There is something inherently sweet about photographing a family after they’ve brought a newborn home for the first time. But as I type this, I already find myself looking for a different word – sweet feels a bit too saccharine, like I’m about to talk about their precious fingers and toes and wax on about these little angels and the beauty of childbirth. This is not how these sessions feel — they don’t feel like perfection, and they don’t feel angelic, either. These sessions, to me, feel raw; they feel like a brand new human being brought into a home with parents who are just trying to figure out this new role they’re in, and understand this little person who has become part of their family. What does she like? What does that cry mean? Is she hungry?
I can’t speak to how this experience must feel, nor can I even remotely put myself in the shoes (or slippers, or socks) of the new parents in the midst of experiencing it. But I can speak to what it’s like to witness it — to walk into their home just weeks after they’ve brought home this new baby, and document them with their child.
I’ve known Chelsea and Derek for years — as kids, then as high schoolers, then as grown adults whose wedding I photographed a few years ago. Their dog Yadi greeted me upon arrival, who I had met years before at their engagement session. Every newborn session feels different to me, simply because each set of parents and baby and home is different, and this is a wild time in peoples’ lives, you know? The Hendrick household felt calm and cozy, and there was a sort of ease and gentleness with which Chelsea and Derek carried themselves. Things around their home served as reminders of some of the biggest parts of their lives — wedding photos on the walls, photos of Rorie, the baby girl they had lost the year prior, a dry erase calendar marking big happenings that month, like their due date and doctor appointments and the weddings of their loved ones.
They made their way to Tannen’s room to start, where they cradled their girl, and eventually tag teamed changing her diaper and outfit, and then gave her a bottle in their bedroom. Yadi eventually wanted to join in, licking and nudging Tannen and also wanting to find a spot on one of their laps. They looked at Tanner and each other softly, as if there was no expectation for how this whole thing would go, and that to simply spend a few quiet hours together was enough – as if any time spent with her was more than enough. I know none of this is easy, and that so many more moments beyond the ones I see are spent soothing and crying and feeding and bouncing and wishing for sleep, and I suppose that’s why these moments of quiet feel extra sweet. The days in our lives go so quickly, and they can be happy and sad and monotonous and balanced and frustrating and so many other things, and I will always be a proponent of stopping to take a breath, looking at your partner or your baby or your friend or your parent softly, quietly, and realizing how incredible these seemingly small, day-to-day moments in our lives can be.