Mothers- You are Amazing!

Mothers, when was the last time someone told you how incredible you are?

I see it every day, posts about how we are failing. My baby isn’t nursing, I had to supplement. My baby hasn’t learned to walk yet. How many words does your baby say? My four-year old can’t read! My eight year old won’t listen to me. My 10-year-old is refusing to do housework. I lost my temper today and I feel awful.

Help, what do I do, I feel like a failure.

You Are Not Failing!

Dear sweet mom, you are not failing. You are doing your best, and that is all your child expects from you. Just as every adult has their strengths and weaknesses, so does every child. My son, who turns 7 in a few weeks, struggles to read, but he can do multiplication problems in his head. My 8-year-old daughter is halfway through the Harry Potter series and an amazing artist. She struggles to do addition. They don’t struggle because I am a failure. They struggle because their brains work differently. It isn’t a competition, and I don’t need to be comparing them to each other or anyone else.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; very few people are actually judging you, and those who are don’t matter.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said:

The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work…Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones…Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.

One young mother wrote to me recently that…she worried because she felt she didn’t measure up or somehow wasn’t going to be equal to the task…But one thing, she said, keeps her going: “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him.”

Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be…You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging.

*Read the full talk here

Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership With God| SmithSquad.com | You are not a failure | Are We not all motehrs? | Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Mom’s please don’t be so hard on yourselves. The perfect mother doesn’t exist. No one can do it all, all the time, without any mistakes. Some of us may hide it better than others, but the truth of the matter is we’re all just making it up as we go! I am having baby number eight in a few weeks, and I still struggle with how to teach and discipline number seven. They’re all different, and each time I add another the rules change. My mom had six. She often doesn’t know what advice to give me when I call her in tears because I don’t’ know what to do with one of my children. “I never did figure that out.” She says.

Mom’s please love, respect, and forgive yourselves. You are amazing in every way. You stumble, you fall, you fail, but you get up and you keep going because what you are doing is the most important job in the world. It is an eternal partnership with God. He gave you his children and he will hold your hand and lead you as you attempt to do the best you can at raising them.

Are We Not all Mothers?

Are we not all mothers?| SmithSquad.com | You don't have to give birth to be a mother | Happy mother's Day to all the aunts, sisters, and friends who mother children in need

On this special weekend where we celebrate all mothers let us not forget the grandmothers, aunts, friends, and all women everywhere who love , support, and lift up our children. Motherhood does not have to begin with birth. All to often the best mothers in this life do not ever bear their own children. Motherhood is not about being pregnant and giving birth. Motherhood is that divine calling that we as women feel to love and nurture those around us. All too often children are left alone, unloved, misunderstood. To all those who step in to love and encourage them, thank you, you are their mothers and their heroes.

If you can’t celebrate your own mother then take the time to celebrate those women in your life who were there for you, who made a difference in your life. If you can’t celebrate your own genetic children then celebrate those little ones in your life whom you love so deeply. If this day is a day of pain or sadness for you then embrace it, let it in, let it carry you away. It is ok to mourn that which we did not have, or have not been given. Then pick up tomorrow and be the amazing woman who you are.

A few years ago I asked children “What is a Mother?” and created a video with their responses. I decided it was time to create a new version. I hope you enjoy the beautiful, and funny, responses from the mouths of babes.

What’s in my Hospital bag?

I can’t believe baby #8 is due in 4 weeks! Seems like the perfect time for a blog post about what’s in my hospital bag. With 5 hospital births under my belt I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what I need and what I don’t. With my first kid we actually wheeled in a small suitcase lol. With this one I probably won’t even fill my backpack.

I usually wait to pack a hospital bag until I’m actually in labor. It gives me something to do to keep busy and not focus on obsessively timing contractions. I’m pretty good at it by now, so it is calming, not stressful. If you’re a first or second time mom you may want to at least make a list of what needs to be in your hospital bag even if you wait till the last moment to actually pack it.

What's in my Hospital Bag with baby #8 | smithSquad.com |Large Family | Birth | Natural Birth

Hospital Bag for Mom

Kindle- One of the best ways for me to relax in labor and stay entertained after baby is born is by reading a great book. I like having my Kindle Fire because it is small and can carry a ton of books. I can also use it to connect to hospital WiFi and give play by play updates of labor for the family and instantly post all the adorable brand new baby pictures I am sure to take. If reading isn’t your thing bring something that will give you a bit of entertainment/distraction like coloring supplies, music, playing cards, travel games, etc.

2-3 each comfy yoga/pajama pants and t-shirts- I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m just trying to be comfortable! I really like the roll top waist yoga pants because they are great for adjusting to that post partum belly. If you get the ones with a little compression it can also help hold everything in when you’re feeling all jiggly and out of sorts. With my first I flattened right out in a few days, but my hips had spread and I never fit into my old jeans again. With each baby it’s taken longer to lose that pregnant look. You should just expect to look about 4 months pregnant when you get home and plan your clothing accordingly. If you want something nicer to wear for pictures or the ride home then bring a pair of your maternity pants. You won’t be putting on those pre-pregnancy clothes for a while. It’s also nice to have comfy flip flops/sandals or slip on shoes.

2 Nursing bras- I usually use only one in the few days I’m there, but it’s always great to have a back-up just in case you have any leaking, spit-up, or other mess. My favorite daytime bras are Bravado and for night a comfy nursing tank is great to have. I have also heard great things about the Cake brand nursing bras, though I haven’t tried them myself.

Travel size toiletries- Most hospitals will give you soap and shampoo for your first shower, but they aren’t the best quality and sometimes smell funny. I prefer to have my own favorite brands with me so I can really enjoy that first post-partum shower. It really does feel glorious to get clean in nice hot water after doing all that work of bringing a baby Earthside. Rather than find the small bottles of each of my favorite things I prefer to just get small travel bottles and fill them with the big bottles from my shower. And don’t forget the toothbrush, hairbrush, hair ties, chapstick, etc. that you use daily.

Snacks- The rules against eating in labor are a bunch of bologna and I always ignore them. I make sure to eat a good meal before I leave for the hospital and have a few snacks in my bag as well. Granola bars are my favorite. Carbs for instant energy and protein to get me through the marathon. If you aren’t a rebel and don’t want to eat in labor honey sticks are a great option for a little burst of energy if you start feeling drained. Plus they are really yummy! I also find that the three meals a day schedule of the hospitals doesn’t work for a breastfeeding mom. I am always STARVING before the next meal gets there. Having snacks to get me through from one meal to the next is crucial.

Essential Oils- I have a few oils that I really like to use in labor. I personally use DoTerra oils. Clary sage diluted in coconut oil is rubbed on my belly to help strengthen and regulate contractions, it is also very calming and helps a bit with pain relief. I then like to put Serenity oil on one wrist and Lemon oil on the other. The serenity oil helps me relax and breathe deep through contractions while the lemon is a refreshing pick me up.

Things you probably don’t need- Don’t bother with pads or underwear unless you are just super emotionally attached to your cute panties. The hospital will provide awesome huge pads and these cool comfy mesh underwear. They aren’t cute, but they work awesome! Some mom’s really want their own pillow, but I would recommend leaving it in the car when you go in. If you want it you can send your support person down to get it. I wouldn’t bring it into the delivery room at all because it’s likely to get messy! Don’t bring any clothes that you don’t want to ruin. Between baby blowouts, spit-up and your own blood chances are just about anything you wear in the hospital is going to come home with a stain on it.

Hospital Bag for Baby

New Baby Must Haves- Muslin Swaddle Blankets | SmithSquad.com | What things are absolutely necessary on a tight budget or in a tiny space?

Muslin swaddle blankets- These are #1 on my list of favorite baby products. The muslin blankets are so much easier to swaddle with than the hospital blankets, and way cuter too. You can use just one if it’s warm and layer then if it’s cold. They also make great spit up rags.

Going Home/Photo outfit- You don’t need a bunch of clothes for baby. While you are there it’s easiest for them to do all their routine checks if you just keep baby in the simple undershirt that they provide and swaddle them. The only clothes you will need is if you want something cute for photos and/or going home.

Things you probably don’t need- Yep, that’s really the end of my list for baby. The hospital provides a nose sucker, diapers, wipes, diaper cream, undershirts, etc. so you really don’t need much at all. They also let you take the extras from the opened packages with you, so you don’t even need diapers and wipes for the trip home. If you need a warm fuzzy you can always call and ask the hospital about what they provide and what brands in case you have any specific preferences.

Hospital bag for dad/support partner

He’s on his own- kidding….sort of. I don’t pack my husband’s bag, he really is on his own, but here are a few suggestions of things they may want to bring.

Camera- I can not believe how many times we have forgotten this! Thank goodness for cell phones with cameras! 8 years ago when Maddy was born they were pretty horrible quality. Now days a cell phone camera is perfectly adequate for basic shots to share with friends. Of course the better the camera the better the shots you will get. This time around I am finally getting a birth photographer to attend, but I will also be bringing my own camera for shots before she gets there and after she leaves. I personally shoot with and love my Sony A6000. Nice and compact, but great quality and every bit as much control as a full size DSLR.

Change of Clothes- Even if you have support people that are not planning to stay long after the birth it’s always good for them to have a change of clothes just in case. You never know how long a labor will last.

Toiletries- At a minimum they will probably want a toothbrush and hairbrush. If they are planning to stay with you the entire time then they will probably need their travel size soaps and shampoos as well.

Entertainment- While their primary role is to support you there may be moments where you just want everyone to leave you alone! It’s always good for your support person to bring a book, magazine, paperwork or something else to keep themselves busy if needed.

Miscellaneous items you may need

There are also a few things you should throw in the car for just in case scenarios. It’s great to have a small homebirth kit in case you don’t make it to the hospital in time. These small kits have gloves, a cord clamp, a pad to put under mom and a few other items to help out in an emergency birth situation. It’s also great to read up on what to do in a birth situation  in advance just in case. You will, of course, also need a carseat to bring baby home in, and depending on the weather may need warm blankets as well.

As you can see my list is rather minimalistic. I prefer to have a small bag and not much to worry about when I’m there. Is there anything you feel is a necessity that I forgot? What are your favorite bras, snacks, clothes, etc?

 

The Most Powerful Women in the World

Strong. Powerful. Leader. Brave. Confident. Ambitious. Assertive. Knowledgeable. Persistent.

When you read these words what type of woman comes to mind? Who do you picture? What does she do? How does she live? Where does she work? What does she wear?

Something like this perhaps?

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.27.11 PM

Let me tell you a little bit about the woman I see.

The woman I see is completely exhausted with dark circles under her eyes, but they are eyes full of hope, peace, and purpose. She is tired, sweaty, and her hair is rather disheveled. She didn’t have time to do her make-up this morning and her socks don’t even match. She’s probably in bed, though she way be walking or swaying to manage the pain she is feeling. Every few minutes she has to close her eyes and breathe deep, sometimes crying out in fear, pain, or frustration. She may be tempted with thoughts of quitting, turning back, regret. Despite this she moves forward with determination.

I see a woman in labor. I see the most powerful woman in the world. I see a mother.

You see I believe that often the most important work we can ever do as woman is within the walls of our own home. I believe there is nobility in motherhood, and it is never more apparent than in those few hours when a woman works so hard to bring a precious spirit into this mortal life.

Motherhood is an eternal partnership with God. For nine beautiful months a woman is able to be a full partner with God in the work of creation. She is creating life. It is only through her intense sacrifice that a new child is able to take its first breath. It is through her pain and hard work that a new story is begun. In that moment she is able to taste just a small sliver of what Christ has given us, new life, as she provides a waiting spirit with a new life of its own.

Birth Photography Atlanta|Winder|Georgia
Baby #7 only a few minutes old, hadn’t even cut the cord yet.

I can not witness a birth without tears. In those few precious moments the boundary between our world and God’s is so thin. I can feel the presence of angels bearing up that woman and applauding her for the work she is doing. It is truly the work of salvation. It is a beautiful moment. It is life. It is hope. It is the promise of new beginnings. Nothing can compare with that moment when as a mother you first look into the eyes of that child that you gave birth to. From my first to my 7th the emotions only deepened and grew.

The miracle is every bit as beautiful if you journey starts or ends with adoption or infertility. The sacrifice is every bit as real. The desire and the love do not diminish. Every woman is a mother, whether she has given birth or not, if it is the role that she desires for herself.

Life is a miracle and it happened, dear mothers, because we were willing to make the sacrifice. It is the most noble work in the world. You are strong, powerful, brave, confident, persistent, and absolutely amazing!

Photography- The Best Cure for a Bad Memory

We lived next door to my father’s parents when I was young. Every Sunday we would go next door after church to eat ice cream, talk with Grandma and Grandpa and play with the other cousins who would show up. Almost every week I would go to the bookshelf and grab one of Grandma’s family photo albums. I’d sit on the footstool next to her chair and flip through the pages while she told me stories about the pictures. I loved listening to her soft German accent telling me about my family history. Seeing photographs that went along with the stories made the people in them real to me. I especially loved seeing pictures of my freckle-faced, red-headed father as a scrawny little boy.

My mother also kept scrapbooks of her children. We had a family book and then one book for each child. I have many a fond memory of sitting down at the table with my mom while she worked on adding photos to the family book and I added photos to my own book.

Now as a mom one of my favorite times with my kids is when we all gather around the computer and look through old photos. My kids love looking at their baby pictures and hearing the stories that go along with them. Even more fun now is that we have videos as well as photography. So many times I’ve seen a photo that reminded me of an event I hadn’t thought about in years. How many memories would be lost if I didn’t have those photographs?

photography cure

 

I have been feeling mommy guilt lately for not having more of our memories printed. I know that hard drives can fail, files can be corrupted, and a printed back-up is crucial to ensure the survival of these photos! A few weeks ago I decided to print photos from Cameron’s grandmother’s recent visit. Sitting down with my kids and looking through that book was such a joy! They excitedly talked about the memories from the visit and about how much they missed grandma. We got a second copy to send to her and I hope she loves it as much as we do! I now have a goal of getting at least one book printed for each year we have been a family.

These documentary photos of every day family life are the ones that make my heart sing. I love to celebrate the individual personality of each of the subjects that I photograph. I love knowing that each image tells a story and keeps alive a beautiful memory. I would love to be able to do this for your family. Let me spend a morning, an evening, or even a full day capturing those special moments that tell the every day story of your life.

As a special summer offer book your session by August 15th and receive a $150 credit towards the product purchase of your choice (credit can not be applied to the session fee).Photographer|Lifestyle and documentary family photography| Atlanta, Georgia|Gwinnett|Barrow|Winder|Hall

 

What is a Mother?

I thought it would be fun to ask several of my friends to ask their children “what is a mother?” Here are a few of my favorite responses:

“you!” -said by many

“Someone that takes care of you” -age 6

“A role model” -age 12

“A loving and caring person” -age 10

“She is a person who loves you always (even before you were born) no matter how snotty you act.” -age 8

“Mothers love their children so when they grow up they can be strong. ” -age 4

“A mother is my mom who loves you, takes care of you, teaches you, who is nice, cleans, cooks, she loves me.” -age 10

“A mommy is someone who protects her children, and other ones too.” -age 6

“Someone who takes care of you and loves you” -age 7

“Someone who looks after you, takes care of you, who loves you. Deeply” -age 8

“A mother keeps me safe.” -age 8

“A mother is a person who keeps you safe in your darkest time. She gives you cuddles and she loves you no matter what, no matter what mistakes you do. A mother is the person i love the most.” -age 8

“She helps you when your toe is bloody” -age 3

“A mother loves you so much and she never breaks your heart. She gives you big kisses and big hugs. She teaches you to live happily and helps us.” -age 5

“A mother is a kind, loving lady who wants to take care of her children and make sure they have a good life and makes sure she never loses them.” -age 10

“Someone who takes care of her children and teaches them how to love one another.” -age 8

“Someone who loves and cares for their children. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s their own children or not.” -12

In all the responses I got only a few children said someone who had given birth/was pregnant. Let that sink in a minute. To these children all across the United States a mother is one thing. Love.

I have watched several of my friends and family deal with infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, or have simply not had the opportunity to marry and have children. These beautiful women are some of the most amazing mothers I know. I have watched my best friend snuggle my babies and I am completely serious when I say she is their second mommy. They adore her and I know her heart is full of love for them.

The world needs mothers. The world needs women who will nurture, lead, care for, and love the children around them. The title of Mother is the most noble one that we as women can embrace, and we don’t have to give birth to claim it.

I believe there is Nobility in Motherhood and I believe that the greatest success in life may be someone you raise, not something you do.

Do you believe it too? What do the children in your life say is a mother? I’d love to hear their answers in the comments!

Olivia- Documentary Newborn Photography

When I first started newborn photography I built up a stash of baskets, buckets, blankets, headbands, and many other props. I have a few photographers whose work I absolutely LOVE and I was determined to emulate. I found, however, that each session left me feeling completely drained both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t understand what the problem was. I love babies, and I love photography, so why didn’t I love photographing babies?

I then watched a class on Creative Live titled “Family Photography: Modern Storytelling“. In this class Kristin Bethman taught about using photojournalism to document real family life instead of doing the traditional posed portraits. Suddenly it clicked; I wasn’t enjoying my job because the props, blankets and excessive planning for the perfect lighting in the perfect scene just wasn’t me. I crave authentic intimate relationships. I am impulsive, not a planner. I love simplicity. I decided to get rid of all the props and only offer lifestyle/documentary sessions.

I have done my first few sessions in this style and it has been AMAZING!! A few weeks ago I photographed Olivia. Little Olivia was the perfect model and her family was incredible. Her father just glowed with pride and you could tell they were already the best of friends. Even though I didn’t know Olivia’s mother before photographing them I could see how motherhood had changed her. She was just in awe of this little creature who had been created inside her body. I left their home feeling renewed and invigorated by the time I spent with them. This is where I belong.

I would love to capture these special moments for your family as well. I want to help you celebrate the love and the adventures that happen in your every day moments. Life is messy. Walls are colored on, food is spilled, tears are shed, and it is beautiful. Please email me at emily@emilyjphoto.com to schedule your session.