Last week the Evening Sun shared an interview they did with a few of our mamas. Shawna, Ahna, Ashley, and Sarah met with Lindsey from the Evening Sun to talk about the group and an upcoming fundraiser we’re doing for Carry the Future. To read or watch the interview, click the link or photo below!
Today I was looking out the window with my son, watching the orb lights come on across the street thinking about how lucky we are to live where we do. We just moved out of the country and into a town where there are infinitely more activities and everything is within walking distance. It really builds a sense of community. When I was 25, I wouldn’t have dreamed of moving to such a tourist trap because I was busy romanticizing the dirty streets of the adjacent town, hoping we’d be able to start a collective house and spend our time with like-minded, enjoyable people. All efforts fell on deaf ears or failed right out of the gate because in reality, the town we romanticized so much had nothing to do but drink and eat, otherwise not exactly a place to grow community. So we retreated to the country, to grow vegetables and have loud parties.
The idea of being a parent occurred to me off and on, but when I found out I was pregnant, I hadn’t been trying to conceive. The bundle of cells rolling around inside of me suddenly made the drunken nights and careless attitudes seem trivial and pointless. Now it was important to have a safe place to live with engaging activities, playgrounds, sidewalks, and opportunities to grow. That last bit really got to me because I realized after spending many years neglecting my own need for progression, it never occurred to me to keep fighting that fight. Now I wanted more for my child and more for myself as a person, for both of us, as individuals; it was a weird lightbulb moment.
As parents, our role is to act as an advocate for our child as well as ourselves because while we are a parent, we are still our own person (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes). Self-care is hard to prioritize and maybe I’m “privileged” for mentioning it, but damn, the past few weeks I have taken time to read books written by other “punk” or “alternative” parents and I have to say, what a breath of fresh air!
Who needs another book of parenting advice that just makes you feel like an impossibly shitty parent? Not me. I want a book that’s going to remind me that I’m fucking alive, that honors my role as a mother but reminds me that I am a fierce, creative, breathing creature that has existed prior to life birthing from my womb. I want to read the stories of other people who don’t get invited to be part of parenting groups because they don’t fit the soccer mom build. I want to know that there are people out there who are still activists and artists, musicians and zinesters, holding true to our roots, belting lyrics with their arms wrapped around their friends and their children. Those people exist right? I know I am one of them, sometimes I just have to reach out and grab that part of myself.
I have compiled a list of books that have been written by and for parents who lead alternative lifestyles, punkers, artists, musicians, activists, and everything in between. I hope there are more out there, I truly do, and if there aren’t, I hope you’ll work with me to expand the resources available. This list is in no particular order and my descriptions only serve to give you an idea of what is behind the cover, not rate/review the work or give you a play by play of each page. Seriously, DIVE IN:
The Future Generation by China Martens
I bought this radical parenting anthology several years ago at Atomic Books and instantly fell in love. China talks about being a single mother in the 90’s and how welfare reform affected the lives of single mothers, herself included. She talks about parenting, politics, and survival in a world that sometimes seems like it would sooner see parents drown than extend a hand. This book’s theme is always going to be relevant; we need China’s ideas on community now more than ever. Oh, and she’s reissuing the book, so be on the lookout!
Mamaphonic edited by Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini
A compilation of experiences from parents who know the importance of maintaining that artistic, creative identity and a great book for anyone who is tired of being told that to become a parent is to lose your creative self. The light is never out, it just might take the flipping of a few switches to figure out what works for you.
My Mother Wears Combat Boots by Jessica Mills
This was the first “punk parenting” book I had ever read and it was one of those moments that punches your heart into oblivion. PUNK PARENTING: you do not have to give up your love of music and anti-establishment views upon becoming a parent. In fact, how highly hypocritical and sad would it be if you did? This book doesn’t just talk about punk and anarchy though, Jessica drops a lot of legitimate facts regarding pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and other postpartum issues.
Breeder edited by Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender
A collection of stories of unapologetically “real” parents touching on the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of parenting. I need to take a moment to shout this out: this book was one of the first “punk/alternative parenting” books I had ever read and ultimately what made me know that I’d eventually be a parent. It also made me realize how shitty it is when friends and peers act like shitheads about parents, which is something I had done for so long. We get it, you’re soo cool and free because you don’t have children “ruining your life.” Go on, remind us of our life failures while we “build a new foundation from the bricks you threw [our] way.” We are humans facing struggles and carrying the next generation of the world on our shoulders. You will not take that power from us.
Revolutionary Mothering edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams
This book is fierce and raw but full of hope! Revolutionary Mothering does an AMAZING job of giving a voice to marginalized groups: people of color and individuals in poverty. Both are such underrepresented groups of people and need to be heard and given power.
The Hip Mama Survival Guide by Ariel Gore
If you’re looking for “real talk” this is it. This was a book I had read prior to that bundle of cells taking up residence in my uterus. While this book is from 1998, it serves as a judgment-free parenting resource, which is incredibly refreshing. Ariel touches on a lot of different topics, so the segments are brief but well worth the read!
The Essential Hip Mama: Writing from the Cutting Edge of Parenting by Ariel Gore
This is another collection of works from various parents who provide the honesty and vulnerability that we all feel as parents. I hate to sound redundant, but it is something we all need to read because the solidarity you feel from it will break your chains of self-doubt, I promise.
The Mother Trip: Hip Mama’s Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood by Ariel Gore
I’ve included so many of Ariel’s books because they are such a joy to read and we all need that healthy dose of reality and feminism. A must read for those of us who broke the “mother mold” years ago.
Whatever, Mom: Hip Mama’s Guide to Raising a Teenager by Ariel Gore
This reads less like a guide and more like an empathetic, humorous approach to parenting a teenager. We all talk about new babies, but when the novelty of diapers and night time feeding wears off, what do we have to represent the parents of young adults? Growing children are a hard pill to swallow. AUTONOMY?! What do you mean you don’t need me anymore? I’m glad to see someone is talking about these things.
Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind edited by Victoria Law and China Martens
This book talks about the important fact that parenting does not automatically equate to abandoning your beliefs and interests. It also serves as a resource for those who are not parents, but have friends/acquaintances who are. Additionally, it even includes those who are not parents, but are full-time caregivers for parents or other non-children. Think about it, how can we expect children to care about our community if the community spaces make parents and their children feel unwelcome and burdensome? We need to hear the voices of the parents in our communities. Amariah Love wrote my favorite quote in this book, “Children need to have an established sense of community so that they carry those values throughout their lives.”
My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities edited by Yantra Bertelli, Jennifer Silverman, & Sarah Talbot
This book addresses the isolation, invisibility, frustration, and fears of parents who find themselves in a realm of parenting that is widely misrepresented and unsupported by their peers, families, and the media. One of my favorite lines from the book was from Maria June, who says, “Motherhood meets us where we lack imagination.”
Rad Dad Zine Compilation Issues 1-10 edited by Tomas Moniz
So I know this is a Punk Mamas blog, but I couldn’t leave Tomas Moniz out of this list because he acknowledges that we are ALL on this parenting journey in one form or another. This particular book is a compilation of the first 10 issues of Rad Dad zine.
Rad Dad: Dispatches From the Frontiers of Fatherhood edited by Tomas Moniz & Jeremy Adam Smith
Again with Rad Dad, another collection of stories. It is refreshing to see written proof that there are a multitude of fathers out there who are questioning the mainstream role of “dad” and parenting with intention, emotion, radical mindsets, and above all, a sense of humor.
Rad Families: A Celebration edited by Tomas Moniz
Family means something different to everyone because the ways in which we begin as parents or start families are all so different. This book is as the title suggests: a celebration of the diversity of families.
A few topics I found to be lacking, maybe not totally missing, but not largely represented: maternity activism, schooling, immigration, adoption, and child-loss. By sharing our stories and frustrations, we open doors to support, advocacy, and friendship. If you are ever feeling invisible, I encourage you to make your voice heard and scream until you shatter that barrier that makes you feel separate. We cannot become advocates for one another if we do not listen and offer our support to all punk parents and everything they face: the good, the bad, and the argyle.
Punk Mamas’ Hana RW has shared her story of becoming a mother with us, which is heartbreaking, frustrating, raw, and honest…but has a happy ending! This past Mother’s Day, our Punk Mamas Facebook group was made aware how hurtful holiday ads can be to adoptive mothers, as they tend to only target mothers who have physically given birth. And until it is pointed out to you, it’s not something you notice. We are very grateful that Hana has shared with us her journey of motherhood. It is important to us that we show there is more than one way to parent, there is more than one way to welcome a child into the world, and there is more than one way to be a mother. SC
My husband and I had been married for seven years before we felt like we were “ready” for a baby. This is really a different story, but it leads me to my birth story – so, here we go. After about six months of casually trying to conceive, I got pregnant; it was right around Mother’s Day. Along with the usual first trimester blahs, I was excited and nervous and we blissfully went to the first OB appointment with the intent of hearing our baby’s heartbeat. After an annoying amount of paperwork and questions and waiting, we both stared at the monitor waiting to see the little blob on the screen. I’d really been looking forward to getting the sonogram picture and was excited to tell all our friends and family about our new addition. Within seconds, I could see something was wrong on the doctor’s face. She had no poker face at all. Her mouth was taught; her eyebrows furrowed together. Her eyes squinted at the screen and she frantically moved the wand around. She didn’t speak and I didn’t breathe. It probably lasted fewer than thirty seconds, but it felt like thirty minutes. She said, “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.” I heard my husband inhale sharply, but I couldn’t take my eyes away. The doctor and nurse fumbled and someone said they needed to get another doctor to confirm. I thought, “oh good – go get another doctor, because clearly you’ve made a horrible mistake. You are wrong. I feel pregnant, so clearly you don’t know what you are doing.” The second doctor burst in there was more poking and face scrunching and screen staring. He took my hand and said, “I’m so sorry.” And then he walked away.
I can’t really describe what that’s like. It’s devastating. It’s isolating. Not many people knew about the baby we lost, so I felt like I had to put on a brave face and just act like everything was fine and normal. I had to go to work and move forward with my life when all I wanted to do was cry and scream. Those that did know, said things to me like, “just try again” or “this was god’s plan.” My mom patted me on the back and said, “maybe next time.” Maybe next time? These comments were hurtful; hearing them was horrible. Possibly the most unhelpful thing said to me was the nurse at the doctor’s office, who within minutes of being told that my baby had died said to me (as she was drawing blood or I may have punched her in the face), “this is nature’s way of saying the baby wasn’t healthy. It happens.” Thanks, nurse. It does happen. Needless to say, I never set foot in that doctor’s office again. Anyway, after two years of trying to conceive and one year of seeing fertility specialists and countless painful procedures, I threw the white flag up and said I had to stop. I literally couldn’t do it anymore and I had no interest in pursuing invasive procedures and putting myself and my body through any more.
Should we call this phase two? Phase two – adoption. My first thoughts on adoption were this: do some paperwork, blah blah, home study, blah blah, get a baby – pretty basic. I quickly learned, it’s anything BUT basic. It’s exhausting, time consuming, anxiety producing, stressful, and expensive. Adoption forces you to be a parent way, way before you are a parent. You have to jump with both feet, without looking, into the unknown, no matter what the outcome. You have to prove your worth to social workers, to an agency, to a judge, to a birth parent, birth parents, or birth family. You have to prove that you are healthy, financially stable, and mentally prepared. You have to go to counseling and have a social worker come to your home for an inspection. You have to convince many people that you deserve to be a parent, and that you are worthy, when you may be feeling the opposite of that deep down. I felt like a failure. And here I was, trying to put on a smile and convince everyone that my marriage is perfect, my home is perfect, my job is super flexible, and we are a stable family. It took nearly six months to get all of our paperwork in order, clearances done, physicals completed, and home study approved. We had three failed adoptions, before a successful one. Each one was a loss of its own. We lost those babies, though they were never truly ours.
On May 11, 2016 I got a call from our adoption social worker that a birth mom had found our profile on our agency’s website and out of hundreds of families, she wanted us. This being the fourth time we were matched, I was already tired, skeptical, and burnt out from loss. But in adoption, you have to be enthusiastic even when you are not. You have to be ready even though you are terrified. You have to be confident even though you know that this could fall through. Olive’s due date wasn’t until June, so we assumed we had six weeks to prepare. WRONG. Olive’s birth mother went in to labor less than two weeks later.
May 21, 2016 was a Saturday, and like most Saturdays, I was getting ready to go around the corner to our local farmer’s market for my weekly shopping trip. My phone rang around 9am and I saw the number and my heart skipped a few beats and I felt like puking. It was our adoption social worker notifying us that Olive’s birth mother was at the hospital and that we needed to get to Kansas today (we live in Pennsylvania). I panicked inside. I’m not a flexible person. I’m not spontaneous. I’m a planner and a scheduler and an organizer. This wasn’t the first time we were dropping everything to fly across the country, either. This was taking a toll on our bank account, our jobs, our emotions, and our life. I’ve never, ever packed like a hurricane before. I called people. Someone came and got our dog. Oh, and my packing job was terrible, but thanks, Target, for saving the day (I ended up boxing most of what I bought and shipped it home). We flew almost all day, and on our third flight, Olive was born, but she wasn’t Olive yet, and she wasn’t mine yet.
We got to the hospital at around 1am on Sunday. The nurses at the hospital treated me like a threat. They whispered about me. When I entered the birthing ward, I had to say, “Hi. I’m the prospective Adoptive Parent for X-baby” (because that sounds totally fucking natural – it’s not invasive at all). Everyone knew who we were, and either completely ignored us or were very awkward with us. They acted like they had never seen an adoptive couple before, which felt really strange. The nurse walked us to a room as our social worker had arranged for us to have a hospital room just like mothers who birth have. She stood in the doorway and pointed to the bathroom and towels and asked us if we needed anything. Then she said, “let me see if I can get the baby.” In my head and my dreams, I have been wondering for years what this day is like. But after so many losses, I found it hard to be anything but scared. I didn’t want to bond to this baby, because what if like all the other babies – she wasn’t mine. After a few minutes, the nurse returned with Olive. She was swaddled in a little blanket and had a bow on her head. I didn’t know what to do or how to act. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t excited. I just did what I thought I should do. I picked her up and held her. The nurse gave me a bottle, so I fed her. Or I tried to. I either wasn’t good at it or she wasn’t hungry. I don’t know, I just assumed I wasn’t doing it right. The nurse didn’t offer any advice – in fact, she just walked away, which was unexpected. To be honest, I was so tired. I had traveled all day, and I wanted to take a shower, and I desperately needed sleep. The nurse soon came back and took Olive to the nursery so we could sleep, and I was glad for it. I didn’t want to be with her, because I was terrified of losing her. I was also doubting myself that anyone should trust me to take care of a newborn. My head began to fill with doubt and negative thoughts and self-defeating words…don’t attach…she will change her mind…protect yourself. My head was telling me that I should run away…this is too scary…you need to leave. I started to have a panic attack. And all night long, I didn’t sleep. The next two days were much of the same on repeat. I was absolutely TERRIFIED anytime my husband would leave me alone, even if it was only for fifteen minutes to run and get us food. And I mean, this was an intense feeling – the feeling that I was going to die. My anxiety had NEVER been so bad before. And the hospital was of absolutely no help to me. Nurses came in and out to check on Olive, but never offered any advice, let alone look me in the eye. Aside from being terrified, I worried about Olive. She was small and she wasn’t eating great from the bottle. She was gassy and I didn’t know how to burp her the right way. The nurses ran out of the room as soon as they were done checking on her, and I felt too tired and timid to chase after them to ask for help. I felt so defeated and scared that I was going to fuck up and not be able to care for this tiny human. Further, the hospital had only given me a wrist band that matched Olive. That meant that I had to be in the room with Olive at all times. Shawn (my husband) did not get a wrist band, so he could not be alone with Olive. I asked if he could have one and I was told that they only print three, and typically that is two for the parents and one for the baby. One was on Olive’s birth mom, one on me, and one on Olive. That’s it. Not only was I in limbo, but I was trapped. I couldn’t go for a walk. I couldn’t get fresh air. I couldn’t go to our hotel and unpack. I really, really felt like I needed to nest in our hotel. My instincts were calling to me to go to that hotel room and organize and control that environment because everything else was out of my control. But I could not. I was chained to the hospital room and my anxiety. No escape. I was away from all our family and friends, too. There was no one there to help. In between all the other thoughts, I thought of Olive’s birth parents and birth family. They were going to experience loss like I had. I cried for them and for Olive. I was glad that they had agreed to an open adoption, and I vowed to do everything I could to maintain those relationships.
On the third day, our room was filled with attorneys and social workers. This was THE day. The day that I would either become a parent or go home with nothing but a loss I was already well acquainted with. In between my horrible thoughts and anxiety, I had to smile. I had to meet Olive’s birth family and pretend I was over the moon in love, so ecstatic to have her, when what I was feeling was shame, fear, guilt, and remorse. I had to smile at social workers and attorneys. See my big smile? See how good I am doing? Olive’s birth mother is an amazing woman and she lovingly trusted us with her on that day and forever. With the stroke of a pen, the signature of an attorney, and the seal of a notary, we were given guardianship. A few days later, we had to go to court in front of a judge where we were granted temporary custody, and full custody pending we meet the obligations of our post placement visits back home – we would have full legal custody in a month. Although there was a huge burden lifted off of me, I didn’t get the relief that I expected I would from the successful adoption. It took me many, many months to bond and to feel comfortable and to feel ok with being called Olive’s mom.
We had to stay in Kansas for two more weeks in a hotel before all of our paperwork was cleared and we could return home.
Punk Mamas had a few follow up questions for Hana. We knew that Hana had started a Facebook support group for adoptive mothers, and we couldn’t turn down this chance to get it out there!
How has your confidence in being a mom changed over the last year, and were there any moments that made you stop and think about just how far you’ve come? Did your husband experience similar feelings in the beginning of parenthood as you did?
The first few months of being a new mom were really, really hard. I had a very hard time bonding with Olive. I really lacked confidence. But, I think the more I did things for her and found ways of being successful as a parent boosted my confidence. There were a lot of struggles; for instance, she was a car seat/car travel hater between the months of three to seven. She would scream and cry until she vomited in the car, and that really limited my ability to get out of the house and get shit done. It was also a really hot summer when she was born, so I felt like my outside time was very limited. I think by month seven or eight, I felt like I had really bonded with her. The ever changing schedule of a newborn and the inconsistency and lack of a routine for the first few months were difficult (as they are for any new parent). The sleep deprivation was the hardest. SO HARD. I didn’t feel like I had as much support from my family as I would have received if I had given birth. My perspective is that they assumed I didn’t need much help or assistance because I did not need to PHYSICALLY recover. I don’t think they understood the emotional toll that becoming a mother and caring for a newborn took on me, and my mental health was not in the best place. I think by month seven or eight, I was at Target shopping alone, and had a “holy shit!” moment – I was out with my kid, in public, doing fine and feeling confident. I often have anxiety about being out in public alone. I had anxiety that someone will catch me doing something wrong and call me out, or that Olive wwould have an epic meltdown in my favorite store (Target!) and I’d never be able to go back. But, the more and more that I went out, the less anxious and more confident I felt. Now, I feel totally fine about going out alone. I still struggle with anxiety and depression, but I feel much more in control and I know how to challenge my thoughts when that happens and I start to think irrational thoughts.
Shawn, my husband, did not feel the same way. In fact, he really struggled to understand my anxiety about being a new parent. He really, really helped me so much and I attribute my abilities to get my shit together and parent to him. He would take Olive to another room and let me sleep all night. He would take her when she would start to scream and cry and I was overwhelmed. He really listened to me when I would tell him all the anxious and distorted thoughts in my head and tried to make sense of them, even though they didn’t make sense at all. He would help me ground myself back to reality and back to normal, rational thinking. He bonded with Olive instantly, and I still feel like they have a really solid relationship since the get-go.
For anyone reading this who may be having infertility issues, what are some resources (support group, website, book, etc.) you would recommend to help them navigate the process of deciding to go the route of adoption?
For anyone who is struggling with infertility or has experienced loss, I’m sorry that you are going through that. It has really been one of the hardest issues of my adult life to cope with. There are tons of Facebook support groups, and also in-person support groups for infertility and loss. Some are religious, some are not. I would encourage you to join a few and find one that you feel is a good fit for you. I’ve made some amazing “friends” through groups (I’m looking at you, Lindsay!). It was extremely helpful to me to be able to share my thoughts and have them reflected back to me. To hear that what I was thinking and feeling was normal and ok. I highly would recommend that if you are interested in adoption that you join a support group; that is one thing I didn’t do until after our adoption. Even if you are in the beginning stages or just thinking about it, people are very willing to answer questions and provide feedback or just show you support. Another suggestion is to take a class or training on transracial adoption, if you are pursuing the adoption of a child that is of a different race. Also, don’t be afraid to seek out an outpatient counselor who specializes in infertility and/or adoption – that was a really good choice for me!
If you are interested in joining a non-religious adoption support group, Lindsay PJ and I started one on Facebook that you can join here: Non-religious Adoption Support
What is the extent, if any, of the contact you have had with the birth family since the adoption?
We have an open adoption with Olive’s birth parents. That can mean different things to different families, but for our family we agreed to pictures and letters/emails and the possibility of in-person visits when Olive is older if that is what she chooses to do. Right now, I typically send emails to Olive’s birth parents and her paternal aunt weekly with a little update about what she’s been up to, what new skills she learned, etc. I print pictures and a letter and snail mail them twice a year.
Do you have any friends that have also adopted and is their experience similar to yours?
I do have several friends and family members who have adopted, but everyone’s experience is different! No adoption story is ever the same. Some of them did domestic infant adoption like I did, some did foster care adoption (or are still foster parents hoping to adopt) and some did international adoption. The different types of adoption offer vastly different perspectives and experiences, each unique to their own family.
If you knew someone that was planning to adopt, what one piece of advice would you give them? Is there one thing you wish you knew?
Find a core group of people who best support you and make sure you have that crucial support system set up from the start.
Thank you, Hana!
Punk Mama Andrea M. is expecting her first baby in April and was kind enough to share her story surrounding her beautiful and powerful maternity shoots on the blog. As this blog was created to be a collaborative space, we look forward to hearing from other Punk Mamas in the future!
My very first thought after having a positive pregnancy test was, “Oh man, I cannot wait to get maternity photos done!” My secret baby Pinterest board was jam-packed full of reference maternity photos long before we ever even announced. So, once we received the good news, I immediately asked two photographers that I used for previous photo shoots – one of them even took our announcement photos. The process of having maternity photos done has been one of the highlights of my pregnancy, and I’m excited to share it with you today!
I am no stranger to the camera; I have modeled on and off for most of my life; paid, trade, and for fun. Needless to say, maternity photos were a personal and exciting way for me to celebrate my pregnancy. I chose to do two separate maternity shoots: an outdoor-woodsy type shoot, and a natural, more intimate studio shoot. I had so many ideas and styles of maternity photos that I loved that provided great reference material. I knew I needed Valerie Leatherman of Bunker Hill, WV to take my outdoor photos, and Charles (Chuck) Martin of Glen Burnie, MD to do my studio set.
While I had done dozens upon dozens of photo shoots before these, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this experience. Pre-pregnancy, I would pride myself on being able to naturally transition from pose to pose. But while being pregnant, a giant, growing, and moving belly can get in the way and change things a bit! I found that I couldn’t quite move or position my body in the ways that I wanted to and was used to. Even when I thought I was posing exactly how I wanted, I would see the photos and notice a very natural but completely unflattering fold of skin, and have to completely reevaluate my posing game plan – not that a natural look is a bad thing, I was just going for something more polished. Surprisingly, the day before my first shoot (the outdoor set) I had a lot of anxiety because I had never done anything like this before. I reached out to some fellow Punk Mamas for advice, and Amber kindly shared with me a couple of infographics with flattering posing suggestions. Candyfield’s Photography’s Pregnancy and Maternity Photography Guide was an invaluable resource when learning which poses would best show off my baby bump while still looking flattering.
Surprisingly, my wardrobe selection may have been one of the most taxing parts of the process. I worried so much about picking the “perfect” dresses, getting it in the right size (which is nearly impossible to do when pregnant and ordering online!), and then learning to pose my body in each outfit. For my outdoor shoot, I looked for dresses that portrayed an aura of nature, elegance, purity, and power – like a goddess. I wanted to make sure that I looked and felt beautiful in it, and if I could wear it again, than that would be a bonus! I shopped online for a couple of options, which was a real hit or miss experience for me. I ordered one gown that I absolutely loved, but it ended up being way too small aka I couldn’t fit my arms and my boobs in at the same time. My last minute option was to head to the mall, and I surprisingly found a few options there. Selecting items to wear for my studio shoot was much easier. Since the studio shoot was going to be more simple and intimate, I was able to wear lingerie, delivery robes, and comfortable sweaters.
I had decided to do my maternity photo shoots around 28-30 weeks pregnant, that way I would be visibly pregnant but not physically miserable or uncomfortably large. I am due in late April, so this meant that my photo shoots would need to be scheduled for February. And yes, my outdoor shoot was before Maryland’s rare and unusual February heatwave! The day of my outdoor shoot ended up being around 40 degrees, but with the wind chill it felt well under 30 degrees! I was freezing and I think it shows on my face. But I also think I look fierce and powerful, so I love how they turned out.
My studio shoot was amazing and I was able to work with a talented group of people. Chuck has done tons of studio shoots for me as well as head shots for my makeup clients (Beauts by Dre). His lovely girlfriend Beth always tags along to help with posing and essentially is an extra set of eyes – she was my saving grace in this shoot as I was much more exposed and intimately posed. One thing I experienced as a result of these photos was the strong reactions they elicited. I received incredible responses from all – strangers, friends, and family. But I also received some very negative responses from some family about my studio shoot for it being “too revealing.” This was certainly not the first time I’ve gotten comments on how revealing or risqué a shoot I’ve done was, but it was definitely disappointing because I put a ton of work into making sure it was very tasteful, natural, elegant, and celebratory of the life I am nurturing. To be honest, disappointing is an understatement, I was very upset and hurt by it and had waves of strong emotions that ranged between wanting to cancel my baby shower to vowing to never leave my house again. Hormones had nothing to do with this…HA! I did end up removing the studio photos that I shared on Facebook to avoid any further negative comments on them, but I still post them on Instagram and in “safe spaces.” While these maternity photos were not everyone’s cup-o-tea, I am so pleased with how they turned out as well and I so happy that there are people out there that love these images as much as I do. In fact, my boyfriend’s reaction to my maternity photos may have been one of my favorite parts of this experience – his support and positive reactions made this experience that much more incredible.
When looking back on these images, I will remember what an intense and emotional process it was – a perfect reflection of pregnancy. There were moments that were difficult and taxing for me physically (the wind chill), and it was also draining on me mentally (dealing with unnecessary criticism from family members). Not to mention, the pressure I put on myself to have the perfect maternity photos to remember this beautiful period in my life. When I look back at these photos, I will remember the roller coaster ride they took me on, just as my pregnancy has. Every bump in the road, and every hiccup, means I am that much closer to the beauty that waits at the end.
If there is a “moral of the story” in this ridiculously long blog post, it is that maternity photos are personal, beautiful, and raw, and something every expecting mama should do if the opportunity arises. If I had the chance again, I would do it exactly the same and wouldn’t change a single thing. Do it for you and do it in a way that reflects this passing moment in your life. I love every single image that was taken, even the more unflattering ones that emanate honesty and sacrifice and love. Doing a maternity shoot, let alone two, was such an amazing and empowering experience for me and I’ve never felt more beautiful or strong as a woman.
We have put together a list of a few books regarding pregnancy and parenting that we love and recommend to all you mothers or soon-to-be mothers. We hope they are as helpful to you as they were to us!
Reading this was like talking to a friend who calmly just shugs and explains things how they are – so simple, so matter-of-fact. The biggest thing that I got out of this book was that there are two mindsets for raising a baby – your baby can adapt to your lifestyle (French) or you can adapt to baby’s lifestyle (American). Raising children is TOUGH, and there is no perfect way to raise ALL babies, but some of the ideas in this book worked well for my family, so I recommend it to others, as it may spark some inspiration! – Sarah C.
I have recommended this book to all my friends who have had babies since me as I credit this book to my son being great with a schedule and being a great sleeper during night hours! However, few friends have had the same success, so it is important to remember that a baby’s sleep schedule is part nature and part nurture. After I had my son, I would read one chapter a week, corresponding with my son’s age. It helped me understand where he was developmentally, how his needs may change from week to week, and also what a “normal” schedule could look like. If you are driven by schedules and are having a baby soon, check this book out! – Sarah C.
[This book] completely changed the way I treated my second baby. It’s written by an American lady who in the 70s lived with an Indian tribe in South America where babies never cried, toddlers never tantrumed. My baby never cried, but he has had one or two tantrums as a toddler. The key is 24/7 contact with another human for the first 6 to 9 months of life. It’s pretty amazing. – Brooke A.
Love the positive birth stories mixed with straightforward medical and physiological information. This book really helped me get into a good mindset for a natural birth.– Leah J.
This book was just what I needed in the months leading up to the birth of my first son as I was very nervous about labor. Reading this book gave me the BIGGEST boost of confidence. The first half is solely dedicated to sharing women’s childbirth stories and focuses on all the positive and empowering aspects of childbirth. I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes at some of the stories because the births were just SO pleasurable, but it was nice to take in birth stores that weren’t just focused on the worst pain of your life (as often seen in movies). – Sarah C.
I tried looking to traditional traditional sources for what to expect as I progress but they were all falling flat and just making more more anxious. This book, the authors voice is exactly what I needed. She’s relatable – she speaks about things almost candidly, and she’s knowledgeable. I’m not quite finished yet but I already can’t wait to re-read it. This book also made me feel a lot more comfortable about the life that I live and how I’m expecting to raise my children. It’s really great to have someone to look up to that I can relate to. – Ashley M.
This book (written by a comedian) was hilarious, and really helped alleviate some of the anxiety I was experiencing leading up to my due date. It’s a healthy dose of real-talk and sarcasm, which I thoroughly appreciated, especially when I was eyeballs deep in all the other “what to expect” type books! – Jenn P.
She’s one of my favorites in the birth world and while the book starts off a little bit early Ina-esque, it becomes more informational. Overall, I would say it addresses the emotional aspects of the transition to motherhood. – Jennifer D.