Four year old me only wanted two things in life: to be able to take my Barney shirt with me to Heaven and to be a mom.
I ask moms like you day after day to trust me with your most intimate moments; to allow me to step into a space when you're at your best and, sometimes, your worst and to trust that beauty will come from your vulnerability. I believe that this vulnerability has the power to heal and that there are some things we need to be more bold in sharing so others can heal too.
So, now, it's my turn to share some of my most intimate moments with you, my client family. I've been reflecting a lot on the reason birth photography means so much to me. Why did I choose this particular niche? What makes it so powerful to me that I want it to be my focus?
These low-quality photos you're looking at bring back high-quality memories. I believe it's important to exist in photographs, even if they are polaroids or really orange JCPenney photos, so I'm sharing these with you as a way to tell my own story.
Four year old me only wanted two things in life: to be able to take my Barney shirt with me to Heaven and to be a mom. I do not remember a singular job or career I longed for as a child. While my classmates were making plans to visit the moon or fight fires, I dreamed of having my own family and taking my babies with me everywhere.
I was in my last semester of college, interning at a local elementary school, when I had the first surgery. Severe stomach pain and nausea had sent me to the emergency room, and a CT scan revealed that I had an ovarian cyst that was 21 centimeters in diameter. This cyst, that was roughly the size of a volleyball, required emergency surgery to prevent it from rupturing. After a four week recovery, I had missed graduation and would have to wait until the following semester to walk and receive my degree in Early Childhood Education.
Because of the type of cyst it was, I was told it was likely to reoccur and I would need frequent ultrasounds to ensure the same thing didn't happen to my other ovary. So, over the next two years, I visited the oncologist for ultrasounds and had another surgery to remove a growing cyst. During this time, I sought a fertility specialist so I could try to freeze my eggs, in hopes that I'd one day be able to use them to have children. The specialist wanted to do blood work to determine if my body was even capable of producing viable eggs.
One day, while I was alone in my first grade classroom, I opened the email that brought an end to my dreams of being a mom through traditional methods. My body was doing the exact opposite of what it was designed to do and I was informed that surgery was imminent in order to avoid cancer. I was 25, unmarried, and devastated. I remember telling my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) that although this was the story God had written for me, it did not have to be HIS story; that he had the option of walking away. Obviously none of it scared him away, because here we are 5 years later! The numerous ways that Ty has held space for me in the last 5 years as we've both processed infertility, has made all of the difference. He has seen me at my worst (it got REAL, real fast) and continues to choose me day after day. He is a constant shoulder for me and someone that I cannot imagine doing life without.
When I first got my diagnosis of infertility, I could hardly stand to see expectant moms and little babies. It was so painful for me to watch other people have what I so desperately wanted. I avoided baby showers, turned down invitations to visit newborns, and spent several months grieving my loss. Through counseling and a lot of tears shed on the bathroom floor, I learned how to be okay with my story.
When we met our daughter, I fell hard for her. She was the tiniest, sweetest baby I'd ever seen in my life and I knew I'd never be the same. She has rocked our world in the best ways and taught us so much. She was one when I photographed my first birth. I had been in a couple of groups where birth photos were shared and they drew me in and compelled me to create my own art and tell the stories of women who were doing miraculous things; and their babies who were changing lives. I called a friend and asked her to pray with me on the way to my first birth because I was nervous about how it would affect me. I didn't know what it would be like to be in that space as someone who has faced infertility. I wanted to be able to simply see the joy and the beauty of birth and not worry about the personal aspects of what I'd dealt with.
Not surprisingly, after witnessing new life come into the world, I was hooked. It's hard to explain what I felt but it was almost healing for me to be in that space with a sweet mama who had experienced a loss of her own and was now meeting her child. As I have sat with clients and heard their stories, I've been amazed at how God has used my own loss to connect me with women who are just like me; women who want so desperately to be called, "Mom" but who have experienced miscarriages or even stillbirths. I wholeheartedly believe that my history with infertility has made me a better birth photographer. I can relate to the woman who is sitting across from me at Starbucks telling me about her heartbreak and her fears for this pregnancy. I can share in the joy of a mom who looks at me after her baby has arrived safely because I know in my soul what it feels like to hold your heart in your arms; to love someone so much you feel like you could bust wide open. It is this knowledge that keeps me coming back and gives me such a passion for what I do. Birth is miraculous. It begs to be captured. And I'm honored that I get to walk alongside so many of you who understand just how great an honor it is to bring life into the world.