Before you held them in your arms, you held them in your heart … The power of maternity photography to preserve those first moments of motherhood.
One of my only regrets in life is that I never had any professional maternity or newborn photos taken: I've got a couple of bump ones, and lots of blurry, taken-at-3am-on-my-iphone-snaps of both children. But beautiful photos? Ones to truly treasure and pass down from generation to generation? Nope. That's why it gives me so much pleasure to pass on Rachel Rimell's brilliant words of wisdom on positive pregnancy, mum hood, and the importance of documenting it!
Rachel takes stunning, bespoke documentary family photography, and is offering all Power of Mum readers a 50% discount off a session fee for a signature session. With Mother's Day just round the corner, now would be the perfect time to book...Get in touch with her here and you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I always find myself reflecting on my own motherhood journey and those of mums-to-be eagerly awaiting their new arrival.
I remember my first ever Mother’s Day - I’d just given birth three days previously after a fairly traumatic labour, my life had been totally turned upside down by this bundle of screams and sore boobs, I was barely home from hospital and - although I didn’t realise it then - was about to head back there with a severely jaundiced newborn which really brought home just what a responsibility this ‘being a mother’ was.
The nine months previous hadn’t exactly been a bundle of laughs - I'm not going to lie, I don’t do pregnancy well it turns out (both times!) with horrendous morning sickness that started within a week of conception and continued well past the 12 weeks that most ‘experts’ on the matter predict. I was enormous (yes I am sure I’m only carrying the one thank you very much, and yes still two months to go!) and bloated with elephantine feet that wouldn’t fit into any shoes I owned. I was not the bohemian, floating on air in diaphanous chiffon dresses with a neat little bump, looking all beautiful and serene Mother Earth I'd expected to be.
I have just one photo of me pregnant with my first. It’s an iPhone pic taken by my husband while we were on our last holiday together as a twosome. It was taken before I was ridiculously enormous and in that magic window of time between the morning sickness and the dreadful tiredness that followed where I actually felt good about being pregnant (it lasted about 3 weeks!).
Yet despite how horrendous I felt - and looked - I wish I had more photos of me at that time. Because that’s when the work of being a mum actually starts - when you’re actually growing your little human. Some may find it a blissful and rewarding experience while others suffer every second of it, but we’re all mums right there and then, working hard to be and do the best we can for our new arrival.
I wish I had more pictures that I could show to my daughter and say ‘that’s you in there’. In the one photograph I do have I’m wearing knickers rolled down under my bump and a crumpled white cotton shirt. It isn’t glamorous but I do look ‘all woman’ and I love it nonetheless.
With my second pregnancy a very kind photographer friend of mine offered to do some photos of me and I also had the foresight to also do some self-portraits myself (what’s the use in being a London family photographer if you’re never in the images!). So I do have some memories to treasure from the second time around. Believe me the pregnancy was just as harsh - and this time with a relentless two-year-old in tow. But none of that matters when I look at those images. I look serene even if I didn’t feel it. There are some gorgeous images of my daughter with my bump that I will cherish into old age.
Despite being a family photographer, maternity photos weren’t something I considered for myself first time round and I find this is often the case with clients, especially the first time round. They’re too busy preparing for the new life ahead. They forget to take time to capture and treasure the moment - the calm before the storm! When the baby comes it’s a whirlwind of nappies and visitors and photos - we can look back with regret that we didn’t take more time to record where baby lived before they came into the world. Where they were nurtured and every need met before they ever learned to cry out or grasp a finger. What a beautiful gift to have to be able to look back on that time and show your baby where it lived first before the chaos of the new world.
Whether formal-style, draped in swathes of chiffon; totally au natural; a dreamy outdoors photoshoot in a meadow; or just at home on your sofa for the type of documentary day in the life style family photography that I specialise in, a maternity photoshoot can create some stunning portraits and capture those amazing memories to cherish for years to come.
We spend so much time preparing for the birth and the days ahead, let’s not forget to remember the time before the birth too. Here are my top tips for making the most of your pregnancy and making it a positive experience to look back on:
Pregnancy massage! OMG - get as many as you can, especially in those final few weeks when you can barely move or sleep comfortably. There is sooooooo little time to pamper yourself once baby has arrived so make the most of it. Not an indulgence - a necessity!
Pregnancy yoga can really help you prepare, keep you moving and give you some gentle exercise too.
Hypnobirthing books and classes can really help you prepare mentally and physically for the birth itself. After a traumatic first birth, I turned to hypnobirthing for my second and it really helped me get into a good mindset for the birth itself. Such a different experience the second time round and couldn’t have gone more smoothly, in no small part down to my mental state of being.
Maternity photos - obviously I would say that! But seeing yourself look beautiful and your body doing this amazing feat in photos, even if you don’t feel it at 4am when you can’t turn over in bed without a full scale military operation, can make such a difference. And they truly are a gift to look back on when the morning sickness is long behind you.
Newborn photos - again an obvious one for me, but book your session in before baby comes if possible to capture those first precious days at home with baby. For me a documentary day in the life session is the best way to really look back on and remember those early days as you welcomed your new bundle of joy (and tears and poo!) into your family. But if you're also considering a more stylised newborn photo session you'll need to get baby booked in within the first two weeks or so to get those gorgeous sleepy photos - and researching which photographer is right for you will not be high on your to do list once baby arrives!