At the time I was a 31-year-old N.J. and N.Y.C. luxury wedding photographer that had been married for 5 years and had over 6 years of stable business ownership. You’d think getting pregnant would’ve been no big deal — but it was for me.
As fate would have it, I wrote an article before I was pregnant called “The 4 Ways I Was Convinced Being Pregnancy Would Destroy My Life,” and it was published in a N.J. newspaper just a few weeks after I found out I was expecting. The article mainly addressed my career and how even the remote possibility of my having children negatively affected my business well before I was even thinking about it. I had seen horrible behavior not only towards me, but also towards other wedding colleagues who dared to start a family. It wasn’t anything I wanted to experience for myself. It's hard enough fighting the mom-tographer name when you're a natural light shooter (even though I shoot with the Canon 1DX), much less when you're actually a mom who definitely categories cameras like this one as super cute.
I've talked to endless photographers about this and 99 percent of women photographers have the same fear: Getting pregnant is going to kill my photography business. My brides will hate me and likely fire me from their weddings. I'll never be able to be a mom and run a business. No one will want to hire me ever again. After all, we know that we can’t miss a wedding we’re booked for no matter what happens, short of a terrorist attack (and even that is covered in my contract). There are no sick days, no calling out and, as far as a lot of people are concerned, no birthing days either.
So where does that leave us working women wedding photographers? Childless? No. It calls us to be more informed and ready than most women have to be when thinking about having a child. It also means that having your friend (or hubby) capture the birth with a GoPro is totally normal. It is, right?
My decision on how to handle the baby announcement was a bit off the beaten path. You can read about the “6 Reasons I Hid My Pregnancy for 8 Months” on my blog. It was later published on Yahoo News, USA Today Networks, The Bump, and Parent Magazine to name a few. I think business owners, particularly females, will find the reasoning for keeping the baby announcement off social media to be interesting and applicable to their own lives and businesses. Perhaps this will work for you in your own business, perhaps not. Here’s the best advice I can give to anyone looking to have a family and a career.
Think More About The After
You know a lot of couples make the mistake of thinking about and planning for the wedding more than they do the marriage. It’s the same thing with babies. So many women think more about the pregnancy and delivery more than bringing the baby home and caring for it. It’s only natural however, because the gravity of what it takes to care for a child is beyond a non-parent’s imagination. Think of it this way: There are no sick days — every day, all day and night is a wedding day.
You might not have the luxury or luck to plan your childbirth around your wedding schedule. What you can plan for is for the two months following your due date to be pretty much non-existent. Sure, you may hear about the hero-moms that shoot a wedding two days after giving birth, but they are the exception, not the rule.
The rule is even if everything goes swimmingly you will need at least one month, preferably two, in order to get to your new definition of normal. We don’t have enough space in the article for why, but what I can tell you is you have to plan on getting an extraordinary amount of help for the first two months after you have a baby. I can also tell you the idea of cozying up to your Mac with your baby in one hand isn't the most realistic picture in the world.
This means if you’re not outsourcing everything you possibly can in your business then now’s the time to start putting that into practice. I know having 17Hats basically running my leads, appointments, client communication, and bookkeeping is key to when I have my second child. This also means that you should get a family member or friend to start a Take Them A Meal account for you so you can get help at home too. If people want to come see the baby, let them, but have them help you out while they’re there.
Have a Plan
After the craziness of the first two months happens, you’ll get into what your normal routine should look like. I do have bad news for you non-routine creatives: You’re going to develop some sort of routine. Your routine might not look like a color-coded calendar, but a child needs to eat and sleep on a regulated schedule, so like it or not, some kind of routine is going to happen.
What you can do now is think about what you want that routine to look like. Don’t think about the daily routine yet, that’ll come once you learn how your kid operates and how you operate with them. Think about what your weekly routine will look like. How many days a week do you plan on working for five or so consecutive hours? You’ll need to figure out child care for those days and times. Do you plan on only working during your child’s naps and bedtime? Learn all about sleep training now so you can get them sleeping on a predictable schedule. You will be too tired and busy to attempt to read a book and learn all of that after the baby arrives. I used “Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old” and it worked like a charm.
Stay in Shape
There are some circumstances in pregnancy that you cannot avoid, and there are others that you can. You can do your best to eat healthy and exercise while pregnant within your doctor’s guidelines. Though you’ll want to, being pregnant is not the excuse to let it all go. It’s in fact the opposite.
Being pregnant is training for a marathon. You’re about to do the most difficult and miraculous thing a human being can do with their body, and typically it’s not a sprint to the finish. Labor lasts for hours and hours, so being in good shape is a really nice way to help that along as well as help you shoot weddings late into your pregnancy. Again, stay within your pregnancy capabilities and your doctor’s limitations, but be active through your pregnancy as much as possible.
I saved this for last and I did it because not only do I want to leave you with this, but I know it’s the one thing that’s really pressing in your mind right now: “How can I make sure I won’t miss a wedding?”
The truth is that you can’t. You can plan around what you’ve given but you can’t plan what you’re given. If God breathes life into you that’ll come mid-wedding season then that’s what you get. If you need to go on bed rest or have a longer than normal postpartum recovery, then that’s what will happen. You just might, through no doing of your own, miss a wedding. You know what? That’s OK.
That’s OK because you have (or should have) in your contract what you do if you can’t be at a wedding and need a replacement and your clients have signed off on it. That’s OK because you’ll still be there hand-holding your clients before and after the wedding. But most importantly, that’s OK because you already know in your heart that no wedding will ever be as important as the incredible gift of your beautiful child.