It's official, I'm Award-winning!

It’s official, I’m Award-winning!

So, you may or may not know, but I received some pretty exciting news a few weeks ago: I was voted ‘Best Photographer in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’ at the Muddy Stilettos Awards 2019. Yippee!!

In case you’ve never heard of them, they bill themselves as ‘the UK’s most prestigious lifestyle awards, championing the very best local businesses across 21 counties.’

750,000 votes were cast across the UK by the public and it kind of blows my mind to think that a significant amount of those were for me…..and chose me to win!

I launched Baby Love Photography 4.5 years ago after being made redundant whilst on maternity leave. It was a massive step for me, but I knew from the get go that it was the right thing to do. I adored taking photos and meeting new families and I wanted a job I could fit around Flynn, then 1.

Since then, I’ve never actually entered any of my photos into competitions. There are lots out there, but they mostly make you pay to enter and I don’t really agree with that – I feel like a certain number of entries will always be graded so as to keep people happy and keep them paying to enter each month.

However, when I heard about the Muddy Stilettos Awards, they felt different. There was no cost to enter and the winners were decided purely on public vote. They’re also genuinely passionate about helping local businesses – and as any small independent business will know, we rely on word of mouth and the support of others to keep going in what is a very competitive business world.

When I found out I had won, I was honestly over the moon. The support I had received from my friends, family and clients had been amazing, but I was up against some amazing photographers so I knew it would be a close call. Even when I saw my name on the website I couldn’t quite believe it….luckily the editor called me shortly afterwards to reassure me that it was all true! haha

So what did I win?! As well as the official title of ‘Best Photographer in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’, I was also invited to an award’s ceremony at Pylewell Park in Lymington to receive my certificate and to meet the team behind Muddy Stilettos Hampshire. It was such a lovely afternoon – there were drinks and nibbles from several local suppliers, including one of the nicest Proseccos I’ve ever drunk by Cottonworth and super tasty (and on brand) biscuits by Gates Bakes (as you can see below, mine didn’t last long once Flynn had set his sights on it!)

As well as using this blog post to shout about my award, I just really wanted to use this opportunity to thank EVERYONE who took the time to vote for me – both to reach the final five and to be crowned the winner. It’s hard for me to put into words quite how grateful I am and I honestly hope my sincerity comes across – genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

I couldn’t have won this award without all your support, but more importantly, I couldn’t do what I do without it: To all new clients who put trust in me to take their family photos; To all my returning clients who come back to me time and time again; And to everyone who recommends me to their friends and family and allows me to meet new families on a weekly basis…… THANK YOU!

At Baby Love Photography, we are most definitely feeling the LOVE right now!


Top 10 things for kids in Hampshire & Surrey

OK, so I realise i’m posting this the wrong side of half term – although to be fair I was in Dubai so I didn’t actually spend the week frantically finding things to entertain my hyperactive four-year-old (sorry not sorry). However, it dawned on me that Easter is only just around the corner and that’s a whole TWO WEEKS that the kids are off school so I figured I should start planning what I’m going to do with Flynn during that time. That then got me thinking about this blog post……so here it is, my favourite things to do with the boys around Hampshire and Surrey!

1) Wellington Country Park – Reading

We absolutely LOVE it here! I’ve had an annual pass for the last few years and it has been a God send! It’s fab for all ages! When Kit was a baby I used to go there for walks around the lake or for a coffee with friends, and ever since Flynn has been walking, I’ve been taking him to see the animals at the farm, to play in the splash park (when it’s warm enough), to hunt for balls in the mini golf or to burn off some energy in the various parks! They even do themed events in the holidays e.g. Hallo’welly’ween in October and a Mega Egg Hunt at Easter. It’s only about a 20-25 minute drive from my home in Fleet and with the annual pass, it doesn’t matter if you only go for a few hours as you’ve already prepaid! However…..they have put their annual pass prices up rather drastically this year, to the point where I’m really torn whether to renew ours or not! Now that Flynn is in school I would only be able to take him during the holidays and it can get very busy during this time. My current thinking is that I will renew mine (Kit is free until he’s 3) and then just pay for Flynn when I want to take him on the odd occasion. But we will see. Regardless, it’s been fun while it lasted!

2) Soft Play

We LIVE in soft plays – especially during the winter! Flynn can run around like a lunatic, Kit can crawl safely in the baby sections and mummy can sit and have a drink and some cake whilst keeping an eye on them both – and occasionally getting stuck in myself! Some also do a post-school meal deal where the older kids can play and eat for about £7 (bonus – saves me cooking when I get home!). I’m thinking I will do a whole separate blog post on the various soft plays around here as I have tried them all and each has their pros and cons but for now, here are a few of my faves for you to check out:

– Run-About (Farnborough)

– Active Monkeys (Fleet)

– Active Tots (Reading)

– Farnborough Leisure Centre (Farnborough)

– 360 Play (Farnborough)

3) The Lookout Discovery Centre – Bracknell

We’ve only been here once but Flynn loved it and I’ve been meaning to take him back but just haven’t had the time – it’s probably easier to do so without Kit now though as he won’t stay in the pram for long and it isn’t really the best place for him to be crawling around! It’s basically a big indoor science exhibition with over 90 activities which kids can enjoy and learn from. Flynn was only just four when I took him and he had lots of fun but I think as he gets older he will start to enjoy – and understand – it even more! There’s also a big outdoor play area and it’s right next door to Go Ape and Coral Reef – neither of which I’ve been to but have heard good things about!

4) Hart Leisure Centre – Fleet

Flynn loves swimming. He’s forever asking daddy to take him – how much actual swimming he does I don’t know – but even if he just runs through the water, he has a ball! We’ve taken Kit a few times too. He doesn’t seem to be quite as much of a water baby as his big brother but time will tell. Hart Leisure Centre is the closest pool to us so we tend to use this the most – Jonny has a swimming membership too as he goes himself in the evening! However, I personally find the pools quite cold (especially the big one) so I tend to sit on the side and just help with the drying/dressing part at the end. When Flynn was younger we also used to use the swimming pool in Aldershot a fair bit.

5) Rosie & Bean

This is a little play cafe in Fleet that is super cute. They have a bouncy castle which is ideal for the slightly older kids and then lots of different toys – wooden shops and kitchens, train tracks, fancy dress station etc – which the younger kids enjoy. It’s quite small, so when it’s busy it can feel rather chaotic (also when it’s busy parking is a nightmare), but catch it when it’s quiet and it’s a lovely little place to hang out. They also do the best jacket potatoes – I pretty much ate my body weight in them when I was expecting Kit!

6) Redfields

This is a lovely big garden centre in Church Crookham that sells everything from plants and home essentials to clothes, kids toys and independent food/drink labels. Upstairs they have a little play area which is perfect for younger babies – you can sit right next to it and eat cake while they play! For crawling babies it’s not as perfect as there’s no barrier to the play area so they can get out and crawl around (and the stairs downstairs are only a little crawl away) but that just means you have to ditch the cake and sit in there with them (not the end of the world, I know!). There’s also a TV in there and a little computer screen for the older kids – and they sell gingerbread men which always seem to be a firm favourite with the toddlers! Food is pretty pricey, so it’s not somewhere you’d want to eat out at every day, but for a treat now and then, it’s fine! Oh, and at Christmas they have these fabulous singing reindeer which are definitely worth visiting for!

7) Bowling

This is a fairly new one for us but ever since we introduced Flynn to it a few months’ back he’s been asking to go every weekend since. The first time we went Kit was young enough to sit and watch from the pram so I got to play…..and Flynn beat me!! No joke! IN BOTH GAMES! However, fortunately (for me) Kit now won’t stay for longer than two minutes in his pram so I have to sit with him while Flynn and daddy play. Saves me the embarrassment of losing to a four-year-old I guess. We generally go to Farnborough Bowl as it’s the closest but the other day we tried out Hollywood Bowl in Basingstoke and that was pretty cool too – they have arcade games too which Flynn also loves!

8) The park – Fleet

Now that the weather has picked up a bit I just love popping to the park after school to catch the last of the sun (if we’re lucky) and to burn off that last remaining bit of Flynn’s energy before dinner and bedtime. Our go-to is Oakley Park on Albany Road as that’s on our way home. It’s a cute little park with a heater skelter slide, multiple swings and some floor games and it’s next to a big piece of greenland where you can play football/chase etc. We also like Azalea Park in Church Crookham as that’s a bit bigger and has all the usuals as well as an assault course and a scooter track and there are several parks around Elvetham Heath that we like to visit – the main one at The Key is good as it has a separate baby section as well as a skate ramp and zip wire for the older kids.

9) Farnham Park

As parks go, this is the creme de la creme. As well as 320 acres of rolling grassland, nestled in the middle of this deer park is a huge wooden play area for kids of all ages. There is a big slide, a zip wire, a castle, an assault course….honestly, there’s something for everyone. It’s lovely and clean and once you’re done playing you can either pop into Farnham for a wander round the shops and a bite to eat (it’s my favourite local town – it’s so pretty) or go for a walk around the rest of the park. There’s even Farnham Castle which you can look around – and a little cafe that sells ice creams (essential come the summer months)! One word of warning though….if you park in the main car park by the cricket pitch/ranger’s office (which is absolutely chocka at weekends when the weather is nice by the way) the park is fine to get to as it’s at the bottom of a massive hill but oh my gosh it’s a KILLER to get back up to your car – especially when you’re either pushing a buggy or trying to drag a tired, hangry child along with you. Saying that, the promise of an ice cream from the cafe at the top usually works wonders as bribery 😉

10) McDonalds – Fleet

Yep, there you go, I said it. WE LOVE MCDONALDS! haha Now, I promise you we don’t go there THAT often, but as a nice little Friday treat every so often it’s not the biggest crime, right?! Let’s be honest, it’s dirt cheap (£2.99 for a Happy Meal), I can guarantee it’s the one meal that Flynn will most definitely eat all of and he even gets a toy to play with #winning

Better still, the one in Fleet has a little soft play area in it so we can stay long after he’s finished eating and he’s fairly content! Oh, and I can walk there from my house. And the other day I gave some guy a nappy because his little girl had done a poo and he’d been caught short and he bought me a McFlurry to say thank you #doublewinning


Little Darling Dress Up shoots

When you think about it, the concept of buying wedding dresses is a little crazy. You spend THE BIGGEST amount of money on a dress which you wear for ONE DAY only – or if you’re anything like me, a few hours and then you get hot and decide to change into your pyjamas to dance the night away in! After that, you (perhaps) get it professionally cleaned and then pack it up in a box unlikely to ever see the light of day again. Isn’t that sad?! A dress which meant so much to you and signifies one of the happiest days in your life stuffed away, never able to bring such joy to you or another person ever again.

WELL, THINK AGAIN PEOPLE!

As a photographer, I’m always trying to come up with new photoshoot ideas for babies, children and families. I like being able to mix in classic, portrait photoshoots with quirky mini sessions as I really do believe you can never have enough photos of your kids.

A few years back (over four to be exact) I had the idea of daughters dressing up in their mum’s wedding dress for a photoshoot. I took some practice shots with my friend’s daughter but never got round to advertising them – cue blaming life for ‘getting in the way’. However, armed with a new lease of energy (post-Christmas and with a one-year-old now sleeping a solid 12 hours at night), I decided to kick my butt into gear and finally got round to launching them

Welcome Little Darling Dress Up sessions…..

For 30-45 minutes, your darling daughter can experience what it felt like to be you on your wedding day. “A princess like mummy”. Veils, shoes, tiaras, accessories….all are welcome as we dress your little one up in your most prized possession. Imagine her little face as she gets to see your beloved dress for the first time. Imagining it?….. Now picture her face as she gets to TRY IT ON!! I promise you, there’s nothing quite like it! Pure joy and elation….the same way you felt trying it on for the first time before you made it your own.

Feeling left out of all the fun? Well get this….as well as your daughter wearing your dress for the shoot, why don’t you borrow your mum’s dress and wear that alongside your little girl for some photos?! Can you think of anything more special for “grandma” than a photo of her daughter and granddaughter wearing their mummy’s dresses?…..No, didn’t think so! 😉


Newborn images: your fave poses

As a specialist newborn photographer, I’m always learning new poses. I try to include as much of my posing repertoire in every shoot to give parents maximum variety as possible, but there’s no denying I have my favourites. Saying that, when picking their top five images, all too often I find that parents choose shots/poses which I personally wouldn’t have picked, and it got me thinking…..I might love a photo because I know it’s one of the trickier poses to achieve and I believe I’ve nailed it and therefore feel like it’s my best work. However, parents might look past the complexity of the pose and might actually be drawn to a more natural image where baby is completely un-posed. I can spend five minutes grabbing some quick awake shots of baby at the beginning of the session before we feed them and get them to sleep and then up to an hour trying to perfect the ‘froggy’ pose (see below if you’re unsure what this is)….what if I’m wasting time on poses that parents don’t want to see their baby in?

There’s only one way to find out…..

Below I’ve listed (and included photos) of practically every newborn pose I know. It would be REALLY helpful if you (yes, you reading this post) could go through all of these and then on my FB page (underneath the link for this blog post) name your top 3-5 poses. That way I can see which shots tend to be most appealing to potential clients/which ones I should be prioritising each shoot versus those which I could theoretically avoid and parents wouldn’t really miss.

As well as helping me, you’re also getting the opportunity to look at lots of photos of absolutely adorable little newborns! Win win, I say! 😉

Froggy

Taco

Sidelay

Tushy Up

Chin on hands

Tucked in

Wrapped

Curled up

Swaddled

Floral Wreath

You raise me up

Parent's hands


Our holiday to Disney World

I’ve been desperate to return to Walt Disney World Resort for years now. I think I last visited when I was about 18 and I’ve been craving my Disney fix ever since. However, before having children we couldn’t really afford (or justify) it and since having children we definitely couldn’t really afford it but I kept trying to justify it. We hadn’t previously been abroad as a family – we took Flynn camping in Devon last summer but I was 16 weeks pregnant, it rained (a lot), and we were in a tent which Flynn struggled to sleep in so I wouldn’t exactly call it a holiday. I wanted to take advantage of being able to go away before Flynn starts school in September and also before Kit started weaning as I knew how much easier it would be if I could just plonk him on the boob whenever he was hungry. Jonny had already booked two weeks off work in June and we were umming and ahhing about what to do and where to go but eventually we just thought “sod it, let’s go to Disney!”

Safe to say we had a blast! It was HOT (and VERY humid) and it was VERY busy (the Americans had already broken up for Summer) but we loved every second. Flynn was completely overwhelmed with everything – there was so much for his little three-year-old brain and senses to take in! He went on near enough every ride, bless him – his favourite was Space Mountain. And Kit was good as gold. He was dripping in sweat but was fairly content just chilling in the buggy or lapping up the attention in the carrier.

Oh, I should mention the flights! They were, by some miracle, absolutely fine. The flight out was during the day and although Flynn got a little bored and restless and refused to watch any one programme/film for more than 10 minutes, he did pretty well considering. And during the night flight home both boys slept pretty much for the entirety, meaning Jonny and I could finally relax and watch some films.

For anyone considering going to Disney or with tickets already booked, I thought it might help for me to share my top tips with you. We learnt A LOT from our first holiday abroad as a family so this is me passing on my newfound knowledge in the hope of making your trip even more amazing:

1) Take a double buggy. I hadn’t even really considered taking one as Flynn hasn’t used a buggy for years but the lady in the travel agents mentioned her six-year-old still uses one on holiday and it panicked me into purchasing one. BEST DECISION EVER!! Even if Flynn hadn’t used it, it would have been useful enough for our bags, water bottles, the carrier etc but when he got tired…or we got tired of telling him to walk faster/hurry up, stop dilly dallying…he would just jump in the buggy and off we would zoom. There’s buggy parking everywhere so you’ve always got somewhere to leave it if you decide you want to go by foot and whilst it was a little cumbersome during the transfers to and from the parks each day, I believe it was $30 a day to hire a double in the parks – so WELL WORTH taking one with you if you can pick one up at a reasonable price beforehand (I recommend scouring Facebook marketplace for a second hand option).

2) Take LOTS of snacks. We had a hand luggage sized suitcase full and it was pretty much empty by the end of our trip. They kept Flynn satisfied and occupied on the flight and they were a lifesaver during long queues in the parks. It also meant that we could tide him over until we found somewhere we wanted to eat/less busy than other places and it saved us a fortune as food in Disney is not cheap!

3) Download the My Disney Experience app to your phone before you go. It covers everything – queue times, parade schedules, your Fast Passes, ride closures and maps of the parks as well as giving you access to photos taking by the professional Disney photographers.

4) If you have a young baby, take a carrier/sling. Buggies aren’t allowed in the queues so for family rides we chucked Kit in the Baby Bjorn. It was also useful during the bus transfers as you have to fold your buggies so we would carry him in there, leaving spare hands for helping Flynn, carrying bags, holding on (if we didn’t get a seat) etc

5) We went in June because that was the only time my husband could get off work. Would I recommend it as a time of year to visit Disney? No, probably not. As mentioned, it was very hot and fairly busy! We went there knowing this so it certainly didn’t ruin our trip but if I had the option, I would opt for a quieter, slightly cooler time of year – especially with the kids. I’m told that November and February are good times to go (if your kids aren’t yet in school, of course).

6) Flynn is super tall for his age – he’s just over 1.1 metres! Which was lucky because most of the decent rides required you to be 44 inches tall (or 1.11 metres). He’s probably one of the only three-year-olds to have ever been on rides like Tower of Terror and Fast Track – a) because most kids that age wouldn’t be tall enough and b) even if they are, they’d probably be too scared to go on them! Had he been too small to go on them, would the trip have been a bit of waste? Yes, personally I think so! Either Jonny and I would have had to parent swap for every ride, leaving Flynn out which would have been pretty unfair on him, or we would have felt guilty and not bothered doing them – which I think would have resulted in me feeling disappointed that I had gone all that way and not been able to go on any rides for myself.

7) We stayed in the Art of Animation hotel – a Disney partner resort. It was great. We had a Little Mermaid room which was small and cosy (2 doubles and a travel cot) but we knew we wouldn’t spend a lot of time in our room so opted to save money by sharing one space rather than getting a family suite. Flynn loved the cheesy decor and there were lots of big character statues for him to look at (and ask us about….every time we passed them….multiple times a day) on the short walk to our room from the bus drop off point (by the way, transfer buses to the parks are included in your hotel package.)

8) Fans! Normal ones and water spraying ones! Take them! They’re a godsend in the heat. I got mine in either Poundland or Tiger here in the UK for a couple of quid – they were selling them in the parks for $20+! Also ponchos! We went during “the wettest month of the year” and we had pretty crazy thunderstorms most afternoons. Again, the cost to purchase proper Disney ponchos was extortionate whereas I got ours here for £1 each.

I’m sure there’s more but I’m starving hungry and need to put my dinner on and my brain has gone dead – I mean, it’s been pretty mushy in general since having Flynn but it’s particularly bad at the moment as Kit decided to wake up at 2.30am and not go back to bed until 7am and Flynn refuses to sleep past 5am most mornings so it’s safe to say I’m rather sleep deprived. If I think of anything else, I’ll update the post and likewise, if you have any questions, please ask – I would be happy to help in any way I can!

P.S. This photo of Flynn on Expedition Everest cracks me up! haha.


Postnatal depression

Postnatal Depression And Me

by Dominique Tahir

I never thought I would be hit by depression – it was just not on my radar. I had never really even heard of postnatal depression before. So when I suffered quite nastily with it, it was a complete shock. For me, it was a slow burner and then turned out to be completely debilitating. I have always been in control of my life, especially my career as a Fashion Buyer, so to feel out of control was totally alien to me. I always had a plan and aimed to achieve it.

When I had my first baby boy, Jacob, I was on cloud nine and had a brilliant experience, despite him having a horrible bout of reflux. We were so in love with him and seemed to overcome everything that came our way – nothing was too much of a problem. When I discovered I was pregnant with our second baby only four months after having Jacob, things just felt different, like something was un-nerving me. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. I felt anxious about things which never really bothered me before. The small age gap was planned – we always wanted a big family and close together – so I knew it wasn’t that. At first I just put it down to stress and that I was doing too much, but towards the end of my third trimester things seemed to be getting worse – every day was a struggle. I was diagnosed with Polyhydramnios (a condition where you have excess amniotic fluid). The consultant kept pushing to induce me, which is not what I wanted, but I had to give in, putting the baby ahead of my own wishes for the birth. From this moment on things started to spiral and I felt a big dark cloud over my head. It’s really hard to explain – it’s almost like my world turned from glorious technicolor into grey-scale. To couple this, I had to resign from my job as they could not keep my position open any longer – with two small babies it would have been impossible to go back. It was a job I loved. I felt resentment about leaving my career, but also joy that I was able to be at home with my children, which is what I thought I wanted. I was really confused and felt guilty constantly. Coupled with this, my husband also lost his job, so we were both out of work leaving us extremely vulnerable. This was a really dark time for us as a family and put a huge amount of strain on our family.

When my son Teddy was born I loved him, but there was not the same instant connection that I felt when Jacob was born. Even though Teddy was an easier baby and latched on when feeding, I felt completely disconnected from him. The guilt that I felt was eating me up inside. I would look at him and think he was not mine, like my brain was just shutting off from any capability to love. I was struggling to get dressed in the morning and felt anxious leaving the house, for fear the worst would happen. I would not want to even be in the same room alone with both of the boys – I would feel the fear rise up in my chest. Even writing this now is bringing this all back to me. I hated how I felt and sometimes wished I was not here anymore. Not like I would do anything to hurt myself or my family – I just felt like they would all be better off if I was not here. I felt like I was just not good enough – as a wife, a mother or even a friend. I started to lose a lot of my old friends in the fashion industry, so also just felt completely out of myself. I had lost ‘me’.

The crunch point was one day when I literally could not get out of bed. I’d had a silly disagreement in the early hours with my husband when feeding Teddy and suddenly I felt like I was loosing my mind – I even stuck a breast pad to my head in desperation!! Something had to give! This was clearly not normal behaviour! My Mum knew something was not quite right too and tried to help. They were both very supportive, but this was something I had to do for myself. Eventually I went to my GP, a male GP, who sadly did not really get it. He said I should put myself forward to iTalk, which is over the phone Cognitive Behaviour Therapy also known as CBT. I had a couple of sessions which seemed to help, but once I was discharged they were meant to call back in a month’s time and never did! No one ever followed up; it’s so easy to fall into the system. In my opinion, face-to-face counselling would have been much more effective, but this was never offered. I joined baby yoga and also Weight Watchers just to try and get some piece of my self back. My body felt disgusting after having two babies so close together – I could not look in the mirror. I had to do something about it. I went on a mindfulness course, which was a bit of a turning point; it made me see what was in front of me, to live in the now and not in the past or the future.

I was actually one of the lucky ones; I managed to lift the cloud over my head. It seemed forever, but the darkness did fade and I managed to overcome it and without medication. This is not for everyone – sometimes the postnatal depression is a chemical imbalance, which requires medication. The struggle is all the same, as long as you find your way out of it.

All you need is that one kind person to ask how your day is, to be a friend to someone in need, to realise you need help and to be there for you. No one knows how hard your struggle is until you talk. The pressure which society puts on women to ‘have it all’ is setting us all up for a fall; we need to learn to be kind to ourselves.

Having a network of amazing mum friends has helped massively. Some understand, some don’t as they have not felt the sadness of depression, but the main thing is that they have your back – that’s what true friends are. The help of family and an awesome group of mum friends really can get you through.

I slowly bonded with my son and the love I have for him now is unbreakable, even though he is now a troublesome two year old. He is spirited they say, strong and spirited, and I am truly blessed he is here. It was a tough life lesson, but when you get to the other side you are all the stronger for it. I am now a mummy to three babies, only recently having had my baby girl four months ago, and I have not had one symptom of postnatal depression with her. It just shows that if you have it with one baby you will not necessarily have the same journey again. Personally I swear by having my placenta encapsulated. It’s not for everyone, but it sure worked for me!

Out of something dark comes something light. It has made me a stronger person and has also driven me to do something for myself and make my children proud of me. I have recently set up my own children’s wear label ‘Bluebell & Bear’ which has totally given me my spark back and a purpose to my day. Doing something that I love makes me feel happy again. It’s all about finding your happy place and clutching onto it with both hands… life is too darn short!

Be strong mummies and take one day at a time – it will all be ok in the end.

With love Dominique xxx


Life with a newborn

We did it! We survived two weeks with a new baby and as a family of four!

I’m not going to lie – there were times when I wasn’t sure what we had let ourselves in for. Most notably the first few nights when Kit literally DID NOT SLEEP! I mean, not at all. He was genuinely on my boobs for about eight hours straight – every time I tried to take him off as he appeared to be asleep he would cry within about two minutes of being put down. My nipples were hanging off (sorry if TMI) and we were honestly at our wits end. I just don’t remember Flynn ever being THAT bad! Either he wasn’t and we were blessed with a dreamy newborn or he was and we’ve forgotten / managed to block it out. Either way, it was certainly a shock to the system!

In desperation, I bought a bedside crib to replace the moses basket and with a Sleepyhead inside, (touch wood) we appear to have found something that works. Kit tends to go down about 11pm, wakes four or so hours later for a feed, and then goes back down for another three or so hours – waking at around 7am. For a two week old that seems pretty good so we’re fairly happy with that – to be honest, I’m probably getting more sleep now than I did in the few months leading up to his birth due to needing a wee every twenty minutes and pregnancy insomnia.

The days are filled with feeding, changing and napping but I’m trying to savour every moment as I know how quickly this newborn bliss stage will pass. I love it when he’s awake (in the day) as I could spend hours looking into his knowing little eyes and sucking up every little facial expression. Whilst in the first few days I would put him down in his moses to sleep during the day so I could have a break, now I find myself picking him up to give him a cuddle because I miss him. Crazy I know, but I just don’t want to miss a second.

Kit now weighs 8lb 10oz – a giant leap from his 7lb 14oz birth weight. He only lost about 10% in the first week and is sufficiently piling on the pounds – unsurprising really considering how much he eats! I had an absolute nightmare breastfeeding Flynn! I managed seven months but was plagued with multiple bouts of mastitis, thrush and plugged ducts! I’d be lying if I said wasn’t terrified about doing it again this time round but again touch wood, things appear to be going much better. The first week was pretty painful – the constant feeding during those first few nights before my milk was established definitely didn’t help – but once the milk started to flow and I felt confident in Kit’s latch, we turned a corner on the feeding front and fingers crossed it will continue that way.

Whilst breastfeeding has most definitely improved since last time, one thing which has been way worse and which I wasn’t prepared for was the pain of uterus contraction. The midwife in the hospital told me it gets worse the more children you have but as I don’t recall having any pain after Flynn’s birth, I wasn’t too concerned about it this time round! That was a monumental error on my part! Exactly a week postpartum I was hit with what I can only describe as crippling period pains. I was at a friend’s house and all of a sudden I was unable to move. It felt like being in labour again. I had to call my husband to come and drive us home – I could barely stand! My blood loss increased dramatically too which was a little scary but after calling the hospital and speaking to friends with multiple children, I was assured it’s all normal. The bleeding lasted a good few days and whilst the majority of the pain subsided over night, I had to take it easy for at least 48 hours and was dosing up on ibuprofen to keep the discomfort at bay.

Aside from the above, these past two weeks have been fairly drama-free. Flynn has taken to being a big brother so well – I couldn’t be prouder of him – and like last time, my husband Jonny has been incredibly hands on and sympathetic to my postpartum needs. Obviously now is when the real fun begins as he is back at work and twice a week I will be on my own with the boys – wish me luck for those!

But I’m hoping with at least a few hours sleep behind me and soft play around the corner, we should be just fine. Oh, and cake. Lots of cake!


A labour of love

So this time last week (7.45pm at the time of writing), I was having mild to moderate contractions at home. My waters had broken hours earlier at 9am and a visit to the hospital showed baby was head down and fully engaged. The midwife who examined me said she would book me in for an induction the following day but that she’d be amazed if I didn’t go into natural labour beforehand….and she was right!

Nothing happened for hours and I did begin to think whether induction might be on the cards for baby Gregory number two. But like with Flynn, once things started going, they REALLY got going.

A walk around the block at 5pm brought on some cramping and a few hours later I felt like things were progressing enough to warrant inviting my mother-in-law over to watch Flynn in case we had to rush into the hospital. She arrived at around 8.15pm and we sat chatting on the sofa whilst I timed my contractions – which at that point were merely just some tightening. I called the labour ward but as I was having no problem talking through them, they said to stay at home and monitor things. Less than half an hour later, and boy had they stepped up a notch. I was finding it harder to speak during them and the tightening had begun to hurt and was lasting roughly 45 seconds every 4-5 minutes. Knowing how quickly things progressed with Flynn – I went in at midnight, was sent home because “not in labour”, was back two hours later when I was 7cm and 3.5 hours later he was born – I wasn’t prepared to hang around at home any longer, even though the midwife said they’d prefer it if my contractions were closer together. We jumped in the car and four or five contractions later, we arrived at Frimley Park Hospital, eventually getting round to the Mulberry Birthing Suite at about 9.30pm. By this point I was in a fair amount of pain but it wasn’t until I got on the bed five or so minutes later that I really began to suffer. The pain in my lower back was super strong and it was making my whole body go stiff to try and counteract it. It was also getting harder to concentrate on my breathing as the pain was overriding it. Obviously unaware and unconvinced of how far along I was, my midwife (who was lovely by the way, just clearly not expecting things to progress quite so quickly) was busy doing other things and finally arrived back to take my obs, stating that if I wasn’t dilated enough I would have to go home. At this point, I knew that was never going to be an option….and she never even got round to checking how dilated I was. My body was starting to push and I knew that either I was about to do the biggest poo of my life or this baby was coming…and quickly. I informed her that I felt like he was “there” and when she eventually took a look, she realised that I wasn’t over exaggerating. I was rolled onto my back, the emergency button was pressed for an additional midwife, and just three or four pushes later, baby Gregory the second was out!

Born at 10.02pm, he made his appearance a mere thirty or so minutes after we first arrived at the hospital. And we were  all home by 6am, ready for Flynn to wake up and meet his new baby brother.

I had dreamt of having a peaceful water birth with just gas and air for pain relief. What I got was an on-my-back bed birth with no water and NO PAIN RELIEF! Not even a paracetamol!

Now I’m not saying this because I want some kind of medal for enduring labour without any meds….although if my husband is reading this, a new Mulberry handbag would be the perfect pushing present (and seems only fitting considering I gave birth in the Mulberry Suite). The truth is, if we decide to go for baby number three I would probably do the same thing again – yes, seriously! I can hardly believe I’m saying that as trust me, the pain was excruciating and as a result of being totally ‘in the room’, I can remember every last second of the labour. But do you know what, I quite like that. I was entirely present for the birth of my baby and that’s pretty cool if you ask me.

With Flynn, I took on so much gas and air in a short space of time that I was pretty much off my face. I couldn’t open my eyes, I couldn’t speak and I just felt completely out of control. In contrast, this time round, although the pain all but took over my body, I was fully aware of what was going on and I knew what I needed to do to get the baby out. It also meant I was able to fully enjoy and appreciate the moment he was born rather than being so exhausted and confused that I couldn’t even look at him – which is what happened with Flynn.

Obviously I’m very lucky that it was quick and that I didn’t have to endure labour pains for very long – would I be as brave if I had 24 hour plus labours….no probably not! But in a weird (VERY weird) way, I kind of enjoyed the whole experience and just ten minutes after giving birth I was already saying I could do it all again. With Flynn, it took me ages to come to terms with a potential second childbirth…..three-and-a-half years in fact!

So the point to this post is to say that whilst labour is of course a terrifying prospect, it doesn’t have to be as traumatic as you might think. I never imagined I could give birth with no pain relief, but when your body is doing what it needs to do and showing you the way, it is possible to just go with it and focus on the end goal – your baby. Whilst gas and air would have been nice (and don’t worry, I well and truly got my fix during the stitches), being completely free of all meds meant I was able to take in every second….and if you’re going to remember every last bit of something, surely there’s no better occasion than the birth of your child!

The human body really is the most incredible thing….

P.S. The Mulberry Birthing Suite was amazing – I would wholly recommend it!


Studio tour

It dawned on me the other day that I’ve never taken any photographs of my garden studio. I’ve had it for nearly a year and a half now and meant to do a post on it when it was first built but as with most things, life got in the way and here we are, 16 months later!

When I first started offering posed newborn photoshoots I held them in my dining room, which I had converted into a temporary studio. It was absolutely fine shoots wise, if a little cramped, but having them in my home meant that my house was just overrun with props, blankets, lighting and suchlike. Furthermore, my poor husband and son Flynn would be banished during photoshoots, which during the winter months meant them venturing out into the cold and rain for up to four hours while I worked. It just wasn’t sustainable so we discussed the idea of a garden studio and agreed it was the way forward.

Quite simply, I haven’t looked back since. It was the best (albeit expensive) decision I ever made. It allows me to keep all my photography stuff separate, away from the house, and it’s given me heaps more space and freedom. Prior to the studio, my cake smash photoshoots were held in client’s houses. This was fine if they had wooden/tiled floors or play mats to lay down to contain the mess, but it was somewhat restrictive and far from ideal – I’ll be honest, if I were a parent wanting a cake smash photoshoot I would NOT have wanted to have it in my own home for fear of the mess left behind (and I’m not exactly house proud as it is). Now, parents can come to me in the studio and allow their kids to make as much mess as they like because afterwards I just cut off the affected backdrop, throw it away et voila – it’s like they were never even there!

I love that it gives me the option to shoot with both studio lighting and natural lighting thanks to the floor to ceiling windows down the whole of one side. I’m a big fan of a naturally backlit shot – and the silhouettes you can create shooting against it – especially when it comes to my maternity photoshoots. Nothing beats the outline of a beautiful baby bump shot in stunning black and white.

And I just love that it provides parents with a comfortable, relaxing setting in which to have their photoshoots, especially with newborns. I feel a real sense of achievement when I’m photographing a new baby and either mum or dad has dozed off on the sofa while I work. The fact that they feel at ease and cosy enough in the environment to have a little sleep is exactly what I wanted to achieve when I had the studio built.

Of course, I haven’t turned my back on location / lifestyle photography completely. I’m still more than happy to head to people’s homes or out in the forest for a photoshoot if that’s what my clients prefer, but having the studio has definitely given me more flexibility and freedom – and takes away the burden from parents stressing that their own homes may not be light enough, big enough or dare I say it, tidy enough for a photoshoot.

There’s still a few things I want to do to the studio – I have some rails I want to put up to hang props from, some of my favourite images to hang on the walls and there are a few items I haven’t yet transferred down there that are currently still living in the house. But even as it is, I adore it!! It’s my own little space where I can do the work that I love, meet beautiful babies and their lovely parents and create beautiful images for my clients to treasure forever. That, for me, is priceless!


Bluebell photoshoots

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve booked onto one of my bluebell mini sessions this weekend and what to know how to dress your kids for the shoot. Well, you’ve come to the right place….

First things first, as the location is going to be very bright purple and green heavy (from the flowers and the grass), I would urge you to avoid these colours and not try to match outfits to the scenery. It can end up looking very garish and we want your gorgeous children to stand out from the bluebells – not blend into the background.
Saying that, purple and greens are fine if they are pastel, muted tones. When choosing outfits, think neutral colours that will compliment a child’s soft skin tones but also work nicely in among the flowers. White can be a little too bright, but cream, beige, baby pink, lemon yellow, mint green and baby blue are all perfect shades to aim for.
Light denim also works well, so for a girl think a pretty summer dress covered with a denim jacket or for a boy, jeans with a lightly coloured T-shirt or long sleeve top is a good look. Mid tones also photograph nicely, so muted coral pinks, lavender, teal, sky or duck egg blues. Oh and I love texture so frills, lace, chunky knits and tasselled scarves all get a thumbs up from me. Hair accessories – bows, flowers etc – are also super cute (hats not advisable due to shadow/masking the face)
Despite the above, if you’re still swaying towards darker colours, opt for navy or maybe a dark emerald green or hazelnut brown – these are all preferable to black.

Back to the subject of T-shirts, please try to avoid anything with big logos or animations on them. Loud, clashing patterns are also not ideal! Trust me, I’m a huge Disney lover outside of work, but in photographs, Mickey Mouse prints and huge Nemo motifs can be somewhat distracting and will draw all attention away from your little ones adorable face and the beautiful flowers they’re surrounded by. Ideally try to stick to plain clothing – she says having clearly dressed her child in a dog vest for the recce photos! haha But let’s face it, it’s cute, so cute animal tops I will allow 😉

There’s no denying the temperature has taken a sudden drop this week – I’ve actually had to sneak the heating on a few times in the evening without my husband, AKA the bill payer, realising, and I’m currently writing this whilst looking out the window to snow!! – so please dress appropriately. I know you may have bought a brand new pretty dress or smart short sleeve shirt for your child to wear for the shoot, but if they’re cold they’re not going to want to cooperate. Bring a lightweight jacket or cardigan to pop over the top – even if it’s just for while you’re waiting (we can always whip it off for the actual photos if you really don’t want it in the pictures).

Talking of waiting, there will be some as you’ll want to be in place a good 10-15 minutes before your slot so you’re ready to go when I’m finished with the previous family, so an extra layer to keep warm is a good idea and maybe even some entertainment (iPad, CBeebies app on the phone, food etc) to keep the kids occupied. Please be aware that signal is really poor out in the woods so don’t rely on that – in other words, weird American superhero videos on YouTube that my son spends hours watching will not be an option haha

Shoes wise, it’s a little bit of a walk, depending on where you manage to get parked, so I would suggest putting the kids in something comfy and then changing their footwear once you’re on location – if you’re overly bothered about what they wear on their feet that is (they won’t be seen a huge amount in the photos).

Feel free to bring any accessories or props that you might like incorporated into the pics: fluffy toys, wooden props, larger items etc. There’s no need to do so as the main focus will be on the kids, but take a look around the house and if anything catches your eye that you think “that might look cool in a photo”, bring it!

I think that’s everything – to sum up, plain, light colours and textured soft hues are a yes, bright colours and overbearing patterns/logos are a no! And if you’re bringing more than one child along, try to coordinate their outfits if possible – or at the very least, don’t put them in anything that clashes terribly!

I’m really looking forward to meeting you all and taking advantage of these beautiful flowers right on our doorstep – well, half an hour’s drive away but you know what I mean 😉