The Newborn Pictures I Wish I Had

2011, I became a mother. Kendall was born.

She was a petite, little thing and I knew nothing about photography back then. And this is a story about the newborn pictures I wish I had.
I recently found myself trying to remember our life with Kendall as a baby. I looked back at my early 365 project photos (yikes!) and was shocked at how much was fuzzy or forgotten until I saw the photos. I have photos from the day she gave me her first smile and belly laughs. I have photos of visits we made to places, family, and friends. I am thankful for these photos, as they do feed my memory. Even though I snapped these photos, very few are of my own true perspective and thoughts. My finger was on the shutter, but my brain was trying to photograph what was happening without my influence (or of the amateur set-up shots I once attempted). My heart was missing from my images.
newborn pictures
One of the bold, photoless memories in my mind is of Kendall, as a newborn. She fought her sleep like no other. We’d put her to bed awake and she’d angrily, tearfully scream. We’d let her fall asleep in our arms, transfer her to her bed, and she’d immediately wake. How she knew we were putting her down when she was asleep, I’ll never know, but she knew. And let me tell you, she screamed loud! Very loud.
We were living in a one bedroom, garage apartment. At the time, I didn’t work. I had to do my best as a mother to keep her quiet at night when Dave was asleep. I’ll never forget those nights sipping warm, vanilla rooibos tea + honey as I nursed her. I often had CMT’s music videos playing quietly on tv. The only light came from the tv glow and single light above the stove. I’ll never forget walking from the living room area to the kitchen to watch oven clock. Slowly back and forth, over and over. It felt like an eternity on those nights when she’d take 90+ minutes to fall asleep in my arms. I’ll never forget her big, beautiful eyes observing everything, taking in all that we passed as I paced the apartment wishing for sleep. I spent many middle of the night feedings browsing Pinterest and reading photography tutorials as I nursed her to help keep me awake. You see, there are all of these details of how we passed the time and what that looked like, all left in history with no photos.
I’ll never forget how frightened about life I felt when that sweet girl would scream for snuggles during the day and not let me accomplish a single task. Was it always going to be this way? Those dirty dishes and I had staring contests. My life was about snuggling, nursing, pumping, repeat. Maybe eat a little somewhere in there and, if I were lucky, have dinner ready for Dave. Many afternoons, after feeling accomplished seeing the stack of frozen, pumped milk in the freezer, I’d text him and say, ‘Naple’s – large round, mushroom, pineapple, ham, and a bottle of Pepsi please and thank you.’
These memories, the way it really was back then for me, I have no photos of. All moms have these memories and if they are lucky can recognize their growth in them. As parents, we deserve our own kind of newborn pictures – if for no other reason than, when we give birth, it’s like we become a newborn ourselves. It is an epic time in our lives. We move forward with a new life in our hands – where this little person becomes your world. This new life is considered before making any decisions – even the small ones like picking a “good time” to run to the store or if it’s a good idea to turn on the vacuum now or should you wait? You willingly, selflessly give into their needs before your own and it is a heavy learning curve. This progression never ends and is rarely celebrated. I would cherish photos to remind myself of how far I have come in my new life as a mom and also to share with my children as they become parents and walk the same learning curve.
The early days were rough. They were sleepless. They were, “OMG I am a horrible mother, because I fell asleep on the couch with her (again), because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open,” kind of days. Terrified days, sure I was going to mess this up. Yet, now that Kendall is well into 3 years old, I would step back in time to relive those days in a heartbeat.
Today, her face is growing longer and losing its baby-ness. We have full conversations. We’ve grown into friends. We play games. I know how she will most likely react to different situations. I know when to expect an argument about getting out of the tub or how she cannot have fruit snacks, because she didn’t eat her fruits and veggies at lunch. She knows how to push my buttons and melt my heart all within minutes. We’ve grown into a state of truly knowing each other deeper than ever. I’m also a mom to Levi. I have more realistic photos during his newborn phase, but they still revolve around him and his milestones. My own thoughts are missing from the images. (More to come on Levi’s newborn phase in a future blog post)
Comment below – tell me about your newborn memories. The real side. The things you wish you could go back to. The challenges you overcame and conquered with the fierce love that only a parent knows. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
children's documentary photography child portrait documentary detail photography family storytelling photography
I miss the simple, one-on-one time with her that I believe I took for granted. I lived those days looking towards the future.
How to Preserve Your Family Stories and Memories in Photographs | Documentary Family Photography
Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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  • Oh man I agree! My oldest also born in 2011 and his two younger siblings really don’t love sleep. My now I should be used to it. I wish I had pictures to show that because we live an hour from a grocery store and everyone hates their car seats my husband will get groceries and I will stay home never leaving our ranch for at least a month. Until I can’t handle that my husband brings home 3 apples and 15 tomatoes each week. Haha. I make a lot of soups.

    I love your work! Thanks you for sharing

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! My wife and I just started our business, and we have 12 children plus 3 grandchildren. One of the things we shared in our About Us link to our readers is that surprisingly we don’t have enough pictures of the things we love. Your story rings so true for us. We don’t have enough pictures of our children when they were newborn, and boy, it’s hard. So we take a ton of pics now, of everyday life, because we realize now how important it is to remember through portraits.

    We would like to link to this post in our blog (

    Your work is a treasure!

    • Thanks, Gary! I’ve been photographing so much and still feel like all the love & stories I do have aren’t enough – there’s so much and it goes by so quickly, doesn’t it? Thanks for linking to the post! If you’re in our (Facebook group), I just posted a photo of a 5 that I’ve filled with photos I’ve been taking of our daughter over the past 5 years. It’s pretty cool to see a glimpse into her life story and it was a lot of fun for me to go back through all the photos to pull out my favorites 🙂

  • Similar memories here! I often think how I wish someone else was there capturing some of the most intimate quiet moments, the ones that really make me a mother. But then again, they usually happen in a very very very dark room, trying to put her back to sleep. I wrote an article on my blog about newborn chaos and how I wish I hired a documentary photographer to document this special time in our lives. However, it was a time where I didn’t even know such type of photography existed!

  • I love everything about this– and I can relate 100%, especially now as I’m so far removed from those newborn years (even though I can still remember the way they smelled and how intoxicating it was when they fell asleep on my chest in a milk induced coma). I know we all say it goes by so fast, but when you’re in the thick of it, your days can feel stagnant– sometimes even like they’re moving backwards, or sideways really. I guess it’s good that we remember and feel remorse- maybe it will teach us to pause and be more present so we can truly appreciate and savor the moments that are happening right now. And of course take some pictures just in case 🙂 xo