Lauren and Kyle are over the moon for their little girl, sweet baby girl A, and in February we did a sweet maternity photo shoot showcasing Lauren’s adorable bump and the joyful expectancy of this lovely couple.
It is already clear how much baby A is loved, and Lauren simply glowed. I focused on simple, timeless portraiture. I sought to create classic images that will look as beautiful when baby A is grown up as they do today. For maternity especially, I love simple, clean lines showcasing the sweet baby bump and focusing on the emotions of the parents-to-be. Family shoots can be fun and even a little chaotic, but maternity shoots give me the chance to have a quieter approach and give a couple the opportunity to enjoy one another and this special time in their lives as they await a new life.
Here are some of my favorites from this special session!
One question every mom faces is what to pack in the hospital bag for her birth. On my fourth-time around now, I can now consider myself fairly experienced at prepping for a hospital birth. Over the years, I’ve streamlined what I take along to the hospital and also made a few adjustments based on the type of birth I tend to have (quick, hard, unmedicated). So what to take along to the hospital, and perhaps more importantly, what should be left behind? Here are my favorites… and the good news is that almost all of the items would be right at home in your diaper bag AFTER baby’s birth, too!
A few of my hospital birth bag essentials… some are fairly typical and some may be new to you! Most also find their way into my diaper bag after birth, too. (iPhone photo)
I’m skipping a few of the obvious items (toothbrush, clothes for mama, nursing bra–nobody needs to see my “unmentionables” but here are some essentials I can’t live without:
- what to pack for baby: Most hospitals provide a little t-shirt and the ubiquitous pink and blue striped blanket for swaddling. For clothes *in* the hospital, I prefer the newborn gowns with an open bottom, which makes access for heel pokes and diaper changes easy. For the ride home, I like something easy to wear in the carseat (and easy to put on), like this zippered sleeper. I prefer zippers to snaps. A NICU nurse friend of mine pointed out that for NICU babies where access for monitors and leads is necessary, snaps are needed, but fortunately we haven’t faced that with any of our kids.
- bath wash for baby, and a few sample-sized toiletries for mom: hospitals usually have Johnson & Johnson baby wash, and I just prefer to use something tailored for sensitive skin. My favorite bath wash for my kids is California Baby Super Sensitive body wash. Target has some gift sets with sample sizes that make lovely baby shower gifts for a new mom. The 2-oz. bottle pictured above is perfect to take along to the hospital. I also scrounge up a couple sample-sized toiletry items of my favorites so that I can feel refreshed after birth. Nobody wants to feel grungy and gross. And yes, I know some people prefer not to wash baby for several days after birth, but after my second child was born and was the cheesiest, most vernix-y child you’ve ever seen, I’ve learned sometimes a bath is just a must!
- lip balm: the hard work of labor can dry out lips. I am a lip balm snob, and EcoLips is my absolute favorite. Usually available in the “natural foods” section of grocery stores, or at places like Whole Foods.
- phone chargers and spare camera battery: easy to forget in the heat of running out the door, but very inconvenient not to have
- essential oils: this time around I’m taking along a few essential oils. Test them beforehand and make sure you have no smell aversion to them, as smells that are only slightly annoying when not in labor can become REALLY annoying when laboring. For me, I’m taking along citrus bliss and spearmint (a lovely invigorating mix), deep blue (designed to ease muscle tension and pain), and some peppermint beadlets (I am really sensitive to funky breath tastes/smells when laboring). I have been fortunate not to have really prolonged labors in the past, so I’m able to take a fairly minimal oil selection. This isn’t a must-have, but is a definite “nice to have.”
- Bible and birth affirmations/verses: I love my small ESV journaling Bible for portability and church, and it’s coming along with me to the hospital. This time around I also copied some of my favorite verses and inspiring quotes onto some Project Life cards and hole-punched them for quick reference during labor if I need a boost.
- swaddle blanket: hospitals will provide the usual pink & blue striped blanket, but I also like to take along a white swaddle blanket (the bamboo Aden & Anais brand is ultra-soft and big enough to make swaddling easy). The white blanket also acts as a beautiful natural reflector for photos of baby in the hospital, and of course as a photographer I have to consider these things 😉
- ring sling: I’m a babywearing addict, even in the hospital. I find ring slings my favorite choice for newborns, so I’m taking along a Sakura Bloom ring sling.
- wet bag: the orange bag above is a “wet bag,” a bag designed to hold wet items and prevent leakage. These have become indispensable for any trip I take, and the hospital is no exception. I fully expect to have some dirty baby clothes to pack up, clothes from me from laboring, and more, and the wet bag is an awesome way to segregate your dirties. And really, every mom needs one… great for swimming, potty accidents, and more.
Now, what to leave behind? I am basing these recommendations on my own experiences at two different local hospitals. Independent birth centers and hospitals out of the US may provide different items, so you may want to ask your care provider ahead of time. But here are items I have found are best left at home.
- diapers (yes, cloth AND disposable): the hospital will provide diapers. I love using cloth, but really, you are best leaving the cloth at home. You will likely only be at the hospital 1-3 days, and it is just one less thing to keep track of… and nurses are often NOT used to cloth diapers and that can be an issue, too. I’ve found it best just to leave the cloth at home, where I know it’s safe and no chance of being mixed in with other laundry.
- tons of baby clothes: again, you likely won’t be there long (and if you are, someone can bring more clothing). Most of the time baby is swaddled and close to you. This is not the time for a fashion show. Minimize the luggage and leave lots of outfits at home. Focus on a couple things that are easy to dress baby in.
- birth balls: check ahead of time, but most hospitals (at least in the Seattle area) do provide access to the big exercise balls for use in labor.
- pre-pregnancy jeans: seriously, just don’t. You don’t need that kind of pressure (or possible “downer”). Wear comfy clothes home: a maxi skirt or maternity yoga pants are a good choice.
What are some other items that you found were must-haves during your hospital stay? Leave a comment below to let me know, and let’s chat!
Today I am so excited (and nervous!) to introduce a personal project that is months in the planning: my new photographic series, Blessed Strength.
Blessed Strength is devoted to capturing the strength of mamas–in all its forms, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Mamas are survivors, often unsung heroes, pillars of the family, molding tiny lives and melding disparate spirits into one beautiful whole called “family,” and I am passionate about chronicling powerful examples of maternal strength right here in our community.
The series will be kicking off with three expectant mothers who all have been inspirational to me for a variety of reasons. All of them are models of strength, determination, and love, and all of them are beautiful. As the series progresses I hope to feature a variety of moms and even grandmothers, and I can’t wait to see how this series evolves in ways I don’t even foresee yet.
But for today, I am thrilled to introduce our first Blessed Strength Mama, Kristy Fassio.
Kristy is the owner–and very active participant and teacher–of several local Stroller Strides franchises. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Stroller Strides, check out Monday’s blog post for a sneak peek into a class.) After meeting Kristy at a local fair and following her Facebook feed for awhile, what I was most struck by was that, in spite of being immersed in a fitness world that is sometimes rife with tough expectations, Kristy maintains a refreshingly honest, real and positive voice of self-acceptance and health of the whole person.
I approached Kristy a few months ago with my vision of photographing her teaching a Stroller Strides class, and I told her I hoped she would agree to be my first Blessed Strength Mama. At the time she agreed, telling me that she didn’t think she had ever seen a plus-size maternity model, let alone one being active, and that she was happy to be featured.
But while it would be tempting to view my choice of Kristy as our first Mama as just a counterpoint to a fitness industry in which models are no bigger than a size 4 and even the expectant models are sporting a barely-there bump–no puffy ankles, widened hips, or stretch marks to be seen–that would be missing the real point.
I didn’t choose Kristy because I thought she should be a poster-child for active plus-size mamas; I chose her because I think she should be a model for ALL mamas.
Kristy can break out ten burpees without breaking a sweat, teach a fitness class at eight months’ pregnant, and do pushups that would put a Marine to shame, but that isn’t even touching where her real strength lies. I chose Kristy because her strength of spirit is so immense.
One thing I love about Kristy is that she freely admits that self-love and self-care is at times a struggle, and I think all of us mamas can relate to that. We all have some demons, those nagging little voices that whisper their little lies that we aren’t good enough in some way. But what makes Kristy so strong is that she acknowledges how hard it is to face those demons, and then she blasts them away with a rocket launcher. Kristy is careful to emphasize that the journey to being a strong mama isn’t about reaching a certain size, or BMI, or even completing a half-marathon (which she has, by the way), but it’s about learning to love the person you are RIGHT NOW, not the one you hope to be “someday.” And along the way, she helps other mamas to recognize their own strength as well.
As I hope the images below show, Kristy shines. Even as merely an acquaintance, I can say that knowing Kristy has made me feel stronger and more empowered, and I can only imagine that her lucky friends and Stroller Strides pupils are that much more benefitted by having such a strong, powerful voice in their lives.
Kristy, thank you for trusting me to tell your story. You are full of Blessed Strength indeed.
This project is a real outpouring of my heart. I don’t usually ask for blog comments, but if the Blessed Strength project resonates with you, please tell me how it speaks to you. And if you know a strong mama, please let me know! I am hoping to grow this project throughout the upcoming months.
I had the honor of photographing the S family as they await the arrival of their newest blessing, little Molly. This mama will always hold a special place in my heart, because she was one of the people who encouraged me to pursue photography as a business, so much so that she signed up for her maternity session months ago!
This couple is so sweet to each other; the love between them is so beautiful. Their faith and love for one another were obvious even during our short session, and I think those feelings are palpable even in their images! The weather wasn’t being very cooperative, but we didn’t let that stop us–we moved inside, where we captured some great pictures on the stairs… and these stairs are particularly important since these two just finished rebuilding them from the ground up themselves! I love the idea that this family will have pictures that capture the beginning of their family, right in the same house that Dad grew up in and that they are working to make special for their own little ones.
Just a few of my favorites…
One of my favorites… I love photographing couples, and ones on the cusp of such a joyous moment are particularly rewarding!
Smiles of expectancy
the sweetest baby bump