Saturday, December 31
I'm sitting by the glow of my Christmas tree, holding a sleeping baby in the ring sling and compiling one favorite image from every session I shot this year.... and it's been a quiet and warm-fuzzy way to spend some of my New Year's Eve. I shot a bit less this year because of Larkin's arrival, but not much less! I think this amounts to 52 separate shooting occasions... (Well, and while I only shared two of Larkin's posed newborn images, I did her photos over several days, so if we counted each of those separately, the number 52 would be higher.)
I feel incredibly lucky to get to do this as a way of helping support our family. It's not a full-time gig, and it's not a full-time salary, for sure... but it helps. And I feel so much joy and satisfaction in doing it, time after time, year after year. I am not ever going to be one of the best... But I still grow a little every year in my art and in my ability to see into the heart of the people I get to photograph. I love real emotion, I always love the vivid close-up above any other pose/setup, and I still tend towards safe, clean flat light as my default... though I am always trying to push myself to get uncomfortable and grow. I love every age and stage of the children I photograph, and I love the unique challenges and idiosyncrasies that go with those ages. And I'm still a fast-talker, fast-shooter, slow emailer. (*oof. So lame.)
So here's to another year of Emily Southerland Photography (my eighth, if we go by my business license start year!!). Thank you, clients and friends. I love you guys. I love getting to be a part of your family's story, sometimes more than once.
Please enjoy my favorites from every session, January through just yesterday (an end-of-year wedding!) including any that I shot of my own kiddos this year. Do you see anyone you know? Do you have any favorites? I'd love to hear!
Posted by Emily S. at 10:55 PM
Sunday, December 25
First, here's our Christmas card this year....featuring photos from big cameras and phone cameras, and the talents of my friends Erin Duggin and Kate Benson. I love how in nine photos, it tells our year's story pretty well.
Second, here are photos from earlier this month, with the help of Erin Duggin again. It was a happy day in early December, and we headed to go pick out our fresh fir tree right after this little minisession.
Third, I had time and a wild hair yesterday, so I wrangled my four (four?! Four!!) kids into some quick, "come as you are, except let's add a hat" Christmas snaps. I'm so delighted with what we got. They're cute, they're real, they're basic, and they are TOTALLY THEM right this moment.
Merry Christmas, my beloveds. If you're reading this, trust me: I cherish you. Feel free to leave a comment even if you are a lurker coming out of the woodwork. I'd love to wish you a specific and personal happy new year. Here's to the year that grew Larkin and completed our family. Onward to new ideas and fresh plans for 2017. Much love from us!!
Posted by Emily S. at 1:16 PM
Tuesday, December 20
Today at home, we had nowhere we needed to go. And Larkin Clementine was so sweet and soft and perfectly edible in her new fleece romper that I decided I needed some big camera photos.
She eventually lost interest, obviously.
I also thought to take a context photo, just for fun.... So here is where I shoot my girl's photos when I do her monthly milestone images and the periodic "for fun" photos. Here, in the good light, among the laundry and the cat food and Fiona nearby, usually.
So while I had the big camera out, I decided I might as well grab a couple of Quinn as he was that moment: pajamas and bedhead, playing race car games on Joe's iPad while in his fave spot in the living room:
And then a couple with me in them... awkward angles when you try to wield a 5DIII with a massive 24-70 lens on it for "selfie" shots. Haha! And Larkin really REALLY was done with the whole project.
So there you have a small piece of our day today, at home. Nothing unusual... But a good gig nonetheless. I feel like I am enveloped in this role of "mother of four" these days, in the best possible way. Like this cloak is starting to fit right. I think I like how it feels.
Anyway. It is now 11:34pm. That's at least 30 minutes past when I should be tucking myself into bed. We are still living the "new baby sleep schedule" life and if I don't put myself to bed by 11 (ideally 10:30), I am pretty exhausted the next day. So time to click "publish" and wish you all a good night. ♥
Posted by Emily S. at 11:39 PM
Sunday, December 11
Never mind that I am 11 days late for this post. You forgive me, right? Especially since I showed you that face first thing on this post. You're now just all melty and swoony at how cute this baby girl is, and can't even remember that I'm perpetually behind on all posting.
So Larkin Clementine:
At three months of age, she is an utter JOY. She really is. I feel like I can finally say out loud without jinxing it that she is my easiest baby. Whereas I used to whisper it in doubtful wonder, I now proclaim it in confident joy: SHE IS MY EASIEST BABY. Never mind the nursing part of it, she is just so delightful. any fussiness or screamishness has a definable reason and a quick fix. She loves sleep. She is alert and aware and looks at everything with her wide-eyed wonder. She has long stretches of awake/calm/happy. She is a gift. ♥
The list of current specifics--- At three months, Larkin:
- Is very smiley and loves to coo. She does a more gargle-y coo, and its really sweet. Her favorite place to "talk" to me is while she's lying on her changing table.
- Endures tummy time when I remember to do it, and almost seems like she could kick herself over to her back anytime now.
- Is very sturdy in her neck and torso, and loves to be held in a sitting up or "standing" position.
- Loves her MAM binkies but is still TERRIBLE at holding them in on her own.
- Despite last week's post on nursing, she is still sticking with it. She maybe fusses/refuses 30-40% of the time and has calm, good nursing sessions 60-70% of the time. I still feed her a bottle after each time because I know I just am not producing enough milk to truly satisfy her. I'm in this place of taking it day by day and being grateful for each time we make it another day.
- Loves LOVES loves bathtime. She is so completely content and kicky and happy in her bath. She is in the same "bathrest" prop within the big tub that we've used for each kiddo, so she often shares her bath with a sibling who is in there with her.
- Is actually calm sometimes in the car even without a binkie "scarfed" in.
- Has transitioned to pretty consistent daytime sleeping in her own room in her rock and play. She naps 3+ times a day-- two main ones that are usually 2 hours each or more, and then another one (or more) that might be shorter in the evening.
- Is still swaddled, but we are using a halo sleep sack now, so I think it'll be a smooth transition when we start unswaddling her.
- Is still in her rock and play. I honestly don't know how to move from swaddle and naptime binkie "scarfed" in (she doesn't use a bink at night) to unswaddled in a crib, because I don't feel at ALL comfortable with wrapping her face with that scarf when she's unswaddled and able to try rolling, etc. So we may have some rough sleep transitions ahead when she can't keep her binkie in. ACK.
- Is still solidly in 0-3mo clothes and size 1 diapers.
- Just really loves to sleep. Sleep is not a challenge for us right now. Check back when the textbook 4-month sleep regression hits.
- Seem to really love the song "Wizards in Winter" by the Transiberian Orchestra. I swear she quiets down for it in the car.
- Has a half-laugh now. Not full-on chuckles yet, but a clear starting laugh. It's darling.
- Has found her right fist and will nibble it.
- With her newfound hands, she can sometimes accidentally hold her bottle or a toy or bring something closer to her face. It's still pretty arbitrary, but she's learning!
- Has begun to drool. Welcome to those months of pre-teething.
- Is growing a butt. No, really! Tonight as I was dressing her after her bath, I was like, "Hey, Lark! Those are LEGIT, real bum cheeks! Congrats!" Haha!
We have a pretty good groove going over here. Joe and I are this well-oiled machine, a team, and we're handling the complexities of life as it looks right now. It's been easier this time for me to truly let go of the things that aren't possible at this time of life and not resent or regret it. Things like making art or being crafty... Date nights. Late nights catching up on work. Outings that need more time and effort. Big trips. Time alone. Etc. I'm really at peace with this season, right now. I know things will ebb... but then they will flow again. And many of the tender sweet things happening right now will never happen for us again, since Larkin is our last baby. So I would rather push away the "regular life" a bit longer and keep soaking in the NOW, because it means I am relishing this dear, beautiful, marvelous last baby of mine.
I am, as we get into the thick of the Christmas season, equal parts frenzied and feeling chaotic due to the very energetic, very loud and marvelous three other kids of mine, and tender and emotional, due to the beauty of having a new infant in my arms in the season when we celebrate the most special infant ever born. I try to pass along the tenderness and the light of those feelings to my chaotic, wonderfully vibrant older kids.... and I also try to shake out the stressy tension in my shoulders when they're being so loud and excitable and remember to relish the Chirstmassy crazy excitement and delight that they're immersed in. I want it all. The soft feelings of a spiritual Christmas and the sparkly feelings of a childhood magic Christmas. And I have tangible, living breathing reminders of both every day. I guess that makes me super lucky. I know I am. ♥
Posted by Emily S. at 10:34 PM
Sunday, December 4
I think Larkin is going to terminate our nursing relationship. Sooner than later.
I think it's breaking my heart.
But it has been a long road.... far longer than the three months of her life. This has been a 9-year-long road, and I know her move to liberate herself from my weak, thin-flowing lifesource is not entirely her issue. I know I probably can't give her enough of what she needs.
Nine years ago, while still in the hospital recovering from an unexpected c-section, I remember clearly hearing the term "brick dust" for the first time, ushering me suddenly into the hard, rocky world of breastfeeding insecurity. "Brick dust", if you've never heard the term, is explained as follows, on askdrsears.com:
"If your baby is not getting sufficient amounts of milk, you may notice a “brick dust” residue on the diaper, due to urate crystals from overconcentrated urine (a normal finding in the first few days), which should disappear after increasing baby's milk intake."
When Noah had a brick dust diaper within his first 48 hours, I was urged to supplement him with formula despite my deep desire to exclusively breastfeed, and being new to all of it, gave in, worried about my new baby's loss of weight and his overconcentrated urine. He improved with the intake of formula and we eventually settled into a decent nursing relationship once we got home from the hospital. I was still teaching at the time I had Noah, but I was lucky to get 12 weeks home with him before having to return to school. During that time, I don't remember having feeding worries, and he thrived. Once I returned to school, though, I began the necessary regimen of pumping at work in order to maintain my supply for my baby back at home. I'd not been very diligent at pumping prior to this return to work... Who wanted to be stuck to a machine when their baby was right there next to them? But once back at work, I stuck to a careful schedule of pumping whenever I'd have been feeding my baby, and I had high hopes that I'd be able to produce enough to keep him fed with my milk even while I was away.
It became clear, after a few weeks, though, that my pumping output was just not going to cut it. I seemed to pump less and less as the weeks went by, while Noah was growing bigger and bigger and needing more and more. So it was that, several months after his first formula, we once again began to supplement our baby. It was bittersweet, but it was necessary, and we settled into the new normal fairly quickly, able to let go the "ideal".
With this system in place, the pumping, the supplementing, and the ongoing nursing, Noah and I managed to keep our nursing relationship strong and consistent though his entire first year-- my personal goal. And as he moved toward 13 months old, he slowly and naturally weaned himself and we were done before he hit 14 months old. We were both ready and it was a peaceful transition.
And then there was Lucy. Lucy was an unhappy baby. Tiny and angry and exhausting. She was a little small for the doctor's liking, and he mentioned supplementation and/or a regimen of pumping on my part, but he was never hyper-worried about it, and for the most part, she latched fine and nursed well. I noticed pretty early on that she favored my right breast, and that was not a surprise: five months before Lucy was born, I'd had a freak infection in my left breast that had required surgery and several drainage sessions, and the breast doctor has warned me that while the damage wouldn't be permanent, some milk ducts had been compromised and would still be healing when baby arrived. Betty the Boob just didn't make as much milk as the right side gal. Because of this, sometimes, just because we still had samples from the hospital, we'd supplement her with formula, but it was not a dedicated regimen... just an option we went with here and there. But I was a stay-at-home-mom by the time Lucy came along, so I was home with her 100% of the time, and I did NOT want to dust off the pump and add that nonsense to my already strained, stressful days. So as the weeks wore on, Lucy and I managed. I tried fenugreek and Mother's Milk tea sporadically, ate oatmeal... wished and prayed over my supply... But mostly we just trucked along, trying our best.
And then she was four months old, and we found ourselves in Utah for my baby sister's wedding. I was the photographer, so I had a few of my sisters lined up to help out with my tiny angry baby for the times I was needed to shoot photos. I'd planned to take nursing breaks that day, but every time I looked at my crying baby and thought about shimmying out of my fancy dress and making the time for Lucy's notoriously long nursing sessions, I just.... couldn't. I was worn too thin. Time after time that day, I told whatever sister had her at that moment, "Just give her a bottle." At the end of that long day, when it was finally just my baby and I, and I brought her to my too-full breasts to finally nurse, I looked down at her lovely, calm face and thought, "Man. That was SO MUCH EASIER. And you are doing just fine." Within the next month, after that epiphany/breaking point, I made the conscious decision to take our nursing relationship from full-time to once a day, first thing in the morning when milk supply is always the most abundant. The rest of the day I would give her formula. And my colicky baby bloomed into a happy, content little one.
She ended up weaning from our morning nursing by the end of her 8th month, and by then I was okay. I was ready to let go. Those extra three months of snuggle-nursing her in the mornings was enough to help me transition to no nursing. Because the honest truth was-- mostly-weaning her when she was 5 months old saved my mental health. And it saved hers. We were both immediately happier. And in hindsight, it may have never been colic. She may have just been HUNGRY. Always always hungry. Until I gave in and let us both take the "other path".
So then Quinn. By the time Quinn came along, I was a veteran. When my baby dropped farther down from his birth weight than they liked, I wasn't surprised. I let them offer him a formula bottle or two. When after weeks of newborn nursing, he seemed to need some supplementing, I did the supplementing. He wasn't angry and hungry like Lucy-- and for the most part, I was pretty confident that Betty the Boob had healed and I felt like I was able to feed him enough, usually. But to be honest, by this third baby, my confidence was not in my ability to make milk. My confidence was in my ability to read my baby and understand that I probably would NEVER make enough milk, but would know how to care for my baby in spite of that. With Noah, a lactation consultant helped me realized I'd need a nipple shield for my inverted nipples in order to have a good start to the latching relationship. With Lucy, while still in the hospital, I decided to see if she and I could do it without the shield. Within two days, I was asking for it again. By the time Quinn came along, I didn't even blink: I told the nurse first thing that I would need one. Forget trying to pretend I might be better at this whole nursing thing the third time: I knew I would 1. need a shield 2. probably not make enough milk 3. feel insecure, so bring it on. Let's get started. Quinn and I, with supplementing, still managed to go a respectable distance in our nursing relationship, but eventually he weaned himself at about 10 months old. And while it wasn't the full year I had once again set a goal for, it was close enough. In spite of my insecurities and my inherent failings in breastfeeding, we made it close enough.
And here we are. Fourth go-round. Miss Larkin Clementine. From the get-go, she was awesome: she latched without a nipple shield and hung on. My supply flooded in earlier than it ever had before. I had ACTUAL LEAKING sometimes, something that almost never happened with my other babies (just one more reason to always be insecure about my supply). I thought we were gonna ROCK this nursing thing, finally. And then her first doctor's appointment at 5 days old: her pediatrician (a new doctor) came in with a concerned look on her face and began the age-old yadda yadda about dropping more than 10% below her birth weight and how about we try some supplementing-- feel free to pump to get those extra ounces, or we can give you formula, etc. etc.... And I kept my smile pasted on while she left to get a little 2-ounce bottle of Similac for me to give Larkin; it stayed on while she came back to tell me, "We just need to get her weight up in the next few days-- after that we can skip the formula if she's doing well. I know this isn't ideal, but let's get her strong enough to begin getting better at nursing." and she left the room again and I crumpled and cried as I fed my baby formula. Thinking, "Here we go again. Who did I think I was kidding? I was never good enough at making enough milk to feed my babies."
Since day 5, it's been such a strange ride. It's a cycle of:
Go see doctor. Doctor gets concerned and says scary things. Mom gets more and more dejected and sad at her inability to help her baby get bigger. Mom and baby go home and mom is sad and worried for a few days. Then mom continues to spend all day and night with her baby and her baby is FINE and thriving and meeting milestones. Slowly mom's natural insight and instinct about her baby come back to zero and above, and her confidence returns. Baby is FINE and happy and doing SO WELL. Surely that means we're on track.
Then its time for the next weight check doctor appointment, and the cycle begins again.
Larkin is small. She is steadily gaining pounds and height, just not at the rate that she should be according to the WHO/CDC etc. charts. So her doctor worries and wants to see her growth accelerate a bit more. So we are constantly supplementing her with bottles of formula. More and more as the weeks go by. I'll admit it was with reluctance on my part in the early weeks. Surely with the leaking and the latching and the veteran mama part of it all, this was just a hiccup and Larkin would get the hang of this and we'd get on track. But if I ever slowed down my supplementing, thinking we'd be okay, inevitably the next dr. appointment would show that her growth had slowed, and I should have been continuing with the extra formula more regularly. Eventually one day, when she was maybe 9 weeks old, there was a day when she was fussing at the breast-- something she's done off and on since week one-- and I stopped trying so hard to get her to settle down to nurse, and instead just made her a fat warm four-ounce bottle of formula and she took it ALL. And then, for the first time in days, after she burped, she just sat in my arms wide-eyed and peaceful and content. For almost 45 minutes. We'd just made it though her fussiest weeks, those classic weeks 6-8, so anytime she was content for longer than 10 minutes it felt like a miracle. So to have the full 45-minute stretch was an uber-miracle. I stopped resisting the formula supplements after that day. I thought a lot about Lucy, and my years-long struggle with breastfeeding supply and confidence, and I just thought, "You know what? If she's HUNGRY, and this has just FED her, it's okay. It's okay. I can still nurse her... but I can also give her fat warm full bottles of formula and we'll both be fine. She'll be full and I will know she has gotten enough and we will be fine."
So that's what we've been doing. Larkin is almost 14 weeks old, and is due for her next weight check appointment in the next couple of days. But I know from my borrowed baby scale and free growth chart app that she's up, percentage-wise. I think her doctor will be pleased. I think we're doing great. (Of course, this is all that classic cycle, right? Mom is confident. Time to visit doctor and get worried and dejected again.)
She's been doing that fussy-at-the-breast thing at least once or twice a day in the last week. And it's killing me. I've just come to peace about the formula/nursing compromise. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to fully be done nursing.. so when she fights it, it hurts my heart. And I have to wonder if the more she gets those warm, full bottles of easy-flowing formula, the less patient she is with my sad skim-milk slow-flow old boobs. Is she feeling impatient? I'm not prideful enough to stop the bottles in order to get her to want me more again... I know she is thriving under the supplementation. But I had hoped with all my heart that she and I could still maintain some nursing in the meantime. That maybe, like Lucy, if we eventually even had to go down to once a day, we could make it past 6 months. Maybe even that full year I always wish for.
But here we are, not even 4 months, and I fear she's getting less and less willing to work for this. And I am so sad. What a sad, wimpy way to go. Out with a whimper, not a bang.
Maybe I'm jumping to that conclusion too quickly. Maybe it's a phase-- an off-week, and she'll be back at it soon, and we'll have another few good weeks again. Maybe?
But tonight, as I pass her to her daddy for a bottle after trying in vain to get her to settle into a nursing session for the second time in just a few hours, I'm not so sure. I think she's trying to break up with me.
This has been a long, hard, draining road. Nine years. I'm so tired of feeling not enough. So sad that I was never that great at this.
So... I'll keep you posted. But if you see me in the meantime, I could probably use a hug.
(Thanks for reading all of that. ♥ )
Posted by Emily S. at 11:02 PM