Maternity Session

Kira's Milk Bath Maternity Session | Charlotte Maternity Photographer

This gorgeous mama right here has become a great friend and peer since I moved down to Charlotte eighteen months ago. So I was honored when she asked me to capture her pregnancy with a beautiful milk bath session. I’ve done one milk bath session before, but it was with my girls and involved Froot Loops, so I was excited when Kira brought her vision to me. As luck would have it, our visions meshed perfectly—I loved the classic look she was going for and she was excited when I suggested we also spice things up a bit! Kira has since given birth to a beautiful little girl named Adelaide. I can’t wait to get her in a milk bath with her mama next! Congratulations Kira!!

What is a Doula Anyways?

Hiring a doula may be one of the most beneficial and important decisions that you can make during your pregnancy (aside from hiring a birth photographer that is)! I know that when I look back at my own pregnancies and births, it would have been nice to have some extra support. For example, I would have loved to have an impartial, informed person educate me on my options when I was getting differing opinions from different doctors in the same practice about whether or not I needed to have a c-section. Or a trusted postpartum coach to give me a pep talk and tips to get me through when I found myself crying in my kitchen while holding my crying days-old baby because, “I thought I’d be better at this!”

But I didn’t have a doula because I didn’t know what one was or what they did. Not until becoming a birth photographer and seeing them in action did it become clear to me just how invaluable they are! Then I met with Andrea Gerdes, a local Charlotte doula, for a coffee date and we really hit off. I love Andrea’s energy — she’s sweet, calming, and knowledgeable about her craft. We decided to partner up so that we could give our respective clients the best of both worlds — the support and encouragement you deserve during labor and birth, and the gorgeous images to look back on and remember forever. Click here to learn more about our Doula/Birth Photographer package!

And without further ado, let’s meet Andrea!

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Andrea Gerdes of    Complete Joy Birth Services

1) I’M SO EXCITED TO INTERVIEW YOU! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
My name is Andrea Gerdes and I am a birth and postpartum doula and an infant sleep consultant. I have been married to my husband for 17 years and we have three amazing kids that I homeschool. My husband and I are both Virginia natives but we have been in Charlotte for over 4 years now.

2) WHY DID YOU BECOME A DOULA?
When I was preparing to give birth to my own children, I did a lot of research and put a lot of thought into how I wanted my births to go. Though I was a aware of doulas at the time, I never had one with any of my own births. After I was done having children, I had a lot of information I had gathered and a passion for the process of birth. When I learned more about the role of the doula, ! fell in love with supporting mothers through the journey of birth and postpartum. Doula work has been such a perfect fit for me and the dream job I could never have imagined when I was younger.

3) FOR THOSE OF MY READERS WHO AREN’T AWARE…CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT A DOULA DOES? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DOULA AND A MIDWIFE?
A doula is a non-medical support person for people who are going through the major life transition of becoming parents. The main types of doulas are birth doulas and postpartum doulas. Birth doulas educate and support expecting families throughout pregnancy and attend births. Our role is to support the birthing person and any other people present emotionally and physically. Some examples would be to suggest position changes, rub the laboring mother’s feet, grab the new dad a cup of coffee, and facilitate conversations with nurses, doctors, and midwives. Midwives are actual medical care providers who deliver babies both in and out of hospitals. Though they can provide non-medical support as well, their primary focus is on the health and well-being of mom and baby. Postpartum doulas support the family after the birth of their baby by seeing to the needs of the new mother and supporting her as she learns her own ways of mothering.

4) HOW DOES SOMEONE BECOMES A DOULA? WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING & CERTIFICATIONS ARE NEEDED?
These are no legal standards for the term “doula” so technically anyone can call herself a doula, whether she has been trained or not. Most doulas will go through a certification process that includes training (either in-person or online) and other requirements for being certified such as attending a certain number of births and reading books about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

5) HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DOULA 'STYLE'?
I have a lot of knowledge about all things birth so I tend to provide my clients with a lot of information so they can make the best decisions for themselves about their care. At births, I tend to be “behind the scenes” a bit, in that I am always there and offering encouragement but I let the laboring person take the center stage. If a mother is coping well with her labor, then I let her do her thing and simply hold the space. If she is struggling or needs suggestions, I am there to offer more hands-on support options.  

6) WHAT IS THE ONE ITEM YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT AT YOUR BIRTHS?
Snacks. While this is for me and not for the laboring moms, it is so important. Once I arrive at a birth it can be a very long time before I am able to leave and get food so I come prepared with lots of snacks to keep me going!

7) WHAT’S THE CRAZIEST THING YOU’VE HAD HAPPEN AS A DOULA?
This is such a crazy job. From late night phone calls, sometimes being gone for days, to walking in 30 seconds after the baby is born (some babies come super fast!). I don’t want to get too specific because I like to protect my clients’ privacy, but being a doula means things are never dull!

8) WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A DOULA?
Bringing a new baby into the world is such a huge transition for families. I love being a part of that transition and knowing if I can make it just a little less stressful for them then I am giving them something very valuable. My clients teach me so much as well and I am always in awe of of women and how they give birth with so much strength and courage.

9) WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO ALL PREGNANT MAMAS?
You are the expert on your body and your baby and you have everything within you to make the right choices for yourself and your little one.

10) WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DOULA'ING?
I’m usually doing my “other job” which is homeschooling my three children. Being a doula and a homeschooling mom definitely keeps me busy! I also love to read, drink coffee, and spend time in nature.

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Oktavec Maternity & Graduation Sessions | Charlotte Photographer

I met Jessica and Erica when I was 6 years old. My dad was in the Coast Guard, and we had just moved from FL to VA. We moved to a neighborhood of townhouses and they lived next to some mutual friends. Jessica and I were close in age (we share the same birthday and are exactly a year apart), and Erica was close in age to my two younger sisters. We were all close for the 3 years we were in VA, but then we had to move again (such is life for a military family!). Oddly enough, my youngest sister--who was probably 5 when we left--and Erica remained the closest over the years. And their closeness allowed the rest of us to remain close as well. What I love about our friendship is that we're all just there for each other, especially for the big life events. We can go months without talking, but when something important comes up, we're there. We're family.

I was over-the-moon excited when Jessica told me she was pregnant. There is no one more deserving and I know that she will be an amazing mother. I wanted to make sure that she had pictures to remember this special time, so I scheduled a maternity session while I was in town to attend her baby shower. We went to Mason Neck park, which is a beautiful park right along the shores of the Potomac river. It was the perfect location with beautiful sunset!

Around that same time, I learned that Erica was graduating from college -- another big life event! Her mom asked if I'd take some pictures of Erica in her cap and gown, but I wanted to do something special. Because Erica is special! And I knew that the only way to capture Erica's fun and colorful spirit was to find an equally fun and colorful backdrop. So I did some research and found these amazing wall murals in Crystal City. I knew I had made the right decision when Erica showed me the dress she had in mind. Gorgeous!

2018 Peach Blossom Sessions | Charlotte, NC Maternity Photographer

I picked the perfect location for my first sessions since moving to NC -- Springs Farm in Fort Mill, SC. I learned early on that peach blossoms were a big to-do down here and Springs Farm has beautiful orchards right next to an equally beautiful place called Anne Springs Close Greenway. The trees usually bloom in early spring, so the timing was perfect...as were my beautiful first NC clients!

LeBlanc Family Belly & Baby Session | Charlotte, NC Baby Photographer

I waited a long time for these little munchkins to arrive! First, they are my sweet little nephews and made me a proud Auntie x 2! Secondly, I've been excited to show potential clients what a Belly & Baby bundle would look like. I took maternity pictures of my gorgeous sister and her equally beautiful wife at 31 weeks, just a couple of days before Christmas. Who looks that good when they're carrying twins?? I was bigger than that carrying only one...just sayin'. 

About a week after B & G were born I did a combo stylized/lifestyle photoshoot. It's best to shoot newborns within their first 14 days when they spend most of their time sleeping and are their most pliable. My sister-in-law had bought these cute owl hats before the twins were born, so of course I had put the owls in their nest for a few shots. Then I got a bunch of lifestyle shots, which I love to do in black and white to add a bit of nostalgia. I hope they'll look back on these special snuggles and intimate moments when they are sleep deprived, covered in poo and wondering what they've gotten themselves into. 

Congratulations Michelle & Jen! 

xoxoxo