My Breastfeeding Journey

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The first time that my husband,Dave,  placed Broden on my chest and I tried to feed him, he latched immediately.  I remember feeling incredulous that it had gone so well, and looking at Dave and seeing the same thoughts written on his face. I hoped that future feeds would always be like this.  Throughout your pregnancy,  everyone asks if you are going to breastfeed – and although I had been determined that I was going to, I have to admit that I was a little scared that I wasn’t going to get it right.  I realise that we were incredibly fortunate and that not everyone’s experience is as straightforward or easy.

 

Those early days were filled with awe.  I spent hours just watching my baby.  I watched him feed, sleep, and slowly start to make sense of this new environment.  Most wondrous of all though was the breastfeeding. Neither Broden nor I had ever breastfed before and yet somehow – somehow – we figured this out together. Nature is truly incredible. My son,  probably not even an hour old, and who did not even have a name yet, knew instinctively that I belonged to him. An indescribable moment – one of so many that day.   Although breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, it is as much an instinct for survival as it is a passage into motherhood.  I noticed that almost every muscle in Broden’s little body seemed to be involved in the process of extracting milk, and it seemed to take all his energy.

 

When Broden was about four months old, a friend asked if I was finding the night feeds lonely at all.  This was the first time that this thought had crossed my mind, and I recall laughing it off saying something like ‘no, the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, I’m enjoying all the extra cuddles’.

 

Bu then I thought about it.

 

It wasn’t the novelty.

 

It was the quality of the support I was receiving.

 

I have a husband who is a rarity (I’m keeping him!). Often, if Dave heard Broden wake up for a night feed, he would tell me to relax, and he would get up and bring him to me. Even if Dave went to sleep straight away, it didn’t matter.  I felt like I was a part of a team, and definitely not alone in this journey. I was sometimes lucky enough to get a glass of water delivered or even a cup of tea.

 

To be honest, that is one of the main reasons that I have been able to breastfeed for this long.  I cannot emphasise the importance of a supportive partner enough. Apart from Dave, I had other support as well.  My mom breastfed all of us, so it never seemed like a strange concept.  I have family and friends that have breastfed, so I have been  surrounded by positive role models as well as advice when required.  Because as amazing as your partner is, it’s the first time he’s supporting a breastfeeding mom as well.  We don’t all have all the answers the first time we do something.  So when you are wondering why you are thirsty when you breastfeed, or are not sure which breast pads are the right ones to buy, it’s good to have people to phone.

 

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Although our breastfeeding journey has been relatively easy,  there have been some challenges. When Broden refused to take a bottle (after two and a half months of trying), Dave asked me if it was worth the tears. I assume he meant mine – throwing away expressed milk is a soul-destroying business.  We re-evaluated our diaries.  For a couple of months, Dave and I planned our shoots around each other, so that we could both attend my shoots with Broden.  I would shoot until Broden needed me, and then Dave and I would swop the camera for the baby, without affecting the client at all.  I got to feel as though I was still contributing and had not turned my back on my work, and I could still be a mom. If Dave could not be there, my folks came.  ‘Bottled at source’ was not good enough for Broden, he wanted to go direct. I’m so glad that we were able to make it work.

 

I realise that I have been incredibly lucky with my support structure.  If I had not had the encouragement and support  – or I was in a different career, breastfeeding for this long may never have been an option

 

About this Shoot:

I understand that not everyone will see the point of a breastfeeding shoot. I myself was a little dubious, but having come this far,  I wanted something to document this time of my life, as I may never get it again. I decided I would rather have the shoot than spend years wondering how it would have looked if I had done it.  The photos could stay on a hard drive if I did not like them, but once breastfeeding is done, it is done.  You can never go back and get it.

 

To put things into perspective, I am very uncomfortable being photographed.  As it turns out,  I did not have much of a chance to think about it.  We were driving through Clarens, and found a spot on the side of the road.  So while Dave was setting up, I was trying to put on some make-up, change and get Broden ready.  We kind of knew that we may try and do the shoot, but spoke more about the possibility of it not happening.  We are both photographers, so there’s ‘always tomorrow’ – possibly one of the reasons that it took us so long to get around to doing this shoot.

 

At the end of the day, how the shoot happened is not important.  What is important is that it did happen.

 

For me, it was important to capture the bonding.  There is so much eye contact with breastfeeding, and there are the laughs. There is the learning.  I have watched my little Noo grow from only being able to suckle, progressing to trying to squeeze my boobs while he sucks to get more out.  As he got older, his challenge was to stay on the boob while also checking out his surroundings.  He learned the parts of the face by pointing at my eyes etc while he fed, and I would say the word for him.  Even when his words were not yet there, he could show you where any part of his face was if you asked.  Over all the time spent together, we have  learned to read each other.

 

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Apart from capturing the bonding,  this shoot forms part of my #documentyourlife campaign which I am launching for the year ahead.  Having a little one has made me realise that while you should not live your life entirely through a lens, we have to consciously make an effort to document more moments in our lives.  One day, your kids will want to see photographs of you with them at various points in their lives.  It is so important.  With that in mind, I shall be running a couple of mini-shoot promotions throughout the year to ensure that more memories are recorded for everybody.

 

This post has been done as a tribute to #nationalbreastfeedingweek.  So while I am here, I would just like to share some tips to anyone wondering how best to support a breastfeeding mom:

 

The first tip is water!  Most moms get thirsty when breastfeeding.  So often, in their rush to look after their baby first, moms forget about that glass of water.  I have been fortunate that every time that I have been at  my folks or sister-in-law’s places, someone has brought through some water as soon as they realise that I am feeding.  I have always been so grateful for this.  It may seem small, but it is a big thing when you are unable to get up yourself, and will mean that world to that mom.

 

My next point applies to all new moms generally, whether they are breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or just need to change a nappy at some point.  If you are hosting a new mom in your house, please take a second to let her know where she can go for some quiet time if the baby needs it.  While all moms will  fit in and try their best not to inconvenience anyone, the reality is that the entertainment areas in a house can get noisy.  This can lead to babies becoming over-stimulated. When this happens, it is nice to know that there is somewhere you can go without interrupting a busy hostess to ask.

 

At 18 months, I can see that our breastfeeding journey is coming to an end. Broden is drinking less and taking more of an interest in ‘real’ food.  While I never thought that I would breastfeed for this long, I am glad that we have made it this far.  I am, however, excited for the next chapter, while holding excellent memories of our very special times of this season together..

 

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Bianca & Brian’s Homebirth

A celebration; that moment when life begins.

 

From the time a woman knows that she is pregnant, everything changes.  The way she looks at the world, the way she works  – nothing is left to chance anymore.  Decisions are thought through more carefully, and much consideration is given to the all-important birth plan. While it is a given that a mom may not always get the birth plan she hopes for, Bianca and Brian are proof that sometimes, if you plan properly, you can get exactly what you wanted.

 

Bianca and I bonded at a networking meeting – Hello Boss Creative.   It was here that she first mentioned the idea of having her birth photographed.  I have to admit I felt quite honoured to even be up for consideration.  It is usually a private moment and would be my first birth shoot that I would photograph.  Actually, I’m not sure that the word ‘honoured’ describes it accurately enough.

 

Meeting with the birth team the week before the birth really helped.  I had a chance to find out exactly what was happening, and also find out what my parameters were. This is important, because at the end of the day, although your job is primarily documentary, it really helped to chat to the team and discuss lighting conditions etc.   With any shoot, preparation is key, so this was not a meeting that I would have missed for anything.

 

Bianca completely took ownership of her labour. When I arrived, she was already in the birthing pool, rocking around as each contraction hit.  She made it look so easy. She would just stop talking for a bit and then carry on as normal once each contraction had passed. An absolute pro.

 

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While her hubby, Brian, filled the bath with water in the beginning, the doula did some massage. When things got intense, Brian stepped in, holding Bianca throughout all of the tough contractions, never leaving her side once.  I have some beautiful pictures of his hands on Bianca’s lower back, and one of my favourites is a picture where you can see Bianca’s face with just part of Brian’s face.  Right there, kissing her head,  and just being the best support that he could be.

 

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I was impressed with how well Bianca managed her pain and overall labour.  There was no Hollywood-style screaming.  If there was ever a birth that needed to be filmed with the sole purpose of eliminating fear in first-time moms, this was have been the birth to film.

 

I couldn’t believe how privileged I was to witness such a special moment.  The contractions increased in intensity, the humming got louder… and then Ayla appeared.  It was one of the most beautiful events to behold.

 

For me, it was lovely to see the emotion on Bianca’s face, and be there when they found out that it was a little girl.

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This was the first birth that I was fortunate enough to photograph. I had no idea how long  it would take or how everything would pan out.  I was scared that I would get in the midwife’s way.   As it turns out, Bianca popped out a baby in less time than it takes the average family to get ready for school in the morning!  I arrived at her place at about 10pm….and if I remember correctly, little Ayla made her appearance at about 11:10 pm.   Her total labour time was about 5 hours. Bianca’s birth team were so professional, and allowed me freedom of movement….I think that we all worked quite well together.

 

I chose my words carefully when I used the words ‘eliminate fear’ earlier.  Too many women are seen as targets once they are pregnant, and find themselves listening to every terrifying birth story out there. Add to that the way labour is represented in your average movie or sitcom, and you realise that there are very few positive birth experience stories that can prepare women for their own birth.  Ante-natal classes help, but not everyone chooses to pursue this avenue.

 

Ayla entered this world in the calmest and most peaceful environment.  Mom got to relax surrounded by her whole family that night. Bianca had the birth that she wanted and had prepared for, and that is the most important outcome.  While a home birth may not be for everyone, if you are considering it, this is the story to pay attention to.

 

This is not the story of just one birth though.  It is a triumph after many losses.  Ayla is unquestionably one of the most wanted babies in the world… but I am going to place a link to her blog page and let Bianca share those stories.

 

A day or so later, I had a friend request on FB… The message said ‘I figured you’ve seen me naked, so we should probably be facebook friends lol’.

 

Love this lady’s sense of humour!  I’ll include a link to her blog here:

https://thebsquirt.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/rainbow-baby-2-0-labour-birth-story/

 

 

 

 

The Beginnings Season

The Beginnings Season

Well!  I have finally done it!

 

This is ‘The Beginnings’ Season for me.

 

Although I have run my own successful photography business for a number of years, I have not really focussed much on the social media aspect.

 

This changes today.

 

I am at the starting point for understanding Instagram, Facebook and all the rest.  While I have written  blog posts in the past, I have decided to to start an official, dedicated blog site while I am starting with everything else.

I envisage doing a blog that combines my photography with my lifestyle and thoughts as well as my business interests.  At the end of the day, people do business with people, not just businesses.  The more we can all know about each other, the more confident we can be when investing in other people’s lives and supporting their businesses.

I do not regard a lifestyle as being separate from a business such as photography.  Being in a creative field means that what is happening in my life informs my work, and vice-versa.

 

From shoots, to lifestyle to personal observations….it will all be here.  I’m quite excited to see how it all pans out.