We didn’t exactly plan to have two kids right in the middle of wedding season. I was definitely going to be one of those photographers who gave birth in January and went back to work in May. God’s timing is perfect, and He had other plans. While pregnant with Audrey (born in July 2015) and Ryan (born in May 2017), I photographed 34 weddings, including one four days before giving birth and one four days after giving birth! These are things I simply could not have done out of my own strength.
Over the next five weeks, I will be sharing a post every Monday centered around pregnancy and motherhood as a small business owner. Even though I am a little nervous to open up about something so personal, it is a topic I have felt God calling me to write about for the last few years. My hope is that whether you are pregnant, considering starting a family, or have kiddos running around, you will find encouragement through my personal testimony. God draws close to us through big life changes, gives us strength when we are weak, and listens to the quiet desire of our heart.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Our Family, July 2017
Welcome to the beginning of this five week series! Over the next few weeks, I am hoping to dive into:
Week 1: Finding Out I’m Pregnant + Telling My Couples
WHY I AM SHARING MY STORY
I have wanted to write this series for a long time. When I got pregnant with Audrey, I am pretty sure I googled “pregnant wedding photographer” 100 different ways, trying to find stories or testimonials of other women who had gone from having a “business baby” to an actual baby. I knew big changes were in store, but I was completely unsure of how to navigate them. I normally book weddings a year, to a year and a half in advance. When I got pregnant with Audrey, I had eight weddings closely surrounding my due date. How long would I be able to shoot weddings before giving birth? When could I go back afterwards? Would I be able to effectively run my business as a new mom? What would this look like? These are all questions I had and I wasn’t sure where to search for the answers.
This is when I began to hear God’s quiet, encouraging voice. “Share your story. Share what I am doing in your life.”
I believe we all have a God story. A story where God has shown up in a big way. A time when we have felt Him draw close. For me, God worked in miraculous ways in both of my pregnancies. He gave me His strength, and strengthened my faith.
I have been nervous to share my story for a while now. I think I was most worried about what my couples would think. After all, my pregnancies did involve many of them. I wanted to be sensitive to their feelings, even though each and every couple was nothing but supportive! I think I was nervous about being so vulnerable as well, about telling my whole story, even the hard parts.
I also never wanted to come across as knowing it all, or imply that my way is the only way. I want to make it clear that this is just my story. How I approach pregnancy and motherhood as a small business owner may not be the perfect way for you. I encourage you to pray about what is going on in your life, and ask God what is right for you and your family. He always answers, and His advice is better than any I could give.
That being said, I hope you find encouragement in my story. I hope it makes you feel a little less alone. Most importantly, I hope you see the love, faithfulness, and strength of our Heavenly Father in my transition into this wonderful role of motherhood.
TWO PINK LINES
I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with Audrey. My husband Matt and I had been trying, and I decided on a whim to take a pregnancy test. I was on the phone with my friend Mekina at the time. I remember happily chatting away, having no idea my life was about to completely change. I put the test on the windowsill, picking it up only moments later to see two pink lines. My heart rate quickened, and I felt excited, nervous, and unsure of what to do first! I couldn’t contain such big news, and actually ended up telling Mekina on the phone, asking her advice on how to tell Matt. That night, I brought home three tiny Yankees onesies, along with a book called “From Dude to Dad”. We celebrated together, tried to do the math, and realized I would be giving birth sometime in the beginning of July. I started jumping up and down, so excited that I had no weddings that month, at the moment oblivious to the fact that having five weddings one month before, and three the month after could be an issue.
Things started to sink in after our first visit to the OBGYN. After confirming I was in fact pregnant, I begin to rattle off a whole list of questions, a few important ones to me being how long before giving birth could I continue to shoot weddings, and when could I go back to work. My doctor explained it was different for everyone, but if I was healthy, I could possibly work up until giving birth. She also mentioned that giving birth vaginally usually lead to a faster recovery than a cesarean birth. I left feeling excited, but still unsure about whether or not I would physically be fine to shoot the weddings closely surrounding my due date.
WHY I STILL WANTED TO PHOTOGRAPH THE WEDDINGS CLOSE TO MY DUE DATE
If you know me well, you know how much I care about my couples and how much I LOVE weddings. My dad makes fun of me because I have told him “this is my favorite couple” more times than I can count. “You say that about EVERY couple,” he quickly reminds me…and it is true. The thought of not being able to photograph a wedding I had committed to made me sick. I remember being six weeks pregnant with Audrey and crying so hard to Matt in our room about my fear of not being able to be at each one that I actually threw up. I was so excited about the fact that we were growing our family, but absolutely terrified about how pregnancy would affect my business. It was a low point for me, and I simply felt out of control.
PRAYING FOR ANSWERS…AND GETTING THEM!
I knew something needed to change. After all, I didn’t want to go through the next nine months feeling this way. Earlier that year, while attending SPARK, my friend Caroline had talked about asking God specific questions when we prayed. So often my conversations were one sided, me praying and not taking the time to pause and listen to what God had to say back. I wanted to give it a try, so I went to take a shower (totally the best quiet place to think) and prayed. I told God how thankful I was for our sweet baby, but confessed how fearful I was about not having clarity on how long I would be able to work while pregnant, and when I would be able to go back to shooting weddings after giving birth. I began praying about each individual wedding date closely surrounding my due date, and was so surprised by what I heard. As I prayed about each individual date, I started to hear the tender voice of Jesus talking back in my head. I knew it was Him because His words were so gentle, yet clear. They were filled with love, and did not sound like words that would come to mind while thinking about the situation myself. As I prayed about each date, I felt a great peace about May 29th, May 30th, June 12th, and June 19th. Audrey was due July 2nd. When I asked God if I would be able to shoot these weddings, I felt him gently reassure me with a YES. When I prayed about June 20th, I did not feel confirmation either way, but it didn’t feel like a no. When I prayed about June 27th, I started to see pictures form in my head. I saw myself sitting in a rocking chair, holding a little baby wrapped in a pink blanket. I was only six weeks pregnant with Audrey, and I felt like God was showing me that I would be having a little girl. I felt God say I would not be able to shoot this wedding, and as hard as it was, I chose to trust Him.
This was the breakthrough I had been looking for! Even though I didn’t have all the answers, I felt like I could contact my couples with more confidence. I wasn’t relying on my own understanding or advice I had gotten from others anymore. I was relying on God. I had faith that what He told me was true, and peace about the fact that He was close by my side. Now, it was time to form a plan.
COMING UP WITH A PLAN
I had eight weddings closely surrounding my due date of July 2nd. A double header the last week of May, four weddings in June, and two in August. In my mind, there were two options.
- Give back the deposit and help the couple find another photographer.
- Photograph the wedding.
The thought of giving back all of these deposits terrified me. Not only would I have to return thousands of dollars, I would forgo the final payment. God has always taken care of our family, and I had faith he would take care of us during this time. Still, the possibility of this financial stress worried me.
I began praying about another option, a way for me to still be a part of these beautiful wedding days if I were physically able.
Since I had already prayed about my wedding dates, and God had answered (showing me which ones I would be able to do, and which ones I would not) I felt comfortable offering my couples this option.
If I was physically able and the couple was okay with it, I would photograph their wedding along two other incredible photographers. If I were to go into labor or give birth within a few days of their wedding, my team would take over for me! My second photographer would take the lead, and my third photographer would step in as the second shooter. I would still edit all of the images and deliver the couple’s wedding album.
I knew that if this option was going to work, I needed to have a strong team in place before contacting my couples. I wanted them to know and feel comfortable with who would be photographing their day if I was not there. I also wanted my team to be the same for all of the weddings closely surrounding my due date. With Audrey, I reached out to two super talented photographers from our Christian photographers small group SPARK, Sidney Morgan and Kristy Timms. Both ladies were free for all of the weddings I hoped to shoot at nine months pregnant, and agreed to commit to shooting with me seven months in advance. This meant a lot to me, because it meant they were giving up the opportunity to potentially book the date themselves. Sidney and Kristy owned their own businesses as well. I did offer to pay more for these weddings, 2x the amount I would normally pay to the first shooter if I was able to shoot the wedding alongside them, and 3x the amount if I was not there, as they would have to take on the main shooter role in this case. I offered to pay my third shooter the same fee I would normally pay my second shooter, whether I was there or not. When all was said and done, the majority of my final payment from the couple would go towards the cost of outsourcing my editing and paying my team. This was totally okay with me as it allowed me to keep the initial deposit. In many cases, I had already photographed the couple’s engagement session and I would be delivering the final gallery and all products.
WHEN + HOW I DECIDED TO TALK TO MY COUPLES ABOUT MY PREGNANCY
I decided to wait until after my 12 week ultrasound to talk to my couples. I wanted to make sure everything was going well with our pregnancy before sharing the news. It was also important to me to talk to my couples before telling many of my friends or sharing on social media. This was mainly because I wanted my couples to hear the news from me first. Besides our families, my couples were some of the first people to find out Matt and I were pregnant!
I wasn’t sure what my couples would think, but I knew it was time to contact those with weddings one month before my and one month after my due date. I wanted to let them know what was going on and give them a choice. I offered to stay on as their photographer (with a solid team in place if I could not be there) or to refund their deposit and help them find another photographer to capture their day.
I decided to call each couple on the phone instead of sending an email. I didn’t want them to think I was taking the fact that I might not be able to be there on their wedding lightly. I had committed to photographing their beautiful day and wanted so badly to still be a part of it. I knew I would be able to communicate this more clearly over the phone. I made sure to call in the evening or schedule a time to talk when they would both be together.
MAKING THE CALLS
Before making each phone call, I went up to my office, put on worship music (I love Bethel Live on Pandora) and prayed. I asked for courage, as I was extremely nervous about how they would feel and what they would say. I asked for grace in their responses. I asked that I would be able to clearly communicate my desire to still be a part of their wedding day along with my excitement for the pregnancy. Most importantly, I asked for God’s will to be done in the situation. I wanted each couple to feel free to make a decision they felt comfortable with, the one that worked best for them. Feeling God’s peace wash over me, I picked up my phone and made the calls.
The responses of my couples completely blew me away. Each one congratulated me. Each one responded with kindness. Each one chose to have me stay on as a part of their wedding day. Tears of joy streamed down my face after every conversation. Their trust in me was so encouraging and I felt like I had been given a wonderful gift in still having the opportunity to be a part of their day. God drew close to me and I was so incredibly thankful.
In faith, I did tell the couple whose wedding was a few days before my due date that I did not think I would be able to stay on as their photographer. When I was praying, I felt in my heart God tell me I was not going to be able to shoot this wedding and I wanted to be faithful and honest about what I had heard. I also came to them with two options. The first was a full refund of their deposit (even though I had already photographed their engagement session) and the offer to help them find another photographer to capture their day. The second was to have my best friend and talented photographer Mekina Saylor take the lead as the main shooter, my close friend Caroline Frost (who actually charged more than me at the time) take on the role as second shooter, and the amazing Asher Gardner come along as a third. I would still edit all of the images and deliver their full gallery, and they would be fully taken care of with an incredibly talented team on their wedding day. This couple chose the second option, trusting the team I had put together and giving me the opportunity to still be a small part of their day. I was so grateful!!!
SHARING THE NEWS WITH EVERY COUPLE I HAD BOOKED
After talking to all of my couples who had weddings one month before my due date and one month after, I drafted an email to send out to every other couple I had booked for the year. I attached our pregnancy announcement photo, sharing the exciting news and letting them know this would not affect their wedding day. Feel free to check out the email I sent out right before Christmas!
Hi (bride + groom),
I hope you both are doing well and enjoying the holiday season! I wanted to share the exciting news that my husband and I are expecting and will have a little one joining our family in July! This should in no way affect your wedding, I might just be sporting a little baby bump while capturing your beautiful day. 🙂 I am attaching our Christmas card below! I hope you both enjoy a wonderful holiday with family and friends and I look forward to seeing you soon!
I emailed this out the day before I shared the news on social media. I didn’t want any of my couples to see my pregnancy announcement and worry if I would be able to be there for their special day.
Now the secret was out, I finally felt like I could celebrate! A huge weight was lifted off me in being able to share the good news! Now all I had to do was wait for this sweet baby to grow and see what God had in store.
I hope you will tune in for the rest of my story in the coming weeks! Over the next four Mondays, I hope to share:
Week 2: What Photographing Weddings Pregnant Was Like for Me
Week 3: Photographing a Wedding Four Days Before Giving Birth and Four Days After
Week 4: Going Back to Work Post Birth
Week 5: Managing It All
If you are enjoying this series or have any questions you would like me to answer, please let me know! I would love to hear from you! Thanks for taking the time to read my novel of a post and HAPPY MONDAY!
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31