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Loving what you do. | by +Luiza

Without fail, whenever I’m out shooting, the same thought pops into my head: my job is so freaking awesome. At some point or another, I stop and think about how beautiful everything is and how much fun I’m having and just how fortunate I am to be right here, right now, and call it work

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always peachy. Sometimes I do get frustrated and stressed and just want to kick something over like I’m five years old or something. But most of the time it really does feel like I’m just hanging out with someone. Because I smile, and I get to make them smile, and I think that’s just totally awesome. 


I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy strolling through a park for a few hours with some great people, a camera, some sunshine, and no worries? 

I just absolutely love what I do. And I think that’s super important. It makes me happy, and I know it’s something I can do every day forever and not get bored. It’s always a new experience. And it’s always awesome.

I love my job. I love my work. And I love the people I work with.

Wednesday by Leah: One Year

This weekend, BabyRoX is turning one. Wow. Did it go by fast? Yes and no. Those hazy newborn days seem SO far away, especially when I see my brand-new niece and how tiny and helpless she seems. And it’s crazy to think about a time when Jonah – since he’s not so much a baby anymore, I guess I’ll start using his real name – wasn’t a part of our lives. But at the same time, I’m shocked at how quickly we got here. The bouncing, grinning, trying-to-talk boy who blows raspberries on my cheeks and tummy, who loves eating broccoli and olives and lentil soup, who pulls on kitty tails and scales stairs at lightening speed… not so very long ago he could barely hold up his head. He slept A LOT. He nursed A LOT. He was my Zen baby. He taught me how to slow down. And now he’s teaching me how to speed up again.

This past year has been filled with more joy and love than I could have anticipated. It’s been a time to trust my intuition, to gain confidence as a mother, to get to know this precious being who joined our family. To learn from him. To learn how to teach him. To be fully present and savor the time that I knew would go by too fast.

And as we prepare to celebrate his first year of life, the sadness at the end of the baby era is fading – a little bit of that will always be there, because I do so love the baby stage – but I am eagerly looking ahead to this next year. To all the firsts – walking, talking, going to Disney World, cooking and making art and taking nature walks. More hugs and kisses. More singing and dancing. More laughter and yes, more tears. To getting to know Jonah even better as more and more of his personality comes out. I can’t wait to hear his thoughts, his take on the world.

I watch my sister with her sweet little girl, and I am so excited for her to go through this journey, too. For however difficult those first days and weeks might be, the joy and love is so much more – so worth the sleepless nights, the marathon nursing sessions, the stress and worry that come with being responsible for a tiny baby you love with all your might 24/7. It’s a HUGE transformation, becoming a mom. I can’t fully express how huge. I am more of myself because of Jonah. I am more aware, more compassionate, more present, and more self-ish, because I want him to have the best version of me. I have to take care of myself to be in the best space, physically and mentally and emotionally and spiritually to be the mom I want to be for Jonah. And I have to be gentle with myself, and oh-so-forgiving, because I’m not the best version of myself 24/7. And that’s ok, too.

So many adventures ahead! This past year has been the very start of an amazing journey. Happy One Year, Jonah. You fill our lives with light and love. Smiles and hugs and kisses and raspberries! And let there be cake!



retro | intro -spective | by +Elaine

I’ve have lots of names. lainie, e, shorty, laine brain, nain. and now I’m +elaine. and I like it.

getting an updated portfolio together had me sifting through all my intern shoots. and reviewing what I had in my portfolio before. hard to believe there was even a time in my photography life before my leahandmark internship. it’s amazing to see where I was with my skills and knowledge and experience then. and where I am now.

before, I was hired for the occasional gig, but mostly I just showed up everywhere with my camera. parties, the pool, backyard concerts, school events, playdates, parks. but now my work is filled with babies and children and couples and drag queens. product shoots of granola and books and headbands and dresses and shoes and bread and houses. people new to the country, or on stage speaking or rocking out, or getting married, or breaking boards. models crouched in trunks and strutting on runways and posing in rotted out buses and old trains. so much cooler.

I look back on my “before the internship” work and my “during” work, and now that I’m in the “after” phase, I can’t wait to see what what my portfolio will be filled with next.

with a new role as a + at comes a new blog location. no longer in the intern section, mark told +krista, +mishaun and me to (re)introduce ourselves. coming up with 200 pictures to whittle down to 20 for our portfolios, posting a blog and showcasing our work… all of this reminds me of the incredulity I felt the first night as an intern when mark told us we had to have 20 images and a blog up by that monday morning. 20 IMAGES! it seemed a ridiculous amount and there was no way I had that many images that were good enough. and just like then, once I got a grip and settled down to work, I find I have more than enough pictures I’m happy to use to fill my portfolio and to post on the blog as I introduce myself. again.

so hi, I’m + elaine, and I’m happy you’re here. now let’s get shooting.

Wednesday by Leah: It’s Like Pooping

So I know I already wrote about my homebirth experience, and talked a little about what labor and birth were like… but now that I’m out of that initial post-birth haze, I thought I’d share a bit more about what giving birth actually FELT like. And really, it felt like pooping. So much so that I was convinced my child was coming out of the wrong opening! I never had that ring of fire that so many women describe…maybe cuz I was giving birth in water, I don’t know… for me, giving birth was like having a 20 lb (ok, really a 7 lb) bowling ball come out of my butt. Except BabyRoX didn’t come out of my butt. To this day, I would swear that he did, though!  That’s how much it felt like pooping!

Y’all…I wasn’t going to write this post. Mark said I should, though. I’m not trying to be gross. But I do wish someone had sat me down before I gave birth and told me this. I was told that I should push like I was having a bowel movement. I was also told that many women get hung up on their fear of actually pooping during birth. (And I didn’t think I would be one of those women!) But I was NOT told that giving birth feels like taking the biggest dump of your life, and I think if I had been told that, I would’ve pooped out my sweet baby a lot faster! But I kept waiting to feel him coming out of my vagina. And instead all I felt was intense pressure in my rectum. I was convinced that I couldn’t give birth until I pooped. I mean, I thought I really needed to poop first and then I could have my baby. So I kept sitting on the toilet trying to poop…only I was really trying to give birth, and I didn’t know it! Finally my wonderful doula and midwife convinced me that I really just needed to push the baby out and YES that intense pressure on my rectum was normal and YES the baby really is about to come and NO I don’t need to worry about pooping anymore.

Cutest poop in the world!

I didn’t think I was going to be worried about pooping. But I also didn’t realize just how much giving birth would feel like having a bowel movement! I also thought that by the time I was ready to push out my baby, I wouldn’t care if I pooped or not… I thought I would be so out of it, or in so much pain that nothing mattered, or in such a deeply relaxed state that the baby would just slide out and I wouldn’t have a care in the world. I had an amazingly relaxed labor, but when it came time to push, I wasn’t in that trance-like state. I also wasn’t in such pain that I stopped caring about anything else. I was very much aware of the feeling of needing to poop, and very averse to doing that with everyone around me, and completely unaware that the poop-feeling was my baby coming out. So I’m giving the rest of y’all a heads up – when you are nearing the end of your labor and you feel like you need to poop, YOUR BABY IS COMING! Got it? Good. Happy baby pooping!


Wednesday by Leah: Delayed Cord Clamping

It’s standard practice at most hospitals to clamp and cut the umbilical cord very soon after the baby is born. This practice was likely started because you can’t move the baby very far from the mother when the cord is still attached – especially if the placenta has not yet been delivered, which can take up to 30ish minutes after the baby comes out. So no putting the baby under the warmer, cleaning the baby off, weighing/swaddling/etc. We elected to delay cord clamping and cutting. Instead, we waited for the cord to finish transferring blood from the placenta to BabyRoX.

What happens when the cord is cut within 30 seconds of birth? The iron-rich blood in the placenta, which takes a few minutes to transfer to the baby, now has no way of getting to where it is needed. Delaying cord clamping increases the baby’s blood volume by up to one-third (1/3), which helps prevent anemia. Higher iron stores have been found even 3 months after birth in infants whose cord clamping was delayed.

Routine hospital practices are slow to change, but it IS starting to happen as evidence of the benefits of delayed cord clamping mounts.Says one OB/GYN: If the burden of proof is on us to prove that immediate clamping is good, that burden is clearly not met.  And furthermore, there is strong evidence that delaying clamping as little as 30 seconds has measurable benefits for the infant, especially in premature babies and babies born to iron deficient mothers.”

Also, here’s a great video that shows why delayed cord clamping is helpful:

Obviously, each parent must make decisions based on what they feel is best/healthiest for their child. Will a child be seriously harmed by immediate cord clamping? Most likely the answer is no. But why routinely do something that denies a child certain health benefits from the get-go? Furthermore, unless you actively research birth, routine practice, and BEST practice, you wouldn’t even know to ASK for delayed cord clamping at the birth of your child.

What special requests did you/will you make for the birth of your child? What surprised you about your prenatal, labor, and delivery experience?


Advanced Breastfeeding: Traveling Without Your Baby

Posted by +Debra

I recently traveled without my baby for the first time ever.  It was a tough decision, and in alot of ways it was a tough time being away.    As a breastfeeding mom the idea of being away from my baby for longer than a few hours was a bit difficult to wrap my head around, never mind the ache in my heart.  As I prepared for my journey to my birth country of South Africa I scoured the internet and was unable to find any real advice on how to be away from my son, how to prepare him for my absence, and most of all how to maintain the breast feeding relationship even though I was away. I am writing this blog simply so that any mom’s out there who want or have to travel away from their baby can know that it is possible to do so for extended periods, and came home and resume the breast feeding relationship as before.

Basically I was out of country for 12 days, and our son Shannon was 7 1/2 months old.  He is a bed sharing breast fed happy go lucky baby.  It was the first time we had been apart for longer than 12 hours.  He was cared for in his normal home by my fiance and his parents, so Shannon’s daddy and grandparents, Sadie and Coach.

Here’s what I did to prepare before the trip:

The hardest part was struggling to emotionally bolster for being away from my son for almost 2 weeks.  I knew I was going to miss his face immensely! I cried alot at just thinking about leaving him! But when I got over it, I realized how immensely healthy the time apart was for both of us, and was oh so happy to see his little face again.

I researched his age and what types of solids he should eat and shared that information with his caregivers (his grandparents and dad).  The biggest thing was for him to not eat too many solids, and to eat specific solids appropriate for his age.  We haven’t ever really given Shannon purees, from the get go he has been given finger foods, and occasionally soft foods like mashed potatoes.  He feeds himself small quantities with his own hands.  it was important to make sure he didn’t get too many solids, and that he maintained a normal amount of liquids, from either formula or saved breast milk.

I didn’t pump enough in advance to give him frozen milk for my entire trip.  I calculated what he would need for the 12 days and it was well over 300 ounces.  That’s alot of pumping on top of feeding the baby his regular meals.  Let’s say I could express an extra 12 ounces a day, then I could reserve 300 ounces in 25 days.  But the thing is, to get that 12 ounces I was a slave to the pump after every feeding, 3-4 times a day.  I quickly started to feel a bit like a commercial milk cow, and cut down the pumping sessions to preserve my sanity.  I ended up reserving about 150 ounces give or take.  In reality that reserve provided 1-2 bottles a day, the rest of the time he was given formula.

For formula I ordered 2 jars of Natures One Organic Baby formula.  I am told he blew through those 2 jars in a couple of days, and then moved onto commercial Enfamil.  He had no problems with the increased iron from the formula as I had feared.  It did however take a week or so for his bowel movements to move from iron rich black and return to the yellow of a breastfed baby.  We still supplement with Enfamil when formula is needed if I am away on a long shoot or we are in the car.

Breastfeeding | Travelling Without Your Baby | How To | by Debra Edgar

A few key pieces of equipment helped as well:

Bottles: I purchased additional Breast Flow bottles and playtex liner system with medium flow nipples designed for the breast fed babies.  I vouch for the breast flow bottles, they are well designed and awesome.

Pump: a good pump is worth every penny! For the occassional to heavy user looking for an efficient and quiet pump I recommend the Medela Swing Pump. It was so quiet, I used it on planes, in cars, and everywhere in between.  Alas,  I burned out the motor on  2 cheaper single Medela Electric pumps, one in 3 months, the other in 4 days.  They are noisy also.  I am not a big fan, but they are fast and efficient if you can handle the noise…just make sure a sleeping baby is nowhere around.  It sounds like a jumbo jet taking off, in contrast the Symphony sounds like a car blinker.  *Pump Bottles: I took along 2 bottles with lids.

Pumping Bra: I I got a Simple Wishes Pumping Bra.  It’s well designed and actually pretty awesome for when I used both pumps simultaneously.  However, I used it a grand total of 3-4 times.  I found I was alot faster using the pump and manual compression.  The bra is designed with alot of attention to detail and thoughtfulness, I personally didn’t use it all that much, mostly because I pumped in alot of semi public places, or small forms of transportation.  I haven’t used it since, but I work from home and feed baby on demand.  I can see it being a highly useful item for a momma working in the office.

Nursing Cover:  I received a nursing cover from Udder Covers when I was pregnant.  I tend to just use a baby blanket when I go out with the baby, and now he is older we seldom nurse when we are out and about.  The Udder Covers material is thin, and given I am tall, I really wished it had more fabric to it, but I only used it for 2 weeks, so it served it’s purpose well.  Leah has an uber cute cover she uses all over town with Jonah, and I know there are alot of varieties and styles to select from on Etsy.

Pacifier Wipes and Microwave Sterilization Bags: Seeing as I was pumping and dumping it wasn’t crucial to sterilize constantly, but it certainly helped keep things nicer having easy ways to keep the bottles fresh and clean.

Me and baby during the trip:

Shannon was just fine, he didn’t melt down, or cry all night, or really seem fazed that I was gone and that he was getting all his meals by bottle.  He was surrounded by people who love him, following his normal routine sans mom, and got to bond with everybody who played with him and fed him and rocked him to sleep.  When he saw me after 12 days away he was very excited and went back to nursing within 30 minutes.  I was elated and relieved.

Uhm, I was not fine.  It took me about 6 days to relax and really get into the awesomeness of the trip.  I cried on the plane to South Africa, big crocodile tears, and then about every 48 hours after that I hit a tough spot and would go take a small break.  I had plenty of printed photos, and my phone was stuffed full of the beautiful pictures that my family sent to me while I was abroad.  The daily pictures helped immensely! I couldn’t have done it without the photos and updates.  They were crucial to my mental and emotional well being, and I am very grateful my understanding family kept sending them to me.

Breastfeeding | Travelling Without Your Baby | How To | by Debra Edgar

A Note about domperidone:

Domperidone is a prescription medicine in the USA, but an OTC anti nausea medicine in other countries.  I first heard of domperidone from Dr Jack Newman, at the Bellies to Babies Event last year.  Dr  Newman is an awesome expert on everything breastfeeding. No really, he knows ALOT and then some.  He’s wicked nice also.  :) Domperidone was initially designed to be an anti nausea medicine, it works by suppressing dopamine, and as a result allows an increase of another hormone called prolactin, which is present in nursing mothers.  I was able to purchase 100 tablets for the equivalent of $50.  I wasn’t having issues with my supply, it was up and down a little, but mostly I was wanting to relax and not have to pump every four hours.  Having the domperidone helped me relax and ease off the rigid pumping schedule.  It really helped with enjoying myself more becasue I knew I would be able to use the domperidone to maintain my prolactin levels. The pills work really well, I was responsive in under 48 hours.  I have a bunch of pills left over, and who knows, they may come in handy down the road.

Pumping in Different Places: wow, I pumped all over the world.  Literally.  I am pretty hardcore about breastfeeding, and feel it is the most important gift after a healthy pregnancy to give my child a head start to a healthy and abundant life.  Breast feeding is to me a social and emotional relationship which nourishes the soul and the body.  I understand that not every woman is able or wants to breast feed, and I am totally ok with their choice, we all have choices on how to raise our kids and I certainly don’t snub one persons choice over the other. However  It is my lifestyle to breastfeed, and  it is very important to me.

This philosophy led me to pump in the plane, the car (even with my brother and dad in the front seat!), on safari, in the desert, on the side of the road, random corners of random restaurants or friends houses, hotels, and once even a bathroom, I sat on a windowsill, but still it was kinda icky.  Like eating pancakes on the toilet. 🙂 Either way I was disciplined and maintained a semi-regular schedule to keep up my milk, and was still able to have fun and see lots of cool stuff on the trip.  Each time I pumped I thought lovingly of my son, and treated it is as a gift instead of a burden.  It would have been easy to get burned out, so I made sure to keep a loving mental attitude to prevent any resentment.

Also, pumping on the plane was not a problem, and thank you to Delta Airlines for putting me in the back of the plane with the seat next to me blocked off. I had the last row to myself and plenty of privacy.  I called well in advance to see if they could accomodate me and they kindly obliged. It didn’t bother me when people walked by for the bathroom, and the flight attendants were fabulous.  Delta is my favorite American Airline, hands down.

Returning Home:

It was one looooong plane ride home, but it was easier than the flight out.  I was excited to see baby Shannon and did my best to stay distracted.  After 12 days of being away, I had been able to tuck the longing away in a safer emotional space, so it wasn’t all consuming as it had been on the flight out.  I am a very doting and loving mom, so being away was a challenge, but also a healthy time apart to realize I am also Deb and not just mom.

Shannon was happy to see me when I first walked in the door, he showed me his toys and his new found ability to cruise on the furniture.  I refrained from crying because I didn’t want to confuse him.  I was overjoyed to see his smiling face!  We played and everybody hung out and talked.  After about 30 minutes, Shannon indicated he wanted to nurse, and we picked up the relationship right were we had left off.  It was almost like I had never left.  The only issues we had were latch and nipple sensitivity.

Shannon is old enough to hold his own bottles, and is pretty insistent on doing that.  While he was getting a bottle for all of his meals he had retrained his latch, no amount of thoughtful nipple design could work with him sucking only the tip of the bottles nipple.  It took us about 2 weeks to retrain his latch, and I had to be very patient and thoughtful when doing it.  There were some days of extreme discomfort because my nipples had also become more sensitive away from baby.  Most new mom’s experience a few days or weeks of nipple discomfort while their skin adjusts to the constant friction of nursing.  All in all we were comfortably nursing again within 2 weeks.

I hope this information helps! Please feel free to leave questions in the comments.  Thanks! 😀


Wednesday by Leah: My New Heart

– Posted by Leah

I love a lot of people. I love deeply, fiercely, easily. But I also love safely. I’ve never truly had a broken heart before. I love people I know will love me back. I surround myself with happy thoughts, happy dreams, happy places, happy faces, and then I let the love flow. It is a controlled love, as controlled as love can be. Which is perhaps why I resisted when I first met Mark – this was a love that threatened my sense of control. So I fought it, and then rationalized it, and finally surrendered to it. He loved me back. And my world continued to be a safe, happy place. And I continued to love.

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer | Newborns | Maternity |

I never questioned whether I would love my child. I loved him before he was even growing inside of me – when he was still just an idea, a tentative thought… a possibility. I loved him more when he was 4 cells. And even more when he was thousands of cells…a fledgling brain and spinal cord. And more still when he had a little tail and arm buds.

I loved him to the point of tears when I saw his heart beating, when I saw the tiny bones in his fingers and toes. I loved him to the point of breathlessness when I felt his first kicks. My love for him exceeded any previous-felt sensations when he was wet and squirming in my hands. Speechless, senseless, intense. My baby. It was almost too much.

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer | Newborns | Maternity |

And as I stared at him day after day, hour after hour… as I heard his sounds and learned his gestures and stroked every square inch of his head, his torso, his legs… I realized that I could not bear the love I felt. At least not in my current state. For this was a dangerous love, a completely consuming, impossible-to-control love. I was changing. I had to change. I had to grow a new heart because my former one broke when Jonah was born. It cracked wide open, raw and bleeding from the intensity of this new love. And in the weeks since, my new heart has been growing over the jagged edges, mending the torn tissues, allowing me to accept the infinite abyss that is my love for my son.

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer | Newborns | Maternity |

I didn’t expect this. I thought that since I am so used to giving and receiving love, this whole motherhood thing would just mean I was adding people to my circle of loved ones. My child would be on the inner ring, orbiting a bit closer to my heart than others, easily incorporated into my existing circles of love. When people would tell my pregnant self about how there is no love like a parent’s love, I would smile and nod and think, “Well, of course I’m going to love my child an insane amount.”

I didn’t realize just how insane, just how fierce, just how mightily I would love this child. I didn’t know it was a type of love that would rip through me like a tornado, leaving me shaking and sobbing in its wake, unable to put the pieces of my shattered, sheltered heart back together.

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer | Newborns | Maternity |

Every day I melt. Every day I surrender. Every day I fall a bit deeper into this abyss of love. Goodbye control. Goodbye safety. My new heart is one without boundaries, without defenses, without rules or rationality. It just beats and bleeds and loves.

And now I know what all those people were trying to tell me… but there really is no preparation for parenthood. You just have to get bowled over, to let yourself drown. I’m here to tell you that you’ll resurface. Not in the same shape or form, but in a more raw and vulnerable state than ever before. Stripped down. Beating and bleeding and loving.

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer | Newborns | Maternity |

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer | Newborns | Maternity |

Wednesday by Leah | Giving Birth Thoughts

Atlanta Birth Photographer | Natural Birth | Newborn | Maternity |

– Posted by Leah

First, go read +Jo’s blog post about the birth she photographed last week. And grab some tissues. Then come back here!

Back?  Ok. How awesome was that?  I am a birth story junkie… and Jo is a great writer and photographer. Woohoo!

Now I’m going to talk more about my own birth. I’ve had 6 weeks to reflect on it, to fall in love again and again with my beautiful son, to adjust to my role as a mother… and in that time it has dawned on me that giving birth at home has impacted me in a few ways that I didn’t realize initially.

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

The biggest and most noticeable impact is the trust I have in my own body. I don’t doubt my body’s ability to do anything anymore. I’ve even agreed to let my crazy running friend take me out running…heck, maybe I’ll even run a marathon one of these days. Who knows. Laboring at home allowed me to go much deeper within myself than I think I could have in a hospital setting. I entered this strange plane of feeling both completely primal and transcendentally spiritual at the same time. I was more inside of my body and more all-encompassing than I even thought it was possible to be. It was quite the amazing experience. And because I was in my own home, without anyone trying to hurry things along or stop me from doing what came most naturally, I was able to stay in this state for hours and let my body do what it needed to in order to bring Jonah safely into the world.

Atlanta Birth Photographer | Natural Birth | Newborn | Maternity | LeahAndMark.comIn addition to trusting my body – and being immensely thankful for it – birthing at home also allowed me to relinquish any fear I had surrounding birth. I was taking a shower yesterday and thought, “Oh, hey, a few weeks ago I was in labor in the shower!” It makes labor seem like a very normal and do-able thing. Which it totally was. Just because something is intense and even painful, it doesn’t mean it’s not manageable or doable. And giving birth in my home normalized labor to such a great extent for me that I truly no longer fear labor or childbirth. Just the act of going to the hospital is, for me (again, I’m only speaking for myself and not anyone else!), an abnormal act… if I have to go to the hospital, it means something is wrong. And once I’m at the hospital, I don’t know how my body will react to that stress. I don’t know the nurses or doctors. I’m not in a familiar, comfortable place. And for me, that would have put a lot more fear into the process.

Of course there are people with the exact opposite perspective – people who feel safer in a hospital, people who would be super stressed and scared to birth at home…and that’s why it’s SO important to have options. To be able to choose where and how to give birth. And that’s the third biggest impact my homebirth has had on me – my choice was not a common one, and because of that I’ve had to overcome some hurdles – paying out-of-pocket, getting a bunch of forms notarized in order to file for the birth certificate, etc. But I still had an option. I still had access to a skilled midwife, to a supportive doula. I was able to make the choice that was best for me. And it’s not like that everywhere, not by a long shot. So I’m even more committed than before to advocating on behalf of reproductive rights – and I include birthing options in the umbrella of reproductive rights. Every woman should be able to choose safe, comfortable options for prenatal care, labor and birth. We need more midwives, we need more birth centers, we need ongoing education for OBs and L&D nurses, we need easy transfers between homes/birth centers and hospitals….we need a lot of things to change. And I plan to be a part of that change.

But first I need to go change a diaper!

Joelle’s Birth by +Jo | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

– Posted by +Jo

A few months back I was contacted by LeeAnn about doing a maternity shoot in Arkansas. Eventually, through many texts and emails, it was decided there would be maternity, birth and new born sessions. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

Man was this crazy to plan. And timing had to be just right.

I go home to Arkansas once a year and this year’s window was even slimmer because my boyfriend traveled with me. We were really lucky he received a week off from work and only had a short amount of time we would be in the state. I read up on the birth of the first child to understand what I was getting myself into. It also help me know what to expect out of LeeAnn and her husband. As her final weeks drew near she would update me more and more on her OB appointments and progression. The week before I left for Arkansas she started to have prodromal contractions. Right on cue – the same thing happened with her first child. Everyday I would check in – LeeAnn would give me numbers or let me know if things were good. Finally, I made it into town. We were all on edge and I did the maternity session within 24 hours of arriving in the state.

       They have such a cute little family. And they were about to gain one more. Did I mention – she wanted a henna tatto on her belly? Yup. So, I gave here a design we put together. It wasn’t as dark as either of us hoped, but she was happy to have it for the photos.

Once that was checked off the list, the waiting continued. I was worried after a couple days had gone by and nothing much had changed. Her contractions were a little more intese but would let up by the evening. But luck was on our side.

Tuesday night my boyfriend came down with a bug and I was up late making sure he was okay. I don’t know when I fell asleep but at 5:52 am I received a call from LeeAnn’s husband, Nick. She was in full labor and they were heading to Birth Works. Last time she labored for a few hours at the clinic before she was taken to the hospital for the final part of labor. I thought about the time it takes into Little Rock and early morning traffic. I also thought about how comfy bed was at that particular moment. Finally the thought of missing the birth drove me out of bed and into the bathroom. I was brushing my teeth when I received a text from Nick at 6:07 am: “Headed to the hospital in just a few minutes.” They live in the town next to my parents and I knew it would be a 20-30 minute drive into Little Rock. ‘Hospital’ meant LeeAnn was progressing faster in her labor than everyone was expecting. I spat out the toothpaste and went into high gear. I fought with my clothes and almost ran out the door without shoes. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

At 6:49am I was parking my car at the hospital. I made it up to the delivery floor with another text saying “Room 5 in L&D.” What was not mentioned was the locked door that could only be opened by calling the nurses on a specific phone on the wall. I was not awake enough and it felt like I spent 10 minutes trying to get through the one door. It wasn’t really… it was the adrenaline screwing with my head. I made it through and waltzed into the labor room. LeeAnn was on all fours, moaning loudly (not screaming), and the baby was crowning. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

I stared. Uncontrollably.

Then a part of my brain punched the crap out of the other part and I thew down my coat, scarf and yanked out my camera from my bag. The night before I had done long exposure night photography. I switched the settings with out thinking about what I was doing. I turned around and started snapping pictures. No warm up. No cordial hellos. No prepping the mom, dad and hospital staff. Just GO. I shot everything on my 35mm prime and the lens it quite loud. The nurses gave me some nasty looks with the first couple pictures. I simply said “I’m here for them… I’ll hide in a corner.” | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

The doctor barely got his gloves and apron (thingy) on before Joelle broke into the world. I have no clue how I feel about what I saw. It’s not the first birth I’ve seen. It was the first human birth. I don’t know how I looked… I’m sure I was making all sorts of faces. It was surreal… the camera was my eyes. What I saw is what I captured. I didn’t want to have my opinion, presumptions, life choices or history effect the photos. I wanted to capture exactly what I saw. The simple truth of Joelle’s birth. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

She came into the world with a head full of dark hair. She came into the world quiet and loud. She came into the world with two of the most loving parents. She came into the world via a mother who insisted on it being completely natural – no IVs, no epidural – just her and mother nature. She came into the world to a proud father and a kind brother. She came into this world loved completely.

At 6:57am on December 14th, 2011, Joelle Rose was born.

It was raw beauty. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

I was so honored so be apart of this moment. When I finally sat down, I realized I was the first person to take Joelle’s picture. That simple concept took my breath away. How silly – of all things? Out of the millions of photos she will appear in across her lifetime… I took the very first one. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo ArellanesI photographed life.

Damn. I want to do that again.


Placenta Encapsulation

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

– Text by Leah – Photos by Mark

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta PhotographersSo I decided to encapsulate my placenta. Or, rather, I decided to hire someone to come over to my house and encapsulate it for me (thanks, Melanie!). Honestly, if I think about it too much it still grosses me out. *But* I’m happy to report that the actual taking of the placenta pills is not as gross as I feared. So why exactly am I swallowing my placenta? There are a list of supposed benefits from consuming one’s placenta after birth – from helping reduce postpartum bleeding, to increasing milk supply and a host of other things. There aren’t any big studies to back up these claims, but there are tons of anecdotal accounts from other women, so I figured I’d give it a shot… at the very least, it wouldn’t hurt me. And it could possibly really help with my postpartum recovery. The main reason I wanted to take placenta pills was to help with the huge hormonal decrease that follows birth. Like I said, there aren’t many studies yet on placentophagy, but the few small studies available are promising and show benefits such as decrease in maternal fatigue and postpartum depression. The placenta is super rich in nutrients, and contains a stress-fighting chemical know as corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH:

During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes a lot of CRH. The rise is so dramatic that CRH levels in the maternal bloodstream increase threefold. “We can only speculate,” says George Chrousos, the endocrinologist who led the NIH study, “but we think it helps women go through the stress of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.” But what happens after birth, when the placenta is gone? Chrousos and his colleagues monitored CRH levels in 17 women from the last trimester to a year after they gave birth. All the women had low levels of CRH – as low as seen in some forms of depression – in the six weeks following birth. The seven women with the lowest levels felt depressed. Chrousos suspects that CRH levels are temporarily low in new mothers because CRH from the placenta disrupts the feedback system that regulates normal production of the hormone. During pregnancy, when CRH levels are high in the bloodstream, the hypothalamus releases less CRH. After birth, however, when this supplementary source of CRH is gone, it takes a while for the hypothalamus to get the signal that it needs to start making more CRH.

The theory is that by ingesting the placenta after birth, it helps the mother get over the “hump” until her brain starts producing CRH again, thereby warding off the baby blues or post-partum depression. And that’s primarily why I’ve chosen to eat my placenta. (yuck, it still grosses me out to say that!).

I’m only 2 weeks and 6 days postpartum now, but I can tell you that my milk supply is off the charts. BabyRoX is getting plenty of it and gaining weight like it’s his job. There have been two days I didn’t take my pills in the morning like usual, and on those days I felt way more tired and emotionally raw – you know, the kind of crazy everything-is-gonna-make-me-cry feeling…and then I took the pills, and I felt substantially more energetic and emotionally stable. Was this due to the powers of the placenta? Maybe, maybe not. But even if it’s just a placebo effect, I’m all for it. I like feeling great and I’m glad I decided to encapsulate my placenta. And the little purple pills in my fridge aren’t that gross. I just try not to think about it too much. Mark, on the other hand, photographed the whole process… for your viewing pleasure, of course!

(It gets pretty graphic and bloody – which is why we pushed the photos further down than usual on the page.)

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

– Text by Mark

We hired Melanie Nasmyth to do the placenta encapsulation. You can email her at: if you’re interested in finding out more about her services – she’s also a DONA certified labor doula.

To ‘keep’ the placenta – we placed it in a ziplock bag and put it in the fridge right after the birth. Two days later we had Melanie come over to turn the placenta into pills.

Of course – the first step whenever you’re cooking human parts – is to prepare the meat.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

There’s an outer lining/sac that you have to remove.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Once the placenta was cleaned – Melanie put it in the steamer and then into a pot of water to cook the thing.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Oh yeah – if you put a lemon slice into the pot – it helps to keep it from really smelling bad as the placenta cooks.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

It cooks faster if you poke a few holes into the placenta meat.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Hey look. Cord.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

And then after 20 minutes or so – you have cooked placenta!

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Now you cut it up into slices.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Get your Food Dehydrator ready – because we’re making placenta jerky.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

… six hours later…. you take all of that placenta jerky and eat it.

No – just kidding don’t do that! You put it into a coffee grinder (one that you will NEVER USE AGAIN) – and grind that placenta meat into a fine powder.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

And then you grab your ‘pill-making’ set and get to work.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

And now you have 64 pills (or more).

It’s a relatively easy process once you know what you’re doing and once you have all of the tools/appliances you need. Melanie brought a lot of her own supplies with her – stuff like a disposable cutting board, the knives, the food dehydrator, the coffee grinder, etc… think of all of the ‘dishes’ that you end up using when you cook a meal – now think about how you might NOT want to use any of that stuff EVER AGAIN.

It was totally worth it for us to hire Melanie and have her do everything, with her own supplies. Now – if you’re a partner/spouse that thinks this might be a crazy/gross thing for your wife to do – the way I see it is – F*ck the weirdness of the whole thing. If it’s going to keep my wife from getting post-partum depression or just help her from feeling sad/not feeling well, then I’m all for it. Why wouldn’t I be for something like that?

And now – it’s time for a bath and then a nap.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | | Atlanta Photographers

Wednesday by Leah: Pregnancy Reading List

I am a total information junkie.  Plus I think it’s important to be informed about huge life-altering events and to know one’s options… and I think it’s equally important to limit my intake of negative, fear-based information and up my intake of positive, empowering information.  So here’s a list of the books I’ve read that I recommend for pregnant women and those who love them:

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth - if you only read one book about birth, pick this one. It’s a mixture of information about what happens during labor and how to have a good childbirth experience, coupled with positive birth stories and some info about the history of childbirth.

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife - interesting autobiography of a California midwife with lots of awesome birth stories woven in!

Atlanta Family Portrait Photographer - Wednesday by Leah

Diary of a Midwife - similar to Baby Catcher. This one is the autobiography of a Virginia-based midwife, also with lots of great birth stories.

YOU: Having a Baby - by the famous Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen.  Good basic info about pregnancy and birth, although a bit cheesy.  The doctors present balanced information and cover multiple sides of issues such as testing in pregnancy, vaccinations, etc. I liked how this book incorporated both the mainstream medical approach, the more natural approach, and listed the doctors’ own decisions which were somewhere in the middle.

The Birth Partner - Great book for all birth partners, but also a good read for the pregnant woman herself!  Goes through the stages of labor in-depth and the different paths that labor can take, as well as ways to cope with contractions, support the laboring woman, and questions to ask if labor takes an unexpected turn and you are faced with making some quick decisions.

Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta - also by Ina May Gaskin, this book is a comprehensive overview of the history of childbirth, how birth experiences impact women and their loved ones, ways the current health care system is failing women (and the available alternatives that women might not know about), and well thought-out suggestions for improving maternity care both in the U.S. and around the world. The book also has empowering birth stories that I like to re-read as my own labor approaches!

I’ve read a number of other books, too, but these are the top ones I’d recommend.  I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!

Wednesday by Leah: Third Trimester Adventures

– Posted by Leah

Whooo boy!  37 weeks pregnant and I’ve got my maternity belt strapped on in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure on my bladder. When you get to the point where you are deciding between dehydration, catheterization, diaper-wearing, or just never sitting down because as soon as you get settled you have to get up to pee again, it’s time for an intervention. My intervention is the maternity belt.  It looks like this:

Except mine doesn’t have that top band because I bought it at a consignment sale and it was in a ziplock bag without the original packaging, so I didn’t know it was supposed to have that part. Hope it doesn’t matter too much! I do feel a difference even without that top part, so I think it’s helping.  And even if it’s not really doing anything, at least I look super sexy wearing it! Don’t be jealous.

The third trimester has been my least comfortable one. But I really can’t complain too much because even being the least comfortable, it’s not that bad. I don’t have swelling, I don’t waddle too much, I can breathe easier now that Jonah is low low low, I don’t have killer heartburn… for the most part, I feel pretty darn good! My major annoyances are a.) having to pee all the time, b.) not being able to easily get out of bed or off of our ComfySack, and c.) my increasingly sensitive sense of smell.

Y’all – I smell EVERYTHING. And each scent assails my nostrils with a grossly exaggerated potency. I’m ready to shove some tampons in my nose, especially when I have to leave the house. I think it will be a great complement to my maternity belt. I’m all about accessorizing these days!

Anyways, my olfactory superprowess forced me to beg Mark to change his deodorant brand. Mark isn’t a smelly guy, it’s the smell of the deodorant itself that was driving me bonkers.  See, Mark isn’t too particular about things that aren’t photography-related. He doesn’t need a specific brand of shampoo or a type of razor. He’s fine with mall Chinese food when I demand the real deal. So he buys whatever deodorant catches his eye, and whenever a new stick of it arrives, I have to adjust to a new smell. I tried to be cool with that but a few months ago I just couldn’t take it anymore. His deodorant du jour was NOT a smell I enjoyed or could even tolerate, so I told him he needed to switch it up. We settled on Old Spice Arctic Force. It was a smell I could live with. Domestic harmony ensued.

And then, two days ago, Mark comes home with a new smell. I wasn’t sure WHY he smelled differently – I thought maybe he just picked up a scent from someone else.  He’s been photographing lots lately, so maybe it’s the scent of a client, or their home. I tried to live with it for the evening. But I could smell it everywhere – in our kitchen, in the living room, and worst of all in the bedroom, where I need a certain atmosphere in order to sleep – dark, cool, and as scent-free as possible. So I got out of bed at 3:00 a.m. and started searching the house.  And I found the culprit:

Old Spice CLASSIC. Original Scent.


I would have to rectify this as soon as possible. So once it was a more reasonable hour, I went to the store. Breathing through my mouth, I found the deodorant aisle. Do y’all know how many different types of Old Spice there are? I don’t know either, but there were at least 20 different types at my local CVS. And not a single one of them was Old Spice Arctic Force.

I could’ve driven to another store, but I knew I would have to pee soon, so I decided I would just have to find the next-best scent and get on home. So I started taking the tops of all the deodorants and sniffing them. (The actual deodorant was still covered in plastic, ok? I wasn’t contaminating anything.) Well, of course right then another customer decides to shop in my same aisle. She turns the corner to find this hugely pregnant woman squatting (all of the Old Spices were on the lowest three shelves!) and popping off deodorant tops and smelling them.

Whatever. I was not about to abandon my mission. I had to get Mark a better deodorant STAT before he stunk up the house some more. So I just keep on with my squatting and sniffing…at one point I sort of lost my balance and toppled to the side a bit. The lady keeps staring at me. I ignore her. I had it narrowed down to two types of Old Spice at this point, and I was not going to let a little public humiliation deter me! Finally I settled on Aqua Reef.  It’s the next best thing to the Arctic Force.

In 3ish more weeks our sweet lil guy will be here! And hopefully my sense of smell with chill out and I can just enjoy sniffing his cute lil baby head instead of being the crazy deodorant-sniffing lady at the drugstore. *Fingers crossed*