Eclipsed by Motherhood | Personal Post | Jacksonville Birth Photographer
I saw the moon pass in front of the sun in reflections; in the calm of Black Creek and in a jar of water. Both my husband and daughter decided to nap, so it was just a quiet hour by myself in the backyard. I stared at the reflections on the water and watched the sky darken little by little. And in the quiet, I had the opportunity to breathe and accept where I am, right now, in this moment.
In the last two years, being pregnant and raising my first baby, motherhood has eclipsed my life. It’s been a cosmic event. Every step has had its thrilling and truly awe-inspiring moments. Seeing pink lines and plus signs, feeling her body rolling under my skin, locking my brown eyes with her blue for the first time, watching her little mind figure out how to work her fingers, learning what makes her light up. Each new experience has been like watching the moon move a little further across the sun, slowly changing its shape. Her birth was my “totality.” My everything. The moment I’d waited for, for as long as I could imagine, and every bit as breathtaking as I’d dreamed.
And yet, with this event comes darkness. I never labelled it as postpartum anxiety; to me it was simply the same anxiety that I had fought for the last few years, wearing a new disguise. It made me wake up in a panic, terrified that I had smothered my baby in the sheets, when she was sleeping safely in the bassinet next to me. At red lights, I would put my car in park and stretch my arm back to feel her tiny chest rise and fall in her car seat. I sobbed as I sat in the lobby at her 2-month checkup, terrified if I was making the right decisions about vaccines. I looked at myself in the mirror, and where I had just a few months ago seen a curvy, perfect belly (I just loved the way I looked when I was pregnant!), I only saw a figure I couldn’t recognize. Nine months to gain the weight, nine months to get it off is the phrase I’d heard. But even with the extra weight long gone, the stretch marks and soft, saggy belly remain.
Anxiety told me that my dreams of being a photographer were over. When I shared with a stranger, baby on my hip, that I have a photography business, she smiled and said, “Oh, so you started taking pictures of your daughter and decided to make it a business! That’s so great!” I know that so many photographers start that way, and I think that is a wonderful way to get started, but in that moment, her words felt like a cold slap. Did my eight years of hard work mean nothing? The friends and clients that I photographed, the workshops I attended, the thousands of dollars I had spent on my gear, education, professional organizations, insurance, taxes, the business I had built in Chicago…all reduced to a whim?
As I continue to settle into my new role as “mama,” I feel like my “moon” has started to move past me, revealing who I am again. But unlike the sun I saw yesterday, I am changed by my experiences. I’m stronger than I thought I was. I can multi-task like nobody’s business! My body sustained a human life for nine months, and still continues to nourish her into toddlerhood. I can handle sleep deprivation in a way I never had before. And most importantly, I feel like I have a respect and knowledge about birth that has enabled me to move my photography business into a new and exciting direction.
I know that I'm not alone in feeling like motherhood has changed me in ways that I was not entirely prepared for. So as I ask myself these questions, I invite other moms and moms-to-be to share in my exploration:
What is the cosmic event in my life right now?
Am I giving myself the space that I need to process these changes?
What activities, experiences, or passions can I return to in order to keep my perspective on who I truly am?
Who will I be on the other side of this experience?
This season of life is challenging and exhausting. But photographing new life brings me new life. Building my business and continuing to pursue my passion makes me a better person. Every time that I return from photographing a birth, I feel that I’m moving closer and closer to who I want to be and building the life I want to live.
I’m stepping out with confidence into the sunshine. I’d love to work with you and hear your story.