15 Minute Family Beach Photo Session

One of my focuses for the year is to embrace my role as our Family Storyteller. I have informally occupied this role for a while now, but making it my official title (given to me by myself!) reminds me of the importance and value this job holds.

One of the ways I love telling the story of our family is through photos. It’s something Woody and I have valued spending time and money on since we were engaged. We’ve done big shoots, small shoots, planned-out shoots, and spur-the-moment shoots. We’ve worked with photographers we’ve hired and photographers who are friends (let’s be real, they all end up being our friends!). No matter how we’ve done it, I’m always glad we did.

Despite what you might think (and what I often think), you don’t have to plan perfectly to get photos you love.

Today I’m sharing one of my favorite family shoots we’ve had. It happened this summer at the beach. We were there with two other couples, including one of my best friends, Rachel, who is a very talented photographer. Obviously already being with a photographer was super helpful, but even so, all the rest came together with little to no planning. So, hire yourself a photographer and don’t overthink the rest!

We decided that day we’d all do photos. I didn’t know what we’d all wear until that day, and I did my own hair and makeup (as I usually do any time we get photos taken). Fox was 18 months old, cute as can be, but not 100% cooperative. I was 30 weeks pregnant with Mae and easily winded walking in the sand. We didn’t plan poses, pin inspiration, or find the perfect location. We simply got cleaned up, walked down to the beach access closest to our rental house, and spent 15 minutes laughing with our toes in the sand.

But what a precious story these photos tell. They remind us of the changing season as we were preparing to add another little life to our crew. They celebrate chubby baby legs, summer heat, and sun-kissed skin. They tell our story as young parents, a couple in love, and Fox’s first beach vacation. This little moment in time is one worth preserving. And I know I’m biased, but the result is pretty near perfect to me.

Woodcock Beach-0001.jpg
He did  not  want to let go of my hand…

He did not want to let go of my hand…

…as you can see.

…as you can see.

Photos by Rachel Coffey Photography

How do you preserve your family’s story? What matters most to you? Do you have any favorite photo shoot experiences? I’d love to hear!

Dear Momma,

I recently saw a pregnant Momma ask on Instagram for advice as she becomes a first-time Mom, and as I went to write her a response, I realized I had a lot on my heart to share. I’ve been thinking about the transition of welcoming a new baby myself as we’re about to have our second little one, and in the midst of that I’ve felt an almost gravitational pull toward new Mommas. It’s not because I think I’m an expert or have some magic secret to share, but it’s because my heart is so tender toward this season of a woman’s life. I want to give the Moms I see a hug, invite them to take a deep breath, look them in the eye, tell them what an incredible job they’re doing, and encourage them to let go of all the pressure they’re putting on themselves.

maternity photos_mattye woodcock

I expect that much of this comes from the fact that it’s what I needed more than I ever realized in my first months of motherhood. I’ve learned so much since Fox was born, and I can only imagine all there is yet to learn.

Let me paint a little picture of myself for some context.

I’m a creative, an idealist, and a hopeful romantic. I love when this all comes together for dreaming big dreams, making things special, and loving people well. I don’t love it when this all comes together in the form of unrealistic expectations, pressure to be perfect, and focus on things that aren’t what matter most.

As you might imagine, with these qualities, approaching the birth of my first child I was really feeling the pressure (from myself) to live up to this grand life experience. I felt like I needed to know all the things, do all the things, and prepare all the things so I could be the perfect Mom for my perfect baby.

Perhaps this true story paints the picture even a little more clearly: on February 1, 2017, when I was most definitely in labor, but in total denial (my due date was February 21), I sat with two of my closest friends (who were far more aware of how close I was to giving birth than I was), and I just kept saying “but I haven’t finished reading BabyWise!”

Like. that. matters. Lord, help me.

Half of you may be thinking, “oh friend, that’s not healthy,” while the other half may be thinking, “yes! I get you—this is me!”

maternity photos_mattye woodcock

In my attempt to control everything to be “just so” I came undone. This is why my heart is so tender, and part of why I’ve felt such a conviction to speak life and truth to other women in this season.

After feeling all of this for months, reading that gal’s Instagram post finally pushed me over the edge to sit down and type out what is on my heart to say to you (to us), sweet Mommas.

maternity photos_mattye woodcock

Dear Momma,

Take a deep breath.
It’s true, you’re not in control,
But someone is—remember God’s got this.
He goes before you, and He has created you to do this.

He chose you to be this baby’s Momma.
This baby.
This baby whom He loves more than you ever could (which will seem incomprehensible most of the time), and He has entrusted His little loved one to you, for a purpose.
You will doubt that at times, but it won’t make it any less true.

The world is full of information, directions, and formulas.
Don’t let all the rules and opinions rob you of enjoying your child and of being the Momma you’re called to be.
Your heart can tell you how to calm their cry better than any book.
Your prayers can be tailored to them better than any sleep schedule.
And you will be loving them longer than any parenting method’s popularity lasts.

You’re learning to be a parent just as they are learning to be a baby.
You won’t do it perfectly, and that’s part of the beauty.
Loving and learning require great doses of grace,
And great doses of grace are good for us.

You’re a good Momma.
You are.
Allow yourself heaps of grace, extra long snuggles, and tears when they come.
Cherish the moments for they only last a season.
The changing seasons aren’t something to fear; they’re something to embrace.
The growing, changing, and loving becomes more rewarding with time.

Sit back and receive the gift of your little one.
Take another deep breath.
You’ve got this because God’s got you.
I’m cheering you on, Momma.

Photos by Mary Margaret Smith Photography

We're having a baby!

Children are a gift from the Lord -Psalm 127:3

We're so excited to be adding another little Woodcock to our crew this October! Some of my friends laugh that I was basically ready to have another baby the moment Fox came out of the womb. While I wasn't actually ready, the desire for another baby was already planted in my heart. And in his 16 months, there have been days I've looked at Fox and said aloud, "you make me want to have a million babies!"

Baby W announcement

I'm not one of those women who has felt her entire life that she was put on this earth solely to be a mother, yet I have always imagined and dreamed of children. Woody and I weren't in a rush to have babies when we got married. Although we were somewhat "older,", me in my late twenties and him in his early thirties, we figured the days of having kids super young had already passed so we might as well enjoy our first few years of marriage before adding little ones.

This ended up being a great path for us, and we're so thankful for the 4+ years we had growing just the two of us. And now that we're in baby mode, I have the attitude of embracing it fully and keeping those babies coming! 

Baby W 2 announcement
Baby W 2 announcement

The Road to Baby Two

We talked regularly about taking steps toward Baby two once Fox turned one. Of course we would have to see how we felt once we reached that point, but that was where we both felt comfortable. 

His birthday is in February, but come November, I was starting to feel antsy to be pregnant again. I tried to be patient, feeling as though Fox's first birthday was really the right plan. I not only felt it was "our plan," but it's what I had a peace about from God up to that point as well. In a sense, I didn't feel fully "released" to take steps towards getting pregnant yet, I just wanted it. 

Then, in January something surprising happened. When my body let me know I was not pregnant that month, I felt disappointed. Knowing we hadn't really been "trying" I was surprised to feel this way. I prayed about it trying to be honest with God about my feelings. Even though I was disappointed, deep down, I didn't feel like the timing was right. And, there was a sense of knowing God had the right child at the right time for our family. God often speaks to me through giving me a peace in my spirit, and as I prayed, I felt in my heart Him give me a peace of "Fox's first birthday." This confirmed for me what I had been sensing all along, that we could pursue another baby when Fox turned one.

What is so beautiful about this story (and I'll share it without TMI--afterall, we all know how babies get here!), is that over the next several weeks I would not only learn that I was pregnant, but that our baby was likely conceived on Fox's first birthday. 

I know, that might've still been TMI, but it's an important part of the story!

When I realized this, I sat in awe. God had told me "Fox's first birthday," and in my human understanding, I took that as when we could start "trying," when in fact He was telling me when our baby would be conceived. This brought so much peace to my heart. After a very hard year in my faith walking through postpartum depression and anxiety, experiences like this with God mean even more to me than before. 

Baby W 2 announcement
Baby W 2 announcement
Baby W 2 announcement

Rarely does a day go by that I don't think about how precious the gift of life is. I love being pregnant because I feel so close to creation, and more importantly to the Creator. Pregnancy also keeps me very aware of how BIG God is, how beautiful His design for life is, and how little control I have.

There are so many different paths and stories of motherhood, and I often feel conflicted trying to make sense of it all as I pray for my own babies, believe with friends for babies, and mourn when things don't go the way we all wanted. This makes it hard for me to talk about pregnancy and babies without acknowledging that we all have our own stories, and that there is space here for every story.

 If it comes to your mind, we welcome your prayers for our baby girl to be healthy and strong. I pray often that she would be whole, complete, lacking nothing, and we welcome anyone to join us in that prayer. 

If you're pregnant or at any point in your journey of motherhood (a journey that begins long before having a child in your arms) I'd be happy to pray for you, too. Just leave a comment or send me a message. 

Thanks for sharing in this exciting announcement with us, friends.

All photos by Rachel Coffey (love her!)