I’ve already written many articles about what it’s like to shoot weddings while you’re pregnant and covered a whole lot of information about what to expect when you’re planning on trying or dealing with pregnancy loss but I haven’t yet talked about what the hell happens once the kid is out! Shooting weddings with a baby – especially a newborn baby – is quite different. And by quite different I mean… holy hell, it’s quite the juggling act.
Life as a pregnant wedding photographer is very different than life as a new mama – especially if it’s your first kiddo. I wanted to take this time to add to this blog series now that I’m 18 months into my journey as a new mama so that I can share some of the good, the bad and the really unique things I’ve learned about being a wedding photographer and having a newborn at home.
Shooting Weddings with a Baby: Months 0-3
At the time, I thought that months 0-3 were the hardest. In retrospect, they were also the easiest. It’s really a weird time.
It’s hard because you’re exhausted. You get no more than 2-3 hours of sleep at any given time… if you’re lucky.
It’s hard because you’re dealing with learning how to breastfeed, learning how to pump and learning how to find the right formula or bottle for your babe. Finding the right thing for you and your babe can be exhausting and filled with so much judgement.
It’s hard because your body is physically healing. If you’re lucky to have had a natural birth with minimal or no tearing, you’ll likely feel physically okay in about 2 weeks. If you had a c-section or had some nasty tearing though, it’s going to be weeks until you can even sit on the toilet and pee without crying, let along feel like carrying around your gear and shooting a wedding.
It’s also easy because the baby is new – not only to you but to everyone. Everyone wants to come by for baby cuddles, they want to bring you food and help out. Enjoy this time. This novelty wears off for them… trust me. Pretty soon the village that you thought you had turns into a mere hamlet and in some cases, a damn near deserted island.
It’s easy because the baby doesn’t have a lot of wake time. There’s so much sleeping. Bundle them up and put them in a swing, a bouncer, or wear them. They’re little cuddly potatoes. They don’t crawl, they don’t need to be entertained. They just need love and milk. Easy.
…and then there’s one more thing that’s hard that is literally impossible to realize at the time. It’s something you can only realize in retrospect.
…it’s hard because you realize they are only little once. Don’t miss this time. Take time to heal. Take time to be the family you’ve created. Take time to embrace every exhausting moment because you can’t get these times back.
During the first three months of being a mom, you’re going to feel like you’re on the biggest roller coaster in the world. You’ll discover how strong you are and how deeply you can love. You’ll also discover what “mommy guilt” is the minute you step away and work for the first time and there’s a really good chance you’re going to question why you took a wedding so soon after your due date. Shooting weddings with a baby at home will break your heart the first time – you’ll want to be checking in your babe every minute. It’s okay to feel that way… we all go through it.
No matter how long you wait, the “first” wedding after you have a baby will always be a milestone but having jumped back in the game rather quickly myself (about 8 weeks post partum) I can say with the utmost certainty that I regret going back so early. It wasn’t until closer to the end of month 3 of being a mama that I really felt confident in my routine, I was getting a wee bit more regular sleep and my creativity was flourishing. There’s no rush to go back. It’s not a race. Just because someone else you know shot a wedding 3 weeks post partum doesn’t mean you have to.
Unfortunately there are other aspects to being a wedding photographer other than just shooting weddings. Meetings, social media, left over editing and endless emails. They’ll still be there once baby arrives so you’ll need a plan with how to handle that first before you start shooting again.
For any new mama out there I’d recommend the following:
- Weeks 0-3 post partum: Zero work. Zero. Turn on an auto responder saying “We’ve just welcomed a new baby into the world! I will be away from my all of my devices until ____ at which point emails and phone calls will be returned.” Easy. Simple.
- Weeks 4-6 post partum: Choose 2 days a week in which you’ll work for 2 increments of 1 hour each; a total of 4 hours of work that week. This will be easier to incorporate into your routine as baby will likely be a nap champ during this time and you can easily find 4 hours over the course of 2 days in which to work. It can be during the day while baby naps or it can be in the evening when your partner is home to help with baby duties. Choose your days and stick with them. Update your email auto responder to indicate your office hours. “Hello! Just a little note to say that we’ve received your email and we will get back to your as soon as possible. Just a few short weeks ago we welcomed a sweet little baby into the world; while we’re still adjusting to life as new parents our office hours will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. We appreciate your understanding and be on the lookout for a reply from us!”
- Weeks 7-9 post partum: This is where it’s going to be time to add 1 more day of work into your schedule; another day with two 1-hour increments of work. Again, you can make it during the day while baby is napping or in the evenings while your partner is home to help. The goal that you’ll be working towards isn’t to get 12 hours of work done in a single day; it’s going to be to find a bit of time each day or at least every second day in which to work. You will want to try to work 6 hours over the course of 3 days.
- Weeks 10-12 post partum: Try to add in an extra 30 minutes of work each day that you’re working for a total of about 7.5 hours of work over the course of 3 days.
It’s important to have a little bit of time set aside for work because the every day operations of your business can only be put on the back burner for so long. If you’re not taking consults for several months after the baby is born then it’s going to affect next year’s income. Finding time to work is important but working doesn’t mean jumping right back into weddings right away. Shooting a 12+ hour day and dealing with all the culling and editing associated with a wedding is much different than finding a few hours a week in which to have some Skype consults and update your instagram.