I never took professional maternity photos during my first pregnancy. My mom snapped a picture of me on Mother’s Day, a week before my daughter was born. It’s clear by my face that I was over being pregnant. I smiled, because I’m Southern and when your mama tells you to smile pretty for a picture, you oblige.
My gigantic, stretched stomach just looked painful. Even so, I stuck the snapshot in my daughter’s baby book to document her time in my uterus, and, hopefully, to inspire safe sex in her teenage years. Win, win.
Like any new mom, I took hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of my first born. I captured everything from her first foods to first steps with my cell phone and digital camera. What I lacked in skills, I tried to make up for in sheer volume.
A few weeks prior to the birth of my second daughter, I panicked. The last professional family photograph we had as a family of three was when my oldest was 6 weeks old. It only exists because my mother-in-law had asked us to get our picture taken for the church directory. Since I’m the resident photographer of my household, I realized that if I wanted any pictures with my first born and my husband at a distance beyond the length of my arms, I needed to schedule a family photo session.
To make up for lost time, I hired a gifted photographer, Heather Pszwaro, to come to the house and capture my then 3-year-old in the backyard. I felt huge and awkward, standing by our blooming azaleas, yet I smiled for the camera anyway.
It was about a month before my due date, and, if possible, I looked even more painfully pregnant—in the exact same maternity dress as before—than I did in the days prior to my first delivery. (Thanks, stretched-out abdominal muscles).
Despite my huge bump, the results were fantastic. I was hooked. Each year after, we’ve scheduled a family session with Pszwaro. So, naturally, when I started blogging, I interviewed her for a piece called “Getting the Most from Your Family’s Photo Session.”
She had just taken a mutual friend’s glamour maternity photos, and as we scrolled through the stunning images on her phone, I felt overwhelmed with regret for the picture I hadn’t taken.
By not embracing my pregnant body, I missed the opportunity to capture the beauty of pregnancy for my daughters.
Glamour maternity photos differ from standard maternity sessions in a few ways:
1. The clothing is more runway than Target Maternity.
Dresses are often made of flowing fabrics with sheer or bare sections to highlight the bump.
2. The mom-to-be looks very polished with professional hair and makeup.
3. Step aside dads: Typically, only the mom-to-be is photographed
My body may never return to its exact pre-baby proportions, but it will also never look the same as it did when I was pregnant. I had missed the opportunity to celebrate those curves.
But for those of you looking to “rock your bump,” Pszwaro offers the following tips:
1. Schedule your session when you are between 30 and 36 weeks along.
Everyone’s body is different, but this stretch of pregnancy tends to be the best for photographs. Any earlier and your bump may not be prominent. Any later, and you may start retaining water in preparation for the birth (No amount of professional concealer could have eradicated the bloat at the end of my second pregnancy).
“If you can see the outline of a foot when the baby kicks, you’re ready,” Pszwaro said.
2. Trust your photographer to pose you.
Even at my typical size, I tend to feel awkward taking pictures. During my last session with Pszwaro, I did as I was told, putting my hands on my hips in a totally unnatural (for me, at least) stance. I may have felt weird doing it, but the pictures turned out great. Just remember, the photographer sees what the camera will capture, so it’s best to leave it to the pro. This is especially true when taking maternity photos (glamour or otherwise). You may know your best angle and other tricks to look amazing most of the time, but maternity photographers know the best way to accentuate your bump.
3. Own It.
It’s not vanity. It’s a celebration of a very unique time for your body and your journey as a mother. Though pregnancy can feel endless, it’s not. And while you might not feel beautiful, you are exquisite.
By not embracing my pregnant body, I missed the opportunity to capture the beauty of pregnancy for my daughters. Yes, my bump pictures are an excellent scare tactic, but perhaps they shouldn’t be.
As someone who supports body positivity and sex positive education, I wish now that I had celebrated my pregnant body more. Even with all the water retention and stretched skin, it has never worked so hard or been more amazing.
Photographs by Heather Pszwaro