When I first found out I was pregnant, I immediately fell to the floor in a pile of tears and hysteria. There was no celebration. Just sheer and utter panic that there was now a tiny human inside of me who, somehow, had to come out in what I was sure would be the most terrifying and painful process of my life. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I finally came to terms with the fact that this was actually real life and I would have to give birth. So I started researching like it was my job and signed up for a 12 week Bradley Method Childbirth class. You can imagine my husband’s excitement when I informed him we would be making a two-hour drive each Monday night for the next three months so he could learn about kegels, labor signposts, and mucus plugs. Yippee!
I was so focused on giving birth, that I had very little brain space for anything else. When you’re pregnant, everyone likes to chime in on your business and I would proudly declare my plans for breastfeeding, cloth diapering and attachment parenting once our daughter arrived. As the saying goes, I was a perfect parent before I had kids 🙂 I naively assumed that birth was going to be the biggest hurdle and everything after that would just come naturally. Ha! Isn’t that just cute?
I gave birth, came home, and then all those smug plans and ideas from before came crashing down. Suddenly, I found myself at the mercy of this tiny, demanding being who was surely part piranha and part Dyson vacuum. I can’t even begin to describe the pain of those early breastfeeding days. It was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done – natural birth included. And no one had told me or even warned me about how hard it would be! I felt like I needed eight arms and circus training to even begin working it all out. Five years and two kids later, I still remember that experience vividly and have made it a personal mission to impart some wisdom on any new moms I’m lucky enough to meet.
This superstar is one of those moms and I don’t use the term superstar lightly. Jackie gave me the immense honor of photographing her birth and in the lead up to that day, we chatted a lot about the good, bad and ugly of motherhood. She did loads of research, learning about birth, breastfeeding and everything in between. She had armed herself with knowledge and anticipated a few small difficulties. So when her son had issues nursing, Jackie just did what needed to be done; sacrificing her own comfort (and lots of sleep) to keep her baby fed the best way she knew how.
About three weeks after giving birth, I was excited to have Jackie view her birth gallery. I offered to come to her but she was determined to make it out of the house (this lady is a force to be reckoned with) and opted to come to me. I heard a knock and when I opened the door, Jackie was standing there, arms full of bags and a baby and declared, “Momming is hard!!” Amen, sister. Amen!
After the gallery viewing and shedding a few tears (me included), it was time for a feed. Jackie looked stunning and I have to admit, I was a little bit envious that someone could be so radiant just three weeks postpartum and on zero sleep. Also, Jackie instinctively knew what to do with her hands which baffled me considering I looked like an awkward mannequin the first six months of breastfeeding. She was a total natural despite all the special concessions she had to make in order to help Calvin eat. A combination of breast shields, pumping and finger feeding were the norm every couple hours and Jackie just smiled through all of it. It’s hard enough to establish a system without all that so I was in complete awe of this new mom. You can see why I called her a superstar!
As we were shooting this session, Jackie commented that she, too, hadn’t anticipated how tricky it would be to keep her baby fed. We promised her she would have a huge sense of pride and accomplishment when she came out the other side and that these photos would help her remember just what a monumental task it was. Plus, someday, she can show her son just what a good mom she was and remind him that he owes her big time.
When you’re in the thick of it, the early days seem like they’ll last forever. It’s a grueling phase and a lot of the time, you’re just surviving. And then suddenly, you realize the storm has passed and you’ve made it through. The day after these photos were taken, Calvin latched for the first time – no breast shield or supplemental nursing system needed! I’m so glad we took the time to capture these photos and preserve memories in a tangible way. Like Jackie so eloquently said at my front door – Momming is hard! But even though it’s hard, it’s pretty dang beautiful, too.