motherhood

SUNDAY

I tuck the two inch auburn curl into a Ziploc bag, willing it not to fall apart. You are nearly two months past your fourth birthday and I have just trimmed the tiniest bit of your hair for the first time--you didn't have much of it until a year or two ago. You stood on your stool in front of the kitchen sink, peeling a hardboiled egg as I combed it all onto your back, and then combed it again and again before that one snip. It is Sunday afternoon, before the big weekly house clean, and there are dirty dishes piled on the counter and sticky floors beneath my feet. This is the only time of day the sun lights up this part of the house, and your hair looks like it has about a hundred different colors in it here in front of the window. Your Minnie Mouse shirt is too small but you dressed yourself and we aren't getting out in the cold today, so it's okay. 

I expected myself to cry, and maybe I would have if I had planned it out and built up a little anticipation. Another ending, another beginning--isn't that the broadest rhythm of mothering? I got a drastic hair cut two weeks ago and you have been asking me to cut yours since then, but I didn't put anything on the calendar. Instead I started the day by shopping for funeral outfits for later this week, came home to you watching your father cut snowflakes from paper and asked you on a whim if I could trim your hair real quick. We've spent the last two days discussing death together since your great grandmother passed Friday morning, and you suddenly look like a much more mature version of yourself. It was time.

You jump from the stool to offer an egg to your sister, your remaining curls now evenly bouncing behind you, but she mistakes your gesture for an invitation to play chase and runs across the living room with a wide grin showing off the gap in her front teeth. She pumps her left arm when she gets going fast and lets out a shriek of joy.

Endings and beginnings, and oh, these moments between them. 

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Why Take Mother's Day Portraits?

Whether within your body or within you heart, you carried your babe with you before you even met her. You lost sleep, you felt uncomfortable and unsure, you worried yourself sick, you cried out of fear and excitement. And then you saw her, held her for the first time, and in the days since you've been choreographing, practicing and revising a dance together. You have found your flow and lost it and felt like you had to start over, maybe several times, but you've kept her safe and loved her fiercely through every misstep. You move together so beautifully, and the way she clings to you makes your heart burst. You are always in motion, always lifting and fixing and kissing and rocking, but somehow you still feel invisible much of the time.

This is why I take portraits of mothers and their children--because as a mother myself, I know what it's like to feel as though you're always just out of the frame. You are on the fringes, in the background, behind the camera, in the dark in the middle of the night, doing all of the not so glamorous work the world doesn't care to see because look! a cute baby. But you are so lovely and your baby is thriving because of you. Please let me show you the gentle curve of your body as you carry your child, the way she relaxes and rests in your arms or at your breast just after a fit, the bowl of your palm as you hold it out to collect the tiny wildflowers she excitedly brings to you as a gift. Let me show you that you're doing it, Mama, and you're doing it so beautifully. 

Why We Chose A Birth Center (+ Unseen Edie Photos!)

These photos were all taken within the first eight-ish hours of Edie's birth. She finally found her way out just after 11 p.m. on Saturday night, we were home from the birth center before 5 a.m. and up around 7 to stare at her/get ready for family to come meet her. We chose not to let anyone know I was in labor and we are SO glad, because I ended up pushing for a very long time and we feel like it may have scared a family member or two if they had been there waiting. I also just didn't want the pressure of feeling like I had to get my baby out because I didn't want anyone stuck hanging out overnight. And that's what would have happened! An evening, overnight, and an entire day.

Even though we didn't invite anyone to be there for us, I never felt without support.  If I'm being honest, I was a TINY bit worried when I found out I wouldn't know which midwife would actually be present at my birth when I first transferred my prenatal care to the Birth Center of Northwest Arkansas, but not worried enough to make me pursue a home birth. For our first birth and baby experience Daniel and I really liked the idea of being so close to a hospital and under the care of certified nurse midwives who had lots of experience with the medical side of birth if things took a certain turn. We mostly wanted to feel encouraged that my body could open up and bring our baby into the world without intervention or pain medication. 

Throughout the course of my pregnancy I became more comfortable with the unknown parts of my upcoming birth by booking prenatal visits with each of the three midwives on staff. Their personalities were different but I felt confident they all had my baby's and my best interests in mind. I ended up giving birth under the supervision of the midwife I had spent the least time with (she had just started working at the birth center a few weeks before), but a few hours into pushing I realized I would feel forever connected to this woman. She convinced me to trust my body in a way I never had and didn't give up on me when I was screaming at her that I couldn't do it. "You will push this baby out, Jordan." She gently guided me and suggested new positions while allowing my body to do its job and totally trusting me when I crawled off of the bed and squatted on the floor on my own accord in my last few minutes of pushing. I can still hear her voice when I think back on Edie's birthday.

Immediately after Edie was born I spent almost four hours doing skin to skin. She was never taken out of my sight, not even when the sweet nurse went through my postnatal care protocol or when the student midwife took her measurements. I was able to get up and walk myself to the restroom, get dressed and load our things back into our car to head home just hours after giving birth.  

The Monday morning after Edie was born a nurse and student midwife visited us at home to check on baby and me. The care we received was so personal! I remember grabbing the student midwife's hands as she was kneeling over Edie who was asleep on my chest and telling her how gifted she was at her calling. She had basically acted as my doula throughout the birth--I think I held her hands more than I held Daniel's (they tag teamed it quite a bit--one of them rubbing my back or squeezing my hips while the other held my hands). I can honestly say my birth at the birth center felt more spiritual than medical, and almost 18 months later I still find myself missing the whole experience. It was raw and messy and loud and long and so, so beautiful, and I am forever changed.

 

A Letter to My Daughter for the Day She Tells Me She Hates Me

My Edie,

At this point I'm only one on a list of many influences in your daily life, and I'm probably the most annoying You've made decisions I hoped you wouldn't and felt pain I prayed I could keep you from. You've also seen plenty of my flaws and failures and in the midst of whatever is overwhelming you today, you let me know I haven't mothered you perfectly. You said things you hoped in the moment would break my heart the way yours shattered when you realized I was just a human, too. But I know you didn't mean them. You don't hate me in your heart.

I know this because not long ago, your heart beat just beneath mine, enclosed within the same skin. You loved me with every move of your tiny body as you kicked and rolled and rearranged my insides like you were there to stay. And I loved you back with each little decision on how to carry out my day, what to eat, how to nourish and nurture you so that you could leave my womb, breathe in the world and eventually grow into your own womanhood. I loved you fiercely as I grew you, and I love you even more now that I've been able to watch you grow. But you still live by the beat of that same heart I first heard when I'd been your home for only eleven weeks. I had no idea how someone so small could sound like a train approaching, but now I know.

It's okay that you feel like you hate me in this moment because you've loved me in so many others. I carried you inside my body for nine months and then outside for years, but I was your passenger. Every time you turned around to make sure I was watching, each grab of my hand, all of the pictures you colored and naps you took in my arms, every tear you bathed my shoulder in, all of the nights you kept me from sleep--your love has carried me right along, and so quickly. So you can hate me right now; I know so much can change by tomorrow. Just yesterday you were nestled against my breast, nursing into a dream.

So all I'll say is my heart is that same heart, too--the one that has been beating for you since the day yours started fluttering beneath it.