The Side You Don’t See

Hey yall. It’s been a while. My son is 19 months old now, and over the last year and a half I’ve had so many moments where I sit and think about mine and my husband’s life with him in it. It is overwhelmingly better and as cliche as it is, we can’t imagine life without him. I say that now that life with him has found  somewhat of a routine. He’s a toddler, so it isn’t easy – but it’s pretty great. Most of the time ;)

I’ve also spent many times thinking about how hard it is. Mostly in the first year. Sawyer was not an easy baby. Surprised? If you’re on my facebook or instagram, you might be. There are so many photos of him smiling, being silly, sitting there occupying himself. What you don’t see is that those photos were carefully timed. As soon as he woke for the day or from a nap, was fed and changed, I’d snap the picture. Post my adorable, happy baby to my friends and family. Then, about 20 minutes later, he’d be screaming while a new comment saying “he’s such a happy boy!” popped up. Oh, the irony.

All babies are hard, but I really do feel that Sawyer was extra fussy and high needs. Surprisingly, he was a pretty good newborn. He cried, but not more than a “normal” baby might. Around 4-6 weeks…the point when it’s supposed to get easier, it got harder.

Sleep. Or lack thereof. Starting around 6ish weeks, he’d sleep for 15 (yep, 15!)-45 minutes at a time during the day. Nights were decent till about 3.5/4 months, then we’d be lucky to get one 3-4 hour stretch…followed by up every hour. This varied up until about 8 months when he finally started to fall asleep on his own. He has slept through the night plenty of times since then – but even now as a toddler he rarely sleeps through without needing us to comfort him. It’s just more manageable now. Up until about 6-8 months, it was chronic sleep deprivation for everyone.

My days and nights were spent bouncing on a yoga ball getting him to sleep. I spent one afternoon on the yoga ball in the dark laundry room with the hum of the dryer while I struggled to bounce, eat a sandwich, and hold a baby at the same time. Every nap, bed time, and night waking was spent bouncing.  It got to where I could transfer him down once he was asleep, but I had to do it just right or he was awake and we were back at it. And naps were still 45 minutes max, minus a random, glorious, occasional 1.5 hour nap.

We tried co-sleeping, but I was still on the yoga ball. He’d sleep a few hours (I would get interrupted sleep for a few hours, thanks to him moving a lot). Then he’d wake up crying, even though he was snuggled up with Mama. So I’d bounce on the ball for 20-40 minutes (where sometimes he still screamed) next to the bed before carefully climbing back in for a few more hours of restless sleep. 

We didn’t get him off the yoga ball till about 7 months, when we pulled the plug and had a burning ceremony. OK, we didn’t really burn it. But we thought about it.

My husband works long hours, so when we were co-sleeping we literally would barely speak the entire week. He’d get up for work, get ready as quietly as possible while I held my breath in hopes that Sawyer wouldn’t wake up and put me back on the ball. When he came home late, we were already in bed and I irritably sshh-ed him as he got ready for bed himself. It wasn’t working. We eventually got him to sleep in his crib and between that and him finally sleeping longer stretches, life started to work itself out a little better. 

I lost my patience with Sawyer. I screamed at him more times than I like to admit. Then felt awful because he was doing the best he knew how as a baby. I wasn’t excited about my days playing with him. I put on my big girl panties and busted through each day. I put myself last. I realize lack of sleep is part of the deal with babies. But when you have months of chronic sleep deprivation, the affect it has is real. And it’s a struggle.

Awake. When he was awake, he was happy sometimes (and thanks to a fussy baby group I’m in, I know how lucky I was with that!). But a lot of the time he was fussy, crying, and generally needy –  particularly for the first 3-4ish months. I counted down the minutes I had that he’d happily sit in a bouncer or swing while I tried to rush and get things done around the house. I guilted myself about not enjoying him. I loved him, but I was also overwhelmed by him.

Thankfully his happy times were often enough that I was able to stay sane and start to enjoy him. I feel for the parents who truly have colicky babies. Sawyer was tough, but mostly due to sleep issues. He didn’t have reflux or any medical issues. I chalk it up to a combination of him being chronically tired, and him wanting to be more mobile than his little body allowed him. People joke that once they start crawling and walking, it’s all over. But our life got so much better when he could physically do more. It started to get fun.

When Sawyer was 4 months old, I lost my dad. I remember not knowing how I was going to handle taking care of him day to day when I was in such a lost place mentally. And for a while, I was just going through the motions. But then something amazing happened. His happy moments would make me smile or laugh at a time when most people couldn’t. I’d be crying and he would smile or talk or do something silly, and it was infectious. I realized his heart would help me heal. This tiny little person. I loved him from the start, but those moments were the first time other than his birth where I felt fully overwhelmed by it.

Myself. When you struggle with a baby, you struggle with yourself. Your needs are last. I used to shove granola bars in my face because it was the only thing I could eat with one hand. People would compliment me on losing the baby weight, but I weighed less than I did pre-pregnancy, was unhappy about my body, and wasn’t in a healthy place. Our marriage struggled. My husband was amazing about helping out as much as he could, but were both sleep deprived and irritable, and sometimes we took it out on each other.

I’ve thought about all of these things over the last year and a half. About why he was so tough. I did everything right and by the book. I tried all the different tricks. I heard every tidbit of advice and spent my bouncing time googling ideas. I trusted my mama gut. The only thing that worked was time. I sometimes feel like I was robbed of enjoying the baby stage. I tried, and did a lot of the time (just check out all those fb posts I was telling you about earlier)! But it’s hard to be fully in it when you’re so exhausted and drained mentally and physically.

I say all of this because I know I can’t be alone. And I want people to know that it’s ok to have a really, really hard time with your baby. It’s ok to feel like sometimes you aren’t cut out for it. To wonder if you made a mistake. To dream of a day when they’re older, even though everyone tells you to savor every moment. It’s ok to NOT savor every moment. Some moments fucking suck. You wonder what you’re doing wrong when you see friend’s posts about how good their baby is, how well they sleep and you just want to slap them in the face. Sorry friends. I love you, I’m happy for you, and I don’t fault you at all for making said posts…but it’s hard to hear that sometimes. That’s why it’s important to share the hard times too. So we know we aren’t alone. If you’re having a hard time, it means your trying. You’re doing your best. And that makes you the most amazing mama (or dad!) to your kid. It will get better. And it’s hard in the moment to hear that advice, when it sucks NOW. But it gets better.

I lost my mom 5 years ago. I miss her so much during the hard times when I wish she was here to talk to. But you know how we use social media and the internet to vent? Back in the day, she used to write. Like on paper…old school ;) And I thank God that she kept all of those old papers. Because about a month ago, I opened a box I hadn’t before and found some. And there it was. Her venting about her hard times with my brother and I as babies and toddlers. Questioning the same things I questioned. This woman, who was the most amazing and caring mama in the world, who I have so many amazing memories of as a child, had a hard time too. I love the old photos I have of my childhood, but finding her words and her struggles are so much more meaningful to me.

So I end this long vent session with 2 things. 1. Some of the words from my mom that brought me to tears when I realized that even with her gone, she can be there for me. That even though I never knew her in this life while being a mother, I can still relate to her as a mom. 2. Some photos of Sawyer. The screaming, endless day, never-before-seen photos. Right next to a few happy ones that were, naturally, taken around the same time. Click to view larger.

Just remember yall. It’s hard. But we aren’t alone.

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Nursery

I recently realized that the last time I blogged was around the same time I found out I was expecting. Considering I’m due with baby boy in a month…it has been way too long! I’ve still been shooting, but it’s been all personal stuff and I’ve really slacked on blogging and sharing.

My husband and I are expecting our first, a boy, due in a month. A MONTH! We are super excited and anxious and all sorts of other emotions. We finally finished up little man’s nursery and I wanted to share some shots of it. We’re in love with how it came out and can’t wait to spend lots of time (and many sleepless nights!) in it. Also…props to my husband for building the awesome barn doors :-) lrIMG_0001 lrIMG_0005lrIMG_0002lrIMG_0003lrIMG_0008lrIMG_0004lrIMG_0009lrIMG_0006

Newborn Workshop

Earlier this month I attended a Precious Beginnings Newborn Workshop with Cherise of Cherise Kiel Photography. It was so much fun and super helpful. No topic was off limits – from posing, safety, and soothing to post processing, marketing/business, and lighting…we went over a LOT in 2 days. We even had a beautiful maternity model come in on the first evening.

I adore how some of these images came out. I am not responsible for the posing in the newborn or maternity photos, but they were shot and edited by me. When we have a do-over of day 2 (our models for that day were cancelled due to lightning striking the neighbor’s house…scary stuff!!), I am really looking forward to doing hands-on posing a bit more and putting all of this into practice.

I’ve been putting off starting my business for various reasons – but this workshop really lit a fire under my butt and reassured me that it’s something I want to do and can do when the time is right. All that said…enjoy! Baby fever may be a side effect of viewing the following images ;)

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Amanda & Adrian | Wedding

I finally took the plunge and photographed my first wedding! My good friend from college got married a few weeks ago. Amanda and her lucky groom, Adrian had a beautiful, small wedding by the lake surrounded by close family and friends. It fit them perfectly and I’m so glad it worked out for me to come and capture their day for them! Congratulations again to Amanda & Adrian – Tim and I wish you nothing but happiness!

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Beavers Bend Getaway

My husband and I recently celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary (crazy!). We took the weekend to drive up to Beavers Bend Park in Oklahoma and rent a cabin. We’d never been there before but it turned out amazing! I definitely recommend this place – they had beautiful cabins, tent and RV sites. The bathrooms for the tent sites quite frankly sucked, but the RV area ones were nice and clean and our cabin was really nice. We had a great time hiking, fishing, sitting around a campfire and even got in some night photography – though the clouds were moving in too quick for a lot of star shots. We’re excited to hopefully have plenty more camping trips this Spring/Summer!

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Forrest is 8 Months!

Well, he’s actually almost 9 months. It’s hard to believe it was last June when I came to visit and meet this little guy at 1 month old. Time flies! He is full of personality and all smiles (most of the time!). He is standing like a boss but wasn’t too sure about showing those skills off outside, with shoes on. I can’t wait to do his one year photos this May!

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Progress

I do the same thing that most photographers aren’t supposed to do…but do anyway. Compare themselves. Compare themselves with other photographers. They have better equipment. A better studio. Better work. Prettier locations. More clientele. The biggest one of these things is comparing work. On one hand it’s a great thing because it pushes me to be better and learn what I can change. On the other hand…it really isn’t ever fair to judge your work against another photographer’s…you’re in a different place in your journey than they are. “The only photographer you should compare yourself to is the one you used to be.” I’ve always heard and loved that quote. I’ve always been told to “keep shooting!” And when I sit down and look back at my work since I started shooting in 2011 – the photographer posting this today has grown exponentially. I see a style emerging. I see consistency in my work. I see better quality, composition, use of surroundings and light, and better understanding of my camera. I see what comes with the best learning tool you have…practice.

I had a lot to choose from when picking which of my images to post and compare, but I chose these comparisons because they were similar in style of shoot (family of 3/maternity/child). Also, can I just give a huge shout out to the family in the earlier (and some of the more recent) photos?! Yall have been with be from the beginning and I have loved (overused photography pun coming up!) shooting you :) Can’t wait to see how my work looks in a year!

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The Holidays Have Come and Gone…

The older I get, the quicker the holiday season seems to come and go. I have to say…this year was a great one! We were able to see a lot of our family thanks to the fact that we are back in Texas. Christmas parties, Gaylord Texan’s ICE!, a Christmas inspired mini-shoot with my adorable nephew, a park full of Christmas lights, time outside on pretty days with my camera and new lens, as well as time inside by the fireplace on freezing, rainy days!! Even the first few days of January were great as we were able to head south to Houston and see more family, spend time on the water, and enjoy my husband’s limited time off of work! I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and may 2014 bring new adventures and lots of family and friend filled experiences into your lives!

I know there are a bunch of images! Click on any one to see it larger, or to click through them all at a larger size. I still have New Years photos to get through so keep an eye out for that post!

Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland

Today, Texans all over DFW went crazy about the ice. It was COLD, and we truly did get a ton of ice (at least in the south it seems like a ton!). After taking a few photos at our home this morning, my husband and I ventured out to make the trip to the park. I got some pictures, we slid around on the ice, chatted with some other brave souls who left the coziness of their homes, watched some kids sledding…then we came home, had some hot chocolate and decided to stay in for the rest of the day!!! Here are a few quick edits from today. More to come later.

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