This is the only photo of my mother with me under the age of 10.
My father took this photo of us because my mother had just washed her hair to visit his aunt and uncle’s house (who raised him after he was orphaned at age 9) to show off their baby.
I was something less than 4 weeks old. I was 10 pounds, 8 ounces at birth and my mother was a VERY petite, 5′ 2″ 17 year-old at the time who moved to the U.S. from Belgium a year before. She delivered me vaginally with no drugs on a cold December day in 1976 at Carswell Air Force Base. My mother remembers vividly how mean the nurses were and my dad wasn’t there. It was a traumatic experience, to say the least.
Can you see the exhaustion in her face? My mother never sits hunched over like that. She took ballet for 15 years before she came to the states. Dancers don’t hunch.
It was the fatigue. The physical exhaustion from birthing me. From feeding me. From caring for a newborn when she had almost no experience with babies before me.
But to me, she is so beautiful in this photo. That exhaustion on her face is because she loved that demanding little creature she was holding.
I have stared at this image so many times in my 39 years and it’s one of my most prized posessions. She’s MY mom. So, she’s beautiful.
As a newborn photographer who aims to schedule newborn sessions at 5-7 days after birth, I have a LOT of mama’s who “just don’t feel up to” photographs. They are bleeding. They are exhausted. They are in so much pain. Their hormones are raging even more violently than they ever imagined was possible. And I don’t blame them for not wanting a camera in their face. I didn’t either.
But what I tell all of them is, “it’s not about you, mama….it’s for your baby”.
For every portrait I create, I know mama is fussing over her hair and nails and those 15 extra pounds she’s carrying. And I try to gently remind them that these portraits are not really for you. They are for your baby to treasure for the next 80+ years. And they think you’re beautiful. No matter what.
Pinterest and Sports Illustrated and the obnoxious billboards lacing every highway in America have messed with our minds, mamas. They have us believing the lie that what anyone else thinks about us is really important.
Listen to me….it’s not.
What’s important is that your children KNOW you loved them. What’s important is that you are PRESENT in their memories. That they know they were valued enough for you to forget about those 15 pounds or that overdue root touchup to show up for their portraits and document that amazing stage in their precious little lives.
This Mother’s Day, I hope you will truly CELEBRATE motherhood and be present with your children. Take silly selfies with them and print and display them. Decorate your sidewalk with chalk with them and paint with them and BE PRESENT. Off of your phone (and believe me when I say, this is a real struggle for me) and with just them, doing what THEY love.
Make memories with your babies and document them.
Because THAT is all they will have left when you’re gone.