Wow… how life has changed since my last blog post… how life has changed since a week ago.
In the State of California we are on self quarantine orders as everyone knows. As a Photographer this means I’m out of work. All of our team events have been rescheduled for the next two months, possibly longer if people don’t STAY HOME AND FOLLOW THE RULES! I have personally COMPLETELY lost 3 events I was supposed to photograph because clients rescheduled to dates that I’m booked elsewhere.
There’s a big part of me that wants to go off about people who need to stay home and abide by the Quarantine orders… but I just don’t want to get negative right now. So instead, I’ll share what’s going on in La Casa De Shraders.
As I mentioned before, I’m out of work. Thankfully my husband is not, but he is on work from home orders…. which is nice! There’s no commute 🙂 and our sweet daughter gets to go knock on the office window every morning when she wakes up and get kisses and hugs from her daddy.
We don’t have our babysitter coming right now, or our house keeper (first world problems, am I right?) – because we are trying to play by all the rules. YOU GUYS – I’m not even visiting my Mom or my sister and that is TORTURE. That’s what a rule follower I am! I am reluctantly cancelling my baby girls first birthday party… but she’ll party with Mom and Dad 🙂 She wont remember that she didn’t get to have her party… only we will.
Although I can’t photograph, and have zero dollars coming in, I still have to answer clients and deal with reschedules… I want to stay on top of blogging and business planning so we can jump right back in… but it’s all very hard to do without a babysitter. So when my husband is off work, he takes over and I try to get a little work done every day. During my daughters naps, I clean the house, prep our meals, shower, and if I get a few minutes to sit down and breathe… I try that too 🙂 When she’s awake I chase her around the house, up and down the stairs, we take walks through our neighborhood a couple of times a day, we snuggle, we giggle, and we just enjoy our time together.
I am SUPER thankful for technology during this crazy time. FaceTime chats and virtual cocktail hours with friends makes this all a lot less daunting. If you haven’t done that yet you should!!
I hope that you are all keeping your hands clean and staying home. We are all in this together… let’s be a part of the solution, not the problem. Stay home no matter how strong your immune system is, or how little of a threat this seems to be to YOU as an individual. Remember that all it takes is you touching one thing that someone who is not so fortunate touches… you can still spread it even if you don’t know you have it. BE SAFE. BE KIND. STAY HOME.
Until we can shoot again… Enjoy one of my last couple of engagement sessions before the Quarantine:
I look forward to photographing and CELEBRATING when this is all over.
Stay healthy my friends.
I literally cannot believe I have a walking 10 1/2 month old already. She’s no pro of course, but she’s on her way very quickly. A little too quickly. Part of me is SO thrilled to watch every milestone, but a little piece of my heart breaks along with that thrill because it’s just moving too fast. I am loving every milestone she hits, but I just want to savor each one a little more slowly. It may be the most cliche phrase on Facebook these days, but I am LIVING that cliche every day of, “SLOW DOWN, TIME!!!”
As we rapidly approach her 1st birthday like a rocket into outer space I am reminded that this means I have to get my head back into the game of growing my business. I told myself that I wanted to take a step back for at least her first year, and that already doesn’t seem like long enough. I’ve obviously continued to work my business, but my focus wasn’t to grow it or build new relationships (other than with my clients of course) – my focus was to keep booking, and keep things moving, while not shooting quite as much as in previous years so that I’d have more family time. Then, I told myself, after the first year I’d pick up the pace a bit more, and start focusing on some aspects of my business that I put on the back burner for the last 12 months.
So I’m working on it. Today I started Monday Accountability Meetings with my dear friend and fellow Entrepreneur, Annie. We set ourselves goals for the week, and discussed our over all objectives for the remainder of this year. I’ll enjoy every moment of this coming month the way I have enjoyed these last nearly 11 months with my precious girl… office hours two days a week, plus shooting, and all of my downtime is with her. Then after her birthday I’ll be putting in a few more hours and setting a few more goals. I LOVE my business. I LOVE what I do. But my favorite thing in the world is to be Brynlee’s Mom. So I’m setting my expectations at a very reasonable level. They are lower and less aggressive than they were before I became a Mom, and I know they’ll stay that way until she’s in school… I’m setting myself a pace that I am comfortable with that I feel will enhance my business reasonably, without taking away from my daughter. This also means I’ll be able to continue to go the extra mile for the clients I DO take on, as I will continue to be selective going forward so as to keep some weekends open for family time.
I think it’s important to set ourselves reasonable expectations, and even more important to hold ourselves accountable to our goals if we want to keep things moving. The best part is, I have my bestie on the line every Monday so that we can help each other do these things! I encourage everyone to try having an accountability partner they check in with weekly. Whether this is for personal goals (weight loss, home purchase, vacation planning, life planning, debt demolishing) or business goals (as an employee working toward a promotion, or an entrepreneur trying to grow their business), having someone you check in with weekly will keep you on the right path.
Below are some images of one of the couples I’ve chosen to work with this year, Judy & Isaac. My time spent with them was full of laughter, conversation, beautiful views, and all kinds of love!
Take a look at their extended Engagement session at two of their favorite locations in Irvine:
For more information on engagement and wedding photography in Orange County and beyond, please visit http://www.briannacaster.com
Peace & Love,
2020 is already keeping me on my toes. How about you? I know I’m a little late to the party on the “New Year” post, but I’ve been a bit preoccupied. Like most people I associate an entire year with the things that happened… As one year ends, I always have a lot of mixed emotions. I feel excitement for what’s to come, I feel fear of what’s to come, I feel nostalgia for the past, and if difficult things happened in a year – I feel relief that we get a fresh start… if good things happen, I get a bit of anxiety and apprehension thinking, “will next year bring pain and sadness because this year was so good?” But the reality is that the start of a new year is truly just another day… no matter how much we try to box it up, put a bow on it, and send it off, or throw it away with yesterdays garbage – that really doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t predict anything. However, it’s still a nice excuse to set new goals, and give ourselves a fresh start; a metaphorical washing clean and starting over.
For me, 2019 had both times of extreme joy and celebration (the birth of my daughter, the birth of my nephew), and times of great fear, sadness and loss (cancer diagnosis for my cousin, and the cancer diagnosis and death of my beloved uncle). 2020 has already brought us a whirlwind in just the first month! My cousin had her final round of chemo, and just last week had that nasty tumor COMPLETELY removed. She gets to move onward and upward from here as she heals from a 9 1/2 hour surgery and is now cancer free. We discovered a massive slab leak in our beautiful kitchen which resulted in a dangerous amount of mold and our removal from the home, not to mention the destruction of my beautiful kitchen… HOWEVER, I count this one as a blessing. Yeah it’s a bummer that we can’t be in our home, but we have had so many wonderful, loving friends and family reach out to offer us help. We are staying with my Aunt, and could not be in a better place. She has a crib and nursery where Brynlee sleeps, plenty of baby toys around the house, we are closer to Randy’s work, and have plenty of space here… not to mention we are all HEALTHY AND SAFE! I don’t even care about the inconvenience – I am just thankful we didn’t get exposed to the mold and that my daughter, my husband and I are all safe. As for business, we are booking weddings like crazy for 2020 which is exciting, as 2019 was a lower booking year for us. So I look forward to this year and all of the joy and beautiful couples it will bring my way!
Below is the engagement session of one such couple! Ceasar & Laura were adorable at their vintage inspired engagement session. Ceasar is a part of a car club and all of his friends brought out their classic cars to participate in their session. Check it out!
I am 100% positive their wedding will have just as much vintage charm – I can’t wait 🙂
Happy February my friends!
Yet again… I fell off the blogging train for a while. To be honest, it was completely intentional. I haven’t been able to bring myself to blog about business, or life in general because I haven’t had any clue what to say lately… but fear not, I finally found my words around 4am this morning, and decided that I would finally blog again.
2019 was a year of ups and downs. I had the greatest and most challenging day of my life when I gave birth to my daughter on April 1st. Becoming a Mother has been the most amazing experience of my life. It has not been without it’s challenges, as parenthood is obviously not easy… but it has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. In just under 9 months, she has changed so much! She has the sweetest, sassiest, most wonderful personality… and I love every minute I have with her. She is my dream come true.
What has had me tied up and unable to know what to say recently, has been the most difficult part of this year… the passing of my Uncle JR. My family is used to long goodbyes. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s for 15 years before she died, my Aunt suffered from Dementia for 5 years before she died, and my Grandfather took his sweet time too… he died just before turning 93, lived a good LONG life, and sadly, suffered for a long time before leaving us. My uncle was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and died only two months later on December 8th. Hearing of his diagnosis was a kick in the teeth… having to say Goodbye to someone who was still coherent, and knew I was there, was really painful and vastly different from my experiences of loss. I wrote him a letter and read it to him. And though it was difficult, I am thankful that I was able to tell him what he meant to me before it was too late.
So it’s been hard to get my head in to my business these last several weeks. I’ve been handling what has needed to be handled, but I haven’t been posting much because it just hasn’t felt right… and I’ve been consumed with family affairs as you can imagine. However, as this year comes to a close I felt like I needed to post a year end blog, but couldn’t do so without addressing the craziness that has been 2019. With this loss, and with every loss my family has faced, we always ban together… we always show up for one another, we hold onto each other, we grieve together, and we heal together. I am blessed beyond measure to have such a strong family. I have been reminded yet again, how important it is to document them, and decided to do so on my favorite day of the year. Christmas Eve.
We were missing a few cousins this year who were working, out of town, etc… we missed them, but we did our usual… we laughed, we ate, we drank, we laughed some more… and we laughed and drank and laughed and drank some more. These photos aren’t perfect, the lighting wasn’t staged – it was on camera flash, just capturing the moments I could in all of their perfect imperfections.
Cheers to the end of 2019… Cheers to healing, and progress for 2020 for the Garofalo’s, and to health, happiness, and even more love and laughter for all of us and all of you in 2020!
Family. Is. Everything.
Happy end of 2019 everyone! I wish you all the best for 2020.
Well… this blog post was started a week ago. I stopped mid sentence to run to the hospital with my sister because they wanted to run a stress test on her because she was 9 months pregnant and the babies heart rate was a bit low at her appointment that day. They sent her home from the hospital that afternoon, but at 11pm that night we were back and it was baby time! My precious new little nephew was born just before 6am on Tuesday morning. It was a LONG night and my first night ever away from Brynlee. She was not happy about it and gave her Dad a run for his money.
Over the next couple of days I caught up on sleep as much as I could, and caught up on work too. By Saturday I had 4 client meetings… 3 of which ran smoothly, and the last of which had a wrench thrown in it because 10 minutes before my clients were to arrive I dislocated my shoulder and had to go to the Emergency Room. It has been one hell of a week to say the least. Because my fingers still work I’m able to type this post up with the keyboard in my lap as my sitter takes care of my sweet girl. The whole world can’t stop even if I want it to… unfortunately I can’t move my right arm much at all so I can’t be left alone with my baby. I can’t lift her, or my arm and it sucks… so I might as well blog! Thankfully my husbands boss is amazing and understanding and is very flexible so Randy is able to stay home this week until someone is here to help me. I am PRAYING that the ER doctor was correct and I only have to wear the sling until Thursday and can start lifting my sweet baby up on my own again. It is my truest form of torture in life right now not being able to scoop her up 10,000 times per day.
Aaaaanyway – let’s talk about mini sessions! I captured my first round of Mini’s of the season and have two more to go. I am also praying that my doctor clears me to shoot this weekend because I have another round of Mini’s to capture. Fingers crossed!
Family portraits often bring when them more stress than weddings from the clients side. Most commonly this happens with parents of small children obviously. They put so much time and effort into choosing outfits, and getting out the door to be on time and it’s chaotic and difficult… and then it’s hard for them to relax and enjoy the session. It’s hard not to – we all want the perfect holiday card right? I personally enjoy the most authentic or silly photos best when I get holiday cards from people. I never take our holiday cards seriously. I encourage you this year to just enjoy what you get no matter what it is. If your kid is constantly running out of the frame… just laugh it off. Flip them upside down, make them laugh – be silly, and just let it be what it is going to be. You are 10 times more likely to get a killer photo if you just PLAY!! Let’s all remember to play a little more… take the stress off ourselves and remember that no one’s life is picture perfect… so why NOT have an authentically chaotic photo for your holiday card? You’ll make everyone smile.
Here are some perfectly imperfect shots from my first round of Mini’s this year:
Don’t miss out on family portraits! For more info visit http://www.briannacaster.com
This week in work life: I have had two engagement sessions (Sunday and Monday), I have two weddings coming up (Thursday and Saturday) and a day full of family mini sessions this Sunday. My camera is going to be ready for a vacation soon… but it’s not getting one!
This week in Mom life: Brynlee finally had a break through with teething – literally. She cut her first tooth and we are SO happy! She was on the struggle bus for a week and a half until that sucker finally made it through… and now she’s back to my happy little pumpkin butt. She still acts like I’m giving her lemons every time I try to feed her actual food… but hey, you can’t win them all – am I right?
I’m just thankful she’s feeling better AND taking the bottle when I’m away working. There were a few weeks where she was refusing it and it was breaking my Mama heart thinking of her going hungry… although she really wasn’t. She would eventually reluctantly take it when she was starving, but it was a struggle. The guilt never stops… I realized early in my pregnancy that the worry would never end from that moment on, and early in motherhood that the guilt would never end either… We just have to make it a practice to not allow the worry and guilt to consume us, or cause us to make poor parenting decisions. Easier said than done, I know… it’s always a work in progress… Most importantly, sometimes we need to just stop everything else and dance with our babies. The work will always be there, the dishes can wait, the text can wait, Facebook will be there after they go to bed… so turn on some music, be silly, and dance with your babies… real babies, fur babies, nieces, or nephews… whatever sweet innocence you have in your life that is growing too fast… put everything down today, or tomorrow – for 20 minutes… turn on some music, let go of the guilt and worry – and dance with that precious little being. I try to do this every evening with Brynlee and she absolutely loves it.
When I’m away from her, I don’t love it… but I am fortunate that I get to do something else I love while I’m away… which is…. you guessed it – capturing LOVE! Check out these cuties on the beach… I adore them, and their love story, and I can’t wait to photograph their wedding in January.
For more information on Engagement and Wedding Photography in Orange County and beyond… or for your Holiday portraits this fall, please visit briannacaster.com and send me a message 🙂
Let’s get into some realness…
…. Because obviously sharing my birthing experience and the challenges of early motherhood hasn’t been real enough, right? Just be glad I didn’t tell you all about how she pooped her entire car seat the other day on our way to swim, and how I had to pick her up out of a pool of baby doodie, wrap her in her clean swim towel, and wipe out her car seat with 735 wipies one handed, while balancing my poopy baby on my hip. Oh wait… did I just tell you that? Oops.
Anyway this one is about the struggle (business-wise) that is 2019. As I mentioned before… finding the work-Mom balance hasn’t been easy. Add to that, 2019 has been an absolute shit-show business wise and it had nothing to do with me taking a couple of months off to have a baby. I knew going into this year that our bookings were down and I spent a solid 6 months trying everything I could think of to get our numbers up BEFORE I took leave to push out a kid. I tried new ad types, I dropped prices, I kicked out incentives left and right, launched promotions… I tried everything I could think of. I wish I could tell you that at the last minute I figured it all out and my business continued to soar while I was sore. But that’s not true. I was 100% unsuccessful.
I’ve been a bit spoiled, I’ll be honest. 5 1/2 years ago I had a business partnership explode in my face. I thought I had lost everything. I didn’t have a portfolio I could use to market myself… I had nothing… almost. What I did have was a reputation with some amazing women at Wedgewood Weddings. When they heard what happened, they wanted to work with me. They gave me a chance, the spread the word about me, and by the end of that terrifying year I had 3 venues referring me to their client base. From there my business climbed up… up… up. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have these relationships and I have maintained them over the years.
This year, thanks to these relationships, we are still in business… it was just a shockingly slow year. I’ve talked to a lot of other vendors in the industry who have experienced the same drop in bookings that we have. As much as I never want to hear that anyone’s business is slowing down, I was relieved to discover that it wasn’t just me. Still… my wheels have not stopped spinning about how to make 2020 better (so much so that I’ve been wide awake since 4:15am thinking about what to do and how to grow… and I know what you’re thinking… “yeah because you have an infant who wakes you all hours of the night.” But you’re wrong. She’s still asleep… She’s perfect. This is all me.) For one thing… I think it just naturally will be. We’ve all concluded that a lot of people have put their weddings off until 2020 so that they can have a “cool date”. Sounds silly, but it’s real.
Fingers crossed that I don’t jinx this but our bookings for 2020 already seem promising… However, I calculated my overhead for this year and based on our decrease in bookings, let’s just say it had me up ALL. NIGHT. The good news is, that when I can’t sleep… it’s because my wheels are spinning, and ideas are forming… and I jumped out of bed finally at 5am because I think I have a solution.
Wish us luck! And until then… send me those referrals! Mama needs to make some cheddah! (so I can buy Brynlee more cute outfits and take more photos of her… obviously)
Below are some photos… sadly, not of my super cute baby… BUT happily, of a gorgeous wedding I recently photographed at Wedgewood Vellano. All joking aside, I love sharing my wedding work as much as I love sharing photos of my baby – I hope everyone can appreciate both! 🙂
I really loved working with Ashley & Chris… they are adorable, and their wedding was perfect!! Take a look…
For more information on wedding photography, family portraits, or any other photo needs – please visit briannacaster.com and drop me a line 😉
It’s amazing how quickly you forget the hard stuff once your “new normal” settles in. I had to really sit and reflect to remember the challenges we faced in the early days of parenthood… and the many moments of, “I can’t wait until we get passed this phase, then it’ll get easier.” We often referenced one of my favorite songs by Darius Rucker, and said to each other during the hard times, “It won’t be like this for long…” If you haven’t heard this song, and you’re a relatively new parent – listen to it… but grab a few tissues first because it will get you right in the feels.
We started working on a night time routine when she was 7 weeks old. We struggled through the 8 week regression and then at 9 weeks it started to get a little easier… We did what we like to call “The pacifier dance” some nights for 10 minutes, and some nights for 90 minutes… then she just stopped taking the pacifier all together. Every night isn’t perfect. Teething tends to throw a wrench in things every few days, but she bounces back so easily. We have gotten her bed time routine down to an art. She gets a bath, a story or two, then we turn on her sound machine, zip her up in her sleep sack, kiss her all over and say goodnight… then we shut off the lights and walk out… and without so much as a peep, she settles herself right to sleep. We started this so early that it never felt like we were really “sleep training” – we never let her really cry. Sometimes we’d let her fuss for a max of 5 to 10 minutes but if she ever REALLY cried, we knew something was wrong (teething) and soothed her immediately. It was a journey getting her to put herself to sleep, and her nap times aren’t quite as easy – but her bed time is perfect 99% of the time and she’s down before 7pm every night.
The best part of this is that I didn’t do any of it alone. We did, and still do, all of this as a team. Randy decided early on that he would go into work earlier so that he could be home with us in the evenings. I sincerely commend his dedication to our family because he gets up at 4:15 every morning and is out of the house before 5am so that he can be home by 4pm, take a walk with us, or just play with Brynlee, then do her entire bedtime routine with me. Becoming parents has brought us closer than ever. When I asked him one time how he felt after experiencing her birth, and how he felt it affected his thinking of me and our relationship he said, “I feel closer to you than ever.”
As much as becoming parents takes a lot of attention away from each other in order to focus on regulating your lives after such a huge disruption to your norm, doing all of these things side by side has kept us connected to each other. Navigating the early days with support for each other, and helping one another in difficult moments, i.e. seeing that one of us is frustrated while trying to handle the fussy hours, and stepping in to give that person a break, has given us each a whole new level of love and respect for the other. I thought I was the most in love that I could ever be on my wedding day… but two and a half years later, 6 months into being parents, I can honestly say I have never loved that man more. Not only do I adore watching him be a father and love on our baby, but his love, support and partnership toward me is more intense and beautiful than it has ever been. Having Brynlee has strengthened our marriage in ways I never imagined.
Going back to work has been wonderful. Randy made that easy too. Because he has always been such a part of her routine, going to photograph my first wedding back was stress free (except for the fact that I had driven all the way to Palos Verdes with out important pieces to my pump…Whoops!) For a few weeks I tried to juggle office work and mom-life but it proved to be too difficult and guilt inducing. I felt guilty if I needed to put her in a jumper so I could answer some emails, I felt guilty that I couldn’t fully focus on my work OR on her… I felt like I was not giving my work or my daughter my all. Finally I hired a sitter for two days per week so that I can really focus on work. I am totally crazy about my sitter. She is a dream. She loves Brynlee, and I get the best of both worlds… I’m here with them but I can fully focus on my work and know that Brynlee is getting the attention she needs from our sitter, she’s going on walks, being put down for her naps, and still gets fed by me. The other two days per week I have an assistant answering my emails. This may or may not prove to be “enough” but for now it’s working and everything feels GOOD!
My Mom has always said that becoming a Mom is the best thing she’s ever done. To this day she says that if she didn’t have her kids, her life would feel empty. Parenting isn’t for everyone!! I truly believe that. It is ok if you’re not feeling called to be a parent, or have never had a desire to be one. I was kind of stuck in the middle… I felt like I probably wanted to be a Mom, but wasn’t 100% sure… I was on the fence. And then I wasn’t on the fence, I was on the rollercoaster of pregnancy still unsure if motherhood was for me… I guess I clearly leaned more toward motherhood than away from it, because I went for it. When I think back about those days of uncertainty prior to getting pregnant I laugh. I had no idea how sweet motherhood would be. I had no idea how insanely precious my days would be as a Mom… how perfect it would all feel… if I knew then, what I know now… I would have jumped into the idea of motherhood with gusto. If I could give my former self a message in a moment of doubt about being a mother, I’d look her right in the eyes with the most pure smile, heart beaming and tears of joy and say “DO IT!!!!!!!!!! It is THE. best. thing. ever.”
I love my life more than I have ever loved it before. I love being a wife and a Mom AND a business owner 🙂 …I just wish I could slow it all down a bit so it didn’t all go by so quickly.
Part of being a Mom for me definitely includes lots of adorable photo shoots as you can tell. God knew what he was doing when he gave me a very happy and photogenic child! I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams to be her Mama. It’s my greatest and most treasured job in life.
Next week I’ll get back to talking about my clients and my work…. 🙂
Ohhhhh EEEEMMM GEEEEE! It’s the first day of fall. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see my first day of fall photo of Brynlee. I’m not going to even subtly try to pretend I don’t love dressing her up and taking photos of her. I am all about that noise. Fun fact… I bought that romper THE DAY I found out that she was a girl and have been saving it for that photo. Yep. I’m THAT Mom. #noshame
Alright. So let’s get back to the realness of early motherhood… I am 1,000% that Mom that just wants to talk about how amazing her daughter is all of the time, to ANYONE who wants to listen. You guys. She is literally the best. But let me remind you – I was NOT the girl who knew for a fact that she wanted to be a Mom. I still wasn’t even sure during my first few months of pregnancy. It wasn’t until I was about 4 to 5 months along that I all of the sudden felt ready. Up until that point I was like, “Well, we’re on this ride!”
When Brynlee was born those first few weeks were HARD. I loved her beyond belief, but everything changed so quickly and my emotions were ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE. As someone who has always had a pretty darn good handle of her emotions, THAT was weird. Hormones are BANANAS you guys. They do some crazy things to you. I was not prepared for that. I just wanted to feel normal again, emotionally and physically. I wanted to have a handle on my life again and I felt like it was completely upside down and sideways at the same time. I didn’t know which way was up for a while… I’m not sure my husband did either… but his support was unwavering. When I was a mess, he picked me up. When I just needed a 20 minute shower and the baby was screaming he said, “Go. I’ve got this.” When I cried uncontrollably, he wiped my tears and told me it was going to be ok and that he loved me and that I was doing a good job… and when I sobbed telling him that I just needed my Mom… he told her and let her come take over.
I had heard of Postpartum Depression, but I hadn’t heard of “Baby Blues”. For those of you that don’t know, the Baby Blues can punch you right in the face out of nowhere and hit you for 1-2 weeks after you have a baby. I was exactly 7 days postpartum when it hit me. I went to our Mother-Baby assessment that morning and felt fantastic. I filled out the form that asked me if I was feeling sad, lonely, like everything was my fault, and checked “No” on all of those boxes. I was so confident! I felt amazing. Then that evening, after feeding Brynlee I came down stairs to feed myself and this wave of sadness kicked me right in the teeth. My Dad was visiting and he and Randy were watching a movie, and I just felt overwhelmingly alone. My Mom had been there every day up until that point, making me food, cleaning my kitchen, and the night before even held Brynlee for hours so that I could sleep. But now my Dad was visiting, so my Mom went home… and I. Missed. Her. So. Hard. In my head, I knew that my feelings weren’t real (even though they were). I knew I was being ridiculous (I wasn’t). I knew everything was fine (everything WASN’T fine. Life was new and crazy and different!)… and I didn’t want to cry in front of my husband or my dad because I thought they’d laugh at how silly I was being (no clue why I thought this). So I choked back the tears and got myself some left-overs… and then I couldn’t control myself anymore. I sat down at the table, turned away where my Dad and husband couldn’t see me… and the tears just started rolling down my face as I ate.
I felt ridiculous. I knew I would be fine… I knew my hormones were just being crazy. I knew in my head what was happening, but I couldn’t stop it. I also thought my Mom would feel good knowing I missed her so much I was crying. So I texted her light heartedly telling her I missed her so much I was crying. Silly me… I thought she’d find it funny but she didn’t. She responded with, “I’m on my way.” I didn’t want to disrupt her or make her feel guilty… but knowing her daughter was crying and missing her was unbearable to her. So she packed a bag and came over.
I snuck away to feed Brynlee again without my Dad or Randy knowing I was crying. But then I asked Randy to come up stairs because I wanted to tell him my Mom was coming back… and I was STILL crying. I don’t know WHY I was so afraid that they would laugh at me… that was more of my crazy hormones getting the best of me I think… because when he saw me crying, he just threw his arms around me and told me it was ok. When he went back downstairs and told my Dad I was crying – my Dad immediately came up stairs to hug me too. They both just told me it was ok, and they loved on me. Then I felt even sillier, and cried even more. I literally cried for an hour straight. I finally stopped… and my Mom walked in the door. The second I heard her voice, I started crying again. When she walked into the nursery and saw me with tears pouring down my face, I just laughed and told her I was sorry. She grabbed tissues to dry my tears and told me she wasn’t going anywhere. She slept on the floor in the nursery with Brynlee while I slept in my bed and only woke me when she had to because Brynlee needed to nurse.
The tears happened every evening around 4:00 for about a week. Whenever the sun came up I felt light, happy, excited. And as it got close to setting, I would feel lonely and sad. Then all of the sudden it stopped… all of the sudden it was 4:00 one evening and I was anticipating the sadness, and it didn’t happen. My Baby Blues were gone and I was SO relieved. Little by little, I started having what I like to call “Mom victories” where one little thing got easier… or she slept a little longer one night… and my confidence as a new Mom was building.
I still didn’t want to be alone. I wanted anyone and everyone who wanted to visit, to visit. I loved having company over, and I loved having help. I was recovering from a really terrible cough that I had when she was born, the nights were lonely, my boobs were KILLING me from adjusting to nursing, and I felt like all I did all day long was nurse her… She cluster fed every evening for a while…Cluster feeding is when they want to nurse every 20 to 30 minutes for 2 to 4 hours straight… and at the time, every nursing session was 40-50 minutes long. To say I was sick of nursing, is an understatement. No one told me about cluster feeding either… or if they did, I wasn’t listening. I thought I was so prepared to be a Mom. After all, I was the baby whisperer you guys. When I photographed babies, everyone wanted to keep me because I was so good with their babies. When it came to my own I was like, WHAT AM I DOING!?!? HOW DO I MAKE HER STOP CRYING!? HELP MEEEEEE. It was like all of the tricks I had for other peoples babies disappeared from my brain, and were replaced with anxiety and fear that she would just magically never stop crying… ever.
And then that phase ended too. About week 6 things started to get a little easier. She started to naturally sleep better at night (thank you melatonin!) and wake less… and when she did wake, she’d nurse for 40 minutes (eye roll) and go back to sleep. I got myself a book light and decided to read when she woke me in the night to nurse… I had a little camp set up next to the rocker in her nursery, snacks, books, book light, water… and I just embraced the time. Then her nursing sessions went down to 20 minutes… then 15… and only 2 to 3 times per night… and I started really feeling like I had a handle on being her Mom. I started to anticipate her needs, and my new normal started to not feel so new any more – and just… normal. I was in tune with her, FINALLY. I started functioning just fine on 6 combined hours of sleep… Then I started getting 7… and by 3 months she was only waking twice at night, nursing for 10 minutes, and going right back to sleep… just in time for our first family vacation to Kauai… where I was 100% sure everything would be thrown off, and all of my hard work would go out the window…
We’ll pause the story here for now! Each blog seems to get longer 🙂 Next week I’ll share our journey to perfecting bed time, and all the ways our marriage has changed… and why having this baby is already the absolute best decision I’ve ever made.
Here are some images I captured from April to June…
Side note: Looking back at the transformation from month one to month two/three blows my mind. Is that the same baby!?
See you next week my friends.
At about 5am Randy woke up to see me sitting up in bed and asked if I was ok. I told him I was ok, and nonchalantly added that I was in labor. He shot up in bed and said, “REALLY!?” To which I replied, “Yeah. I’ve been having contractions since 2am, but didn’t want to wake you. They’re not too bad yet, but I’ve been timing them and they’re about 10 minutes apart. You can go back to sleep though, it’s not pressing right now.” Naturally, he could not go back to sleep. He needed to get up and do something – anything.
He asked me what I needed and what he could do. I told him I was hungry and really wanted some toast… So he threw on some clothes and went to the store to get me some bread. He came home and made me breakfast around 6:30am… and then made me a second breakfast around 9am. By 11am my contractions were closer to 5 minutes apart. At 1pm we decided we should go to the hospital. I didn’t feel like the contractions were THAT bad, but we were advised to go in when the contractions were 5 minutes apart for more than 1 to 2 hours. So we went! I figured I could continue laboring at the hospital…
By the time I got all checked in the contractions were more intense and I was glad we were there. My Mom met us in the lobby before we went up. They got me all checked in, and then checked me to see how far along I was. I was only 1.5cm dilated…. which is exactly where I was when I saw my doctor the week before. So despite 11 hours of consistent labor, but body was not progressing. So what did they do? You guessed it. They sent me home. We were all very disappointed. They even suggested that I might make my doctors appointment later that week. My Mother laughed at them and said, “She’ll be back tonight.”
I was bummed but I was also starving again… and if I was leaving the hospital, I was getting a DELICIOUS filling meal. We took a trip to In N Out… and I enjoyed every. single. bite.
My sister met us at my house, and I told Randy to go back to bed. One of us needed to not be entirely exhausted from lack of sleep, and my Mom and my sister were there to help me through my labor pains… We walked around the neighborhood and it was getting increasingly difficult to move or even think during contractions. At 5pm we all agreed that I should stick it out until at least 7pm and then we would go to the hospital again.
By 7pm I was miserable and ready to get back to the hospital, but I was anxious and afraid that my body would still not have progressed enough and they’d send me home.
When we arrived at the hospital this time, my body had begun going into shock between every contraction. All hands were on deck at all times. My Mom was counting my breathing and massaging my legs, Melissa was fanning me as I sweat profusely, and Randy massaged my shoulders and quietly whispered words of encouragement into my ear. After each contraction my body was trembling. No matter what we tried, I could NOT relax through any of it.
As I laid there in misery waiting for them to examine me and see if they could officially admit me, my Mom could see the anxiety in my eyes and assured me that if they tried to send me home again she would throw a fit. She’s the best.
Finally they examined me and I was a whopping 3.5cm by this point. I was distraught when they told me this because my contractions were coming so fast and so intensely that I thought I HAD to be further than that… the nurses were surprised as well, and due to my level of pain and the severity of my contractions, they let me stay. Praise Jesus!
I made sure that every person who entered the room knew I wanted that epidural. I am not ashamed to admit, that drug free was not for me. I could not hang… but I did for about 21 hours before I FINALLY got that epidural. It was about 10pm when the Anesthesiologist made her debut, and I wanted to kiss her on the mouth when I saw her. She could not get to me fast enough… but she did an incredibly efficient job, and my very next contraction was at 50% of the pain of my previous contractions, and the one that followed that I didn’t even feel. I could finally relax.
My Mom, Randy and Melissa all slept in shifts. I got a few snoozes here and there between exams. Around 2am, roughly 24 hours after my contractions began, the nurse informed me that my water broke. Things were happening! I was so happy!
By 7am… I had barely hit 5cm. Half way there. My nurse was leaving and said she might see me at her next shift. We all laughed and I told her that if I was still in L&D when she came back to work, I would have some problems. It was like she knew something I didn’t, because she didn’t find that statement as funny as the rest of us. She just smiled and left.
It wasn’t until around 12 or 1pm that another nurse discovered that my water hadn’t fully broken, and I was stalled. They had pushed Pitocin (an induction drug) multiple times to try to help my body move along, but I was still only around 5cm. They called my doctor to discuss this, and she came in to break my water the rest of the way. This got me to 7cm, where I sat for a few more hours… They could tell that Brynlee was sideways and not budging, so they flipped me around every 20 minutes for the next couple of hours, trying to get her to turn in the proper direction. I sat at 9.5cm for two more hours, before my doctor finally came in again about 6pm and said, “we’re getting this baby out Brianna!” She stuck her hands in there, turned Brynlee face down and said, “there we go! You ready to start pushing?”
Yes, that was excruciating but I was so sick of laying in that bed that I could not WAIT to push. I was beyond ready to be done with this whole thing. I had all the energy I needed, all the motivation, and the most amazing support system. They turned on my “push playlist” and it was go time. My Mom held one leg, the nurse held the other, my sister took photos, and all of them along with my doctor encouraged me to push. Randy continued to massage my shoulders and encourage me gently. I went into beast mode. I wanted to push for as long as they would let me with every contraction, and many times I told them I had another push in me before break time. Each break was necessary, and with each one my family tended to me and encouraged me… and each time I was ready to push again, I pushed with all of my might like my life depended on it. I wanted her OUT! NOW!
I have to take a moment to talk about how much my husband impressed me through this process. We work out together and he is a pretty tough coach. I feared that he would try to coach me in a way that I didn’t need. I worried he would push me too hard and not listen to my needs, but I was very wrong. He blew me away with how gentle, and beautifully encouraging he was. He never left my side. He wiped away my sweat with a cold wet towel between pushes, and with every push he told me how amazing I was, how strong I was, and how I had this.
Before Brynlee was born I had asked Randy if he’d look when she was coming out… I didn’t want him to. But he wanted to! He told me that he didn’t know if he’d get another opportunity to see a child being born and he wanted to see. Reluctantly, I said ok. But when his opportunity came, he surprised me again. My Mom offered to trade places with him so he could see Brynlee coming out. He looked at me, and thought for a second and then said, “No. I think I’ll stay here. I want us to see her for the first time together.”
After about an hour and twenty minutes of pushing, at 7:42pm on April 1st, she was here. My Mom said she came out cheeks first… and looking back at photos I can totally see what she meant…
My Mom and my sister cried… Randy seemed to be stuck in awe for a while… and just watched everything as they laid Brynlee on my chest and wiped her down… he continued to tend to me. I didn’t cry. I think it was because I was just so relieved that it was over… and was so busy looking at her funny little swollen face, that I just laid there in relief.
After our skin to skin time, they weighed and measured her, bundled her up and handed her to Randy. Randy, mind you, had never held a baby before this moment. Without hesitation he took his daughter, sat down quietly and cried as he looked at her. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Guess who we saw next? Our original nurse… back for her next shift. She came in to see the baby and say hello just before we were transferred to the mother/baby unit.
41 hours was a long time, but it instantly felt like a distant memory. 5 1/2 months later this all feels like a dream, and I hardly even remember her being so tiny, and looking so much like a puffy little monkey! It’s ok, I can say that, I’m her Mom… and I’ll be the first to admit that no baby, fresh out of the oven, looks cute… they are entire different beings 24 hours later when the swelling goes down… Take a look and you’ll see what I mean!
The birth photos were taken by my sister, Melissa!
Next Week in Part 3: Parenthood gets real… I’ll share our journey over the last 5 1/2 months.