TALK TUESDAY: Our Pocket Maternity Shoott

A little side note about this post:  had to update it a bit from when I initially wrote it.  But my opinion stays the same.  Man, talk about catching up huh?

One of the things that I wanted to have is a maternity shoot.  My sisters had it when they first had their babies in the Philippines, so that was something I’ve always had an eye out for.  What I didn’t account for is the price difference between the Philippines and the US.  For one, at Php5,000 (US$95) I can already get a decent shoot in a studio for a good two hours with an in-house makeup artist.  Here, I would need a budget of at least US$500 for the artist’s fee, studio time and some digital copies with print releases.  I will have to do my own hair and makeup if I want to save up a bit.

That was a cost I wasn’t prepared for, but that photoshoot was something I had looked forward to since we found out we’re expecting.  I couldn’t just let go of the idea, as vain as it sounds.  My relief came when I found out about Shoott.

Shoott gives you access to experienced photographers in the Metro NYC area to shoot for 30 minutes free at a preset location.  You only pay for the photos you like, ranging from $15 a photo to a full gallery of 40+ photos at just $220.  They don’t just do maternity shoots; they also shoot families, children, and lifestyle.  You can also pick out the photos that you want for your curate feed and with a minimal fee, you can request for a bit more editing to your photos.

We scheduled our Shoott at Hamilton Park in Jersey City a week before our baby shower.  (For a list of other venues and locations, click here.)  I wanted to have the same outfit that we were going to wear to our shower and with fall right around the corner, reds and khakis were our go to.  Our photographer Kym met up with us at the gazebo and started to work right away.

The good thing about having Kym is that she’s shot so many times at Hamilton Park already.  She knows where to go, the pockets of that little oasis that would frame a good shot, so even if it was a pretty packed weekend, we were able to find those little sections of the park all to ourselves.  We even got to shoot on the street.

Definitely, 30 minutes just flew by.  Kym was very personable and warm; the Husband who’s naturally reserved came out of his shell.  I don’t really know how he does that!  He’s so reserved when I’m trying to take a selfie with him, but bring a professional photographer with you and his inner model comes out.  Hahaha.

Anyway, here’s a little snippet of that day.  We received the photos 3 days after shoot day, with a little editing here and there.  I would also like to give a quick shoutout to one of my favorite makeup YouTubers Robert Welsh (YouTube, Facebook).  His tips helped me get myself ready for this shoot.

I do wish I got the extra editing so that those back bulges would be far smoother, but hey, what kind of a pregnant woman would I be if it’s all smooth sailing?

Worried about COVID-19 exposure during your shoot?  Shoott has you covered.  They have the following policies in place:

    • They will only do outdoor shoots, where you can interact with family members you’ve already been quarantining with.
    • They will only send you healthy photographers, who have been following safer-at-home guidelines.
    • That 6 feet apart thing?  Hardcore implemented.
    • And they will mask up.  As will you of course.  Well, before and after the shoot.
    • If your locality changes laws that will make you cancel, they will waive all cancellation charges.

To learn more about their COVID-19 response, click here.

Oh, and if you use this link, you will get 10% off your entire purchase.  To be completely transparent, each completed session through this link gives me a little incentive (at no additional cost to you), but no pressure!  Just didn’t want to let you pass up an opportunity for a little savings.

So… am I looking forward to another Shoott?  Of course.  Hopefully, the weather becomes more bearable and we can take our Little One out.  It pains me that we can’t travel yet, but I could sure use some photos of him outdoors.

Have you tried Shoott?  How was your experience?  Let me know in the comments!

TALK TUESDAY: The sun and stars

One of the things that I regret is not blogging more often.  The year 2019 started rough for the Husband and I, that is without a doubt.  There has been a quiet struggle and frankly speaking, not having it publicized — even to closest friends and family — made the struggle somewhat small, even though the weight of it never diminished.

Let me start with this:  I have changed.  Before I married my husband, one of the things that I have made clear to him is the fact that I do not intend to be a mother.  My motivation is to live with my life partner, that is him and that is all.  I never imagined motherhood to be in my journey, until 2017.

One of our cousin’s brothers passed away suddenly.  He was 33.  We attended the wake, it was one of the loneliest images I have in my head.  His widow, sitting vigil by his coffin.  And she’s alone.  The only thing that went through my head was she’s alone…. and I remember what Derek Shepherd said.

At first, we just put a stop to birth control.  When we reached 8 months of kind-of trying, I went to see the doctor where he recommended a specialist.  Apparently, at my age, which I consider to be a young 31, if it takes more than 6 months to naturally conceive, I need to be looked at.  So I went and had myself looked at.  I had a couple of blood draws, Husband got tested for sperm count and motility, I had an HSG test.  AMH, FSH, pelvic exam here and there, smears, it took about two months of testing just to evaluate where we stand.

And nothing was wrong.  Everything is where it was.  The specialist had us redo everything again to verify, except the HSG, and still nothing was wrong.  That was the most frustrating part.  If only there was a reason why it was taking so long… and then we hit the one year mark.

I started to pee in cups for ovulation tests, BBTs, I did it for so long, I can’t even remember when I last peed normally.  And still nothing.  At this point, we were closing in to a year and a half.

Our specialist recommended that we take another three months to try conceiving naturally before we explore other options — hormone therapy, IUI, IVF.  He gave us a deadline:  if we haven’t conceived by end of February, we are to make another appointment with him, but this time with a financial planner, so we can properly explore financing options for our needs.  He says he wanted to catch the peak of my egg quality so that if needed, harvesting them won’t be as difficult.  And I am about to turn 33.

It was devastating to make that appointment, knowing nothing is wrong with our bodies.  For some reason, we just couldn’t get in sync.  It just wouldn’t click.  That part was the most difficult to accept.  If you look at our love story, there’s every reason to believe that Husband and I are meant to be.  Yet here we are.  The sun and the stars have been looked up to and we still didn’t mix the parts right.

So I made the call.  March 26, with our specialist and the financial planner.  I looked at our bank statements and other credit options, weighed it all and found out we can dish out a good amount, just in case the insurance doesn’t cover even half of it all.  We looked ready.  I think we are ready.

Then March 16 came.  It was a surge of relief and joy and pure elation.  We kept the news to ourselves as long as possible, but we knew we had to slowly tell everyone.  While we weren’t able to record everyone’s reaction, the ones we did made our announcement all the more memorable.

So we did.  In person, through Facebook and Facetime, all the way to the Philippines, Japan and our surrounding neighborhoods.  It definitely made for a moment to remember.

—-HEADPHONES WARNING:  Because we recorded their reactions in different channels, volume levels vary.  Note to self:  use one camera for all videos next time.  —-

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

TALK TUESDAY: Transitioning

My working days started not so long ago.  In fact, this week, I turn two months old in my company.  I am still trying to find my footing, but I have to say, I have been pretty blessed with a motivating boss and a welcoming team.  This job is a great introduction to the American working class.

I feel pretty blessed at this point.  Right this very moment, I am happy.  I am happy to go to work, and I am happy to come home.  I cannot recall having such a healthy balance in my life before.  Although my commuting pretty much ate up my time for working out in the early evening and my weight gain has become more palpable, I really cannot complain.  A lot of people mistake that disposition as optimism, especially my new work friends, but really it’s not.  I am just all too familiar what a stressful life is.

Here’s the thing though:  I have been missing out on wifely duties.  Maybe not even wifely, but chores to be more exact.  Now, I feel the tiredness of the commute, and have a fixed schedule to follow.  Chores are starting to build up as this new thing in my life occupies 40 hours of my week, plus 20 more to prepare and to commute home.  Seeing three weeks’ worth of laundry building up, I can’t help but feel guilty.

Laundry pile

No shame that all of my undergarments are shown in this photo lolol

I felt even worse over the weekend.  The Husband was taking a nap while I chose to fold laundry.  Ten minutes in, seeing that there was so much to do and pretty much getting overwhelmed, I banged the laundry basket, slammed the door, and pretty much kicked the bed frame to wake him up and say, “I COULD USE SOME HELP HERE, IF IT’S NOT TOO MUCH TROUBLE.”  What a bitch, right?  I bathed in my own bitterness, sulking as if it’s the Husband’s fault that the laundry got this bad.

But it’s not.  Life is just taking over, and as much as I want to be the best wife ever that makes and packs meals, does chores, and still look so f*cking glamorous, I’m not.  One way or another, a ball will drop, and it’s okay.  I should be okay with it because it’s not a ball I can’t just pick up.

After my brief rampage, he just started folding clothes with me.  I was quiet for about 20 minutes before I made my way over to his side of the bed and apologized.  I know I upset him, and I know I was being unfair.  After all, I was the one that insisted that he should nap and get some rest.  But he easily accepted my apologies and bathed me in kisses.  It was at that moment that I realized in order for balls to not keep falling on the floor, I should just be more honest and ask for help.

Wow.  Even when he’s napping, he’s truly proving to be the better half in this partnership.  Hahaha.  Oh well.  I can race him to be the better half tomorrow. <3

TALK TUESDAY: Juliana Louise

One of the things that I have to be most thankful for is the speed technology has evolved in the last decade.  If it weren’t for tablets and the Internet, the husband and I would have had such a struggle maintaining our relationship pre-marriage.  If it weren’t for those nifty gadgets, I would not have had the chance to get to know my nieces and nephews abroad.

Juliana Louise

Waiting for the doctor :)

Juliana is one of my nieces, and I think she’s the first that has grown accustomed to seeing my face on a tablet.  I don’t know how to properly describe it, but it looked to be that it was so normal for her to just see me through her iPad.

She’s visited us in the tropics before but I think the most memorable one was in 2013.  We had just buried Tatay mere weeks then.  I remember that out of body feeling, that everything wasn’t real yet.  But they were coming home.  That, for sure, I was happy about.  I remember asking my boss if I can take half of the day off, since their flight comes in at noon.  My brother Ted already skipped the day to pick them up, and our youngest brother Daniel was right on time to swing by my office.

Juliana Louise 1

Mornings with her, circa 2014

I was a bit nervous coming home; I didn’t know how she’d react upon seeing me.  Even now that I am an adult, I fear rejection so much, especially when it comes from kids.  Something about being disliked by children makes you feel extra crappy than being disliked by adults.  It’s like their senses tell them they cannot trust you.  I was just so nervous.

That anxiety, combined with my grief desperately (but well) hidden, made that day too emotion-ridden.  But you can’t pause days.

It was a hot day, and my mother has laid out a feast of shrimp, beef broth, barbecued pork belly and fresh mangoes for our balikbayans.  Daniel honked the horn as we approached our house, so I knew she’d be aware that someone was coming.  Half sweaty, half sticky, I walked into our house and saw Juliana, then 3 years old, with a huge grin on her face.

“You’re not in an iPad anymore,” she exclaimed.  I walked up to her and she didn’t even hesitate throwing her arms around me.  I swooped her up in my arms and said, “Hi.”

I don’t know about you, but that to me is a perfect meet-cute.

Juliana

Juliana at school, end of 1st Grade. They grow up fast.

Dear Binatoy

Today is your birthday!

Thank you for taking over when Tatay passed away.  (It’s still hard to accept that you had to take over, but eh, that’s life.  What can we do but take it right?)

Thank you for always going to the market for our meals.

Thank you for always picking me up (also Bunso) even though you really hate that I always have to be picked up at the most inconvenient time in the most inconvenient places.

You’re a husband now, but in my head, you’re still that kid that waited for me by the emergency room and asked me, “Ate, what do we do?” You were 26 then, but I could have sworn you looked 8.

Brother 3

I will always be your Ate.  No matter how many times life forces us to speed by, makes us mature sooner than later, older with every grain of sand that hits our faces.

(I say this because Daniel doesn’t seem to age, so this doesn’t apply to him.)

A lot of people have come up to me and expressed their admiration for you when you took on the role of being the head of a family.  Each time they say that though, I get confused.  It’s not like you looked at the love of your life and saw her and her beautiful daughter as an option.  They were clearly the only choice, and that, my brother, so far, has been the best choice you’ve made in your life.

I knew it then, and all the more, now.

What makes you a man

You were raised by a man who has never shied away from responsibility and obligation.  So people should not be surprised by how you came to be.

But then again, they didn’t know Sir Boy.

So yeah.  Keep making choices as good as the last one.

Happy birthday.