Ah... summer in Charleston.
It's my favorite.
You'll hear lots of other people complaining about the heat and humidity, but not me. It's one of my favorite parts of living here.
I don't do cold. But days spent by the ocean or at the pool or relaxing in the shade of some big, beautiful oak trees? Count me in.
June was a sweet, leisurely month with my kids - so here's the monthly recap of my Life in 52 challenge photos!
This was actually an iPhone photo, but I couldn't resist sharing it. My wild and crazy toddler asked if he could watch cartoons in my bed while I was getting dressed one day. When I came out of my bathroom, I found him lounging in my bed like this. It was too cute not to take a photo.
Okay this isn't exactly lifestyle, but I don't really care. My Bug is normally quiet and shy, but put that girl on a stage and she's all smiles. Her dance recital was the second week in June, and I was so proud of her sassy little self.
We don't have a ton of shade in our yard and it's often too hot for the kids to just play outside in the afternoon. However, it often cools down just enough in the evenings for a little bit of play time. Bug's favorite thing to do is jump on this worn out mini trampoline. She loves to make up songs while she jumps and it helps her burn off any extra energy before bed.
At the end of the month, we spent a morning at Charlestowne Landing with some friends before it got too hot. I, of course, brought my camera along because this is one of my favorite parks. I snapped this photo of Bubba when he stopped for a snack and decided to sit on a low hanging branch. He has only recently become obsessed with wearing his sunglasses, and I love it!
I'll be back to posting more birthy goodness on the blog this month and don't forget to check back for July's Life in 52 photos in a few weeks!
The saying "April showers bring May flowers" didn't really apply here in Charleston, SC this year. May was mostly... showers.
Lots of trying to find ways to keep my kids entertained while maintaining my own sanity.
Photography inspiration doesn't always abound when the weather is dreary, but I think I found some pretty great moments.
So here you go - my Life in 52 challenge photos for the month of May:
You might recognize this photo from my Top Mom Photos blog post a few weeks ago. I'm making an effort to get in photos with my kids more often - and not just when my hair and makeup and clothes are perfect.
Once the weather started making us feel stir crazy, we decided to venture out of the house. One of our favorite spots is the South Carolina Aquarium. My mother-in-law gifts us a membership every year for Christmas, and we love being able to go spend a couple of hours with the fish now and then.
P.S. I just love how you can see his little reflection in the glass!
My sweet girl had her last day of Pre-K! I can't believe she'll be starting kindergarten so soon!
I actually almost forgot to take this photo altogether! I was headed to the hospital for a birth after dropping my daughter off at school. As we were leaving, I suddenly remembered the picture! I didn't want to get it at the end of the day because I had NO idea when I would be done with the birth (hazards of the job - but I love it). So I quickly grabbed the chalkboard and got her to pause for a picture. As I was snapping the photo, I said, "Wait... where are your glasses?"
She was a little mad at me for not retaking the photo with her glasses on, but we were going to be late if we tried to retake it. So this is what we're sticking with!
This is my favorite photo of the month. The rain had been pretty heavy for a couple of days. Since we were stuck inside anyway and my 2-year-old had been asking to use the potty, we decided to spend some time focusing on potty-training. He spent most days just running around the house in underwear (makes for less laundry when the accidents happen). One afternoon, the rain paused briefly and my husband went to take the dogs out for a quick walk. My son wanted to go along, but I told him that he needed to stay inside because he didn't have clothes on and it was wet outside.
He said, "It okay, Mommy. I have my rain boots."
Then he took off outside after his daddy. So I did what any self-respecting photographer mom would do and I grabbed my camera.
I hope you enjoyed another little peak at my life this month. For more from the Life in 52 challenge, click here. And check back at the end of this month for more!
Back in the fall, I had a portrait session with this sweet family in downtown Charleston. At the time, this mom was just coming to the end of her first trimester and let me know they would be getting in touch with me after the holidays to schedule a newborn session.
I have been looking forward to the birth of this little guy for a couple of reasons-
First, I love fresh babies. Obviously.
But second, I was so excited to see this big sister again! She has personality for days, and she is still one of my favorite kids I have ever photographed.
One of the best parts about lifestyle newborn sessions is that the older siblings can be relaxed in their own environment. Newborn sessions take a while because we often need breaks for feedings or diaper changes. When I'm in the client's home, however, older children can take breaks whenever they need and play with their own toys in their own space. As you'll see, I even spent a little time taking some photos of just big sister while her new baby brother was being fed and changed.
Since I don't bring tons of props or big studio set-ups, it's really easy for me to travel to clients' homes for these sessions. Unfortunately, the day before was the day the Wando Bridge was shut down I-526. When I arrived at this family's home, Dad joked that this ended up being a pretty convenient time to be home with the baby. Staying home and snuggling your new baby instead of sitting in awful traffic? Definite win.
I just want to say a quick thank you to this family for trusting me, yet again, to photograph this sweet time in your family!
Now for the part you're all really here for anyway....
An adorable baby fix!
Find out more about lifestyle newborn sessions and the other services I offer here.
Rocker of fussy babies.
Kisser of boo-boos.
Keeper of the keys (to the minivan that is).
And notoriously the taker of pictures instead of the subject.
I know you hear it all the time - "Moms! Get in the pictures with your kids!"
Like you need one more thing on your plate to worry about, right?
Listen, I'm a photographer and even I struggle with getting in the pictures. It's so much easier to just take the cute photo of my kids than to find someone else to take the picture with me included.
However, I do think it's important for us moms to get in the pictures when we can. Our kids will thank us for it one day - I promise!
In honor of Mother's Day and to encourage you to find value in photos of yourself, here are my 10 favorite photos of moms:
1. The First Look
The look on a mother's face the very first time she sees her baby - whether it's her 1st baby or her 5th - is always mesmerizing to me. This moment was so sweet - before the baby even made it to her chest, mom was already overcome with emotion for her precious girl.
2. Still her baby
This photo is from another birth photography session, but the mom here is actually the new grandma. He is her youngest child and her only boy. He was coming out of the OR to announce the healthy delivery of his baby girl, and his mom just wrapped him up in a bear hug.
3. Man on a Mission
This little guy was having a cluster feeding day when I showed up for his lifestyle newborn session. His sweet momma was trying so hard to get him to snuggle up high on her chest for photos, but he only wanted one thing. Shout out to all the breastfeeding moms out there laughing because you've been there before too.
4. Birdie Kisses
This cutie pie gave the sweetest kisses I have ever seen. She would open her mouth like a little baby bird and kiss on the nose. Her mom told me she's so happy she has this photo now because her little one stopped giving kisses like this just days after our family portrait session.
5. Big Brother
What's not to love? Gorgeous mama-to-be. Super sweet big brother. Belly kisses.
It was such a quick moment, I'm so glad I was fast enough to catch it!
6. Smiling Newborn
Baby girl obviously loves kisses from her mommy. Look at that little smile!
7. Momma's Boy
There's just something about a mom and her son. You can see it in the big smile on this gorgeous mom's face!
8. Hello Baby
This little nugget is my goddaughter and her momma is one of my best friends. This photo may not look like much more than a sweet photo of mom and her new baby to you... but if you only knew. If you knew the long, heart-wrenching journey that beautiful woman traveled to get to this sweet girl, you would know that this is a photo of a true miracle.
9. The BEST Mom
If we're talking about the best mom, then clearly we're talking about MY mom. I can't have a favorite mom photos post without sharing a photo of my own mom! She is the most incredible woman I know and she's an even better Nonnie! I love watching her let loose and play with my kids. Sometimes I'm even lucky enough to sneak up and catch one of those sweet moments on camera...
10. Just Me
It would be a little hypocritical of me to try to tell you the importance of getting in the photos without following through myself, right? So here I am - in all my mom-bun-and-gym-clothes glory, loving these precious babies of mine.
Happy Mother's Day to all of you beautiful moms out there! Give yourself a gift this year - get someone else to take a picture so you can be in it!
Then give yourself another gift and get my favorite mom tips and stories straight to your inbox each month!
I know what you're thinking...
You think I forgot about the Life in 52 challenge.
I haven't been posting my challenge photo each week like I have been doing all year.
Well, I actually have been participating in the challenge still. I just reached a point where I decided to group my photos into one blog post a month. That way you get 3-4 photos at a time instead of just one each week. This will also free up more time for me to write more blogs related to birth/maternity/motherhood awesomeness.
So without further ado, here are my Life in 52 lifestyle photography challenge photos from the last few weeks:
Okay... I have a small confession. I didn't exactly forget week 14, but I had other priorities. I had surgery that week, so I was focused on getting my family and household ready and then... ya know... having surgery. I hope I can appease you with this adorable picture of my kiddos on Easter.
The gorgeous, warm weather finally arrived here in Charleston, SC during week 15. One of Bug's favorite things to do on warm weather days is have a picnic lunch in the yard. This was our first official picnic of 2018.
If you know anything about my son at all, you know he's obsessed with "vrooms." In his little language a "vroom" is pretty much anything that goes: tractors, construction equipment, trucks, cars, etc. He often runs around and pretends to be some sort of "vroom."
I don't even really have an explanation for this one. Bug and I were being silly and this idea struck me suddenly. I didn't tell her what I was doing to her hair. I just told her she had to wait and see the picture when I was done. She has always had quite the expressive face...
You have no idea how long we wandered around the garden center to pick the perfect flowers. Bug is very particular about what she likes, and we had to make sure we looked at ALL of the options before she could decide. She had fun planting them with her daddy though - and really, that's all that matters anyway.
Want a quick guide to some of my favorite family-friendly events around the Lowcountry each month? Sign up for my VIP e-mail list!
You've recovered from your c-section and you're ready to welcome your next baby into your family. You've been researching your birth options, and you have decided you want to go for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Maybe your c-section birth was traumatic or maybe you just don't want to go through another abdominal surgery unless absolutely necessary - it doesn't really matter WHY you chose a VBAC; the question you're facing now is, "What do I do next?"
Well, I'll tell you, and you should listen carefully. This could be the decision that makes or breaks your VBAC. A quick Google search would produce tons of recommendations for activities, birth classes, diets, supplements, chiropractic care and pretty much anything else you could imagine to help you along in your VBAC journey.
As a successful VBAC mom myself, however, I think there is one vital piece of the puzzle that will make all the difference in your VBAC plans -
A Supportive Birth Team.
You can do everything "right" and have the healthiest pregnancy ever, but if you don't have a birth team that supports your VBAC plans, you will have a much harder time following through with those plans.
First on my list were my mom and husband.
Of course, they both said they wanted to support me in whatever I decided, but it was also important to me that they know the research and the reasons behind why I chose to have a VBAC. I knew that when the exhaustion and hard work of labor took over, I would need them to know my wishes and be able to speak for me if I couldn't.
Next, I needed a new OBGYN.
In the state of South Carolina, there are limitations on VBAC moms. It is against the law in this state for a midwife to attend a VBAC birth outside of a hospital. That rules out homebirths or birth center births for moms like me who are uncomfortable with an unassisted birth. Here in Charleston and throughout the lowcountry though, we are fortunate that the majority of our hospitals do allow VBACs. Only a small number of OBGYN practices ban them altogether.
Unfortunately, I discovered that the obstetrician who delivered Bug via c-section was a part of one of the few practices with a VBAC ban. I knew I would have to break up with my doctor if I wanted to move forward with the birth I was planning. I'm not going to pretend it was an easy "Bye Felicia" to leave that practice. Most of the doctors I had experience with there were kind, wonderful people. My decision to leave was solely based on the fact that their practice did not align with my beliefs about my birth and my care. We women sometimes need to be reminded that we are the decision makers in our own births and health care. We have a right to ask questions or seek other opinions or break up with doctors who may not line up with our preferred standard of care.
If you aren't sure what to look for in a VBAC care provider, VBACFacts.com is a great resource and they have a list of questions to ask your care provider.
When I met with the doctor who would eventually care for me throughout my pregnancy with Bubba, I talked to her in depth about her feelings about VBAC and the success rate at the hospital where I would be delivering. She assured me that as long as baby and I were healthy, we would be treated like any other perfectly healthy mom and baby in the practice. She also told me that even if some special circumstance were to arise, they would not automatically push another c-section before exploring other options first.
Finally, I hired a doula.
A doula is someone who is trained to assist a woman and her family in labor. I knew that the hospital where I would be delivering is a large teaching hospital, and I would most likely end up with whatever on-call doctor was available when I happened to go into labor. I wanted to make sure I had someone with me who understands the labor process and would help me advocate for myself in the hospital.
People often tell me they are surprised that my doctor or hospital "allowed" me to labor as long as I did with my VBAC baby. I always tell them that's the value of a supportive care team. Even though I strongly disliked the resident who ended up delivering Bubba, I will say one thing in her favor - she never once tried to bully me into another c-section. By surrounding myself with a strong, supportive birth team, I was able to have a successful VBAC despite my long, exhausting labor.
There's one person I wish I had on my team though...
A birth photographer. I'm not saying that just because I'm a birth photographer either. We saved up in order to hire a doula, and I wish I had found a way to save more - sold stuff I didn't need - whatever I needed to do - in order to hire a birth photographer. I would give anything to have photos of the look on my face when they put that beautiful baby on my chest.
If you need a birth photographer for your "I did it" moment, click here to learn about my birth photography services.
So you’ve had a cesarean and now you’re considering another baby (or maybe already expecting another)… Now you have to decide what route to go for your birth this time around. Do you plan another c-section or do you plan a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)?
As I mentioned in my C-Section Recovery Tips post, April is Cesarean Awareness Month. Continuing with that theme, I’m addressing another concern that is unique to c-section moms. Often the choice whether to plan a VBAC or a repeat c-section is an emotional one. For moms who had a long labor leading up to their first c-section, the fear of attempting a vaginal birth only to end up in surgery again often weighs heavy in this decision. For others, avoiding major abdominal surgery is the primary concern.
I could write an entire post about the research that led me to choose a VBAC for my second birth. For example, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends VBAC as a safe option with very low risk for most women with one or two prior cesareans. Also, a c-section is major abdominal surgery, and as such, inherently carries risks - many of which increase in likelihood with multiple surgeries.
However, this post is primarily about my personal experience with these two deliveries. As someone who has experienced both a c-section and a successful VBAC, I can share first-hand experience with the pros and cons of both types of delivery. After all, statistics can only tell you so much.
Every family has to make the choice that’s best for them based on their own experience and needs, but for me, it came down to one major deciding factor.
I knew that recovering from a c-section was difficult and long when I only had to take care of myself and a newborn. With my second, I was going to have myself, a newborn, and a toddler. I didn’t want the then 3-year-old Bug to be upset that I suddenly couldn’t pick her up and take care of her the same way I usually did. I wanted to make our transition into a family of four as easy as possible.
Usually when people hear about Bubba’s VBAC birth story, they either tell me it scares them into not wanting to try for a VBAC or they ask if I regret not scheduling a repeat cesarean instead.
I can see why they would think that. From an outsider’s perspective, my c-section was complication free. As far as surgeries go, it was pretty textbook. I healed well and honestly, my scar is barely even visible now. My vaginal birth was long and exhausting. Medical interventions were needed. I pushed for 3 hours. There was tearing (I’ll spare you the gory details). However, even taking all of that into consideration, I would STILL choose the vaginal birth every time because the RECOVERY experience was like night and day.
With my complication-free c-section, I struggled to walk normally for the first week. Even beyond that first week, if I was ever on my feet for too long, the soreness would creep in and I would often find myself hunched over, shuffling like a little old lady. I continued to take pain medications for at least 6 weeks, and many of my earliest memories of motherhood are foggy as a result. I needed help getting in and out of bed and generally struggled to take care of myself and the baby the way I wanted. Now, over five years later, I still have areas around my incision that are completely numb and certain waistbands on clothing cause discomfort and irritation.
With my “scary” vaginal birth, I’ll admit that first day was rough. I was exhausted and sore and generally felt like I had been beaten with a stick. However, I quickly started feeling better. I was walking around within 24 hours after birth - slowly but upright. The only pain medication I needed was ibuprofen and after the first couple of days, I only took one dose at night before bed to help me sleep. I stopped taking pain relievers completely less than 2 weeks after birth. As a matter of fact, Bubba was only 2.5 weeks old when I first took both kids on a fun outing by myself. I’m not sure I can truly express in words how much better and more capable I felt after my vaginal birth. My VBAC was two years ago, and I have had no long-term effects from the tearing or any other part of my vaginal birth.
All births are different, and, as I said before, all women need to make the decision that’s best for themselves and their family. In some cases, that may be a repeat c-section. No matter what priorities and criteria a woman uses to make this choice, her concerns are valid and she needs the most accurate information available to support her decision-making.
No matter what kind of birth you choose, you’re going to want a birth photographer there to capture the story of meeting your new baby for the first time! You can see some examples of my birth photography here.
If you’re considering a VBAC for your next birth, check back later this week for my last Cesarean Awareness Month post: The #1 Thing You Need For a Successful VBAC.
One of the things I love about being a birth photographer is seeing the babies when the families come back for other portraits as the littles grown up. I had a recent family session with a little one whose birth I photographed.
I have to be honest with you - I am NOT a morning person. I'm the type who will hit snooze as many times as humanly possible and make any excuse to avoid early morning activities. However, when it comes to sunrise sessions, I am a completely different person. I can't quite decide if it's because I just love my job that much or because nothing beats a Charleston sunrise (except maybe a Charleston sunset). Either way, I was up as soon as my alarm went off and happily headed out the door.
We were blessed with a beautiful, mild spring morning. We started with a few standard family portraits before moving to some mommy-daughter and daddy-daughter photos. We then walked to a different area of our location, and my camera was working the whole time. It's no secret that candid photos are my favorite. It's the best way to capture a little one's personality or the relationship between family members.
Once we made it to the next spot, we took a few more family portraits and some of mom and dad alone. You'd be amazed how often parents haven't had a nice photo as a couple since their wedding day, so I always try to get some photos of just mom and dad.
Enjoy this sneak peek and if you want to know more about my portrait services, click here.
Each April the International Cesarean Awareness Network sponsors Cesarean Awareness Month. According to their website, ICAN is "a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by reducing preventable cesareans through education, supporting cesarean recovery, and advocating for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)."
As a birth photographer and a rockstar c-section mama myself, I know that cesarean births are just as beautiful and powerful and miraculous as any other birth. I also know that c-section moms have a unique struggle in the early postpartum weeks as they try to recover from major abdominal surgery while also adjusting to life with a newborn baby.
I was very fortunate to have a smooth c-section recovery after Bug's birth, and I attribute some of that to a few pieces of great advice from other mothers who had endured this surgery before me. I have compiled the top 3 recovery tips I found most helpful, and whether your c-section is scheduled or unplanned, I hope you find them useful as well.
1. Schedule Your Pain Meds
I am the queen of not taking medicine. I generally hate taking medicine of any kind but especially pain relievers. However, I learned very quickly after my c-section that all of my friends who told me to stay ahead of the pain knew what they were talking about. I still vividly remember one night when Bug was about 5 days old. I woke up in the middle of the night to feed and change her and realized it was time for another dose of my pain relievers. I had left my pill bottle in the kitchen and was feeling okay at the moment, so I decided to go back to sleep instead and take my dose later. It was only a few short hours later that I woke up screaming for my husband to bring me the medicine.
After an informal poll of my fellow c-section mom friends, the general consensus is to set an alarm and take your pain medication on a schedule for at least the first week. After that, you can slowly start stretching out some of the doses and start weaning yourself away from the meds. In my case, it took a full six weeks after Bug's birth before I was able to go a full day without any medication at all.
2. Embrace The Granny Panties
I know. I know. You are a young, amazing, sexy new mama. Granny panties are not your thing. Well, guess what? They're going to be your new best friend. Make sure they're soft and the waist band comes well above your incision site (you don't want to risk them rolling down onto your incision). For the first several days post c-section, I wore the mesh panties you get from the hospital. However, it eventually becomes unreasonable to wear those, but your incision will be tender for quite a while. I honestly can't tell you how long it was before I felt comfortable wearing panties with a lower cut waistband, but it was months. Honestly, even 5 years later, I sometimes find certain types of elastics irritating on my scar after wearing them for a long time. The good news is that high-waisted bikinis are totally in fashion right now, so at least bathing suit season will be one less thing you have to worry about!
3. Give Yourself Grace
Honestly, this one piece of advice could be applied to ALL new moms, but it's particularly important for c-section moms. You are recovering from MAJOR. ABDOMINAL. SURGERY.
You might see Jane NaturalBirth down the street taking her six-day-old baby out for a short walk, but you still can't even stand up straight and need help getting out of bed. That's okay though because...
MAJOR. ABDOMINAL. SURGERY.
It's so important to remember what your body has been through and not try to push yourself to do what you "think" you should be able to do at any point. So you actually have to take people up on those offers to help or clean or cook? That's great! After Bug was born, we had so many friends and family members bring us food that I swear I did not touch my kitchen for a solid month. That meant even more time for me to rest and recuperate and snuggle my perfect new baby girl. My mom usually helped out by cleaning up a little when she came over, and I had friends and cousins who folded loads of laundry while I sat nursing the baby. I give you full permission to pull the "I had major abdominal surgery" card whenever needed - diaper changes, dishes, anything. Honestly, I think we c-section moms should be able to use that card for the full first year - but maybe that's just me.
Now I know you may be struggling with a wide variety of feelings about having a c-section - I know I did - and that's okay! You are allowed to feel however you feel about your birth. I just want to remind you that no matter what happened in the events leading up to your cesarean, you are an amazing mom! You literally laid yourself out on an OR table and allowed yourself to be cut open for the sake of your baby. There's a special kind of beauty and strength in that.
I hope these tips are as helpful in your recovery as they were in mine! If you're a veteran cesarean mama too, share your best recovery tips in the comments!
Here's to the moms on the day before Easter.
Here's to the moms hustling to finish those last minute holiday surprises.
Here's to the moms who are just now dyeing Easter eggs because this week has been crazy and you kind of forgot until today.
Here's to the moms who are putting the final touches on Easter outfits that will probably only be worn for a couple of hours tomorrow.
Here's to the moms who are trying to teach their kids the real story of Easter so it doesn't drown in a sea of colorful plastic eggs.
Here's to the moms who will be stuffing eggs and filling baskets after the kids are in bed.
Here's to the moms who will probably get very little, if any, of the credit for the fun and memories of tomorrow - but you won't really care because the joy on those little faces will be payment enough.
I'm raising my glass to you from here in front of my sewing machine while eggs boil in the kitchen to be dyed later today. Here's to us.
See more from the Life in 52 challenge here.