Life with a baby
 

a recent session

 
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My favorite thing is to shoot mama and baby moments that happen all the time. Things like caregiving activities that usually go unnoticed but really make most of our time with babies. My intention is always to create something that mamas can revisit later ... with grown up kids, how different will it feel then?

Here are a few shots from a recent session in Burbank, CA.

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Cannabis and Parenthood
 

a recent session

 
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I did a shoot with Keira Sumimoto, the founder of the Instagram account @cannabisandparenthood and we talked about how our kids might grow up to relate to cannabis.

We both use it regularly, and as much as I try to keep it in the down low at home, Amelie has asked a few times what it is.

The truth is that I don’t have all the answers but here’s where I’m at: I’ve learned so much about the power of herbal medicine in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and I’m fascinated by it all. I see cannabis as another herb we use at home to support our bodies (and mind) through the changes and challenges of life. It serves various purposes and works different for different people so like with anything else, start small and see how it affects you, and always use in moderation. Amelie is almost 6 and she understands my vape pen as herbal medicine for adults (an easy way to keep her safe until she’s old enough to make her own choices) and our CBD oil as a good ointment for “owies” (a anti-inflammatory life savior for the joint pain I was left with after being sick with a tropical virus, and my go to when Amelie get’s any superficial scrapes that need soothing).

I’m not afraid of cannabis because I’ve used it for over 6 years and it has served me and many I know well with zero side-effects. There is a big need for more research to better understand this plant and to demystify it more, but if you have any questions feel free to ask!

Also, if you’re interested in learning more, check out Canna Kids to see what results they’re finding when using this miracle plant to support people with cancer, epilepsy, and other disorders. Tracy and her team are making progress in leaps and bounds in terms of research and product development and it’s been amazing to witness!

Here’s a few photos from my shoot with Keira for Dawson+Hellmann, makers of beautiful cannabis-inspired hand embroidered bedding and pjs.

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Jessica's Family
 

a recent session

 
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Jessica is going back to work in a month, after 7 unforgettable months with her son Oliver. She wanted to honor this transition with a family shoot at home and so I came over and spent an hour with her family. I was able to capture as Oliver woke up from his nap and his parents navigated supporting his needs together. A beautiful dance of support, love and compassion for each other.

Now Jessica goes back to work and many of us know that the first day away is weird. Help me in sending her all the good vibes. Sometimes the hardest things in life — like claiming some part of your life back after having a baby — are the best most rewarding things in life. 

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Women Supporting Women
 
 
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A long time ago women supported one another. Villages of women bled together, took care of each other during the postpartum months, and grew older and wiser and respected. Women trusted and supported their community, and life – and certainly parenting – were easier because of it.

Over the centuries patriarchy played a role in dismantling what was once a strong sense a connection and togetherness. Community, the sharing of wisdom and our connection with our own bodies replaced by distrust and competition.

These photos are a collaboration between 3 mamas: postpartum doula Lauren Archer, Priscilla Ruiz and I, and it aims to celebrate our connection with our bodies and to inspire a deeper conversation about our need for community as women and mothers.

Ladies, let's understand our cycles and learn to love and honor our hormones. Let's demand the time and space to heal and care for our offspring postpartum and beyond. Let's notice every time we compare to others, every time we hate our bodies or judge someone else's. And most importantly, let's come together again. A great way to do that is by joining a women circle in your area. By gathering together to talk about our challenges, we can truly move forward and begin to heal and reconnect collectively.

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Meltdowns and hard times
 
 
mother and baby photographer in Pasadena

What do you do when your kids lose their mind? 

Intense feelings like anger are easy for all of us to relate to, yet it's hard for most of us to let our children express them.

My response varies depending on where I'm at with myself. If I'm busy, in my head and not really connected with her experience, then I also lose my mind. I may raise my voice and complain about her attitude – which usually adds fuel to the fire. A sad example for her to follow. A waste of a great opportunity to model empathy and compassion.

Now if I'm grounded (somewhat grounded is often enough) I might lower to her eye level and actually listen. I might be able to empathize with her feelings and mirror them with words so she can hear how they sound and feel heard. "You seem upset. You didn't like that I took the knife away from you." (as if!) 

It's amazing what a calm voice and empathetic words can do. I don't have to stretch my boundaries, I just need to connect, empathise with the feelings, and do what I feel is safe.

  Photoshoot at    Lauren   's house in Los Angeles. In this photos baby wasn't actually having a meltdown. He fell down and Lauren run to him for support before she had time to finish dressing. Real motherhood stuff right there!

Photoshoot at Lauren's house in Los Angeles. In this photos baby wasn't actually having a meltdown. He fell down and Lauren run to him for support before she had time to finish dressing. Real motherhood stuff right there!

When a child has a meltdown or a temper tantrum, there is no reasoning with them. What they need is the space to feel the wave of emotion, in the company of an adult able to stay with them through it and remain calm. After all, if we lose our minds too, then who can they rely on for safety?

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Sometimes these words come to mind:

 

“We might imagine we are a large sheltering oak tree in this storm, a solid, overarching friend, not necessarily understanding or having answers, but offering a sympathetic presence.”

 

Wise words from Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn #mindfulparenting

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Conscious feeding
 
 
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I loved photographing Danielle at her home a few months back, and it made me realize something important. 

During the session, I noticed how she was feeding her daughter and it surprised me in a way that I'm surprised that it surprised me – that was fun to write. She feeds her formula because the shape of her nipples didn't allow for breastfeeding. So she prepared a bottle and then held it while Samaya drank from it. At times she was leaning so close, it reminded me of having my daughter close during feedings (from the breast in my case).

She looked at her and talked to her and kept her company while she ate.

I know that one of the advantages of bottle feeding is that sometimes you can use a blanket or a pillow to prop a bottle up while you claim your own arms for yourself for just a minute (please!). So I think this might be why it surprised me. 

Point is that it was the most beautiful sight to see.

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I love creating images like this.

Mamas consciously feeding (diaper changing, burping, etc.) and connecting with their babies. Moments of inclusion and focused attention that are so valuable in deepening our relationship as mothers and for babies to feel a sense of security they need to grow without fear. 

And of course that not every feeding will look like this! It's not about being the perfect 100% mama, but to get the pleasure of enjoying mindful moments like these. I know I spent quite a few days with a baby latched on my breast and my attention fully on the television. #growthspurts

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The Birth of a Mama – My Story
 
 
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Five years ago, on January 24th, 2013, I gave birth to a fragile newborn at 3:45 in the morning. She weighed little under six pounds of greasy, swollen tinyness.

The plan was to last through 4 centimeters without medication. I'd heard somewhere that an epidural before 4 cm could increase the chance of a c-section ... I don't actually know if that's true, but that's what I was going with.

But it turns out that after 17 hours of painful contractions I only dilated to 3. I needed a nap. So I got an epidural and surprise! 10 minutes later I was at a fully open 10 centimeters and ready for business.

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Turned out my body was too tense from the pain and it wasn't able to dilate. Knowing what I know now, I needed to soften and let the pain go through me instead of what I was doing, trying to scape it. I didn't know though, and nobody told me. I didn't have a doula and the nurses at the hospital weren't really ever there. My experience at Cedars Hospital was positive. Everything went smoothly and the space was clean. But thinking back to it, I don't think anyone ever really saw me there. They just saw a body about to give birth. One of so many.

So 19 hours into labor and I was ready to push. But my mama was sleeping back at my house and not answering her phone and I knew she'd hate to miss it. So I called a nearby friend who bless-her-soul got up and out of her house to drive to mine and wake my parents up. This all must have taken about 30 minutes, I don't know, but I said I'd wait and my body supported me in waiting. Once they arrived I asked my dad to stay in the room with us. Weird move, not planned, but it felt right then. No regrets. Then I pushed for maybe 20 minutes and she was out.

We called her Amelie. Yes, like in the movie.

She didn’t cry one tear as they put her on my bare chest. Five fingers and five toes, all covered in a funny greasy goo. I wanted to know what to next. I asked if I should try to feed her and the nurse suggested I gave her some time. She looked calm and didn’t seem to need anything, so I relaxed and sank in the beauty of the moment. 

She was here ... Without knowing what it really meant I’d wanted to be a mother since I remember and now I was. Finally the chance to start exploring that journey. Life would never be the same again. 

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A five year old
 
 
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This little girl.

Almost 5 years old and eternally creative. Her favorite game is to play pretend she’s a baby dragon or a princess queen or that she’s me and I’m the daughter.

“Mama, let’s pretend you found me and I was a baby dragon and you can keep me and give me a name."

I usually struggle with this type of play for a few reasons. One, it's childish, and as much as I wish it would be different, I feel super silly playing kid games. I'm in my head, trying to make sense of it, creating rules but they keep breaking. Two, it's repetitive and I don't love doing the same thing multiple times. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

But, I do notice a deeper want that softens me: 

1. The need for physical touch. 

She wants me to pick her up like a baby and give her love. To hold her tight and look at her like there's nothing she could do that could ever upset me. Sigh. At 5 she already knows that's not true, but I can tell she wants to create play in which to pretend it's possible. Instead of asking for it, she finds games that include that.

2. The trial and error. 

She needs to pretend to be someone else. Not only is it fun for her, but it allows her to try things out, to see what works and what doesn't. What feels true to her. To get to know herself and continue growing into who she wants to be. 

3. The power struggle. 

It gives her power when she needs some and takes it away when she wants to be cared for. 

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5 years of motherhood
 
 
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This photo is an oldie from 5 years ago. I was excited, tired and full of fear. You know how it goes ... I look at that face and feel so much love and compassion. I had no idea what was coming!!

A sweet mama to be already trying her best to be a good one. Reading the parenting books, hydrating and eating enough, meditating and sleeping a ton. Because boy was I always tired! I wasn’t perfect though. I struggled with eating enough calories because I could only handle very small portions (small body packed with a growing baby). I was too tired to do any physical activity and lost all the muscle in my body. And I had my wines and my sushis here and there ... although I had an amazing OB who didn’t think those were strict no-no’s. 5 years sure have gone fast. A good reminder to document your family story with photos

 
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This New Kind of Parenting
 
 
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Parents used to think babies came to the world as blank canvases. Containers for the kind of person they needed to create in them.

Parenting was the “making” of an adult who would fit in whatever mold society thought was appropriate.

Now we know babies are full human beings from the start. Each one with their own personality, yet to be discovered. And now we redefine our role as parents, not as makers of people, but as mindful guides and supporters.

I believe my goal as a mother is to honor my daughter’s true self - even when I can’t really see it, while continuing to discover my own. Respect, love, clear boundaries and kindness for those moments when one or both of us aren’t able to be our best.  

  Photos from a motherhood session in Burbank, CA.

Photos from a motherhood session in Burbank, CA.

When I start a session, I find the time to connect eye to eye with everyone, and that includes newborn babies (if they're awake). I want them to know  I see them and respect their space, even when I’m putting a big black camera in between us for a bit. I tell them I will pick them up before I launch my arms at them. They might not be able to answer, and maybe won't even understand, but I believe they can sense my energy. Open, respectful, patient, trustworthy. Everyone’s true nature is unique and sovereign and I believe my job in this planet is to recognize that uniqueness in each person I connect with. 

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