Ages and ages ago, the mama in this family emailed me to ask if I did birth photography. I mean, she wasn't pregnant, she was just asking. I love when that happens. I had been thinking that I would love to try my hand as a Philadelphia birth photographer for ages. Philly is such a great town for all things birth: we have great midwives, great birth educators, great lactation consultants, many of whom I know or maybe even used myself. Also, I love photographing itty bitty babies, and birth is the most amazing thing ever, so how would that not be fantastic?
As luck would have it, this mama DID eventually get pregnant. And, when I spied her announcement on Facebook, I sent her a message, we met (with her husband too) and decided YES!
Christy Santoro of Motherland Midwifery and her assistant Janean Sexton arrived as I did. Birth doula Valerie Monroe was there to support Mr. About-To-Become-A-Big-Brother, who offered me soup when I got there. He did. Best kid ever.
Mama was upstairs, laboring on a birthing ball while knitting and playing with her dogs
Yes, you read that right. She was just workin' on a hat, y'all. I labored by laying on my couch crying. Not this mama! I was awed by her in every way. And her husband, oh lawdy. He was the most intuitive, supportive, loving birth partner around. What a zen, centered event that this birth was.
It was a pretty fast labor, I think I was there for a total of five hours from walking in the door to going home. This was pretty much the most amazing thing I've ever witnessed. I didn't see my own son being born, obviously. Mama and Papa welcomed this wee one, Baby Carrot as his older brother called him in the womb, into a space with so much love, with so much respect, gentleness and support.
There were some quiet moments, when there was a little break in the contracting and business of being born. The photos that follow here were shot at 8pm in October in a room lit only by the midwives' headlamps. If you notice some grain, they were shot at ISO 25, 600. Yes, that is a thing.
I love this one. I love this face. I love what this feeling feels like - the joy of becoming a mother. Love it, this one is for all the marbles, I think.
And then it was quiet. For the drinking in, for the realizing, for the comprehending.
I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I photographed two of the most amazing, brilliant, calm and knowledgable midwives do their thing. I photographed a loved and much-wanted baby come into this world. I photographed a boy transformed into a brother, and I photographed two people become parents again, and create a new circle in their family.
Here is Baby Carrot being weighed.
Making things official.
Welcome to the world, Baby Carrot. I am so glad that I was able to document your journey earthside.
Many moons ago, I worked at an alternative school. It was formative, fun, challenging and I met my husband there. I also met some of the most amazing people ever there. Kindhearted, sweet and funny souls. Tracy was one of them. She has always had a giant, sparkly smile and is quick with a laugh, a real laugh, the kind where the person throws back their head and makes you join in with them. I've always been crazy about Tracy, as has my husband. A genuinely good person. I feel lucky that we reconnected on Facebook a few years later, because she's not the kind of person you want to lose. We chat sometimes and I always feel happy when we do.
In the fall, I was leaving a freelance photo job and got an email from her. I got into my car and started reading. She's given me her permission to share it with you here.
I miss your face, but LOVE seeing your brain via your FB posts
Here’s the story – My husband John was diagnosed last November with an Acoustic Neuroma. For your inquiring mind:
“An acoustic neuroma is a slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. This nerve is called the vestibular cochlear nerve. It is behind the ear right under the brain. An acoustic neuroma is not cancerous (benign), which means it does not spread to other parts of the body.” As that handy little description stated, it is benign and slow growing, but a MRI from last week revealed that it is in fact growing. This can cause a bunch of issues – hearing loss, metal taste in mouth, a constant buzzing in the ear, and if left untreated, partial facial paralysis. There are a few options to treat it which include surgery or radiation. The surgery carries the risk of cutting the facial nerve, causing partial facial paralysis, almost always includes losing hearing in that ear, and it can take a year to regain full balance. The radiation is much less invasive, but has not been around long enough to determine what the long term effects are, and it is possible that the tumor will only re-grow, making the surgery then more difficult b.c of the scar tissue."
So…we are in a bit of a pickle. Being the active, handy, and hard-worker that John is, all of the side effects are scary, but the one that he is most scared of is the facial paralysis. I overheard him telling his brother that it scares him that I might have to look at him half-paralyzed for the rest of my life. That hurt my heart b/c I understand how he feels, as I would feel the same way if the roles were reversed. And of course, with all of this happening to him, he is thinking of how it will affect me. It’s just who he is and why I love him so much. So, all of this lead me to think that we should get some amazing photos done now that highlight his contagious laughter and incredible smile (I just started crying) before he has to make a decision that may potentially take them away from him. When I think of “amazing photos”, I think of you. I just love your work, and I love what you bring out in all of those beautiful people that you shoot.
We have a ton of great photogs up here, but I want you.
Well, I cried. I cried the kind of sobs that sort of take over your whole body because Tracy is made of pure gold. And then I emailed her and said call me and we did this. Wanna see the pics?
This family is just as pure gold as Tracy herself. John is amazingly sweet, crazy about Tracy and crazy about his boys. Gavin is so darling and so sweet and Baby Grant is precious. There were tons of smiles and laughs - this family is great at laughing. I should have known. Look at their mama. <3 I believe John has had treatment and is a complete champion.
I found this quote and I think it feels really fitting. "Family is a haven in a heartless world" - Christopher Leach
I am lucky and honored to be the family photographer you wanted.
Are you looking to have your family professionally photographed? I am a Family Photographer serving Philadelphia and the Main Line! Click here to schedule your own session or call 484-354-1785.
Sometimes, when I start a blog post, and the blinky cursor is there with the blank page, I feel such anxiety. Because, as a newborn photographer and a parent, I see it. I know how loved this little person is. I know how it feels to finally bring your little person earthside and then you just stare at them in disbelief that they are yours and the people wherever you birthed them are going to just leave this baby with you and trust you with them. And the pure, pure joy - joy over every little thing about them, joy that they are yours. It's beyond joy to like, a light year beyond elated. And, I want to do that justice.
When I look at these photos of this perfect baby boy, this hoped-for child, I can only think of this song, that always makes a sob catch in my throat, by John Lennon, written for his own son:
Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we'll both,
Just have to be patient,
Yes it's a long way to go,
But in the meantime,
Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is just what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans,
I had to add something funny to this sentimental and sweet post. This baby did NOT want to be my spokesmodel.
Watch this video to see more photos from this session. To schedule your own session, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here!
Your house. Four walls wherein your life is lived. Where you moved maybe with a spouse, maybe by yourself. If you are like us, you tore down everything you didn't like with your bare hands and then painstakingly, in between screaming and making decisions, put it all back together. Maybe you got pregnant there. Or got the news that your birth mother's water had broken. You painted your nursery and brought your baby home there, where she took her first steps, or said his first words. Maybe he made friends in the neighborhood. Maybe you had a favorite snack spot that you walked to everyday, or a walk route. You and your child made friends or friendly faces in the area, the guy in the coffee shop, the lady at Trader Joes who buys your kid a book every Christmas. Home. You've laid down your roots and made a life with your little family and it feels amazing to be a part of a community.
But. You don't have a yard for your kids, and you don't love the schools or whatever the reason is, maybe you or your spouse got a new job. And, you picked a house in a new spot that you LOVE and you can't wait to inhabit and make new memories in and learn the shopping spots and the bus stop for your kid's new school, but you can't help but feel a little remorseful about leaving that first house, your kid's first friends, the place where they know how your kid likes her sandwiches and they write her name on the plate.
That's just how I envisioned it when the mama of this family contacted me, saying she wanted to do a family session and explaining that they were moving. My mental wheels started going. I asked her to come up with some things they love to do in the neighborhood, and she gave me a great set of ideas. What we came up with was a lifestyle, natural session for them to bid adieu and record some of the memories of that time. And, because I'm me, I sort of felt sentimental and weepy about their stuff when we did the session, too. I loved thinking about it from their perspective and tried to put myself into their mindset to get the images that would mean something to them, both today and later on down the road.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And, a little Abbey Road thrown in for good measure?
Metaphorically, jumping into the new with both feet.
Love is all you need.
Everyone's got a silly side!
Like these? Do not miss this video! It's got a lot more photos.
PS - I call this kind of photography "lifestyle" photography. I guess it could also be called "documentary" photography too. But I love to do it. I love to show a piece of a family's life, to document it, because these are the things that matter. I also love showing Philadelphia as a lifestyle family photographer. Because is there a prettier city? I think not.
Such a darling, sweet little girl. What a little love.
It is in moments like this when I realize just how lucky I am - when I see the darling, sleeping babies whose parents have entrusted me to capture these moments, in this first photo shoot. Because if you have had a baby, then you know all too well, but these first moments are a blur. Whether your baby is ten or two, if you try to look back and remember the first three months, to remember what you did, to remember how your baby looked in the moments of precious repose, to remember how you survived and figured everything out, the fact is, you can't. It's crazy. Especially if it's your first baby and you and your spouse have just left the hospital, or looked at each other at home, or watched the social workers walk out the door, and said to each other, "Who said we could have this baby? Who said we were the right people to trust with a baby? How can we do this?" But then you do. You figure it out. You ask your mom, your friends, the Googler. And then a few days turn into a week and a month and three months and you are doing it and you're an old pro and you know what your baby crying means, sometimes.
And you get a shower, or some sleep, and then you have a cooing, giggling six month old. And it's hard to remember what you did that first week.
But. You let me photograph your baby. And, while you might not be able to remember her smell, you've got photographic proof that she was tiny. You've got something to jog your memory about how she cried but it sounded like a mewing kitten. You've got the photos of how big his cheeks were and you know that you spent at least three months kissing them.
And you remember that there was magic.
You are the closest I will ever come to magic. ― Suzanne Finnamore
Are you in the Philadelphia or Main Line area and wish to schedule your own baby photography session? Click here.