Postpartum is such a dirty word

So, this is going to be a different kind of post for me, but it's one I feel drawn to write. We grow up, get married, have children. We are told that having kids is going to be the most rewarding experience we will ever have. We are told that we will fall in love at first sight. We are told that we will experience a joy we could never have dreamed of. So, when our new bundle of joy makes their debut, we expect to feel over the moon. No one ever told us we might not. No one ever said that you might look at your brand new baby and feel like you are looking at a stranger. No one ever told us that we might feel more alone than we ever have. And we definitely never heard that these feelings are okay and nothing to be ashamed of. Well, I am here to tell you that no matter WHAT you feel, it IS okay and you are NOT alone in your thoughts. 

From the time I was a little girl, I felt called to be a mother. I knew God's purpose for me was to have children and I couldn't wait to hold my brand new baby one day. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was SO excited. I read to her every night, talked and sang to her all the time, decorated her nursery and awaited her arrival with baited breath. Then, when that day came, I remembered feeling so guilty. I felt like a terrible mother. When I looked at this beautiful little angel that God had blessed me with, I felt NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. How heartless could I be? Was I broken? Would I ever truly love this tiny little person? (I can assure you, I do, more than anything.) But, at the time, I wasn't sure I would ever feel the way society had told me I was SUPPOSED to feel. I was so excited to meet this human being just a few days ago, what happened?! I went through the next few months in a fog. I went through the motions, I cuddled, I kissed, I fed, I bathed. I also went crazy. I was so emotional. And angry. And sad. And empty. And so very guilty. I had NO idea what was wrong with me, I never even considered PPD. And because I had all these expectations of how I was supposed to feel, how society told me I needed to feel, I felt ashamed for how I actually felt. I didn't tell anyone what was actually going on inside of me. I was afraid of the judgement, I was afraid of the criticism.  I was afraid if I told someone they would look at me and say "What is WRONG with you?!" So, I suffered silently, and alone. 

Eventually, this faded, and I was able to enjoy motherhood. As much as you can enjoy 2 year old tantrums and wall drawings. ;) But I finally felt better. I thought, maybe, I just needed some time to adjust, to learn to love my baby. I still never associated my feelings with PPD. I mean, I never tried to kill my child or myself, never even thought about it, so that couldn't be it, right?! How uneducated and wrong I was. I went through the same thing when my son was born. I am so scared that if my husband and I have another, I will go through it again. But this time, I will NOT suffer in silence, I will NOT suffer alone. 

I wish just one person had warned me of the signs of PPD. I wish someone had told me what I was feeling WAS normal and NOTHING to be ashamed of. Not even either one of my doctors talked to me about this. There are more than 3 million documented cases in the US a year. There are 3 million mamas out there asking for help. How many of us never do? I am here to tell all my fellow mamas out there, you are doing a FANTASTIC job! And if you think what you are feeling is wrong or something to be ashamed of, it is NOT. Reach out to your doctor, let them help you. Do NOT suffer in silence. You are not broken, you are not weak, you are a warrior and don't you ever forget it! 

P.S I was looking for some pictures to ad to this post and realized I can't find a single one of me holding my son after he was born. Now, I am sad all over again. Pictured below are my two little babes. Then and now ;) 

Madison newborn photography
Thomas newborn photography
Madison family photography
Thomas family photography
Madison + Thomas children photography
Someone Turned One!

I have gotten the pleasure of watching this family expand and grow these past few years. I love these kiddos and feel blessed to know this family. I was so excited when they asked me to capture another milestone for them. Annie's first birthday party. It was so warm and festive and full of love and gingerbread men! Happy birthday beautiful Annie! May God bless you for many, MANY, years to come! 

Children photography Harford County Maryland.
You said YES to him, now it's time to say YES to your dress!

He asked, and you said YES! You head is swirling around with all the things you want for your wedding. The venue, the flowers, the cake, the DRESS! I remember when my husband first proposed to me. My first thought, after all the excitement and realizing he was my forever, was the DRESS. I couldn't wait to go dress shopping! I knew exactly what I wanted, I had been dreaming of this day since I was a little girl (haven't we all?!). I made my appointment at Champagne Taste Bridal Boutique, gathered my closest friends and family, and headed to the shop. I told, Teri, my consultant exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to feel like a princess, I wanted a big ball gown, straps, and a long train. I didn't want a veil because I felt the were so dated! Teri took everything I said and started pulling dresses. With each dress I tried on, I got more and more discouraged. I liked the beading on this one, but not the tulle, I liked the idea of lace, but not how it actually looked. Teri could see my frustration and asked if she could pull a few that she thought I might like. She started pulling a few trumpet style gowns and I really liked where this was headed. I felt more bridal, but I still wasn't blown away. Then she brought in a mermaid style dress. It was form fitting, strapless, and was ruched. Exactly opposite of what I THOUGHT I wanted, but the minute I put it on I felt beautiful, sexy, and bridal. She added a long veil with it and that was it. I knew THIS was my wedding dress.

I took my experience, and the experiences of my brides and compiled a list of Do's and Don'ts for you wedding dress shopping experience.

1. DO shop around before ever making your appointment. Check out websites, reviews, talk to other brides. Finding a great shop is the first key to success in finding a great dress. You want to find a shop where the consultants are knowledgeable of their stock and what will look best on YOU, where they take their time with each client, and make your experience truly enjoyable. I can't say enough amazing things about the shop I chose to find my dress at, and I want the same experience for you.

2. DON'T assume you know exactly what you want and refuse to try other styles. Listen to your consultant, try on a variety of dresses. You can't possibly know how something will look on you until you try it on.

3. DO bring a few close friends and family. Bring people who mean the MOST to you. The ones who will be honest, but have your best interests at heart. Having a couple of close friends or family there to keep your spirits up will help to keep your head straight. If I had gone by myself, I would've ended up with a dress that I kinda liked, but didn't love. My friends and family helped encourage me that while it was a beautiful dress, it wasn't me. And they were so right! 

4. DON'T feel like you have to bring an entire entourage. Having too many people there will bring along too many opinions and thoughts. If you have 10 people in one room, what is the chance that they are ALL going to agree on anything? This will only confuse you.

5. DO go lingerie shopping BEFORE you go dress shopping. What's under your dress is almost as important as the dress itself. You want to make sure that you have a comfortable, but attractive bra that will work with all different styles of dressing. Plus, the added bonus of seeing yourself in attractive lingerie in between gowns will only make you feel more attractive and help make your experience that much more positive.

6. DON'T forget that most wedding dress sales are usually final. I had a bride last year that ended up with THREE different wedding dresses because she kept buying ones she wasn't truly in LOVE with. Don't make any hasty decisions when choosing your perfect dress.

7. DO remember that wedding dress sizes run 2-3 times larger than your actual size. So, if you normally wear a size 7, don't be alarmed when the dresses you are trying on are sized 11-13.

8. DON'T stress. This one is easier said than done, I know. But you are BEAUTIFUL (yes, YOU, the one reading this.), and you will look beautiful on your wedding day. As you walk down that isle, your husband-to-be is going to be silently asking himself, 'how did I get so lucky?'. So, have fun, drink a glass (or two) of champagne, and enjoy the process!   

5 Steps for Choosing the Right Wedding Photographer for You

Choosing the right photographer for your wedding is one of the MOST important decisions you will make while planning your wedding. After the food has been eaten, the venue admired, the music shut off and your guests have left, what do you have left? Your photos. A beautiful, heirloom, album sitting on your coffee table for you and your family and friends to admire, that perfectly captures your gorgeous day. A large portrait of you and your new husband hanging in your living room that greets you every day, as you walk in. Photos have the ability to make you relive moments in time, and on a day like your wedding, it is especially important to choose the right photographer for you. You don't want to look back on your only images and realize you've missed your once-in-a-lifetime shots. So here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a photographer:

1) Their Style. Yes, they take beautiful images, but are they the type of images that you want representing your wedding? For example, you might really love candid moments, and want to capture as many of those as possible. Make sure the photographer you chooses has a more photojournalist style of shooting. Maybe you LOVE black and white images, or light and airy. Just make sure whoever you choose matches your style.

2) Their personality. Do you like the person you are entrusting with your precious memories? This might sound silly, but it is so important to like your photographer. Not only will this help your day go more smoothly, but it will allow for better photos.

3) Do they offer engagement shoots? A lot of photographers will include a complimentary engagement session with their wedding packages. If they don't, that's okay, but ask about booking an engagement session with them, as well. This is important for so many reasons. It allows you and the photographer to meet, get comfortable with one another, and allows you to feel comfortable while being in front of their camera. It serves as a nice 'ice-breaker' before your big day and is so worth it!

4) Are they a true professional? So many people have nice cameras these days and can take a half-way decent photo, but that doesn't make them a professional. Are they insured? Do they have contracts? Many times (not all), you will find your more 'budget friendly' photographers aren't insured. While you might think this doesn't matter, if something were to happen on your wedding day and they broke something, got injured, or God forbid, didn't show up, it would most certainly matter. I have heard horror stories from some brides.

5) Investment. This one is last for a reason. Yes, of course, you are going to have a budget, but it should not be the main driving force in choosing your photographer. In so many cases, you get what you pay for, and photography is definitely one of them. You should allot a good amount of your wedding budget to your photography budget.

The only thing you will have left to look back on is your photographs, so don't take your decision lightly.