Photographing a Wedding Four Days Before Giving Birth and Four Days After

When I sat down to write this series, it was most important to me not to draw attention to myself, but to bring glory to what God has done.

“I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Deuteronomy 32:3-4

Giving birth to Audrey was hard.  I was induced a week past my due date, labored for 30 hours, and had a pupps rash all over my body that made me swell so much that it was very difficult to walk.  I was a first time mom and I was in shock at how painful it actually was to give birth.  It was the hardest thing I had ever done, and even though I had read the books and talked to my friends who had gone before me, I felt completely unprepared.  I photographed my first wedding three weeks after giving birth to Audrey, and was truly just so happy I was able to be there.

Ryan was due in May, and I had weddings booked every weekend.  I wanted to be there to photograph them all, but I just didn’t see how it would be possible.  I prayed for clarity on my dates, asking God which weddings I would be able to photograph and which ones I would not.  I felt confident I heard I would be able to shoot the first two in May, (God even pointed out that these two weddings were at the same venues as the last two weddings I photographed while pregnant with Audrey).  I didn’t feel like I had clear direction either way on the last three.   When I prayed about these dates, I didn’t feel like they were a yes, but I didn’t feel like they were a no either.  This made me nervous and I was unsure about how to pray for them.  I wanted so badly to be able to shoot these weddings, but I also wanted to be faithful to God’s will.  While discussing my struggle at SPARK one week, the girls pointed out that God is always working things together for the good of those who love Him and that He genuinely cares about our desires, especially when they align with His.  My hope and desire at every wedding I photograph is to faithfully serve others in a way that brings honor and glory to God.  I want people to be drawn to the unfading light and never ending joy of Jesus that lives inside of me thanks to His Holy Spirit.  With the girls encouragement, I prayed and told God my desire to be at all of the weddings I had committed to photograph.  I asked that His will be done, and told Him I trusted Him no matter what the outcome.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” -Proverbs 16:9

If you know my story, you will know I was able to photograph EVERY SINGLE WEDDING I HAD BOOKED IN MAY!  I feel like shouting HALLELUJAH y’all!  This truly was such a wonderful GIFT!!! God not only answered my prayers, He answered with a YES and I truly felt His goodness and His LOVE.  One wedding fell four days before I gave birth to Ryan and another four days after.  I want to talk through what it was like to shoot each of these and give practical tips just in case you have weddings closely surrounding your due date too.

I know I said it in the first post, but I want to mention again that it is totally okay if you have no desire to photograph weddings anywhere close to your due date.  Having a baby is such a big deal, and it is completely normal to take the time to fully enjoy this beautiful life change.  This is just my journey, and I want to be faithful in sharing about God’s goodness, strength, and love.

 

Photographing a Wedding Four Days Before Giving Birth

I was due with Ryan May 21st and I had a wedding on May 20th.  To say I was nervous about whether or not I would be able to photograph this wedding is an understatement.  When I was still pregnant the week leading up to this wedding, I prayed everyday that Ryan would just stay inside for a little longer!  I worked from bed every chance I got thinking if I didn’t over exert myself, he would stay put!

The day of the wedding arrived and I was feeling great!  Mekina and Cassady were coming along with me (both rockstars!) and I was really looking forward to seeing this couple!  Emily and Steven are so much fun, easy going, and all around just amazing people.  I was beyond thrilled to be able to photograph their beautiful day!

I ate a big breakfast, put on my comfortable shoes, and headed into NYC to get started.  The couple got ready at the Park Hyatt hotel, we photographed their portraits in Central Park, and then headed back to the Park Hyatt for their ceremony and reception.  They had 10 hours of coverage, we walked almost five miles, and I took two breaks to rest, one before the ceremony and one during the dancing at the reception.  If I am being completely honest, I felt great throughout the entire day!  I am so thankful I was able to be there and I truly know I was not operating from my own strength.  I believe God gave me the energy to be able to photograph this wedding, and it was such a beautiful gift.

If you have a wedding close to your due date, I want to share a few practical tips on how I prepared for the day:

  • I hired two amazing photographers who had a similar styles and personalities to mine that could take over the day if needed.
  • I invested in a good pair of comfortable shoes.
  • Even though I didn’t end up wearing it, I bought this belly band for extra support just in case I needed it.  I did use this while running the Disney Princess Half Marathon at 6 months and it was so helpful!
  • I packed easy to eat snacks, like bananas, apples, and granola bars.  I stuck these in the back pockets of my shoot sac.
  • I asked my team to take over during the first dance set following all the traditions so I could put my feet up and rest.
  • I made sure I had help the following day for Audrey so I could relax and recover. 

 

My feet and back were sore after shooting!  I am normally a little sore after shooting a wedding not pregnant.  This was obviously worse, but the soreness went away after a few days.

People definitely commented on how big I looked!  I tried to respond with kindness or make a joke about it.  I knew I looked big.  I was 40 weeks pregnant!  I would laugh and say something like “this baby will be here any day now and I am so excited!”  I am sure people thought I was crazy. 🙂

While shooting any wedding pregnant, I didn’t feel the baby moving as much as I did when I was at home.  I talked to the doctors about it and they explained I would probably not notice movements and kicks as much while I was being active.  When I got home and would lie down in my bed I would start to feel movement again.  This was so comforting.

After photographing Emily and Steven’s wedding on May 20th, I stated to get excited for Lena and Steven’s wedding on May 28th.  I was scheduled to be induced on the 29th and was hoping to be able to photograph one more before giving birth.  To be completely honest, it is much easier to photograph weddings nine months pregnant than it is to photograph weddings directly following birth.  Even though I wanted Ryan to stay put, God had a better plan.

On Wednesday, May 24th I woke up around 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I realized I had an uncomfortable pain in my lower back that came every few minutes.  I didn’t go into labor naturally with Audrey and wasn’t sure what to expect.  Is this what contractions felt like?  I woke Matt up and we called the doctor.  They recommended we come to the hospital and that morning at 7am I was admitted at 4cm.  I was nervous and excited at the same time!  I was feeling great and in very little pain in comparison to my labor with Audrey.  I even felt good enough to edit in the hospital!  I labored naturally until I reached 7cm and then decided to get an epidural.  A few hours later, at 8:41pm, Ryan was born!  My sweet little baby boy!!!  It really was love at first sight.  My favorite doctor was there to deliver him, the nurse cheering me on was a Christian, and I pushed for 25 minutes to worship music!  There was no tearing this time, and relatively no pain.  The experience was completely opposite from my birth experience with Audrey!  I thanked God for this incredible gift.  He didn’t have to give me an easy birth experience, but He did.

The next day I was up and walking around in the early afternoon.  I felt good enough to go home and believed I would be capable of photographing the wedding I had that Sunday.  Mekina was in the hospital with me for both birth experiences and she admitted this delivery was completely different from mine with Audrey.  I called the couple for Sunday’s wedding to let them know I had given birth to sweet Ryan. I also shared my interest in still photographing their wedding if they were okay with it.  They were so kind and gave me the option to be there if I wanted, but told me it was fine if I couldn’t make it.  I had an amazing team in place, and they trusted either way their day would be captured beautifully!

On Friday I went home from the hospital and on Saturday I started talking to Matt, Mekina and my parents about my desire to photograph the wedding the next day.  They could see I was feeling great and that it was important to me and agreed to help make it possible.  Here is what it looked like…

Photographing a Wedding Four Days After Giving Birth

I was contracted for 14 hours this day, but communicated with the couple I felt comfortable being there for the getting ready, the portraits, and the ceremony.  After the ceremony, my team of Mekina, Jen, and Nadine would take over.  I started the day shooting with Mekina and Jen.  Nadine joined right before I left to help cover the photo booth and the reception!

My mom, Ryan and I headed into NYC together the morning of May 28th.  The couple got ready at The Mandarin Oriental, we photographed their portraits in Grand Central, the Top of the Rock, The Plaza, and in Central Park, and they had their ceremony and reception at the Boathouse.  We had three hours dedicated to portrait time, a photographers dream!

I had committed to nursing Ryan and wanted to be available whenever he needed to eat.  Since I had some experience with Audrey, I remembered at this age babies normally sleep for 3-4 hours at a time and go back to sleep shortly after feeding.  I wore my apple watch and told my mom to let me know whenever Ryan woke up and needed to nurse.  I communicated with the couple that I would need to step out to nurse Ryan a few times during the day, and when I did, Mekina would be taking the lead.  Since Mekina was taking on much more work than a normal second shooter, I offered to split the final payment with her.

I ended up nursing Ryan three times in the nine hours I was there, once at the tail end of the getting ready, once during our portrait time in Central Park, and once right before the ceremony.  It took about 30 minutes each time.  My mom stayed in the car with Ryan while he slept, driving him around to put him to sleep when she needed and keeping the car running to make sure it was cool enough throughout the entire day.  God gave me the strength to shoot this wedding, but my mom made it possible for me to be there with this selfless act.  It is hard to put into words how grateful I am!  I can’t imagine it was enjoyable to be in the car for so long, but she did it out of love for me.  Mom, thank you so much.  You are kind, selfless and generous with your time, and I know how much you love me.  You are such a good mom and I pray God will help me to love and care for Audrey and Ryan the way you and Dad have for me.

Even though I wasn’t carrying the weight of a baby in my belly anymore, I was still intentional about listening to what my body needed and resting when I had the chance.  It is recommended not to work out until you are cleared by your doctor around 6 weeks following a vaginal birth and around 8 weeks following a cesarean.  I figured if I could walk around the park at home, I could walk around on a wedding day.  I did ask my doctor if it would be okay for me to physically  photograph this wedding and she said it should be fine. If you are considering photographing a wedding shortly after giving birth, I recommend asking your doctor their thoughts as everyone has different circumstances.

Since I had just given birth to Ryan, I still looked pregnant!  It takes a while for everything to go back in the right place.  I had many guests congratulate me and ask me when I was due.  I came prepared for this, and tried to respond in the most upbeat and positive way when I told them I had actually given birth a few days ago!  People were just trying to be kind, and I tried not to take offense.

Physically, I remember it being a little more difficult to get around after giving birth.  After all, I had just pushed out a baby!  I was thankful we had so much time for portraits and for Mekina’s endless energy on the wedding day.  I went into the day with less rest than before giving birth as Ryan was up to nurse 2-3 times a night.  I knew I would be up in the middle of the night following the wedding and this was hard to wrap my head around. This being said, I was still so thankful I was able to be there to capture this incredible day!

Some Final Thoughts on Photographing Weddings Pregnant

As much as I loved being there to photograph these beautiful wedding days, it was stressful having no control over when I went into labor and gave birth.  I thought about it a lot for nine months.  I am so thankful for God’s perfect timing in Ryan’s delivery.  He truly answered my prayers and gave me the sweet gift of being able to photograph these wedding days.  If I could go back, I wouldn’t change it.  That being said, if we were going to do it all over again (although we are not planning on it!) I would attempt to be more intentional about trying to deliver in the off season.  I would shoot up until 8 months pregnant and would take a two month maternity leave.  I think this would take a lot of stress off me leading up to giving birth, and a lot of stress off my couples leading up to their wedding day.

Whew!  That was another long one!  If you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an email or reach out in the comments below.  Next week I will be talking about Going Back to Work Post Birth. If you are just joining the series and would like to get caught up, feel free to view the first two posts here:

Week 1: Navigating Pregnancy + Motherhood As a Wedding Photographer 

Thanks again for joining me!  Have a wonderful day!

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