A few weeks ago, we had the amazing opportunity to visit and photograph a wedding at Bluestone Vineyards in Bridgewater, Va. When Erin first contacted me about photographing their wedding, I felt honored to be trusted in capturing these once-in-a-lifetime memories for them. It was a no-brainer that I would accept this opportunity. The weekend of their wedding, we traveled the 4.5 hours to their destination wedding. They started the weekend off with a small wine tasting event for their immediate family that had made the journey. As the two families got to know one another, the laughs and love filled the room. The day of the wedding, Erin looked absolutely stunning, and her smile was infectious! Every single detail of their wedding was so personal and spoke to the love that this couple and family shared together. From their dog ring-bearer, to special heirlooms, to the personal vows they wrote for one another. Watching Eric watch Erin was beautiful. It was obvious how much he adores her. I feel so honored to have captured their love, and boy did their love show that day! I wish nothing but happiness and joy for the new Mr. and Mrs. Sowers!
I have been writing this post in my head for weeks now. I just could never seem to muster up the strength to actually sit down and type it out, but I need to. It's time. If you stick with this, you deserve one of those stickers that say YOU ROCK! on it.
You know when you are growing up and you have this vision of the perfect little family and the life you will have? Ya know the one, married to your best friend, 4 loving children, white picket fence, golden retriever playing in the front yard. Maybe that's just me, but that is what I had always envisioned for my life. And then life actually happens and you're a 24 year old single mother of two struggling to get by. You've exchanged a white picket fence for bars on your windows and that golden retriever is a pit bull that makes you feel safe at night. You cry every night feeling like you have failed at every turn. But you muster on. That was me 4 years ago. Recently out of an abusive relationship and trying to keep the lights on and a roof over our heads. It wasn't easy, and we still struggle, but we've come a long way. Fast forward a few years and I am blessed to say that I have married Warren, my best friend and high school sweetheart, we have an adorable little home in a semi-better neighborhood, and I go to bed every night, thanking God for always providing. I finally felt like we could start our lives. (Like I hadn't been living before that?!)
When we were young teens, Warren and I would talk about the life we would have, the kids we would have, the adventures we would share. We would talk about the beautiful little girl we would have, with bouncing curls and light skin. How much he would spoil and love her. FINALLY, we were going to have the life we had always dreamed of. It had seemed life lifetimes had passed between us and we were ready to make up for lost time.
When we reconnected, everything happened so quickly. Engaged within a year, married the following year. Not long after that we started talking about adding to our family. It was something we went back and forth on, but knew we wanted at some point. But there were things that had to happen first. We needed a bigger vehicle. We were already a family a 4 at this point, and adding another child (or two!), would mean we needed something with 3 rows. A minivan. Ugh, I dreaded the thought. But, it made the most sense. So, a few months ago, we went and got a new Chrysler Town and Country. I will never own another kind of vehicle again. Or at least until my minions are off to college. Seriously, why did I wait so long?! The first thing I bought for it? One of those stick figure families. I put my husband, myself, our two children and our two dogs. But between the kids and the dogs I left a space. A small space where our new baby would now reside on the back of our van. And every time I walked out to our van and saw that small space, that little gap of hope, it made me smile. Okay, van, check. Next, was talking to my doctor.
When my son was born I had an emergency c-section. Things didn't quite go as planned, and it wasn't your run of the mill operation. I wasn't sure WHAT went wrong, but in the days following I could tell something definitely did. Day two post-op, they wanted me walking around on my own, day three, showering. The only problem was that on day four, I still couldn't sit up by myself. Day five is when the doctor who performed the surgery came to visit me. "Your son was sideways. We had to cut higher and deeper than normal. We had to cut into your abdominal muscles, that's why you still aren't able to use them yet. (Information I and the nurses could have used days ago!) You'll never have another vaginal birth again, and any pregnancies in the future will come with risks." And just like that she was gone. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I LOVED delivering my daughter. All of it. Every push, every contraction, I cherished the experience. And now I would never have that again. And what do you mean risks?! What kind of risks? I had so many questions and no answers. So, I knew planning on having more children, now was the time to get them.
I called and made an appointment with my OB/GYN. I was so nervous and anxious and excited. I felt butterflies and knots. THIS is the start to our lives, I thought. THIS is where it begins. So, she did the exam, checked my IUD and asked if I was ready to have it removed. I said I wanted to discuss it first, so we talked. Talked about my depression and how I was NOT to stop taking my Zoloft once I became pregnant again, talked about how both of my babies would be in school starting this coming year, life. Then, I wanted to talk about risks. She said she didn't think the risks were very high, but she would double check for me. Oh that was music to my ears. Less than 5% she thought. I liked those odds. She left the room and I felt like I was alone for hours. So many thoughts running through my head. When she returned, her face had changed. I knew something was wrong. "One out of every three." There goes my wind again, what did she say? She repeated it. "One out of every three women, who have had the surgery you have and get pregnant again, die." Those are NOT good odds. I might take those odds in Vegas, but not with my life. She then left the room and let me dress. I couldn't move. I just sat there, paralyzed, realizing that the life I THOUGHT I was finally starting, was over before it ever happened. I immediately started grieving the loss of a child that had never been. I didn't know that was even possible. I took a minute to compose myself, got dressed, and left.
When I got to my car, I broke. I cried for this child that had never been conceived, I cried for the life I was never going to have, I cried for my husband who would never know a child of his own. I cried knowing that my husband, the man I had actually WANTED to go through life with, would never kiss my belly, would never read our daughter a bedtime story while feeling her kick in my belly. He would never teach his son to walk, or say da-da, or catch a ball. He would never dance around with our daughter on his feet, or watch lovingly from the doorway as I sang her to sleep. I cried for the sister and best friend my daughter would never have. I cried, and I cried and I cried. And then it hit me. How was I supposed to go home and tell this man I love, that I could never give him children of his own? How was I supposed to shatter all of his dreams just as quickly as my doctor had shattered mine?! I am broken. How could he still want me after this?! Would he resent me? Leave me? When we vowed, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, THIS was never on my list of 'what if's'. Cancer, sure, car accident, yeah, but this?!
I finally found the strength to drive home and break the news to my husband. And his response was so simple. He didn't need a lot of words to make his point. "Yes, this is hard to hear. But we have been blessed with two amazing children, and as long as I have you, that's all I need." And just like that, it was over. Case closed, move on. And for him, it seemed to be that easy. Why was this so easy for him to accept?! I feel like my child has been ripped from my arms and he's moved on to what's for dinner.
It took me a few weeks to really understand. We already have an amazing life together. More children could add to that, sure, but not having anymore isn't taking anything AWAY from what we already have. And he loves and adores my children as his own. He takes my daughter to daddy/daughter dances and takes my son fishing. The love is abundant in our home and nothing can take that away. My gut still wrenches every time I see a pregnancy announcement or a cute little baby. I don't know if that will ever pass. But I do know that I am going to stop waiting for my life to start and enjoy the one God has already blessed us with. So, for all the mamas-to-be, congratulations! I AM happy for you. Just please don't take offence if my smile seems forced and I'm choking back tears.
A few weeks ago, I posted a model call looking for maternity sessions. Kim replied and I instantly felt a connection with her. We met, with her husband, over coffee a few days later. We talked about our careers, their new baby, how handy Brandon is, and just about life. We planned their maternity session, the outfit, the location. I have to admit, I was pretty excited about this session. Then, the session day came and we met at Rock State Park in Harford County, Maryland. The past week had been in the high 60's-70's. Their session day? Barely above freezing. But Kim was SUCH a trooper! And the images we got took my breath away. The love these two share for one another, and their new addition, is so very evident. I believe these images capture that love, perfectly. I am honored that they chose us to capture this amazing moment for them.
You've just found out you're expecting your first beautiful, bouncing, baby girl. You are dreaming of all the cute dresses and bows and nursery decor. Oh, you can't WAIT to start your registry! Stop right there! Check out this list for your top 10 MUST-HAVES.
1. A Convertible Car Seat
Everyone is going to try and convince you that you need one of those travel systems. You know the ones, with the heavy car seat that your baby will out grow in 6 months that attach to a stroller. While this might sound handy, I am pretty sure this device was created by Satan himself. Those carriers are HEAVY. Have you ever tried to carry one with a 10lb baby in it, while holding your coffee and trying to get your car unlocked? In the rain? While wearing roller blades? Okay, no, but seriously, these things are heavier and more cumbersome than you need. A much more practical option is an all-in-one convertible car seat like this Graco one. Rear facing for newborns, converts to forward facing once your babe is AT LEAST 2, and can hold a child up to 120lbs. This will be the first and last car seat you will ever need.
Finding a stroller for a newborn can be tricky. You want something that you can visually see your newborn, folds compact, and is safe. The Britax Affinity Complete Stroller has all these features, and more. You can easily change from forward to rear-facing, and even add a bassinet. It also features an extra large canopy to keep your little one out of the sun or rain and 4 reclining positions to accommodate a sleepy baby (Ok, really, do they have these for adults?!). The handlebar features a leather grip and makes steering your stroller super easy (for all those mamas who just can't put their coffee down. Guilty, party of one here!) The best part about this stroller?! The handlebar is completely adjustable, so if you barely break 5' like me, or, if you (or your husband) is closer to the 6' mark, you'll have no issues finding a comfortable handle position.
3. Baby Swing
Oh man, are these a lifesaver! I swear, the only time my daughter slept was in the car or in her swing. In order for me to get anything done, this was a MUST. Swings can be large, and if you're anything like me, you have a TON of baby paraphernalia. So, anything that is compact and can save space is a winner in my book. The 4moms Mamaroo not only has a sleek design, but it takes up very little space and can be controlled with your smartphone. Those days of having to get up off the couch from watching Days of our Lives, to turn the music back on our baby swings, are over! Or, you know, baby is sleeping, you're trying to get dinner on while finding your husband's socks and helping with homework. Whichever. The seat is easy to remove and clean and it has a 'car' motion setting. Yup, sounds like a win to me.
4. Baby Monitor
These are one of those things that you know you need but don't even know where to start looking. While doing research for this publication, I came across the Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor. Sounds high-tech and crazy expensive, huh? While it is very high-tech, it is actually pretty comparable with some of the other high quality monitors. But it has a LOT more going for it. It has an interchangeable lens, which means, if you want to see the ENTIRE nursery, you can do that. Or, if you just want to see the crib, you can do that, too. The camera itself has a swivel feature that you can control from the monitor, so you can see around the room and the monitor has a battery life of up to 10 hours. I want to have another baby JUST so I can go buy this monitor. And let me assure you, you definitely want to have a video monitor vs. just an audio one. When your baby is cooing in their sleep and you're not sure if they are awake, you don't want to have to go in their room to check and risk waking them up.
5. Diaper Bag
Just come to terms with it now. Your diaper bag will be your new purse for the next year, at least. So, you want something that is functional, can hold all of your.. well.. crap, and you don't hate looking at. Skip Hop makes a great bag that does just that, and it comes in Chevron. Am I the only one obsessed with this pattern?! It has 10 pockets, and a special zipper pocket just for your phone (so you don't lose it in the endless abyss). It also has an outside clip that is perfect for keys (see endless abyss comment) or baby toys. It features outside mesh pockets for bottles, or if you would rather, they have insulated bottle bags that you can purchase separately. It also comes in more neutral colors, if you prefer.
6. Baby Carrier
Okay, first off, how CUTE is this pattern?! Once again, I want to go have another baby JUST so I can buy this product. Baby carriers are an absolute must have for moms. Whether you are on the go, or just want to get the dishes done without your newborn screaming it's head off, these things are WELL worth their weight in gold. Or the $89 that it'll cost you. The Ergobaby is not only comfortable for baby, it has much better support for mom's than other carriers do. It features three carrying positions (front, back, or hip) and can accommodate any baby from 7-45lbs (with the newborn insert). It features a side pocket that gives you easy access to things like your phone, keys, or money, and has a cloth with snaps that flips up and allows you to discreetly nurse while wearing it.
7. Swaddle Blankets
You can never have enough swaddle blankets. These double and triple as burp clothes and regular blankets. Aden + Anais make the BEST swaddle blankets. They are extra big and EXTRA soft. And the more you wash the blankets, the softer they get. You'll find the extra large size of these make swaddling much easier. Definite must-have for mamas-to-be.
Do yourself a favor and have about 137 of these guys laying around. You CANNOT have enough onesies. If you're not going out and you're just hanging at the house, don't torture yourself with adorable little outfits. Between spit-up, throw-up and blowout diapers, this kid is going to have more wardrobe changes than Mariah Carey on tour. I promise you, your baby does not care how cute they look in a little tie, they just want to be comfortable. And you want to be able to make changing diapers as easy as possible. Don't going blowing the budget on them, either.
9. Car Mirror
When you are driving alone in the car and you hear it. That dreaded sound coming from the backseat. GRRGL. You want to be able to see if your baby is choking on a random coin that fell into their car seat, or just spitting up... again. That's when a backseat mirror comes in handy. You don't need anything fancy, just something functional, and this mirror is perfect for that.
Or better yet, a diaper subscription! I mean, how convenient is that?! The diapers come right to your DOOR. For $25/month, you can have your diapers sent right to you. Which one of your friends loves you the most? Because they would be getting you the monthly wine subscription. But whoever loves you second most, they should definitely be given a heads-up about this.
Alright, so there you have it. The top 10 (or 11 if you count the wine thing. Which I think you totally should.) things you should have on your baby registry. Think I missed something? I want to know, what was your number one must-have as a new mama?