Friday, April 24, 2015

Tried and True Tips for Perfect Maternity Photos

Other than the "prize" you get at the end of pregnancy (the baby) and maybe the nesting, my favorite thing about pregnancy is taking maternity photos! I am not one of those women who love pregnancy, and I'm fairly certain that the feeling is mutual. Both of my pregnancies have been laced with such atrocities as severe morning sickness, gestational diabetes, rare eye conditions, PUPPS, and high blood pressure, just to name a few lovely occurrences.

So, why even schedule a photo shoot if pregnancy is so horrendous, you may ask? Because women are crazy, that's why - and even though I despise almost every second of being pregnant, there will come a time where I will look back on the time fondly (since I am no longer being held captive by the baby who has taken over my body) and be GLAD that I captured pictures of it all.

Between the two times I have been pregnant and had maternity pictures done, I have come up with some tips that can help you (hopefully) when you are planning your own maternity photos.

1. Decide who all is going to be in the pictures with you. Do you want the pictures to just be of you and your glowing pregnant belly? Maybe some of you and your husband together? If this is not your first child, do you want to include kids too? You might be able to do a little bit of everything depending on your setting and your photographer if you want a mix of it all.

Dragging the husband along for the maternity shoot :) Photo by Andrea Pascalau
More maternity photos with husband included - Photo by Andrea Pascalau
Including big sister Beulah in this maternity session - Photo by Lori K Sapio

2. Decide on the style of the session. This is fun. There are so many different kinds of maternity photos you can take these days. I will be writing a blog post soon about the different kinds of maternity photo sessions I took with each of my pregnancies, but I'm not quite ready to do so yet. Look on Pinterest for inspiration! Do you want a studio look? Do you want candid? Do you want something whimsical and outside? Do you want something laid back in your bedroom? This will help you really frame the rest of what you need to do to prepare for your shoot.
Natural outdoor maternity shoot - Photo by Andrea Pascalau   

Editorial studio maternity shoot - Photo by Andrea Pascalau / Corsei Photography
Pinup style maternity session - Photo by Windy City Pin-Up

3. Schedule your photo session at about 35-36 weeks of pregnancy. That way you are obviously pregnant but hopefully not too swollen or hating life by then. Of all the sessions I have had, I have scheduled mine all around this time frame and been pretty happy with the timing. Too early and you won't be pregnant enough, too late and you might be toooooooo pregnant. Believe me, there is such a thing.

4. After you have decided on the style of your session, it's time to get really specific on wardrobe. If you are going to be in your bedroom lounging on your bed, best not to get a fancy dress and heels. Remember that if your session is outside, and it requires any degree of tramping around that you want to be comfortable, or at least have comfortable shoes to change into while you walk around. For one of my outdoor sessions, I wore flat sandals. For a studio session I did, I wore wedges just for the look of the photos, but didn't have to walk around in them. If husband or other kids are going to be in the photo, consider these 5 tips for family photos that I gathered from photographer friends.

5. Consider hiring a hair and makeup artist. Depending on your photographer, they might have one to refer you to or one who they work with already. This is nice because a) crazy stuff happens to our skin and hair when we are pregnant, b) you might be lacking ALL motivation to get yourself done up, and c) it is damn nice to get pampered by a hair/makeup artist now and then. If you do decide to hire one, be prepared to pay them their rate and know that they do appreciate a small tip for their services. I usually tip them $10 on top of whatever their rate is.

6. Research poses for your maternity belly and practice them in the mirror so you feel comfortable and confident doing them. Do you like the ones where your hands are making a heart on your belly? Great! Practice that. Do you want to sit Indian-style and cup your belly with your arms? First make sure you can actually sit Indian-style before you get set on that pose! There are a ton of poses you can do. If you have other people with you in your shoot, there are a ton of cute ideas on none other than Pinterest. So, check it out! Also your photographer should be able to help you out of with poses as well. My suggestion would be to do a variety of poses so when you go through your photos and choose which ones you like, you have a variety of poses to choose from.  

For more information on the photographers featured in today's post, please visit their web sites:
Andrea Pascalau -
Lori Sapio -
Windy City Pin-up -

For an extra special feature of my daughter Beulah on Lori's blog, check out this blog post she wrote featuring photographing children's important milestones. Love this article and really helpful for mommas-to-be to think about and be prepared!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why I Broke Up with Breastfeeding (and Why it's Okay)

HUGE GINORMOUS DISCLAIMER: Please read this before you read anything else. This post wouldn't even exist if I didn't wholeheartedly believe that breast is best. So, this is not a formula vs. breastfeeding debate. Nor is it a discussion on which is better, easier, more natural, whatever. It is simply my personal manifestation on why I chose to breakup with breastfeeding. I chose the wording on this very carefully. I chose "breaking up" because, for me, breastfeeding was all about the emotions. All the feels. My self expectations on what it meant to be the best mother I could. The visions I had of lovingly nursing my little cherub(s) and knowing that their weight gain, their thriving, their BEING was all a result of ME and MY super milk. I don't think that formula is bad or else I would never give it to my children. So, here goes my story.....

With my first daughter, I was bound and determined to nurse her. I had my pump rip roaring and ready to go at, like, 30 weeks pregnant. Upon her delivery, she was on the boob for 45-60 minutes as soon as she was born. She nursed a lot (as newbies do) the first couple of days. But by day 4 or 5, my milk hadn't come in. I was frantically texting my lactation consultant. My daughter had lost more than 10% of her body weight. This is not how I wanted breastfeeding to go. This was supposed to be easy, natural. What my body was made to do. WHERE THE F%^& WAS MY MILK SUPPLY? So it started. Nursing a frustrated, hungry baby who tore up my nipples, supplementing with formula, pumping to "still place the order" to my body that my baby needed additional nutrition, REPEAT. I drank gallons of water, ate lactation cookies (my cousin provided the recipe here), took Fenugreek both pills AND the nasty concentrated liquid. I drank teas. I did boob massage. I let my little nursling hang out on the boob as long as she wanted. My sweet lactation consultant would drop off the scale after she was done seeing her patients for the week so I could weigh her all weekend pre and post feedings so I knew exactly how much she was getting. I. was. dedicated.

What happened: 3 months of stress, heartbreak, feelings of intense guilt and mommy guilt. (Read more about mommy guilt and how to turn it into something positive here) I was obsessed with this notion of how things were supposed to be. I had strangers on support sites egging me on: "You can do this!" "Your baby won't starve!" "Supplementing is where you went wrong!" But slowly, their support turned slightly judgmental. The kind of judgment that isn't purposeful. The kind of judgment when someone says "I'm not a homophobe/racist/whatever, I have X number of gay/Mexican/African-American friends." Guess what... if you are counting the number of friends you have in that category, you aren't as judgment free as you would think. BUT I DIGRESS. The comments like "Anyone know what to do with these FORMULA samples I got in the mail??!?!!?! I EBF (exclusively breastfeed, for those who don't know the lingo). I wish they would just STOP sending me stuff." How about you stop being so self righteous and start being thankful for a change? And while you are at it, donate it to a women's shelter. There are plenty of women there that would be hugely thankful for free formula (aka FOOD for their baby) much less an ADDRESS where a company could mail it to. After 3 months of really giving it all I could, I decided to throw in the towel. Y'all... the mommy guilt was big. But it just wasn't happening for us. I was heartbroken. I felt like I had failed my daughter and my family.

Fast forward to my second daughter. I was READY albeit slightly terrified. Prepared to tackle everything that took us down breastfeeding-wise the first time around. I was well-versed on proper latching, kept on top of my daughter's weight loss those first few days, had a brand new pump on order and my lactation consultant on speed dial. I took full advantage of the nursing staff while I was in the hospital post-delivery, using their expertise with each and every latch my daughter had. Making sure everything was going right. The typical stuff all happened. She slept pretty well the first night, and after that it was cluster feeding around the clock. My nipples turned into bloody hamburger meat. (Sorry y'all for that visual) I happily let her do all of that because she was placing an order for a ton of milk, and I was hoping (praying) for it to come in in ABUNDANCE. We left the hospital; and I thought that we GOT this. And then there was the first night at home. Sleep deprivation on top of sleep deprivation on top of a HUNGRY RAVENOUS SCREAMING newbie. Sleep? There will be none of this. She wouldn't even tolerate being out of someone's arms and preferred to be in the one's arms supplying the goods.

"This is typical" I told myself. "This is the way it will be." Night turned to day. Anyone in my position will tell you the RELIEF that the waking hours brings to a situation such as this. At least everyone else will be awake with you during the day. Nothing worse than trying to nurse a hungry baby in the dark while everyone else sleeps. Second night - not much different. In a moment of desperateness to soothe my sweet brand new baby, I made one single ounce of formula..... It was a moment that reminded me of the scene in "Interview with a Vampire" where Louie (Brad Pitt) is turned into a vampire by Lestat (Tom Cruise).... a whole bunch of crazy and then this eerie calm moment of complete serenity. Crazy comparison, but y'all... that's how it was. It was then that I decided to maybe supplement at night if I needed to until my milk came in. But the next day, my milk came in. More milk than I EVER had with my first. I was relieved! But my baby's behavior was still the same. Maybe she had tasted the formula goodness and preferred that. I don't know. But it was then that I started thinking about the break up.....

Here is the reason why I'm writing this. Not to say formula is better, nor to say give up on breastfeeding because it's not worth it. It absolutely is. But I know I'm not alone in our experience with breastfeeding. It is the most natural thing in the world. It's supposed to be easy. A built-in, perfect nutrition for our most cherished possessions, our children. But when it doesn't come naturally, when it's hard or near impossible, it is absolutely one of the most stressful and gut-wrenching experiences as a new mother that you could imagine. And that is the truth. Period. End of sentence.

Aside from ALL that narrative I just gave you, there were other reasons that are all acceptable that I decided that, for my family, formula was ok. Because of the guilt I felt and continue to feel on this, I have felt compelled to share with you a list.

- Baby's health (perceived or otherwise). Yes, breast is best. I'm going to stop saying that now, and I hope that it will continue to be implied throughout the duration of this blog post. However, my baby was jaundice and losing weight. Given my experience with my first daughter, I was horrified that the past would repeat itself, which certainly wouldn't help the weight loss situation or the jaundice situation. And despite what many, MANY people told me, there is a percent of the mom population who can't produce enough milk for their babies to be healthy. I don't even want to know what would have happened to my first daughter had I not had formula to supplement her nutrition.

- Baby's sanity. Y'all. She was (and still is) a ravenous mini-beast. She was crying and restless for the first 5 days of her life. She wasn't sleeping. She wasn't able to be put down. She was constantly seeking comfort and nourishment. I was doing my damnest to provide both and more. It was hard for me to see her like that and even harder for me to think I was partially responsible.

- Momma's sanity. As a mother, most of us decide "Who cares about me? I'll be fine; I just want my baby to be happy and healthy." And then we proceed to run ourselves into the ground. No sleep, emotional mess, stressed out to the max. That's how I felt during the emotional rollcoaster of trying to feed my sweet baby. In tears at my daughter's first check up (a couple of days after we discharged from the hospital), I told our nurse practitioner of our difficulties. And what she said is another ultimate truth: "You have to take care of yourself before you will be able to take care of anyone else."

- The rest of the family. I knew going into child #2's birth and plan to breastfeed her that it was going to be difficult, harder actually, from the standpoint of time. With my first daughter, I had all the time in the world to sit on the couch and (try to) nurse her day in and day out. But with my second daughter, aforementioned first daughter wasn't going to have all of that. She wants juice; she is hungry; a felt banana play food is annoyingly out of reach; she is terrorizing the dog; so on and so forth. Now. I know that a lot of mamas out there totally nurse consecutive children with 1, 2, 3 additional kids in tow. And that is awesome. But this is factor in my decision to break it off with breast feeding.

- Let the village help you. Everyone always says "it takes a village to raise a child." Yes. But can that village nurse your baby for you? Can the village take one of the nighttime feedings so you can get more than 2 hours of sleep? Sure - if breastfeeding has come easy for you, you might have a stash of back up milk pumped and stored, so maybe your husband can give a bottle while you sleep. But many mommas will tell you -- you need to pump whenever your baby eats to keep your supply up. Gotta keep placing those orders. So, for me personally, I was so relieved to be able to let my husband help me. He is wonderful. He usually takes the second night time feeding, which is around 4-5 am.  And my husband enjoys feeding the baby.

To some, these might sound like excuses. Some people might even think it sounds selfish or dramatic. But I'm hoping that reading my story will resonate with other moms out there, who decide, begrudgingly or otherwise, to break up with breastfeeding. Formula isn't an easy way out. I'm still waking up every 2-3 hours, and instead of whipping out a boob, I'm having to juggle bottles, formula, and making sure it is the appropriate temperature for the mini-beast, who doesn't like cold formula in her bottle. Only room temperature or warmer will do for her.

Regardless of how you feed your baby, whether you were blessed with the ability to nurse or blessed with the opportunity to give them formula, we as mothers, fathers, grandparents, feed our babies with LOVE. And that's really all that matters.

And please, remember, be kind with your words. I would LOVE your comments, but only if they are supportive and positive. This brand new (second-time) mommy is still sensitive and putting it all out there for this blog post while the feelings are fresh, emotions still very present.