This Wonderful Life, Captured.

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I took many a Saturday morning bus ride from the Yorkshire village I lived in to the nearest town back in the 80's. It was usually a trip to meet school friends to buy a new record from Woolworths, have a look round the shops, and then share an ice-cream float in Coffee and Cream. Occasionally there was the added excitement of popping in to SupaSnaps, its bright hoarding a beacon on the corner of two main roads. I'd take out the folded collection slip from my purse and hand it over eagerly to the person behind the counter. A moment later, a yellow photo wallet would be placed in my outstretched hands. I was always too excited to wait to look at them so used to fold back the cover to the wallet and hurriedly flick through the photos in the shop, the smell of developing fluid still clinging to each image. I can still feel that excitement to this day.

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Can you remember the photos with the advisory stickers placed in the corners, with an almost 'must try harder' tone to them? And the quickly taken photos at the beginning and end of the film? For me, they were usually of our cat Jaspa, or the Smash Hits posters on my wall. But this was part of the process wasn't it?

As you may have noticed, we've had a rebrand (thanks to Chris Sands, he's amazing). It felt the right time to do it as we felt our work had changed direction and our style definitely had more of a nostalgic feel. With this came a thought about what we offer as a tangible product after a family shoot, and both me and Suzi looked back to how we used to receive our photos. We wanted to recapture that special feeling, and the feeling of having an actual ‘thing’ to take home. It turns out, a lot of you miss that stuff too.

The fine art prints and the wallet we present them in are that ‘thing’. Importantly for us, the wallet itself was designed and made by people we know right here in Hebden Bridge, our Yorkshire hometown. Chris designed it after we'd looked at a selection of photo wallets. He'd picked up this amazing Kodak one on a trip to Australia, and that became our inspiration.

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We loved the attention to detail, the notes inside and the stitching. Suzi found a stack more on-line, and we spent many an evening pouring over them.

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We loved some of the tag lines the wallets had.

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And the box at the back to put in the date of the shoot and location, it becomes part of the story. After the design, we took it to the fab folk at The Egg Factory here in Hebden Bridge. Every wallet is hand screen printed by Amy, and then stitched with bright yellow thread, we really wanted to keep this detail.

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Inside the wallet, there's a pocket for 24 photos, we wanted to keep this number as a nod to a roll of film.

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These are printed on beautiful matte photo paper, the colour is so deep and rich. You've got to feel them, they're so tactile!

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And then there's a pocket for the contact sheets to show you all the photos we took on your shoot. We wanted them to look a little like the negatives you get in a wallet.

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There's a small pocket below that holds 2 cards, a gift to you and a referral card for a friend.

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We wanted you to enjoy having something to hand, something to pass around, and even smell the ink if that’s what moves you most!

To celebrate the launch of our 'This Wonderful Life' package, we have released an introductory offer to the first 10 people who book a shoot, to take place before 30th November 2018. We are offering a discount on the package price of £425 (instead of the usual £475). This is for a 2 hour shoot on location and you then receive one of our new photo wallets with 24 beautiful fine art prints from your shoot. To see more about our portrait shoots, here's a link to our portrait page.

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What will you do with your prints after the shoot, put them in an album? Frame a selection for the wall? Or maybe keep them in an old biscuit tin like Suzi’s parents? There’s something so comforting about the ceremony of cracking the lid after a Sunday roast when we’re visiting, and having a right good reminisce at the old family photos it holds inside. Whatever you decide to do with your photos, we know you’ll enjoy them for years to come.

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There’s a little bit more about our photo wallets in our launch film below.

 

Our Birth Story

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

It's 7.30pm on Monday night. The theatre lights are like spots on Suzi as she lies next to me on the hospital bed. I'm sitting on a small plastic chair wearing blue scrubs and we both have oversized hairnets on. We're holding hands. Duffy's on the radio and I have a fleeting thought of 'what happened to her?'. This scene is so far removed from the visualisations we have had about this moment. But as we hold hands, all we feel is an overwhelming excitement to meet our little Olive.

We wanted to share our story, to talk about how we'd seen the birth and what actually happened, and that even though there was more medical intervention than we'd envisaged, we still held onto elements of control. We didn't know a year ago that the first birth story we'd capture would be our own! We took time to think about whether we wanted to do it, but we really wanted this massive chapter in our lives to be documented in photos and in film (more of that soon!).

Suzi wrote a birth plan quite early on. We initially toyed with the idea of a home birth. Our comforts around us, toast and tea on tap, music, soft lighting. But then we worried a little about our cat Delboy getting too close to the birthing pool with his sharp claws. I know this anxiety was probably just telling us we weren't 100% comfortable with doing this at home. So after we'd looked around the Birthing Centre (adjoined to the hospital), this really felt like the perfect option. We now had a place to visualise when we thought about the birth. The midwife that showed us around was lovely and she told us about little things, like photographs, that we could bring from home, and it made us feel much more comfortable.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

As the weeks passed, we clung onto that thought. Our consultant advised that we should be thinking about induction, but as Suzi had had a healthy pregnancy, we wanted to wait longer. We reached our estimated due date of 31st July. We were both on tenterhooks waiting for any signs that Olive might want to make an appearance. We tried to keep active and get out for short walks. Days and nights passed. It was a strange feeling, between two worlds.

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During the nights, any movement from Suzi would spring me bolt upright in bed, but there was no sign. Suzi and baby were being monitored every couple of days. The friendly faces of the midwives welcomed us once again at the maternity assessment centre. They were so reassuring, but these trips were taking their toll. We know that Olive was just taking her time, but every day past the due date went by so slowly. So, over the weekend, Suzi made the decision to be induced. Our bags had been packed weeks before and were already in the boot of the car. We grabbed a bag full of snacks, and just as we were doing a check of the kitchen and topping up the cat's food, we noticed the fairy lights in a clump on top of the stereo. We remembered the midwife in the birthing centre saying we could make our room look cosy and homely, so in the bag they went. We had a last check around the house and both felt so excited about the next time we'd be here.

After the first part of the induction process, we settled into our room on the ward. I'd set up the fairy lights at the end of Suzi's bed. At this point, we want to talk about hypnobirthing, and how it became an integral part of both Suzi's and my journey in the run up to birth. In the months leading up to this moment, we had had training with Divine Hypnobirthing in Hebden Bridge. We can't recommend Sophia highly enough. It helped us so much to give us the space both physically and mentally to remain relaxed, calm and in control. We both put what we had learnt into practice over the coming hours. 

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

At 3pm in the afternoon, Suzi's waters broke. It wasn't quite as dramatic as I had in my head, but I remember this intense excitement we had that we were one step closer to meeting our Olive.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

And then a couple of hours after this, Suzi's contractions started.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

They intensified quite quickly. Olive's heart rate was a little faster than it had been, so we were taken down to the labour ward to be monitored. I set up the fairly lights in the corner of the room and dabbed a few drops of clary sage on a tissue.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

The midwives through the night commented on the relaxed atmosphere in our room. Suzi asked if the birthing pool was free. I think we both probably knew that Olive wouldn't be born here, as we still had a way to go, but just seeing Suzi in the water, and knowing that this was a big part of her birth plan, it filled my heart. I brought in our blue tooth speaker. Stevie Wonder and Sufjan Stevens drifted into the dimly lit room.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

After about an hour, the midwives recommended the next stage of the induction process, and Suze was hooked up to a drip which delivered syntocinon. This made the contractions much stronger.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

Inside, the sounds consisted of beeps and heartbeats, and trollies being wheeled in the corridor. Outside, I noticed night was slowly giving into day, the blue dawn light was creeping through a gap in the curtains.

Toast and tea came, and our midwives changed shift. The next few hours seemed to pass in a haze. Texts to and from anxious parents, cups of Costa tea, gas and air, back rubs, brow mops, hand holding and repeat.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

At 3pm, 24 hours after Suzi's waters had broken, the doctor came to check on progress. There hadn't been much change and it was the first time that a Caesarian section was mentioned. For the next 4 hours, Suzi remained calm and focussed, but her energy was really being zapped.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

7pm came, and after more checks, Suzi agreed that a C-section was the best option at this time. And we really hold onto this feeling that it was the best for both Suzi and Olive.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

So here we were, Suzi lying calmly next to me and me sat on my blue plastic chair at 7.30pm with my scrubs on. Everyone in theatre had their place and role, I think I counted 12 people. They were all entering their names into the hat before we told them that she was going to be called Olive! The screen went up, Duffy was warbling on the radio and then suddenly one of the midwives said, 'Oh, I can see some hair!' A beat later, at 7.56pm, this beautiful scrunchy eyed, wrinkled little wonder was lifted into the light. Our first glance at our gorgeous Olive.

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They quickly wrapped her in towels and helped her with her first couple of breaths, then we heard some snuffles, and a cry echoed around the room.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

One of the midwives brought this little towelled bundle over to me whilst the doctors were stitching Suzi. I just held our little miracle in my hands and a tear dropped from my cheek onto hers. Her eyes were still so scrunched up under those big spotlights. During the pregnancy, there was one song we sang to baby bean bump throughout. I started to sing the first line of it, and Olive opened her eyes wide open and looked straight into mine. After our hug, Olive was placed next to Suzi and they just looked deep into each others eyes. Blimey, there were a few tears right then.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

Suzi and Olive were wheeled into the recovery room. I took my scrubs off and went to join them. The midwife had put a little woollen hat on Olive's head and she lay next to Suzi breastfeeding. Those little content sounds from under that little stripy hat led to yet more happy tears. Me and Suzi held hands in that brightly lit recovery room and we felt how perfect that moment was.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

Sometimes, there do seem to be some judgements and pressures around pregnancy, birth and feeding. We know in our hearts that we made the right decision for us at that time, felt fully in control of the situation and our choices, and we let go of any of those visualisations we had had previously. Thank you to our wonderful NHS for looking after us so very well, they really were incredible.

The last thing that came out of the case when we arrived home were those fairly lights. They really were a calming cosy source for us over those hours in labour, and for the subsequent week spent in hospital. We know they're just a string of twinkly lights, but just having them there in the room with us was really significant. We're going to hang them in Olive's room, so when she moves in there in a few months, she'll have them to make her feel cosy and comforted too.

 Photo by the lovely   Angela Fenwick Photography

Photo by the lovely Angela Fenwick Photography

Nesting

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Baby's room is all ready, but this week has been all about clearing out drawers, making jam, and taking piles of stuff up into the loft.

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We've been feathering the nest quite a bit over the last few weeks, but we hit it head on last Saturday.

As soon as I woke up, I had a compulsion to get onto my knees and into the cupboard under the sink. This space seems to represent the pinnacle of the activity we know as the 'big clean'. The space that calls to us 'go on if you dare!' That dark cavern where cleaning products grow like stalagmites and only see the light of day when we reach in for a pan scrub and hurriedly close the door behind us!

Next came an ironing spree, Suzi washed all of baby's clothes, bibs and muslins, and I fixed the hinges inside a squeaky cupboard. The next battle has not been resolved, but I feel another energy surge coming on. I'm going to tackle the Tupperware. Don't get me started on the missing lids, they're lying on a beach somewhere with all our 'lost' socks.

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We've given in to the nesting instinct and  enjoying this time we're having together over the last couple of weeks. Of course little one is not going to notice all these changes we've been making, but it's important for us to get as much done as possible. I just think the kitchen extension will have to wait a little while!

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