This was not the blog I was going to write.
These were not the pictures I was going to take.
This was not the story I was going to tell, and yet as I look back on this experience, I cannot help but giggle at the way God instructs and transforms us. The lessons that He has been trying to teach me during the last 9 months of pregnancy, were seemingly rolled up and sprinkled over this single photoshoot.
So, let me tell you the story (and eventually, the lessons) behind these photos.
First of all, this pregnancy has been a rough one, maybe not in comparison to other mamas, but definitely in comparison to my last pregnancy. I can’t say I loved being pregnant, but looking back, my first pregnancy, was a breeze.
This time was different. I was not vomiting, but I did experience nausea and morning sickness. I have never experienced heartburn or swelling or many of those annoying symptoms that can often accompany pregnancy, but, I have been VERY low on energy, both physically and mentally. My body is achy and sore most of the time, and not in a I-just-finished-a-great-workout sort of way. At 29 years old, this is the first time in my life that I have experienced emotional lows quite like this (boy hormones?). Ironically, its also the least active I have ever been in my life (coincidence? I think not!). All in all, this pregnancy is one I have been trudging through…bless those who have had to deal with me on a day to day basis… 😉
With that being said, the other very noticeable difference in this pregnancy compared to my last, was my level of confidence from very early on. During my last pregnancy I read, watched and listened to everything I could get my hands on. I felt very naive, and very confused about all of the options in the birth world. I had never heard of a midwife, and I had never known home birth was a thing. However, this time around, I felt like I had my ducks in a row, so to speak. I knew the midwifery care team I would seek, I knew that I would plan for a home birth, I knew how I would prepare my mind, I knew the way I would eat, I knew the way I would move, and I felt more akin to a seasoned warrior, than a hopeful novice, coming into this journey.
This “hear me roar” attitude seems to have been tested and humbled at every turn, which is exactly why this maternity shoot so clearly depicts the last 9 months of this experience.
When I was only a few weeks pregnant, I reached out to a photographer friend of mine, because I had a very specific vision, and I knew she was the one who could make it happen.
I wanted to depict the powerful woman I felt like, and was striving to be. I had studio styled pictures in mind. I wanted a full length, black, perfectly fitted dress, glamorous hair and classic make-up. I wanted the photoshoot to be drenched in elegance, with a warrior princess flair. I wanted to bring a team of women together to make this vision happen. I wanted my husband in a suit and my baby girl in a fancy dress to match her mama’s high class style. If you know me, and this brand, you know this vision is actually quite far from my “usual”. But this pregnancy has me feeling quite out of my norm, and so I wanted to share a totally different side of this journey.
In my first maternity shoot, I was in Sedona, AZ at a Babymoon retreat. The pictures were TOTALLY representative of my mood and personality. They were earthy, natural and blissful. I was crowned with flowers and I wore a maroon dress, left my hair to dry naturally and did very little make-up.
The photographer I intended to work with this time around, is a dear friend of mine. I look up to her as a role model in many ways. When I first envisioned this shoot, I immediately pictured her bright, whimsical, and glossy images. I pictured clean, air-brushed pictures to match my dreams of “classic and elegant motherhood”. (See some of Heather & Better Together Photography‘s amazing images below)
Upon scheduling and then cancelling due to our crazy Wisconsin weather, it turned out that between her schedule and my schedule the availability to make this shoot happen, would not be until I was about 37 weeks!
I was 33 weeks during the back and forth planning, and I was feeling completely out of sorts. I was sure that if I waited until 37 weeks, I would have the baby before I could get this shoot completed, or I would feel like such a bear/whale, that I would be completely miserable and cranky.
I was devastated. My vision seemed to be falling apart. (I know this sounds so dramatic, but I already warned you, I have been emotionally spastic, and I blame the boy hormones. ;))
As a model, I have worked with a plethora of amazing photographers, and so, I have gotten to know many personalities and various artistries! One of the photographers I have collaborated with, and then utilized in my own business ventures/family portraits, is Joe Hang. You may or may not have noticed his name is on the majority of my Permaculture Princess photos. I worked with him almost 5 years ago, and from day one, he was someone I considered a brother. Since our very first shoot, we have worked together on collaborations MANY times, shared many meals, and Danny and I were very close to traveling to Iceland with him! Needless to say, he is a GREAT photographer, but he is also family.
I reached out to Joe to see if he might be available to make a super last minute shoot work, before I was headed out of town. And of course, like an answer to prayer, he was down to make it work.
Now, by changing my photographer, I was giving up my predictable studio background and lighting. In addition, Joe is a film photographer, and while he does shoot some digitally, one of the differentiating marks of his pictures (at least in my opinion) is their grit and their authenticity. Once it is captured on film, it remains. There aren’t a lot of edits or airbrushing options. His pictures have flaws. His pictures show wrinkles. His pictures capture reality.
Of course, even though his style was not the style I had intended for this shoot, I worked with him enough to know that his photos would be absolutely beautiful. So, I accepted this change of plans, readily.
The location we would use would me my own home. I scouted some locations I thought would be a good background. I also thought this would be easier for Montana, Danny and our family shots.
When the day of the shoot arrived, I woke up early and braided my own hair, and then rushed over to the one and only, Kelly Schubel of Lustrous Beauty Studio to get my make-up done (spoiler alert: one of the ONLY things that went as planned for the day.) Upon arriving home, I finished straightening my hair, and received a call from Joe.
His car wouldn’t start. Dead battery.
What? My heart sank.
I left a good amount of silence after he told me, thinking he must have some sort of idea or plan to move forward, but nothing came. After a moment, he mentioned that we could come to his house and we could find some shooting locations around his side of town.
When I got off the phone, Kelly’s amazing make-up job was the ONLY thing that kept me from bursting into tears. (Dramatic, I know….ugh BOY HORMONESSSS)
I should mention, not only did we have everything planned for Joe to come to us, but I was on a time constraint, because I had another appointment to keep in Milwaukee at 1:00pm.
So, with very little notice, I threw on a turtle neck and leggings UNDER my “classy black dress”, did the same for my mini-me, and asked Danny to wear something more comfortable, because I had no idea where we would be shooting, or what we would be doing. It was upon leaving the house that I realized Montana had outgrown both her black dress shoes and her red dress shoes, so purple boots would have to do.
At this point, not only am I 34 weeks pregnant, but I have multiple layers on in order to stay warm, a husband who thinks my photo dreams are crazy, and a tired toddler with no idea what is going on, and a completely mismatched outfit.
We drove to Joe’s house, and then to his first location idea: a tall hill, overlooking the city. Now, while the location may have been super cool, it was also a wind tunnel, on a 15-20 degrees day.
IT WAS FREEZING. I got cold, he got cold, cameras got cold…it was like a frozen tundra, representative of my ice-cold heart! (Haha, just kidding….kind of ;))
We got back in the car and drove around looking for other possibilities. I stopped in a few coffee shops/businesses that I thought might have good backgrounds, but they were either too busy or unavailable. Finally, we found a park with a beautiful bridge that stood out to me. We tried our “family portraits” here, but Montana had just woken up from a nap and was NOT loving the cold temperatures.
We got back in the car and drove around looking for at least one more possibility. We ended up in downtown Wauwatosa, where we looked into an Anodyne Coffee shop. It was extremely small, but it had a window that offered a silhouette possibility. Joe and I ventured in to give it a try.
Between the time running out, the smell of fresh-ground coffee beans, and my hungry family, I decided to throw my hands up and give into whatever was meant to be. I changed out of my fancy black dress and put on a t-shirt, to match the t-shirt I brought along for my baby girl. I ordered us some rendition of “golden milk”, which the barista put into adorable matching cups and carefully kept at a very drinkable temperature. (Looking back, I am not sure what possessed me to order a drink that stains skin, fabric and anything it touches a bright yellow…but it just adds to the things I totally lost control over…) Danny ordered a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, and we all just let loose, and had a little fun.
We cleaned up a LOT of spilled golden milk, laughed at the situation, warmed our hands, filled our bellies and let go of all the “idealistic perfection” that had initiated our day.
Joe captured it all.
The lessons this pregnancy/photoshoot are teaching me:
Sometimes, when we are so antsy or ready to push forward and make things happen the way we want, we miss that still small voice of God. We often need to pause, take a deep breath and remember that we are being purified, every single time things don’t go as planned. This small day of mishaps is by no means a reason to “complain”, but it is these small moments that prepare us for greater challenges. And Lord knows, the greater challenges will always come.
Patience takes practice.
I am from control country. (If you are aware of the 4 countries, you’re awesome.) I am a happy camper when things are organized and well-planned…especially if they are organized and planned by me. There are SO MANY things that I had “planned” to be different in this pregnancy, that just aren’t happening the way I imagined. We (ok, I) need to learn flexibility. And sitting in my yogi malasanas (yogi squats) do not teach the sort of flexibility I am referring to. The combination of motherhood and pregnancy is teaching me a sort of resiliance, I have not yet encountered.
Some days things go as planned, and most of the others are completely unpredictable…and learning to go with the flow is something I am coming to…slowly.
God is in charge. I can plan. I can prepare. I can make all sorts of plans and decisions, but at the end of the day all the self-help books that teach us we are in complete control, are TOTALLY WRONG. The sooner we release our white knuckled grip on the reins of life, the sooner we can experience His will for our lives. His purposes are far greater than ours. And we might think that our “purpose” is a fancy, classic studio photograph, but in reality it may be more like a wind-blown, rougher-around-the-edges image, and accepting His reality is always, always going to be more peaceful and joy-filled.
I’ve learned that motherhood and life is very similar to holding a handful of fine white sand. The more tightly we squeeze it, the more readily it escapes our grip, but when we just calmly place our hand open, the sand can stay put.
Alongside surrender, comes acceptance. I used to love the verse that says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4, and I used to think that meant as long as I keep God close, He will give me all my dreams. What I have learned, is that when we keep God close, He first CHANGES our hearts, THEN He gives us the desires of our hearts. So, in actuality, we are getting the desires of His heart. Accepting these small changes to our own plans is something I am learning in motherhood and pregnancy. Sometimes a perfectly posed picture is not the best depiction of reality.
Sometimes, it is the raw, the unfiltered, the moments that we have completely released control over, that end up sharing our truth…and glorifying God, more than our original intention or plan.
Overall, I would like to say thank you to Heather of Better Together Photo, someday, girl….I would really love to shoot with you! (I am confident God will let me have a more whimsical photoshoot, again, someday!)
I would like to say thank you to Joe, of Joe Hang Photography, I love you like a brother. I am so grateful for the gift you gave us in these photos, and I am so grateful for your flexibility and positivity!
I would like to say thank you to Anodyne Coffee, your barista was FANTASTIC, and your “feel good space” was just what we needed! 🙂
I would like to say thank you to Kelly, of Lustrous Beauty studio. You photographed my first birth at 3 in the morning, and ever since you have ALWAYS pulled through for us. Thank you for making me look and feel like a superstar…and for your eyelashes, which gave me fortitude to keep from crying when my plans were being shattered. 😉
I would like to say thank you to my amazing husband, Danny. I know my love for documenting and storytelling is not your thing, but you support me and encourage me so well. It was you that said, “you need to tell this story,” as we drove away from Joe’s house that day.
I would like to say thank you to ANYONE and EVERYONE who is rooting for me/praying for me in this adventure. I am 36 weeks as I hit publish on this, and I am so so ready to meet this little man. I am CONVINCED I will like him better outside my belly. 😉