In 2017, I attended a photography workshop in Denver, CO and met April. I was immediately drawn to her warm, friendly, easy going, adventurous spirit. Over the last couple of years, we’ve stayed in touch through social media and while planning our family vacation in her home state, I knew I had to have her photograph us. When she asked me to do the same for her, I was so honored, a little bit giddy and a lot nervous. Most of all though, I was excited to see her again and to meet her sweet family, who I had heard so much about. Our daughters were two peas in a pod, just as we knew they would be! Here are just a few of my favorites from our time together.
When I first started photographing my children, I did it for me. I wanted to remember my children as they were, in those fleeting moments, days, weeks and years. As I’ve progressed and grown in this journey, while it is still true that I want to, for myself, capture my babies as they are now and as they were, I want them to have these images FOR THEM to look back on just as much, if not more. I want them to look at these images, and see my love and admiration for them. I want them to see how I cherish every little piece of them… the wild waves of my daughter’s hair, the way my sweet 4 year old son looks at and snuggles his brother and sister, and the way my youngest’s toes are constantly curled up. I want them to look at these images when they are older and I want their childhood memories to flood their minds…. I want them to share these images and stories that go along with them, with their spouses and their children and grandchildren. Most of all, I want them to see themselves through my eyes and I want them to feel so loved. In the meantime, though, they will be for me.
I recently took my babies out to a beautiful spot in the desert and captured my favorite thing to capture… their connection. Some are freelensed, some not. Here are just a few of my favorites. <3
I’m not sure if it’s because I took newborn photos for their 3rd baby shortly after I had my 3rd… I related to all of their new baby emotions, struggles and joys… Maybe it was because with their baby just a few weeks younger than mine, little Kyle was in that sweet phase that we had just experienced… but I fell hard for this family. Their littles are sweet as honey and mom and dad are just as lovely.
When I was pregnant with my daughter 7 short years ago, I was so excited. I envisioned nothing but blissful moments holding, loving and caring for the baby girl I had been dreaming of and praying for. I LOVED being pregnant in those final months and I could not wait to meet her.
I never saw it coming. She arrived and starting on postpartum day 2, I lost it. I wanted to take it all back. I was completely hopeless about the future. I dreaded waking up in the morning. I was so exhausted and yet so anxiety ridden, that I couldn't sleep. I had no appetite. I never wanted to harm my daughter (thank God), but I remember feeling that if anything happened to her, it would be ok. It was debilitating. And I was so ashamed. I literally don't think I would have survived it without my husband and mother being as understanding and supportive as they were.
I remember sitting on the chair in my daughter's room and talking on the phone with my doctor, sobbing and rocking back and forth. I would have done anything to make all those feelings disappear. All I can say is, thank God I got help.
The antidepressants worked. I regained my hope and my happiness. I bonded with my daughter. I was me again.
This time around, knowing what I had been through in the past, I decided to start my meds right away and I am so glad I did. On about postpartum day 3, I was flooded with so many familiar emotions... and not the good ones. I had convinced myself that this time, somehow, I could control it. And now, here I was again... hopeless, anxious and sad. And feeling so guilty for all of those feelings, when I knew that I had SO MUCH to be thankful for.
Now before you have pity on me, know that I am good now. I am really really great, actually. I couldn't be more in love with my newest little and I couldn't be more grateful for this beautiful family of mine. Why would I share such a painful time then, you ask? Because I believe that it needs to be discussed. And because I want anyone suffering to know that they don't have to suffer alone and that there is help.
The beautiful, cloudy morning of Monday, April 16th 2018... 40 weeks and 2 days into my third and final pregnancy. In the preceding months, I had spent much of my time dreaming of how our little Grayson Leo would enter this world. I had visions of being home as long as I could, laboring with my family near, and documenting my own birth story. Sounds pretty perfect, right? I even looked into renting a special lens for the delivery... hilarious, I know. (clearly I had forgotten what this labor and delivery thing looked or felt like!)
For the past two nights, I had woken up several times thinking that maybe I had peed myself, (Oh the joys of pregnancy) or had my water broken?!?!? We've all heard the stories of women not knowing their water had broken, right? And I had recently heard quite a few of them... Let me also point out that because my son came fairly quickly, I was convinced (as was my doctor, in my defense), that if my water broke, my baby would come very very quickly. So came the panic/excitement/crazy/irrational thoughts... I asked my husband to stay home from work. We notified all the family (just in case). Should we go to the hospital?? If my water had broken 2 nights ago, there was risk to the baby...? I jumped up and down, did squats, laid down and stood up, but no more leakage.... soooo I guess I just peed myself. (Phew/Oh goody!) Ok, here comes the crazy... I had worked out or went on an early morning walk almost every day of my third trimester and was quite proud of myself, being that I didn't think I was capable... and now I was determined to work out or walk with my friend the day my baby arrived. So, I called my dear, supportive friend at 530am and she walked with me just so I could say I did... I love that woman!! When I got home, my contractions were definitely feeling more intense, although still nothing regular. I was completely excited, nervous, emotional and so ready to meet my baby boy. We called our sitter, showered, waited, waited some more and headed to our previously scheduled OB appointment.
As we waited for the appointment, my contractions continued to get stronger, (like breathe through them strong) but I was still questioning whether or not this was it... When we finally saw our doctor, she gave us the positive news that I was 5cm, 100%, in active labor and that she fully expected to see me at the hospital later that day. We left on a high and since we didn't have the kids, we went on a date... the last one we'd be on for awhile, we knew. We went to Wildflower (one of my many cravings this pregnancy) and I had a delicious pomegranate chicken salad and an orange cranberry scone... I highly recommend both. :)
Next up: home... it was a beautiful, cloudy, breezy day...my fave. We sat on the back patio watching our kiddos play, breathing through the contractions and feeling so very grateful to be at home with our family. Contractions were strong, but still not very regular, so we all hopped in the truck and headed out to find a new park (one of our favorite things to do)… We pushed our babes on the swings, watched the kids (and the hubs) play on the slides, and walked around and around that park, hand in hand with our littles. We left the park and went for a little drive, laboring all the while. With each contraction, I could hear my daughter say to my son, "shhhh, mommy's having a contraction". And then I'd hear my son whisper behind me, "I love you, Mommy". I'll never forget those moments. I wanted more than anything, for my children to be a part of this process, and they were right there experiencing it with me. I distinctly remember thinking how perfect and peaceful this time was... It was exactly what I had hoped for. That night, as we put the kids to bed, I kissed and hugged them tight and told them that when they woke up, mom and dad would be at the hospital, Tutu (my dear mother-in-love) would be sleeping on the couch and that it would finally be the day they'd be meeting their new baby brother. They were so excited, yet so calm and affectionate. Be still my heart.
At about 10pm, contractions were getting closer together and we called G.R.'s mom and asked her to come over, knowing we'd be heading to the hospital during the night. When she arrived, contractions were about 20 minutes apart and really intense. It's hard to describe... it really can't be compared to anything else I've ever experienced. My best description of that pain would be that my abdomen felt as if it were being squeezed all the way around by a vice grip... pleasant, I know... yet also so beautiful... what our bodies are capable of. I had reminded my husband, prior to being in labor, to remind me to relax through them (my favorite advice from my last delivery), which he did perfectly. I honestly don't know that I could've done it without him... he truly was the perfect labor coach. For the next hour, we sat in the living room watching Jimmy Fallon... and the clock.
At 1130, contractions were about 12 minutes apart and we were exhausted. GR and I decided we would try and lay down for a bit, to rest up before the big push... see what I did there. ha. I slept between contractions, and as soon as one would start, I would suddenly wake to the pain and struggle to my feet, as I hated sitting or laying through them. Our plan had been to head to the hospital when contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart, but at about 1230am, they were 8 minutes apart, and GR was getting anxious... I was also a little worried about sitting through contractions on the way to the hospital, so we decided we'd head in. By the time GR lined the seats with plastic bags (if you know my husband, you're not surprised!), loaded up the truck and woke GR's mom to let her know we were leaving, my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. I gently reminded GR that speed limits did not apply in this situation and that worst case, we'd have an escort to the hospital :) With no traffic, we got to the hospital quickly... 3 contractions and a short walk to the hospital entrance later, we had arrived.
As we walked into triage, I was moaning quietly and could not really speak or communicate well at this point. The nurses were SO rude and cold. They had my husband leave the room while I changed (much to my dismay and even though I begged them not to... he was literally holding me up through contractions at this point). They were moving very slowly, it seemed to me and they were very unfriendly. I knew, as I am a nurse myself, that they likely thought I was being overly dramatic and that I was not nearly as far along as I thought.. Then they checked me. 9cm. Everything changed. She called me a "Rockstar", was suddenly so very sweet and compassionate and things started happening very quickly. She told me to please not have my baby yet... as if I had control... and told me she was calling the doc. It was time to meet my baby boy. <3
One of the nurses arrived with a wheelchair to take me to my delivery room. I insisted on walking (sitting through contractions was seriously the worst!!). Right after we arrived to our delivery room, Dr. Brotsky walked in and checked me... I was complete. After breaking my water, she told me that when I felt a change in the contractions and intense pressure, it'd be time to push. She walked out and I actually had a few minutes of relief, and fell asleep! (maybe my body's way of resting up before the big event...?). I woke up to another contraction that wasn't nearly as intense as I had expected. The nurse stepped out, and for the first time since arriving at the hospital, GR and I were alone. And then came THE contraction she was talking about. I turned to GR and said "Get them." GR went out and let them know I was ready... Dr Brotsky came in and instructed me to push with the next one. I did. It hurt so badly, that for a moment, I actually wondered if I'd be able to do it. Much to my surprise, just one contraction, and two pushes later, at 2:25am, I helped pull my baby boy out of my body. My sweet baby boy was finally in my arms. He didn't even cry. He just lay on my chest, completely quiet. He was so quiet, that I was actually concerned, but everyone kept assuring me that he was perfectly pink and just fine. 7lb 15oz, 20.5in of pure perfection. There is absolutely nothing like finally meeting this little human you've been growing inside you, holding him in your arms, checking out every nook and cranny of his little body, smelling his breath (I know it's weird, but it's literally one of my favorite things... the smell of my babies' breath.), and looking into those brand new eyes... My heart was full and our family was complete.
I then remembered that I wanted to take all these delivery pics... hilarious!! I did have GR get me my camera so I could snap a couple shots, but nothing like I had envisioned... Looking back, I still cannot believe that amid all of the pain and excitement of the day, there was just this underlying calm and peace in every moment. It was all I had hoped and prayed for and then some. But most importantly, our baby boy was healthy and he was here. <3
I am expecting my 3rd and final baby in about 3 weeks now, and I have one BIG fear. I know it's normal, and I remember feeling the exact same way before I had my son, but it's real, this worry of mine. I am so worried about how this new baby boy will change my relationship with my first two children and I am worried about how this will change my first and second born's tight bond.
I know, I know... it will just be that much sweeter. It's just that much more love in our little home. And I know that watching my first two love and care for my third will likely be the best thing in the whole entire world. But I'm still a little bit afraid. So when I recently took a workshop and was asked to do "One Last Session"... to pretend like I could only do one more session, I knew it had to be of these two precious children, who have my whole heart for my whole life. Here are a few of my faves from likely my last ever session of just the two of them. (Insert preggo mom hormone cry here)
I lost my grandparents when I was a teenager... at a time in life when I was selfish and pre-occupied. My biggest (and maybe only) regret in my life, is not realizing or appreciating my relationship with them and spending more time with them as they and myself aged. My brother and I were so very close to them when we were young... They were quite possibly my very favorite people in the whole world, in fact. Some of my most favorite memories include sleepovers at their home, our long walks, gardening and swimming with them, playing solitaire with my grandpa, hanging laundry with grandma and having "yard sales" in their front yard. They showed me as much love as I've ever known and I know they helped shape me into the woman, mom and wife that I am. I often think of how much they would adore my own children if they were still here.
This said, this session fell very near and dear to my heart. Seeing this little boy and the bond and love between he and his Nana and Papa, was about as sweet as it gets. He is clearly so adored by them and they, him. This might just end up being a thing for me.
As I slowly find my style and mold into the artist I dream to be, I find myself feeling so much more connected to my work and to my clients. This session and this family touched me deeply. Their connection and love were easy and seamless. This is what a newborn baby and her little family should look like, right?
Now before I go any further, I would just like to say that I wrote something similar to this last night... and quickly deleted it. It was too personal. Then today, I spoke with a friend who had similar struggles and she said, "No one talks about it." And I knew I had to rewrite this and share.
So... as happy as these images make me (and they really really do), they also take me back to a pretty painful time. As some of you who are close to me know, I struggled greatly after my daughter was born, with post-partum depression. It was awful. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. It was dark, painful, lonely, terrifying and shameful. And as I look back at that time in our lives, one thought really consumes me... how much of this precious time I missed. I yearned to be THIS family, connected, happy and in love. Now I don't write this because I want pity... and I don't often dwell on it... but every now and then, I do look back, and it hurts.
Here's what I know now: I was not alone. There was help. Not every post-partum course is the same. I am SO glad that I reached out and asked for that help. And I will forever be grateful for my husband's support and love during that excruciating time.
Now enough of the lows.... back to the highs. There really is nothing sweeter than a precious new life born into a family full of love. This is one lucky little girl. <3
One of my favorite things, like ever, is wearing my babies. At home, grocery shopping, hiking, you name it. I absolutely treasure that while I'm doing the daily chores that need to be done, we're sneaking in some extra snuggles. I loved nursing my babies in their carriers, and will always cherish the way their little faces would rest on my chest or the way they tip their little heads up to sneak me a smile or a kiss. My son is two years old now, and although our babywearing days are fewer and farther between, we both still love it, and I'll wear him as long as he'll allow it.
My love of babywearing, all the cuddles and the bonding it promotes, led me to this little project. I was so humbled to have several beautiful, loving parents drive from near and far (on Superbowl Sunday, nonetheless!) to allow me to capture some really sweet moments. <3
I am not even sure where to start here. All I know is that this young man likely struggles more on a daily basis, than I could even fathom. The things that are easy for me likely are not for him. Yet on this day, this brave young man repelled down a high rise in downtown phx, as a fund raiser for the Special Olympics. And I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the whole thing. And even more incredible... I am working with an incredible organization, Spectrum Inspired, to share his story. Grateful.