If you read my most recent post then you learned how I recently had the opportunity to work with Janelle Carmela Photography on a motherhood project. Janelle and I had never met before but we corresponded over email for several weeks leading up to our shoot date. I was really apprehensive about how the experience would play out. Life lately at our house has been chaotic, stressful and in my mind, it's rarely pretty. Two children under three, a 70 pound wild woman dog and two working parents doesn't equate for a photo shoot worthy situation. Or so I thought.
Janelle had urged me not to worry. She said she would just blend in and we would go about our days like normal. Like we were all just "hanging out." I tried to remind myself of this as I realized at 10pm the night before that I didn't know what I was going to wear. I was told by Janelle and others to just wear what I normally wear. Um, no. Normally I'm half sweaty from teaching wearing workout clothes, usually covered in dog hair. If these photos are going to be something I cherish forever I don't want to see myself like that. So I pulled out a pretty cream sweater and some jeans. Then I did what I always do when I need fashion advice. I texted my friend Keely, who just so happens to be a stylist and the owner of B.Fetching. In the kindest way possible she told me my choice was not a good idea. She explained I wouldn't be happy with how it photographed. Crap! All of a sudden I went into panic mode. She kept telling me to take pictures of options and send to her. But all I could uncover was Nike and summer dresses. Plus I needed to figure out what to wear for the images of me breastfeeding Max. I don't really wear nursing tops anymore, I just lift up my shirt. That's probably not what I want on camera either.
I called Keely and told her I was going to cancel the shoot. She basically yelled at me for being ridiculous and talked me off the ledge. We (meaning she) came up with a button down shirt tied at the waist and long black leggings. Seems simple right? Looks effortless. Yea. Should have been. But nothing that looks that easy ever is. I don't know what I'd do without Keely.
Fast forward to the big day. I've never seen my husband more happy to leave the house. Grateful he didn't have to take part. Ha! Grayson was off to school. Max was napping. I was dressed and ready. Janelle arrived and from the moment she walked in it felt like we were old friends. She's super comfortable to be around. And that's when I knew this wasn't a good idea. It was a really amazing idea and we were going to have a special day.
And that we did. Janelle kicked things off by capturing the most precious alone time with Max and I. As a second child, my solo time with him is so limited. Janelle was there as I scooped him up from his crib after nap, changed him and nursed him. He was all smiles for the camera. It was like he knew this was his time to shine. She shot every little delicious roll on his body. Images I know I will look back on and smile at for always.
Then we packed up and headed out to go pick Grayson up from nursery school. I had checked with the school ahead of time to make sure they were okay with us photographing school pick up. If only I was so cool for it to be actual paparazzi. Grayson ends his day in an outdoor classroom and when I arrive to get him he always comes running full force into my arms. It was an image I wanted captured so badly. But I was also nervous. This was the true test. My little model man recently told me he didn't like taking pictures anymore. Whatttt? No!!!!! So I was afraid he would see Janelle and shut down completely. Thankfully this was not the case. I really think because Janelle has two little boys of her own she was immediately able to get in good with Grayson and make him feel comfortable. He transformed into the ham I know he is and never once complained about a camera being with us. From then on out it was simply good times!
Janelle followed us back home as I did my daily (often 6x) walk up the hill to our house. Grayson doesn't like to walk up the hill so I push both both kids in the stroller. On this day Grayson wanted to ride in the basket of the stroller, his favorite little spot. On days when I can't fit in a workout I joke that hills are my gym. After seeing the pictures it's solidified - yes us Charlestown Moms sure do get in our "stroller workouts" around here.
At home we had lunch like we always do. Again, Janelle fit right in. She even helped during the hustle of feeding both kids and getting them ready for bed. Then we made our way upstairs into Grayson's room to get ready for nap. Some of my favorite images from the day were captured during this time. A time that sometimes feels mundane and rushed. Imagine that.
After it was all said and done, that night I sat down to fill out a questionnaire that Janelle had sent along. Questions asking about my own childhood and my hopes and dreams for my children. Tears streamed down my face as I typed and typed. Reflecting on the day and putting words to paper, which is something I never make the time to do. To say I am grateful for this experience isn't enough. Lately I've been feeling caught up in my still new role as "mom of two." Tired, strained, pulled in so many directions are a few ways to describe my mood. I reflect on my days at home as rushed. From nursing, to meals, to bed times - everything can feel like a big chaotic mess. There just never seems to be very many moments of quiet.
When I saw the initial images from the day, oh my gosh I lost it. Everything looked so incredibly real yet beautiful. And it wasn't staged. (Except for my clothes.) This is my life. These are my children. I am so blessed. And yes, it took a few hours with a photographer to remind me that these are the moments that make us who we are. A family.
Janelle is taking my images and combining them with my quotes to create an album. The project is called "This Is Us." Eventually it will be a service she provides to clients. While regular family photos are of course a staple in many of our homes, I have a feeling this is a new trend that is going to hit the scene hard and stick around. I'd do it over a thousand times again.
My biggest take away from the experience is that no matter where you are in your life, just stop. Hit pause and look around. These moments don't last forever. Soak in where you are living, who is in your life and how you feel. It's not always the big, special events we should celebrate. See the beauty that surrounds you in your day to day. It's the normal that can be the most striking.
And to my fellow mamas out there. The days can seem long and hard. Some days feel impossible. Some days are lonely. Acknowledge them all but set them aside. Like a secret box of your treasures. Each one makes you the strong, unique mama you are. And you know those moments when you look around and things just feel right? Because there are always days or even minutes when this happens. Breathe it in. For it's neither the good days nor the bad days that define you. It's everything combined. And it always adds up to those those hugs. Those seconds where you are heart to heart with the little people who call you their mama.
So, does this sound like something you'd ever consider doing? Has anyone out there ever done a motherhood shoot before? And has anyone ever seen a photo of themselves from a different lens which helped put things in perspective? Would love to know. Please leave a comment to share!