motherhood sessions | lucy & river

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Motherhood Sessions is my new project, both a personal one and something I will be including as part of my offerings as a photographer. New motherhood is such a special time that is so full of ups and downs, extreme highs and lows and an overwhelming sense of love for this new tiny person in your life. I want to capture it for people, in as real and unforced a way as possible. I really believe these are the images people treasure for a lifetime. No fancy props, no silly outfits or headbands, just real life. The bond between mother and baby.

Lucy is one of the wonderful women that have become a part of my life since having a baby. Although I didn't do NCT classes, Rory and I have been lucky enough to have been adopted by a group of smart, funny, supportive and incredibly kind women who all met through their NCT group. Before I became a mother, I didn't quite understand the importance of being surrounded by a support network during the tough first few months. And not just a network of family and friends, but of women who are going through the exact same things as you at the exact same time. I was lucky enough to stumble across mine, and boy did I hit the jackpot. It feels like we're all striving for the same things: to keep as much of ourselves as we can while caring for our babies, to be relaxed and intuitive, make jokes about the funny things we do to get by, and to look after each other because we know it's not always easy.

These two were a real joy to shoot. River is a such a sweet little boy, so chilled out but with a real determination behind his eyes. I'm sure his zen like nature is down to the fact that Lucy, a qualified pre-natal yoga teacher, has been including him in her daily yoga practice ever since he was born. She recently wrote River's birth story on her blog too, it's a pretty emotional read.

If you're interested in having a motherhood session of your own, please do drop me an email: siobhan.e.watts@gmail.com I have two options: a mini session of 30 minutes for £80 or a full session of 60 minutes for £150. You'll receive a gallery of fully edited high-res images to download, 25 for the mini session and 50 for the full session. Sessions can be in your home, garden or another favourite location. London based shoots only at this time.

nice stuff / 056

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This time of year is so great, don't you think? The sun starts to come out, but it's not too hot. We still have enough rainy days to cool things down, and we're all cleaning and freshening up our spaces ready for the summer. May days.

1. Indigo is really doing it for me right now. I'm going to have a go at doing some shibori dyeing when I go to Devon in a few weeks. I need a garden to make a mess in!
2. I love this brass wall hanging by Susan Connor. I'm planning to DIY some things for my walls over the summer as they are still pretty bare. Brass, yarn, wood...get on my walls.
3. Great post on how to manage stressful times, from Hanna's Places.
4. These colours and patterns are so perfect to me. Boho, but still clean and modern. I followed the internet cookie crumbs to find the image is originally from Experimental Vintage, where there's plenty candy for my boho and plant loving eyes.
5. Have you seen Eva's post about our project 'my month of self care'? We're using May to focus on looking after ourselves, and I just love the way she writes. Thanks Insta for bringing us together.
6. Studio Bloesem are launching KOEL magazine, all about styling your home with yarns. Say what? Dream magazine right there. Check out their kickstarter.

I haven't done a Nice Stuff post in a while, because man I've been busy. And sleepy. I think we're getting there though, and I'm starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel with getting regular time to myself and having a little energy to actually put it to use. I'm really having a great time though, I don't ever want my maternity leave to end.

We are less than a week away from getting the scaffolding put up to start our attic conversion. Finally. It's been a whole lot of headaches trying to get planning permission, but we're there at last. We should have all the main building work done within the next 7-9 weeks, then there's a bunch of decorating to do. I'm thinking even if the project over runs (which it is sure to do) if we're finished everything by mid August then I'll be a happy bunny. A bunny with a whole other room and shower room.


A few other links for your weekend...

- 15 things nobody tells you about childbirth on Mother. I can attest to all of these. And that everybody lies to you about birth until you have actually done it. Then all the real stories come out.
-  Stork & the Beanstalk family photography. I've started shooting family sessions again, and I am aching to get anywhere near as good as Ashley.
- Just started Sara Pascoe's new book 'Animal' and am really enjoying it. It's a funny and insightful look at the female body and female sexuality.
- 5 amazing skillshare classes for bloggers and creatives.

Have a great weekend, friends. Let's hope for some more sunshine, wherever you are.


my month of self care

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Since having Rory in January, looking after myself has taken somewhat of a backseat to looking after my baby. I'm pretty good at covering the basics - I try to eat well, I walk a lot, I take regular showers or baths and I like to put on make-up most days and brush my hair. But, beyond that I don't get a lot of time to think about what I need. It's all about my baby. I love having this time to devote to her, believe me. I know how lucky I am to get it at all, and to not need or feel pressured to return to work sooner than I feel ready. It's precious, it goes too fast and is something I am mindful to make the most of. However, my reality is that I am at my best when I am living a full and creative life. When I'm knitting, photographing, writing, thinking and pursuing something. I need a project, or I get restless.

While we were away in Northumberland a few weeks ago, I was feeling a bit anxious about work and how little time I've been devoting to anything creative in the last few months. Rory was going through a four month sleep regression, waking every few hours at night and leaving me feeling pretty exhausted. Putting her down for bed was becoming a bit of a battle, so when she finally fell asleep at night I would follow pretty close behind her. I felt like all I was doing with my days was looking after a baby and a dog, and that my brain was beginning to rot. Something that I was so adamant that I wouldn't let happen to me on maternity leave.

I had an epiphany one day while I was walking on the beach, realising that I had my priorities all out of whack. Instead of obsessing about carving out time for creative pursuits and building my photography business, I needed to be using that time for ME. Unless I could get back some energy, find time to rest and start feeling better about my body there was no way I would ever be in the mindset to be creative or to grow my photography business. I decided that I would have to be my next project if I wanted to move past this rut.

So, for the whole of May I am making it a priority to practice self care. To really think about what this means for me, how I top up my chi, relax my mind and nourish my body. What I do to care for myself might look different every day, or at different moments in the day, but my goal is to be in tune with myself and respond accordingly. To give myself what I need most to make me feel both energised and rested. 

Some ways I plan to practice self care this month...
- to join the gym and make it my priority to go swimming twice a week
- buy that new backpack to carry everything I need for mine and Rory's day, so I'm not hurting my back by using a heavy tote.
- do yoga every morning to stretch out my body, hunched and achey from breastfeeding and carrying a heavy baby.
- switch coffee for green tea or hot water with lemon, because coffee makes me anxious and hurts my stomach.
- treat myself to replacing my old, dried up make up and skin care
- cut out sweet treats in the week, because being hooked on sugar isn't doing me any good.
- go to bed at 8pm if I'm tired and I need the extra sleep, without getting stressed about losing those few hours to 'do something'.

I've teamed up with one of my favourite bloggers, Eva from House of Smilla to share with you what we are doing for our month of self care. We are both in a place where we need to focus on looking after ourselves, and we want to encourage you to play along. Please do join us on Instagram, share your images using the hashtag #mymonthofselfcare and spread the love of looking after yourself. If you blog about it, or anything else please do share that with us too.

So, what will you be doing this month to care for yourself?

seven years

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Today is our seven year anniversary. Seven years. Some of my happiest memories are from the months we spent in a new and sweet friendship just before we became a couple. I'll never forget those days. When I think about the time we have spent together, mostly I feel so proud of us. Proud of what we have built together, and how hard we have worked to get and keep everything that we have. And I don't mean just material things - I mean how hard we work on staying close, understanding each other, communicating, being supportive and ultimately having a happy and loving place where we can raise our daughter.

It's not perfect, no one's relationship is. Things go off course every now and again where we don't do any of those things so well, because that's just the way life is with it's ups and downs and twists and turns. But mostly, after seven years we know each other well enough to keep things rolling along as best we can. We can often avoid arguments before they happen, communicate to be able to get what we both want, and feel confidant to push each other in new directions. We know when to step down and when to stand our ground, to pick our battles.

What started off as a friendship, has become a partnership. We have a house, a dog and now a four month old baby. Our funny little Rory bear. I'm so grateful for this guy. For his love and unflappable loyalty. For how hard he works, for how kind and generous he is, and for how he has taught me so many things that have made me a happier and calmer person. He's the yin to my yang.

Happy anniversary, Gav. I hope it's just the tip of the iceberg of all the years we will spend together.

Berwick & Northumberland 2016

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If you've been following me on the internet for a while, you'll probably know that at least once a year I take a trip to Berwick-upon-tweed on the Northumberland coast to visit Gav's family. They're from Edinburgh, but have run a guest house on Spittal Beach for almost fifteen years. We love going to stay there, always getting a room that overlooks the sea so we can wake up to the sunrise and fall asleep listening to the waves. 

We took Rory for the first time last week, and learnt that there's no such thing as a holiday when you have a four month old baby. Almost eight hours in the car each way, and a bit of disruption to her routine while we all adjusted to being away from home meant that none of us got much sleep all week. The weather was another story. Snow in April! Gale force winds, freezing rain, hail, rain, rain rain and a bit more snow. So, needless to say we did a whole lot more antique shopping than outdoors exploring. The only day we had any sun was the Saturday we were due to leave, so we decided to stay an extra few days so we could get that clifftop walk I'd been craving. Funny story - we actually tried to go on a cliff top walk at about 9am one morning, but we got about half an hour in when the weather turned and we got caught in a blizzard. Rory was screaming, we weren't wearing hats or gloves and had to walk backwards as the hailstones were like needles on our faces and we couldn't see. I thought we would be discovered later that day, frozen stiff on the prom in mid-stride. Wait, did I say funny story?

The last few days were actually the best of the holiday. We walked up the cliffs from Spittal beach to Scremerston and drove to the Northumberland National Park. I finally bought some hiking boots, and we spent an afternoon in Edinburgh to shop and visit Gav's Grandad. Not quite the relaxing outdoors holiday I had planned, but plenty of mooching around antique shops, lots of family time for Rory and some much needed time away from the city. Not to mention a hard lesson in the importance of keeping your baby's routine even when you are away from home. Yikes!

Next time we go I plan on putting my new hiking boots to good use, but I'm still working on making Gav a bit more adventurous. His recent comment on walking was "what's the actual point of going walking, I mean, don't you just see more green stuff?". You could say I have a little way to go yet.

15/52 & 16/52

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Week 15: Gav doesn't really see Rory at all on the days he works, but he gets a day off in the week and every Sunday to spend time with her. It's so lovely to watch them bond and enjoy each other's company. My little ginger babe.


Week 16: Rory loves the bath so much. I'm still amazed by how she has gone from a tiny newborn whose head I had to support in her baby bath, to a squishy baby who splashes and kicks and squeals.

why I blog

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This year happily marks the sixth year of me writing this blog. It has become such a wonderful part of my life, and something I take a lot of pride in. Much of my free time is devoted to writing, editing and posting here, thinking of words and pictures I can share. Although my enthusiasm for it ebbs and flows, it has never occurred to me to stop. Since having Rory, my free time and energy are pretty low and I've been forced to be more intentional with how I use both those things. A challenge that I think is often a blessing to be faced with.

On most days I can feel quite tired and either need to be resting when I'm not taking care of Rory, or doing something that pushes me forward in my life or work. It's pretty hard to balance it all (almost impossible!), so I have to constantly strip away the excess, the time wasting and the things that don't really matter. My priorities have shifted and my brain power is a little impaired through lack of sleep. 

I'm often asking myself the question "why do I blog?" and wondering if it is still something worthy of my most precious hours. And if I do still want to blog, how can I make sure it is as valuable as possible to me and those who read it? In a sea of other blogs, digital magazines, the popularity of Instagram (yep, I'm an addict too), people asking if blogging is even a thing anymore...well, I find it all too easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and forget why I am doing it. 

1. Because it brings me joy. 
Although I've gone through ups and downs in motivation and affection for this space, the number one reason I keep blogging is because I love it. More than all the wonderful things it has brought my way, I simply love the process of photographing, writing and sharing posts. Sometimes I start with an idea, sometimes with words and sometimes with a set of photographs. I get so much enjoyment out of sharing my life and my work on this space, I can't see why I would ever stop.

2. To record the simple, everyday moments
This is something I slip in and out of being good at, but I started a feature called 'moments, captured' back in December to encourage me to record everyday happenings with my big camera instead of just on my iPhone. Some of my favourite images to look back on are bits and pieces of daily life that seem mundane at the time, but are like time capsules when you find them years later. Your favourite mug, the kind of shoes you wore, what you were eating for breakfast, things you kept on your bedside table. Things you so often forget, until a photograph brings those memories back to you.

3. As a creative outlet, to motivate and challenge me.
Having a space to share my images and words is very good motivation to keep shooting and writing. I don't think I would have done anything very much with photography at all had I not ever started my blog. It makes me get out more with my camera, take part in photography challenges (currently I'm doing the 52 Project) and improve my editing skills. 

3. To share my story
I like to put myself out there. I'm a pretty open and honest person, and I'm not particularly guarded about most aspects of my personal life. It feels very natural to me to write about what I do and what I think about things, and I get a lot of enjoyment from it. I also believe that sharing more of myself, my life and the way I think about things is a great asset to my work. It helps potential clients get to know me, build an honest connection with them and attract people who are the right fit for me and my work. This talk by The Fresh Exchange on the very same subject is very inspiring, especially if you're looking to understand how sharing your story can help your business.

4. To connect with others.
There are so many people who have become part of my life as a direct result of my blog. Many of them have become good friends, the proper offline kind who I see and talk to regularly. Others I only interact with on Instagram, or here in the comments section, perhaps via email or Skype. But those connections are just as real to me. I'm sure there are other readers that I never hear from, but who still find a connection with me through my words and pictures.

5. To attract potential clients.
Since working with a creative coach (I wrote more about it in this post) I think of my blog as a 'slow marketing' tool for my business. It attracts clients who feel they have got to know me through this space, and would feel comfortable working with me as their photographer. It's particularly true for portrait and family clients, because that kind of shoot is so personal. It can feel daunting to invite a stranger into your life and home, but I think my blog breaks down that barrier.

7. To remind me to be adventurous
Posts like my last one, about a detour through the New Forest are a perfect example of little adventures I take especially to shoot some pictures. It can be so easy to forget about all the things that are out there, just waiting for us to stumble across them. Blogging has taught me to go further, walk longer and look harder.

8. To inspire and encourage
I hope that by sharing the way I see and think about things, I might provide some inspiration and encouragement to others. Perhaps I might cheer someone's day, make them want to pick up a camera or some knitting needles, or maybe provide them with a little solidarity about a shared experience. Whatever it might be, I'm always to always send positive messages out there.

Whenever I'm feeling unsure about what to share or how to share it, I'm going to come back to this list and remind myself why I do what I do. Do you have a similar list for yourself? I'm keen to know what your blog does for you, if you have one, and why you keep going with it. Let's chat in the comments!

P.s I am writing this post on my iPad as I'm walking Rory around in the sling. She's sleeping, and her favourite place to nap is on me while I'm walking around. It's a bit of an epiphany that I can use my iPad to blog on the go. And maybe some internet shopping too. Maybe. 


 

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