I need a break. There, I said it and it’s out there… this post might be a long one, so buckle in.
At this point, those of you who have followed my work for years are now rolling your eyes at me…because you’ve seen me take these “breaks” from my business a few times before only to jump back into it again months later. Some of you probably think “she’s just being lazy” or “she doesn’t have what it takes to run a business” when I say that I need to walk away from this work for a while. Again. But I want to clarify…this time is different for so many reasons that I hope to explain somewhat eloquently.
I am burnt out.
Not only am I burnt out, I’m suffering. Dramatic, I know. But the sad truth is, I live with depression and it’s a daily battle. Many of you know this because I have chosen to be very open about it. Fortunately I have an incredible support system, a medication that works well for me, and plenty of outlets to help me cope with this disease. I’ve spent more than half my life figuring out ways to survive with depression, and continue to find ways that make the days easier. With all that being said…this year took a turn for the worst. I’ll spare you the long winded details, but I went from the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, to the darkest place I’ve ever been. I went through things that no one else on this planet besides my husband knows about. I hit rock bottom, for lack of a better phrase, and I’ve spent the last several months climbing my way back out of that hole. 2018 brought me face to face with some of my demons, and introduced me to new ones as well. I lost my mother in April. I think Finley’s birth, and her death, have transformed me into a completely new person. If you could see a side by side view of present me, and me a year ago, the difference is honestly unbelievable. I used to believe people generally just don’t change, but wow I proved myself wrong. It’s still a little crazy to me where life has brought me, but it’s all good. I’ve grown and opened my mind, but with all this change brings difficulties. The new reservations I hold close to my heart, about life and children, birth and motherhood, religion and family…they’ve all changed my view of the world. That change bleeds heavily into my work, as I’m sure many of you have noticed. And the difficulties that have come my way, they’ve been piling up. Weighing me down. I went from a full sprint in my business, to a slow and painful crawl.
This year was all about births. And wow was it amazing. I’ve known I wanted to add births more regularly to my bookings for a while, but after Finley’s birth I realized how incredibly close birth was to my heart. I belong in the birth world, somewhere. I thought it was photography, but I learned it might be more than that. Attending so many births this year contributed massively to my difficulties, to that weight on my shoulders that was slowly crushing me. Not from needing to be on call basically all year, not from the endless hours in the hospital, not from the long drives home at 3 in the morning 2/3 times a month. Those things I could handle. It wasn’t the work…it was far beyond that. I was leaving every single hospital birth shaking, sometimes having panic attacks in my car. I haven’t spoken in detail on my first two birth experiences, and I don’t plan on it anytime soon, but they were traumatic for me. And since learning so much about physiological birth, I realize even more now how much I was abused during those 2 births. I watched that abuse play out countless times to my clients, some of them not noticing, and some leaving their birth feeling broken and defeated. It began to eat me alive, and I was spiraling. So I made the decision for myself, that I would no longer photograph hospital births after this year. And that helped settle my heart for a short time. But I soon realized that it wouldn’t be enough to just stop there. I began to realize how much of me was consumed with my business, yet I was so unable to succeed in the ways I wanted to.
I looked back at this year, and all the years I’ve spent as a photographer, and finally understood why it is that I keep getting burnt out, why I keep walking away and then coming back for a few years at a time. When I started my business 5 years ago, I was a brand new mother. I was 20 years old, with a newborn, planning a wedding…soon after that I was a wife, I was raising a child, and moving from an apartment to a house. Very quickly after that we were pregnant again, and life kept coming. Fast. Now there’s nothing extraordinary about any of these events, people do this stuff every day. But if you pulled the curtain back just a bit, and saw what I was going through during this season of my life, you would realize how impossibly difficult trying to start a business would’ve been. From the time Jayce was born until about a year ago, I was searching desperately for an antidepressant that could help me. I went through 7 different prescriptions before finding anything that actually worked. That’s 7 separate times of starting a pill, giving it a month, realizing it doesn’t work or makes things much worse, and another month or 2 of weaning back off a pill. This process was killing me. And all the while, I was studying photography, I was reading every possible bit of information I could on running a business, editing, marketing, creating websites, building a clientele, etc. So I was trying to find a way to feel normal and healthy, while also trying to find ways to run a business with 2 small children. This is only the surface. There was also the constant struggle of fighting to save a marriage that needed a lot of work, trying to be a good mother when most days all I could manage to do was sleep…the guilt. So much guilt. Guilt from not getting galleries sent out on time. Guilt from not playing with my children enough. Guilt from all the screw ups I had with clients. Guilt from yelling at my 2 year old because I just needed to edit and all he wanted was to play with me. The guilt has been overwhelming.
So that brings me to now. I’ve found a medication that helps so much. I’ve found some stability in business and in motherhood, but I’m not really growing in either. Things have calmed down for the most part. And I can see a little more clearly now that all the noise has faded. I want to be the best business woman I can possibly be. I want to do all the things. I want a beautiful website, I want to blog every single session I shoot, I want to post on social media daily and increase my reach, I want to book clients, I want to fill my calendar and stay busy all year long, I want to learn new editing techniques, I want new gear (more like NEED) and I want to insure myself and my belongings in this business. But this requires time, energy, and money I don’t have. I also want to be a better mother. I want to solidify my parenting choices, and stop tinkering in different discipline methods trying to figure out what works without really being consistent. I want to learn to control my anger with my kids and my family. I want to learn to work through my emotions in a healthy way, when I’m having a harder day. I want to be able to keep my home clean and comfortable for us. I want to master being a home school mama, and do the very best I can for my kids so they get the most out of their time with me. I want to make memories with them, memories that aren’t rushed, memories where I’m fully in the moment with them, not letting my mind drift off into work related stuff. But this requires more time, more focus, more energy, and probably some therapy that I just don’t have right now. I am too divided. I believe one day, when I have figured out how to be a mother and wife now that my mind is (mostly) healthy, I can do both. But I realize now I have to give myself time, and LOTS of it, to train myself, to teach myself, to give myself grace, to stop and take a deep breath, before I can do either to the best of my ability. I have been tearing myself in half for years, and I think I just need to stop and pick one thing to focus on and improve on. The obvious choice is going to be my children. I will do anything for them, and that includes sacrificing my business that I love very much.
This is the text I sent my husband when I finally decided to even consider “quitting”, and I think is sums up pretty well where I’m coming from:
“I think I need to stop photography (the business part of it) for a while. I want to pursue art and painting, and use those as a tool to bring in extra cash while I take my “business break” from photos. I just feel like right now, I need to put all my effort into the kids. I want to be a better mother so badly. I want to give homeschool my all. But I’m torn in so many different directions already, with trying to keep a clean house, trying to manage my depression and anger, trying to keep friendships stable, etc, and then adding trying to run a real business while being on call for births all the time and busy weekends shooting and trying to market and so on…it’s too much. I can’t be a great business woman and a great mother right now. I’m mediocre at both bc I can’t give my all to both. And my family comes before my desire to build this business. I have so much time to do that, and very little time to be a mother. I just don’t won’t to regret not giving everything I have to them when I needed to. And putting my all into changing and growing into the person I want to be, before it’s too late. It’ll never be too late to really dive into being a photography business owner. I can put it off a few more years. But there will be a day when it’s too late to be a good mother. And I just can’t let myself miss this time anymore and waste it away bc I’m trying too hard to be too many things.”
We spoke the next day about it and he told me that he thought about mentioning to me that I should take a break, but never wanted to interfere with my success and happiness doing the job that I love. I think that solidified even more for me that this is something I need to do. My husband could see my internal struggle clear as day, and despite us probably losing a big chunk of money every month by letting go of my work, he is supportive and happy for me to make this change right now.
So where does this leave me? What will the next how every many months or years look like? I’m not sure. Like I told Jamie, I know I want to spend more time doing art work. It’s more relaxing for me, it’s much easier to do with my kids, and I can still contribute a small amount to our bills by selling it. I also know I will never be able to stop using my camera. I will hopefully be able to focus more on documenting my children as they grow, and spend any extra time I have learning new things to prepare me for the future, without the pressure of learning fast enough to implement it in my business right now. I will still photograph my very close family and friends, because there is very little pressure when working with the people I love the most. I will probably offer a session here and there on my business page, if we get into a crunch and need some money. But other than that, I’ll be taking my time to better myself. And when I come back…I’m coming back strong. I want to be the most professional person I can be for my clients, and provide a service worth paying for. And I plan on spending plenty of time bettering myself in that department before officially coming back. I will still blog. I will keep my website and Facebook updated, I’ll try not to disappear. But it’s no longer going to be an equal priority as my family. They will be first no matter what.
I think this change is going to be so good for me, and for this business one day. I’ll be able to look back at this sacrifice and smile, knowing that any success I have is thanks to this. Thanks to taking care of myself. Thanks to putting my children and husband first. I can’t imagine ever regretting that.
I’m really sad that I’ll have to turn down clients, but I have a handful of photographers who I’m so happy to support and send clients their way. I also have a handful of clients who will receive a message, stating that I’ll be here to document anything they want. Those of you who have supported me through very difficult times, who have become dear friends, you probably know who you are, but I’m not letting you go lol.
I have learned so much about myself this year, about what it takes to be a photographer (it’s so much more than you think…) and about self care. I hope that everyone I’ve worked with can understand how important it is for me to let go, and trust my heart. To drop everything else and hold fast to my family. To work on myself, in order to give them the very best lives they can possibly have. I love photography so much, that it tends to compete with the truly important things in my life. It’s time to put it to the side, and give myself a chance to enjoy life with my kids now that I’m healthy and happy again. To form new, productive habits as a mother. To learn with my kids as I teach them at home. To put more into my marriage than I ever have before. And to just thrive. I owe it to my family. I owe it to myself. And I owe it to you all. If I don’t do this, I’ll never be more than a mediocre photographer who’s disorganized and sloppy. I have to be better. And it starts at home.
I’ll be finishing out 2018, shooting everything I’ve booked and maybe taking on a few more sessions to finish out strong!
I’ve shared Finley’s birth story before, but never in this much detail. I wanted to have it written out completely, in a blog, to always be able to go back at read, and to share with any of you who might have missed reading it already. So here it is <3
My birth space had been ready for months. Birth affirmations, tinctures, everything we would need before during and after the birth was ready. I knew my baby would arrive earlier than my due date. It was just a matter of when.
We woke up Halloween morning with a stomach virus. It fiercely took over our entire day and ruined any plans we had for trick or treating with the kids. All of us were sick. I knew I was getting dehydrated by noon, and was trying my hardest to keep any type of liquid down to avoid going into labor while still so sick and weak. That did not work. I was 37 weeks pregnant, and it was baby time. We spent the entire day in bed, just trying to rest. The day was a blur, and finally the throwing up ceased, and everyone went to bed.
My labor began around 2am the following morning, November 1st. I had tossed and turned most of the night already, and began waking up every few minutes to painful contractions. Around 3am, I had to get out of bed. Nothing could keep me still, I needed to move. I paced around, stopping for contractions and grabbing on to the nearest hard surface to sway through the surges. I still wasn’t convinced this was true labor, because I’d been experiencing prodromal labor for over a month at this point. I assumed the dehydration from throwing up most of the day was causing my contractions to pick up, but that with some rest and water they would subside. I decided to shower, and see if that slowed anything down. I know I showered, because my hair was wet the rest of that morning, but I honestly barely even remember it. I think my time in the shower was for me to go away, to “labor land” and get ready for what was coming.
Once 4am came along, I started to realize the contractions were only getting stronger and closer together, so I went to the bed and nudged Jamie. “I don’t wanna do this alone anymore.” He knew before falling asleep I was having some more intense contractions, so he was aware that things were getting serious now. He shot right out of bed and followed me through our bedroom and bathroom as I dealt with each contraction. The stronger they got, the louder I got, and needed his support to stand through them. I remember being surprised with how loud I felt like I needed to be, roaring through every surge. I always imagined myself to be quiet and reserved during natural labor, but there was no way around it, I had to be vocal. I remember with my first two births, laboring to 10cm naturally both times, being somewhat vocal. But this time was different. I had so much back labor now. I found out later that was because Finley was sunny-side-up until I’m assuming crowning. I was also so weak and tired from the sickness the day before.
Jamie began pushing on my lower back at my request, which helped ease the pain for a short time as I neared transition. I’m not sure how much time passed by, but I remember feeling so weak from not eating most of the day, and really wanting to get in the bath. Jamie started it for me, steam pouring over the edges of our tub. Every now and then I was checking myself, searching for my baby’s head in hopes the end was near. This time, there was some bloody show. Oddly enough, that is when it hit me. This was real. I was meeting my baby today. I looked at the red on my fingers and realized how insanely amazing this was. I was in labor, about to have my baby. No one was making this happen. No one was telling me where to go or what to do. Just me and my body working to bring my child earthside. I didn’t need any help. I could do this.
Once I got in the water, things really picked up. They say water can boost labor sometimes, and that was very true in my case. I slowly started to feel small urges to push, which I held back as best as I could, knowing I would need to rest in the bath while I still had the chance. I think this was the point in labor where I felt like I was screaming through every contraction. Jamie later told me that I was not nearly as loud as I thought I was, but I felt like the entire neighborhood could hear me! I was leaning over the tub on my knees as another surge came. There was a very loud and shocking splash. My first thought was “Oh my god my baby just fell out” but of course that was the delusion of dehydration and exhaustion speaking lol. “Holy cow was that your water breaking?!” Jamie asked. And it was. I only knew then because of the intensity the end of that contraction had. I thought I might faint. I needed out of the tub right then and there, so I stood up and we laid out towels and Chux pads in the bedroom floor and shut off all the lights. My baby was coming!
Jamie got the birthing ball for me which I am so grateful for because at the time I didn’t think I wanted it at all. Apparently he knew better. I shifted from my hands and knees, to hanging my arms over the ball with my knees on the floor. The urge to push was impossible to fight now. I couldn’t stop my body from pushing, the urge was deep and primal. There was no stopping it now. I soon felt the burning that could only mean my baby was crowning! Contractions couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds apart at this point and I can remember only wanting a tiny break, just a moment to ground myself. I kept saying “I just want to lay down for a minute” but it was too uncomfortable to lie flat. I tried lying on our bed and immediately stood back up with the next surge. As the burning got worse, I reached to feel for baby’s head again. I looked at jamie with a weak smile and said “I can feel his hair!” The smile faded as I started to believe there was no way I could get this baby out. But my body continued to push. I wanted to fight the pushing bc of the burning, but couldn’t stop. He was coming down so incredibly fast without me even trying to push. I told Jamie “he is NOT going to fit, get me a mirror!” and he did. I took my first look at what was going on down there and said quietly “okay maybe he is fitting” as I realized most of his head was out. I couldn’t believe this. I was doing it! My body was doing this all on its own.
My baby was close, and I knew with the next few pushes his head would be out! Two more surges and then pure relief as his head escaped. There is no relief in the world like that feeling. I felt like I could do anything in that moment. My body gave me a brief break, as Finley reseted between two worlds. I could feel him wiggling, turning himself and getting ready for his hasty exit. I told jamie to get behind me and get ready to catch as another urge to push neared. Another two surges and I felt him fall out of me and into his daddy’s hands. “Oh! It’s a boy!” I heard him almost laugh. I turned around and sat down so I could hold this beautiful brand new creature, and I kept saying over and over “oh hello baby, hi sweet boy!” I couldn’t believe I’d done it. And I was holding my precious little boy in my arms, the very first time ever delivering and being able to immediately hold my child. There are no words to describe how fulfilling that moment was. I was beaming, in another world of pure magic.
It was 6:30am at this point. We quickly walked back to the bathroom and I got in the tub while we waited for the placenta to deliver, which came only a few short minutes later. I noticed shortly after that, that his cord had a true knot in it, which is supposed to be good luck. I felt his cord and stared at it and the placenta, amazed at the beauty of this life sustaining organ. Jamie looked at me and said “Happy anniversary” and I realized it was indeed our anniversary. What a special gift for us to share together after 4 years of marriage.
Once the cord stopped pulsing, Jamie went downstairs to boil the scissors and cord tie we had made with our oldest two children, and brought them back up to me. He also let Jayce into our bedroom, who had just woken up to the sounds of his baby brother crying. Jayce laid in our bed, waiting to meet his new brother, still quite tired from the day before. Jamie tied, and I cut the cord myself. We wrapped Finley up in a towel and I nursed him for the first time. I passed Finley to his daddy and took a quick shower to gather my whits and clean up a bit.
When I came back into the bedroom, I pointed to Finley and asked Jayce “Who is this?” He smiled and said “Poppy Seed!” which was this surprise gender baby’s nickname while he lived in me! We told Jayce it was a boy and he was over the moon. Lilly joined us soon after, met our newest addition, and soon she and Jayce both fell back asleep in the early morning light. The day quieted down. I took a dropper full of my shepards purse tincture, and put a piece of placenta in my cheek to help slow my bleeding a little, while I worked on getting Finley latched on again. The rest of this beautiful morning was a blur of warm joy. I drifted in and out of sleep with my baby in my arms, while the tv played quietly in the background and the kids ate their poptarts on the bedroom floor. We talked about baby names throughout the day (we hadn’t yet decided on one) and all 4 of us finally chose Finley William. William is my dad’s middle name, and we wanted to pass it down the same way we passed Jamie’s dad’s middle name down to Jayce. We let our family and friends know of the wonderful news, all of whom were so proud and excited for us. One of the best parts of this experience was the love and support I had in my choices to birth free.
Although this birth was a difficult one due to illness and exhaustion before even beginning, it was the most empowering and magical experience of my life. Delivering our child at home, alone, with only each other, was so perfect. Finley is the happiest and healthiest of babies, and I wouldn’t trade this memory for the world. My free birth was everything I wanted it to be and more, and the healing I got from it, the bond I have with Finley, is like nothing else in the entire world. Magic. Pure magic.
When Cassie came to me with the idea of capturing their normal daily homeschool routine, I was ecstatic! I personally love the idea of homeschool, and hope to do it with my own children someday. So getting to peek into what it can be like was so much fun! Everything about the way Cassie parents amazes me. She has so much patience and love for her children, and she has created such a beautiful space for them to learn in. You can see she has poured her heart into everything little detail of their home, especially their school area. I’ve been photographing this family for years, and each time I leave them I feel refreshed. Cassie is truly such an inspiration to me as a mother, and I hope to be as calm and accomplished as her with my own children.
This family gets to learn and play, eat and explore, and grow together all day every day and I think that is so special.
I met David and Erin early on in their pregnancy with sweet little Flash. David and my husband Jamie were very close friends in high school, and we all reconnected as we became parents. These people are so special to me, and they are such incredible, loving parents. I was so happy to document them with Flash, and watch them interact and play with him!
April was being induced, and we all thought we had plenty of time before her baby girl would arrive earthside. Of course we were wrong, and I quite literally missed her birth by SECONDS! When I arrived and knocked on her hospital door, I heard baby Harper crying on the other side. My heart sank a little, but that didn’t stop me from capture some beautiful memories of her and her family in the first moments of her new life!
When I arrived at the hospital and walked into Amanda’s birth space, I could feel the joy and excitement in the air. Although she was working through contractions regularly, she was smiling and laughing between each of them. I loved her and Jeremiah’s spirit. They were silly and excited, making goofy jokes with each other throughout the afternoon. Amanda breathed through her contractions so gracefully, and spent a lot of time on the birth ball and her labor progressed. She was planning a drug free birth, with the understanding and acceptance that her plan may change and she was okay with that. She was so strong, working through the surges like the goddess she is! Eventually the sun began to set, and she decided to take a shower to help deal with the pain. It seemed her labor took a turn after that, and she couldn’t quite relax anymore. She stayed at 6cm for a long time, and eventually decided on an epidural. It was getting late, and I had been there for a while, so I told her the next time they checked her if she hadn’t progressed, I would head home to rest a bit and give them some time to themselves. I thought surely her labor had quite a few more hours. But sure enough, the next check she was almost at a 10! The epidural had helped her relax so much, and now her body was ready to delivery their sweet baby girl. The room slowly changed, the mood more urgent and ready, yet still peaceful. Amanda began to push, and soon enough her girl entered the world. Tears and laughter filled the room, as Ella was placed on Amanda’s chest and she finally greeted her daughter face to face for the very first time.
Little Hayes came into this world as quickly as he could! His awesome mama texted me around 1am that she was admitted to the hospital at 2cm, and he was born a few hours later at 6:08am! I manage to arrive right before the pushing began, at about 5:30. I noticed the full moon as I walked into the hospital, and the speedy labor made a little more sense lol. The room was busy and full of excitement when I walked in. This was my first time shooting at GHS Patewood, and I really loved the staff there. Mackenzie’s nurse was so kind to everyone, you could really tell she loved her job. Things went quickly from there, Mackenzie only had to push a handful of times before her baby boy was born! This is her second child, and a planned vbac. For daddy though, this was his first, and you can see that clearly through his expressions in these photos. There was so much love in this birth. I love the look on Mackenzie’s face as she looks up and John, with an “I’m actually doing this” face! A vbac can feel like the most incredible moment of your life! I remembered my first vbac then, and smiled because I knew how powerful she felt. Hayes was welcomed calmly into this birth space, and placed onto his mama’s chest right away (something she really wanted out of this birth because she didn’t receive that with her first). So many sweet moments played out during this early morning. As the sun rose, the room filtered out and soon it was just the two parents and their new little baby. Mackenzie asked for her first born to come by before school, to meet his new baby brother. And how sweet he was, so curious in little Hayes. They snuggled and talked before he left to continue his daily routine at school. As the adrenaline drained away, the exhaustion was setting in. Soon enough both parents were yawning and drifting in and out of sleep. I captured a few more moments, and left them to their bliss. Another beautiful birth I was so privileged to witness and capture, and remember forever.
Marissa’s birth is close to my heart. There were similarities to my very first birth, that I couldn’t help but remembering through out the day as I was with her. First baby, a sweet little boy. A hard attempt at a natural labor, that ended in a belly birth. It all took me back, and I felt close to her in those moments. With that being said, here is her story:
I got a text around 11am that it was baby day! Marissa was admitted to the hospital, and 3cm dilated. Her contractions were 5 minutes apart, but it was still early so I gave her and her husband Nate space as I planned for childcare that day. Around 3:15pm she let me know her water was broken, and asked me to join them in their birth space. I dropped the kids off and headed to the hospital. When I arrived, it was quiet. The lights were off, and soft sunlight was pouring in through the window. Marissa was bouncing on her birth ball, breathing through contractions. She labored in the tub for a while before I arrived, and for most of her active labor she was on that ball, laboring like a goddess! A few hours passed before she decided to climb into the bed and rest. I watched her drift in and out of sleep between each surge, allowing her mind to go to that “other place” we all seem to go when labor gets this intense. As the pain got more intense, she moved to her hands and knees on the bed, rocking with each wave, listening to her body as she worked through this process. Around 6pm I remember hearing her say “I can’t do this” and it took me back to my first birth again. I remember that moment. The moment when you feel like you’ve lost control and you can’t keep going. It’s truly the hardest part of labor, and sometimes (but not always) means you’re transitioning. For Marissa, it wasn’t the case. She seemed to stall around 6cm, so I gave them some more space and sat in the waiting room to edit. She got some pain relief through her IV shortly after, and it allowed her to rest some. But quickly her contractions picked back up in intensity, with still very little progress. The sun left us, and 10pm arrived, when Marissa, Nate, and her birth team decided on a C-Section. I requested to join them, and after some debate I was allowed into the OR. It was 11pm by the time we walked in, and Marissa was in much better spirits. She received her spinal, and was being prepped for surgery. I could see the anticipation in her and her husbands eyes, as the realization that their baby would be here any moment set it. At 11:14pm, baby Holden entered the world. He was quickly cleaned up and handed to his daddy, where he stayed until it was mama’s turn to hold him. The joy in her face when that boy was placed in her arms, that is the moment this all led up to. That is the moment that makes it all worth it. The night quieted down as they were taken back to recovery. Marissa nursed Holden, and her and Nate reconnected and laughed with each other as the calmness took them over. It had been a very long day for them, and they finally had their baby in their arms. I stayed to capture a few more moments with them, and quietly left them to rest. I think this birth will always be special to me, because I remember being in that story 5 years ago. Having an c-section after trying so hard for a natural labor can make you feel a lot of things. To this day I can still feel regrets. But it’s my story, and it’s what made me a mama. And that is the case for Marissa as well. Her story is beautiful, and it’s only just begun.
We spent today (and last night) celebrating the 4th of July with food, family, and fireworks. I loved spending time in my sister’s gorgeous new backyard, and watching all our children play in the sun. Days like these are the ones I’ll be missing so much one day. Happy I decided to document it!