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

———————————————————————————————————————

 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). 

This year, Take a Different Approach to Family Holiday Cards

This year, Take a Different Approach to Family Holiday Cards

I know it’s only September, but it is getting to be that time of year. You know … holiday card time. It’s the time of year where we reconnect and update family and friends on what has been going on with our lives over the past year–to share a piece of ourselves with those we care about most. The best part about this is that each card is as unique and special as the family giving it. 

So why do we spend so much time planning out holiday cards? It’s simple: connection. 

However, if the purpose of sending out holiday cards is connection and to share ourselves, then why try so hard to look like everyone else? Why send out cards that we’ve seen 100+ times on Pinterest, instead of images that best represent our families? Why try to look like everyone when it’s our unique qualities that make us who we are? If we are being honest, my favorite holiday cards aren’t the ones seen on Pinterest; my favorites have always been the ones telling some sort of story. I love the cards where I learn a little bit about the life of the family sending them to me. 

So what if this year, you did something different?  What if the photos featured on your cards were ones of your beautiful everyday life? Or of your family participating in your favorite activity or favorite holiday traditions? 

What if we exchanged the stress of choosing outfits, wrangling kids up in hopes that they smile, or bribery with candy/presents (desperate times call for desperate measures) for photos of your family being unapologetically themselves. 

Think about how freeing that could be. 

This year I challenge you to do just that, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some great examples of holiday cards from people who decided to trade traditional, posed holiday card photos for those that had a story, reflected their family’s personalities, and are filled with meaning.

Photo by Gabriella Hunt  |  Gabriella Hunt, Photographer

Photo/card by Courtney Maltman  | Momentologie Photography

Photo/card by Marie-Pierre Castonguay  |  Marie Pierre Photography

Photo/card by Karyn Novakowski |  Kin and Kid Photography

Photo/card by Christine Wright |  Christine Wright Photography

Ready to try something different this year and take the challenge? Great! Let’s chat and book a session that will produce images that best represent your family and will mean something. 

Embrace Your Uniqueness: Family Photos Should Not All Look the Same

Embrace Your Uniqueness: Family Photos Should Not All Look the Same

In a field of horses, be a unicorn. It’s a saying I am sure we have all heard at least once in our lives (especially if you live at home with a unicorn-obsessed 4-year-old). It’s strewn across shirts, mugs, etc.. Honestly, I can see why; the message is everything we want for ourselves and our childrento stand out from the crowd by embracing your true unique self.

Ultimately, it’s the result of a larger movement slowly taking hold and calling us to actionit takes an immense amount of courage and it is certainly not easy. It’s calling us to unapologetically embrace our true self. Our individuality is the core of who we are and if we can embrace it, the possibilities are endless. Instead of living for what we believe others want us to do or who they want us to be, we can begin to live our lives for ourselvesletting go of what is expected and embracing what ignites our soul.

Conflicting Messages

Why is it so hard to embrace our uniqueness and become the magical unicorns we are meant to be? Simple: being true to ourselves and loving who we are means we also have to open ourselves up to vulnerability, and that is scary as hell. However, we all know anything worth doing doesn’t always come easily, especially when the world around us sends conflicting messages.

Your house has to look like the embodiment of perfection, but embrace the mess and make memories. You need to be a size 4 with flawless skin and on-point fashion, but you are perfect as you are.

It’s no wonder we struggle every day. If we as adults struggle with these conflicting messages, imagine the struggles our children will have. Not long ago, I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and one phrase that keeps sticking out in my mind is, “You cannot give your children what you do not have.” If we don’t show our children that we ought to embrace our uniqueness instead of shy away from it, that self-love is essential, and that vulnerability is strength, how will they ever know ? It starts with us.

Family Photography

We see conflicting messages within family photography as well. We hear phrases such as, “Capture these memories now, your kids won’t care about what you look like. They find you beautiful just the way you are.” or “Your kids will just want pictures of mom and dad, when you are no longer around. It doesn’t matter if your makeup is perfect or your hair is slightly out of place.”  However, it’s hard to believe the sincerity behind these messages when they are presented next to the same pictures we see day in and day out of “Pinterest Perfect” families with perfectly coordinating outfits and picture-perfect moments. Actions speak louder than words; if we want to embrace the “unique” in all of us, then we need to start showing uniqueness.

This is why I choose to photograph the way I do. I struggle every day with self-love and embracing my individuality. I live my life every day trying to be unapologetically me, embracing the beauty in real life, and telling myself “I am enough” in hopes my children will see and believe that as well. They are my greatest motivator. Ultimately, I want them to embrace their imperfections and know they have value no matter what they do. For them to see who they were and are slowly becoming, knowing that is enough. I want this for you as well.

I get it, it’s hard to embrace who you are, especially when everyone around you is desperately trying so hard to be like everyone else. I’m here to tell you to look beyond “picture perfect”. Photos do not have to look like the ones on Pinterest to be meaningful and beautiful. Photos of your family being themselves, as they are, is enough. We tell ourselves to be a “unicorn in a field of horses,” but why do we keep choosing to be a horse?

Family photos should be meaningful and unique to the story of our lives. They should be of some of our most cherished memories. Matching outfits and perfectly posed photos capture a very polished still of your life at that time. But life is rarely “polished”. They provide us with a glimpse of photography and fashion trends of the time (which may make for some good laughs in the future), but these photos will never provide us with the insight of who we were and what made us “unicorns”. When I think back to the photos of my mom growing up or images of my childhood self, it was the candid moments from our day-to-day that gave me a true sense of the people we were.

So I want you to join my movement. I want you to stop trying to be like everyone else and be “unapologetically you”. I want us to flood the internet with photos of REAL, AUTHENTIC family lifethe moments that make up your life’s story. Let me help you do that with a documentary family photo session. Forget “Pinterest perfect”… real is perfect. Together we can show this to the world and change it for the better.

 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

P.S. When you post your photos online use the hashtag #RealLifeROCs. This way, we can all find and enjoy a glimpse of the beauty that is our everyday, together.

 

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 

————

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

My Very Own Day in the Life Session: A Day in the Life of the Hunts

My Very Own Day in the Life Session: A Day in the Life of the Hunts

I have been talking a lot lately about how I truly believe having a documentary session of your family is something everyone should have done, yet I had never had one done myself. Part of the reason was because there are very few documentary photographers in our area and the other half was probably the  same reason I am sure you have been hesitating as well: I kept waiting for the “right time’. Well I’m here to tell you a secret: there isn’t one. I was always too busy, I needed to lose at least 20lbs (I’m still hanging on to the lovely 40ish pounds I gained when I was pregnant with my son), or didn’t have time to make the house “presentable” (is there really such thing as presentable with two kids under four?). Basically, it was every excuse I tell all of you lovely parents to try to look past.

Before long, I was realizing time was flying by and soon, this stage of my life would be gone before I know it. My son is already almost two, my daughter is almost four, and our lives already look drastically different than what is was a year ago.  I’m going to keep it real with you all, I suffer from some insane body confidence issues and that was probably the biggest reason I kept putting it off, but a year later I was still 40lbs heavier and according to pictures of my kids’ lives, I barely existed. That is when I decided to push past my insecurities and practice what I preach: I embraced my imperfections and contacted my very talented friend, Shawna, of Shawna & Co to book a ½ Day in the Life (DITL) session for my family. After having the session and seeing the results, my only regret is that I didn’t book her sooner.

Want to know how hard I embraced imperfections? Well, we are starting to get our house ready to list and the day Shawna came, we had a huge 20-foot dumpster in our driveway. I embraced the heck out of that big maroon dumpster—this is real life after all.

Shawna came and documented our typical Saturday AM craziness. We made pancakes (my daughter dumped an entire container of blue sprinkles on her pancakes when I wasn’t looking and my son promptly finished where she left off), went to gymnastics (yep, she came to class with us), and went to lunch at the diner across the way.

I always love doing these sessions for families, but seeing our crazy life through Shawna’s eyes was nothing short of incredible. The pictures she took captured the essence of our family and the personalities and quirks I never want to forget and hope my kids never grow out of. She captured our everyday in the home I brought both my babies home to, the home we have outgrown and will be saying goodbye to soon—it’s a gift I will always be grateful for.

Because of these images, my kids will get to see what a typical morning looked like for our family at this point in their childhood. When my daughter thinks back to gymnastics class, she’ll be able to go back and look at the pictures of her time there, my son will be able to see how it took two adults to corral him in his gymnastics class and how much fun we had. I’ll remember how much my daughter loved the “cat” hat she is wearing in some of those pictures and how (outside of gymnastics class) once it was on, it rarely came off.

For half the day, our family embraced our vulnerable side by letting a stranger into our home to document our day—no staging, dressing up, forced smiles—just our everyday, crazy life in all it’s glory.

You can view a slideshow of our session below. To see more of Shawna’s work, you can visit her site here.

Now there are no excuses, if I can do it so can you <3 I promise you won’t regret it. Contact me for more information or to schedule your session.

Motherhood and the Moments that Matter

Motherhood and the Moments that Matter

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, my Facebook feed has been inundated with promotions for mommy-and-me mini portrait sessions. The images are nothing short of stunning, with beautiful made-up moms and children who are seen snuggling, playing, and hugging for the camera. I love how they encourage moms to get in the frame with their children. It is something I believe every mom should make a point to do. We come up with so many reasons not to get into the frame that we forget the reason(s) WHY we should: our child(ren).

Then the question comes to mind: What do they/will they want to remember? Will they want the perfectly-pressed outfits and perfectly made-up mom pictures? Maybe. However, let’s stop to think about the fondest memories we have of our moms—do they look like those pictures? Again, they might, but they might not.

This photo of me and my daughter was taken by Shawna Stanley with Shawna & Co.

My fondest memories were always baking with my mom and it’s something I still love to do to this day. I bake with my daughter a lot now and am so glad to have started this tradition with her. While I don’t have images of me baking with my mom (and really wish I did), I have made it a point to make those images of my daughter’s and my baking tradition, not just for me, but for her. Those memories of me and my mom are still a big part of my adulthood—it created one of my most favorite hobbies (outside of photography) and I now get to share it with my children.

The other day while culling a family storytelling session, the photo below stopped me in my tracks. It seems like such a small moment—mom hugging her baby as tight as she possibly could before placing her in her crib for the night. This is when I had a revelation—it’s little moments like this, moments like my mom and I baking, bedtime lullabies, family game night, making “baby burritos” out of a towel when they get out of the bathtub, or living room dance parties—those are the moments our kids will want to bottle up and remember always.

Motherhood is not easy and like me, I am sure you often feel like you are just treading water some days. We struggle to be perfect, when as people we are anything but. I’m here to tell you that in all its chaos and messiness, there is so much perfect beauty is those small, imperfect moments. We can dress up and have portraits taken with our children and while they will love having a photo of themselves with their mom, it’s far more important we provide them with photos that have meaning.

We celebrate big moments (birthdays, Christmas, the first day of school, etc.) with photos and we take portraits to document the passage of time, but we often take the small, everyday moments for granted. It’s time we start photographing them and documenting our real, authentic relationships with our children because in the end, those are the moments we will miss the most and we often don’t realize it until they are gone.

That moment in the photo above—mom hugging her sweet babe before putting her in the crib—is something that happens every night. It’s such a simple, yet profound act of love and now this sweet girl in the picture will get to see it, even when she is a mom herself. That, my friend, is a mommy-and-me picture worth taking.

Let me help you celebrate the motherhood moments that matter with a storytelling session

 For $200.00, you’ll receive a 2-hour storytelling session to gift to your loved one (Hint, hint dad!) which can be claimed anytime between now and July 2018. In addition, you will also receive 5 digital downloads from our session time (artist’s choice). Afterwards, you’ll get the opportunity to purchase what you love from an a la carte menu of prints, products, and collections—a stunning way to celebrate the precious bond we have with our children.

*Fine Print: This story session voucher can be used to book a family session, an in-home newborn session, or a fresh 48 story. As well, the value can be applied toward a longer 4-hour Day in the Life storytelling session. The session can either be in your home or at a favorite location of your choice (or a combination of both).

All sessions are unposed and documentary in nature—they’re intended to capture real life. Check out my family gallery or blog if you aren’t currently familiar with my work. Sessions are for immediate family only, must be booked by May 1, 2018, and take place by the end of July 2018 to take advantage of this promotion.