In Vietnamese culture, a newborn baby’s one-month birthday is a big celebration called Ngày Đầy Tháng, which translates to “day of the full month” or a day of celebrating the baby’s 30-day birthday.
Vietnamese families like to wait 30 days to ensure the baby is healthy before introducing it to family and friends. Avoiding seeing lots of people or handing baby around to lots people when they’re still too young ensures baby doesn’t get sick while their immune system is still so weak.
This harkens back to the olden days when things were more dangerous and modern medicine wasn’t really a thing, when babies may not have made it past their first 30 days of life, so when they did, it was a big cause for celebration.
Technically during this 30-day period, the mom should also be resting at home too, and the Đầy Tháng is sort of like mom’s re-entry back into society after having given birth. Another childbirth custom is that the mom doesn’t shower in those first 30 days, because there was the belief that the water and cold could bring illness.
With the birth of Benjimin, our Miracle Baby, we participated in the Ngày Đầy Tháng celebration (big family party with traditional ceremonial food), but I didn’t stay in the house or avoid showering for the full 30 days (lol we definitely pick and choose a bit for the aspects of traditions to incorporate into our lives as I think many modern Vietnamese people nowadays).
If this is the first time you’re reading about our infertility journey, I recommend you start at this 2018 blog post! You can find all my infertility-related blog posts here or browse my Infertility Instagram Story Highlights here, my IVF Abroad Instagram Story Highlights, and my blog post: After trying for nearly a decade—we got pregnant! Naturally. Somehow.
So we wanted to commemorate not only Ben’s special Ngày Đầy Tháng with professional photos, but we had also been wanting to capture every day images of life with our newborn.
The photographer we thought would be great for something like that is someone I had featured in my email newsletter awhile back: Edmonton-based Paula Gerein, who specializes in what’s called ‘documentary family photography.’ Paula invites you to “consider (her) a visiting relative or friend hanging out with her camera.” You’re meant to forget she’s there as you go about your day, or doing whatever activity. It’s like a very special candid, kind of photojournalism style, but focused on families.
Here’s how Paula describes traditional family shoots versus her documentary family style:
Traditional family photography often involves meeting your photographer when the environmental surroundings are beautiful (ie: evening and fall colours), and when your family has spiffed up to smile for the camera. Perhaps you are aiming for one photograph to hang on your wall or for your Christmas card.
Documentary family photography doesn’t follow “rules” and can be done at any time of the day, with any family and friends you want, for any way you want to spend your day. You get pictures that make you feel feelings. Family life is messy and goofy, infuriating and tear-jerking, fascinating and passionate – your family photographs can be that way too. Photos from a documentary family session will create a story, your story.
Note: the beautiful one-month birthday photos featured in this blog post were gifted to us by Paula Gerein Photography—an amazing photographer who specializes in ‘documentary family photography’ based in Edmonton, Alberta.
For our three-hour documentary family photography session, we split the first half of the session so Paula had time to capture just us with Benjimin (and our furbabies) in our ‘natural’ setting / sort of ‘calm’ before the party storm.
For the second half of the session, Paula captured Benjimin’s Ngày Đầy Tháng, where both sides of our family came to celebrate the occasion.
We came to this split session arrangement after an email and virtual consult. I appreciated Paula wanting to meet and chat through process and what to expect before the actual photo session.
What I loved about the first part of the documentary family photography is something Paula addresses in her FAQ, where sometimes clients / potential clients think they might be “too boring” for this type of shoot. I felt that way at first as well. “Like, it’s not that interesting seeing us sitting around, cooing at our baby, right?” This is Paula’s response:
“Let me tell you something important: Your family photos are for you, your relatives, your future generations, and for the purpose of remembering your life together. Whether you have toddlers bouncing off the walls, teens hovering over screens, or it’s just you and your partner – those people are yours and you are theirs. There is no manual or checklist for what makes an interesting life, and you all deserve to exist in photographs together doing only what you like to do. Just leave the rest up to me; let me show you how much beauty I see hiding in your mundane.”
We were delighted with these photos. The everyday moments she captured are just so special.
Here’s a few of our favourites from just spending time with our family at home:
Note: the beautiful one-month birthday photos featured in this blog post were gifted to us by Paula Gerein Photography—an amazing photographer who specializes in ‘documentary family photography’ based in Edmonton, Alberta. You can get 10% off a session if you mention LINDORK.
Even the ‘event’ photography part of our session still had a different feeling than your typical event photos. Again, that sort of candid style sort of photojournalism style made for a special batch of photos for a special occasion.
Here’s a few of our favourites, and a bit more traditional details about the Ngày Đầy Tháng:
The traditional Vietnamese gown (Áo dài) and hat we got for Benjimin was just a touch too big (it will fit better for his one year birthday) but we had to put it on him for some photos!
During a Ngày Đầy Tháng, we burn incense and pray to what’s called 12 Bà mụ, 12 deities / “fairies” (Goddesses) who are meant to give the baby different traits and skills like helping the baby learn how to roll, speak, laugh, etc.
During a Ngày Đầy Tháng, traditional food served includes:
- Whole Chicken (the whole chicken is meant to symbolize the best food you could offer)
- Sweet, sticky Rice (Xôi gấc)
- Dessert Che “đậu trắng” (white bean, apparently it’s a different bean if you have a girl)
I truly love the candid captures as part of Paula’s Documentary Family Photography sessions! She got some great moments on camera when it was just us before the party began and she got some really interesting moments when our families arrived and were just doing their respective thing too. I love the mid-laughter, mid-sip, mid-picture taking, mid-eating shots captured.
Paula’s documentary family sessions can be at home or anywhere—a favourite hangout, on a hike, a random Saturday or a restaurant. She’s also inclusive—so if there are special needs or requirements, things she can do to make your shoot more. comfortable, she’ll do that too.
You get a beautiful digital gallery with your photos, options for prints, and she makes a slideshow you can share with your family too.
Thanks so much to Paula for gifting us these special photos with our Miracle Baby.
If you’d like to get 10% off a documentary family photography session with Paula, just mention LINDORK when you inquire.
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