Becoming a mother was an emotional roller coaster for me. Even though I was beyond excited to start a family, a part of me was slightly terrified. I was nervous. I didn’t have any experience with newborns whatsoever. Even though I had wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember and couldn’t wait to meet our baby after 40 long weeks of pregnancy, I was also slightly relieved when my due date came and went as I still didn’t feel quite ready (but at the same time I knew I would never feel completly ready). Despite the 8 weeks of birthing classes and the detailed birth plan I had typed and ready to go, my labor and delivery experience ended up being pretty much the exact opposite of everything I had hoped and planned for. Even though I knew the medical interventions that were taken were absolutely necessary to save my baby’s life and mine, a tiny part of me felt like I had failed as a mother before I had even begun. I have never been more terrified in my life when he was born and there were no sounds, no cries…just a muffled rush of commotion from all the doctors as I was left alone in paralyzing fear wondering if my baby was even alive. I didn’t even see my son until a couple hours later and I didn’t get the chance to hold him in my arms until the following day. The bonding process was difficult as the trips back and forth to the NICU across the hospital were challenging after everything I had been through. When all of us were finally discharged four days later, a little voice inside me was questioning, “Are these people really going to let me take this baby home when I have absolutely no idea what I am doing?” However, I vividly remember that first hour alone at home as I snuggled with my newborn son on our bed in the warmth of the afternoon sunlight. I was suddenly overwhelmed with unconditional love for this tiny human being that was utterly dependent on me. At that moment, I knew I would do everything in my power to protect and love this little one with everything I had to give. My life was forever changed in that moment and that is when I felt like I truly became a mother.
However, even though my love as a mother was intense, I still didn’t feel beautiful. I wasn’t accepting of my post-baby body and everything I had been through and the last place in the world I wanted be was in front of a camera…fast forward 3 1/2 years later and now I would do absoluetly anything to go back in time to have one beautiful image of me with my newborn son. That photograph that was never created would be priceless to me today. If I only knew then how much my children would love me unconditionally…they could care less if I have a few pounds to loose or that my undereye bags show how I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in years…I am their everything and they are mine. Because of my personal experience, I am now extremely passionate about providing portraits of other mothers with their babies (of all ages). These are always my favorite images from sessions as I know they will be the most treasured ones years from now. I have convinced mothers that didn’t want to be in images at first to do it for their children and they have later thanked me. We are beautiful in their eyes. They don’t see the extra pounds, the dark circles or fine lines. We are their whole world. If only we saw ourselves as beautiful as they see us. I want my children to have tangible memories of how much I loved them, especially from the years when they are too young to remember for themselves.
Because of all this, I am beyond thrilled to begin a year long project with other like minded photographers who care as deeply about documenting motherhood as I do. We are committing together to get in front of the camera once a month and document our unconditional love for our babies. Yes, this is going to be challenging as I have to rely on a tripod (actual or human) to help create my vision, but I know I will treasure these images years from now…and so will my babies.
This post is part of a year long project where a group of talented photographers/mothers and I commit to documenting images of ourselves with our children. Please continue the blog circle to view what the extremely talented Jenny Cruger has to share.
Bethany Mattioli is a Bay Area photographer that specializes in newborn, baby, maternity and family photography in Morgan Hill, CA and surrounding areas including San Jose, Gilroy, Los Gatos and the greater San Francisco Bay Area.