Posts Tagged ‘personal post’

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.

__________________________________________________________________________

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

Personal Post: This is Two

Kasey and Ben Photography Mayflower Greenhouse, Green BayThis week Juniper threw epic crying fits for the following reasons:
1. My hair was too crazy.
2. She needed to take home a middle grade chapter book at the library.
3. Daddy was being mean. (Daddy did literally nothing.)

This is two.

Two is also wispy hair that makes the teeniest ponytail, a new imaginary friend who she cares for and tortures, and cute catch phrases like, “Ju-per loooooves that; it’s Ju-per’s fave-it” which is said for nearly everything.

Between Babyhood and Toddlerhood

Two is funny because we are stuck somewhere between baby and toddler. When she gets tired, she still wants to curl up in my arms and when she loses her pacifier in the night she still calls for us to make it right. We wander in bleary-eyed in that same stupor that brought us into her room when she was just a few weeks old. But the next morning she is back to her regular self, independent and demanding. This girl starts the mornings at full volume with so much to say. I shake my head thinking that there was ever a time I worried about the number of words she would say.

Juniper has so many ideas of what we should do together, and when she really wants to do them, she mimics my encouraging tone with eyes wide and voice higher, getting as close to my face as she can. She wears socks on her hands every day (it’s a thing) and will only wear her black dress shoes no matter the weather. One week she loves oranges so I buy oranges, the next week “Ju-per don’t ike oranges”. It’s ever-changing, frustrating, hilarious, and heart-warming all at once.

Parenthood is Crazy Like That

I’m not sure what comes next (okay, three, obviously), but I’m in no hurry. For the number of times I am willing the clock to get to 12:30 pm so I can put her down for a nap, an equal number of times I will find myself watching old videos of her 10 minutes after she’s asleep. Parenthood is crazy like that. We crave our independence and when we have it, we miss our babies. It’s really the whole process of growing up and letting go on a miniature scale.

But I don’t have to worry about that right now. Any minute Juniper will wake up from her nap and come wandering out of her room, hair crazy, blanket dragging behind her. She will climb up onto my lap and I will enjoy the 15 seconds of blissful snuggles she gives me before she reaches out for my keyboard and makes an attempt at deleting this entire blog. This is two.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Photos above from Juniper’s second birthday (cactus themed) at Mayflower Greenhouse in Hobart. Taco bar catered by Moes, amazing sugar cookies by Tina’s Cookie Corner, and tower of itty-bitty succulents by my talented mom.

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: Giving My Daughter Space to “Do it Wrong”

35 mm Film Photos Door County Raising a toddlerTalking about parenting right now means putting a vulnerable voice out into a critical culture. This isn’t to say our generation is somehow more judgmental than past generations; we just see more of one another’s lives thanks to social media. So now instead of collecting “feedback” from your auntie and mother, you can also collect it from that friend-of-a-friend from high school and someone you used to work with. Oh joy. And whether or not you choose to post to social media or comment on the posts of others, you are probably still consuming the media and drawing your own conclusions.

The good news is this criticism has sprouted from the best of intentions: concern for the safety of children. But when concern for safety becomes concern for lifestyle and we aren’t prepared for how to interact in this culture, we end up stuck in a place of shame, guilt, and fear of “doing it wrong”.

Parenting in the Toddler Years

That said, I know some people will find my parenting too hands off (I get looks as my daughter runs through the farmer’s market 20 feet ahead of me) and some will find me too rigid (really mom, she can’t have any juice?) I’m sure others will find ways to see me as overprotective, old fashioned, or crunchy, but for myself, I am quite surprised at the kind of parent I turned out to be.

When I thought of the future, I imagined myself fretting over my child’s every move, holding my arms around her to protect her from bumps and bruises, chewing my nails and saying that warning phrase one extra time to give myself peace of mind. But what I failed to account for when I imagined myself as a mother, is that I would be a mother to a little person with a personality all her own.

Juniper is fast and loud. She climbs everything, devises complicated ways of stacking things to reach what she wants. She likes the fastest rides and the biggest challenges. At two, this kid eats more at a meal than I did in middle school. She is bold and talkative, and usually searching the house for her galoshes so she can find a way to be outside…even if it’s raining…even if it’s 6:00 am…even if it isn’t her house. She. Is. Wild.

But this wildness comes from her curiosity and her passionate impulse to consume everything as though life is something to be swallowed whole. And can I just say what a gift it is to see life this way?

Leaving Room for Imagination

Things I haven’t the smallest interest in, she will find deeply fascinating. Toys which have a specific use will gain new life with her interpretation of their purpose. She wants to reorganize the crayons instead of coloring with them, use the bath boats as teacups, and make car noises as she pushes the doll stroller. And I’m going to let her. Just like I’m going to let her eat the uncooked zucchini that fell to the floor as I was making dinner and wear swim diapers over her clothes. She can ride in the cargo portion of the stroller, wear all my jar lids as bracelets, and refer to every full grown dog as a “little baby puppy” (with her voice high and her nose scrunched).

Doing these things “wrong” isn’t going to hurt her or anyone else. She’s learning what it means to make her own decisions and she’s figuring out how things work (or devising new ways for them to work). And, when it comes right down to it, it would be pretty self-important of me to tell her the “right way” to play.

What Does it Mean to “Do it Wrong”?

My grandma has a story from when she was a little girl that has always stuck with me. She was at school in art class drawing a sky filled with pink, fluffy clouds. When the teacher saw it, she told my grandma it was no good because clouds aren’t pink. Imagine all the ways we can crush a child’s spirit in the name of teaching them the “right way” to do things.

And whether those clouds were pink or neon green or floating underwater or made of cotton candy or drawn with dandelion rubbings, I never want to be the person who makes the world a little smaller by closing the door on possibility and imagination. Grandma gets her revenge every time sunset turns clouds from white to yellow, yellow to orange, and from orange to a bright, rosy pink.

I guess what I’m saying is, Juniper will have plenty of opportunities to learn the correct pronunciation of the word, the right purpose for the tool, the proper way to respond to the circumstance, but for now, there is play. There is big, big play. And I’m going to give Juniper all the space I can to “do it wrong”.

__________________________________________________________________________

Film scans above from this summer (May-July) from 35 mm Kodak Portra negatives.

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.

_________________________________________________________________________

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: in gratitude for puddles and potholes

Potawatomi State ParkDoor County, Baileys HarborOutdoors Maple SyrupI am so ready for spring. Even more than past years, I feel as though I’ve spent all of February trapped inside breathing the same stale air and dreaming of warm weather. Usually winter doesn’t stop us from getting outdoors — hiking in state parks, sledding, skating, etc, but this winter brought such frigid temperatures that even our regular outings seemed daunting. There are only so many layers you can put on a baby.

The unusually cold days and heavy snow means our spring activities will be delayed (no maple syrup tapping for a few more weeks *sigh*). Yet I am still excited for any sign of spring. This morning as I left the house I was thrilled to see my flooded driveway because, even though the inch of standing water is not ideal, I’m just glad it’s no longer an inch of solid ice. I guess that’s what it means to be in a position of gratitude. We have are given an option: we can be mad because the puddle gave us wet feet and the newly-revealed potholes made for an annoying commute, or we can be thankful for above freezing temperatures and melting snow. It’s not always easy, but I know which option I want to choose.

Kiddos can be a good reminder of this. For Juniper, the sound of water dripping down the drainpipe was enough to elicit raised eyebrows and an excited gasp of air. I can only imagine how thrilled she’ll be to see birds return to the yard, buds form on the trees, and snow melt down to a level that she can actually walk on top of it (we’re not there yet!) She will remind me what is amazing, and she will remind me to be grateful for all of it.

So as we splash our way through the rest of this wet, dreary March, I’m going to appreciate my flooded backyard (warmer temperatures), the baby who stays up too late (longer days), and all the yard work yet to come (things are growing). Because life is just better when we live in gratitude.

_________________________________________________________________________

More like this: A Midwesterner’s Spring, Making Maple Syrup, or The Gift of Curiosity. Film scans above ^ from winter and spring activities in February and March 2017 in Door County, Wisconsin.

Personal Post: crazy sort of love

This wasn’t Juniper’s first Christmas, but it kind of felt like it to us. Last year we were still in the crazy first few months of life with a baby — living on no sleep, recovering from labor, and just keeping our heads above water in the chaos. This year Juniper was able to participate in many of our holiday activities (or at least stay awake for them).

We have a very tradition-oriented family and so there are many things we do together to celebrate the seasons. Sometimes the “season” can be as simple as “that cold boring time” (aka: February — Potawatomi State Park hike) or “that time it’s supposed to be spring, but really isn’t” (aka: March — maple syrup tapping), but when it comes to holidays, it’s even more serious. In December there is St. Nick stocking opening, picking out our trees together, a Christmas day hike in the woods, and watching It’s a Wonderful Life in our pajamas with grasshoppers or hot cocoa in hand. But most important is Christmas Eve, with church followed by dinner and gifts at our grandparents’ house. This is where I’ve always found my Christmas spirit.

Every 24th of December my family attends the candlelight service at Sturgeon Bay Moravian. The tree at the front of the church is covered in hundreds of paper stars and we hold lighted beeswax candles, singing carols and waiting for the last verse of Joy to the World where we all raise our arms up high before extinguishing the flames. As a kid, I remember being sad the moment we had to blow the candles out, holding it just a little longer hoping to preserve that feeling of incredible joy and togetherness. One of the gifts of parenthood is getting to share these traditions with our children — getting to see Juniper mesmerized by the dark church filled with glowing lights, watching her try her first bites of my mom’s homemade pie, and hearing her elated giggles over her favorite toy (the step-stool intended for my office).

As a parent everything is more work, the holidays included. There is more stuff to carry and less arms to carry it with. There are nap schedules and picky eaters to consider, and gone are the uninterrupted board game marathons and quiet evenings under the tree. Instead we look up from our movie to debate whose turn it is to intercept Juniper as she climbs from floor to chair to table to access the bowl of Chex-mix. Everything is more work… but it’s worth it. And I don’t say this as a martyr like “it’s worth it so they can enjoy the holidays” or in an attempt at banking future happiness like “it’s worth it because once we make it through this we can enjoy our family as they grow older”. I mean it’s worth it right now.

If sharing traditions is the gift of parenthood, the power of parenthood is in a crazy form of selective memory. The day might filled with chaos as we discover which toys are small enough to fit in Juniper’s mouth, wrestle and bribe our way through diaper changes, and try to convince her to nap in unfamiliar homes while there is clearly a party happening next door; but when the day is done the only part that remains in our memory is the good stuff.

This past summer when Juniper was cutting her first tooth she had a particularly hard night. She was crabby, awake on and off for hours, and then she was up for the day at 5:00 am. I was exhausted and counting the minutes until 8:00 when I could drop her at the sitter. And the moment I pulled out of the driveway, leaving Juniper behind, I missed her. She kept me up all night, woke me up at 5:00, and I missed her immediately. This is the whole thing in a nutshell. Love makes good stuff more powerful than the hard stuff, even when it’s mostly hard stuff. And parenthood is a crazy sort of love.

So I’ll take the chaos that would normally unnerve me completely; we’ll stress-sweat through our dress clothes and say “no thank you; hand’s aren’t for hitting” for the thousandth time, and we’ll breathe a sigh of relief as we tuck her into bed. But I guarantee you as I lay down to sleep at night, Ben and I will reminisce about the best parts of the day and I’ll be flipping through pictures and videos on my phone, already missing that little girl asleep one room over.

_________________________________________________________________________

Pictures above from some of our 2018 Christmas traditions. 

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: “pictures of the summer to prove that it really existed”

Fingers crossed and saying my prayers for safe transit, I packed up the film I shot all summer long and shipped it out to be developed. When the package arrived, Ben and I sat in bed together and flipped through the prints, my heart exploding with every photo. This summer wasn’t just any summer, it was Juniper’s first summer, something I anticipated since that second pink line appeared 18+ months ago.

Part of the joy of parenthood is sharing the things you love with this new little person. It may be your 200th visit to the beach, but it’s the first time she’s felt sand in her toes, and it may be your annual camping trip at the usual spot, but it’s the first time she has woken up to the sunny pattern leaves make on the tent walls in the morning.

This summer was full of “Juniper’s firsts”, and part of that was sharing places with her that meant a lot to us growing up. We visited The Farm where she held a kitten and giggled when she touched a baby goat. We went camping at Peninsula State Park where she rode in a canoe and took naps in a cargo wagon. She ate fruit straight from the orchard, visited beaches, parks, and pools, and soaked up the summer sun right in our own backyard.

Every outing required more planning and packing than any previous summer (babies come with SO much stuff), but as anyone who has ever loved anyone knows, the joy of wonderful things is multiplied when you see someone you love experience that joy. And we are closing out the summer with a heart full of memories and a head full of stories to tell as she grows up.

It’s amazing how children can change how we experience our world. Everything is new again — just like magic.
__________________________________________________________________________
Photos above from 35 mm film scans July-September.
Blog title taken from song “People Take Pictures of Each Other” by The Kinks.
If you like this blog, check out The Family of Over-Celebrators and Summertime on Film.

1 2 3 4