I was discussing with another photographer recently how hard it is sometimes to get a new mom in front of the camera right after their baby was born. They are tired, perhaps anxious, and not feeling their prettiest. The fullness from the few weeks prior that made them glow so abundantly from within is now nestled in their arms, and they think the glow is gone. Some feel they never glowed to begin with. Believe me, I understand. I've been there 4 times.
When I was pregnant with our oldest daughter, I was told by a medical intern that I should eat a cheeseburger every day. I was 21 years old, and at 17 weeks along had gained a pound (eating healthy and staying active, not for any other reason than that). Not knowing any better, I listened. I gained 54 pounds in 20 weeks. I wouldn't let anyone take a single photo of me- I was embarrassed by how much weight I had gained, the stretch marks that had exploded all over my body- I wanted to hold our daughter and forget becoming so large. Then, when I was 37 weeks, my lips started to tingle. I went to see my chiropractor and he assumed it was a pinched nerve. However, it got worse. i started to lose function in the left side of my face. I called the doctor's office, and the nurse told me to call 911, as she suspected that I had had a stroke. I called my dad instead. I just had a feeling it was something else. He gave me a ride to the ER where I continued to lose feeling and eventually the ability to blink.
After PET and CT scans, as well as a hospital stay for observation, I was diagnosed with Bells Palsy. Fortunately, the paralyzation that comes with it is typically temporary. I felt like I had lost a limb. I grieved. I cried because I drooled, had to help my eye blink, and I had to tape my eye shut at night. I was terrified my baby wouldn't learn how to smile because when she was born, she wouldn't see joy- but instead a version of Quasimodo. I didn't feel worthy of her even knowing I was there. No pictures.
Needless to say, my precious girl has a beautiful smile. By the time she was 3 months old I had recovered about 70% function. I still shied from the camera. I was still big- gosh darn it- I was 21! I was supposed to walk out of the hospital in my pre-pregnancy jeans (HAHAHA). Chris wrangled me to have a portrait taken when she was about 7 weeks old. I didn't look at the camera- I looked at her; my little piece of perfect.
(photo credit Unforgettable Images 2006)
I look back now, and I desperately regret it. The image we had done at 7 weeks is a treasure to me, but unlike her siblings, there is no belly picture she will have to compare hers to when she has babies someday. There are no newborn pictures beyond me staring solemnly into the camera at the hospital. None to show her my elation with her presence in our life. I promised myself to never do that again. If Bells Palsy strikes again, I'm still having pictures done. I wish I had known that there are photographers out there who could have hidden what I was so embarrassed and shameful of. That they know how to choose angles that would have flattered my new, fuller shape.
I'm bigger than I want to be. My belly is soft, my arms jiggle when I wave, I've got junk in my trunk, "muffins" in my hips. It's a far cry from the nearly 6 pack I had 10 years ago, but I'm thankful for recognizing the importance of the images I'm in now. I'm thankful I met a wonderful photographer before Noah was born who blessed me with gorgeous images of him in my belly. We have pictures for Noah, Teagan, and Sam. We hired professionals for their belly pictures and births. We have wonderful glimpses into our family in each phase of growth. It's worth it to me. I wish we did it more.
(Photo Credit: Stacey Potter Photography)
I still relapse. I still hide from the camera. I still delete pictures taken by my awesome husband. I'm not always comfortable in photos, and more often than not, candid images make me feel horrendous about myself. I don't believe the nice things people might say, and I'm far too critical of that double chin I see when I smile too hard.
Then I hear things like this:
"She's raising kids who's definition of beauty begins with the word "mom" because they see her heart and not her skin" -- Shane Koyczan. So I try.
I want you to know you aren't alone feeling intimidated getting in front of the camera. I want you to know that you aren't alone in feeling that you aren't pretty/thin/good enough for pictures.
The one thing I know for absolutely certain?
You. are. lovely.
Even if you can't see it, the rest of us can. Let it be captured. Hire a professional who will help you feel as beautiful as we see you are. You aren't going to look this way forever, and you can't come back to it. Someone who loves you is going to treasure it.
If you are looking for a photographer in the Denver area, Contact me! I would love to meet you.