edmonton maternity photographer

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NEW MAMAS

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The night he was born, I lay in the hospital bed, trying to catch some sleep in between feedings, but was kept awake as the vivid images and sensations of his delivery continually flashed through my head rapidly and repeatedly. My mind and body were processing the incomparable experience they'd just been through. It was thrilling and a little scary and wildly different than anything I'd ever felt. When it got to be too much, I would blink open my eyes and look over at my baby (!) in his clear bassinet, marvelling at his existence and feeling so grateful for his safe arrival.

The thing about first-time pregnancy is that you're so focused on being pregnant and hoping with all your might that things go well that it's hard to think beyond that. At least for me, I had no sense of what it would feel like to be a mama, or how I would cope or what I would do. I was honestly too nervous to think that far ahead, as I just wanted him to arrive and take it from there. In stark opposition to my usual voracious reading tendencies, I didn't read about babies at all. I didn't read about sleep training or feeding or parenting. I wasn't ready to go there. 

I was, however, lucky to have received some gentle advice and suggestions from friends and family both before and after Felix's arrival, however, that I found to be immensely helpful. I'd like to share some of that, and also things that I've discovered along the way. I hope you find it useful!

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POSTPARTUM RECOVERY

The hours and days after your baby is born will be physically challenging. Surround yourself with any help that is offered (even help standing up!) and accept the loving assistance of your inner circle. If you can limit the amount of people you see during this time, it's for the best. Even holding a conversation can be taxing when you're trying to learn to care for your little one and begin your healing process too. Allow yourself to be quiet and somewhat cocooned if possible.

Mere moments after giving birth. Feeling dazed and confused and blissfully happy. I have no memory of this photo being taken!

Mere moments after giving birth. Feeling dazed and confused and blissfully happy. I have no memory of this photo being taken!

There are countless lists online with suggestions of what to bring to hospital, but here are some considerations that I found helpful:

Pack yourself some great snacks. You'll want litres of fluids and to arrange some special post-delivery snacks for yourself. I requested root beer and fries and a McChicken when my parents asked what they could get me, which I don't even remember requesting but I demolished it all. Then a chocolate milkshake. Then the next day was more sensible: nourishing bone broth and a chia seed smoothie and anything the hospital staff put in front of me. In a cooler bag, in case you don't have access to a fridge, pack yourself some of your favourite treats and lots of high fibre foods to be gentle on your system. Yes the hospital will provide food but it's wonderful to have some of your favourite stuff on hand.

Pack some lovely toiletries. Seriously, bring a great soap and moisturizer. I was shocked by how fabulous my first shower was. I don't think I'll have a better shower in my life. It's so nice to feel hot and clean and refreshed after labour! So bring along some really good soap and moisturizer to soothe your skin. 

Your own things. It's very comforting to have your own pillow, a favourite robe and other cozy items to curl up with as you're in a hospital. Anything soft and warm.

Recommended reads: Some people bring along a novel, but I was too exhausted to read anything but all the paperwork (birth certificate, social insurance and health card application for baby), and resources from the hospital.

Do bring a camera. I had zero desire to be photographed or to take pictures at the hospital, but Brian took pictures right after Felix arrived and they are now my most treasured. I forced myself to get up and take pictures of our little family in our room even though I could barely walk from exhaustion. I am so glad I did. If you're too tired, ask a family member to take lots of photos for you at moments you want to remember or better yet, hire a birth photographer! You will want to have these photos, at least on the day after delivery.

RECOVERY AT HOME

Take it (extremely) easy. Learn from my cautionary tale and do not try to leave your home too early. I tried to go shopping just a few days after birth and almost fainted. Nearly everything can wait, especially if you've done meal prep. Rest at home as much as possible and take advantage of any delivery service (more on that later). Here are some things that helped me recover at home:

  • Nourishing, easy-to-digest foods like bone broth, oatmeal, soups, stews, etc
  • Comforting herbal teas (Lauren Mary Holistics makes amazing ones!) and other warm drinks
  • Sitz bath
  • Epsom salts
  • Heating pad
  • Ice packs
  • Postpartum wrap (such as the Belly Bandit)
  • Bed sheets of the finest quality you can afford. Make your bed as comfortable as possible so that the precious sleep you get is near to perfect sleep.

You can also make it easy on yourself and order a curated box with nearly all of the above and more. What the Stork Forgot was created by Edmonton-based blogger Rachel Jones of Edmomton. It's a customizable gift bag you can purchase for yourself or an expecting friend and contains a brilliant array of must-have items for a recovering mama.

HELP WITH RECOVERY

I would highly recommend seeing a physiotherapist that specializes in women's pelvic health in addition to any follow-up you do with your OB/midwife/doula. I went to Cura Physical Therapies for sciatica pain (which they totally cured for me) during pregnancy, and for birth prep. I'm currently seeing them for help with my abdominal separation, and they can also help you with pelvic floor physio (aka recovering from the rigours of labour!)

LIFE WITH BABY

There are certain things that make life a little easier. Here are a few of my favourites:

Left: taking babies out and about helps acclimatize them to activity and different environments. Felix was totally chill while I ate these fish and chips. Right, wearing my beloved ring sling!

Left: taking babies out and about helps acclimatize them to activity and different environments. Felix was totally chill while I ate these fish and chips. Right, wearing my beloved ring sling!

  • Halo SleepSack Swaddle. For me, an absolute must-have. It was instrumental in helping Felix sleep soundly for about the first two months. He has since transitioned to a regular sleepsack.
  • White noise machine. It's comforting to babies to have some kind of soft, rhythmic sound when they're brand new. We chose this humidifier + white noise machine and love it. You can also keep it simple and just download a white noise app on your phone ;)
  • Baby swing. Find one that suits you best, and I'm sure you'll find it to be an indispensable helper when you could really use an extra set of hands but you're on your own. Your baby will (very likely) love it even more than you do.
  • Ring sling. I used this to carry Felix on walks, and also to soothe him at home on fussier days.
  • Soft structured baby carrier. At the urging of my friend Gill (a nurse, who was concerned about my back dealing with the weight of an 18 lbs baby) we just started using the Ergobaby 360, as Felix is a little heavy for the ring sling until he is older and can hold onto me a bit.
  • Lily Padz. So clever and convenient, easy to clean and very effective.
  • Salt lamp. Provides soft and beautiful light for nighttime feedings.
  • The Baby Box. Depending on where you live, you may be eligible to receive a free box for your baby to sleep in during the first six months. Simply sign up, complete their online "Baby Box University" (aka educational videos about babies, safety and postpartum mental health) and you can arrange to pick up your box. This provides a safe place for your baby for sleep, nap, or even hang out while you get a few things done. 

Recommended reading: Your Baby is Speaking to You. This is very helpful in decoding body language and cues to help you decipher what your baby wants and needs during the earliest weeks.

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BABY + MAMA CARE

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Taking care of yourself during this time is so important. Keep yourself strong so you can care for your family. For me, this includes making time for soothing rituals and grooming for myself, but also delighting in establishing relaxing care routines for Felix. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm obsessed with Pura Botanicals' products. The above photo features my lineup of products for both me and baby (from left to right):

  • Little Ones Remedy Oil. A wonderful oil for babies' dry scalps/cradle cap.
  • Pixie and Sprite Wash. Beautifully aromatic yet gentle wash for babies' skin.
  • Dreamtime Massage Oil. The best way to end a baby bath ritual. The most deliciously scented oil for rubbing into a little one's skin.
  • Enchanting Lullaby Mist. Perfect for refreshing a nursery and also for lighting spritzing over a baby's bassinet or crib to establish a naturally scented nighttime fragrance associated with sleep and peaceful bedtime.
  • Evening Primrose Therapy Oil. Healing for mama's tummy. Used it (and loved it!) during pregnancy and now in postpartum as well.
  • Ambrosia Beautifying Complex. An exquisite potion for soothing your parched facial skin post-delivery. The scent is to die for. It's incredibly potent and a little bit goes a long way.

I also love Rocky Mountain Soap Co's wares. A friend gave me their Baby Care Gift Set and I've since purchased this powder and I use it daily. I also really love So Luxury Coco Oat Bath.

Left: the night when we attempted to leave the house and do errands too soon (maybe four days after Felix's birth?) and I almost fainted. Right: several weeks later, walking as a family when I was feeling so much better.

Left: the night when we attempted to leave the house and do errands too soon (maybe four days after Felix's birth?) and I almost fainted. Right: several weeks later, walking as a family when I was feeling so much better.

OUT AND ABOUT

Getting out of the house, once you're really and truly feeling up for it, is very invigorating and healing in its own way. Stepping back into the world, now as a mother, feels at once scary and wonderful. I try to go out daily with Felix so that we both get fresh air and also so that he's acclimatized to all different types of environments, sounds, scents, etc. It's easy to pack up and go now, but at the beginning, it felt very daunting. Here are some things that helped:

  • Style. It may sound superficial, but making it easy to pick out your clothing is really important. For a while you'll be in limbo between your pregnancy size and your new size. You will feel squishy and strange, so don't feel weird still wearing your maternity clothes for a while if they're comfortable. If you're nursing, you also have to consider which clothes make feeding on the go doable! I highly recommend making yourself a capsule wardrobe for this specific purpose. It's so much easier when everything in your closet is wearable and practical at this stage. Everything else can be packed away neatly and welcomed back once you finish nursing. Here's a glimpse at my unglamourous, super cozy nursing capsule wardrobe:
Nursing capsule wardrobe: cozy sweaters, cotton tops, nursing tank tops, leggings, stretchy jeans, etc.

Nursing capsule wardrobe: cozy sweaters, cotton tops, nursing tank tops, leggings, stretchy jeans, etc.

  • New mama makeup. I did a whole post about my minimalist new mama makeup kit.
  • Keep your diaper bag stocked and organized. And pick one that feels like you. We chose this black canvas bag from So Young.
  • Invest in an awesome stroller. We wanted something small and compact, and were ecstatic to find a Bugaboo Cameleon3 secondhand. This will be one of your most-used items so choose something that good quality, moves smoothly and makes life easier, not more frustrating!
  • Keep your baby carrier on hand. You never know when you'll need to use it, so I recommend keeping a ring sling or soft structured carrier in your stroller or car.
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CONVENIENT SERVICES + APPS

In the early days, any service that helps you get through the day more easily is a good service indeed.

  • Grocery delivery. I've started ordering from Spud, a local and organic grocery delivery service. You can also do "click and collect" with many grocery stores, which means you place the order online and arrange a pickup time, saving you precious hours over time.
  • Meal delivery. A friend sent us a Skip the Dishes gift certificate, which was a brilliant gift. It's really helpful to be able to order food right to your home on a day when you're completely out of energy.
  • BabyCenter (app). Regular helpful info about your baby based on its age.
  • Baby manager (app). I use this daily to keep track of feedings, but you can use it to track just about anything baby-related. 
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SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES

Whenever possible, I choose to shop from small and/or local businesses for life with baby. Here are just a few of my favourite purchases and gifts:

SOCIAL LIFE + FUN ACTIVITIES

Three months in. The fact that it has taken me this long to publish this post is fairly representative of my reality; I've been too tied up until about now to have time to write this! My lovely neighbour texted me one day saying "at three months, you'll start to get your life back." I've been loving being ensconced in the early stages of motherhood, but it is definitely fun to be able to get out more and for Felix to be starting to have a rough schedule of naps. At this point in time, here are the activities that I've been enjoying the most.

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Some of my favourite things:

  • Visit somewhere warm like a conservatory. This is obviously especially nice if you have a winter baby.
  • Attend a baby-friendly exercise class. I do postnatal yoga with instructor Vera Resera (with whom I practiced prenatal yoga) with Felix and we love it!
  • Join a local group of mamas with babies born around the same time. I signed up for one through Alberta Health Services and really enjoyed the six weeks of nurse-facilitated sessions. Our group has since decided to keep up with our meetings biweekly and met for treats this week.
  • Visit your library. I haven't done this yet but plan to do so! There are tons of free musical and early literacy programs offered by libraries. Take advantage of them.

All this being said, I strongly encourage you to keep doing as many of the things you loved before your baby arrived. This will make you feel like your normal self more quickly. We love going out for coffee, brunch, lunch or happy hour with Felix (not dinners yet as he's super fussy at night). I really enjoy meeting with friends and bringing my little sidekick along. I get so much joy out of going for family walks and of course, doing shoots with our little family as well.

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To wrap things up in this very long post, I'd like to say that life as a mama is pure magic. The exhaustion, the frustration, the confusion... it's all thrilling.

I had a conversation with a friend in Montreal this week who was asking me how motherhood has changed my life. She wondered if everything in me has shifted to be about my baby and if I feel like I've had to give up many other things as a result. The short answer is no. However unprepared any of us are for parenthood, I was so very ready to be a mama. It's no small miracle that Felix is here and I am thankful for his arrival with every fibre of my being. But I still feel like myself, just with a new love that burns oh so brightly.

I delight in introducing him to the world, and sharing my days with him. I dream about how our family's life will continue to evolve and the adventures we'll have. But I don't feel like anything has been removed or given up; I feel like there is a new capacity of energy and love that was previously untapped that makes space for this new tiny human in my life, enriching it potently. Being a mama doesn't subtract anything from my life; it only adds and fills and expands and augments and improves, all the while making a great big mess and testing my patience and teaching me countless lessons. I'm loving every moment.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EXPECTING MAMAS

Photo by Jill Coursen

Photo by Jill Coursen

I absolutely loved the experience of being pregnant. Believe it or not, I even enjoyed the unforgettable and incomparable intensity of labour.  Becoming a mama has been a wild and wonderful journey. I marvel daily at how much has changed in my life in the last year. Dreams evolving, priorities shifting, mindset realigning. I can scarcely believe I'm here now, two months after becoming a mama, and I'm so very grateful.

My road to motherhood, despite a few scares and being designated as higher risk for a period of time, was one of a healthy pregnancy without many complications. However joyful, I was sometimes utterly exhausted and uncomfortable, so when I found creature comforts that helped ease the less pleasant sensations, or things that just enhanced the journey to motherhood, I embraced them enthusiastically. In this post, I'm excited to share my discoveries and recommendations for you, in case you, too, may find them helpful.

THROUGHOUT PREGNANCY

Photo by Jill Coursen

Photo by Jill Coursen

The best piece of advice I can give to carry you through is to educate yourself about all the resources your city has to offer. It's trickier to do things once your little one arrives, and time seems to run shorter as pregnancy progresses so take advantage of the time you have and start collecting info on everything you think would be helpful, for example:

  • Find your OB/midwife/doula
  • Get any necessary immunizations
  • Does your city offer any free resources/books/info for expecting mamas?
  • Download the Overdrive app on your device so you can sign out ebooks for free with your library card. This is a great way to read all the relevant books without breaking the bank

In-person workshops are a great way to learn and also connect with other expecting mamas. When I was 36 weeks along, I attended Pregnancy and the Empowered Mother, which was hosted by Jill (a nurse and founder of Essentials by Nature) and Lauren Mary (holistic doula and founder of Lauren Mary Holistics.) I wish I had done this earlier in my pregnancy, as they shared so many things that would have helped me out when I was battling extreme fatigue and nausea early on, for example. If you're local to Edmonton I would highly recommend this workshop, or if you're elsewhere I would encourage you to search for something similar in your city.

I also attended an event at Yo Mama Maternity that featured a fabulous group of guest speakers about all things motherhood. My friend Mel of The Nomadic Wife spoke about meal prep, while other presenters touched on topics from sleep to fitness after baby, to mental health and also documenting your family through photography. 

Another thing I found very helpful is to talk to friends who are already parents whose general approach to life you respect and admire. Let's be honest, there are some parents who we don't want to emulate, so I found it inspiring to connect with the ones who are the kind of parents I aspire to be. I personally avoid the ones whose approach and general negativity makes parenting seem like a nightmare, and gravitate towards the ones who run their families with honesty, warmth and lots of humour. On the same note, it is wonderful to connect with other kindred spirits who are expecting little ones, to chat over tea and share your experiences.

Photos from throughout: 20 weeks, 30 weeks and 39 weeks. I loved working, socializing, staying active and engaged as I grew bigger by the day.

Photos from throughout: 20 weeks, 30 weeks and 39 weeks. I loved working, socializing, staying active and engaged as I grew bigger by the day.

Apps I found helpful throughout pregnancy:

  • What to Expect: a classic but a goodie. Tracks your baby's development week by week and shares relevant health and self-care information. My main criticism of this app is that it's tips of the day often make men/dads out to be useless idiots who've never cooked or cleaned in their lives and have no emotional intelligence, but other than that, it's generally really helpful.
  •  iBirth: A slightly more holistic pregnancy app
  • The Bump: Similar to the other two, but with more lighthearted articles
  • Babyname: the" tinder" of babyname apps - you and your partner swipe on your respective phones to choose your favourite names and it builds a list of your favourite name matches for your reference. Fun, and helpful!

FIRST TRIMESTER

For me, the first trimester was a time to focus on emotional and physical self care, as it's a vulnerable moment where you're often not sharing your news with many people, holding on to hope that all will be well with baby, and feeling very fragile due to morning sickness and exhaustion. I rested as much as possible and tried to learn about all the things I shouldn't eat for food safety, while also learning through trial and error about what I could stomach! The most important tip I learned was to keep blood sugar stable, as drops were sure to trigger extreme nausea or almost fainting. Pack high protein snacks with you everywhere you go! 

Recommended reads:

  • Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy: Published in 2017, so very up-to-date and packed with truly helpful information. I loved this book and wish I'd read it before my baby arrived!
  • The Field Guide to Pregnancy: I picked this up while in San Francisico and adored its east-meets-west approach, combining a traditional Chinese medicine perspective with a modern western perspective, month-by-month.
  • The Mama Natural: a little more crunchy, with a focus on doing everything as naturally and drug-free as possible, but very interesting with lots of great recipes
  •  Yeah Baby. The tone of this one was what you would expect from Jillian Michaels, but nevertheless, absolutely packed with information about health, fitness and nutrition and how you can use pregnancy as an opportunity to get in the best shape of your life.

SECOND TRIMESTER

14 weeks pregnant, on 17-mile drive in Carmel, California

14 weeks pregnant, on 17-mile drive in Carmel, California

People told me the second trimester is the "golden trimester" as symptoms from the first start to dissipate and you're still not large enough to be uncomfortable. I found this to be very true. As such, this is a good time to get stuff done! Here are some things I would recommend:

  • Travel. We took a babymoon to California and I had enough energy to walk for 8 hours/day!
  • Dental work. You're hopefully less nauseated than in your first trimester and less large and uncomfortable sitting in a reclining pose than you will be in the third. Plus your gums need a little extra TLC while you're pregnant.
  • Get your hair done. I did not take this advice and now have to wait until the little one can go long enough without nursing for me to get my highlights done. Highlights are safe to do during pregnancy since the colour doesn't touch your scalp, but ask your doctor if other colouring is safe before going while pregnant.
  • Prepare the nursery. Do it earlier before you get too tired and big.
  • Start to think about maternity leave. I am taking approximately 4-5 months off from working, though I did have my first brief shoot over the weekend. Talk to your partner (if applicable) and discuss what is desired and realistic for you. By prepping early, you can advise your employer or clients and start to make plans. On a related note...
  • Financial planning. Unless you will be receiving Employment Insurance + full top-up from your employer, your financial situation will be affected by taking leave. Make a plan before you have to panic. I recommend speaking to a personal financial planner (more on that below).
  • Maternity clothes. Most people start needing to wear maternity-appropriate clothes once the second trimester begins. I borrowed from friends, shopped at local boutiques as well as H&M's maternity section, and also simply purchased clothing in larger sizes or with a lot of stretch.
  • Figure out home remedies and comfort strategies. Despite the magic of pregnancy, it can come with many physical discomforts. For me, heartburn was a big one and it started during the second trimester. I dealt with it using a mix of homemade shrub (a fruit vinegar) mixed with water and chewable Tums at night. Another complaint was my aching joints and hips, which I dealt with by padding my side of the bed with a thick comforter, which added extra cushioning.
  • Take care of your skin. My complexion did crazy things during pregnancy, and my abdomen began expanding rapidly. The remedy for both of these phenomena was oil! I used Pura Botanicals' Ambrosia Beautifying Serum on my face and Evening Primrose Therapy Oil on my belly and I credit both with the absence of melasma or stretch marks.
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Recommended reading: Worry-Free Money: the guilt-free guide to managing your money and your life. This is written by my friend and financial planner, Shannon Lee Simmons. Shannon is a longtime friend who has been advising me on personal finances for nearly a decade. Her expertise has been invaluable to me so I was incredibly excited to read her new book. It's full of information that will help whip you into financial shape as your family grows.

THIRD TRIMESTER

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The third trimester, naturally, is when things start getting real. Here's what you can do during this time:

  • Get the nitty gritty. I attended my hospital's prenatal class, which conveyed all the most important information about what to expect medically. I also asked my beloved OB for candid advice based on her vast experience. She was super blunt and also very encouraging, and our conversation was really reassuring. It was at this point that I decided to have no set birth plan.
  • Care for your body. The best thing I did during the final month was a "Healthy Homestretch" package that included acupuncture, prenatal massage and guided meditation at Ripple Effect Wellness. It was an excellent experience! I'd encourage you to care for yourself in whatever way feels best, and be sure to get lots of rest.
  • Meal prep! My friend Mel helped us with meal preparation, and I also baked a lot of one-handed and bite-sized snacks like pre-sliced banana bread that could be frozen and individually defrosted.
  • Make a snack station. My friend Sarah gifted me a basket of her personal favourite drinks and snacks that she'd enjoyed during nursing her own baby. I set this up beside my chair in the nursery and it sustained me during those first few weeks!
  • Maternity portraits. This is a great time to hire a photographer to take portraits for you at this special moment. I'd advise doing so earlier in your third trimester, before you get increasingly uncomfortable and have to run to the bathroom all the time.
Jada, my acupuncturist from Ripple Effect Wellness, whose manicure is always on point.

Jada, my acupuncturist from Ripple Effect Wellness, whose manicure is always on point.

Recommended reading: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, The Birth Partner (for your partner to read), The First Forty Days

Shooting at dusk with my brother at 40 weeks and two days, 14 hours before going into the hospital to be induced. Photo: Jon Curow

Shooting at dusk with my brother at 40 weeks and two days, 14 hours before going into the hospital to be induced. Photo: Jon Curow

LABOUR + DELIVERY

My first full day as Felix's mama.

My first full day as Felix's mama.

I learned a lot about what to pack from attending my hospital prenatal class, although I only used a tiny portion of it since the delivery ward was full and I spent the day being induced, walking the halls with my IV and also standing up in a curtained bay of the assessment area for 80% of my labour. I didn't get to use any of the therapeutic items like a yoga ball or massage balls because I didn't get into the delivery room until it was time to push. But that's a story for another day!

Walking the halls for hours while my contractions intensified.

Walking the halls for hours while my contractions intensified.

Between what I learned at different prenatal classes and what I gleaned from friends, my hospital must-haves (that I actually had a chance to use) were:

  • A camera!
  • A super cozy robe
  • Comfortable slippers
  • 1-2 of your own pillows from home
  • Litres of coconut water (what I lived off during labour when I wasn't allowed anything but clear fluids)
  • Intensive moisturizer and chapstick (because you will be parched)
  • Good hair elastics that keep your hair off your face
  • Pads and an ice pack and larger cotton underwear
  • A water bottle with a straw
  • Great snacks for recovery including nourishing bone broth, high fibre friends like chia seeds and dried fruits, and high protein items like nuts and seeds. Also, I drank a chocolate milkshake as soon as I was able to and I highly recommend it.
  • A beautifully scented soap or body wash for your post-labour shower (the best shower of your life)
  • Nursing bras + tank tops
  • Grooming supplies if you care about cleaning yourself up for your first pictures with your baby/family. I packed a bright pink lipstick and I'm so glad I did, seriously. It perked me right up when I felt utterly spent and didn't want any photos initially.
  • Cozy blanket to swaddle your baby
  • Cozy clothes for baby in multiple sizes
  • Diapers and wipes for baby
  • Black pens for filling out a million forms

I hope you found this helpful! It's only a tiny bit of what I learned, so if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out.

EDMONTON MATERNITY PORTRAITS | MONICA & RAZ

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Last month, I was lucky enough to photograph my friend Monica and her husband, Raz, just a few weeks before the arrival of their little one. They have since welcomed a beautiful baby boy into their family and I am bursting with happiness for them. Congratulations, you guys!

All portraits taken in my greenhouse studio!