Turning One is Oh So Bittersweet - Fairbanks Childhood Photographer

It was hard enough when my own baby turned one a few short months ago.  But it somehow hits me anew when clients' babies turn one - perhaps because those babies are often preserved as their newborn selves in my memory.  I often have parents send me notes of reminiscence as their baby nears their birthday - and even though I may have literally been present at said child's birth, the fact that it's been a year still blindsides me every time.  (Also, nothing reminds you just how far behind on blogging you are like having an unblogged-Fresh 48 baby have a birthday...)  A whole year disappeared in the blink of an eye.  

Case in point: Ariana.  

And though so much has changed - the whole sitting up, mobility, and eating solid food thing - I'm thrilled to report that her amazing deadpan "I am merely humoring you" camera face is still going strong.  

See for yourself.  

Ariana then: 

Ariana now.

NURTURE: Art by Colleen Firmin Thomas, August 2017

I love having artist friends, if only because I sometimes get to wrangle a sneak peek at solo exhibitions before they open!  I have always been in love, hard, with my friend Colleen's artwork, so I was only too happy to help her photograph a selection of her works that will hang as part of her show in the Bear Gallery this August.  The show opens on Friday, August 4th with a reception from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.  

Colleen gave me the thumbs-up to share some of the work we photographed here.  Consider it your very own sneak peek!  But trust me, you want to see these in person (as you would with any artwork, but these are three-dimensional works, so you REALLY need to experience these in the flesh!).  

You can follow along with Colleen's career on Instagram and her shiny new website.   

Little Sessions in the Peonies at Alaska Peony Flowers: July 8, 2017

UPDATE: July 8 Little Sessions are SOLD OUT!  If you're interested in a make-up session, please contact me!

The peonies are set to bloom in the next few weeks, and that means it's time for Little Sessions at Alaska Peony Flowers' farm in the Goldstream Valley!  

35-minute Little Sessions are a sweet spot between mini-sessions and full custom sessions, and are a great opportunity to grab some beautiful portraits.  Couples, families, and individuals are welcome.  The inclusive fee of $175 includes your session and a complete set of high resolution images via digital download.  

Sessions begin at 12:30 and will go into the 5 o'clock hour!  Reserve your spot now.  If there's a time you prefer, please leave me a note letting me know, and I would also love it if you would let me know how many people I can expect for your session (including the ages of any kiddos).  

I can't wait to see you there!

Summer at Calypso Farm - Featured in Edible Alaska's Summer 2017 Issue

During the coming year, Edible Alaska will be doing a four-season series featuring Ester's own Calypso Farm.  First up is summer, featured in the current issue.  I was thrilled to contribute a few images to the story, which I took last summer while on a field trip to Calypso with my kids.  

edible alaska's summer 2017 issue

edible alaska's summer 2017 issue

Animals, dirt, flowers...pretty much a kid's dream come true.  With my camera in hand, I think I had almost as much fun as they did.  I compiled a few more of my favorite images here, but I definitely recommend getting your hands on a copy of the magazine to read the wonderful piece that accompanies the images (along with the rest of the issue's content!).  

Sweet Cheeks Bakery is On A Roll - Featured in Edible Alaska's Summer 2017 Issue

My friend Annie is kind of amazing.  She also happens to make a mean cinnamon roll.  Not just anyone could take those two things -- amazingness and cinnamon rolls -- and put them together, but Annie could, and did.  Last year, she followed a flash of inspiration all the way to the end and made a dream come true.  

I can't think of any way to write this that doesn't sound a little cheesy, or sappy, or perhaps both, but nonetheless - I am so inspired by her.  Maybe because I had a somewhat behind-the-scenes view of things over the year during which Annie and Vance worked to make the bakery a reality, I have an extreme appreciation for the sheer amount of work, dedication, and determination that has gone into this "little" endeavor.  They built it from the ground up and made it happen.  This summer, Annie and her family are living the once-lofty dream of feeding people delicious treats while taking advantage of all our beautiful state has to offer.

And it is so.  cool.

I am of course thrilled that Edible Alaska included my photo essay on Sweet Cheeks in their 2017 Summer issue.  Copies are available all around the state, and there's additional content on their website.  

I wanted to share some additional favorite images from my session with Sweet Cheeks here as well (...as you may recognize, my two older kiddos were MORE than happy to volunteer to model for the "tasting" portion of the day, haha)!  

Sweet Cheeks is currently in Valdez throughout June, serving up fresh, warm cinnamon rolls to locals, fisherpeople, and tourists alike!  They'll be back in Fairbanks sometime mid-season.  To keep up with their whereabouts, follow them on Facebook here.  

Bon appetit!  

Thank You, Fairbanks: A Letter from Student Midwives Hannah & Kluane

I've had the great privilege to work next to Hannah and Kluane many times over the past two years as they completed their midwifery apprenticeships at the Alaska Family Health and Birth Center.  The real bummer about apprenticeships, it turns out, is that they come to an end.  Hannah emailed me this week and asked if I might share this letter she and Kluane penned - INSTEAD OF STUDYING FOR THEIR EXAMS - to help share their deep gratitude to the community of Fairbanks for welcoming them into their families and training them as midwives.  

Please join me in sending them love and the best of luck as they embark on their next chapters!  As you'll read below, they will be holding a fundraiser at AFHBC in July to raise money for their upcoming charitible mission - I hope to see you there.  <3

And now, onto their words.  The following letter is authored by Hannah Brown and Kluane Tozier.  


To the women and families of the Fairbanks area:

June marks two years since we became student midwives, and also the conclusion of our apprenticeships with Alaska Family Health and Birth Center. Time flies, and all that. While we really should be studying and preparing for the test that will determine if we get to be real, grown-up midwives, we have been talking and can't help but reflect on our time here. Along with this reflection comes a need for us to express our thanks. 

None of this would be possible without you: the women and families of Alaska Family Health and Birth Center. Your willingness, patience, and good humor throughout every phase of our education has been amazing and so very humbling. We were never told that we were too young, or that we couldn't support a woman through labor when we have never personally experienced it. Through these years, we have laughed with you. We have cried with and for you in joy, as well as in sorrow and loss. We have been honored to witness the strength that can only be found in the birth room. We have watched you struggle and wiped your tears as you worked through pain and exhaustion to breastfeed your baby. 

The last few weeks have been emotional ones. We've slowly been collecting my "lasts" at the birth center: the last Monday of clinic with Julie and Kate, the last lunch with the midwives, the last initial prenatal with Manga, the last postpartum visit with Erin. While it's true that we could never have arrived at this point in our training without the women, babies, and families that we have served for the past two years, we are equally indebted to the midwives of Alaska Family Health and Birth Center. 

"Our" midwives. Oh, how I could go on and on about how much we love, admire, and aspire to be like each of them. These women are fearless in their love and support. These women are our heroes. They hold life and death in their strong but gentle hands. We have seen them be unflinching in their care through the dark moments, the painful moments, the moments when it is clear that they are grieving, too. We have heard whispered words of encouragement as a woman is at the end of her strength, as well as words of firm direction when danger is detected. These women have taught us so much, as women and as wives and mothers, as well as midwives. We will forever carry their teachings our my minds and hearts, and someday hope to be half the women and midwives that they are. 

Truly, the last two years have been the most incredible, joyous, and sometimes painful years of our lives. We have grown so much; and while sometimes the growing pains were more than we thought we could take, we have emerged proud of the individuals and midwives we have become.

Thank you so much.

We could never express our gratitude enough. We really never knew that we could grow to love and cherish so many wonderful families in such a short amount of time. 

The next chapter of our lives (and our journeys as midwives) includes a mission trip to the Philippines. We will be having a fundraiser gala at Alaska Family Health & Birth Center on July 2nd from 3pm to 6pm. This fundraiser will in part help us raise funds for our trip to the Philippines through the incredible organization Mercy In Action. Even if you can't give monetarily, we would love to see anyone who we served, for any encouragement or a kind word.

Love,

Hannah and Kluane

Next up: Perfect {Professional} Headshot Events - Fairbanks Small Business Photographer

At long last: the dates for the next installments of the Perfect {Professional} Headshots series! 

As always, these events include a preparation guide, an on-site sitting with a professional makeup artist, a portrait sitting, and a complete set of all finished portraits (you can expect at least 5-10 unique portraits) via digital download + print release.  The all-inclusive fee is $225, and remember, if these headshots are for your professional life, this is a tax-deductible expense!  

JUNE 17, 2017 12-4

SEPTEMBER 16, 2017 12-4

NOVEMBER 18, 2017 12-4

Limited spots available.  Discounts are available if you would like to book multiple spaces for all of your employees - contact me for details.  

Don't hesitate to book your spot now!  Contact me to grab a slot.  I look forward to working with you!  

Happy Mother's Day 2017

The last 12 months have been a wild ride, to say the least.  Last year on Mother's Day, I had a one-week-old in my arms and plenty of cause to reflect on life and the passage of time.  This time around I have a one-year-old (because somehow a year has passed?!?) and I'm again reminded how grateful I am to be surrounded by such an amazing variety of parenthood, and in particular motherhood.  I'm truly lucky to have been invited into each family story and to stand witness to the love that makes someone a mother. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Honoring L&D Nurses {Featured on the Huffington Post}

With three small kids running around, I sometimes lose track of current events.  Case in point: I was only made aware that it was Nurse Appreciation Week when the Huffington Post asked for images that feature L&D nurses at work.  

Fairbanks has a wonderful nursing community.  I feel fortunate to have worked alongside them every time I work with hospital clients, and I am thrilled to claim several of them as clients themselves.  

Two images of mine were included in the Huffington Post's meaningful compilation (with the permission of the clients and the nurses pictured).  They are both remarkable women (as are the mamas they attended), and I am so glad I was given this opportunity to sing their service to women from the rooftops.  

Please check out the whole article here!

 

The Birth of Edyn Grace - Fairbanks Birth Photographer {Featuring Taylor Bercot of Leigh Rose Photography}

A few months ago I had the incredible experience of documenting another birth photographer's birth.  Taylor Bercot of Leigh Rose Photography is the mama in question, and she was kind enough to allow me to share her birth story here.  It was a powerhouse of a water birth that left behind an oxytocin high for everyone there. 

_________________________________________________________________________________

The Birth of Edyn Grace, by Taylor Bercot.

As many of you know, my husband and I just welcomed our second child into the world!  Edyn Grace made us wait for her arrival, but finally— at 41 weeks and 6 days — she was in our arms.  I wanted to make sure I wrote her birth story as soon as possible so that the birth was still fresh in my mind.  I had my dream birth with Edyn, and I want to remember every detail. 

Throughout my pregnancy, I received my prenatal care at Alaska Family Health and Birth Center because I wanted a peaceful waterbirth.  I was also seen there during my first pregnancy, but I risked out of their care at 39 weeks due to high blood pressure.  I loved the midwives and the facility, and I prayed that this time, I would get the birth that I dreamed of.  

So here it is: the story of the birth of Edyn Grace Bercot.  

November 29th, 3PM.

41 weeks + 5 days pregnant.  The birth center’s policy is that at 42 weeks gestation, you risk out of birth center care and have to transfer to the hospital.  In other words, I had roughly two days left to go into labor, or I would again have to transfer care and have a hospital birth.  Knowing this, the midwives and I used my routine prenatal appointment as an opportunity to sweep my membranes to see if we could get labor going.  I had irregular contractions for a few hours, but nothing crazy. I was pretty scared that it wasn't going to work and that I would have to go with the last-resort plan of taking castor oil in the morning (...it’s really gross).   Little did I know, Edyn was on her way.

November 29, 11PM

My contractions started becoming regular and timed about 7-8 minutes apart.  I wasn't really sure what to do but I couldn't sleep, so I went downstairs to let Elliott sleep and tried to just rest and listen to my body.  Every time I would get up to do something, the contractions would come faster, so I tried to lay down on the couch. When I had a few contractions that I actually had to breathe through, I knew that this was the real thing.  At that point it was hard to sit still!  I was ready.  I started getting our toddler’s bag ready to go to our friends’ house and tried to clean up a little bit, but it was getting a lot harder to function.

November 30, 12 AM

The contractions were getting a lot stronger and closer together, so I woke Elliott up and he took Leighlyn to our friends’ house.  While he was gone, I decided to get in the shower.  At that point, the contractions were coming around every 2-4 minutes. I was really confused — things seemed to be happening super fast and I had been sure that my labor was probably going to last a while.  When Elliott got home he timed my contractions and was shocked. He immediately called the birth center and told them we were coming!

November 30, 1:30 AM

Elliott got everything we needed into the car and we were off to the birth center to have our baby girl! 

The car ride was absolutely miserable.  I thought it would never end.  The contractions were coming so fast I felt like I wasn't getting breaks in between them.  They were super intense, and every time I thought I figured out how to cope, the next one would come even stronger and more intense. I remember keeping my tones low instead of high, something I always had in the back of my mind. I knew the nice low moans were going to help my body open up.  Elliott was amazing at reminding me to breathe and stay low. I would guess that during the car ride the contractions were closer to 1 minute apart. 

November 30, 2:05 AM

We arrived at the birth center and hurried in. The midwife started filling up the tub right away and I worked through some contractions while Elliott brought our stuff inside.  Another midwife checked Edyn's heartbeat and took my vitals.  My amazing doula Kassandra arrived and started helping me through each contraction.  Elliott was right there, too; by my side, encouraging me through each one. I knew that I was going to be kind of loud during my labor, which is kind of weird because I am NOT a loud person. But I knew that it would help me cope to be vocal through my contractions, and it did.   

November 30, 2:26 AM

The birth tub was ready and I got in.  Around this time, I started feeling urges to push.  It definitely felt good to push during some of the contractions.  This got me excited, but at the same time I was still super confused because this labor was going SO FAST! I didn't want to get my hopes up, because in my mind I was thinking maybe it wasn't actually going that fast and I was just being a wimp!

November 30, 2:35 AM

One of the midwives checked me and I was around 7-8 cm open.  

This is definitely where I hit my wall. 

I wanted to go to the hospital, I wanted to give up and just cry. I thought for sure I was going to get stuck here and that it was going to be hours before I had my baby in my arms.  The contractions were so strong and I'm not sure how far apart they were, but they had to be less than 30 seconds.  I was feeling like I needed to push during every contraction now.  After a few more contractions, I felt Edyn’s head with my fingers and I was shocked!  I remember asking my doula if that was her head.  I don't remember getting an answer, but Elliott said that everyone said yes, that's her head!  I'm pretty sure I was roaring through some of my contractions now, and I distinctly remember my pushing sound being different than my coping-through-a-contraction sound.

November 30, 2:46 AM

This whole time, I was on my hands and knees in the tub because that was the most comfortable position.  The midwives suddenly said they could see her head!  They needed to listen to her heart, so Elliott and my doula helped me turn and I felt her head starting to come out.  It seemed like forever that her head sat there.  I remember the midwife saying her forehead was out and I needed to push really good to get that head out.

November 30, 2:56 AM

Edyn was born!  They handed her right to me (and just like I wanted, this is where she stayed for the next two hours). 

I could not believe that she came that quickly.  I was so amazed that I actually did it. I had a baby with absolutely no drugs, in a tub, not in a hospital.  Within her first few minutes, Elliott, who was sitting outside of the tub right next to me, prayed out loud.  He thanked God for a safe and quick delivery while I cried. God answered our prayers.  He gave me the strength to have this baby and He allowed us to have the birth that we wanted.  

Minutes later, the placenta was delivered and everyone helped me out of the tub.  We got into the bed and I held Edyn on my chest while the midwives checked to see if I had torn.  I was expecting so because of how fast she came (and I had needed stitches after Leighlyn’s birth).  Thankfully, I only had a tiny little tear and it didn't need stitches! Again, I was amazed.  My body did exactly what it was supposed to, and I really believe that being in the water was one reason why I didn't tear badly.

For the rest of the night we were able to just relax.  Edyn stayed on my chest (still connected to the placenta) and we let her figure out breastfeeding without a million people trying to force her onto my breast (I did not have a good experience with breastfeeding in the hospital after Leighlyn was born, so this was a huge deal).  It was SO calm and relaxing. Edyn didn't sleep at all and just kept making the sweetest little sounds that weren't cries, but almost sounded like she was talking to us, telling us about her experience. We were all laughing at how cute she sounded! My doula and photographer were both there, and we talked about everything that had just transpired.  Around 2 hours after the birth, Elliott cut the cord and got to hold her for some skin to skin.  The midwives weighed and measured Edyn: 8 pounds, 6 ounces, and 19 inches.  

One of the best things about giving birth at the birth center is that we were able to go home after 6 hours.  We ended up leaving around 10AM that morning and headed back to the comfort of our own home. 

I am so thankful for my amazing husband who supported me and really wanted the same kind of experience as me.  I'm also thankful for my amazing doula, Kassandra.  She was there for both of our babies' births and I really could not have done it without her.  She was the calm that Elliott and I both needed through both birth experiences. 

I am so ecstatic about the way Edyn’s whole birth went. It was really exactly what I wanted and I am still on cloud nine.  I have never felt so strong and so empowered.