(If you haven't yet, you can read Part I of this series here.)
As photographers, we’re fortunate that we can take our work anywhere and set our own schedules. When starting a family as a photographer, we usually know our schedules well in advance.
Whether or not starting a family falls within our slow season can be completely up to mother nature and depending on your circumstance, you may or may not have to/choose to work throughout your entire pregnancy.
When we found out we were expecting our first child, my first thought was that I’d power through and work up until my due date. Then week 37 rolled around and I was done.
I ended up delivering at 41 weeks on the dot, but that month off in between, not actively shooting, gave us time to prepare for the baby - not just trying to figure out a nursery situation but prepare emotionally as well, taking time for myself and anxiously awaiting the day we’d finally get to meet our boy.
As a first time parent I was completely reliant on books and advice when it came to what to expect during each trimester. Unfortunately, the books didn’t tell me we’d be at a destination wedding in the Bahamas when I was 10 weeks pregnant where I’d develop a 103 degree fever and feel completely destroyed both physically and emotionally.
They mentioned I’d be tired and have food aversions, but eating only brown foods for two weeks and napping while at the computer desk were slightly unexpected scenarios. My entire third trimester I awoke at 2am on the dot and stayed up all night eating multigrain Cheerios and wondering if I’d ever sleep again.
As a photographer that luxury to work for ourselves is amazing, and this is how I tackled each step of the way during my pregnancy.
Feeling: Extreme fatigue. I.e., I don’t need a nap, I don’t need a nap (puts head on pillow wakes up three hours later) I needed that.
Work: No biggie. Yes I’m tired, but shooting and editing portraits isn’t too taxing. Longer weddings still no biggie. Flying to shoot a destination wedding? A little harder, especially when you sit next to a woman on the plane with demon flu and no concept of mouth covering and contract the same illness 24 hours later.
Personal: I am sooo pregnant right now! Stroking my bloat lovingly, dreaming of our little girl, who later we would find out is a little boy.
The first trimester I was more emotionally charged than anything. Luckily this was more of a personal struggle and I didn’t email any clients in tears saying how much I loved shooting their session. No, I managed not to scare anyone away!
Feeling: Pregnant, definitely pregnant. Photographed an 8 hour event and by the end of the night I was sneaking along the wall in the shadows while guests ate their meals, trying to find a spare chair to sit in.
Found chair, was approached by bartender who took it away from me stating they were for wedding guests only. Managed to keep it together enough not to slap him with the banana peel I was holding in my left hand.
By the end of the night everything hurt; it felt like a hangover from a cheap drinks night in college without the drinks, and, thankfully, without the random make-out.
Work: As stated above, I’m beginning now to feel the fatigue. I begin to doubt whether I’ll be able to work until my due date. We begin planning my maternity “leave”, which we assumed would mean me stopping shooting for a month while Adam took on all the sessions himself.
Turns out when the baby finally arrives, everything you planned will probably change. More on this later.
Personal: Before our son arrived we made it a goal to visit Adam’s family in Italy. I was 16 weeks along when we headed to their charming farm village. I found myself confronted face to face with soft cheeses, raw meats, unpasteurized goats’ milk, and vino.
Now, the first couple of days there I had bits of cheese here and there, and thoroughly enjoyed them. I declined the wine I was offered at lunch, drank a delicious espresso each day, but definitely ate some meats I thought were cooked but turns out they were just delicious and raw as a new baby’s butt with diaper rash.
Then I woke up one night, in a flurry of emotion, wondering if I’d ingested something that would harm our baby in some way. I spent hours scouring Google and the next few months freaking out, but still managed to enjoy the rest of our time in Italia.
Feeling: Wait, I’m feeling awesome. While there’s no doubt I’m sleep deprived (thanks in part to the baby and in part to the endless parade of rooster crows that Hawaii bestows upon us), I have more energy, am giddy with excitement about meeting our little guy, and between the aching hips, generally feeling ready to take on motherhood full throttle.
Work: I’m doing it! I’m doing it! Those weddings we hired a third shooter for went off without a hitch. I was convinced that if we hadn’t hired them, I would have given birth on a bed of plumeria flowers as the bride tiptoed around me in the aisle to exchange vows with her groom.
Around week 37, I started to feel it. We had taken on very few bookings in February as many people had told us it was possible to deliver early, so we were twiddling our thumbs for a bit but took the time to enjoy togetherness before welcoming another member in to our family.
Of course the wedding we were worried about missing due to birth in early February came and went, but I was still glad we’d told the bride in advance and she had hired another photographer. While feeling good overall, I’m sure a 10 hour wedding would have tipped me over the edge.
Personal: Feeling ready. Made the poor decision to YouTube birth vlogs then became temporarily terrified of what lay ahead, only to be calmed again by the fact that it would soon be over and we would be parents.
Delivery and Recovery
Oh, that. This is sort of when we started to reconsider the length of the maternity leave I would need and realized I had underestimated how much time I would need to recover physically and emotionally from the whole experience. More on that later.
Next I’ll share a few things I wish we’d done prior to the pregnancy as far as our business was concerned, as well as some things I’m so glad we did in preparation of our little one’s arrival that made the transition into working parenthood a bit easier. You can read Part III here.