honest family photography

Motherhood When Your World is Crumbling Around You

Sometimes life throws us on a wild ride. When Melissa and her husband decided to have children, they felt like they had themselves and their lives pretty well figured out… they had done plenty of travelling and enjoyed their share of evenings out cultivating truly great friendships. They had a solid foundation on which to build their family.

Yet looking back, Melissa has a feeling that most of us can relate to: that she wouldn’t recognize her former self if she was staring her in the face. It isn’t that any of us were less of a person before we had children, but the ways in which this role changes us are completely undeniable.

As much as we can plan the perfect timing for our big life decisions, the timing of our lives is not really within our control. As Melissa and her husband began to grow their family, they were hit hard with two terminal diagnoses in the family. During their first pregnancy, her aunt was diagnosed with leukemia. Shortly following their daughter's birth, her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The ordinary adjustments of sleeplessness, being constantly needed, and adjusting from career to motherhood were compounded with questions of how long, with rearranging lives and relocating, all while continuing to live life and anticipating a second child. While they were blessed to enjoy many more months together, they eventually lost both her aunt and her dad during her second pregnancy. The typical moments of joy and anticipation were swirled in a world of more complicated emotions.

It seems that facing the impending loss of your dad would be the worst time to adjust to a growing family, and it obviously wasn’t ideal, but both Melissa and her mother recognize that these children have been their saving grace in this time of struggle. A welcome distraction and ultimately the motivating force to strive to be an even better version of yourself (when the easier route would be to sink into an entirely justified depressive rut). With little eyes and ears absorbing everything, the choice to burden ourselves with anger at the tragedies we cannot control is much less attractive.

Not only have her children provided a source of joy through the tough times and the motivation to keep getting out of bed on the days that it feels nearly impossible; they have also been a reminder of the memories that matter.

When it comes to embracing traditions, Melissa worried that her children would be missing so much of her story in not having a chance to get to know her dad. When she and her husband moved back to their hometown, they ended up missing the window of time that they had left with her dad.

Now, despite not having his presence, she has found that she can enjoy the history of this place in a new way through the eyes of her children. Even memories that she had long since forgotten are reignited as she takes the parental role where her children represent her childhood self.

Driving past the same great big Christmas tree in the town centre that she had once craned her little head to stare at in awe there is a glimmer of a memory...

The memory of her father turning from the front seat back to enjoy her state of wonder. Now it is Melissa watching the same scene from her front seat.

The vintage rocking horse in the living room is the same one that Melissa herself grew up playing with. Their lives are a beautiful blend of appreciation for the past and engagement in the present moment.

These children have given Melissa access to her strongest self and her best self.

In turn, she is giving them a pretty amazing mother, and a childhood overflowing with love and patience and grace. She is embracing the messes and soaking up the crafting. She is loving these children in every moment and giving them the safe space to grow into their own best selves.

The thought of participating in these stories was altogether terrifying at first for Melissa. We are not generally very comfortable letting a stranger into our homes and into the truths of our joys and struggles… Not to mention the world of strangers who will have the opportunity to share in these secrets online.

So what would possess her to open up and share her story? It was the same thing that motivates so much of what we do as parents; to build a story that evidences for our children that they are loved entirely unconditionally and beyond the reaches of their imaginations. It is critical that they know that they are her greatest teachers and certainly her salvation over this past couple of years.

 

Want to read more of these stories, or have your story documented?

I would love to know...

How has motherhood changed you?

What do you need your children to remember?

A Manifesto

brush watercolour calligraphy your love

Your Love…

…is a radiant beam of light that turns the dust wafting through the everyday into beautiful, sparkling magic.

It is your everyday inspiration, and the most important legacy that you will leave.

It needs to be documented in its purest beauty… to be made tangible for future generations.

To capture that raw emotion, to awaken you to its beauty, requires an artist that forms a real connection with the truth of your heart.

To be real and vulnerable, you need to be comfortable, safe, and confident.

We can create that safe space together, with guidance through wardrobe and planning, and a laid-back session full of cuddles and giggles, without the pressure of perfection.

Your love is an art; display it proudly, hold on to every glorious moment and never let it go.

Why Documentary Sessions?

These images are from my personal collection from about this time last year. At that time, I didn't share them here, because I was afraid to pollute my "brand". My artistic heart was pulling in two directions, and I wasn't sure how to fit the two together. How does one balance the desire to create beauty, to draw out connection, with a passion for acknowledging and capturing the simple beauty already present in the everyday? Looking back at these a year later I am more confident than ever in the importance of these images.

The same love and honesty is the driving force behind both my connection images and my documentary images. The beauty and appeal of connection images is more obvious to the casual observer, but that does not diminish the significance of documentary sessions.

As a mother, this is why I am sharing these images with you today...

preschooler colouring with pencil crayons in kitchen

Because some things haven't changed... This little girl is still most at peace with a quiet room, a crisp sheet of paper, and a healthy supply of colouring tools. That dress is still in her closet, and she still only wears it if I have packed it in her bags and she doesn't have a pinker, purplier, or frillier option (this was taken at Grams' house, so I know that is exactly why she was wearing it then).

...But some things have, her nose, her cheeks, her lips, they are all a little less plump and baby like. That first haircut is again stretching down her back...

watching big sister colour

Her baby sister still watches closely to learn all the tricks of how the big kids do it, although she now has stronger opinions of her own.

chubby toddler fingers grasping pencil crayons

The phase of trying so diligently to grasp every crayon has passed, and her knuckle dimples are all but gone for good.

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She still sits on her feet on this bench, but will not need to for long. Those grippy bunny socks have been loved to the point of holes and are long gone. And most importantly, that precious curl on the bottom of her hair has grown out and I miss it to pieces.

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Anneliese still layers as many accessories as she can find, and her drawings have only grown more detailed.

And this one, oh my! Accidental naps are much fewer and farther between, that beloved soother is finally gone, but the "dot blanket" remains. Those jeans, well, don't tell him when he gets older, but they are in her baby brother's closet now ;)

 

Last year, these were sweet images of my girls colouring together. Today, this is a time machine that pulls my momma heartstrings back to a very particular moment in our lives. As this moment grows more distant, the value of these images will grow immeasurably. These are my girls. They are real, they are beautiful, and they change every day.