For the entirety of my 2018 wedding season, I was prego. It all happened a tad earlier than we were planning, but our surprise baby was a blessing nonetheless! Shortly after I peed on that pee stick and saw the double lines, I thought, “Oh boy, what about all the weddings I have to photograph?!” WELL, I’m here to tell you how I did it.
When I saw the little bean on the ultrasound and confirmed my due date, I knew 4 of my 26 weddings booked for that year were a little too close to that due date for comfort. With all the potential situations that can arise with childbirth (early labor? Potential c-section, Bedrest?), I knew the right thing to do would be to step down from those weddings. (AHEM, make sure your wedding photography contract includes appropriate contract verbiage for such a circumstance. The LawTog has some great photography-specific legal resources for ya!)
Yes, it broke my heart to have to withdraw from photographing those weddings, but I wanted my clients to have a fantastic wedding photography experience. Wondering “OMG, is my photographer going to be at my wedding or will she be in labor?!” is not something a couple should worry about on their wedding day. I was certainly not going to tell them, “Hey! I’m pregnant! Good luck finding someone else. Bye!” Instead, I did the photographer research for them in addition to refunding their retainer, of course. I felt it was my duty to help them navigate the next steps in moving forward.
While I was in the throes of first trimester nausea, I reached out to lots of photographers with a similar style and price point to mine to inquire about their availability for these specific wedding days. When I contacted my couples about my due date and inability to photograph their big day, I gave them a concise list of available photographers who had already expressed to me their enthusiastic willingness to take on that wedding. All of the affected couples were excited for me and my growing family and expressed their appreciation for my helping them find a new, super talented photographer.
Alright! So the 4 weddings right around my due date were taken care of. What about the 2 weddings that were booked around weeks 35-36 of my pregnancy? I had a dear photographer friend, Becca, on call! If for some wild reason, little baby Brooklyn decided to make her debut before I was full-term, Becca was all ready to step in and be the lead photographer if necessary. Knowing I’d likely be an uncomfortable, waddling lady for these weddings, I hired a third set of hands (attached to a person, obvi) to be my assistant. She bent over to fix the dress, retrieved lenses, made sure I was drinking water, and got me Tylenol (Tylenol sucks but you can’t have Ibuprofen when you’re pregnant, UGH).
WEAR THE RIGHT CLOTHES AND SHOES. You don’t have to throw cute totally out the window when you dress yourself to photograph a wedding while pregnant. But you may want to throw it in that general direction 😉 Lower your cute standard just a little bit. Your regular wedding day attire may not fit and it may not be conducive to comfort and efficiency. For my summer and early weddings when I was 4ish-7ish months pregnant, I wore lots of flowy (read: forgiving) sundresses (with pockets for snacks, of course). Towards the end of my pregnancy, I wore belly supporting leggings with tunics. I would usually have a couple pairs of shoes in the car to give my feet a chance of pace half way through the day. Some extra comfy and supportive shoes include Chacos for summer weddings and Sorel Chelsea boots.
HIRE A SECOND SHOOTER AND DELEGATE. I always provide a second shooter for wedding days. I personally believe it allows for the best photography experience. This second shooter can help in so many ways besides capturing an additional perspective during the day. Bend over and grab batteries? They’re on it. Run to get the drunk groomsmen for photos? Bla-dow. They can do it. Do you need to sit down for a minute? Sit your butt down. Recharge for a minute so you can do your job well. And if you reallllly want to be extra, buy this portable stool from Amazon and tote it around with you so that you can pop a squat during down time.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. If your pregnancy is anything like mine was, you may be vomiting every day (TMI, sorry ‘bout it). If you’re on special meds for your nausea, don’t forget them (speaking from experience here, LOL). Be sure to have belly-friendly snacks on hand like bland crackers and jello. OH, and it should go without saying, but Ima say it: DRINK LOTS OF WATER. After some wedding weekends, I treated myself to a prenatal massage!
DRUNK PEOPLE WILL WANT TO TOUCH YOUR BELLY. DON’T LET THEM (unless you like that, I guess?). Some people like to make inappropriate comments to pregnant women. I chose to keep a list on my phone of some comments just for funzies.
“You’re pregnant? Why are you working?” – Guest
What I wish I said… “because it’s my livelihood and I enjoy it.”
“You’re about to pop, aren’t you?” – DJ
What I wish I said… “Yeah, I’m ‘bout to POP my fist onto your face.”
“Are you sure you can have salmon if you’re pregnant?” – server
What I wish I said… “Um… I’m not pregnant.” (I actually did do this once real quick just for their reaction)
“You should eat your zucchini. Baby needs nutrients.” – Server
What I wish I said… “If I eat this, I will vomit.”
“Is the baby kicking? Can I feel your belly? I love feeling that.” – drunk man
What I did say… “No thanks! *smile* Bye!”
ACCEPT THAT YOU MAY HAVE TO OUTSOURCE MORE TASKS THAN YOU NORMALLY WOULD and try to not be hard on yourself about it. Towards the end of my pregnancy when I was a achey mess and vomit queen with thousands of photos to edit, I knew I had to outsource some tasks (like culling) so I wouldn’t go crazy, get sick, or fall behind. Yes, this cost my business money. But by the time I went into labor, I was alllll caught up on work. *praise emoji*
The “nesting instinct” is when pregnant women feel the urge to clean, organize, and prepare the home for baby’s arrival. While I did have some house cleaning spurts of adrenaline here and there, my nesting instinct primarily went straight to preparing my business for maternity leave.
Communicate to your clients about your maternity leave. One of the many benefits to being my own boss means I got to decide what my maternity leave would look like. I decided what boundaries I’d set up for work and being a brand spankin’ new mama and clearly communicated this with my clients well in advance. I sent them an email saying,
“I’m having a baby! Like all new moms, I’ll be taking a maternity leave with a lot of sleepless nights, adjusting to the new lifestyle of motherhood, and bonding with my little lady baby. What does this mean for you as a SBP couple? I will be on maternity leave from November ‘18 through February ‘19. During this time, I will not be doing any photo sessions. If you have a question for me related to your wedding or my photography services, remember that the Wedding Guide magazine you received in your welcome package and the Quick Reference Guide webpage both have loads of helpful information and you’re likely to find your answer 🙂 If not, I will be checking emails 1-2 times per week during my leave and I’ll be happy to respond to you then. Thank you for your understanding and patience with me during this special time!”
I ended up returning to work part-time in mid-January because I missed running my biz (…and perhaps because I’m a slight workaholic?), but I’m glad I gave myself 3.5 whole months. Every mama deals with the postpartum time differently so it’s good to give yourself some buffer room if you’re able.
In the span of 9 months, I made a baby, photographed 21 weddings, ran a profitable business, vomited a million times, and birthed a baby. Major thanks going out to Jesus and my anti-nausea meds. So now, here I am with a 5 month old and I’m about to dive into my first wedding season as a mama, photographer, and business woman. Perhaps a blog post about that will be forthcoming?
Sarah Brookhart Photography is affirming and inclusive. All races, ethnicities, identities, and sexualities are welcome and valued here.
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