Long Awaited Maternity Session

Five and a half years ago, when we first started trying for a family, I was working as a wedding and portrait photographer. Many of my clients were coming back to me for their maternity sessions, and later their newborn and family sessions. I started dreaming of what mine would be like… who I’d hire… where I’d do them… what I’d wear. I was so excited to start planning it, even before we started officially trying. Sadly over the years as I was faced with negative pregnancy tests over and over again, I finally began to let go of my dreams of a photo session documenting my body doing this beautiful amazing and natural thing… carrying a baby. I began to not only doubt that I’d ever get pregnant, I doubted whether I’d ever be a mom. The dream of a perfect maternity photoshoot was no longer on my radar. It was not remotely important in comparison to the dream of being a mother, seeing Eric become a father. I had to step away from shooting maternity and newborn sessions due to the pain it caused me watching others hold what I so desperately wanted. It just hurt too much.

When we finally got that positive test back in December of last year, I was so consumed with fear and doubt of this pregnancy progressing, that I didn’t dare allow myself to believe I’d make it to the second trimester, let alone far enough along in pregnancy to do a maternity session. While others were hiring photographers for their “announcement” photos, I was crying into a camera sharing my most raw emotions with family, friends, and total strangers alike. This wasn’t something to celebrate… Not yet at least. Not in my mind.

When I hit viability at 24 weeks I began to believe more and more than my body was capable. I couldn’t doubt it’s ability to carry a child any longer… it was doing it! I was doing it! Although I still feared for how long and whether the baby boy inside me would make his way safely into this world, I couldn’t deny that I had accomplished something I has previously doubted possible. I was pregnant, and my baby was blossoming in the womb. That’s when I decided I would make sure to document this precious experience regardless of the outcome.

I found a photographer and we set up our session. For weeks and weeks I planned what I wanted. I picked a location. I searched for and found outfits. I contemplated hair and flowers. While going through all of these steps I realized just how much this session meant to me. I realized that the dream I had years and years ago never really went away. I just stored it away in a compartment in the far reaches of my memory and locked it up so as to protect my heart. But having photos of this time of our lives meant so much more to me than I ever really knew.

I spent the entire weekend getting organized and ready for our shoot. Eric knew just how important it all was to me and was so helpful and supportive, making it all the more special. My heart was pounding as we drove up to the shoot location. I had never worked with this photographer before. What if she disappoints? What if I’ve built up this moment so much in my mind that I’m unable to be happy with the result?

We did our photoshoot (having seriously lucked out with the weather… I mean outdoor session in Texas summer heat!? Plus the risk of storms… It could have been disastrous) and all went well. We hadn’t had photos done since our wedding in 2010 and were both a bit stiff at first. I definitely am far more used to being the one behind the camera… and Eric? Well he just needs a lot of direction. When I shoot him he’s very natural, but when it’s someone else he clams up a bit, but he did great all things considered. We both felt pressure to make these photos the best they could be given how much this pregnancy means to us.

Turns out, that pressure I was feeling was pretty real. I literally had nightmares about the photos not turning out and not having any tangible memories of this pregnancy. Of course that wouldn’t be the case, but you know dreams… logic is often completely obsolete. I woke up at around 1am from this dream feeling deflated. I had just done something I was so excited about, why was I feeling so negative and anxious!? It’s hard to describe, but I don’t doubt a large part of it has to do with the fears that still exist deep down that I may never truly get to meet my son. This sense that if I don’t have these photos, this pregnancy, and my baby boy, could have never existed at all. This may not make sense to many, but if you’ve fought through infertility and/or pregnancy loss, it may just resonate.

Well laying awake in bed, my anxiety turned to insomnia and there was no falling back asleep. I often find myself on social media in the middle of the night (so if you see that I liked your photo at strange hours… yeaaaaaa, that’s why), and last night was no different. What shocked me was to find my photographer had already posted our sneak peak. Wait, what? How? We only finished at 830pm… it’s 1am!? Turns out she was excited about our photos and how they turned out. Hey, I’m certainly not complaining but as a photographer myself I never expected that kind of turnaround. I was going to be patient, although likely burdened with photo nightmares until then it seemed.

Instantly all of my fears and anxieties dissipated seeing her beautiful work. She captured us perfectly, and I am so thrilled to have these memories to look back on. My heart couldn’t be more full in this moment. It was literally like a dream come true to receive these. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. We truly feel so grateful and so blessed.

PHOTOS BY REBECCA OF R & J STUDIOS

A Beautiful Essay on Miscarriage

Melissa Rauch, who plays Bernadine on The Big Bang Theory, recently announced her pregnancy. In doing so, she also opted to open up about her miscarriage, sharing her experience through an essay for Glamour.

“During the time when I was grieving over my pregnancy loss or struggling with fertility issues, every joyful, expectant baby announcement felt like a tiny stab in the heart. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for these people, but I would think, “Why are these shiny, carefree, fertile women so easily able to do what I cannot?” And then I’d immediately feel guilt and shame for harboring that jealousy”

Although I have never suffered through the pain of a miscarriage (or stillbirth), as an infertility warrior I can’t help but hold immense empathy for those that have to endure such an experience. I’ve never been one of those infertiles who stated or proclaimed “well at least you know you can get pregnant!” I knew those words would be hurtful and insensitive, and I had no place to comment on a journey I had no experience in. That being said, if I’m truly being honest with myself and you reading this, I certainly felt that way at times. Feeling that way came from a place of hurt and darkness from my experiences of 5 years of never seeing a second line. It wasn’t fair for me to direct my pain that way though, and I knew it, so it was an emotional reaction I bottled up and kept to myself.

Over the years as I opened up about my fertility journey more and more, I learned about my fellow infertility warriors’ struggles, and gained much needed insight into their experiences with miscarriages. I can’t understand that pain, but I do try and imagine so I can empathize, support, and show compassion. We are all mothers without a child to hold, after all. We’re fighting the same fight, just perhaps in different ways.

Like Melissa Rauch, I too had difficulty sharing our positive news publicly. Although I’m no TV star, I still worried about the audience who would be hearing this news. I wondered who would be silently pained by our announcement and so for me, as an individual who had been so pained in the past, I chose to share our news while illuminating the difficult road we had navigated to get there. I also, like Melissa, held such fear throughout my pregnancy (and still do), because in the past my body had failed me. I had no concrete reason (such as a miscarriage) to warrant such paranoia… but it was there. The fear was real and it was strong. I had to learn to be gentle on myself and allow myself to feel however I felt through the process without judgement. Some days that would be hard when others would comment to “not stress, it’s not good for the baby,” or “you should be enjoying this time, you’ll never get it back,” both of which were guilt and shame inducing. As a result, I stopped openly sharing my fear, instead coping with it day in and day out privately until as weeks passed I felt better and better. People so often want to share in your joys, but they rarely want to sit with you in your pain unfortunately.

This essay by Melissa Rauch is a really important read. Sure celebrities have opened up about their journeys to a degree (“yes this is an IVF/surrogacy baby” or whatever minimal statement they may share), but for her to take the time to so eloquently describe her experience in an effort to break down stigmas and make others struggling feel less alone, is truly commendable. Being so open and vulnerable isn’t for everyone, and there is certainly no judgement if someone isn’t ready or able to do so, but it’s a great thing when someone does step forward and raise awareness so I’m very grateful for her courage!

Have a read here: https://www.glamour.com/story/actress-melissa-rauch-announces-pregnancy-and-reflects-on-miscarriage

On a separate note, VEGAS BABY is now on Netflix. For anyone who has struggled, gone through IVF, or wants to gain insight into the process an infertile goes through to conceive, I highly, HIGHLY recommend watching this documentary. Fair warning though; it is heavy, and you’ll likely cry! But it’s so wonderful to see such a raw, accurate portrayal of the difficult journey of infertility and IVF.

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