When I was pregnant with my fourth and last baby, the idea of never being pregnant again was nothing short of exhilarating. But the thought of never having another tiny baby suffocated my heart, like a panic attack on my happiness. And somewhere in between the puking, migraines, Pubic Symphesis Disorder, and chronic yeast infections, I felt a nostalgic ache for the strangely beautiful process of bringing a little human into the world. I wanted to grasp onto that very last time- the happiness in the hardness and the sadness of letting go.
I had never had maternity photos taken in any of my pregnancies. An iPhone photo here and there, and a snap or two during family photos with the kids, but I mostly avoided those too. I was too busy, or too big, or too uncomfortable, or too insecure or too full of excuses. But the idea of my last baby that I wasn’t quite ready for, made me push through the “too’s” and the “buts” and the “I don’t know’s”. Watching my body change like the tide had led me to a reluctant acceptance. And in that process of acceptance, I recognized that when I looked back on photos, time had brushed away the self-criticism and self-hatred that held me back from stepping boldly in front of a camera, and left me an appreciation for what was real and imperfect. For the feelings that remain in the ruins when time blurs the details of the past. A gratitude for this messy life.
This last time, I wanted maternity photos. And not just a photo of me with a large, protruding belly draped in the tent-like fabric that we somehow call maternity apparel. No, I wanted real, gritty full-belly maternity photos. That left no imagination as to what my pregnant body looked like. Photos of acceptance. I did not exactly feel comfortable with the idea, but that did not stop me from wanting them.
Until, I told someone close to me about my idea.
And they said, “Why would you want to do that?”
All of my acceptance shattered. All the voices in my head started laughing. I felt hurt, and defeated, and small.
Now, looking back, I realize that what I regret is not what someone else said to me. It was the moment after. When I jumped into the rabbit-hole of self-doubt faster than the white rabbit on his way to Wonderland. But there was no wonderland at the bottom, just disappointment in myself, and regret.
That simple questioning undid me.
I never scheduled maternity photos.
That was over two years ago now, and I’m grappling with my own regrets. Regrets about photos, but also regrets of living in a way that let others push me to let go of my own dreams and desires and plans. Letting others dictate who I am. For letting myself become driftwood in the tide, instead of living myself. But each day that I take steps to live for me, I feel my regrets fade a little, and appreciation is moving back into my healing identity.
I feel so incredibly sad whenever a pregnant mama feels badly about her body, or doesn’t want to take photos, or “feels like a whale”, because I know those feelings. I don’t want to feel that way about myself, and I don’t want others to feel that way either. (Although waddling when you walk does not help with animal analogies.) I tell clients often, “What is the worst that can happen? You hate the photos and you leave them sitting on your hard drive for years and no one has to see them.” Because I know that one day, most people will want those photos that they aren’t taking because of how they feel right now. Feelings change. We change. Life changes. Us.
My regrets have pushed me to ask questions. How can I work as a photographer to empower women to feel comfortable enough to capture the realness in their bodies and lives? How can I both empathize with and encourage women to embrace where they are, and know that it’s enough, and that it’s worth capturing?
And out of those questions came my idea to change my entire maternity photography experience. And I feel so excited to be offering a totally different creative process- one that I hope will take all of the dread out of maternity photos. Something so relaxed and fun that you would never doubt wanting to do it! Maternity photos are no longer an obligatory, awkward, optional chore- it’s a night to yourself to relax and be pampered with a local make-up artist at a luxery hotel downtown. And together we will be real. We will love and be, ourselves. And we will make art.
Pregnant and want more details? Thinking about getting pregnant and want more details? Email me!