
-Photographers can often be blocked from entering the operating room, especially if the c-section is unplanned or an emergency.
-You might think that a planned c-section means everything will be more organized and it will be easier to just have your husband take photos.
-Or maybe you don't even know that having a c-section birth photographed is an option because you've never seen it done!
Well, I'm here to tell you that having a photographer for your c-section is an option and you definitely want one!
First of all, if your husband is the only person with you in the OR and is in charge of the camera, who takes a picture of him seeing his baby for the first time? Or him kissing your forehead while you wait for that first cry?
Having a photographer present frees up your hubby to relax and be in the moment with you.
Also, I always tell moms that the day your baby is born will go by in a blur and you'll be surprised how many moments you miss. This is true for c-sections as well and maybe even moreso in some cases.
Most hospitals nowadays do skin to skin with mom in the OR, but there are still a lot of things you may miss behind the curtain - baby being weighed and measured, dad holding the baby, other family members seeing the baby, etc etc etc.
And finally, your birth story deserves to be told. Your baby's birth day will be one of the most memorable days of your life. No matter how it goes down, you'll revisit your memories of this day many times over the course of your life. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have photos to look back on too?
In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, I'm giving 2 moms-to-be the opportunity to have a birth photographer at their scheduled c-section for HALF PRICE!
My birth photography services for planned c-sections include:
*In person consultation in your third trimester
*Me being on call in the weeks leading up to your scheduled c-section just in case you go into labor earlier than planned
*Backup photographer just in case of some personal emergency
*Photo coverage from the time you arrive at the hospital through your delivery and for approximately 2 hours afterwards
*Slideshow video of your birth photos
*Full gallery download of high resolution photos from your birth
Normally, my birth photography packages start at $1200, but for 2 lucky mamas, I'll provide this service for only $600!
What do you have to do to receive this awesome discount? Glad you asked -
-You must be having a SCHEDULED c-section in May, June, or July 2019.
-You must agree to get permission from your OBGYN to have a photographer present during your birth - including permission to be in the OR.
-You must sign a model release allowing me to use your photos for marketing purposes (I will allow you to view the gallery and let you know what photos I plan to use before posting any publicly).
Ready to apply? Click here and fill out the short application!
Sitting in the hospital bed, staring at my new perfect baby boy, I really started to realize just how dramatic the last few hours had been…
“Well… that escalated quickly.”
When I woke up that morning, I just felt… off.
I don’t really know how else to explain it. Nothing in particular was wrong - I just felt run down and had no appetite.
I dropped my daughter (known here as Bug) off at school and decided to have a shamelessly lazy day with my toddler (a.k.a. Bubba). We stayed home all day and watched far more Daniel Tiger than I care to admit.
After school, I took advantage of the beautiful weather we were having that day and sat in my driveway while my kids played. My dad stopped by to see the kids for a little while and my husband came home from work shortly after. By that time, some of the other kids in our neighborhood were out playing too, so I left the men outside with the kids while I went in to try to rest.
As I was dozing on the couch wondering how I would possibly muster the energy to make dinner, I felt what I thought might be a contraction. It was definitely stronger than the Braxton Hicks I’d been having for weeks, but not exactly painful either. Another came several minutes later. Then a third…
During the third, I felt a painful pop in my pelvis. I don’t think I realized exactly what happened, but something in me started to think “GET OFF THE COUCH!”
As soon as I got up, my water gushed in true Hollywood fashion. I looked at the clock and it was about 5:30 PM.
I waddled to the front door and yelled out into the yard at my husband.
I told him I wasn’t in a hurry and that he could take a shower if he wanted.
Contractions started pretty much immediately and were 2-3 minutes apart right from the start.
I contacted my photographer to let her know what was happening and then put in a call to the after hours line at the OB’s office.
(And yes… I notified my photographer before the doctor because #priorities)
By the time my husband finished his quick shower, my contractions were already 1-2 minutes apart and I was groaning and really having to focus to breathe through them.
Even though I hadn’t heard back from the on-call OB yet, I decided we probably needed to go ahead and make our way to the hospital. Thankfully, my dad was still there, so we could leave the kids with him and my mom met us at the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital just a little before 7 pm, which is when shift change happens for the nurses. The current nurse hooked me up to the monitors to wait until they finished shift change. When the OB came in to check me, it was about 7:30 and I was 3 cm and 80% effaced.
I was moved to my delivery room. At this point, contractions were still 1-2 minutes apart and painful, but I was managing pretty well. Over the next hour, the contractions intensified and I was feeling more pressure in my pelvis. My husband suggested that I should ask to be checked again, but I really didn’t want that. If you’ve read either of my other children’s birth stories (here and here), you’ll know that my cervix has a history of not really cooperating in labor. I had a lot of anxiety about cervical checks. I was terrified of hearing that there was no change.
My husband kept reassuring me and I finally agreed. I was checked again just before 9:00 - 4 cm.
Not major progress, but progress nonetheless.
The photographer arrived around that time and things were really starting to ramp up.
I was struggling during contractions now. I was crying and when contractions peaked, I often said I couldn’t do it anymore. My husband just kept holding my hand and my mom wiped my face with a wet rag while they talked me through each one.
Between contractions, I was able to take a couple of deep breaths and calm myself. During contractions, I couldn’t think clearly through the pain, but in the short breaks between, I could recognize the signs of progress -
-The nurses kept having to move the monitors lower and lower on my belly to find baby’s heart rate because he was moving down.
-I was starting to feel nauseated at the peak of each contraction, which is a sign of approaching the transition stage of labor.
It had been less than an hour, but the OB asked if she could check me again. I declined at first because, again, I was scared. I was really struggling mentally with these contractions and I was afraid that if I heard there was no progress, I would completely lose it.
At this point my husband stepped in and told me he really wanted me to get checked. With my previous births, he was so anxious and seemed so unsure of everything. This time he was so calm and reassuring. He reminded me that he has seen me give birth before and he could tell that this time was different. He knew I was scared from my previous experiences and needed to hear that this wasn’t the same.
The OB checked me again a little before 10:00 and I was 7 cm and 90% effaced.
I was THRILLED! This was happening! I could do this!
My excitement didn’t last long. My labor pattern changed very suddenly. I was no longer getting any break at all between contractions. I wasn’t able to get that little break to catch my breath and calm myself anymore. I started to panic, which made my heart race.
At the same time, the baby’s heart rate started dropping really low during contractions. The nurses were struggling to differentiate between baby’s heart rate and mine on the monitors.
I ended up in a full-fledged panic attack then. I started screaming when contractions would peak and may or may not have told my husband that I was dying multiple times.
One nurse had me flip onto my side and put an oxygen mask on me while another was still frantically trying to find baby on the monitor. Although I was panicking, I still remember looking at my husband and realizing he was far too calm - smiling even. It’s the only thing that kept me sane.
I asked him later why he was so chill during that chaos, and he said there was another nurse in the room. The two nurses with me were so focused on their job - one finding baby’s heart and the other trying to get me to calm down and take deep breaths in the oxygen mask - that they weren’t taking in the whole picture. The third nurse was standing back watching everything and she apparently called the OB team back in. She told them that although they had just checked me, she was sure the baby was actually coming now.
Right about that time, my body started pushing. It’s called Fetal Ejection Reflex. I’ve heard about it. I’ve seen it happen to my birth clients. But absolutely nothing prepares you for the moment it happens to you. The pressure was unbelievable, and my body completely took over with no help whatsoever from me.
The nurse holding my oxygen mask was caught off guard by how abruptly I stopped screaming and realized I was bearing down instead. She quickly pushed my leg aside to look and said, “Well, mama… is this the position you want to push in? Because it looks like we’re there.”
It had only been about 15 minutes since I was checked at 7 cm and honestly, my brain couldn’t even process what was happening. The nurse asked me to take a few breaths and try to stop pushing so they could break down the bed, but I couldn’t. My body was pushing so hard, I couldn’t even catch my breath.
The OB then said she wasn’t worried about breaking down the bed and to just let my body do what it needed to do.
Just when I thought I would pass out from the pain and not being able to breathe, I finally got a break from the contractions. It only lasted a minute or so, but it was enough for me to take a few breaths and for the medical team to break down the bed.
After a short break, I started pushing again. Despite the fact that I could very clearly feel what was happening, my brain was still in panic mode. I was convinced this wasn’t really happening and that I wouldn’t be able to push the baby out. I kept saying I couldn’t do it and I needed someone to help me.
A nurse told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head crowning.
I finally managed to muster the strength and courage to push my baby the rest of the way out - only about 10 minutes of pushing altogether.
The baby was covered with a towel and placed on my chest. While I admired my precious new love, my mom ran out to the waiting room where my daughter was waiting. We had decided to let her be the first to peek and announce the sex of the baby.
We had a baby BOY!
A little while later, it was time to cut the cord, and I said I wanted to do it myself.
He was weighed at 8 lbs 11.4 oz - my biggest baby by almost a pound - and I had done it completely naturally!
My dad came in with the kids to meet our new little guy and they were totally smitten right from the start.
Once my parents left with the big kids, the chaos was over and I asked the nurse the official time of birth. I was shocked to hear 10:21 PM - just under 5 hours from when my water broke!
I looked down at my little Baby Bear, and said, “Well… that escalated quickly!”
A special thank you to Krista with Seed & Stem Photography for these beautiful birth photos!
Everyone seems to have an opinion...
Don't over pack...
But you'll regret it if you need something you didn't pack! Bring EVERYTHING and leave some in the car just in case!
You do you boo...
Here's the thing-
There are a million different blogs all over the internet with comprehensive hospital bag packing lists of everything you could ever possibly need.
This is not one of those blogs.
Honestly, how much you will need or want to pack entirely depends on a few different factors:
*The type of birth you are having - c-sections tend to have longer hospital stays than uncomplicated vaginal deliveries.
*How close you live to the hospital where you are choosing to deliver - Sending your husband on a 15 minute drive home to grab something you forgot is a totally different story than those of you traveling over an hour to get to your birth location of choice.
*Do you have help nearby? - My husband and I are very lucky to have plenty of local friends and family who are more than happy to stop by our house or a store to grab something we need.
This blog I've written for you today is not a complete list of what you'll need to pack.
Instead, I have compiled a few small hacks that I learned with my first two births to make packing a little easier and so you don't make the same mistakes I did!
1) Bring One Really Big Bag
Having separate bags packed for everyone is chaos. I know it might feel more organized to have everyone's things organized into their own bag, but postpartum rooms are TINY.
You know those beautiful, spacious labor and delivery rooms they show you on the hospital website and during your tour?
Yeah... you only get to stay in those for a few hours after delivery at most. They will eventually move you down to the postpartum rooms, which are about the size of my closet. And this seems to be a universal phenomenon because as a birth photographer, I've been in L&D rooms in pretty much all of the local hospitals as well as the postpartum rooms for Fresh 48 sessions.
Suddenly, all of those separate bags take up a ton of space and you're tripping over them every time you get up.
I pack one giant bag for everyone. It's not pretty. It's an old duffel bag my husband had before he met me, but it works. I can pack everything we need for myself, my husband, and the baby AND still have a little room left over to cram in the goodies I bring home from the hospital with me (diapers, wipes, mesh panties, ice packs, etc).
2) Get Samples or Go Travel Size with Toiletries
This is one I learned the hard way with my first birth. I packed everything we didn't need on a daily basis and then put a list on top of the bag of items we needed to remember when it was time to go to the hospital: toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, makeup, phone chargers, etc. etc. etc.
Well, guess what?
When I started having dangerous blood pressure spikes and was sent to the hospital in a hurry, all of those extra things we were supposed to grab were completely left behind.
With my second baby and now with this third, I knew not to make that mistake again.
I have toothbrushes and sample size tubes of toothpaste from our most recent dentist visits.
I have makeup samples I got in some random swag bag.
I have travel size deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup remover wipes, etc.
The only thing we will actually have to remember to grab on our way out the door is the bag itself and my purse.
3) Pack an Extra Sports Bra or Sleep Bra
Soooo funny story...
I had a long labor with my second baby. People will tell you all the time that modesty goes out the window once you're in "labor land," but you never know just how true it is until it happens to you.
Apparently, at some point during the long pushing phase with my son, I started to get really hot. I have no memory of this whatsoever, but I've been told that I just started ripping clothes off and demanding that everyone help me get the gown off because I was so hot.
It wasn't until about 20-30 minutes after he was born and snuggling on my chest that I glanced down and asked, "So... uh... how long have I been completely naked?"
The nurse assured me it was no big deal and it happens all the time.
I wasn't exactly embarrassed, but here's the problem...
I have lots of photos that no one will ever see from my son's birth. I love and treasure them... but will not share them because, as I said, I was COMPLETELY naked.
This time I packed an extra sports bra in the bag and made my husband SWEAR to me that he will make me AT LEAST keep a bra on during birth this time.
I've hired a photographer, and I want to be able to share the beautiful photos I know she'll capture of that day.
As a birth photographer, I always tell my clients that it's not my job to tell you what to do or not to do during labor. If it's important to you to have photos you can share that don't contain full nudity, always designate someone - your spouse, a doula, a friend, someone - to remind you to leave your clothes on just in case!
4) Bring Towels From Home
Another lesson learned the hard way.
Not sure if you know this, but hospital towels are approximately the size of a postage stamp. Also, because they're regularly washed in a really harsh cycle (for obvious reasons), they feel like sandpaper.
Now I know some people who say they prefer to just wait until they get home to shower after birth, but I can't do that. Pretty much as soon as I'm up and walking around, I'm ready to wash off and get into some clean clothes.
If you know you're going to want a shower at the hospital, bring your own towel. You'll thank me later.
5) Bring a Folder
This doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Any basic pocket folder that you can get for less than a dollar at Target is fine.
When packing my hospital bag, I use the folder to hold a copy of my birth preferences to give to the nurses at the hospital as well as any notes and reminders for my husband (like our birth photographer's phone number and when and how often to contact her).
However, this folder is also really handy after birth as well. You will be given so many random pieces of paper after your baby is born - information on newborn procedures that you choose to have done at the hospital, paperwork for the baby's birth certificate and social security card, and any discharge instructions.
Having a place to put all of those papers will make it much easier to find them again when you get home.
I hope you find these little hacks helpful! To my other experienced mamas: did you feel like you over packed, under packed, or was it just right? Was there anything you didn't pack but wish you had? Leave a comment and let me know!
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I first met this couple just after the new year when mama was already 39 weeks pregnant.
They were first time parents, excited to meet their new baby girl any day.
They had been looking for a birth photographer for a while and ended up finding me at the last minute.
They knew they wanted to capture the memories of this incredible day and didn't want to leave it to chance. Plus, if dad was the one taking all of the pictures, who would take pictures of him?
So I went on call for this couple immediately and we waited.
Late at night on January 12 - 2 days after mom's due date - I got a text that she was having a lot of cramping. She was going to try to rest and see if they went away, but would let me know if anything changed.
A little after 3:30 in the morning, I got the call that they were heading to the hospital with contractions 4-5 minutes apart. When she arrived she was only 1 cm dilated, so I told her to keep me updated, but I was going to get some sleep and I hoped she would be able to do the same.
I checked in with mom throughout the day. Progress continued slowly. Later in the morning, she was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. She hadn't been able to rest because the consistent contractions were still keeping her awake.
As of 1 PM, there had still been no change, so her OBGYN decided to start pitocin to see if they could get things to progress.
A little while later mama got an epidural and the doctor broke her water. She was 4-5 cm dilated that evening.
I arrived at the hospital around 8:45 PM. I ran into dad in the waiting room. He looked exhausted and was hoping they could both get a nap now that mom had an epidural. I told him to get some rest and I would be hanging out in the waiting room until they were ready for me.
Dad was able to get some sleep, but this poor mama never did get a nap. Because of some concerns with baby's heart rate and meconium in her water, the nurses were coming in periodically to check on baby and help mom change positions.
Around 1:30 AM, mama called me back to the room. She was completely dilated but they were trying to let her labor down some before pushing.
When I got in the room, mom was touching up her makeup and everyone was joking about how hard it had been to wake dad up. It seems he was having full conversations with people without ever actually waking up.
A little after 2 AM, the nurse said they should be ready to start pushing soon and this sweet mama had a tiny moment of panic realizing she was going to meet her daughter soon. She said she was excited but scared too.
Dad was right there by her side reassuring her that everything was going to be great and he was so excited to meet their baby girl.
Just before 3 AM, mama was finally able to start pushing.
She pushed in a variety of positions and eventually was given a little oxygen between pushes to help baby's heart rate. I kept expecting her to get tired and run out of energy, but from what I could see, you'd never know she'd been up for over 24 hours at this point!
The soon-to-be grandfather (mom's dad) was there in a chair by her head. He sat between pushes, but every time a new contraction came, he stood up to support and encourage his little girl.
At 4:25 AM, after about an hour and a half of pushing, baby Samantha was born with a head full of dark hair!
After snuggling with mom for a little while, Samantha was weighed and clung to the side of the scale the whole time.
Samantha went back to mom's chest and dad called some other family members to meet the baby over video.
After taking some time to work on that first latch, baby Samantha was taken to the warmer for her remaining measurements and was swaddled in a precious new wrap and headband.
I left this family to settle in and hopefully get some sleep just as the sun was coming up on this baby's birth day.
Congratulations to this new family of three and thank you for trusting me to capture your first baby's entrance into this world!
We’d been researching all of the latest baby stuff for months and we had just found out that our first precious baby was going to be a girl!
We excitedly headed to our store of choice to register for all of the things we needed to take care of our new precious bundle.
After we filled out all of the pertinent information, we were handed a welcome packet that included a registry checklist - presumably a guide to all of the things you NEED to have on your registry for your baby.
My jaw nearly hit the floor.
This thing was several pages long.
I couldn’t help but think, do I REALLY need all this crap?
It’s been over 6 years since that first baby registry experience and I’m now expecting baby number 3.
I’ve got a few more gray hairs and an undisclosed number of extra pounds - but I’ve also got more experience and a little more wisdom (or at least that’s what I’m calling it).
I can now answer that burning question - do you really need all that crap for a baby?
The short answer is - no, you really don’t.
I’ve compiled a much more realistic registry checklist to get you started with the basics of what you’ll really need in those early months with a new baby plus a few things you really don’t need (although they might be really nice luxuries if you choose to get them anyway).
1) Some Way To Feed Them
Breastfeeding moms who are planning to go back to work or will need to be away from baby sometimes may want to register for a good pump; however, many health insurance companies now provide pumps, so check with your insurance provider before registering or purchasing.
You’ll also want to consider bottles, bottle brushes, and possibly some storage solutions for keeping all of that stuff organized.
What you don’t need: Don’t get caught up registering for too many of one type of bottle or cans of one specific formula. Some babies are picky about bottles or have dietary concerns and you don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of something you can’t use. Also, while fancy formula mixers, bottle warmers, and bottle sterilizers might be really awesome conveniences, they aren’t totally necessary.
2) Something For Them To Wear
I’m a sucker for cute baby outfits. Even when not pregnant, I have a tendency to wander baby aisles to look at the cute baby clothes.
Here’s the problem: as soon as you put your baby in that super adorable outfit that you’ve been obsessing over, they’re going to spit up on it or have a major diaper blow out. Murphy’s Law is brutal in the world of parenthood.
I’m not saying don’t get some of those adorable outfits, just make sure you have plenty of basics: onesies, pants, sleepers, etc for every day life.
And don’t forget a few blankets and burp cloths too.
What you don’t need: A bunch of clothes in the wrong season. For example, if you’re expecting a winter baby, don’t get winter clothes in size 6 months. It won’t be winter anymore! And don’t go crazy with clothes in any one size either. Babies grow at all different rates. You might have a super chunky baby that is a few sizes ahead of what’s expected or a little peanut that stays in one size longer.
3) Something To Catch The Poop
Whether you use cloth or disposable, you’re going to need diapers and wipes.
Poop is just a fact of life and parenthood. Honestly, all moms have a different preference for brands. Some diapers fit certain babies better and some diapers work better for babies with sensitive skin. What diapers you like best will likely be a matter of trial and error once your little poop factory arrives, but stocking up on a few different brands and sizes beforehand is never a bad idea!
What you don’t need: A wipe warmer. It sounds nice to pamper that sweet tushy with warm wipes during changes, but eventually you’ll have to change the baby while out and about and a cold wipe is going to be a rude awakening.
4) Somewhere To Sleep
I’m not here to debate sleeping arrangements - that’s up to each parent to make the most informed choice for their own family. However, baby is still going to need somewhere to sleep. There are plenty of options: bassinet, bedside co-sleeper, pack n play, crib, etc. You don’t need all of them. Pick one or two and go with them.
If you are planning on having more babies in the future, keep longevity in mind! This 3rd baby will be sleeping in the same pack n play with the bassinet attachment and crib as my older two. My son (second baby) is still sleeping in our crib converted to a toddler bed. When this baby is ready, we’ll get my son a new bed and convert the crib back.
What you don’t need: A matching nursery set with crib bumpers and quilts and all of the other accessories that come with it. Some sheets that fit your sleep surface of choice and possibly a mattress cover are all you really need. Plus, it's not recommended to have any soft bedding in with baby, so those bumpers and quilts would be useless.
5) Some Way To Carry Them
Babies want to be held - a LOT - in the first few months. They go from being in your warm, cozy tummy to suddenly being in this bright, loud world. It’s overwhelming and they find comfort in being close to mom.
I’m all for taking time to just kick back and snuggle with your baby whenever possible, BUT sometimes we need to get up and do other things. Having a carrier of some kind that allows you to use your hands and still snuggle baby will be a lifesaver.
There are many different types of baby carriers to choose from: wraps, slings, soft structured carriers.
Again, every mom has a different preference. Personally, I like a ring sling for the first couple of months and then a soft structured carrier for when they’re a little older. However, if you have a friend who uses baby carriers, ask if you they can show them to you and try them on and see what you like. There are also some local babywearing groups that love to show new moms the basics of the different types of carriers.
What you don’t need: A ton of different carriers. Once you figure out what works for you, just go with it.
6) Something To Wash Them
Baby’s going to need a bath, so you’ll need baby wash. There are tons of different brands on the market to meet any priorities and preferences. Whether you want something organic and made with natural ingredients or something specifically for sensitive baby skin or just something that smells nice and is easy to find in a local store - you’ll find anything you could possibly want.
What you don’t need: This might be an unpopular opinion, but you don’t need a baby tub. I know some moms swear by their baby tubs. For me, it was just another item that I had to find a place to stash when I wasn’t using it. I either used a baby bath sponge or a folded towel in the bottom of the bathroom sink to wash my newborns. When they outgrew the bathroom sink, I washed them in the kitchen sink until they were big enough to sit in the full size bath.
7) Some Way To Ride In The Car
Choosing a car seat might be one of the most overwhelming items to choose. There are so many different brands and options and bells and whistles.
The good news is that all car seats have to go through safety testing before going on the market, so as long as the seat is being used properly, your little one should be safe.
There are pros and cons to choosing an infant bucket seat that snaps in and out of the car vs. going straight to a convertible seat. I had an infant bucket seat with my first two. My first loved it. Second hated it and screamed every single time I put him in it.
This time we’re skipping straight to the convertible simply because with two older kids, I’m not going to have the free hands to be lugging a heavy infant bucket seat around everywhere anyway.
What you don’t need: All of the fancy car seat accessories, toys, strap covers, etc. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t use anything in the car seat that was not included by the manufacturer. It could void the warranty of your carseat or even cause unintended damage in case of an accident.
Also, I highly recommend spending some time on www.thecarseatlady.com Pretty much any information you could possibly want to know about car seats and proper usage and installation can be found there. Keep in mind that a car seat is only really safe for baby when being used correctly!
8) Some Way To Organize It All
This will entirely depend on your living situation. If baby will have an entire nursery, then you’ll have more opportunities for dressers and furniture and closet space.
If, like me, baby will just have a small area in your master bedroom until it’s old enough to share a room with one of its big siblings, your options might be a little more limited, but still entirely doable! There are tons of storage solutions for small spaces, and I could spend hours on Pinterest just looking at nursery organization ideas.
What you don’t need: A fancy matching nursery furniture and storage set. I’ve collected furniture pieces and baskets and bins from a variety of different stores over the years for my kids’ rooms that were eventually used in other areas of our house. I like having things that are multi-purpose because my kids are only going to use them for a short period of time.
And that’s the gist of it! Now there are tons of other things that you’ll probably really want and find useful: pacifiers, baby seats/entertainment centers/swings, a high chair, swaddles, baby monitor etc. However, keep in mind that a lot of those things will entirely be up to baby’s preferences and your lifestyle.
For example, I know a lot of moms that never would have survived the newborn days without a swing, but BOTH of my kids absolutely hated baby swings. Some babies love pacifiers. Some hate them. Some like to be swaddled. Some don’t.
Also, since the AAP recommends not introducing solid foods until 6 months, certain items like high chairs and feeding utensils will need to be stored somewhere until you need them, so you might want to hold off and get those items later.
So other veteran mamas: did I leave anything out? Is there any baby item that you recommend to everyone around you because you love it so much? Let’s hear about it in the comments!
All birth is beautiful.
I know a lot of people say that, but as someone who has required 2 medically managed births and has photographed everything from a natural water birth to a scheduled c-section, I truly find birth miraculous every single time.
BUT - I have to admit there's something fascinating about watching a birth that's been uninterrupted by modern medicine.
The way a mother's body just knows when to work and when to rest.
How her body shifts and adjusts to make room for her baby to come earthside.
This was the case with the birth of baby Weston.
First time mom Katelyn knew she wanted a natural birth, so she chose to make the drive to deliver at Charleston Birth Place. She did everything within her power throughout her pregnancy to make sure she stayed healthy and low risk in order to deliver there.
After she reached 41 weeks, she and the midwives started discussing some natural methods to get labor to start. If Katelyn was still pregnant at 42 weeks, she would have to deliver at the hospital instead. There were a few times she was able to get some mild contractions going, but they would eventually fizzle out.
Finally, just under the wire at 41 weeks and 5 days, I heard from Katelyn early in the morning. She had been having contractions all night long and was heading into the birth center.
When she arrived, I got a text that she was 5 centimeters dilated with a "paper thin" cervix and the baby was really low. I arrived at the birth center not long after that at around 9 am.
Several of Katelyn and her husband Tyler's family members arrived at about the same time. We all found out that the midwife was giving Katelyn something to hopefully help her sleep for a little while since she had been awake all night.
Most of the family went to get breakfast and kill some time. I was fully prepared with a pillow, crochet project, book, and some snacks to just hang out in my car until I was needed.
About 2 hours later, Tyler came out to let us know that Katelyn was awake and everyone was welcome to come wait inside the birth center.
The family gathered for a moment to pray over the birth of baby Weston.
And then I tip-toed back to the birth suite where Katelyn was 8-9 centimeters dilated and laboring in the bathroom while she waited for the tub to fill.
Once mama was in the tub, the two soon-to-be grandmas joined us in the birth suite and we all watched quietly along with the midwife and nurse as Katelyn calmly labored on.
Tyler was quiet for the most part. At one point he told his mom that he was a little nervous but mostly okay. Other than that he didn't say much except when Katelyn would begin to have a contraction. He whispered encouragement to her each time until the contraction passed.
You're doing so great.
He'll be here soon.
You can do this.
Katelyn's mom turned on some quiet music and we waited.
Around 1:00 in the afternoon, the midwife checked and Katelyn was almost completely dilated with the exception of a tiny bit of cervix. Mom was given a few options, and ultimately she chose to change positions to see if that helped move the rest of the cervix out of the way.
We all watched and listened as Katelyn's contractions grew closer together.
I'm still in awe of how well she handled all of this as a first time mom. She seemed so calm and peaceful throughout labor. She seemed lost in "labor land" for the most part, but she occasionally opened her eyes and said something sarcastic or funny to the rest of us in the room.
Eventually Katelyn started to feel pressure. The midwife told her that she could bear down during contractions if it felt right, so at about 2:30, Katelyn began gently pushing during contractions.
It wasn't long before we started to see the baby's head.
Katelyn would have a few contractions back to back during this phase, and then her body would take a break for several minutes. She would just float quietly in the water until the next round of contractions began.
Eventually, the amniotic sac broke during one of her pushes and we could see that baby Weston had dark hair!
Then at 3:34, Weston was born into the water. The midwife unwrapped his very long umbilical cord from around his neck and handed him to Katelyn.
New dad Tyler, who had been so quiet throughout the whole labor process, surprised me with his enthusiastic reaction to seeing his son for the first time.
They stayed in the tub together for a while before cutting the cord.
The nurses measured Weston and recorded his stats while the new mom and dad got out of the tub.
8 lbs 2 oz
Dad held Weston for skin to skin time while the midwife took care of Katelyn and got her settled in the bed.
After the first feeding, the new family of three was sitting together in the bed. I left them to bond with and get to know their new family member.
Thank you Katelyn and Tyler for trusting me to be with you on this amazing day! Congratulations on your new baby boy!
Just like your wedding day, you plan and prepare for the day you meet your baby.
And just like your wedding day, it's over in a flash.
How will you remember the emotions and details of such an important day?
Normally, my basic birth photography package is $1200.
-Consultation during your 3rd trimester to discuss your birth plan and photo preferences
-Photographer (that's me!) on call 24/7 - day and night - starting at 38 weeks until the birth of your baby
-Photographer (me again!) present for an unlimited amount of time during active labor and delivery and up to 2-3 hours after birth
-Full gallery of edited images to download
-Slideshow video set to music
-Discounts on maternity sessions, lifestyle newborn sessions, and album purchases
However, I am choosing THREE expecting mamas to receive my birth photography services at HALF PRICE in exchange for a model release!
That means my basic birth package now starts at $600!
Requirements to apply:
1) Must be currently expecting with a due date between October 15 and December 15, 2018.
2) Must be willing to sign a model release allowing me to use photos for promotions and advertising.
(Disclaimer: Even though you sign a model release, I do not ever share photos that contain nudity, and I will let you know what photos I intend to use before publishing any.)
3) All types of birth are accepted! Planned c-section, hospital birth, home birth, birth center birth... it's all beautiful and worthy of photographing!
4) Must be willing to pay a 25% non-refundable retainer to reserve your place if you are chosen for this discount and the final balance is due by your 38th week of pregnancy.
Ready to apply? Click below!
Even before your baby is born, you can't help but worry.
I think it's part of the mom code or something.
You worry about whether your baby is healthy or your bump is too big or too small.
You worry about what kind of mother you'll be and what kind of personality your little one will have.
You worry about the birth.
What if something happens?
Women having been having babies forever, but everyone has at least one friend with some terrifying birth story (unfortunately, I think I'm sometimes that friend for some people).
What would a birth photographer do in those cases? Would you even want a birth photographer there?
These are all legitimate concerns. Birth is incredible and miraculous and in a lot of cases, completely normal.
But birth is also unpredictable and sometimes unexpected events can happen, even for the most prepared mother.
In those times, moms often feel a wide range of emotions.
Lack of control.
I speak from experience here (remember how I said I'm often that friend?). If you've never read the birth story of my first born (lovingly called Bug), you can find it here.
I felt so out of control... like my body had failed me and my baby.
I remember laying on the OR table thinking, "How did I get here?"
It wasn't until a day or two later that I saw my own strength through the eyes of my own mom. She had been with me throughout the entire process and even in the OR when my daughter was born.
She made a post on Facebook talking about how brave I was and how I was the calmest one in the OR. She praised how I set aside all of the hopes I had for my birth and laid myself out on that table for the sake of my baby girl.
I won't say I magically felt better about everything after that because it's just not true.
But it was a start.
I needed to get out of my own head and see my birth from an outsider's perspective.
I needed to see my birth from another angle.
That's what birth photography does. It shows you the depth of your own strength.
You can see the look of determination on your own face as you work to bring your baby into the world.
You get to see the joy in your eyes when you meet your baby for the first time.
You can see the love and support of the people who surrounded you that day.
Even more important, birth photography can give you moments that you may have missed.
That's actually one of the biggest reasons I decided to become a birth photographer.
After my daughter was born, my husband went to the nursery with her and I was left behind in the OR.
He held our daughter - the first baby he had ever held in his life - in the nursery, and I missed it.
It's a moment I'll never get back. It's the reason why my favorite pictures during my clients' births are usually dad meeting or holding baby for the first time. I feel like I get the chance to give other moms something that I wasn't able to have.
Birth photography can be healing and empowering. My goal as a birth photographer is to show you the beauty in your baby's birth day - no matter what else happens.