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Birth Photography Day: The Birth of Llewyn

Birth Photography Day: The Birth of Llewyn

Today is Birth Photography Day! 

If there is anything I know for sure, it’s that birth is amazing, empowering, downright magical, and photos of it should be shared with the world. Today is dedicated to just that. 

I first met Janet through my best friend (who also happens to be an amazing doula with Team Doula). From the moment we met, we clicked and I was so excited to have the opportunity to photograph the birth of baby boy (who was *almost* my birthday buddy).  While every birth I photograph is magical, Janet’s birth really was a birth-day celebration and i was so glad to be a part of it. 

However, I don’t want her experience only told from my perspective, so I am honored that Janet, was willing to write share her birth story and her experience with birth photography with us. So enjoy <3

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 Almost 12 weeks ago, I had the privilege of welcoming our second baby into the world. Being that this was my second pregnancy, I felt that I was much more prepared to advocate for the birth I wanted—which is the very least every birthing person deserves. They deserve to be heard and for their desires to be validated. Delivery should not be something done to them, but instead should be a beautiful process through which they are empowered.

By some grace of God, we were able to conceive our second baby on my very first ovulation after having our first baby—when she was 15 months old. The stars were aligned, and the universe was on our side. Less than two weeks later, we got our positive pregnancy test. Excited, I snuck away from my desk at work to secretly phone my OB’s office to schedule our first prenatal appointment. I had romanticized in my head how the phone call would go, which included a cheery receptionist saying congratulations and getting me in to see my OB around the 8-12 week mark. Instead, the receptionist hurriedly asked “when was your last period?”

I replied, “well that was in August 2016, but I have positive ovulation tests indicating that I ovulated on October 16th, and I got several positive pregnancy tests on October 30th”.

“Well if you don’t know when your last period was, I am going to have to ask the nurse what to do.”

“No. I do know when it was, and I know when I ovulated. I haven’t had a period because I am still breastfeeding.”

“We are going to have to have the nurse call you back.”

Disheartened is putting it gently. Even more so when they had me go get blood drawn every 48 hours until they saw my HCG doubling to confirm my pregnancy, and then had me going for more. I had no time off left and was at one point berated at the blood lab for having my maiden name on my medical card. Fear was setting in. Was something wrong with my pregnancy? I couldn’t get in to see my doctor. I called and asked that they look at my HCG results and the nurse finally scheduled me for an appointment, for an ULTRASOUND at 6 WEEKS. Are you kidding me?? What are you even going to see that early? There must be something wrong.

I made an appointment with a home birth midwifery practice. After meeting with an amazingly experienced midwife who has attended over one thousand births, my feelings were validated. I was assured that these blood draw appointments were ridiculous, and unnecessary since they had already found my HCG to be doubling. There was nothing to be concerned about right now. It was likely that the OB practice didn’t believe that I knew my body enough to know when I was ovulating, and that I was pregnant. But the midwives believed me. I cancelled the ultrasound appointment. I decided to move forward with my longtime dream of having a home birth. I met with an amazing team of doulas who believed in my ability, too. They would support the birth I wanted. They helped me find my empowerment.

I was thrilled that my dream was going to become a reality. I wanted this glorious event captured so that I could remember it forever. I wanted someone with a unique creative vision to document my baby’s birthday as a story. I was introduced to the award-winning photographer Gabriella Hunt. I poured over her work after our meeting and was in awe. She had the unique vision I was looking for. She specialized in documentary and birth photography. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but it was exactly what I had in mind. Her birth photography wrote the stories of women transforming into mothers. I saw their strength, as their bodies reached the pinnacle of vulnerability—they were beautiful and fierce. I wanted to see myself in that position. I wanted to see my experience through the eyes of someone else. I needed this story to be recorded, so I could feel validation that my first birth should have and could have been as empowering as my second birth would be. Maybe other women could avoid my poor experience with my first birth, seeing the beauty of my second birth.

Eventually, nine days after my due date, I went into labor. Gabi arrived and she somehow blended into the background of the busy scene at my home. We had our parents and my sisters present, and she was able to capture the chaos of the day, as well as the quiet moments of waiting. She was a crucial member of my birth team. Through her work, I was able to see that my home became a birth-center of its own—complete with waiting room, nurse’s station, and delivery suite. While my head was buried in pillows during transition, she allowed me to see how I was quite literally embraced in my moments of uncertainty by my loved ones. I have photographs of my amazing doula Kara supporting my body to do the incredible. Of my husband Tim kissing me through contractions. Of my sister squeezing my hands to get me over the waves. Of my beautiful Llewyn coming earth-side into my mother’s hands. I am grateful for my amazing birth photographer. Her presence allowed me to see the beauty that I could not. 

You can watch Janet’s birth story slideshow below 🙂 

p.s. If you are wondering why they made today birth photography day, it is because of these particular numbers’ significance within the birthing process (10cm dilated and 9 months gestation). 

A Whole Different Kind of Remembering

A Whole Different Kind of Remembering

Last year, I spent a 1/2 day documenting a typical evening routine for Melissa Norton and her adorable family. Since then a lot has changed: Melissa and her family added a new family member and they moved into a new house. Recently, I asked past clients if they would be willing to write a blog post about their experiences for my site and Melissa was the first one to volunteer. Below is the post she wrote about her experience. Thank you, Melissa, for your kind words and I look forward to working with your family again in the future <3 

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Documentary Photography sounds like something National Geographic does to capture moments that reflect a topic they are covering. Never had I thought of Documentary Photography as pertaining to capturing MY moments, in MY everyday family life. Moments that happen every day, the ones we forget to remember how special they are, how special each moment is. Gabriella and her style of photography captured those moments for my family.

Having Gabriella come into our home, almost as a fly on the wall, was something we had never done before. Sure, we’ve had a photographer come to our house for newborn pictures and met another at a park for family pictures, but this was so much different; it had a deeper meaning. We love our newborn and family photos, but it is so unique to have candid shots of what seem like mindless, everyday tasks. The things we do every day without taking a step back to see how special those moments are and how one day we will think back to bath time, brushing teeth, and story time. Having Gabriella capture these kinds of moments means I don’t have to just think back—I can look back.

We were curious about having a photographer at our house for a few hours taking pictures as we did “us”. Was it going to be awkward? Would she be judging us? Is it okay to let Josie play on the tablet? (haha!) As usual, I was overthinking things! Gabriella was so wonderful to work with. She is so easy going, friendly, and laid back. She was able to still-frame moments of our life that we would never think to take a picture of. One of my favorite pictures is of me reading to my then 18-month-old as I was about 16 weeks pregnant. Since babe #2 was born, daddy has taken over bedtime with my oldest as I put the baby to bed. Looking back on this picture, I am able to go right back to those moments, when it was just me and Josie reading together. Just she and I. I can smell her “just washed” hair, feel her rest her little head against me, hear her little voice asking to sing a song after we finish a book— it seems like so long ago! Something that makes each picture captured special to us is that they are taken in our first home together. We have since moved, but we now have images of our everyday life in the little house we first became a family in.

For anyone considering doing this kind of session or anyone who thinks it’s a bit weird, JUST GO FOR IT! You will not be disappointed. You may think you will always remember the little things, each moment, but to be able to see that moment—your baby’s smirk, that messy playroom, your husband’s bushy beard. It’s a whole different kind of remembering.  –Melissa

Storytelling Session with the Dooher Family

Storytelling Session with the Dooher Family

The last two sessions I had covered evening routines, so when the Dooher family told me they wanted to cover their morning routine I got a little giddy. Now when I say morning routine, I mean, kids are just barely awake morning routine. When I arrived at their house at just about 6:30 am, I was greeted by the glow of their TV and a very groggy James (Dad) and Anthony (4) watching Arthur. However, it wasn’t long until Kim (Mom), Deaglan (2), and Vivian (6 months) joined us as well.

Kim and James were definitely working in sync throughout the morning, working tirelessly to get three little humans ready for the day. They were definitely a team, and you could see it in everything they did. From entertaining the boys to working with Vivian on her physical therapy requirement, these two did not skip a beat. Before breakfast, they each took the time to spend with all the kids in the playroom.

After a bit of playtime, everyone went into the kitchen to make French toast. While James was diligently working on breakfast, it was Deaglan that stole the show. From trying to put plates on his brother’s head, just randomly sticking his face through the kitchen chairs, or just stuffing his face to the brim with food, he was just hysterical to watch. Believe it or not, he was the one that was slow to warm up to me—I’m grateful that was short-lived and he eventually had no problem showing me his goofy, playful, and inquisitive personality.

After breakfast, we all went into the playroom for more playtime and this time, it was Anthony who really stood out to me, he was so sweet and caring towards his little sister. He constantly made sure she was included and had no problem showering her with affection. It was absolutely heart-melting. Vivian was the most laid back baby ever. You could tell she just loved being in everyone’s company, especially Anthony’s, and enjoying the action happening around her.

The boys eventually went over to their “cave” (a closet in the guestroom) and had some fun there until they eventually kicked me out. But it wasn’t long until they came out for some reading time with mom while dad helped Vivian with some physical therapy. By the way, have I mentioned how much I just loved their house! Their guestroom had a loft, and of course, I couldn’t help but use it to my advantage to take some great pictures.

Before I left, I was able to capture the kids as they met their new baby cousin via FaceTime. The kids’ reactions to their baby cousin was so sweet, you can already tell they are going to be the best of friends.

Kim and James, thank you for allowing me to get to know your family, especially that early in the AM!

Be sure to check out the slideshow below to see some of the highlights from our evening together. For optimal quality, be sure to view in at least 720

    Storytelling Session with the Sinicropi Family

    Storytelling Session with the Sinicropi Family

    Last weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Sinicropi Family. I came over to document their life as it is right now since they will soon be a family of four.

    I arrived shortly after Marco woke up from his nap and it wasn’t long before his personality started to shine through. Teresa had set up a craft project for him to do while I was there and I think he was more interested in the markers than the actual project itself—he was being so silly!

    Eventually, we found ourselves “rocking out” with his dad, Mark, in their upstairs music room while Teresa cooked dinner. As the night progressed, we just hung out and let Marco do what he does best: be a funny, sweet, and busy almost two-year-old.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him. Throughout the night he was very aware of my presence and made sure I was included in every activity. He’s going to be one amazing big brother.

    I loved watching Mark and Teresa in action—they are amazing parents doing an incredible job raising Marco. You could feel their love not just for Marco, but also each other, just by being in their presence.

    One thing I really love about documentary sessions is the ability to see parents in action. You are able to witness them embrace every moment with unyielding love, patience, and admiration for their children—it’s incredible to experience. I feel so blessed to be able to show parents, like Mark and Teresa, what their love and life looks like at this moment in time so they (and their children) can remember it always.

    Thank you, Teresa and Mark, for allowing me into your home to get to know your family. I really enjoyed documenting your life as a current family of three and I can’t wait to photograph you becoming a family of four.

    Be sure to check out the slideshow below to see some of the highlights from our evening together. For optimal quality, be sure to view in at least 720p H

    Storytelling Session with the Hurley Family

    Storytelling Session with the Hurley Family

    As most of my friends and family know, I have always had a love for photography—specifically documentary work.  It wasn’t until about a year-and-a-half ago that I was introduced to the concept of family documentary photography and instantly fell in love.  So over the past year, I have been taking in every bit of information related to this particular genre, practicing my heart out, and talking to (and learning from) some amazingly talented photographers.

    A few weeks ago, I put out a model call for Family Storytelling Sessions to start building my portfolio outside of my own children and close friends. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to document the Hurley Family’s evening routine. Mary’s dog, Olivia, and my dog, Andrea, went to puppy obedience class together way back in the day (they are both 11 now!). So I was excited when she answered my model call and we were able to catch up and chat about her three adorable children: Tate, Knox, and Phoebe.

    Tate is sensitive, sweet, and thoughtful (he made a beaded heart for mom and drew a picture for his baby sister during craft time), Knox is very independent and a bit of a daredevil (I caught him climbing their built-in bookcases at one point!), and Phoebe is a smiley, happy baby (and a total daddy’s girl).

    With three children five and under things can get a little crazy and the Hurley family was no exception. Between keeping the kids entertained, preparing dinner, bathtime, and eventually bedtime, there was never a dull moment. Throughout the evening I was able to witness Mary and Dan embrace parenthood beautifully—they were so involved with their children and approached every moment with unyielding patience and a great deal of love.

    Thank you, Mary and Dan, for allowing me into your home. I had an amazing time documenting your beautiful (and sometimes crazy!) everyday life and hope we can get together again someday.

    Be sure to check out the slideshow below to see some of the highlights from our evening together. For optimal quality, be sure to view in at least 720p HD.