It was a Tuesday morning in September — 10:35 a.m. on the 23rd, to be exact — when my life changed forever.
Welcome to the world. Those felt like the perfect four words to say for the first time ever to my son. And so that’s what I told him as I pulled his body to my chest.
It was a long wait: Forty weeks, five days and then 31 hours of labor, just for this moment. Yet I was in no way prepared for how it was about to make me feel.
His eyes were unfocused and squinted against the light. He was kind of ugly and yet so beautiful in that squishy new baby way. He was all mine and I already loved him in ways I didn’t fully understand.
The first couple weeks looked like this: Me crying over our nursing struggles. Me crying that I was failing at being a mom. Me crying that I would never sleep again. These were the easy weeks.
It was in the weeks — and months — after that the reality of new parenthood slapped me hard. I felt I had lost a piece of myself and I wanted so badly to reclaim it. And yet, I felt this inescapable pull towards my son. The love I had for him was deep and fierce and overwhelming… I thought it would crush me.
It was well into our fourth month that I thought for sure I was a goner. I was never meant to survive a newborn.
“It will get easier by three months,” they all said.
They’re #@%*&$ liars, I thought.
My son was wrapped to my body and wailing — again. I was walking up and down the hall, trying to bounce him to sleep — again.
I will carve a rut into these floors, I thought. I will go insane right here in this spot. Bouncing my little baby boy from here until forever.
But it was true, what everyone said. It did get easier for us, even if it wasn’t by the promised three-month mark. We were on our own timeline. By six months, he started sleeping more — and so did I. I gained more confidence in myself as a mom. He started to crawl and then walk and then run. And now he forms his own thoughts and expresses them to us in complex sentences.
“Wow,” we say to each other almost every single day. “We made that.”
I had since quit my job as a journalist at CNN. I flirted with going back every few months — if for no other reason than to have a piece of my old self back. But the everyday grind of a sad and depressing news cycle was too much for me. I had chosen to watch my son grow instead. I would never get the old me back and I was coming to terms with that. I was a new me — a better me. A stronger and more resilient me. I kind of liked this new me.
Putting aside everything to focus on my little family meant that I also wasn’t working with families in my photography business. Of course my work as a photographer didn’t stop. I still took photos. My goodness did I take (and still do) lots and lots of photos.
And you know what I discovered when I looked back on the one-year mark, as I printed pictures for my son’s first birthday party? My favorite images were the everyday, real moments we had lived together: The time I stashed him in the laundry bin while I switched over the clothes. The time he smeared guacamole all over his face. The time he crawled over to the hamper and put it on his head (can you tell I did a lot of laundry!?). The time he discovered a new playmate in the mirror. And all of the times he snoozed on my chest after nursing and I could see how long his eyelashes stretched down his cheeks.
These images are us — our personal history, our story. And when I sat back to reflect on this, I realized I could have been doing photography better for my clients this whole time. Why on earth did I think kids would want to get all dressed up, head to a park, and hang out for a two-hour session!? Because I wasn’t a mom yet — that’s why. I know now that kids will open up to you best when they’re in a safe and familiar place and when they’ve been given the freedom to explore and be themselves. That’s why I’m taking my sessions out of the park and bringing them into our homes. The stories we’re making here are too good not to capture, especially considering how quickly our families change.
When I look back on my journey through motherhood, it’s crazy how I thought those first few months would never end. Now that I’ve been through the fire, I’ve realized one of parenting’s hardest truths: Those months not only do end, but they go by way too quickly. Now I find myself wanting time to slow down, if not just for a little bit.