GOING BACK TO WORK AFTER GIVING BIRTH

Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to him be the glory. Ephesians 3:20

Motherhood is such a joy, but I didn’t expect it to be so hard.  I honestly went into it with the mentality that I would just figure things out as I went, completely naive to the challenges that lay ahead. I am so thankful that God is able to do so much more than we ask or even think.  More strength. More hope. More power. More joy. More is ours when we put our faith in Him.  We do not have to have all the answers.  We do not have to go through this exciting and challenging journey alone.

I didn’t think much about how having a newborn would change my business.  I was honestly so focused on getting through all of the weddings I hoped to photograph while pregnant, and the overwhelming excitement of meeting our little girl, that I didn’t put much thought into how my day to day life would change.  When I did stop to consider it, most of my thoughts centered around when I would physically be ready to photograph a wedding after giving birth.

When I would edit, when I would schedule my client meetings and engagement sessions, how I would find time to pump and keep up my milk supply on a wedding day, these were questions that quickly arose after Audrey was born!  I want to talk through my biggest challenges in running a small business while raising a newborn, with the hope that some part of my experience will encourage or resonate with you!

Balancing A New Life

When I brought Audrey home from the hospital, I had maybe slept 12 hours in the past four days.  I was so tired!  I pride myself on being able go on little sleep, but even I was completely exhausted!  I had photographed five weddings right before giving birth, and had one coming up in three weeks.  Needless to say, I was worried about finding the time to edit them all.  In my head, I pictured working happily at my desk with a cup of coffee and Audrey sleeping soundly beside me in her rock in play.  In reality, I couldn’t have much coffee because I was nursing every 2-3 hours, 24 hours a day. When Audrey did fall asleep on me, I was unable to move from the couch in fear of waking her up.  “Couch Island” I called it.  I was starving all the time, came home from the hospital with 25 pounds of baby weight still on me, and had a complete break down in front of my father in law when I tried on my biggest pair of sweat pants, and they didn’t fit.  Y’all, I literally wore my hospital gown on the couch at home for the first two days.  My poor husband must have thought I was loosing my mind.  In a way, I was.  I had expected to have the time and energy to run my business in the same way I had before, and felt overwhelmed when I realized balancing it all was going to be much harder than I thought.  I began to pray for help in putting together a new schedule that would allow me to be a great mama and a good business owner as well.

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  – 2 Peter 1:3

After the first few weeks, I started to feel more like myself again.  I allowed myself one cup of coffee a day, which definitely helped!  I started getting to know Audrey’s schedule and began to plan for times to edit and answer emails.  I realized Audrey liked to sleep on me, so I purchased this nesting days wrap.  It allowed for the skin to skin contact I had heard was so important, and Audrey would nap in it for 3-4 hours at a time!  I would nurse her to sleep in the wrap, put on a romantic movie, and tackle my inbox or editing for the day.  It really was the best feeling!  When I could successfully transfer her to the rock in play, I would, but found she didn’t sleep as long or as well as she did on me.  I obviously didn’t have as much time to work as I did before giving birth, but I was slowly but surely checking things off my to do list.

A few other things I found helpful in transitioning to my new schedule that first month:

The Boppy– I actually attempted to nurse on the boppy pillow and cull after Audrey went to sleep on it.  It worked, but was not super comfortable.  Many times I would find myself wide awake and culling at 4am in the morning!

The Nesting Days Wrap– A great baby wearing option for skin to skin!

The Rock in Play– I would put Audrey down in it by my desk and get to work!

The Jump Jump–  I started using this with Audrey around 5 months!  I would put her in it, turn on little baby bum songs, and have my coffee and answer emails in the kitchen.  Audrey loved jumping, and I could usually get a good 30 minutes of work in before she wanted to get out.

Long drives-  Audrey slept great in her car seat.  I would drive 20 minutes to my favorite coffee shop, just enough time for Audrey to go to sleep.  I would then put her in the stroller and work at Drip for a few hours!

Anthropolgie candles-  I lit them on the living room table right by my frequent nursing spot on couch island. These honestly just made me happy when I was feeling overwhelmed.

A pumping bra–  A hands free pumping bra allowed me to cull, edit, or answer emails while I pumped.  Since my first wedding back was three weeks after giving birth to Audrey, I started to pump and store my milk pretty much right away.  I love the Kindle system and Medela pump!

Grace- There were many times I was just too tired to pull out my computer and work.  If I was feeling this way, I chose to simply enjoy my baby snuggles with Audrey.  After all, this sweet time is too short.

Photographing Those First Few Weddings Back

That first wedding back after giving birth was the scariest.  I made sure to bring on a solid team of two amazing photographers in addition to myself for the first few weddings.  I wanted to make sure I could step out and pump when I needed to, knowing the weddings were still being beautifully captured.  I highly recommend bringing along at least one other photographer if you know you will need to step away and pump during a wedding day!  In the first couple of months after giving birth, I would try to pump twice during the wedding, once right before the ceremony and once right after the first dances and toasts.  When Audrey and Ryan were 6 months old I started pumping only once on a wedding day.  This is when I introduced food into their diets. My milk supply dropped slightly, making it less uncomfortable to go longer without pumping.  I would also pump right before the wedding started and when I got home afterwards to keep up my supply.

Most of the time I would pump in the car with this car power inverter, or in a private office at the venue.  Bridal suite bathrooms are also usually pretty empty during certain parts of the night and are great options!  I was surprised by how many venues were so accommodating to the fact I needed to pump.  If I asked, most of them would let me use a private bathroom or private office.  I usually tried to approach and ask women who looked like they could be moms.  I honestly just thought they would be the most empathetic to my needs!  One venue said I could use the pool house to pump as no one ever went in there.  There were windows in the shed, so I positioned myself near a closet just in case.  When I saw someone start to come it, I quickly opened the closet door and stepped in to hide myself.  Moments later, the door was ripped open and a bewildered old man started apologizing profusely and backing away.  I am pretty sure he thought two teenagers were making out in the closet.  🙂  It was definitely a little embarrassing and this prompted me to start pumping in the car whenever I couldn’t find a private enough place.

Another important thing I had to consider was what to wear to the first weddings back after giving birth.  They say it usually takes 9 months to gain your baby weight, and nine months or more to loose it.  This has been pretty true for me!  My old shooting dresses didn’t fit yet, so I invested in a few “tweener dresses” to get me through this season.  I made sure they fit well and that it was easy to pump or nurse in them.  Dresses that buttoned in the front were the best!

A few other things I found helpful in shooting those first few weddings back:

Great help!  I am so thankful my husband has agreed to watch the kids while I am photographing weddings on the weekend.  I know it is not easy to take care of one kid, let alone two, but he tackles the job with enthusiasm!  When Matt is not watching the kids, his mom and dad (who live about an hour away) offer to help out.  They frequently post pictures of the kids to our shared folder, and they pop up on my apple watch on the wedding day. It is reassuring to know they are happy and in good hands.

A Nursing Bag-  I always pack a nursing bag with my pump, car adaptor, kindle bags, and a cooler with ice for storing the milk.  This makes it easy to access everything quickly on the wedding day.

A Third Photographer- A third photographer for those first few weddings really does make pumping breaks easier.

Outsourcing + Prioritizing

Since I had less time to work while raising a newborn, I began to outsource the tasks that could save me some time.  I send off my images to be color corrected by ShootDotEdit, and it saves me so much time in editing.

When you do have limited time to work, I recommend making a list of the top three tasks you need to get done that day, and then tackling those first.  For example, if I really needed to deliver a gallery, I save emails until the end of the day or the next morning. Checking the most important tasks off my list always feels like such a win!

Client Meetings + Engagement Sessions

The hardest things to find time for as a new mom were client meetings and engagement sessions.  I was used to being able to travel to my couples for initial meetings and get together at a time most convenient for them.  Nursing made this a little more difficult!  I started offering client meetings on weeknights at 8pm at the Starbucks less than a mile from my house.  The kids are usually in bed by this time and Matt is home and able to take over in case either of them wakes up.  If the couple is not able to travel to me, I suggest a FaceTime or phone call first!  I usually schedule these weeknights after the kids have gone to bed as well. Setting aside time for client meetings got a whole lot easier once the kids started sleeping through the night.  If you are still in the thick of those first few months or going through the four month sleep regression, God bless you.

Before having kids, I offered engagement sessions primarily on weekday afternoons only.  Now I try to shoot on the weekend if at all possible.  This is simply because Matt is home to take care of the kids on the weekends.  If I do need to shoot an engagement session on a weekday, I will hire a sitter.  I am looking forward to talking more about finding great help next week.  I truly couldn’t run my business effectively without help!

Dealing with Sleep Deprivation

To be totally honest, sleep deprivation was and is my biggest challenge as a new mom.  There are simply not enough hours in the day!  When I am not able to get all of my work done while the sun is up, I try to tackle it at night. Every single post in this series was written somewhere between the hours of 11pm-3am.  I have truly learned to love the quiet of late nights.  I will also edit and answer emails (to be sent out the next morning) after the kids have gone to bed as well.  If I do stay up late one night I try to go to bed early the next night, just so I don’t completely wear myself out.

One thing that has been difficult for me is feeling guilty about the time I spend working in the evening instead of hanging out with Matt.  We may be sitting side by side on the couch, but if I have my computer on my lap, I know I am not being as present as I would like to be.  As much as I love my business, I often try to keep in mind what is most important: God, my husband, and my family. My day completely changes for the better if I am able to spend time in the word and in prayer in the morning.  I usually try to do this during Ryan’s first nap.  Recently, I have been trying to have dinner and watch a show or chat with Matt before pulling out my computer.  This usually causes me to stay up a little later, but the time we get to spend together makes it worth it.  If you have any suggestions or personal success stories on how to balance family/husband time with work time, I would love to hear them!

Being Honest With Yourself About What You Want the Future to Look Like 

One final thought.  I think it is important to be honest with yourself about how things are going and what you want your future to look like.  Going back to work as a small business owner after having a baby is hard, especially those first few months.  If you are finding your schedule hard to handle, or think you may have taken on too much, it might be time consider scaling back in the future or finding help.  Babies are only little for so long, and these precious first years should be treasured!  If you are feeling overwhelmed, take some time to pray and asked God for his strength and direction in your business. Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to him be the glory. Ephesians 3:20 God loves us.  We are his children.  He wants the best for us.  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! -Matthew 7:11

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. – Matthew 6:33

Next week is the final week of this Pregnancy and Motherhood as a Wedding Photographer series!  I will be sharing my experience/attempt in Managing it All.  I look forward to discussing childcare, balance, mom guilt, social media strategies, feeling like you are falling behind, and learning to be happy exactly where you are.  I hope you will join me!  If you would like to get caught up on this series, feel free to check out the posts below.

Week 1: Navigating Pregnancy + Motherhood As a Wedding Photographer 

Thanks again for following along!  It means so much to me!

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