Friday, September 18, 2015

Sara's 1st Birthday - Smash Cake Session - Winter Park, FL - Orlando Baby Photographer

It never grows old watching these sweet babies grow older. I met this little one when she was just 5 months old. It feels like I just met her a short time ago but she is already one! A child's growth and development is so bittersweet! I love the depth she has in her eyes, like she is so wise beyond her years. SHE chose to eat her cake with a spoon like a little lady rather than doing the "cake smash". There is no greater reward as a photographer than a family choosing to include you in these memories . I am so grateful to have shared this day with her and her family (and an hour without rain!) 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Family Session - Downtown Orlando - Orlando Family Photographer

It's been a rainy August this year! Unfortunately, it was raining through 3 of my sessions last Saturday but one family decided to stay in the area and wait out the storm. After about an hour went by we decided that it probably wasn't going to clear up and rescheduled. As fate would have it, we ended up at the same restaurant for dinner because it was the only place that we could all eat due it being the only safe place for our and our babies' food allergies. Typically, all of my food restrictions make it difficult to socialize or make new friends but in this case they totally did me a favor. After we all finished eating, the sky cleared up and we were able to do our photo session that evening and I am so glad that we did! The rain cooled off the temperature from that 100 degree afternoon and then sun came out just for us! 

Breastfeeding Stories Part II - Orlando Breastfeeding Photography

I had the pleasure of meeting so many mommies this month between portrait sessions, The Big Latch On and a lovely group photo I took last week for Every Little Thing Birth and Beyond 360 magazine. The movement to normalize breastfeeding is definitely growing and seeing so many mommies come together to do so has been quite amazing. Reading their individual stories from struggles to success tugs at my heart strings. Some have brought me to tears! Some of them have hit so close to home. Each mother has their OWN unique journey but one thing is all the same: Support is IMPORTANT to a breastfeeding journey. I will be doing a separate post with a list of support groups and local specialist. If you see this before I have completed that list, please feel free to contact me and I will help you find the support that you need! 

"As many first time mom's prepare for their new baby, I had a birth plan/aftercare plan and breastfeeding was high on the list. Every book and article made it sound so simple and beautiful as if every newborn immediately latches on to the boob at first skin to skin contact. That was not the case with my son, Aiden. I wasn't able to hold him for the first 45 minutes due to some complications and once we were skin to skin, he was so exhausted from birth that he went into a deep sleep and didn't wake up for approximately 14 hrs. A lactation consultant attempted to get a latxh within those first 14 hrs but he wouldn't stay awake, nor did it seem that his little mouth could open wide enough to latxh into my nipple much bigger than his tiny mouth. In the meantime, I requested a pump and started pumping so that his first taste of milk would be from me. I attempted to latch him numerous times throughout the three day stay with help from three different LC but it wasn't turning out the way that I envisioned it, nor did the LC seem to have adequate time to spend with me working on our issues. I was feeling an array of emotions and failure was one of them. Why didn't any of my readings discuss when breastfeeding doesn't go as planned? I never thought about hiring my personal LC for afterbirth to advocate for me when my busy nurses and LC started to complain about my child needing to consume "x" amount of milk and kept listing formula as an option. What was the point of having on staff LC if they couldn't help me? I started doubting myself in the hospital and supplemented with formula. Someone mentioned WIC having a Lactation counselor on staff to assist mother's for free, so I called and was able to set up an appointment the following week. I had so much anxiety knowing that I had to still figure out a way to give my child breast milk even though he wasn't latching. The day after we were discharged from the hospital, I bought an electric pump and dedicated every min to pumping so that I didn't have to give my son formula. Don't get me wrong, I was grateful for formula because at least I knew he was getting nourishment but it wasn't apart of our plan. That following week we finally met with the counselor at WIC and I was so nervous. I was nervous because I didn't want another person looking at me with sympathy and telling me sorry they didn't know why he wasn't latching. The counselor was extremely empathic and listened to my concerns without being rushed or having to attend to the next mom. She explained that that not only were I heavy chested but my nipples were twice the size of Aiden's mouth, making it difficult to latch him using the football hold. She explained that the "tea cup" hold would work best and demonstrated. She was able to latxh my son on the first try and I started to cry. She unlatched him and had me attempt the hold myself and having my son latch on for the first time in a week was the first time I didn't feel like a failure. But now that he was latched, I felt extreme pain and couldn't imagine how this could be beautiful. She explained that the pain and clicking noise was a result of a possible tongue tie. That was another hurdle to get over but at least we had gotten Aiden to latch. At his second pediatric appointment, a tongue tie was confirmed and fixed soon after. I suffered through the pain some feedings and pumped for the first six weeks. Once we both were comfortable in our breastfeeding relationship, we slowly weaned off the bottle and have been exclusively breastfeeding ever since. Aiden will be 2 on August 14th and we see no end in sight."

"When I was pregnant with Julian I thought I was going to have this beautiful home birth and he would do the newborn crawl to my breast. It was going to perfect, beautiful and completely natural. Well, I had my beautiful home birth, but when my baby was placed on my chest he made no efforts to feed at all. Finally, the midwives suggested that I offer him my breast. He was not very interested and when he finally did suckle he wouldn't open his mouth wide for a good latch. He was drawing milk, which was unknown to me at the time, but I ended up having cracked and bleeding nipples and a little fighter at the breast. These early moments were full of tears, frustration, and anger towards my precious infant. The anger would be followed by immediate guilt. This whole experience left me feeling like an awful parent. Then I met Pat Lindsey, a lactation consultant, and my baby nursed painlessly for the first time. Yes! I only needed one appt. and we improved tremendously. A few days later I met with Allika Garries-Alce as well. I had a free appt. with her through Kaleen, my midwife. She was beautiful and full of new information and encouragement. I continued to improve and although my babe was a fighter for the first couple of months my support and encouragement continued in Lika's Leaking Ladies, Allika's Breastfeeding support group. This early support was key to my new found relationship. All this happened within the first couple of weeks after Julian's birth. Although, we still have issues on and off, I now know how lucky I am to have mostly resolved them so quickly. I do feel as though my early frustrations made it harder for us to bond. So, these beautiful pictures show me how hard I worked and how far I've come to build this awesome relationship with my baby. They bring tears to my eyes, joy to my heart and I am safe in the knowledge that I have a rockin' breastfeeding bond with my little one."

When asked what part of having a baby I was looking forward to most, my answer was always breastfeeding. I grew up seeing the women in my family nurse their babies and had even pretended to nurse my dolls.  I imagined having my baby naturally, snuggling my little one skin to skin and nursing them right away. Instead, I ended up spiking a fever during delivery so my baby was quickly taken off to the transitional nursery for evaluation and antibiotics. 

 I was thankful my husband was able to stay with our son while they cleaned me up and advocate for my desire to breastfeed. My baby and I were separated for almost five hours. When my son was wheeled into my room, I immediately wanted to nurse him. With the help of the nurse, I was able to position him and get him to latch on.  “You’re a natural,” she told me.  I was happy to finally be holding and feeding my baby. The pediatrician who evaluated my son said all looked well. He did mention that my son had a tongue tie but did not think it was a problem. The second night in the hospital I started to get the feeling something was wrong. 

My little one was crying constantly and kept wanting to nurse. The nurse brought us a pacifier and told me he was just comfort sucking on me and that I should discourage it. The pacifier seemed to help and we finally got some rest. We were discharged the next day. When we got home, it became apparent something was still not right. My son was constantly wanting to nurse and it was so painful when he latched that I was in tears. The nurse practitioner at the pediatrician’s office gave me some pointers and said he seemed perfectly fine. Over the next few days, it was obvious that things were not perfectly fine. He continued to nurse and cry constantly. “Sounds like someone is going through a growth spurt,” the nurse told me. She gave me list of lactation consultants I could call. Making that call was the best decision I made.

 The lactation consultant came to our home. She immediately pointed out the tongue tie and also a lip tie. I was 
alarmed to learn my son was not gaining weight. He was weighed again after eating, and we learned he was not 
transferring well.  I was devastated that my little one was not able to get all he needed from me. My supply was tanking because he was not taking much. The next few weeks were a blur of pumping after every feed, supplementing with my pumped milk, oral motor evaluations and mouth stretches and follow-up appointments. I cried a lot. I was worried my son and I would not bond because I was having to put him right down or hand him off after feeding to pump. He had finally started to gain weight, so I reminded myself that it was worth it even if it was hard.

We decided to get his lip and tongue tie revised by a pediatric dentist in Tampa. We made the two-hour drive 
with our 4-week-old son. The procedure was quick, and he nursed right after. I immediately felt a difference, and I was happy to be nursing pain free. We followed up with the lactation consultant a week later, and he had gained almost a pound. He was transferring well, and I could cut down on pumping. I was so relieved.

I thought it was going to be smooth sailing, but I noticed my son still wanting to eat frequently and also arching
his back and crying.  I knew he was getting enough to eat so I was concerned. The word colic was brought up, but I felt there was more to it. He was spitting up often and had what looked like very inflammatory baby acne. The lactation consultant said it looked like reflux and suggested I cut dairy out of my diet. After much convincing, we were able to get medication that greatly helped the reflux. We were sent to a GI specialist who had us do an ultrasound and a barium swallow. We also worked with the office nutritionist. Formula was brought up a few times, but I refused. I knew nothing would be better for him that what I was giving him. 

With the proper dosage and changes in my diet, the reflux improved and his skin cleared up. My child went from
being labeled as colicky to happy. He is now all smiles. I like to say my breastfeeding journey has been more of an
adventure. Through advocating for my own breastfeeding relationship, I have met amazing women who share similar circumstances and have found opportunities to be involved in amazing organizations. At 8 months old, my son is still breastfeeding and there is no end in sight. He is happy and healthy and just amazing. Although our journey was challenging, I would do it all again. Every time he looks up at me with that big smile, I smile back knowing I am giving my son the best I can give him every day."

"Breastfeeding is the best thing I have ever done and I'm so grateful for this incredible journey. Capturing this beautiful relationship between my baby girl and myself in a photograph is something I will treasure for the rest of my life."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Aizzy's "Heartiversary" - Winter Park, FL

Let me start of by saying, that I genuinely LOVE this family. They are some of the most kind, giving and just overall beautiful (inside and out) people that I have ever met. Over the past year and a half, I have documented Aizlinn's life and cannot help but feel a connection to her because of it. Her soul has always shined so bright, even when you could only see it through her mother's glow during her pregnancy. Through her quick entrance into the world, I could tell that she was a determined little lady. Exactly one year before these photos were taken (when she was just 4 months old), this small, yet fierce little girl had open heart surgery. Though her scar has healed quite beautifully and has turned faint, the story it tells speaks volumes. It tells the joy of her water birth, the fears for her precious life when she was diagnosed with a heart defect days later, the weight that her mother carried in her own heart leading up to her surgery, every little thing they said she "wouldn't" or "may not do" and she did anyways and the love... SO SO much love. Aizlinn is walking, running, "toddling" proof that we shouldn't judge books by their covers. The most petite little lady can be the strongest little superhero that you meet. She's proof that lots of love (and some breast milk ;-) ) heals wounds. I love you sweet girl and I am more blessed than I can ever explain to you or put into words to have had the honor to document your life and I'm excited to continue to do so. 

She ran straight for the water, like the "mermaid" that she is. We photographed this session in the exact spot we did her mother's maternity photos.

She is just too beautiful for words. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

World Breastfeeding Month - Breastfeeding Stories Part I - Orlando Breastfeeding Photography

World Breastfeeding Week starts the first week of August! During the month of August I will be doing breastfeeding mini sessions to normalize breastfeeding. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Breastfeeding Project. They are a local non-profit organization that provides breastfeeding education, support and some amazing breastfeeding bags for expecting mothers. If you have made the choice to breastfeed, it's not always as easy as it seems and support is vital to establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship. I will be featuring mothers nursing photos and their stores here and on my Facebook page. The Breastfeeding Project will be hosting a Big Latch On on August 1st, 2015 at Life Point Church in Longwood and Tree of Life Birth will be hosting at both of their locations (Deland and College Park) on July 31, 2015. Both events are from 9:30-11:30am, the latch on will take place at 10:30 but please arrive at least 30 mins early to sign in. I will be at the Longwood and College Park locations and you can sign up for your breastfeeding photos there! You can also contact me at the contacts listed above or HERE

My Personal Story

I knew from the moment I got that positive test that I wanted to breastfeed my son. I always thought that it was just something that went off without a hitch. The baby would be born, you'd latch them on and your milk would just flow out and you'd live happily ever after. Maybe that is the case with some people. It was not the case with us.
After a traumatic birth the only thing I felt like I still had any control over was breastfeeding my son but his latch was pretty horrific right from the start. He was born with a tongue tie and nobody would clip it for us at the hospital. Being that he was born the week of Thanksgiving, we had to wait until he was about 10 days old until we could get it done. After that, it was slightly better but he was still, literally shredding me, clamping down and my toes would curl in pain. He also couldn't stay latched to a bottle of even a paci. We both powered through the frustration, pain, mastitis (twice), slow weight gain and 5 different LC's (two said there was nothing wrong) until we finally found Beckman Oral Motor Clinic. $40 and a couple of weeks of my just moving my fingers around in his mouth and he was nursing like a champ! I don't think I would have made it through the mental anguish of those first couple of months without support! I connected with a group at Tree of Life called Lika's Leaking Ladies, led by a IBCLC Allika Alce. My son and I have made some great friends through that support group. Even though we struggled I feel like it happened for a reason so we could spread awareness and meet the amazing people that we have along the way. 

Each of the following stories is so different, beautiful and inspiring....

"This photo meant I did it, I made it, we made it. We made it a year. Nourishing my baby from my body, the body that grew her, the way it was meant to be. 

With my son it wasn't easy, I had cancer when I was pregnant with him and needed to have radiation therapy done and my oncologist was only comfortable letting me wait six months after birth. Then we had other issues, he had oral motor weakness and could never latch correctly so I took to pumping for him which still allowed me to provide him the best but I so badly wanted a real breastfeeding experience.

So when my daughter had a lip and tongue tie and breastfeeding was horribly painful I was heartbroken and almost gave up but I didn't and I took steps to fix our problems and we made it! "


"When I had my third child in 2010, I was determined to breastfeed for 6 months. I had given up at 1 month with my 2 older children because of lack of support and because of my insecurities of breastfeeding in public. I plugged in with some awesome ladies before I had my daughter and knew they would help me. After birth injury resulting in a sore baby, oversupply, mastitis twice, plugged ducts, undiagnosed tongue tie and weak oral motor muscles added to my extreme fear of nursing in public, I spiraled quickly into my only battle with post partum depression. I fought with everything I had to establish breastfeeding. And it was hard. Really hard. But at 6 months, we were still going. And it finally got easier. So I set a new goal of a year. When we hit that milestone I decided we would take it month by month. At 18 months, I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. And my depression came back when the doctor told me I had to wean. After more support and research, I weaned my daughter down to 1-2 times a day. But made a promise to her that she could nurse as long as she still asked for them when she woke and went to sleep. We weaned at 4 years old. A few months after her little sister was born. I don't regret nursing my daughter for 4 years. I regret that I did not get more pictures though. I'm so glad Andrea was able to capture this moment for us while I was 8 months pregnant with her little sister. (Who is still breastfeeding at 15 months.)"

"Breastfeeding my children has been a blessing. With my first child, it was a difficult journey. I was working and taking master's degree courses. but that didnt stop me. Pumping was part of my day and each time I would be wishing for the day to be over to go home and breastfeed my boy. We made it to 1.5 years. I felt like a dream come true making it that far. Amazingly, after going through very delicate health issues and giving up the idea of becoming a mother a second time, life surprised me. My little boy came to my life healthy and ready to breastfeed. He loves his "kie kies". He is 2.8 years old and not letting go of this magical bond that we share thanks to breastfeeding"

"This picture is important to me because it was the beginning of nursing a toddler. No more little baby. We had made it! And the gymnastic nursing had begun! We had a very rocky start to our nursing relationship. We had to go through a lot of hurdles, But with determination and a whole community of support, we fought to get here! I am proud of how far we've come! This picture is now a year old, and our breastfeeding journey is still continuing!"


Thursday, July 23, 2015

What Is A Rebirth Ceremony? - Orlando (Re) Birth Photography

"A woman at birth is at once her most powerful and vulnerable...."

No woman's birth experience is the same and children are brought earth side in more ways than one. There is a saying that goes along the lines of "As long as mom and baby are healthy, that's all that matters" When people say this, they are not taking into account the mental health of the mother. Physical health absolutely matters but what also matters is that no matter how the baby makes it into this world, that the mother isn't to feel like it isn't her body the baby is coming from and that she has no control and no choices about what happens to her. This is a big problem! So many people go on suffering thinking that their feelings aren't valid. It isn't a case of things not going as planned because we all know that plans and kids don't often follow the same path. It's a case of violation of bodies, minds and a matter of respect.

I, unfortunately, was one of those people. Left to suffer alone because *I* didn't matter. I just needed to get over it. I was violated physically and mentally. I fought until I could no longer fight and what was the best day of my life was also the worst. I woke many nights for the first 2 months of my child's life from nightmares and cried myself to sleep each night. I thank God every day for a doula, Colleen Juul with Greatness In You. I told her my story and she lifted me up and set me on the path to heal my heart. I really will never have the words for what she did for me.

More women need to know about this incredible way to heal birth trauma and don't forget about daddy because they experience birth trauma too!

What is a rebirth ceremony?

A rebirth ceremony is a second chance to feel in charge of yourself, to get a second chance to experience what you felt robbed of, to heal your heart from birth trauma. It is ALL ABOUT YOU.

Colleen makes each person's experience very personal and tailors it to what they wanted to their birth experience to be like. She goes all the way down to the little details of your personal interests and what scents make you happy. It is very focused on symbolism and helping you let things go. With our ceremony we had guided mediation, we burned the words that hurt and rewrote happy things to replace them with, I had an opportunity to reconnect with my partner and just focus on each other and we ended the night in the water, where I had planned to become a mother and with a photographer so I could hold onto those memories forever! Every person's experience will be different, as with birth but what is important is that is YOURS. I felt empowered, happy and alive. It is amazing to have your feelings validated!  I can't help but think that we went through our pain so we could share the healing with others.
My son and I bonding the water :) 

After my own experience, I decided that I wanted to be part of somebody else's. It wasn't until I saw it from the outside in that I realized how powerful it really is to watch somebody's heart healing before your eyes!

If you have experienced birth trauma, please don't suffer in silence. There is help and YOU MATTER TOO!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Engagement Session - Sanford Historic District - Orlando Engagement Photography

Some sessions stand out from others and this was one of them! Every session is unique but sometimes a client goes all out and brings their personality and it's so much fun. She picked Historic Downtown Sanford as her location and it was perfect to match her vintage theme. It was an adventure exploring the area with these two. I was surprised that this was their first time doing a photo session because they looked like professional models!