Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

The Photo I Really Wanted to Share

Green Bay WisconsinI have a vision for everything. I am easily influenced by space and clothing and light and color. I can see how one thing connects to another thing to convey mood and emotion. It’s why I love planning parties and putting together outfits and making art. All of these things use my creativity and my analytical brain to assemble beautiful stories.

Pandemic Pregnancy

When we found out we were pregnant in July, my brain immediately strung all the joy together in neat little rows. An April due date meant sweet pastels for clothing and bunny stuffies for their first Easter basket. It meant late winter maternity photos in a grove of evergreens and announcement photos in an apple orchard (perfect timing as I would be 14 weeks mid-September). Three and a half years seamed like a wonderful age difference, and we talked about what it would be like to share the news with Juniper and how great she would be as a big sister. I was carried away as if this wonderful news were a symphony that lifted me straight through into the future. I could see it all.

I envisioned the nursery – white furniture and a brand new bookcase filled with all the art I had made while pregnant. There would be windows that needed replacing, and we should probably switch Juniper to the larger room, that’s only fair, and maybe the crib would need repainting, and should we get new carpet now before that baby is old enough to crawl or is it better to wait until both kids are grown?

My mind could see it all, but my actions were more hesitant. We didn’t buy the cute baby booties or tell all our friends the news. In fact, I tried to suppress that visioning instinct. After all, it was early. And we had been here before.

Miscarriage / Infant Loss

The tests looked normal, my levels were rising well. I ordered the clothes for our apple orchard session and booked the photographer. Then one day I woke up and I didn’t feel pregnant anymore. Shortly after, I ended up in the E.R. and heard the thing I really didn’t want to hear. I choked on sobs through the double-layered masks I had worn to keep myself and my new baby safe. It was all happening just like before.

At the hospital they wouldn’t let me see the screen or print a photo. I was hearing that it was all over, that there was no heartbeat, but I hadn’t even seen the baby I would never meet. I walked out of there with nothing. No sign that this baby had ever existed, no tangible way of knowing that this baby I had carried for 9 weeks was anything more than a fever dream. And it hurt. There was the hurt of losing the pregnancy I desperately wanted, but there was also the hurt of having nothing to remember them by, of losing this entire future I had imagined for us together.

After more ultrasounds to confirm (with a plea for a photo) and the physical act of miscarrying, our apple orchard outfits arrived.

I folded them up and left them on the dresser. The thing they had arrived to celebrate was no longer happening.

I was grieving. And even with the support of those who love me best and the reassurances of people who had been there before, I felt alone in my grief. I was grateful for my little ultrasound photo, but I was haunted by the fact that I never got to celebrate this baby. Those outfits sat on the dresser as though the life I had planned for myself had been cancelled. And I realized that I wanted those photos. I wanted to celebrate my pregnancy in an apple orchard with my family. I craved a substantial way to hold onto all the joy that this pregnancy had brought us during those 9 weeks in the midst of a pandemic. When there was next to nothing around us that felt good, this baby was our bright spot, here to bring us hope.

Our Bright Spot

So here it is. The photo I really wanted to share.

The vulnerability of the act of sharing makes me uncomfortable. I am not healed; I am still in the middle of this. My impulse is to never let anyone ever know I wanted something I couldn’t have. I worry you will think I’m ungrateful for the child I already have. I fear your pity, or worse, your deep and exposing empathy. But I am writing this because I need to celebrate the best thing that happened to us during this pandemic. Though the time may have been brief, the love is without end.


Read about our first miscarriage: Loving a Baby After Losing a Baby and The Fog of Grief.

Personal Post: When Fear Makes You Doubt Your Gut

green bay film photographer parenting blog
For me, 2020 has been a season of big ideas and big doubts. I get excited about an idea, I share my idea, I doubt my idea, then I sabotage my idea. Has anyone else been there?

It’s not outright self-sabotage; it’s me letting fear guide my thoughts, and then letting my actions take me just to the point where things get scary and no further. There is safety in giving something half your heart and there is fear in giving it all your heart.

Fear Keeps Me Safe

Fear is keeping me safe. Fear’s job is to keep me safe. But here, what is it protecting me from? Predators, injury, death? No. Failure, ridicule, discomfort.

It seems silly when it’s laid out like this, but it’s hard to go from understanding your fears are not keeping you safe to making a choice to reach beyond fear. This requires belief in our purpose — belief beyond doubt — and it asks us to recognize that who we are is someone already deserving of what we want. It asks us to step out from the place of “when I do this, I will be worthy of…” and into “because of who I already am, I can do this.”

I Can Make Bad Art Without Being a Bad Artist

I have always been one to value myself based on what I can create and how hard I can work. Instead, I am shifting into someone whose value is already there, without needing to prove it to anyone (myself included). And if I already have value, I can create bad art without being a bad artist and I can make a mistake without being a failure. This provides grace. This provides space for big ideas.

On January first of this year, Jen Berres-Dart of Jenstar Yoga asked a group of us, “What do you want to try that you’ve been avoiding because you don’t think it’s possible?” And now I ask that of you…

What Are You Avoiding Out of Fear of Failure?

In 2020 I am working on myself, I am chasing ideas, I am taking chances, and I want to take you with me. Come join us at Mama + Maker to see what my big ideas are all about, or comment with yours, because ideas are a lot less scary when we say them out loud.

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Film scans above from our January trip to Florida. Shot on 35 mm Kodak Portra 400 film and scanned by Dwaynes Photo. 

Personal Post: letters from my mom & letters to my daughter

Husband and Wife Team Downtown Green BayWhen I was pregnant with Juniper, I had a wonderful surprise from my mom. Letters. Stacks of yellowing sheets produced on an electric typewriter in the late 80s. From the moment I was  born and into my toddler years, my mom wrote letters to future me about what it was like to be my mom.

Becoming mothers brings us closer to our moms, and it was even more beautiful for me to have this strange opportunity to connect with her at my same level, in the same shoes… as a clueless new mom to a new baby girl. The letters include hopes and fears and milestones and real life struggles. They are such a gift. And I knew after reading the first one, that I wanted to do the same for Juniper.

Last month my baby turned two years old. We celebrated with a cactus themed party at Mayflower Greenhouse, had family photos taken downtown, and just last week I finished the last letter of Juniper’s second year. As I printed the pages and slipped them into a little folder for future Juniper, I got curious and flipped open to a few random sections…

And there was Juniper three weeks old finally back up to birth weight, five months old having her first dip in a pool, nine months old pulling herself up on furniture, 15 months old saying her first words. I. Was. Transported. It made me realize the letters aren’t just for Juniper, they are for both of us, keeping us on terms with who we were at all these stages.

The method of writing might be different in the 30 years that divides the two packs of letters, but the pages are filled with so much of the same things — pride in milestones, fears about our capabilities as parents, worries about the future, and so much love. Just a reminder that of all the things time has the power to change, the love of a mother is not one of them.

Personal Post: Living in the Fog of Grief

Trigger Warning: Infant Loss / MiscarriageInfant Loss MiscarriageThree years ago in April I was losing our first baby.

We conceived on a trip to California and brought home this special secret. I loved knowing I had this little being to care for who would be with me on all our adventures. Ben and I didn’t know whether the baby was a boy or a girl, but we called her Sweet Pea. Together Sweet Pea and I made maple syrup, attended a cooking class, celebrated Easter, taught photography classes, and road in an airplane. We only had ten and a half weeks together, but I can tell you from experience, ten and a half weeks is a long time. It’s long enough for priorities and plans to change, and most importantly, for one’s identity to shift. I was mom to that little baby.

There are things I remember so vividly about the beginning. I remember singing Sloane’s Song in the shower while rubbing my belly to send in a little extra love to the baby. I remember lying back in the ultrasound room and seeing her heartbeat for the first time. I remember my world crashing down as the doctor explained that the baby looked small, but we would have to check back to know more. The wait was excruciating. Each week brought worse news, and on April 19th, we were told the baby no longer had a heartbeat.

I was grief-stricken, and the process of physically miscarrying made it all the more traumatic. After losing the baby at home, I ended up needing D&C surgery because of continuing tissue loss, and after the D&C did not remove everything, I spent weeks, then months continuing to lose blood and tissue. As I was trying to heal emotionally, I was facing a constant physical reminder of the worst thing that had ever happened to me.

During this time, life went on. I tried to fake happy through my birthday just two days after the surgery; a week after that I stood up in my best friend’s wedding, then busy season hit, family holidays came and went, and it wasn’t until the end of July that my body finally healed. And when it was healed, I didn’t care.

My body had failed me. I had done “everything right”; I had loved that baby with all I had, and yet there I was, empty. I didn’t want to care for a body that didn’t seem to care for me in return. I was depressed, living in darkness, and completely unable to see anything beyond that. All I wanted was to make it back to who I was before that happened.

I’m sharing this now, not for closure (I don’t really think that’s possible) because I’m not in that dark place anymore. Eventually I could see past the fog of grief, not all at once, but gradually. I began to care for myself and my body again, I began to look forward to things (a feeling I thought was gone for good). I never made it back to who I was before the miscarriage, but I found my new identity somewhere along the way.

There are things that still hurt even now, three years later with a baby in my arms. I can’t listen to Sloane’s Song and I wince when people refer to Juniper as “such a ‘sweet pea'”. When someone asks if J is my first, I pause, because that questions is harder than the asker means it to be.

I feel things deeply and I think this makes me responsible for sharing my story. I got a big dose of sensitivity from my dad, and extra empathy from my mom, and the end result is that I feel everything at 100% whether it’s mine to feel or not. It took me a long time to find my way out of grief, much longer than the world around me assumed was necessary. And I faced it without sharing, somehow fearing the acknowledgment of my pain would make it all the more real. So, right now, I’m just here to say, if you’re struggling with miscarriage, infant loss, or something else that has you in that dark place, I want you to know I see you. I’ve been there, and it’s okay to not be okay.

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If you are facing grief or mental health issues, don’t be afraid to ask for help through support groups, grief counseling, or call the free National Helpline for someone to talk to 24/7 1-800-662-HELP.

If you want more on this topic, read blogs Loving a Baby After Losing a Baby and Joy for Joy, Pain for Pain (written while losing our first baby). Film scans above from February and March 2016.

Personal Post: juniper’s first birthday

And just like that, a year has come and gone. One year ago we were in the hospital meeting our baby girl for the first time, trying to settle on a name and realizing, awestruck, that life would never be the same. This year, I am watching Juniper run from room to room with an excited gallop-skip, shrieking just because she likes to hear the sound of her own voice. Time is a crazy thing.

A few weeks ago we gathered together with family for a first birthday party at The Art Garage in downtown Green Bay. Juniper was in a wool pleated 1960s-ish dress we found at Little Bird and the theme was lemons with lots of bright yellows and soft pinks. We had lunch with a lemonade bar, and a little photobooth area for guests to take snapshots with our Fuji Instax. Juniper liked eating watermelon and playing on the floor with her friends. She was very excited to see people she knows and likes everywhere she went as she cruised the room. Grandma Jeanie made a three-layer lemon and raspberry cake for guests, and I made Juniper a simple white smash cake. She tasted the frosting and little bits of cake, but wasn’t wildly excited about it until daddy started helping her smash it. It was a fun way to celebrate her first big milestone. Happy Birhtday, Baby J!

Personal Post: why i need the pretty pictures

New parenthood is chaotic. Between diapers, feedings, and that classic baby-vs-sleep showdown, it can be a lot. And that’s without considering our own basic needs. It’s a turbulent world and sometimes it just feels like a mess.

For me, new motherhood meant the grace of letting go. My make-up routine is down to the basics and usually done while eating breakfast, pumping, and chatting with a babbling Juniper bouncing in her jumperoo. My hair is 50% dry shampoo at this point and my house is pretty much a hilly landscape of clean laundry surrounded by rarely swept floors. This is motherhood. We are trying to keep up, we are getting by, and all the while our babies are growing up.

From this perspective, nine months in, I have to say there is beauty in the mess. Yes, there is struggle, there is worry, and sometimes we may even think we’ve hit our breaking point. But then we push past and realize we are stronger and more capable than we thought we were. And even in the hardest times, we can find beauty. It’s in the first smile of recognition after weeks of lost sleep. It’s in a quiet day when we can sit in the sunshine and enjoy the outdoors together. It’s in sharing something we love with them only to watch them love it too and make it all the more meaningful. It’s magic and beauty, amid the mess.

Time has gone quickly, and I find myself flipping through pictures and thinking about each stage of Juniper’s babyhood. What I’ve come to notice is that the way things looked is often not the way things felt. Like anyone, my first weeks were a jumble of recovery, hormones, and learning what my baby needed, but the overwhelming feelings were tenderness, awe, and love beyond love. When I look back, I want our pictures to show me what those early days felt rather than how they looked. The pictures from our first week should smell like Burts Bees and fresh laundry just like my little girl. They should feel like her fuzzy baby hair and the cool breezes of autumn, and sound like the noises she made while she nursed.

Our experiences of motherhood are what matter most – that’s the reason we take the picture. My messy house, ill-fitting postpartum clothes, and unwashed hair did not speak to those feelings; instead, my experience felt more like bright natural light, a hot shower, a fresh onesie, and a tidy nursery. So we paused and we made those images.

As Juniper grows, the struggles are different. Just like every working mom, I’m chasing the unicorn of work-life-balance, trying to keep up and still make memories of our first summer as a family. But the lesson is the same. My photos won’t show my messy desk stacked with to-do lists and half-full water glasses, or the towers of laundry… and that’s not being fake, that’s knowing what’s worth remembering. At nine months these days smell like banana pancakes, feel like wiggling baby toes, and sound like shrieking giggles as Ben chases Juniper up the stairs, and I can only hope that the images we’re making right now will feel exactly like that.


Photos above from Juniper’s first two weeks.

Personal Post: the gift of curiosity

Since it’s off season for us, I have yet to really try my hand at the artful act of balancing life and work. It’s an intimidating task and one with few examples to follow as my job doesn’t give me a 9-5 schedule or any difference in work and living space. This is both a blessing and a curse as it means I can work in my robe and pajamas (please don’t come knocking on my door unexpectedly), but I have to use my judgement to know when to call it quits, shutdown the computer, and turn off email notifications.

On the slow days I’ve been thinking about the kind of parent I will be. And although it’s likely I have little choice in the matter, I can’t help but consider what I want Juniper to receive from me beyond a warm house and a full belly. And it comes down to one thing: curiosity. The gift I most want to give to her is the ability to look at the world with an open heart and curious mind — exploring, daydreaming, wondering. Curiosity means probing into the things we take for granted and asking questions. It means walking off the path, getting dirty, and breaking rules.

Juniper comes from a long line of well-intentioned rule-breakers who are curious to their core. Curiosity leads to passion, and when people we care for love something with great passion, we learn to appreciate what they love because their loving it makes it special. There are a million things I want to share with our baby girl: hundreds of books I want to read, scores of cities I want to bring her to, and many acres of land I want us to explore. But whatever her interests, whether they overlap with mine or not, I hope to pass along this great gift. That way she can love whatever she wants to love and chase whatever she wants to chase, and curiosity will call her to dig deeper every time.
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Film Scans above from hikes in February 2017 at Cave Point, Newport State Park, Potawatomi State Park, and Whitefish Dunes in Door County.
In the top photo I am pregnant with baby Juniper but don’t know it yet. <3