Waves of Change | A Personal Post

Yesterday I went grocery shopping and took the longer, lakeside drive to Whole Foods downtown.  It took a few extra minutes, but the car was quiet and the sun was warm and delicious.  I walked in, and I felt so so happy.  Do you ever feel that way when you walk into a place of health and healing?  I do, and it makes me joyful.  I feel like a better person surrounded by fresh produce and label readers.  I feel more at home next to the collagen supplements and fresh ginger.  Its a beautiful thing to be surrounded by goodness.  And I was starving, so theres that.  

But this isn't about Whole Foods, really.  But it is.  See, the past few years of my personal life have been a really fun journey towards wellness.  I pulled the bag off my head and started to think about my own body, my own wellness, and very much the wellness of my children.  The lotion that I use daily, and how it interacts with my body.  I never would've thought in a million years of innocent ignorance that it could be causing me, and my children's children any sort of harm.  And I grew intolerant of my brain fog, my brittle nails and my dry skin.  Because you cant blame it all on your children and the deep Wisconsin winter.  

See, I've always been fascinated by wellness.  I started my collegiate journey as a pre-med student, unimpressed with the realities of the job description, I quickly diverted my efforts in a different direction.  But my plan B was just to finish with something, anything that would qualify me for a career in I didn't know what.  So I floated, in the lazy river for a while, waiting to find my exit, the path with my name on it.  I stared working in a hospital, an emergency room; I married and Mothered.  I became an entrepreneur in the field I told my Dad in high school I would never do because photography was only for calendars and postcards.  And at that time, it was.  But its always had my heartstrings.  

The past few years in this little business of mine, I've met and worked alongside some brilliant women in wellness.  I've slept on couches and shared endless coffee with women who live sacrificial lives to help women and their families live, be and birth in wellness.  I've become dear friends with professionals that care so deeply about their patients, it literally takes my breath away.  This community is real, and it is inspiring, and it has reignited my fire.  

So to explain a bit of the radio silence over here on the world wide web:  I've been back in school!  I realized that sitting behind my glass has put me in a backseat position.  I am limited in how I can encourage and advise.  I am limited because I am "just a photographer".  And while I will always always always have a camera in hand, my purpose in this life is greater.  Exit lazy river. 

In a few short years here, I'll be a fully licensed Nurse Practitioner in Women's Health with an emphasis on nutrition and integrative medicine.  And even just writing that makes me grin from ear to ear.  I cannot wait to come alongside women and their families and join their path to wellness, because our bodies are different.  Because we deserve more.  Because we deserve to serve our families well and enjoy this beautiful life with smiles and not frown lines and brain fog.  Because I adore working with YOU!  My amazing clients and friends...my gratitude is so so deep.  You have been so inspirational, and deeply meaningful to my journey.  Without you, I may still be floating...

SO!  IF you have any questions, please post them below and I'll share all the details you'd like.  I'll still have my camera in hand for quite a while, but things may change each semester, so drop me a note EARLY, so you can snag any openings I may have.  Loving you all so so deeply,

xoxo
Sara

Milwaukee Maternity Photographer: In Home with the Trudell Family

Y'all, its been FOUR months since I've put up a post!  GASP.  Im pretty sure I fell off the wagon around the holidays this year, but some really big and amazing changes are in the works {more on that later!}!  Here is a super fun maternity session with the Trudell family I had the pleasure of capturing a few weeks back, when the snow fell beautifully on their picturesque property.  Kieth & Emilie were married here, build a home here, and now they're anticipating the arrival of their second little babe here.  

Emilie was a little unsure about where we would photograph her and her family, but I reassured her that her home was enough.  Simplicity has my heart, and its amazing to me how rooms can tell such a simple story.  So we settled on their bed, laughed and laughed and took a few photos.  At one point she asked me to capture them in their living room because its the space where they spend the most time, and she wanted to remember this moment.  So we laughed, and played games, and rolled around on the floor.  You know, photography stuff ;)

And then my heart stole Emilie outside for a quick walk around the house.  The evergreens and her beautiful gold sweater lit up my eyes and before we froze, we captured a few of my favorites.  And when I looked at her gallery to pick a few favorites from the day for this blog, my heart swelled.  This precious time for their family was captured with such ease, such joy and delight.  I'm so so grateful for their willingness to trust in the simplicity of my vision, and allow their beautiful lives to be honest and true.  I adore this family.  Wish them well as they welcome this sweet baby!

 

A Milwaukee Schiltz Audubon Nature Center Wedding: Alli & Alex

Alli & Alex are hitched y'all!  This was a crazy fun day!  We started off our perfect September morning with all the gents at Stag Barbershop in Bayview for straight shaves & clean cuts before heading to one of my favorite places ever ever: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for their beautiful outdoor wedding.  The ladies adorned the most beautiful BHLDN dresses, shall we call the color wine? Mauve? Cinnamon Rose?  Or maybe just perfection... Perfectly complimented by the stunning florals courtesy Liz over at Floral Alchemy - did you notice the ribbon?  Swoon.

The sun was out in all its glory, setting with the most dreamy golden light just in time for portraits.  Alli & Alex were so radiant, and adore each other with such pure affection - its quite inspiring!  Both the ceremony and reception were perfectly intimate but equally light hearted.  The outdoor pavillion at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is such a cool space for a ceremony, overlooking the ravine, surrounded by all the magic fall has to offer.  The reception inside the lodge was warm and inviting, perfect for a family centered festivity.  Capping the night off with the best DJs from Milwaukee Airwaves and a s'more bar was perfection - particularly when the s'mores are made by the flower girls.  I absolutely LOVED every moment of this day, as you can see by the very long blog post image reel - it's so hard to put this story into a short bit of highlights!  But here it is, enjoy! Cheers to Alli & Alex!

Milwaukee Birth Photographer: The Birth Story of Yuvan

Welcome to the world sweet boy!  This is the birth story of Yuvan!  It may appear as though a lovely little stork delivered this little one to his family, but his birth story does exist, and its beautiful, but it is for his families eyes only.  What you see here is his welcoming!  He is welcomed into a truly amazing family, with huge hearts and beautiful smiles.  When Yuvan's older brother walked in to meet his long awaited brother, he was instantly in love.  With tenderness he held him and discovered how small his little fingers and toes were.  He listened carefully to his Dad's instructions, already embracing his role as his protector.  He found the photos he made for his Mama and showed him exactly who the people were - a family history lesson if you will - and Yuvan listened intently. 

Its no secret that one of my absolute favorite parts of a birth story is the meeting of the siblings, and this was no exception.  There is something so beautiful about children admiring this miracle of life!  Yuvan's extended family was also present, and so contagiously joyful at his meeting.  A sweet, customary treat was passed in celebration before they all settled in for a rest.  I am once again, so incredibly grateful to be a part of this families special day!  Happy birth day sweet boy! You are so deeply adored!

A Lake Country Wedding: Lindsay & Dylan - Hitched!

I got to return to one of my absolute favorite venues, Rustic Manor 1848 in Lake Country for the beautiful wedding of Lindsay & Dylan this summer.  It was pure joy from start to finish, and the kindness that Lindsay & Dylan have just simply cannot be matched.  Their day was full of beautiful sunshine, just a touch of summer heat and blue sky for the most romantic outdoor ceremony.  I'm not crying, you're crying! Wishing them both the most beautiful marriage with bountiful blessings!

Family History | A Personal Post

Earlier this year, I took a class that completely changed how I view photography.  I've always viewed it as a way to preserve a moment, but this class changed even that perception forever.  There was a time when porch swings and seasons of harvest communicated wisdom, humor, and history.  This is how stories were told, between one another.  But here we are, in the age of digital, in the age of digital communication, an age without porch swings and seasons of harvest.  The slow life escapes us.  And here we are.
This class changed me.  It changed the way I view the days that I live.  These days aren't just days to pass thru an hourglass.  These are the days of my children, of my Motherhood, or my marriage.  These are my stories, worthy of porch swings and Sunday brunch.  These are days that I want my sweet babies to know. 
These stories shouldn't be archived in the cloud.  These stories should be front and center, reminisced together when fingers find the pages year after year.  So I've set out to preserve our family history, not in a card catalogue, and not in a cloud.  In tangibles.  
I've been documenting our days for most of the year, some days fly by without the snap of the shutter and that is okay.  But I've been on a quest to preserve the monotony, the quirks and the slivers of personality that make our family so so precious.  I'll be adding these photos to a book at the end of the year, along with narratives to accompany them.  And I cannot wait for the finished product.  
I wanted to share a bit of this journey with you because I think its important.  I think its important for little fingers to discover these stories not on a screen, deep in the cloud (or whatever medium exists in a few decades from now....remember the rotary phone?  Technology changes...).  Its important to tell these stories beside our babies, in our laps and on our porches.  Its important to remember this life.  So here we go. The best time to start is now..

A Downtown Milwaukee Wedding: Jackie & Ryan

Congratulations to this amazing couple!  Jackie & Ryan are officially hitched!  They got married in a sweet little church just north of Milwaukee but returned to the big city for shenanigans galore.  Their reception was held at the Intercontinental Hotel downtown, and if you haven't been a guest, please add it to your list!  We had the most beautiful afternoon to set out for group photos and naturally ran into another bridal party at the Marcus Center.  I knew this night would be one for the books when an immediate West Side Story style dance off promptly began!  And it didn't end there - more dancing and mischief ensued... Would you expect less from a rugby team?! Usually, as the wedding photographer, I am not the one with sore cheeks from smiling, but I can most confidently say that I was!  Wishing this lovely duo the most beautiful marriage! Cheers!

Milwaukee Birth Photographer: The Home Birth Story of Walter

Right in the middle of the summer swoon, when the days were long and felt of pure perfection, Walter was ready to meet us.  He had faked us all out a few times, and made his way closer and closer to us, only to stop and rest.  Sometimes birth stories work this way.  Labor isn't always straight forward, but it always ends with a birth.  Patience and endurance are tested, but that only increases the joy of that long awaited meeting. 
It was the most beautiful summer day, and just before dinner I arrived to a consistent and steady contraction pattern.  Mama was working hard, and concentrating, bringing him down with every single breath.  She took a moment to rest in her bed, readying herself for the hardest work ahead.  Myself and the amazingly gentle midwives sat outside and watched the sun descend for the day, chatting about our gardens and goats.  
At dusk, there was a brisk walk around the block with strong contractions on every street.  Curious if Walter (at this time, his gender was still a surprise!) was perhaps positioned unfavorably, stair lunges followed by more side-lying rest were in order.  That did the trick, and in the full force of the moon, in the softest glow of a salt lamp, he was ready.  Mama worked so so hard, enjoying her rest in the warm waters of the tub.  And with a few short pushes, she brought him right to her chest.  Dad cradled Mama, Mama cradled her new baby, and they were in heaven.  This, is the most beautiful life gets. 
The sun started its welcome once again, and the big brothers were fetched from bed with their sleepy eyes bright with excitement.  They grabbed their waterproof cameras and ran to see their new baby, waiting to know if it was a Georgia, or a Walter.  The eldest, knowing full well what having a little brother was all about, was a bit down at the announcement, hoping they would name him Georgia anyhow.  But he was gently swayed by his tiny toes!
Watching this family bring their baby home, in the comfort of their home, was such a heart warming experience.  Watching this family birth comfortably, without worry or fear, supported so unconditionally by midwives is a birth experience everyone deserves (home or not!).  
I cannot wait to see this family in a few days to capture their new family again!  Narrowing down my favorites from this story to share was HARD!  But here are some; enjoy!

Andrea & Andrew: A Madison Wisconsin Wedding

Farm boy meets sweet city girl.  And the rest is history.  This is the beautiful wedding recap of Andrew & Andrea!  I got to travel outside of my Milwaukee bubble over to Madison for these lovebirds and it was such a lovely change!  The Pope Farm Conservatory in Madison was the most beautiful spot for bridal party portraits away from the hotel.  The rolling fields of budding sunflowers, wheat and greens made the most picturesque day! The Sheraton Hotel reception staff was seriously spectacular, but I'm still a little confused about the secret 8th floor...
One of my favorite moments of the day included Andrea's sister.  During her toast, she gave half of her speech in American Sign Language - a language nearly half of the reception was fluent in or reliant upon.  It was the most touching moment between the two and left so many of us a bit weepy!  I just loved working with this couple and wish so many blessings of happiness on this journey of married life!
 

Baby Easton: A Milwaukee Birth Story

This is the birth story of sweet little Easton.  Little one, your Mama is so very strong, and so very brave.  I love this story because it is unique, and special, and rich with emotion.  This amazing Mama fought so hard.  She checked into Labor & Delivery at 8 centimeters without batting an eyelash.  She breathed gentle breaths as each contraction rolled.  When the intensity picked up, she walked, and swayed on a birthing ball, waded in the warm water - anything to bring baby down.  But he had other plans.  

Sweet baby Easton was interested in meeting us all in another way.  After the storms rolled in, his Mama endured a full night of all the tricks and techniques to turn his little head around.  But come morning, it was time to meet him.  And so we did!  His first cry was such a beautiful moment for us all!  Welcome to the world sweet boy!

 

Welcome Yuva: A Milwaukee Home Newborn Session

There is something so heart warming about watching new parents care for their newborn.  The way they work together, explore this little person together, and even look at each other with complete confusion.  Each tiny detail is new.  Each day is filled with so many decisions that suddenly have the weight of a hundred lifetimes.  The amount of love in your hearts for your first baby just simply cannot be explained.  There is such beauty in this wilderness.  
Even more, I love watching these new parents develop in just a few short days & weeks.  I love returning to their homes and watching them hold their new baby with a confidence they didn't have not long ago.  Suddenly they understand the whimpers.  They've come to know contentment.  And they've come to appreciate those small, sweet snuggles.  There is a pride that wells up in my heart when I see parents navigating this amazing ride.  And watching the adoration they have for this tiny person that just turned life completely inside out in a way they could never have dreamed.  
This job is an incredible blessing, and I could not be more delighted to have the opportunity to navigate these seasons with you.  Welcome to the world sweet Yuva!  You are one seriously lucky little dude!

Thoughts: World Breastfeeding Week 2017

World Breastfeeding Week 2017

Happy World Breasfeeding Week 2017!  I wanted to write a little opinion piece of sorts to share some of my thoughts about this week in general.  First and foremost, my heart aches at the thought that some Mamas may feel put off or guilt ridden by the advocacy of this week.  That makes my heart so so heavy and I just want to lift up all the Mamas who may have had a more eventful and perhaps even unexpected route to feeding their babies.  This week however is to give a voice to a perfectly normal event that has put Mothers in corners, under blankets and in clouds of shame.  This is simply not fair.  There is truly nothing more spectacular than the miracle of life, and not only the creation of life, the birth of life, but the sustaining of life through the simplest act of breastfeeding. 

I  myself have nursed two babies now, both with unexpected challenges.  I experienced two different methods, confidence levels, trial and error.  I come to this place without judgement, because it is part of our unique story as Mothers!  I am here for ANY Mama who has questions regarding breastfeeding, because together we can lift each other up and help each other achieve what we want most:  happy, healthy and beautiful babies!

Why do I think breastfeeding is so amazing?  Well that could take a while.  But lets just start with a few neat facts.  Yes, I said neat.  First, breastmilk is perfectly tailored to your baby every.single.day.  Yes - daily!  The simple act of your baby sucking creates a supply perfect for their needs at that moment, and should baby need more in a few days, it happens, and when they need less, that happens too.  It is perfectly formulated to match the development of a baby's GI system, with easily broken down components and healthy fats that actually line a baby's GI tract to set them up for nutritional success later in life.  The simple act of a baby suckling allows the Mother's breast to intake any pathogens found in their baby's mouth, create an immune response and hand it right back in that very breastmilk.  Made to order immune function.  Brilliant!!  There are SO many more things that are amazing, but I'll spare you the novel and keep it at that for now. I do encourage you to keep reading breastmilk fun facts when you find them though, because they are crazy fascinating!  And its fun to hear of the amazing things our bodies can do!  

So why is breastfeeding so challenging??  I too was taken back by the challenges when I first latched my first born, thinking, wait a minute...this is supposed to be natural, right?  Then why do I have to work so hard at it??  But walking too is natural, but it does take a few tries, a few falls, to become proficient.  With the resurgence of breastfeeding, there are more and more helpful resources for Mamas that find themselves in the midst of a challenging moment.  Most hospitals have staff Lactation Consultants.  They even have call-in numbers, because leaving the house when you're newly post party is NOT always amazing.  There are free groups like Le Leche League, which is a group of other Mamas that just get together and chat about life, and encourage each other, and help provide resources too.  There are even lactation consultants that will visit your home if you have other children you don't wish to pile in the car to seek help for painful feeding.  SO many resources!  And I've used them all, so feel free to send me a note if you have any questions!  

In short, I want to encourage Mamas to believe in their bodies.  To be proud of their bodies, even if the road is most smooth or more eventful.  Take a moment to encourage another Mama in her journey whatever it looks like, and to put any preference or judgements aside, because we can all use a little more unwavering support, right?!  And lets just STOP putting Mamas under blankets, and in hot cars or bad bathroom stalls for the sake of feeding their baby.  Smile at each other, praise each other, and just LOVE each other, because we truly truly all desire the same thing.  Cheers!

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Baby S: A Milwaukee Home Maternity Session

There is so much to be said for a home.  Home is where your heart is, and I do believe that.  Unless you don't like your home, or your home is temporary or you're never there.  But in all other circumstances, which is most of the time, home is such a personal space and it can speak so much of who you are in these moments of your life.  Even if you're in transition, or you don't expect to be there long - it is still home.  And it is still an important space in this moment. 
I love photographing families in their homes.  There will be a day that we look back at these types of photographs and relive all the moments we had inside these very walls.  The first nursery.  The first baby we brought home.  The first steps.  The first injury.  That awful tile in the bathroom we had to fix.  That crazy cat that we had for a while that kept photobombing our maternity session :) All the things.  
This home maternity session in particular was so much fun.  Not only because of the photobombing kitty, but because these parents are makers.  And they come from makers.  Art forms that are slowly fading away.  All the pieces in this nursery, and in their home have a story.  Handmade or handpicked.  It is such a special space for them because it IS them.  Though Emma is on a bit of a break for baby, you should check out her amazing handmade items at Emma Karen Designs.  She is amazing, and super talented, and I'm hoping she can teach me a bit of her brilliance some day soon.  Definitely snag a spot in her weaving workshops if she holds one soon! Maybe I can continue to add more handmade things to my own walls too..

Oliver: A Milwaukee Cesarean Birth Story

I am crazy passionate about this birth story.  And I'm so very thankful for the amazing staff at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for allowing me to capture this story!  And for these sweet parents who allow me to use their personal story to be an encouragement to other families!

This story is important because there is this perception that cesarean birth is not "real" birth...whatever that even means.  Cesarean births are most certainly real birth, and anyone that has witnessed or experienced one, can attest to that.  One thing that makes me so passionate about photographing these moments is that they will always be unique.  There is no cookie cutter anything, especially with birth! 

Welcoming a baby into this world is brilliant.  Its magic, and its so crazy beautiful no matter how it happens.  There is anticipation, hard work, joyful emotion and intense gratitude all in a matter of minutes.  Its amazing, and I am so crazy grateful for any moment I get to spend with my families.  

So lets just stop.  Lets stop with the crazy talk.  Lets stop with the negativity, the pressure, the judgements.  Lets just stop and take a breath and realize that this life is beautiful because it is always so different.  Mamas and Papas meet their miracles every single day, in so many ways, and it is ALWAYS amazing.  Cesarean birth, water birth, natural birth, medicated birth, squatting birth, shower birth - they are all birth with a purpose, and they all bring miracles earth side.  

So here is the story of sweet Oliver and his amazing family.  Lets welcome him to the world, and praise his Mama for being strong, and amazing, and so beautiful.  

Jovie: An Eastside Milwaukee Welcome Baby Session

I'm going to share a bit of my heart with y'all for a moment.  I think its taken me a moment as a photographer to really find my groove with newborn sessions.  There is SO much to see in these moments, and SO much to be expected of these sessions.  These little ones grow crazy fast, and these moments are the most fleeting.  But the idea of lifestyle photography is settling into our community quite well.  This makes my heart sing, because I cannot find anything more beautiful than a family sitting in their own home, their own skin, their own mess even.  These are the days that we are honestly living.  This is the salt of life.  And I've been so desperate to capture it. 

Lauren answered the door stating "Thank God you didn't come right away at 9!" We had set up the session for a casual 9/930am and arriving to a semi-frantic, sleep deprived super Mama made my heart smile.  These are the days.  They are awful when we are in the trenches, but they are filled with the simplest of pleasures.  Sweet baby coos, first smiles, ugga muggas and chubby cheeks for days.  These days deserve honesty - the sweet with the salt, to bring out the flavor.

Lauren is a part of the amazing resource for Milwaukee area Mamas - The MKE Mom's Blog - and she is such a champion for all of us Mamas in the big city.  She embraced the honesty of our session, and just rolled with it.  We sat in their home and walked their city block.  And it was so lovely.  I hope more than anything that they see these images in a few years, and longer, and look back with a flood of memories because we chose to embrace the salt.  We didn't sweep it under the rug with fake smiles and figure flattering poses.  We didn't put sweet little Jovie K in a basket and hang her from a tree - but we let her spread out just the way she liked to, as if she was showing off how big and tall she was.  And when her big brother covered his eyes when he said "cheese" for the camera, we didn't get upset.  We laughed because thats what Daddy taught him, and because its funny.  And life is funny.  And salt is flavorful. 
I so desperately want families to see how special these days are.  I praise all of the families that I've worked with that have surrendered at least a little bit to the casual, honest process.  To just be for a moment and allow me to capture it.  Because I want you to remember you. Because life is either an adventure, or nothing..
 

                                             "Life is either a great adventure, or nothing..."

Baby Braatz: A Downtown Milwaukee Maternity Session - Lake Park

With these summer days finally giving us some delightful weather, we are taking FULL advantage getting outside for some beautiful sessions!  This is the maternity session of first time parents on Milwaukee's East Side neighborhood.  We braved the fresh Lake Michigan breeze and headed into Lake Park, one of the sweetest spots in the afternoon light.  With the flowers in full bloom, this maternity session was as pretty as could be!  This sweet baby boy will be here in just a few weeks and I cannot wait to see his sweet little cheeks!!  

Project 365: May Twenty Seventeen

I'll just cut to the chase - here is May! For those of you who haven't been following along, I've been participating in a daily photo challenge with the end goal of creating a family year book.  I cannot wait to assemble this beauty later on this year with some of my favorite moments from this year along with a little narrative for each.  I imagine my children paging thru this book later in life and remembering these days, hopefully with fondness; sentiments pouring out.  

August: A Milwaukee Mini Welcome Baby Session

Welcome to the world sweet boy!  I was so delighted when my friend Chelsea asked me to snap a few family photos of her with her sweetest, most snuggly little man!  She is the lady behind Chelsea Matson Photography  - an amazing wedding photographer here in Milwaukee and I've had the pleasure of working along side her for a few years now.  In fact, we were on our way to do a wedding together - wearing nearly identical outfits by total accident - and she burst out that she was expecting.  I about died!  I was so so excited, knowing how amazing motherhood would look on her.  And time flew by, and sweet August is here!  You are so dearly loved!  And thank you for pooping during our session.  It made for some pretty great laughs ;)