When I was pregnant with Brayden, I thought I was superwoman. I wasn’t going to let a little baby bump stop me from my busy work schedule. I got lucky because Brayden was due in February. I did have two weddings already scheduled for January (at 36 and 37 weeks pregnant), but I thought it would be no problem. That is until I got into a car accident the night before my last wedding and I realized that I was indeed invincible. The HUGE, swollen feet after each wedding was also a good reminder that I couldn’t do it all (my feet were so big I had to change into a pair of flip flops when I couldn’t get my feet back into my flats after taking them off for a few minutes). In 2008, the year Brayden was born, I shot 23 weddings in 10 months. It was insanity. I was tired. And I wasn’t getting to enjoy being a new mom. I wasn’t happy.
This time, I’m doing things differently. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
1) Tell your brides whose weddings will be directly affected ASAP. I told my brides right after I had my first doctor appointment and ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy at around 6 weeks. I had to cancel a few weddings and it wasn’t fun. I hate letting people down. Hate it. But, I also knew that while I could have shot one of the weddings at 38 weeks pregnant, I wouldn’t have performed at my best. And my brides deserve the best.
2) With Brayden I hired photographers to take over my weddings last two weddings for me. I was still at the weddings, but I wanted real photographers with real businesses there to cover for me if I couldn’t be there or had to leave early. You can read more abut that here. But, remember that it’s not just the shooting. It’s all the work that you have to do after the weddings that is time consuming as well. And I remember how hard it was trying to sit in a chair and edit when I was 40 weeks pregnant for a couple of hours when all I wanted to do is lay down and take a nap. Or worse, trying to edit while holding a crying newborn! This time I didn’t even want the stress of hiring another photographer and having to worry about the details. I referred my brides to awesome photographers and will let them take care of it. I know they will be in great hands.
3) I’m keeping my schedule very light this year and next year. I’ve notified all my clients that I will be taking maternity leave. It’s important to set aside those couple of months and clear your schedule. With Brayden, I had an emergency c-section. I needed those entire two months to recover. Even if you don’t have a c-section you will be tired, emotionally drained, and probably a little overwhelmed. Take those two months to get to know your new baby and set a routine. And if you feel like going back to work earlier, you can. But by leaving your schedule open you’re not obligated to.
4) Think about if you are going to nurse or not. That’s one of the biggest challenges about being a wedding photographer. At least for me. When do you find time to pump during an 8 hour wedding? And what if your baby refuses to take a bottle? It happens! Luckily, Brayden was super easy and ate any way he could. And I got lucky because my milk supply was great. Most weddings I pumped right before and right after and I was fine. But, realize you will probably have to find time during a wedding to pump.
It would also be smart to inform your clients that you are choosing to breastfeed and you might have to step away for a few minutes during their wedding. Assure them that their photography will be covered and that you will not leave them high and dry during the important parts of their wedding. That way they feel taken care of and they won’t be wondering where you ran off to.
5) If you’re shooting weddings, hire an assistant to carry your bags. It’s the best money you’ll ever spend. Do it for your weddings while you’re pregnant and after as well. Even if you don’t think you need an assistant at the beginning of your pregnancy, do it anyways. You never know when or if you’ll develop morning sickness. It can be a lifesaver to have someone there to grab you water or a snack when you don’t have time to do it yourself. And for the weddings after you have the baby your second shooter can cover for you if you need to leave to pump and the assistant can take over for the second shooter. Then you don’t feel guilty for having to leave.
This baby will most likely be our last. While, I want to continue having a successful business, I also want to enjoy life. That’s why I chose to be a photographer. So I can make my own schedule and stay home with my kids. I hate saying no and passing up opportunities, but life is short. Our kids are little for such a short period of time and I want to make sure I’m enjoying it, not just rushing through it.