CreativeLive Mid-Year Sale: Save up to 50%!

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It’s no secret that I love CreativeLive. Since I first discovered them a few years ago I’ve watched hundreds of classes while they were streaming, purchased many, and even attended two as part of the studio audience. It has been such an amazing educational resource for me. Right now CreativeLive is having their mid-year sale where all classes are up to 50% off!! No coupon code needed, simply go to their catalog and choose the classes you want.

Shop Creative Live Classes

When CreativeLive first started they were really focused on photographers. No w they have five different channels; Photo & Video, Art & Design, Music & Audio, Craft & Maker, and Money & Life. They have classes on everything a creative entrepreneur needs. Whether you need help with business, marketing, or actual artistic techniques you are sure to find something useful. If you aren’t sure where to get started here are a few of my favorite classes:

Kickstarter for Photographers and Film Makers

This is one of the classes that I attended in the creativeLive studio. In this class Clay Hebert walked us through the steps to take before and during a Kickstarter campaign to ensure its success. He showed us some case studies on a few successful projects that he had worked with and showed us why they succeeded.

The Creative Newborn Photography Studio

This was the second class that I attended in studio and it was a life changer for me! Julia Kelleher is an amazing teacher and I absolutely loved her passion for teaching. Julia encouraged each of us to find a way to be creative and put our own hearts into our work. She encouraged us to try new things and find a personal project to work on. We got to watch her photograph a few different newborns as well as work on her own personal project exploring motherhood. She showed us the basics of creating a painting in Corel Painter as well as how she mounts her art prints. It was because of this class that I first tried digital painting which I LOVE and is now one of the staples of my business.

Photoshop Classes by Ben Willmore

There are TONS of classes a on Photoshop on CreativeLive and it can be hard to choose which one to purchase! I would highly recommend anything by Ben Willmore. I have watched several of his classes. He has an easy to follow teaching style. He explains things in a simple manner so that anyone can follow along. He doesn’t stop there though, he also goes into more advanced concepts and ideas. I have never failed to learn something new from every call of his that I have watched.

Brush Lettering Bundle

This bundle includes three excellent classes by Laura Worthington. Watching and participating in this class was probably the most fun I’ve had with a CreativeLive class outside of the studio. Laura started with the very basics of how to use the brush to create lines and shapes before moving on to letter forms. She then discussed how to think through and add flourishes and other ornamentation. From there the third class of this bundle discusses how to take a piece form idea through sketching to a finished piece.

These are just a few of my very favorite classes, but there are hundreds more that I have watched and enjoyed. Go check them out now while everything is on sale! You won’t regret it.

Have you watched any classes on CreativeLive? What were your favorites? What types of classes are you searching for? Please share and ask for recommendations in the comments. Let’s help everyone get their perfect class! 

Motherhood is Beautiful- Loving My Mom Body

When I first saw this family photo it was a small thumbnail in our gallery of birth photography images, and I loved it. It was a lovely real life moment of our family. Something I’ve never had captured before. Even though the moment is so beautiful I almost didn’t share it with anyone.

birth photography | Smithsquad.com | meeting baby number eight | all natural hospital birth
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

When I made the image large the first thing I thought was “wow, I look fat! No makeup, messy hair, and I’m in my pajamas. I don’t think everyone needs to see me that way.” I even considered for a moment whether I could possibly liquefy myself a bit smaller in Photoshop. Then I stopped. “What on earth is wrong with me?!?! This is less than 24 hours after giving birth to my eighth child. I can’t believe that I am being so hard on myself! I’m Super Womb-an.”

I now believe that this image is even more beautiful because of my appearance. This is a body that has carried and fed eight little humans. This is a body that has given birth naturally eight times. This is a body that has been pregnant, nursing, or both for the last nine years. This is the body that allows me to read, play, and laugh with my children. This is the body that cooks, cleans, teaches, and so much more. This is the body that my husband loves. Most importantly my body is an amazing temple of God and I need to show it more respect.

I am beautiful. My body is amazing. I will share this image with pride knowing that it is a truly beautiful moment that my children and their children can treasure for generations.

motherhood is beautiful| smithsquad.com | love your mom body | Exist in photographs
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

Mom’s please love yourselves. Love your bodies for the amazing things that they do. Don’t hide from the camera or hide away the photos because you are ashamed. There is no shame in motherhood. You are beautiful even with 20 extra pounds, no make-up and messy hair. Motherhood is beautiful in every shape and size. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate it. Show your children the beauty that created them. Give them something to treasure for the rest of their lives. Exist in photographs, it is the best gift you can give after giving them life.

I would love to document these moments for you. Whether it’s a birth, newborn, or family life session I promise you we will walk away with a treasured memory. Contact me for more information.

Have you ever had a photo of yourself that you judged too harshly? What amazing things has your mom body done? I’d love to see your favorite documentary images of yourself! Share links in the comments so I can check them out. 

5 Easy Steps to Reclaiming Your Muchness

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My last post was about my feelings as I lost and then reclaimed my muchness. Today’s post is all about how I got my muchness back. Each person has a unique journey ahead of them, but here are a few simple steps anyone can take to help them create their own new path.

5 Easy Steps to Reclaim Your Muchness | Smithsquad.com | Alice in Wonderland quote | Mad Hatter | Finding your life's purpose

Recognize What You Have Lost

I knew I wasn’t happy, but it took me a while to figure out that it was because I had changed. It was so easy to blame things on my circumstances and relationships. It was much harder to look inward and take responsibility for my own happiness in life. Instead of saying if only I had more money, if only I had a better relationship with my spouse, if only I didn’t have an ex, if only… I started looking back on my childhood and asked myself what about me has changed? What things am I doing differently? What things did I love that I have now given up? What talents have I buried instead of growing? Identifying what exactly it was about me that had changed, and whether those changes were good or bad led me to then ask myself. What can I change?

Identify What You Need

As you look at the changes that you’ve made for the worse you can identify what you need to change about yourself to find more fulfillment in life. Maybe you need to speak up for yourself more. Maybe you need to pursue a talent or passion that you once had. Maybe you need to leave an abusive situation. Maybe you need to work more hours, or less. Only you know what exactly it is that you need. Ask yourself is there anything that I used to love as a kid that I no longer do? Are there any specific character traits I had as a child that I wish I hadn’t lost? Is there any knowledge that I wish I had pursued? What did I want to be when I grew up and do I still want that?

Find a Great Mentor and Support System

Change is hard for anyone. When you are suffering from a lost of muchness you often find that your gumption for making change has been completely eradicated. This is when it is crucial to surround yourself with those who can lift you up and keep you going. Find someone who will ask the hard questions and not let you make excuses. Sure a good rant to a supportive friend is great and necessary, but you also need someone who is going to give you a swift kick to the rear when needed. Use mental health professionals, friends, online groups, life coaches, or any other resource you can. The more support you have the better.

My first steps into discovering who I am were prodded along by Jeff Jochum. He is the king of the question why? Dig deeper, why do you want/feel/need that? He can be quite aggravating at times, but that’s exactly what I needed at that point. Someone who didn’t put up with any excuses and made me ask myself the hard questions. At that point I knew I needed to make changes, but I was still afraid. I continued to build up my support base with an AMAZING church leader, a few close supportive friends, and a weekly women’s support group at church. About a year after working with Jeff I had the opportunity to attend a class at the CreativeLive studio with Julia Kelleher called The Creative Newborn Studio. At the beginning of the class she gave each of us some clay and told us to just create something. It didn’t matter what it was just create. It was such a freeing experience. I was right back in childhood and having a blast. I was proud of my cute little creations. As her class continued the focus on being artistic really opened up a desire I had stuffed down for far too long. I wanted to create. I needed to create. I was then given an amazing opportunity work with Christine Tremoulet in her Blogging Brilliantly course. I thought I was in for a great course on using blogging to help build my business. What I got was so much more. She really focused on making your brand YOU and that meant that I had to find me. She has been an amazingly supportive mentor and cheerleader and still pushes me to keep digging deeper and doing better. She is also the one who helped me create a clearly defined purpose for my life.

Define Your Purpose

I believe that everyone needs to have a purpose in life. That is where the true joy is found, in having and working towards a good and deep purpose. I’m not talking about a specific goal like making 100,000 a year or creating 100 art pieces. I’m talking about a deep and never ending purpose that motivates you throughout your entire life. When you have a purpose and you are working it suddenly so many little things in life just don’t seem to matter as much. Just as every person is unique so are our life purposes. What really helped me refine my purpose was creating a manifesto. This was something I did as a part of Christine’s Blogging Brilliantly class. She had me write down hundreds of statements in different forms and answering different questions. I then cut out all of those statements onto wordstrips and sorted them to decide what were my top thoughts and ideas that had to be included. My manifesto is below and you can read Christine’s manifesto here.

What is my purpose? I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, photography, and art as I care for my own large family. This isn’t just a one time achieve it and I’m done goal. This is a purpose that can and does drive me in everything I do.

My manifesto| SmithSquad.com| I Believe in the nobility of motherhood
Creating a series of I Believe statements can help you to identify your purpose in life.

Take Action

This is usually the hardest part of the entire process. It’s easy to know we need a change adn dream about a change. It’s also very easy to come up with a million reasons why we can’t do it. It’s scary, it’s hard, and sometimes it looks near impossible. This is, once again, where an amazing support system comes into play. I clearly remember the conference call with Christine where she suggested I back away form being a full time photographer and focus on my blog. As she talked to me she had been able to hear the passion in my voice for motherhood. She could feel my frustration that the needs of my large family, which are very important to me, were hampering my ability to make my business a real success. As we talked about the possibility of focusing on the things I could do from home, blogging adn art, and keeping photography and a fun hobby rather than a business it all clicked into place. That didn’t make it any easier to take action, however, even though I knew it was the right action to take. It was very hard to give up that dream of being a full time birth and family photographer. Because I know and embrace my life’s purpose, however, I am able to refocus and accept that maybe that will happen at a later season in my life. I still fear that no one will want to read what I have to write. There are days when I suffer from some major imposter syndrome as I write. There are sometimes days on end where I look at my art supplies and just walk away because the thought of creating something from my heart and having it rejected is terrifying. As I become “much more…muchier” it becomes easier and easier.

 

You Can Find Your Muchness

Muchness isn’t something that we lose and never get back. It is somethign that we can strive to achieve and build upon every day. It is knowing that we have a divine purpose and that we are creating the path that will help us fulfill it. It is taking responsibility for yourself and your happiness. It is the process of shedding the pressure of living up to someone else’s standards and instead creating our own ideals.

Muchness is where the true happiness and joy in life are found.

Have you lost your muchness? Will you commit here and now to seek it out? Have you reclaimed your muchness? Have you found your purpose in life? What is it?

A Year in My Life- April- Meet My Mentors

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Well would you look at me. It’s the BEGINNING of the month and I remembered to post my “A Year in my Life” photos! The April weather has been gorgeous, and as you can see we’ve spent a LOT of time outside. I hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes peek into our life.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Our new lady goat, Alice. She’s now pregnant and we are expecting kid(s) late summer/early fall.

This month I’d like to talk about some of my mentors that have really encouraged me and taught me as I have worked on perfecting my documentary images. First up is Kirsten Lewis Bethmann. I first “met” her while watching her class on CreativeLive “Family Photography: Modern Storytelling”.  Kirsten specializes in Day in the Life Family Photography. Rather than posed images she captures the real everyday story of the families that she photographs. Her class walked through things like how to see the moments, how to use the available light, and included a behind the scenes of her shooting a session.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Making faces at his reflection while watching the rain through the window.

After watching Kirsten’s class I was inspired to take more documentary images of my own family, and also felt the desire to provide this for clients. I was already moving away from super posed images and into more lifestyle images, but Kirsten made me want to go even further! I purchased her first class so that I could re-watch it as often as I wanted to refresh my mind on things I had already learned as well as hopefully learn something new each time. When she did her second class, “Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home” I watched as much as I could live, and learned even more.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Poor baby was NOT feeling well at all. He was sick for almost a week!

My next big mentor I also discovered thanks to CreativeLive. I first saw Julia Kelleher when she presented the class “Family Photography: Capturing Connection“. I absolutely loved her passion for what she was doing, photographing newborns and their families, as well as her open honesty about her experiences with postpartum depression. I could also tell that she had a true love for teaching and really wanted her students to succeed.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
We had a lot of fun watching these little birdies grow up. Their parents are beautiful red Cardinals and we love having them in our yard.

Then I saw a call for studio audience members for her second class, “The Creative Newborn Photography Studio“, and I decided to apply. Boy am I glad I did! I was accepted and given the opportunity to attend her three-day class live in the CreativeLive studio in San Francisco. It was an AMAZING experience! I not only got to spend three days learning from Julia, but I was able to build relationships with the other photographers that were in the studio audience. Julia really helped me build my own passion for exploring my why. Why am I a photographer? Why am I an artist? What message do I have to share with the world? She really launched me into me journey of digging deeper and rediscovering my own identity outside that of wife and mother.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Check out how this guy is holding the pencil! Only 1.5, but has to be like the big kids. Maddy, is the best big sister and always willing to help him out and cheer him on.

While those two instructors have influenced me the most, CreativeLive has been such a wealth of knowledge and motivation for me. I’ve watched classes on pricing, photography, Photoshop editing, marketing, branding, watercolors and so much more. I try to check out their offerings each morning and tune in to the live classes whenever I can.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Picnicking on the front porch after a morning of working hard in the yard.

Last, but certainly not least, this list would not be complete without the amazing Christine Tremoulet! I first met her in Jeff Jochum’s Team-X Facebook group. Jeff Jochum is an amazing coach, who I have also worked with, and you should definitely check out his book “Work Happily Ever After” if you are a photographer. Jeff really helped me start digging into who I am and why, but Christine is the one who really cracked the nut wide open for me and helped me become clearly focused in my business goals and direction.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Hard work, when done with the family, is fun. Stay tuned for a future blog post on how we use family work instead of chores to build relationship and teach good habits.

After talking with Christine on Facebook quite a bit I signed up for her email list “Blogging Brilliantly” which is now an amazing book. Blogging Brilliantly give daily actionable steps that you can take to improve your message, attract your target audience, and blog with more clarity. I have to admit, that while the advice was amazing, I failed to implement most of it. I think more than anything I was unclear in the direction I wanted my blog and business to go. I desperately want to be a full-time birth/newborn/family life photographer. Unfortunately with baby #8 due in just a few days it really isn’t a season of my life where I can focus as much time, energy, and money, into that business as I would like. I was pretty lost and floundering trying to figure out how to be true to myself and my needs while still honoring the responsibilities that come with being the mom of a large family.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
The kids all love working together to help Dad out. This time shoveling up wood chips to be placed under the fence where the neighbor’s dog keeps getting into our yard.

Christine then invited me to be a part of her first group coaching class “Business Brilliantly“, and I jumped at the opportunity. I knew I needed help and I knew that I trusted her knowledge and mentorship. I was not disappointed! Through her class I was able to really focus on what I wanted out of my life. I was able to weed out the distractions and create a clear message of who I am as a person and a business. I was able to create a sense of peace with the direction I am going with my businesses and excitement about where they will take me in the future.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Getting a ride in the wheelbarrow as a reward for hard work well done

Thanks to these three mentors I am in a really good place right now with my work life balance. I have given myself permission to step back from the photography and art without completely giving it up. I have come to a place where I truly enjoy and look forward to writing in my blog. I have a clear message of what I stand for, who I am talking to, and am able to focus more time on my children in the process. It’s been quite the journey, and taken several years, but I am eternally thankful to the mentors who have gotten me to where I am.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Hector really is a butthead, but Leah is the animal whisperer and can be buddies with even the most ornery of animals. I love how this image captures her sweet, sensitive personality juxtaposed with his look of devilishness.

I love sharing these everyday moments with my readers each month. I hope they not only give you a peek into my behind the scenes life, but somehow the experiences and knowledge I share in each post can also help you to find the same sense of purpose and clarity that I have been privileged to enjoy!

If you would like to have documentary images of your family I would love to help you out! While I am not full timing the photography business I am still taking on a few clients each month for birth, newborn, and family life sessions. If you are interested in scheduling a session within ~1 hour of Winder Georgia please contact me!

Who are your mentors either in personal life or business? What have they taught you?

Are you doing a 52/365 project this year? I’d love to see your images so please share your links in the comments and I’ll come visit.

A Year in My Life- March

I can’t believe I completely forgot to share my “A Year in My Life” pictures from March! I think I can just blame it on pregnancy brain. That’s a good excuse for anything! 😉 As I was uploading my favorite images from this month I realized that every single one of them includes the 1.5 year old. I have to say this is probably my favorite age. They toddle around like drunk old men, they are learning and exploring, and they say and do the silliest things. So this month enjoy your Wally overload and next month I’ll have to really think about getting lots of pictures of the other kids to make up for it!

A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
Getting Daddy hugs as soon as he comes home from work.

One thing I am pretty passionate about is getting your photos printed, yet it seems to be something I put off all the time! I always have the best of intentions, then I fail to follow through. Recently I have been researching different options for remedying this problem.

A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
I wasn’t playing in the cat food, in fact I’m not even here! I did not color on the cabinet door either.

I have decide that first of all I am going to create photo books for our family photos.  I didn’t take many pictures during the early years of our marriage, so I’ll probably put several years into one book. From the last few years on, however, I plan to do one book per year. For these books I’m going to use Blurb. I have heard great reviews of them from a few photographers that I really trust and can’t wait to try them out.

A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
Yoga is a little more difficult when the 1 year old is involved.

Blurb also has options to make books from your Facebook and Instagram feeds. I may do one for my Facebook as well. It sounds like a fun way to capture a lot of the great memories I’ve posted in my statuses over the years. I know I have a lot of great kid one liners buried in there somewhere! There are also several images on my Facebook that I’m not sure exist anywhere else.

A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
Just reading, nothing to see here.

Another thing I want to start doing is printing basic photo prints of my favorite images of each child. I want each kid to have a box of pictures of themselves that they can take with them when they leave the house. This is one thing my mother was excellent at. Each of us kids had a scrapbook as well as several prints that she sent with us when we left the nest. I love those pictures! There are TONS of options for getting prints of your images. I will be using my professional lab that is only available to photographers. One great option for people who are not professional photographers is MPix.

A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
Goodbye before Daddy heads out to work.
A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
Why did he leave me!?

Another thing I want to do more with my photos is get wall art. I love to go into other people’s homes and look at their family pictures on their walls. Also having family photos on display has been linked with higher self esteem and a sense of belonging in children. I want my kids to look around and say I’m here, I’m special, I’m important! Once again I will be using my pro lab for most of these displays/products. A great consumer purchase point is Tiny Prints. Just scroll down to “For the Wall” and “For the Home”. Another option is Cafepress.

A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
Look mom, I’m helping.

Another fun way to print your photos is on various gift items. One year I got an apron with a photo of my oldest on it for my mom. There are also all sorts of other fun things like mugs, phone cases, bags, jewelry, pillows, and more. Grandparents especially love to get photo gifts, and they are great for those people on your list who don’t really NEED anything. I would also suggest Tiny Prints for these types of things as well as Zazzle or Cafepress.

A Year in My Life March| SmithSquad.com | Documenting every day life with photography | in home photographer
I love my kitty

Hopefully next month I’ll be more on the ball with getting my April photos posted in a timely manner. I also will be sharing updates on how my printing is going.

What are you going to do to get your photos printed? Have you been documenting your life? I’d love to see your images and/or blog posts. Just share a link in the comments so I can check them out!

CreativeLive, One of My Favorite Educational Resources

*This post contains affiliate links. To learn more about our affiliate program click here*

CreativeLive is an amazing resource for creatives who want to learn new skills as well as entrepreneurs wanting to learn to create and grow their businesses. Each day they run several streaming classes. Some are live classes and some are rebroadcasts. Any of these streams can be watched for free. When you watch a live class you have the opportunity to ask questions of the instructors and participate in the chat rooms with the other students.

After a class has aired they are archived and available for purchase. If you purchase a class you can download the videos or stream them any time you want. You also often get access to freebies that the instructor has provided as a bonus to those who buy the class. Classes  are very reasonably prices, starting as low as $29. Also if you follow CreativeLive on Facebook they will often announce sales and specials.

CreativeLive started out geared mostly towards photographers. As they have grown they have expanded into 5 different main channels which are photo & video, art & design, music & audio, craft & maker, and money & life. They have classes on everything from marketing and sales to calligraphy and scrapbooking. They will also often run events such as Photoshop Week, where they will bring several instructors in to give shorter classes on one specific topic for an extended period of time.

CreativeLive|smithsquad.com|online education|distance learning|live studio audience|live streaming classes
The entire studio audience and crew after the Julia Kelleher Creative Newborn Photography Studio course. I’m the pink bumble bee 😉

One of the best parts of CreativeLive is the live studio audience. CreativeLive has recording studios in Seattle and San Francisco. Each class has a studio audience that is invited to attend for FREE! The only cost to the students is travel and lodging if needed. This is an amazing opportunity, as taking in person classes from many of these well known instructors would run several hundred or even thousand dollars! I have been blessed to attend one class in each studio location. They were both awesome experiences. The one on one talks with the instructors as well as networking with other students was invaluable. If you want to attend a class simply scroll to the bottom of the homepage and click on “In the Audience”. This will take you to a page which shows upcoming classes and you can select which class you’d like to apply for and request an invitation to attend.

Overall CreativeLive is one of the best resources I’ve seen for creatives and entrepreneurs. If you haven’t checked it out yet do it now!

Have you watched a CreativeLive class or been in the audience? What was your favorite class? If you haven’t attended yet what is one class coming up that you are interested in?

 

Birth Story- Baby #3 had me fooled!

Benjamin joined our family in May of 2009. I was 4 weeks away from my end of contract as a U.S. Marine. As with baby #2 I had plenty of Braxton Hicks contractions all day long for a few days. I got sent home from work early on the 26th and they told me to not bother coming in the next day, just call. I still had to get up and get my oldest to school though. I was having pretty steady 5 minute contractions all morning, but they didn’t really hurt so I didn’t give them much thought.

I decided to go ahead and drop Maddy at daycare and have a mommy day off to rest and relax in preparation for baby’s imminent arrival. While dropping her off the daycare worker, Mrs. G., said “You’re in labor, guess I won’t see you for a few days.” I laughed at her and told her I wasn’t. She responded by rolling her eyes and telling me I was in denial. I then took Corey to school. He went to school on base which was 45 minutes from our house, but only 5 minutes from the hospital. Since Mrs. G’s statements had gotten me paying a bit more attention to my contraction timing (consistently 4-6 minutes). I decided it might be a good idea to pop in and have them check me out before I drove the 45 minutes back to my house.

At about 8:30 am when I walked into the labor and delivery ward on my own and not in apparent pain I could tell the nurses were ready to send me home. Quite frankly I was ready to go home! I told them I don’t think I’m in labor, but since I’m having 4-6 minute contractions I figured it was best to get checked out before driving 45 minutes home. They hooked me up, verified the contraction frequency then informed me I was fully effaced and dilated to 5. I was in labor!  After the intensity of the contractions with the previous babies I couldn’t believe it! One of the nurses informed me later they had actually been betting on sending me home and thought I was a bit nuts to even be there.

I called Cameron, who was working about an hour away, and he headed up to the hospital. I just hung out reading my book while getting incredulous looks from every nurse who walked in the room over how calm I was. Yeah it hurt, but compared to my first two this was a walk in the park! By the time Cameron got there I couldn’t focus on my reading anymore and needed to stop and breath through contractions. The nurses stopped looking so disturbed by my calmness lol. I think I got a shot of IV meds at this time, but honestly I don’t remember for sure. If I had waited till it really felt like labor to me ( around 11:30) I probably would have had that baby by myself on the side of the road or at home!

Once again when baby decided to come there was no waiting. A nurse was holding Ben’s crowning head in telling me not to push as the Dr. got his gloves on. I yelled “I’m NOT pushing!” as she let go and baby flew out into the Dr.’s hands at 1:01 pm.

Birth story|emilyjphoto.com|newborn photogaphy|cell phone photography
Baby’s first photo

Mrs. G enjoyed telling Cameron “I told you so” to pass on to me when he picked Maddy up from the daycare later than afternoon. Guess she really did see something in my eyes.

birth photography|emilyjphoto.com|my birth stories|cell phone photography

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7 

Baby 8

 

Birth Story| Baby #2 was in a hurry to get here!

About 2 weeks before my due date in March of 2008 I went in for a regular appointment and was told that everything was closed up tight and see you again next week. That afternoon I started having contractions. They weren’t crazy intense like my first baby, but they were definitely uncomfortable. I was in the Marine Corps at the time, and all those men were rather uncomfortable with me having contractions at the office so they sent me home. My husband was also a Marine so I drove to his work about 5 minutes away and we spent his lunch hour walking the track and driving on bumpy roads. His boss said they weren’t doing anything super important that afternoon so go ahead and take me home.

I got to enjoy those lovely prodromal contractions for 2 whole days. Not very painful, but incredibly annoying! On the evening of the second day of almost non-stop 7-10 minute contractions we had some friends over for dinner. The last belly shot I got was of their baby asleep on my bump!

my belly bump through pregnancy|emilyjphoto.com| birth story|newborn and birth photography

After they left Cameron (my hubs) was already in bed about 90% passed out when I went to the bathroom and my water broke. There was no doubt what that giant gush was. Instantly I started having contractions I could barely walk through every 3-4 minutes.

“babe, get up. We need to go to the hospital”

“What? Are you sure?”

“GET UP!”

We called a neighbor to come sit with the oldest for a few minutes until his stepmom could come get him and headed out the door. It was normally about 45 minutes to the hospital, but with lack of traffic and Cameron driving we got there in just under 30. They checked me in around 10:30 and got me hooked up to all their monitors and such. I got a shot of IV pain meds which one again made me loopy, but didn’t lessen the pain. A little before midnight the nurse came in to check me right as I had the urge to push. She called for the doctor and he barely had time to get his gloves on before Madeline flew into the world after only 3 pushes.

As soon as she arrived Cameron wanted to cover me in hugs and kisses, I told him to leave me alone! lol I hadn’t seen or heard my girl yet and he was blocking my view! He went over to check her out and that’s when I heard her first cries and the nurses told me she looked perfect. We had forgotten the camera in the rush out the door (pack a bag? what?! That’s for planners, not impulsive people like me!), but luckily this time around we had a camera in the cell phone and Dad caught this beautiful picture of our first little girl grabbing his finger.

newborn baby holding dad's finger|emilyjphoto.com|newborn photography|birth story

One thing I absolutely loved about the military hospitals was that every baby rooms in with mom from the beginning. First bath and everything else is done right there with me watching. What I didn’t like was that it was all done before I got to hold my girl. Once they finally handed her to me I didn’t want to let her go!

Madeline was my earliest baby as well as my fastest labor. I really think that all of the healthy eating and exercise I did as a Marine helped a ton with preparing my body for a wonderful experience both during labor and after birth. I was definitely in the best shape of my life at that point. I have since read the book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp. He has confirmed after YEARS of research that women who exercise regularly before and during pregnancy have faster, easier labors and usually give birth earlier within the 38-41 week normal window than women who don’t stay active. Unfortunately this knowledge has not kept me totally consistent in my exercise efforts with future pregnancies.

Just for fun here are a few more crappy cell phone pics from the proud daddy of his new girl scrapbooked rather unimpressively by me when I was just learning Corel Paint Shop Pro!

newborn photos|emilyjphoto.com| Birth photography|fresh 48

Once again I didn’t have an Epidural. the anesthesiologist wouldn’t have gotten there in time even if I had asked lol. I did get an IV shot again, but it was given very close to birth because she came so fast. I think this contributed to the fact that it was INCREDIBLY difficult to get her to wake up and latch on to breastfeed for the first 24 hours or so. Poor baby was drugged!

Overall this was a much better birth experience than my first and increased my confidence in my body to do what it was built to do.

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7 

Baby 8

Birth Story- My First Baby

I realized recently that I have not taken the time to write out most of my birth stories. These are the stories that I want my kids to have, so I’d better get them out there before I forget more than just the little details.

I had my first baby in 2001 when I was 19. I was pretty carefree and “invincible”. I was a Marine. If I could go through boot camp I could do anything! I didn’t really do anything to prepare beyond the 1 hour required new mom birth class at the Naval Hospital. I didn’t have a birth plan.

I started having contractions about every 7 minutes while watching a movie in the base theater. Form the very first one they were INTENSE. I waited it out during the movie (had already been to the hospital for false labor twice) then headed in about 9:30 at night. They hooked me up and said “contractions every 5-6 minutes and wow those are STRONG!” Then they checked my cervix. Zero effacement and zero dilation.

I cried.

they disconnected me from the monitors and told me to go home. I asked if they could give me some pain medication. Take Motrin. Geez thanks guys. I felt so defeated. What was wrong with my body?

I went home a laid on the couch contracting every 5 minutes all night long. I cried and cried. I hadn’t prepared and I didn’t know a darn thing about managing this pain on my own. About 12:30am I got a call form one of the nurses. She asked how I was doing. I told her through my tears how frustrated I was and that the contractions were killing me! She coached me through a few contractions and helped me to breathe and relax. She then told me to come back first thing in the morning. Shift change was at 7 and the new head Dr. coming on would make sure to either stop contractions or get that baby out. WE went back in at about 7:30. I was fully effaced and dilated to 5!!! I was super excited and also a bit mad at the mean nurse form the night before who thought the first time mom was clearly exaggerating her pain level.

By the time they got me all checked in and offered an epidural I decided I didn’t need one. I had been undecided before because honestly the idea of a giant needle in my back totally freaked me out!! After going all night long contracting on my own I decided I could totally do this and I didn’t need it. I did accept a shot of some pain medication in my IV. Stuff didn’t touch the pain, but it made me not care that it hurt. Shortly after they administered the meds baby’s heart rate started decelerating with each contraction. they were discussing a C-section. Thankfully little bub decided it was time to make his grand entrance before the attending midwife could get an OB up to labor and delivery.

When it came time to push I was completely fighting my body. It hurt and I didn’t like it!! Each time the ring of fire started I pulled back and screamed. after about 3-4 times doing that the midwife attending told me very rudely “If you put as much effort into pushing as you did  screaming you’d have a baby by now!” While I thought she was a big jerk I did take her advice and on the next push he was out. All told I only pushed for about 5 minutes.

I honestly don’t really remember much else after that. I was totally wiped out. I do remember scarfing down a hot meal right there in the labor room then insisting I wanted to get up and walk to my recovery room. They thought I was crazy, but I walked with a nurse on either side ready to catch me if I fell.

I was pretty disappointed with my birth experience. I was filled with my own fear and doubts. I fought my body. I made things much worse on myself by not trusting my body. My “birth partner” aka ex-husband was completely disconnected and useless.

Despite all the negative feelings, however, I did walk away from that experience with a sense of power. I had done it. I had a natural vaginal birth. I was in awe of what my body could do. I also gained a determination to know and do better next time.

emily j photographer|birth story
Since I don’t have any birth photos of my first I will let you enjoy his cute 4 year old smile.

 

My biggest regret is that I don’t have a single photo from his birth. This was before the days of digital cameras in our phones and no photos were taken during the birth at all. The few pictures I had from the days afterwords in the hospital were lost or destroyed in the divorce. That’s one thing I definitely rectified for the future. Even if it’s a crappy cell phone shot, I have a picture of each of my brand new babies covered in their birthday frosting!

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 6

Baby 5

Baby 7 

Baby 8

 

Photographs are All That’s Left

I only have one living grandparent. My maternal grandmother died before I was born. All I ever knew of her were my mother’s memories. I lost my paternal grandparents more recently. I have my own beautiful memories of growing up next door to them. Picking tomatoes in the garden, Sunday afternoon ice cream cones, and annual family reunions. Time fades those memories. They aren’t as clear as they once were. I miss them.

grandparents|memories|photographs
My kids, me, my dad, and his parents. Saying goodbye.

Last year we lost my husband’s father to cancer. This was the most difficult loss we have had to face as a family. Jerry was a truly remarkable man and his children and grandchildren adored him. My youngest children will grow up not knowing him. My older ones will only have vague fading memories. My niece and any future grandchildren will never have the chance to meet him. They are truly missing out.

father and son|Photographs are priceless memories|#existinphotos|Atlanta|Georgia|Barrow County|Gwinnett County
My husband and his father When he came to visit us in California 7 years ago.

My husband also has only one grandparent left. She visited us a few months ago and I spent quite a bit of time with a camera in her face. I’m sure I annoyed her at times, but these are my most prized possessions. In a few years these photographs will be all that we have left of her. I printed my favorites into a book for my children, so that her memory will always be bright in their minds. When my grandfather and parents come to visit for Thanksgiving I will make sure to do the same for our memories of them.

grandmother|photogrpahs|memories
My husband’s Grandma painting Rachels toenails.

The upcoming generation is  the most highly photographed in history, yet they have so few printed memories. Don’t let your memories live in cyberspace to be forgotten. Print them, share them, keep them alive. If you think photographs aren’t important now, will you still feel that way when they are all you have left?

photographer|Atlanta|Gwinnett|Barrow|documentary family photography.
This is one of the favorite photographs my mother has of her mother. The hair, the outfit, I just love it!

The photographs I have of our family members are my most prized possessions. They would be the first thing I grab (well after my kiddos of course) on my way out the door if my house was on fire. This is why I will continue to annoy everyone around me with a camera in their face.

baking|grandma|documentary Family Photography|Atlanta|
A treasured memory we never want to forget.

You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to exist. Your friends and family don’t care if you have perfect hair, a perfect smile, or the perfect body. They just want a piece of the memory. You are perfect, because you are theirs. Exist in photos because some day they will be all that is left and for someone they will be irreplaceable treasures.

lifestyle family photography|documentary|Atlanta|Barrow|Gwinnett
Sometimes I like to give my camera to one of the kids. I want photographs of THEIR memories, even when they don’t do much to flatter me. I #existinphotos for them, because one day that’s all they will have left.