The Mommy Interviews with Nancy Ray
When I was pregnant in 2013 there were very few resources for photographers who were expecting. I did much of my learning through first hand experiences. Thankfully I had a very healthy pregnancy but I still longed for a support system of people who understood what I was going through, women who understood what it was like to balance a pregnancy and business. During this time I felt a pull on my heart to share my experiences in hopes that it could encourage and equip others. It was during my pregnancy that The Art of Balance series was born.
I have noticed that in just two short years the resources and support available for women (in particular, expectant business owners) has only increased, a welcome change and a helpful tool for those who are pregnant. There is a much more open dialogue and exchange and I’m excited to see other women sharing their experiences and helping to encourage and empower others.
One of these women is the talented Nancy Ray, a wedding photographer based in North Carolina. She just recently announced the upcoming arrival of her first baby and I was over the moon excited for her and her husband! She has shared openly on her blog about the struggles and excitement surrounding her pregnancy and I have found it to be so insightful and encouraging! I couldn’t think of anymore more perfect to interview for the Mommy Interviews and was delighted when she agreed to share more of her heart here!
Welcome Nancy, I’m so happy to have you here on the DZP blog! Before we get started, can you share when you are due?! So exciting!
Thank you, Deb! I’m due on May 27th.
As a self admitted Type A personality, can you describe the feelings and emotions you experienced when you found out you were pregnant?
To be honest, it was so hard for me to believe that I was actually pregnant. Was there really a human growing inside of me? Are our lives really about to change forever? It was quite surreal! It came as a surprise, and while we were certainly talking about starting a family sometime in 2015/2016, we didn't expect for it to happen when it did. Will and I would both describe the first 2 weeks of this pregnancy in one word: disbelief. We just couldn't believe it! We had to laugh a lot, because we specifically said that we would try to avoid having a baby during high wedding season: May, June, September, or October. Yep, we nailed it.
I’ve admired how you’ve shared your pregnancy journey on your blog and how openly you have written about your fears and excitement of becoming a Mom. I think many women have had similar experiences. Would you share a little bit of your heart here?
What is so sweet about this journey for us, and for me in particular, is that God has been incredibly gracious and gentle with me. Thankfully, the Lord has taken my hand and has led me every step of the way. For me, this journey has not been typical or easy.
Here is how I've felt our entire marriage up to this point: I love my life with Will, and I know having a baby will change what we have. I love my sleep. A lot. I don't like baby toys or clutter. I've always loved the idea of having a family, and I see us going on camping trips and having adventures together. I've always loved working with adults or older kids / teenagers - I've never been one to volunteer in the nursery at church. Those teenage years excite me (I know I'm weird, but I've led a youth group for 5 years so to me, it's not intimidating!) The baby years? The toddler years? Yikes. I like a clean and organized home. I don't like crumbs or messes or drool. (Says the owner of Winston, I know. Ironic.) When Instagram feeds get taken over by babies, it slightly annoys me. (I'm pretty sure I'll kick myself for that one later, because I see this as inevitable.) Getting used to a growing belly and changing body is an act of surrender for me. Childbirth? Scary stuff.
All in all, I’ve never been baby-crazy. I adore my nieces and nephews, but I’ve never had a strong desire to have one of my own. However, I kept coming back to this one truth : at the end of my life, I want kids and grandkids in that picture. I want a full home - not full of stuff or memories only, full of people I love. And that all starts with family! So it was a full step of surrender for me to put away the birth control and allow that to happen.
What do you think has been the biggest change in your heart since learning about your pregnancy? How has your pregnancy changed you?
I cannot believe I’m going to say this : I love being pregnant! It’s amazing - the thing that I feared and dreaded for such a long time has turned into such a sweet journey for me. I didn’t love it until I started to feel the baby move. As soon as that happened, my focused shift from me being pregnant to the life of the tiny person inside of me. My heart has been changed because I am falling in love with someone I don’t even know.
As you’ve photographed and run your business throughout your pregnancy, has there been someone or something that has helped you manage your many responsibilities and maintain a sense of balance?
Two people : Will and Callie. My husband Will is my biggest supporter, my best friend, and the co-owner of my photography business. He helps me prioritize things that matter in my work and my personal life. He works with me part time (he also owns his own financial coaching business), and he encourages me to exercise and get adequate sleep. I love him to pieces. Callie works with me in the studio, and she keeps things running! She handles culling, editing, submissions, print orders, album designs, errands, etc. She truly keeps me sane - I do not know what I’d do without her!
Having carried my first child through wedding season I came to discover there were lots of things to think about such as morning sickness, aches and pains, debilitating fatigue, growing belly etc. How did you keep your focus as a photographer while experiencing these physical changes? Any advice that you would give to someone who is shooting while pregnant?
I am incredibly grateful that I have been feeling so amazing. I always feared "morning sickness," but I am so thankful that I haven't been sick at all! I get really tired at 9:30pm, but I feel great and energetic during the day. My 2 biggest pieces of advice? (and the reasons I believe I’ve felt so good) :
Eat healthy and stay active!
I've kept up my running, which has helped a lot! Since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve completed a sprint Triathlon (6 weeks), a 10K (19 weeks) and a 15K (25 weeks). We also did several mountainous hikes on our babymoon to California, some totaling up to 8 or 9 miles. I also set goals for myself and complete sugar fasts for 2 weeks at a time, which has been really helpful to stay away from the sweets. I don’t use the “eating for two” or pregnancy cravings as an excuse, but I do enjoy this season and enjoy desserts - I just try to limit it to once or twice a week. I believe pregnancy is a season of preparation: body, soul, and spirit. Giving birth is an endurance event, and I want to be ready for it.
As you near your due date, how have you been preparing for life after baby? Are you planning to take a maternity leave? Are there systems you have put into place to help make the transition more smooth for you and your husband?
When my photography-mama friends started to tell me that I should take 4 months of maternity leave after I have my baby, I thought, "yeah right!" I simply couldn't imagine taking off 1/3 of my year from work that I absolutely love. And yet, the phrase I keep hearing is: Everything changes once you have a baby. I know this to be true, but having never walked through it myself, I've decided to rely on the wisdom of those business-owner-mamas who have already gone before me. So yes - I've decided to take a 4 month maternity leave.
5 Ways to Plan for Maternity Leave
1. Decide your timeline
Defining the time you begin and end your maternity leave is very important. We decided on 4 months : May 10th through September 30th. The month of September is my "re-entry month," and knowing that I have October 1st to look forward to will be helpful for me to mentally and emotionally prepare for the fall wedding season.
2. Give Grace (to yourself)
There is one wedding in June and one in July that I had already booked, and I decided to keep them! This doesn't ruin my maternity leave, but I am planning in advance to make them as easy as possible. Also, I plan to blog (because I like to!) and pop into NRP team meetings (because I love them!), and that is OK!
3. Delete all emails
I listened to this podcast on How to Take a Sabbatical by Michael Hyatt, and it changed my entire perspective on my maternity leave. The best piece of advice I received from his podcast? His email auto response that he setup to say "Every email will be deleted as soon as it arrives in my inbox. Please email me when I return! If you have an emergency, please email __ or __ . " WOW. After much thought, I'm implementing this strategy!
4. Prepare and Delegate
Prepare first. I continue to add to a giant list of everything that only I do on a daily basis. Then, I delegate! Once I have prepared my list of everything that only I do, I designate them to Callie, to Will, and to our new intern.
With my Team: We are having monthly meetings to plan and prepare for maternity leave. Each month, I delegate a new area of my business for someone to prepare to take over!
With my Clients: 2 months prior to maternity leave: I'll have an email signature clearly explaining when my maternity leave will take place.
1 month prior to maternity leave: I will send out an email specific to all of my couples, explaining the best times to reach me before and after maternity leave, and how to reach my team while I am away.
While I am on maternity leave: I will have my auto-response on, explaining that all emails will be deleted and that I am on my maternity leave until September 30, and that they can contact Callie or Will in my place. Communication is key!
At first, I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of taking so much time off. Now, I'm motivated and excited to know I will be able to focus my time 100% on this new little life. Yes, life will change, but that doesn't mean that my business has to suffer! With a lot preparation, planning, and communication, I know my business will keep on running without me!
What has been some of the best advice you have received in your pregnancy?
Make a “baby bucket list.”
Eat when you’re hungry.
Keep up your running.
Take a babymoon.
Don’t register for tons of baby stuff - keep it simple!
Take a birthing class.
Read, read, read.
What are you looking forward to most in this new season of life for your family?
Learning how to be a Mom and Dad team. I’m looking forward to experiencing this with Will, even in all the sleepless nights and difficulties, I cannot wait to see him become a Dad. I think we’ll be a pretty great team together.
Do you think being a Mum will change your perspective as a photographer? Do you think your business philosophy will change or mature as you and your husband grow your family together?
Absolutely! I know I’ll treasure family photos more, and the heartbeat of my business will continue to be refined. At Nancy Ray Photography, we believe in capturing beautiful legacies and heirlooms. I can only imagine how that will be enhanced and deepened as I am embarking on leaving my own legacy in the life of my son or daughter.
What would be one thing that you could encourage new Mums or Mums to be about this stage of life?
Choose to enjoy this season, no matter where you find yourself. Being a part of the miracle of life is no small thing. Enjoy the changes in your life as you prepare, enjoy the changes in your body, enjoy time with your husband, enjoy feeling those kicks inside your belly, enjoy your work, enjoy registering, enjoy it all. In the beginning, I was so surprised that I didn’t know whether to be excited or scared or happy or angry. When a dear friend of mine told me that she robbed herself of her first pregnancy because it wasn’t in her plans at the time, she encouraged me to not do the same thing. She said, “You are only pregnant for the first time once in your life. Choose to enjoy it!” So that’s my biggest encouragement to new moms : choose to enjoy it. It’s okay if you’re not baby crazy! It will look different for you, because you’re you, and that is OK. But it’s always your choice to choose joy!
Nancy, what a breath of fresh air your honest words have been. Thank you so much for sharing your journey here with us today! I cannot wait to see how you continue to grow through this adventure of parenthood! Make sure to leave Nancy some lovin' in the comments below! If you have any questions about what it looks like to be a pregnant photographer or the logistics of taking a maternity leave as a small business owner, share them below too! Happy Wednesday everyone!
(Images courtesy of Nancy Ray Photography)