Jessica's Family
 

a recent session

 
family-photos-at-home-pasadena-7.jpg

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. 

family-photos-at-home-pasadena-1.jpg
family-photos-at-home-pasadena-2.jpg
family-photos-at-home-pasadena-3.jpg
family-photos-at-home-pasadena-4.jpg
family-photos-at-home-pasadena-5.jpg
family-photos-at-home-pasadena-6.jpg
family-photos-at-home-pasadena-7.jpg
 
Women Supporting Women
 
 
women-supporting-women-breastfeeding-group-photo-3.jpg

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.

women-supporting-women-breastfeeding-group-photo-1.jpg
women-supporting-women-breastfeeding-group-photo-2.jpg
women-supporting-women-breastfeeding-group-photo-3.jpg
women-supporting-women-breastfeeding-group-photo-6.jpg
women-supporting-women-breastfeeding-group-photo-4.jpg
women-supporting-women-breastfeeding-group-photo-5.jpg
 
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?

Picsea-0030-201801-web-95.jpg

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

Picsea-0030-201801-web-107.jpg
 
Conscious feeding
 
 
Picsea-0029-201801-web-61.jpg

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.

Picsea-0029-201801-web-59.jpg

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

Picsea-0029-201801-web-64.jpg
Picsea-0029-201801-web-62.jpg
Picsea-0029-201801-web-49.jpg
Picsea-0029-201801-web-61.jpg

 

 

 
The Birth of a Mama – My Story
 
 
0001-201301-4.jpg

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.

0001-201301-5.jpg

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. 

0001-201301-2.jpg
 
A five year old
 
 
los-angeles-kid-photographer-1.jpg

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. 

los-angeles-kid-photographer-4.jpg
 
5 years of motherhood
 
 
daniela-rey-pregnancy-photographer-los-angeles-web-2.jpg

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

 
daniela-rey-pregnancy-photographer-los-angeles.jpg
 
This New Kind of Parenting
 
 
Mama-Niela-0026-201712-web-46.jpg

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. 

Mama-Niela-0026-201712-web-49.jpg
Picsea-0026-201712-web-47.jpg
 
That Impossible Life Work Balance
 
 
daniela-rey-motherhood-lifestyle-photographer-los-angeles-web-2.jpg

Feeling fulfilled as a mother, partner, creative and entrepreneur comes in waves and is usually never overlapping.

When I’m the mama I want to be, is usually at the expense of work. When I feel on top of my business, it’s usually at the expense of my family. Quality time, with my family and my company, are two very different things and can’t coexist in the same moment.

Family time means slowing down, thinking less, feeling my body.

Family time and multitasking don't go together. It just doesn't work. You need to pause, pay attention, listen and respond. Engage. Get out of your head. Work time for me means finding a quiet spot to get stuff done. Having a list of projects and tasks, thinking what's the most efficient way to accomplish the tasks, and focusing on getting them done one at a time. 

Sometimes I strike a balance for a few days. I feel focused at work and then I pause to connect with my family. This is how I feel today. In balance. In harmony with all the sides of me. May it last a little longer

daniela-rey-motherhood-lifestyle-photographer-los-angeles-web-4.jpg
 
The Birth of a Mama - Beckie Rado
 
 
los-angeles-lifestyle-photos-beckie-rado-14.jpg

I'm so happy to share Beckie's story here today. After reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, I'm convinced we need to write and share more positive birth stories with the world. As mamas, we can help others better understand their options and make decisions based on what's best for their families, not solely based on fear or what they're told to do.

I believe there are many ways to do things right. Right because it's safe and because it works for you and your family. I'm lucky that I get to meet so many fellow mothers, and even luckier when they share their story with me. I'm excited to use this journal as a safe space to share not only our childbirth stories but how we each find our own version and definition of motherhood as we raise our children. 

I met Beckie on a Facebook mama group. She agreed to be my model for a photo shoot for a new brand of nursing covers. Funny thing is that she never actually nursed, so we had to get creative with some of the shots. I spent one whole day with her and I can tell you how sweet her bond with her son is, the love and trust between them ... a gift to have witnessed. 

So now I let Beckie tell you her story ...

los-angeles-lifestyle-photos-beckie-rado-11.jpg

 

A year ago yesterday at 2pm my OBGYN called me to let me know I would be induced at 4am today, so naturally, I thought, well, it’s my last day before becoming a mother, what do I need to do? I need to get my hair done. So, I booked an appt at 6:30pm for that night. At around 7:30pm I started feeling some heavy contractions that started by themselves. I held out on telling my hairdresser because I wasn’t sure if I would be back anytime soon since I was about to have a newborn. I also really needed a toner and a cut. I held off until what seemed like forever and then I blurted “I think I need to go to the hospital”. She quickly washed out my color and I assured her I was fine for toner. Adam was taking a while to pick me up so I squeezed in a quick cut, too. He picked me up at 9pm and we got home and I was fine again. I was really glad I got the toner and the cut before I left.

At about 12am we left for the hospital, four hours early. I figured I was somewhat contracting and it would be good to get checked in early and not be in full on labor driving to the hospital 40 mins away.

I was lucky. I drove to the hospital in comfort.

They checked me in and started prepping me and at 4am on the dot I was in my room.

The nurse came in at 5:30am and asked me if I wanted the epidural. I paused and said “maybe”. She then let me know that the labor ward was fully booked. That meant that there were 20 other women having babies at the same time as me. She told me that if I got an epidural now I would get it right now. If I waited an hour and there was a line of 5 women it could take up to an hour and a half. I freaked out internally. I heard that Pitocin is intense and that it is a lot more painful than going into labor naturally. So, it seemed like an easy decision.

By 6:30am they pushed the Pitocin and I started laboring around 7am.

I was extremely happy. Texting, making calls, drinking cranberry juice. I even slept for 2 hours.

Hail that epi. 6 hours went by and I was ready. I felt nothing. Not even a slight bit of pain. Nothing at all my whole labor.

They left me until 3pm because they were checking other patients and waiting for my OBGYN.
Once my OB got there it was all systems go.

It took 2.5 hours until Avery was born. My epidural was halved at one point but I made sure it was in full force again right away. I couldn’t handle it. Maybe it was the Pitocin, maybe it was the fact I felt nothing and then I felt a lot, maybe I just can’t handle pain. Who knows? I think I only felt 7-10mins of intense pain during Avery’s whole birth.

I have no idea how women do it without drugs. Women are goddesses with incredible body capabilities.

I worship anyone who has gone through that kind of pain completely. It’s indescribable.

Then my son was in my arms. He was 8 pound 11 ounces of chub. He had a double chin! He instantly became my everything. He was just perfect. So healthy and so content. I hardly heard him cry when he was born. He has hardly cried since. How did I get so lucky with a perfect birth and an incredible son? I am extremely lucky.

los-angeles-lifestyle-photos-beckie-rado-5.jpg

I count my blessing every single day because I know how hard it is for some. I pray all the time only sending thanks.

This last year has been such a journey. It has been everything. I know I was meant to be a mother. This boy has changed my life in ways I never thought possible. For months I ran off adrenaline. I didn’t sleep at all for 2 days when he was first born. All I wanted to do was just look at him. I had no idea what cluster feeding was, pumping, breastfeeding. It all came. I just can’t believe how lucky I have been to experience this year. Best year of my life hands down and nothing can take that away.

I have just finished pumping for the last time and I feel so sad.

Sad that the connection with my baby has gone. A connection that he didn’t even know of because I was exclusively pumping. Maybe I had a good connection with my pump. We have been in a pretty sturdy relationship for 365 days. I’m sad because instead of washing the parts I can throw them out. My body has changed because of it. It’s so magical what a woman’s body can do for her children.

los-angeles-lifestyle-photos-beckie-rado-4.jpg

Last night Avery said, “mama” over and over and over for the first time. At 7pm. That meant a year ago on the dot between 7 and 7:30pm I was contracting and he finally said my name exactly a year later. I have been waiting and waiting for this and now it is so meaningful. So special.

Life is so precious. Every moment is a gift. Avery is and always has been incredibly special.

I made him, cooked him, birthed him and fed him with my body for a whole year!

I am so proud that he is healthy and that I made it a full year with him without completely losing my mind. So proud of the experiences we have shared and the indescribable love. He is my dream son and everything I have ever hoped for. I couldn’t have done any of it without my husband, Adam Rado. We made a loving family and it is nothing short of a dream come true.

I am so in love 💙

- Beckie

los-angeles-lifestyle-photos-beckie-rado-12.jpg
los-angeles-lifestyle-photos-beckie-rado-13.jpg
Picsea-0021-201711-web-32.jpg