Very first photos of Anya Joy, and what they mean to me, Carrollton TX

December 6, 2020

oh anya..mommy loves you so

Anya Joy Papciak Taken on 9/15/2020 at exactly two weeks old

I’m going through all the photos I took this year. It’s not a ton because I spent almost the entire year either being pregnant (and nauseous, exhausted, and hospitalized for hypertension) or having a brand new baby (in and out of NICU). Two days after Anya came home from the hospital, I attempted newborn photos, which I’d always planned to do myself. Of course I hadn’t planned for her to be in NICU almost two weeks. I was wildly disappointed with the results I got. It was already going to be hard enough as I am NOT a newborn photographer. But what I managed left me deeply, deeply depressed.

But last night while preparing photos to accompany blog posts for my website I found this photo. I previously had started editing and then abandoned it. My expensive lighting setup wouldn’t fire properly and the photo was way too dark (turned out to be the SIMPLEST solution – we simply needed a new battery *facepalm*). Posing newborns attractively is HARD. I couldn’t get that stupid beautiful headband I’d overspent for on Etsy to be on her head right. (Because I’m a BOYMOM and I’d never messed with headbands or tiebacks before). I couldn’t get an angle where I wasn’t shooting right up her nose. Aside from all of that, I was suffering NICU ptsd, “failing” at breastfeeding, and managing the adjustment of going from two kids to three in a pandemic. It was too much.
(This is the point in the story I hired a real, legit newborn photographer, by the way. Her name is Courtney and I worship her. She produced beautiful, incredible, sleepy baby newborn photos of my girl at FIVE WEEKS OLD – this is ancient in newborn weeks. She’s a miracle worker, go see her if you’re expecting.)
But last night I took the single, solitary best photo I managed to get and did my best to salvage it. And I’m happy with the results. When I started at photography I made a mistake I think many photographers make – I valued QUANTITY over QUALITY. Now that I have learned that lesson many times over the years as a photographer, I am so pleased with this one single photo. It’s exactly what I wanted it to be, and Anya will never be this tiny again.

Ryan, Grayson, and Anya Papciak taken 9/19/2020 two days before her due date

Ryan and Grayson helped me out with the accompanying group shot I took weeks later. Another almost disaster. The day I took the above photo, the group shot ended up irreparable underexposed. I imagined a photo that would go above our mantel of all three children. The results I achieved were not mantel worthy. So what did I do? Well at first I definitely cried about it. I feel OK about this – women spend a lot of time postpartum crying about much less. I felt uncharacteristically moody and nothing could be done about it. So what did I do next? I REATTEMPTED. I waited a week, dressed my saints of sons in their match J Crew shirts, and fixed my light by replacing the damn battery.

This photo resulted. Also not perfect, but an immortalization of the first time my boys held their baby sister for a professional photo. I immediately printed it to canvas and hung it above our mantel. Truthfully I spent months imagining it, and maybe I shouldn’t have. I think as moms we are so hard on ourselves. A lot of us try to be such overachievers and perfectionists when it comes to our kids. (I practically melt down every time I attempt a birthday cake. Ironically, this year is the first I have ever felt I achieved something super amazing. Grayson wanted a zombie unicorn came and I freaking nailed it.)

I must remind myself almost constantly that perfection is not the goal. I can’t be, because you will end up disappointed a lot of the time. These photographs exist, and that is what matters. I will still love them years from now when these babies are way too big. I’m grateful for them. (The photos and the babies!)

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