Nothing is quite as life-changing as having your first baby. No matter how prepared you think you are, nothing can fully prepare you for the moment you hold your new baby and feel like you hold the whole world in your arms. Your life suddenly has a new focus, and it's like a part of your heart is walking around outside of your body.
So much of what you read about preparing for a new baby is focused on the practical side of things, and on all the things you "need" to buy. Those can be pretty fun to plan for and shop for, but to me, they barely even scrape the surface of the things that really matter.
This is what I wish I'd been told about what to expect, and how to cope with and get the most enjoyment from the crazy, precious, exhausting, challenging, rewarding, frustrating and completely amazing experience of becoming a parent.
What a year 2017 has been! I've met so many wonderful people, seen so many new parents created, had the privilege of capturing so many fleeting newborn moments, and laughed with, chased, played with and photographed so many fun-filled, full of life families.
Here are a few of my favourite moments from the year.
Life happens. Remember when you thought that you’d have hours to spend gazing at your baby, playing peekaboo and gurgling to each other, while your house gleamed with cleanliness and your dinner roasted in the oven? How did that work out for you?!
It is easy to let the moments slip away while you are busy just getting by. You realise a couple of weeks have gone by and you haven’t taken a single photo. Then you try to make up for it, and take 50 photos of her in the same spot, doing the same thing.
A photo a day project can be just the push you need to get you out of playing catch up, and into taking the photos that will mean the most to you in twenty years' time.
This family won their newborn photo shoot in my New Year Newborn competition. They wrote such a heartfelt entry themselves, and also had so many of their friends and family submit an entry on their behalf. This entry from one of their close friends sums up why they were chosen and what a wonderful family they are better than I could say myself!
Like most families waiting for their first child, Bailey’s parents were incredibly excited but also a little scared! One of the highlights of newborn photography for me is talking to people during their pregnancy and hearing about their hopes and dreams, and then watching them slot into the role of parents as if they had always known how. There are so many little ways the bond between them is visible, and for me, Bailey’s tiny fingers clinging on to her dad’s hard working, capable hands sums it up in one photo.
It turns out that a plug is a fairly crucial part of a maternity milk bath photo shoot. Who would have thought? Our session narrowly avoided being a complete washout when we realised that ours was missing!
This was the first time I had tried a milk bath photo shoot, so I’d done plenty of research online to get tips and tricks and make sure I was fully prepared. Milk powder, scissors for the flowers, a bowl for mixing milk powder in, cornflour for extra whitening – I had it all. It never even crossed my mind to check the plug! Living in a house with two children under 3 who love to squirrel things away to random places, I really should have known better!
We almost didn't take this photo. It looks like everybody just jumped into position and smiled happily for the camera, right? If that's how you think most perfect family photos are created, you couldn't be further from the truth! Sure, that might happen with teenagers or older children, but with toddlers and a brand new baby in the mix? Not a chance!
Shekinah's parents knew from when they first met and fell in love that they wanted to build a family. Then came a long stretch of getting their hopes up, only to have them crashing down again with one negative pregnancy test after another. Month after month brought frustration, hopelessness and despair. They wondered if their dreams would ever come true – and then, finally, the test showed what they had been hoping and praying for! They wanted to have these photos of Shekinah as a newborn to remind them how much she was worth the wait.
Your first trip out of the house with a new baby is pretty daunting. Getting this tiny bundle strapped safely into a car seat; rounding up nappies and wipes and bottles and dummies and an insanely large assortment of other necessities for such a tiny little person; trying to juggle nappy changes and feeds so that you all have a comfortable car trip but still arrive on time; and leaving the comfort of your own home when all you really want to do is sleep. Combine all this with a fog of tiredness like you’ve never even imagined could exist, and this whole new world of responsibility and care seems pretty overwhelming.
“What if my baby won’t sleep?!”
Parents often ask me what will happen if their baby won’t sleep during their photography session. Some babies fall asleep so easily and others fight sleep with their whole being, even during their first few days. (My son was one of those – I can relate very well!!)
This blog post is dedicated to those parents!
I wanted to donate a newborn photography session to someone who was deserving of it – someone who had been through struggles or hardships or someone who was always thinking about others and deserved something in return. There were so many nominations that it made me want to give away more than one session, but the beautiful tribute written by Isabella’s grandma was the deciding factor.
We clamber over boxes and bags and squeeze our way through to the surfboard racks on my garage wall. Levi’s dad is far taller than me, so he gets the job of grappling the surfboard down. Back inside again, we discover that the board was last used on a baking hot day – its cover has completely melted onto the wax and we can’t get the board out! Finally, with the help of some crafty broomstick wielding, we manage to free the board ready for our studio photo shoot with little baby Levi.
The wallpaper backdrop was hanging perfectly; the wooden floor drop smoothed out; fluffy white towels folded neatly and stacked in a soft pile; and baby Quinn was tucked up on his tummy, dummy in his mouth and his blankie wrapped around him, drifting off to sleep. We had been working towards this for about 15 minutes, Quinn’s mum helping to settle him while I got his tiny bottom and toes and fingers placed exactly how I wanted. A sneak peek under his blanket showed that he had finally settled into the perfect pose. We removed his blanket. I stepped back with my camera, and his mum sat just off to the side, ready to remove his dummy at the right moment and to spot him if he moved.
And then…. Quinn startled, as tiny babies do. His legs shot out behind him, his arms flailed, and he jerked to wide awake. We were right back to square one, and Quinn decided that it was time to snuggle in with mum for a feed instead of getting this shot.
After a huge string of baby boys, I was so excited to be able to photograph sweet little baby Bonnie in her newborn lifestyle and mini studio photography session. I had some new headbands and wraps that I was dying to be able to use, and I was excited about featuring a bit of pink!
Bonnie was just the most perfect little model I could have hoped for. For nearly our whole session, she was quiet, content and sleepy. Whether wrapped up snugly on a sheepskin, curled up on my beanbag, or sprawled out and unposed, she was just the sweetest little girl you could imagine!
I just love doing newborn photography, and this newborn photo shoot with baby Lincoln in my Te Awamutu studio was one of my all time favourites. He was just the sweetest, most perfect little boy you could imagine! Throw in a stunning mummy and a handsome big brother, and this session was every photographer's dream!
Some babies just love to tuck up with their legs underneath them as if they were still in the womb. Others love to curl sideways. And some just like to stretch out as far as they can.
During this newborn photography session at my studio in Te Awamutu, sweet little Caleb left us in no doubt of his preference. He didn’t have the longest legs around, but he was very clear that he wanted them stretched out as much as possible! According to his mum, he did a lot of this in her tummy too – ouch!
It was an honour to be able to welcome my friend’s little boy into their family with this combo lifestyle and mini studio session in their Taupiri home. At just a week old, little Benjamin was a total star. He was so sleepy and content, and just loved to be cuddled up with his mummy. He wasn’t always quite so happy being tucked up on my beanbag, but the mummy and baby photos we got are some of my favourites from this session.