Lynchburg Baby Photographer | Mackenzie’s Six Month Milestone Session

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Mackenzie's 6 Month Session

In the Studio

I was so excited to welcome sweet Mackenzie back to the studio for her six month milestone session! I have had the pleasure of photographing her birth, Fresh48, and newborn sessions and I look forward to sharing her first birthday session with you all soon as well! 

I just need to say publicly: God knew what He was doing when He brought Mackenzie's mom, Kelly through the doors of my studio last year! We have become great friends and as I look back at 2017, it is easy to consider Kelly as one of my greatest gifts of the year. She has made me laugh, invited me into her life through some vulnerable heart-to-heart conversations, and even shared books, scripture, and other amazing resources with me. She is humble and kind and speaks the truth in love. It's not everyday a client becomes a friend, so that makes me even more grateful for who she has become in my life! 

Okay, I'll stop with all the mushy talk. :) Below are some of my favorite pictures of my short time with Mackenzie and her precious mama. Milestone sessions don't usually last much longer than 30 minutes because babies, well, they get over it quickly. :) So we move fast, changing clothes, snapping pictures, changing again, and making a lot of fun noises and silly faces! I hope you enjoy all of Mackenzie's adorable expressions!

Do you have a little one at home you want to celebrate? Babies grow so fast, now really is the best time to capture them as they are! If you're looking for a baby or family photographer, I would love to work with you to create images you will cherish for a lifetime. Contact me and if you'd like, we can set up a no-obligation studio consultation to answer any questions you may have.

Liz Cook is a familybirth and wedding photographer in Central Virginia. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.

Lynchburg Newborn Photographer | Peter's Studio Session

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Peter's Newborn Session

In The Studio

This little man was one of the easiest newborn clients I've ever had the pleasure of photographing. He was as happy as can be all swaddled, curled up, and snuggled for his portrait session here in the studio!

All of the blankets and wraps you see in this session were provided by me and are always included in the cost of my newborn session fee. There is no need for parents to bring anything but themselves, their brand new baby, and a diaper bag of their own essentials. Here at the studio I have diapers in all sizes, wipes, hair brushes, blankets, swaddlers, wraps, and even the coveted Baby Shusher (newborn parents - if you don't own one of these you need one today!). The goal of my photo sessions is to create beautiful imagery while also providing a relaxing environment for everyone involved. 

Peter's parents opted for two newborn sessions; one at the studio and one in their home in his brand new nursery. (In-home newborn sessions are reserved for clients who book 3 or more photo sessions with me in their baby's first year.) For the studio session they wanted it to be all about him, so while I worked with Peter on the beanbag, they took this time to rest on the studio couch and enjoy a little time-off from parenting for a few hours! Soon I'll share pictures of the lifestyle session in their home so you can see the whole family together (and how natural and great they are as first time parents)!  

For now, here are a few of my favorites from my time with this little guy all by himself!

 

Are you expecting and ready to book your newborn session? I am currently booking sessions as far out as late summer 2018. Newborn sessions are best scheduled before your baby has arrived. If you have waited until the last minute, please contact me - if I am able to fit you in, I will! I don't want you to miss out on the opportunity to have this short and sweet season of life documented. 

All newborn sessions include the use of the studio wardrobe, a styling consultation to discuss the look and feel you desire for your session, as well as my exclusive client preparation guide. On site hair and make-up services are also available with our stylist so that you feel relaxed, confident and beautiful at your session. I make the process of preparing for your session simple and seamless, so you can focus on your first priority, taking care of your newborn baby. Contact me today to reserve your session.

Liz Cook is a baby, family and wedding photographer in Central Virginia. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.

10 Things You May Not Know About Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center

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What You Don't Know

about Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center

Here in Lynchburg, Virginia we have a variety of options for maternal health care and one of those is delivering your baby at the Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center. Below are ten things Lynchburg moms may not know about this labor and delivery unit located in Central Virginia. It is important to note: I am not affiliated with Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center in any way. I am merely a mom in the Lynchburg, VA community and I love to visit my clients and photograph their births at this location whenever I'm granted the opportunity. :)

 

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1. They have a birth tub available for all mamas to use! I’m not talking about the big jacuzzi tubs in the bathrooms (those are nice, too!). I mean a giant, blow up birthing tub that they can set up in the middle of your room! A giant birth tub is called the “midwife's epidural” for a reason, friends! Once you’re in active labor and you have reached a point where you really don’t think you can take it anymore, that’s when it’s time to slip into the magical tub! (So you should ask for it to be set up right after you arrive, because it takes a while to get it ready.) They also have a birth stool, really fun shaped birth balls in a variety of sizes, and other tools available if you simply ASK for them! Don’t be afraid to ask!

2. They are a teaching hospital! There will very likely be a student nurse on the hall while you are laboring and it is possible you may be asked if they can observe in your room. Make your decision ahead of time and let your birth support person know your choice so you are both prepared when the question is presented to you. (Yes, you are in complete control of who comes and goes in your room!) You can always say no, but keep in mind, this is how nurses learn and they will be excited to be present if you don’t mind!

 

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3. Essential oils are welcome, but diffusers have been banned. My hippie heart broke when I heard this news! It's because some of the staff are allergic to a handful of the popular oils and diffusers make the oils utterly impossible to ignore. So bring your oils! Just plan to apply them to wash cloths for inhaling or directly onto your skin as preferred. 

4. The beds in the Labor & Delivery unit are uncomfortable. But, let's be honest - they should be! You’re not really there to sleep and be pampered. (I know, I hated that realization, too.) The beds are super functional and help mamas get babies out in all the best ways! And the good news is the beds over in the Mother Baby Unit ARE comfy and just waiting for you to come rest and heal as soon as you are ready! If you know that you will be in L&D for a long period (perhaps you are on bedrest or you may have another reason), you can request an egg crate mattress topper be added to your bed. Also, have someone from home bring lots of pillows to help you adjust the bed to your comfort level as much as possible!

 

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5. They have a staff of incredible nurses, midwives and O.B.s who all want to see you and your baby transferred to the Mother Baby unit happy, healthy and as quickly as possible. This means they care about you, really! However, you can ALWAYS request a new nurse if you don’t have a good connection with the one assigned to you. If you are getting bad vibes from your care provider (perhaps they are having a rough day themselves), have your partner or advocate speak up and request a new one for you! It won’t be the first time this has happened, nor the last!

BONUS: If you know you want to aim for a natural, vaginal birth, you can request a nurse who prefers this type of delivery. And vice versa! Nurses are human and each tend to have a preference towards a certain "style" of birth, so don't be afraid to ask for someone whose preferences align well with yours!

 

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6. If your labor, delivery and postpartum progress all goes well, you can request to leave 24hrs after delivery instead of the normal range of 48-72 hours. Just let them know this is your intention as soon as possible so they can make arrangements to help you get home ASAP! I am pretty sure my husband told the first nurse he came in contact with when we were checking in the hospital that he wanted us to check out as soon as possible. No joke! Ha!

 

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7. The first hour after baby has arrived they will do everything they can (short of mandating) to give skin to skin time with mom and only mom. This is part of what helped them earn their Baby Friendly Hospital label they are so very proud of! Skin to skin with mama is so very good for your baby. Embrace that first hour if you have the opportunity, friend!

 

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8. They offer laughing gas as a form of pain management now! The technical term is Nitrous Oxide and it is given by inhalation through a small mask that fits over your nose and mouth. You have full control over the mask (it is not strapped to your face) and you can use it whenever you feel the need! This is an awesome option for mamas who are really hoping to avoid the process of getting an epidural but are feeling anxious about a pain-medication-free delivery.

 

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9. They no longer do “inked” footprints, instead they use Certascan technology to create a high pixel digital scan of your baby’s footprints. This information is stored in a database available online where you can access it once you're home and settled. If you’d like to have an old fashioned inked footprint from your baby’s first day you can bring in your own ink pad and paper and they will gladly do that for you!

10. They have a new(ish) practice of delaying baby's first bath for up to 8 hours after birth (barring extenuating circumstances). The reasons and research that back this practice are plenty! However, if you really want your baby bathed sooner, just ask! :) 

BONUS! If you take the time to send in a Thank You note to your nurse or care provider, it will go in their personal file and will remain on hand for their annual review! Every note that comes in is kept safe and greatly appreciated! So feel free share your opinions and experience with the hospital. The HR department at Centra Health takes every comment and complaint seriously!

 

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So there you have it! I've shared ten things about Virginia Baptist Hospital Birth Center that you may find surprising! Were you surprised by any of these? Was there something else about your birth experience you were surprised by?

If you are interested in possibly having your birth photographed, I'd love to invite you to meet with me at the studio for a complimentary studio consultation. Simply inquire with me and we can set up a date for you to come and chat about what the Liz Cook Photography Birth Experience is like and whether or not it may be a good fit for you. 

Liz Cook Photography specializes in maternitynewbornbirth and family photography in Lynchburg, Virginia and the surrounding areas. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.

Roanoke Mommy & Me Session | Kristy & Jessie

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Kristy & Jessie

Mommy & Tween Session

We were crazy blessed to meet Kristy when we walked into Sunday's very first Pre-K classroom to meet her teacher and there she stood, ready to shake our hands and welcome us into her space. Little did we know at that time how important Mrs. Lunetta would become to our family! 

Kristy and her daughter Jessie have a uniquely bittersweet story. Their beloved husband and father passed away a few years ago and they live life missing him every day. I wanted to do something special for Kristy at the end of Sunday's first year in her classroom, to express our gratitude for her kindness and patience she showed towards Sunday and all of her classmates, but also to thank her for her beautiful display of what it looks like to walk alongside Jesus through hard seasons. Kristy is a beautiful example of a woman walking in the grace of God. As she raises her beautiful daughter with love and kind discipline, I watch with admiration and hope I can be half the mom she is. 

Below are a few of my favorite pictures of our time together in the studio. For the last few minutes, we stepped out into the chilly air to snap a few pictures by their request. The sun glare in the background made me think their husband and dad was looking down on them and smiling as they snuggled up and their beaming smiles while wrapped in each other's arms gave me no doubt those pictures were meant to be taken in that moment, in that place, on that very day. 

What a magical bond they share. Thank you for allowing me to capture it, Kristy. It was my honor.

If you're interested in scheduling your own Mommy & Me Mini Sessions, I would love to work with you to create images you will cherish for a lifetime. Contact me and if you'd like, we can set up a no-obligation consultation here in the studio to answer any questions you may have.

Click here for more information about the upcoming Mommy & Me Mini Sessions.

Click here to see other Mommy & Me Mini sessions. 

Liz Cook is a familybirth and wedding photographer in Central Virginia. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.

Five Investments I'm Happy I Made in 2017

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Five Good Investments

Business Talk

As I worked through my Goal Setting process for 2018, I naturally did a lot of reflecting on the past year. Something I love to do is read what works for other people in their lives: routines, planning systems, books they loved, etc. While I understand what works for one person may not work for the next - there are times that I’ve discovered something life changing from another person sharing what worked for them.

That said, I really wanted to share with you all some of what I think are the best investments I made in 2017. As a note: you will see that I consider both time and money to be an investment. :)

Without further ado, here are the top five investments from 2017 that I’m really grateful I made.

 

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Date Nights

At the beginning of our marriage, date nights were basically a default every night. (When it's just you two at home together every night, it just happens! :)) So to put a weekly date night on the calendar seemed a little pointless. Then with just one baby, having her tag along didn’t seem like too much of a big deal. (In fact, we were both pretty infatuated with her so we really liked having her with us all the time!) But once we had two kids, time to connect just became less and less and before we knew it, we felt a bit like strangers passing in the night. (Honestly, it’s a little scary how that can happen so quickly.) At the end of 2016, I made a goal to put my marriage FIRST before everything in 2017. And I am SO glad I did!

At the start of the year, I hired a weekly babysitter; every Sunday night. At first, this was to cover our MarriageWorks community gatherings, but soon after I made this arrangement in preparation, they announced they weren’t meeting at all until wayyyy later in the year! Ah! (Which we DID participate in and loved.) However, I kept our sitter lined up anyway.

I budgeted for this and made a long-term commitment to the sitter. She was setting aside her Sunday nights for this weekly job (and we got a pretty good “per job” price since we were committing to this on a regular basis). This really helped us stay accountable, because it wasn’t just us to consider if we wanted to cancel our date night.

Of course there were some Sundays we were out of town, in which case we would let her know weeks ahead of time. But there were also some Sundays where just one of us would be out of town. In that case, we would still have her come and it allowed the one who was at home with the kids to have some kid-free time and a night on their own.

While this investment was financial, it was also a large time investment... (just ask my Sunday Night Football loving husband!) But it was so very worth it. We got into a routine of going to the same place for dinner and drinks and it allowed us to create a new, safe place for us to open up and have some really awesome conversations this past year. I’m SO glad we made our marriage a top priority last year and we are both walking into 2018 with the same goals for our marriage this year as well. 

It’s exciting to look at how far we’ve come in one year, where will another year take us?! We are definitely continuing on with this investment as long as our bank account allows us to!

Self-Care

This is a really personal one for me. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression when Izzie (my second child) was four months old. She just turned three years old this month and the past six months or so I have finally felt like I could see through the fog. I attribute this to my girls getting older (Izzie can do so much on her own now! It has really freed up a lot of my time), my marriage growing stronger (it’s been rewarding to be able to share these burdens/thoughts with my husband in a way that doesn’t burden him but simply allows him to understand me more), and self-care.

What IS self-care, you ask? Well, this answer will and should look different for each person. In essence, it is taking care of yourSELF. Whatever that means to you. In my experience, it was learning WHO I am and WHAT I need most to be the healthiest, happiest me. And then, of course, giving those things to myself.

I’m a big fan of personality tests. Through these tests I have learned SO much about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly - the good I bring to this world in my natural state. Meaning, when I am at my healthiest and happiest, what comes most natural to me? What is the good that I can provide to the people I love, and what do I not do well? Self-Care for me this year meant a whole lot of learning what I do best, what I don’t do great, and how to fill in the gaps for the needs of myself and those around me.

In practical terms, this is what all that looked like for me:

  • Learning more about my Myers-Briggs personality and embracing my truths.

  • Reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 and, again, embracing my truths.

  • Speaking my truths outloud to myself, my friends and family. Some examples:

    • I may not be as driven as so-and-so, but I can handle a social environment with grace and I can make people feel loved and comfortable in a way that not a lot of other people can.

    • I may be sensitive, but instead of thinking of this as a negative, I now respect it as a privilege. I can sense when something is “off” in my body almost immediately. I can sense the energy in a room and try my best to either contribute or counteract it, whichever is necessary depending on the circumstances. I can sense when someone nearby is dealing with something heavy and I can be empathetic and careful towards them during that time.

  • Clearing space on my calendar for things that fill my cup. This included a retreat weekend with The Motherhood Collective (for staff), a lot of one-on-one coffee dates with girlfriends, a marriage retreat weekend with Tommy (through our semester with MarriageWorks, which we really loved!), a monthly massage at MassageEnvy, and occasional travel to visit friends and family out of town. All of these things renew my spirit, my body, and help me feel “normal” again during seasons where sometimes I can feel anything but.

  • Indulging in daily connection conversations with friends over the Voxer and MarcoPolo apps on my phone. Mama friends - if you haven’t downloaded Voxer, you are missing out! This is such an amazing way to connect with friends in a low-pressure way! My friends will send me voice messages while they drive down the road (because when else do mamas have time to themselves?!) and I’ll listen to them when I have a few minutes to open the app and listen in. I was able to rebuild and strengthen some of my closest friendships by using these simple apps in 2017.


Shifting to more business and professional investments…
 

17Hats (Client Management System)

For the past few years, I have been using a Client Management System by 17hats. Through this app, I manage all client information, contracts, invoices and workflows. This app is basically my business brain! If you are a photographer and you have more than a handful of clients a year, it would benefit you in huge ways to outsource your business management to an app like this one! It also has capabilities to manage client scheduling, bookkeeping and more.

One big change I made this year was to start using their Lead Capture Form feature. So, now when prospective clients fill out the form on my website, they receive an immediate email response with all of my pricing information and a link to the next step in the booking process! Basically this means my inquiry to booking process is almost fully automated. This has changed my WORLD! I used to spend so many of my office hours trying to tackle emails. However, because of my life season, I also was not in the office every day. That meant that sometimes prospective clients waited many days to hear from me! That’s totally unacceptable this day in age. I am excited for this new automated process and very grateful for the 17hats Management System!

I don’t think I’ll ever run my business without 17hats!

--> My goodness, I wrote this blog post a few days ago and it's amazing what can change in a matter of days! While I LOVE 17hats, it's the Client Management System that really was the game-changer for me. This week I made the decision to begin the process of switching to Tave. I'll write more about this as I settle into a new system and I'll keep you posted about whether it was a good move or not!!  

Acuity Scheduling

Another investment I made in 2017 that I am SO glad I did is using a scheduling software. Setting my business up through Acuity Scheduling has saved me SO much time writing emails back and forth (“Would these dates work for you? No? How about these?”)! Not only that, it has helped me set healthy work/life boundaries for myself and my family.

I created a couple of types of appointments such as Outdoor Portrait Session, Newborn Portrait Session, and more. Then I set my availability for each type of appointment. I can also put a price point on the appointments and require full or partial payment at the time of booking. While this is not currently my practice (because I do most of my invoicing through the 17hats program), it is nice to have available for mini session booking!

But the most valuable aspect of using Acuity Scheduling for me has been protecting my family days. It sounds basic: if you don’t want to book clients on certain days, don’t offer those days. But as an ENFP (see personality type notes above :)) and people-pleaser, I found myself constantly making exceptions for repeat clients and having a hard time saying no. Now I don’t say no, I simply don’t offer. :) It’s a win/win!

Thank you, Acuity Scheduling, for giving me my life back!

Studio Pieces

Throughout 2017 I invested in a couple of projects, furniture and wardrobe pieces in the studio that I am LOVING. Among these investments were new flooring, a nice wrought-iron bed, a neutral colored settee, a new neutral colored wingback chair and a handful of new pieces of clothing for the wardrobe. Having these items sprinkled throughout my images I think have really increased the quality of my work.

The white flooring has added more light to work with in the studio with a great floor-to-ceiling light-bounce, while also bringing a cleaner look to my clients final photos. With white floors, there’s less yellow in the space to work with so the whites are whiter and my images are overall brighter. I really love the new flooring!

In the past, I’ve photographed on a simple air mattress and while it did the job, there’s nothing like the look of a quality bed frame! I am excited to have a new bed in the studio in 2018 as well as a new settee and wingback chair to create different set-ups and add variety to studio sessions!

Here are a few pictures with some of the newest pieces:

 

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And lastly, I’ve gotten my hands on a couple of gems for the studio wardrobe: dresses, blouses, and a few new items for children! I just received the mannequin I ordered (and my friends on Instagram named her Florence ;)) so I can begin creating an online catalog of the wardrobe pieces so clients can peruse the wardrobe from the comfort of their own space. For now, if you are interested in checking out the new wardrobe pieces you’ll need to schedule a complimentary, in-person consultation to come by the studio and see them yourself! I’d love the chance to meet you and talk with you about your photography needs! :)

So those are the big investments I made in 2017 that I’m SO grateful for! They each added quality to my life in their own ways - but all BIG ways! Did you make any big investments last year that you love? I’d love to hear about them!!

You can read more about my reflections on 2017 by clicking here.

Liz Cook is a familybirth and wedding photographer in Central Virginia. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.