Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Unicorns

Wayyyyyy back in the summer on our European Adventures we met up with my dear friend Jessica and her family in London (and did a quick little photo shoot as well!) -- we had been internet buddies for years and FINALLY we were able to meet in person!

It was so wonderful and truly one of the highlights of our trip.  She was one of the first people I texted just a week or so later when we got back and found out Clark was on the way.  She was so excited for us -- we came back from Europe with a stowaway!  I had actually bought a few onesies in Europe justtttttt in case we did come back and find out we were pregnant and then had started to stockpile some very "London" blankets and outfits since that's where Clark first came to us.

Well, fast forward 5 months and now we are here missing our little guy, missing that little piece of London we brought back with us, and alllllllll of the emotions and feelings that go with it.  Jess has been so wonderful these past weeks -- always texting me the most perfect things, things I needed to hear and hear again.  I do hate how far apart we are but dearly LOVE her and the technology that allows us to stay instantly connected, despite being thousands of miles apart.

Jess sent the best care package this week for us (actually she was so smart and sent it with her partner Tom on his trip to the US and had him mail it to us from here and saved a ton of transit time and shipping costs! So smart!) and it arrived yesterday and was just perfecttttt.  It had chocolates, tea for Mike, a custom write-on eye mask for Patrick, the most perfect shirt for Clark's corner/memory box, dog treats for Scoots, and these AMAZINGGGGGG unicorn outfits for the girls!

This morning the girls just HAD to put them on and literally haven't taken them off since!  So duh, I had to get out my camera and snap some pics of my little unicorns as they played.  And some are in black and white too furthering my eternal struggle of what I like better: color or black and white.  HAHA!



This pic KILLS ME -- Annie peering through the blinds is just so perfect.  Rosie looking unamused.  It's the best!!











Golly aren't they the cutest?! And these outfits are just AMAZING -- so perfect.  I love seeing them in them and they remind me instantly of my dear friend and her wonderfulness and support she's given us during this time.

Mike grabbed my camera and had me get in some pics with my little unicorns and I'm loving that he did that -- really trying to be IN FRONT of the camera a bit more (that isn't a selfie) and this was just perfect.






Anyways, just wanted to share a little story and some magical unicorn snaps with you all today.  Hope everyone has a great (hopefully short!!) work week and a wonderful Turkey Day!

Community Over Competition

I want to shout this post loud and proud from the rooftops.  It is something in the photography world that is a rare gem to find: community over competition.

And what exactly does this mean really, 'community over competition'?  Well, when you're a photographer, you want clients.  And sometimes, you are desperate for clients and you'll do anything to make sure a client books with you over someone else.  It can get dirty.  I've seen it.  Photographers throwing others under the bus, cutting them down, underselling just to book a client.  And it pains me to know that this is such a cutthroat industry I'm in -- an industry that soon will be my ONLY job (more on that later 😉).

However, what I have found the past couple of months is that it doesn't have to be this way -- that you can be a part of a wonderful uplifting, inspiring community that works with you to better yourselves together as photographers instead of being ruthless and snakes that are out to harm and undercut your business.  And this is what I think all photographers should strive for: having a community that brings them up, makes them a better photographer, values their worth and work enough to not client grab just for the business but really embrace the clients that value them and see them for all that they do.

And I am so happy, so blessed to have found this.  Especially now, with everything we've been going through with Clark, in the most busiest weeks of the year, having a community that lifts me up and is there for me in the hardest of times has been a literal Godsend.

I have talked about Victoria before, but I'm going to sing her praises again because SHE has been the epitome of community over competition.  Technically we are each other's 'backups' for our birth clients (so if one of us cannot go for some reason to a birth, which has actually happened a few times!, the other one is up to go!) --  and it has worked out amazingly because our pricing is so similar, our style and editing is even more similar, and we just mesh well together!


We actually crossed paths a month or so ago when she came to take over snapping a birth for me when I had to go to one of my high-risk OB appointments I could not miss, and I sooooo regret not getting a selfie of us 'working'!  But until that happens again, I give you this gem ^^^ from one of our lunch dates (with kiddos, obviously!!) we snapped last summer.

Victoria has been a lifesaver this past month and truly epitomizes the community over competition notion.  She dropped everything to do our maternity photos literally 24 hours before Clark was born, was there the entire time before, during and after Clark's birth, and didn't even blink taking 20+ of my already booked sessions (honoring pricing, packages and location) and squeezed them into her already busy fall schedule.  Obviously Clark's early arrival, right in the middle of my busy season, put a massive detour in my fall sessions...but having Victoria step in to handle them all was just freaking amazing.  I think my clients appreciated it SO MUCH that they still got their fall snaps at their set location and price with a photographer who's pics look veryyyyy similar to mine.

I could have easily canceled all of my sessions, praying my clients would understand, and rescheduled them for later in the fall or in the spring...never offering them the option to still have their pics done with Victoria.  But I didn't -- because I soooooo value the community I have, the relationship I have with Victoria and trust that my clients' would appreciate this setup much more than just canceling on them.

And you know what?  I would do the exact same thing for Victoria (or heck, any other photog who asked me to) if she had an emergent situation come up and wasn't able to do a shoot (or twenty).  Because that's what community does -- they are there for you, they uplift you, and they keep you afloat when things aren't going as expected for you.  I have learned this SO MUCH in the aftermath of Clark's passing with our friends and family and their reach to us.  But as far as photography job wise, my community has absolutely lifted me up in this time and I cannot express enough my gratitude for Victoria, my understanding clients, and everyone giving me space to recover from Clark's birth but also still fulfill their photography needs.

My advice: find your community.  Not just your 'friends' community, but your professional community.  Surround yourself with people that will lift you up rather than cut you down in whatever good, bad, untimely situation you are in...and do the same for others when they are in those spots.  It truly makes even the hardest most trying situations so much better.

Victoria: if you're reading this, a million thanks to you my friend.  I would be completely lost without you.  Thank you for being such an amazing community to me always.  Love you buddy!



Sunday, November 18, 2018

This.

A good friend of mine sent me this post this morning and OH MY GOSH. THIS.  It is spot on.  It is exactly exactly exactly everything right now.

"The gap between those who have lost children and those who have not is profoundly difficult to bridge. No one whose children are well and intact can be expected to understand what parents who have lost children have absorbed, what they bear. Our children now come to us through every blade of grass, every crack in the sidewalk, every bowl of breakfast cereal, every kid on a scooter. We seek contact with their atoms – their hairbrushes, toothbrushes, their clothing.

We reach out for what was integrally woven into the fabric of our lives, now torn and shredded. A black hole has been blown through our souls and, indeed, it often does not allow the light to escape. It is a difficult place. For us to enter there is to be cut deeply and torn anew, each time we go there, by the jagged edges of our loss. Yet we return, again and again, for that is where our children now reside. This will be so for years to come and it will change us, profoundly. At some point, in the distant future, the edges of that hole will have tempered and softened, but the empty space will remain–a life sentence.

Our friends will change through this. There is no avoiding it. We grieve for our children in part, through talking about them, and our feelings for having lost them. Some go there with us; others cannot and, through their denial, add a further measure, however unwitting, to an already heavy burden. Assuming that we may be feeling “better” 6 months later is simply “to not get it”. The excruciating and isolating reality that bereaved parents feel is hermetically sealed from the nature of any other human experience. Thus it is a trap–those whose compassion and insight we most need are those for whom we abhor the experience that would allow them that sensitivity and capacity. And yet, somehow, there are those, each in their own fashion, who have found a way to reach us and stay, to our immeasurable comfort. They have understood, again each in their own way, that our children remain our children through our memory of them. Their memory is sustained through speaking about them and our feelings about their death. Deny this and you deny their life. Deny their life and you have no place in ours.

We recognize that we have moved to an emotional place where it is often very difficult to reach us. Our attempts to be normal are painful, and the day to day carries a silent, screaming anguish that accompanies us, sometimes from moment to moment. Were we to give it its own voice, we fear we would become truly unreachable and so we remain “strong” for a host of reasons even as the strength saps our energy and drains our will. Were we to act out our true feelings, we would be impossible to be with. We resent having to act normal, yet we dare not do otherwise.

People who understand this dynamic are our gold standard. Working our way through this over the years will change us as does every experience– and extreme experience changes one extremely. We know we will have actually managed to survive when, as we have read, it is no longer so painful to be normal. We do not know who we will be at that point nor who will still be with us.

We have read that the gap is so difficult that, often, bereaved parents must attempt to reach out to friends and relatives or risk losing them. This is our attempt. For those untarnished by such events, who wish to know in some way what they, thankfully, do not know, read this. It may provide a window that is helpful for both sides of the gap."

From My Special Angel: For Loved Ones Lost ❤️ 

I have re-read this at least 10 times and it resonates so much with me, especially today...20 days after our Clark was born.  Today has been really tough -- I woke up and just missed him, missed carrying him, missed everything.  I know there are good days and not so good ones (heck, good HOURS and not so good ones), but today I'm just really feeling it.  And that post really spoke to me.


But even though I've seen some 'friends' recoil, the continued outpouring of love and support from true friends and family has been wonderful and continues to lift us up.  Internet friends whom I've never met continue to shower us with surprises in the mail, like Clark's angel wing ornament...or photo clients turned friends that surprise us with the perfect (low maintenance (must know me and my plant-killing history! haha!)) little plant to decorate Clark's corner with...or amazing wonderfully awesome friends who shower you with wonderful conversation, chocolates, and the coolest car racer game for your kiddo when you pop by to say hi to them before dinner at their store. 

Today is a difficult one.  And I'm taking time to grieve...something I feel like for the past few weeks I really haven't done a lot of.  I've been consumed by some other things (eff you insurance, being one of them) that have really made my angry and upset and hurt and everything under the sun and I've been so focused and consumed (and still am a bit, to be honest) with that that I really haven't felt like I've grieved our loss.  Our son.  My pregnancy.  All of that.  I feel like it's almost been put on the back burner because of my anger towards other things and people.  And today, for the first time I'm really just feeling down about it all.  About Clark and him not being here with us.  

And that is OKAY.

It is okay to be sad.  It is okay to grieve and be upset and if you're reading this, it's okay that I am feeling this way.  I'm not broken.  I'm just feeling all of the feels that are so perfectly illustrated in the post I shared above.

As I navigate these much unknown waters, and even more so of the unknown ones to come, I am finding SO MUCH everyday that this, this stillborn and loss experience, is something that is still such a hush-hush taboo topic even in 2018.  People don't like to talk about it (heck even acknowledge it) -- it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  I don't know why that is, but dammit it needs to change.  There are so many out there just like me hurting -- and many hurting in complete silence -- and it shouldn't be that way.  So I'll continue to share my story, my grief, my feelings, my good days and not so good ones to give a glimpse into this hell that is life after loss.  Because maybe others will see and read my story and know they are not alone...that these things they're feeling are perfectly okay and hopefully part of the healing process for us all.  So let me be sad, let me vent my emotions, let me cry and cancel plans, but be there for me.  A message.  An email.  A smile and wave in public.  Anything.  Because losing a child shouldn't mean losing those who are close to you as well.  I've already experienced enough loss in the past few weeks to last me ten lifetimes, I don't want to experience anymore. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

I Miss It.

Every morning when I wake up I pull up Timehop to look at my social media memories from the past years.


And every morning I am greeted with another bump pic from 2 and 4 years ago (occasionally 6 years ago too...wasn't as good about documenting the bump with P as I was with the girls' pregnancies) and it just rips me apart.  I should still be pregnant now.  I should be approaching week 25, feeling great deep into the second trimester, taking bump mirror selfies with Annie, buying adorable gender-neutral baby clothes and swaddle blankets, even though we have so many, but each baby deserves to have a few new things, plotting out my c-section plan with a clear drape and immediate skin-to-skin and where Victoria will stand in the OR to get the best pics and just getting more and more excited each day about welcoming our little one in the late winter.

But I don't have that anymore.

And it hurts...so greatly hurts.

I know some people HATE pregnancy and truly tolerate it because the end result is worth it, but honestly, I freaking love being pregnant, even the early months when I'm typically not feeling well.  I just love it, and every time I found out I was pregnant again, I was so excited for everything that came with it.  Unboxing my uber-comfy maternity clothes, festive holiday bump shirts, and maternity leggings that truly never really actually go away, pregnant or not.

But I don't have that now.  Clark arrived 17 weeks earlier than anticipated and he arrived sleeping.  Even after delivering the older 3 kiddos I'd feel a sense of yearning, missing being pregnant.  But it was okay, calmed by the notion that I had a brand new babe to care for now and cuddling that sweet little one was even better than carrying them on the inside.  And I always held onto the fact, after my last 3 kiddos were born, that we'd have another -- I'd have another chance at carrying another one so it wasn't going to be too long before I got to experience pregnancy again. 

Not this time.  My pregnancy was cut drastically short, and I don't have a baby to satisfy my missings of being pregnant this go'round.  And truly, I don't know if there will be another pregnancy.  I mean, I hope there will be, but mentally can I do it again?!  Physically I'm cleared to after letting my body heal and recover for 6+ months...but emotionally?  Mentally?  Can I do this again?  Can I get pregnant (and that's hoping it's as easy to get pregnant again as it has been the past 4 times) and chance doing this again, going through another potential heartbreak?!  I just don't know.  And truly, I don't know if I can even entertain answering this even remotely sanely right now, as we are still waiting on so many test results and answers to come back that will HOPEFULLY give us some insight into what happened and IF it could happen again.

It just really sucks.  A lot.

And I am genuinely so happy for my friends who are expecting -- absolutely no ill-feelings towards them as they are celebrating their pregnancies and welcoming a new one into their families.  Honestly I'm thrilled, because for many that means opportunities for me to snap their new addition and we all know how happy taking pictures makes me.

However, it hits me whenever I see announcements or bump pics or heck even my Timehop ones: I feel such a longing and missing of my pregnancy, of carrying Clark, of all of the dreams about adding #4 to our family and everything that comes with it. 



I can't stop looking back at these pics we took 24 hours before Clark was born.  I am SO SO SO glad we did them (because I still very much remember not wanting to get out that evening) and I will forever cherish them.  But man, I miss that bump.  I miss his little {big} bump.  I miss knowing that he was in there clearly growing away (cause how big was I for 22 weeks?!??!) despite not ever really feeling him move.  I miss it so so so much.

This has been one of the physical gut-wrenching things for me: not only the postpartum things I've talked about before, but also the actual missing of my stomach and what was there and the constant mind-racing of what could have been.  It is so consuming.  And I hate it and love it both.  I hate that it makes me so sad to think about my little boy not being here anymore and not growing away in me like he should still be doing, but also love that I did get to carry him for those 22 weeks and did get to be his mama for the time we got with him and will forever be as he looks down on us from Heaven.  It is so bittersweet and almost hard to really put into words here everything I'm feeling about it.

I guess I just want to put it out there how much I miss it.  All of it.  And I feel like I got cheated out of something I love doing so much and it just hurts.  It stings.  It makes me yearn for my bump and belly and little baby boy growing away in there and all of the exciting anticipation of his late February arrival.  And even with how open I've been, there are some people that still don't know what happened -- they just saw me with a huge bump one day and now it's gone...and those looks, the questioning "what happened but I don't want to ask" looks just are like ice daggers through me.  So friends, if you're reading this and I am not up for doing something or bailed on plans, please understand it's not you.  It's me.  And it may take me a bit of time to get back to myself, but I promise I will.  It's just so hard for me now, in a spot that I feel like I got cheated into being that I wasn't suppose to be (well, in my mind wasn't suppose to...obviously I know that my plans aren't always THE plans in the grand scheme of life). 

Truly, these past 19 days have been so so so hard.  And there are so many reasons they have been, some of which I haven't even hinted at here...that are honestly, too painful and hurtful to even open myself up to a blog post about right now.  But perhaps in time I'll get it all out.  Just know that they've been tough.  But, as I've said in the past, and will continue to keep saying, I'm hanging in there.  I know time will help, and even at 2.5 weeks out it is still very raw and fresh, but I keep on trucking.  Keep on trying to focus on the good, remembering the good, celebrating the good, and have positive thoughts and sights on what's to come in the future.  There's a reason for all of this, and I'm slowlyyyyyyyy starting to get glimpses into what it is.  But is still doesn't take away from my feelings and, like I've said here, my missing of things...a lot of things.

So hug those babes of yours, take pictures, share them, celebrate the good right now, and I'm going to do my best to do the same.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fall into Winter

Earlier this week we had a light dusting of snow and Patrick thought it was the BEST THING EVER.

He and Annie had a blast playing in the not even 1/2 an inch of white stuff on the ground.

Welp, the weather called for a much bigger snow storm Wednesday night into Thursday and we were suppose to get 6+ inches!  WOOOOOOOT! (Well for Patrick...I'm still holding on to fall!) -- so with that in mind, I knew the last bit of fall was probably on the way out so Wednesday morning before I took Patrick to school we snapped a few pics of him outside...in his new hat that he absolutely HATED when I bought it for him but then changed his tune and now loves because it looks like a fighter pilot's hat! HAHA!















I'm sooooo biased but golly he's cute!!  His hat is amazing and it's my new favorite accessory of his. And I just love the fall colors hanging on desperately in the background of these pics.

SOOOOOOO, with this last little bit of fall foliage on display, in came the snoooooooowwwww!  And man we got a ton, and for November 15th it was definitely an early and memorable one!


Patrick had his first official Kirkwood School District snow day so we had to make the best of our day home together while daddy slept...because ^^^ for some reason they don't give the police department snow days!! HAHA!


First off, I snapped one of my favorite family's holiday pics (see here) -- they turned out SO GOOD.  I love that it was legit snowing their entire session!  And this was my first session officially back after Clark's arrival and damn it felt so good to get out and snap.  I have another one this Sunday and then I am officially BACKKKKK to work next Monday with oodles of sessions (and 3 births! WOOT!) planned for the remainder of the year.  I cannot wait.  I've missed it so much and it is such a positive outlet for me to channel my energies into.

Anyways, so after I finished up with that fam's pics, out came Patrick and Annie (and Mike for a bit!) to play in the snow!!  Rosie is still YOLO-ing it up in DC with Kate this week so I'm sure she'll get some snow fun when she returns.















Literally the only pics I took in the 3 minutes I had my camera out -- it was snowing pretty good and getting my camera wet and I didn't want to chance having it out any longer.  So no sledding pics or anything playing with our wonderful neighbors...use your imaginations for what those were like.

And this gem from when they thought I was taking a pic. HAHA!


We had a great rest of the day with potato soup for lunch, hot cocoa for Patrick and I, and naps all around until the kiddos got up (well P never slept...haha!) and played in the snow some more before dinner while I got some work done.  Definitely a great snowday and one for the memory books!

I hope everyone else around STL (and heck, if it snowed where you are!!) had a great day and stayed nice and warm and dry! 
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