letter-my sweet Henry,

When you were first born, I saw you next to a four month old baby and I thought to myself that four months seemed so old. It felt eons away from where we were at the time, both in development and in actual time. Now look at you: you’re four months old. I looked at you the other day and thought, “Whoa, we made it!” Because each milestone, each new development, each additional pound, they’re all things that felt so far away at one time.

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letter-she turned him down on his first three requests for a date. She wanted to make sure he was truly interested. He was definitely interested and didn’t give up. Their first date was really laid back–like them–and they ended up spending hours outside on the deck talking. “We wanted to put everything out on the table to make sure the other person was serious about a relationship and we could possibly be compatible,” she says. “After that night, I knew Luke was somebody I wanted to continue to get to know. He seemed like everything I could ever want in a partner.”

A little over a year passed as they continued to pursue their relationship. “I had just gotten done playing a round of golf with all the guys in my family,” Luke fills in. “We were sitting down for dinner and the sun was setting over the course. My sister knew of the plan so she had her camera ready. I asked Kristal if she wanted to step outside and take a picture together so I could cool down.”

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Kristal continues the story, “We were outside on the back patio overlooking the golf course when Luke’s brother-in-law came outside. He commented to another couple how cute of a couple Luke and I were and joked around with them about how we should get married. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I turned back around to joke with Luke about it, he was down on one knee! Though the details get foggy for me after that, I think he said, ‘Well, should we?'”

Kristal & Luke are planning their wedding at Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines this fall so it was a treat to be able to photograph their engagement session there as well. I have loved getting to know these two and cannot wait to document their wedding for them!

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Later this fall, they’ll celebrate their first dance right here… It’s going to be stunning!

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They met at CrossFit and love to work out together and stay active. Yet when she says that she most admires that he is a strong person, it’s obvious she isn’t just referring to his physical strength. “I look to him often for reassurance. He never seems to waiver. He has a big heart and has such patience with me. He also has a great sense of humor.” He adds that he loves her sense of humor as well. “She is kind, giving, and determined.”

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Oh, my sweet boy.

There’s a saying that time flies, that it goes by in the blink of an eye. And, while that’s kind of true, the other week I said to your daddy, “Can you believe it’s only been 11 weeks since he was born? I mean, only 11 weeks ago.” Because it seems like you’ve been with us forever. I can hardly remember the time when it was just him and me in the pre-Henry period of our lives.

Something clicked this past month. We got our groove. When I look back, it seems like it was right around your 9th week. That coincides directly with when you started sleeping through the night so I attribute a lot of it to that. Those folks who say that after you have children “you don’t need as much sleep anymore” are lying. You manage to survive on less sleep, but it doesn’t make it any less necessary. Survival is really different from thriving. The first 8 weeks with you were survival for me and in many ways it was simply that I was sleep deprived. (I’ve never been good without my sleep. I once threw up after a slumber party because I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep.) Once we all started getting 8+ hours of sleep a night, the heavens opened and suddenly it felt like “we can do all the things!”

You’ve had a big month in more ways than just sleep. You have started smiling and talking so much more and it makes us do the goofiest things just to see you socialize. You discovered and love your crib mobile, but you have a straight up love affair with the polka dot curtains in your nursery. The second you spot that fabric, you start talking and smiling like it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen. It can occasionally stop you mid-cry so that you go from wailing to jabbering and smiling. It’s so adorable how you are so full of expression.

You got your first cold when you were 10 weeks old. I immediately kicked things into high gear with warm baths, baby Vicks, Nose Frida, coconut oil/lavender essential oil, the humidifier, nasal drops, and pretty much anything else I could think of that would help you get better. It broke my heart to see you so uncomfortable. (And also to clear out your nose; man, you hated me for that!) Thankfully, with a rigorous anti-sick protocol in place, you got better quickly and it never got worse than a stuffy nose and a few coughs.

The first two times you rolled over, you were 5 weeks old. We got it on videotape to prove that we weren’t crazy new parents (at least in regards to you rolling over), but also knew that it was still probably a fluke times two. Now you’ve just begun rolling from your tummy to your back…intentionally. It still startles you a bit when it happens like, “what in the world, everything just flipped!” Some days you flip over almost as soon as we put you on your tummy and then some days you refuse to do it and prefer to push yourself up on your hands and look around instead.

In January, we had some breaks in the weather and were able to get outside for a few walks. February hit with some brutal winds and temperatures so we’ve been mostly confined to the indoors (also because of your cold). I’m antsy to get out more and I know you’ll love the change of scenery. Also, for as vocal as you are with your daddy and me, you tend to get quiet around strangers and don’t smile very readily. Warmer temperatures will mean more socializing and less of your there-are-only-us-three-people-in-the-whole-world reality.

I’m so excited for every new development ahead for you, my little pumpkin pie. You get more and more fun by the day. Just when I think I’ve got you figured out, boop, you go and add something new to your repertoire and it usually knocks my socks off with cuteness.

Oh Henry, you have brought so much joy to my heart. A year ago, I wasn’t pregnant yet and now look at me: I’m a mama. You’ll never hear me sugarcoat the difficulty of having a newborn. But let it be known for the record that you, my beautiful child, have been worth every tear, every exhaustion-induced-migraine, and every moment of sheer terror and I-can’t-do-this. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Life has taken on a whole new meaning with you here and I find myself thinking about you constantly. If you’re in my arms, I’m mesmerized by your face. If you’re in someone else’s arms, I’m jealous that you’re not in mine. If you’re in your crib sleeping, I miss you so much I want to go pick you up just to have you near me. My love for you has made me a crazy person.

You’ve made me smile more and laugh more. You’ve made my heart swell to astronomical proportions. You’ve made me make baby noises and silly sounds that are ridiculous to anyone who is not a parent. (I know because just a couple of months ago, they were ridiculous to me too.)

Loving you has been such a pleasure.

You’re growing so quickly and I just want to eat up every minute with you before you turn into an adult right before my eyes. There’s this crazy ebb and flow of parenthood in which you want your child to grow and you’re looking forward to crawling and walking and talking and all that stuff, but then you want your child to remain little because time moves so damn fast.

I’m caught in that juxtaposition right now. Ultimately, time will go at it’s regular speed and nothing I can do with either speed it up or slow it down. So my goal as your mama is to soak it in.

My sweet Henry, I’m breathing in every moment with you. You are my joy.

Love, Mama

Weighs: 13 pounds, 2 ounces
Loves: bath time, singing and motions (like “the wheels on the bus” & “the hokey pokey”), baby yoga, carrying on gibberish conversations, reading books, looking around and inspecting everything in a room, the curtains in the nursery, the play mat/jungle gym, your giraffe WubbaNub
Wears: 3-6M in clothes (and a few 0-3 onesies still), size 2 diapers
Sleeping: 7:30PM-7:00AM with a late night while-you-were-sleeping feed at 10:00PM
(I took the liberty of adding some illustrations to show what I think you were trying to do…)

At the time of making this list, I have a 9-week old little boy. These are some of the items that I can’t imagine living without during these first 2 months. As he grows, my list of essentials will change, but for a newborn, these are my must-haves. I’d love to hear what you have on your list.

1. Aden & Anais swaddle blankets – Before having a baby, I thought these blankets were overrated. There were so many cheaper options for blankets after all. But the thing I love about these blankets is that they are huge (do you know how long babies become when they are trying to kick out of a blanket?) and thin. They are the perfect weight and size for cuddling up with your little one and are absolutely worth the money. We haven’t actually used them for swaddling (see item 4), but we use them for just about everything else. They last forever and stay intact. I can’t tell you how many spit ups, poops, and pees happened in these blankets and yet they look like new.

2. WubbaNub pacifier – You can get the actual pacifier in a two pack for $3. So it initially seems silly to pay for this pacifier which only has the addition of a little stuffed animal on it. But the thing is, those other pacifiers get lost. They pop out and disappear. It’s hard to lose a pacifier that has a stuffed animal attached to it. The other bonus is that the weight, however slight, of the animal helps hold the pacifier in place when babies are tiny and accidentally spit them out really easily. And do you know how cute it is to see your little baby holding onto a little giraffe (or whatever animal you choose) with his big eyes looking up at you as he munches away on his pacifier? It’s adorable.

3. Medela Breast Pump – I was under some crazy illusion prior to giving birth that nursing would be a piece of cake. What could go wrong with nature, I naively said. Turns out, lots of things can. Thankfully, I had the foresight to get a breast pump since our insurance covered it 100%. Now I pump and give him breast milk in a bottle about half the time and nurse him the other half. And this mama feels such relief over how much easier our system is than trying to exclusively breast feed. To note: breastfeeding supplies are now tax deductible so even if your insurance doesn’t cover a pump, you’ll be able to write it off.

4. Sleep sack – We knew we’d be getting one of these from the hospital, but I would highly recommend getting at least one additional sack so you can swap out for laundry. The sleep sacks are amazing, especially for little babies. You can read more about the moro reflex here, but basically, if a baby is sleeping on his/her back, he/she should be swaddled to get solid, deep sleep. Henry hates having his arms tucked in so I finally figured out that I need to put him in the sleep sack, but leave it unswaddled until he’s almost asleep. Then I tuck his arms in, velcro him shut, and put him to bed. There were still several mornings or post-naps when we find his arms out though, our little Henry Houdini. (I have tried several different methods including leaving his arms out of the swaddle, using this swaddle, and leaving him completely unswaddled. He sleeps the best in the sleep sack despite his resistance. (As he grows, we’ll be transitioning out of this swaddle so I’ll have to figure out what will work best at that time.)

5. Rock ‘n Play – This came highly recommended and we love it!!! We discovered right away that because newborns are so curled up, Henry would just roll to the side in his little swaddle instead of staying on his back. We put him in here for all his sleeping and it kept him in that snuggled state. When we had so many problems with him having gas, we went back to this (after having gone to the crib) just so it would keep his legs slightly bent up and keep him comfortable. I don’t like a lot of huge baby equipment so the other thing that is great about this is that it’s really lightweight and folds in half for easy portability and storage. This is also great for babies struggling with colic/acid reflux problems.

6. Infant Gas Relief drops – Babies are gassy. Some more than others. And ours would cry and cry in pain. These drops became our life saver. Not only did he love the flavor, but it would help relax him and he would soon start farting and pooping and feeling better. The first 6 weeks were the worst for us, and thankfully, babies do grow out of this as their digestive systems mature.

7. Flatfold cloth diapers (for burp clothes) – I didn’t like any of the regular burp cloths we had. They were all too thick and small. But these? These were huge and could catch spit up! We use them in a diamond direction so a corner is over our shoulder/back and the widest part across our chest/shoulder. Keep in mind, these are thin cloths though so if you’re trying soak up milk (babies are messy when eating!) or major spit up, it will soak through. (We use these thick burp cloths for feedings when he drips milk everywhere, then switch for burping.)

8. Bottle drying rack – I love this one by Boon because you can stack things however you want. Between bottles and breast pump parts, this drying rack has seen it all. There is a larger version available as well (the “lawn”) and if you have the counter space, go for the larger size; you’ll use it.

9. BabyConnect app – Reality is that when you have a child, your life suddenly revolves around the clock and you simultaneously lose track of time. So when you need to know when the last time was s/he ate or pooped or slept, you end up having no idea. This app not only keeps track of everything, but also has the capability to keep track of milestones (rolling over, smiling, sleeping all night, sitting up, walking, etc.), health & medicine, photos, and so much more. There are a lot of baby app options available, but the selling point of this one is that there can be more than one user. Both parents can enter and record from their own phones. You can also add other care providers like a nanny or babysitter. It costs $4.99, but both Kevin and I have said many times that it was well worth the money. Also related: at doctor visits, you will be asked how many poops your child has, how often s/he eats in 24 hours, etc. The app has an easy graph that shows you all of this data instantly so you’re never left sitting there racking your brain trying to remember how many diapers you’ve changed.

10. Noise Machine – You can get any noise machine you want; there’s nothing magical about this one. There are several reasons to have white noise for nap/bedtime. Here are mine: 1) babies are used to tons of noise in utero (the whoosh-whooshing of your heart beat for one) and the white noise helps them feel at home, 2) getting a child used to sleeping through noise is immensely helpful when you’re out and about and can’t tip-toe around, 3) we’ve been using white noise for naps and nights since we brought Henry home. I try to make a very clear transition in that I turn it off when I get him up and turn it on when I’m getting him ready for bed. I never use it when it’s not time to sleep. What has happened now is that when I turn it on, it has become a signal to Henry that it’s time to go to sleep. Any of these routines you can use to aid in sleeping are invaluable!, 4) lastly, having Henry so accustomed to sleeping in white noise will [hopefully] make travels much easier. Ideally (we haven’t tried this one out yet, but have heard success from others), he’ll be able to sleep anywhere if he has the sense of “home” with the noise.

11. Changing pad liners – Because your baby will projectile poop onto your beautiful changing pad cover and stain it even though you will try every stain remover imaginable. Not that I know that from experience… (Also, you may want to have some carpet cleaner on hand. Trust me. Somehow, [sh]it happens.)

12. Onesies (these were my favorites) – We had a winter baby, but even though it was negative temperatures outside, our little guy did not like to be hot. Sleepers were great for running errands and being out of the house. But if we were home, he lived in onesies. They are the easiest articles of clothing for changing diapers (especially after the night feedings when we wanted to keep him as uninterrupted and asleep as possible) and, since we lived and breathed by our SleepSacks, he was always swaddled up for sleeping/napping. In fact, if I had him in a sleeper inside the SleepSack, he’d wake up screaming because he’d be too hot. (I wasn’t kidding when I said he didn’t like to be hot, my little warm-blooded boy.) So we onesied it up a lot and put socks on his feet. (My favorite socks were these adorable baby knee socks; they never fell off!)

13. Young Living Lavender Essential Oil – I had long been skeptical about the essential oil whispers. But then I had a baby and was desperate to keep him healthy during the winter. Lavender has been my favorite essential oil for him as it has helped with a lot of things, including keeping him healthy amid our flu-infected house and calming him during his horrible gas bits. I mix 1 drop of lavender EO with 1 tablespoon coconut oil and follow this massage routine before naps/bedtime. It has helped with his gas as well as his sleeping. I also rub this on the bottoms of his feet every night. Here is a list of EO’s that are safe for babies as well as how to use them.

14. Mustela No Rinse Cleanser – I would love to give little Henry a bath every night because he loves it so. But I also don’t want to dry out his sensitive skin and give him dermatological problems so we use this amazing cleanser on the no-bath days for a quick refresh. It smells so good and is really gentle. We also used this the first week he was home before his umbilical cord fell off since we couldn’t give him a bath yet.

15. Lily Jade diaper bag – Admittedly, I don’t have a Lily Jade…yet. (This is the one I’m eyeing; the backpack feature alone is worth the money!) The thing I love about these bags though is that they are huge and super organized. Bonus: they are really cute, high-quality bags that don’t scream look-at-me-I’m-a-mom. Because these bags are a little pricey, I got really clever and purchased the insert (“baby bag”) and put it into an existing purse I already had that I loved. So now I have an awesome bag that I had pre-baby that is really organized on the inside for everything I need for little Henry. If you can swing it, I’d highly recommend purchasing one of these diaper bags. You’ll never believe how much stuff you need to carry around and the backpack-wearing options of some of these are amazing. (Read: hands free! You’ve got enough things to carry with your arms.)

Let me know in the comments what you can’t do without!

These are some of the things that helped get me through my pregnancy. I’d love to hear what you would add to this list! 

1. Mother’s Special Blend Oil – This claims to tighten skin and prevent stretch marks. I’m not sure that it truly does that, however, I didn’t get any stretch marks so…genetics or oil? Jury’s out. The biggest benefit though was that my stomach never itched like a lot of pregnant women complain about. This oil is really moisturizing without being sticky or heavy. I love it so much that I still use it now after I shower and will happily continue using it, pregnant or not.

2. Apples – Towards the end of my pregnancy, immediately after I finally stopped vomiting, I had acid reflux. It didn’t matter what foods I avoided, any time I ate, I felt miserable. My sister told me about eating apples and sure enough! An apple or two a day helped my acid reflux! (To note: it worked best as a preventer, but did still work as a treatment if the reflux had already begun.)

3. Sprout app – I purchased this app early on in my pregnancy and I absolutely loved it! I could “see” my baby’s growth each week as well as his developmental milestones. It also includes medical tips, a hospital bag checklist, a to-do list, a planner for doctor visits, a kick counter, and contraction timer. I mostly loved every week checking the newest thing happening with my baby. I think this app is probably most exciting for the first-time mom who has nothing else to do but obsess over her growing child, but I think it would also be a fun app to use with older children who can understand the concept of a growing baby.

4. Cardigans – I didn’t like spending money on maternity clothes knowing I wouldn’t be in them long. So when cold weather hit, I layered my maternity tank tops (these were my favorite) with cardigans. I tried to maximize my regular wardrobe as much as possible and now, post-baby, I’m so glad I have regular clothes to wear again…and not many maternity clothes to put away! (My favorite maternity clothing stores are ASOS, H&M, and Liz Lange for Target. Because I’m a wedding photographer, I purchased several maternity dresses to wear throughout my pregnancy, but I also milked my high-waisted skirts for as long as possible.)

5. “The Pregnancy Countdown Book” – This was–hands down–my favorite book during pregnancy. There’s a page for each day of pregnancy including tips, “advice from the trenches” (from real moms), medical information from a board-certified OB, and general things to know. During a first-time pregnancy, this was especially invaluable as there were a million things changing in my body and it was nice to hear that what was happening was normal.

6. Water – It’s hard to make yourself drink water when you’re already peeing non-stop, but water helped alleviate my headaches and neck tension. Aside from the fact that it’s healthy and necessary and blah-blah-blah, I truly felt better when I’d get my high daily intake of water. I craved a lot of ice during my pregnancy (hello anemia) so I’d fill my water bottle with ice and water and sip/chomp the days away.

7. Jolly Ranchers – I had tasted these as a kid, but completely forgotten about them until they were at a wedding reception I was shooting. These became a staple for my purse and I just sucked and sucked on these darn candies!

8. Walking – Going from 6 days a week at the gym to 1 to 2 days a week was really hard for me. I missed being able to exercise like I used to, but at the same time, I just didn’t have the energy for it anymore. Getting out and going for walks helped keep me sane. The fresh air and exercise did wonders for me mentally and physically. I had a few different loops that I would walk and they were all between 3-5 miles. I’d try to walk at least 4 times a week and usually averaged between 12-15 miles a week. Towards the end, the biggest problem was that there were no bathrooms along the way. I will admit to squatting in the woods and praying no one would come along the path.

9. Prenatal yoga – I should’ve started these classes at the beginning of my pregnancy, but I didn’t begin until I was 28 weeks along. I had to stop teaching Pilates at 20 weeks (doctor’s orders) so I was desperate for a non-cardio workout that would be feasible and safe for me to do. The things I loved most about this class: meeting other moms-to-be, commiserating and sharing our fears/anxiety/excitement, equipping myself with breathing techniques and muscle strength to use during labor, and learning some poses that would keep me comfortable during pregnancy. Was it hard to drag myself to yoga at 6:30 at night when I just wanted to go to bed? Yes. But it was absolutely worth it every single week.

10. TempurPedic mattress – Okay, I realize you probably aren’t just going to go buy a mattress. It’s a pretty big investment. We were sleeping on a mattress that I had back in high school (and it had been purchased used at that point). I graduated 10 years ago…so we guessed it was between 15-20 years old. We were definitely in need of a new one and my pregnancy insomnia and discomfort prompted us to finally make the purchase. We had long been interested in a TempurPedic, but still looked around and tested out various memory foam mattress brands. We ended up purchasing one of the TempurPedic Cloud mattresses. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive and, boy, when it did, I slept!! Let’s just say I slept better at the end of my pregnancy than I had before I was ever pregnant. It is magic.

What were some of your favorite things to get you through your pregnancy?

letter-my sweet Henry,

I remember my sister telling me once that a child’s first birthday is as much a celebration of the child as it is of the parents. “We’ve made it,” they say. “We made it through the first year.”

This is how I feel about the months passing. You’re two months old now and while I can’t believe how quickly you’re growing (no longer my tiny little infant!), I feel a sense of relief as well. “We’ve made it,” I say. “We’ve made it through two months.”

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