Let Them Dream…

A few years ago, Jason and I had this wacky idea to move from New York City to Santa Cruz, CA. We lived there for 2.6 years and realized that we didn’t really fit in. However, I managed to meet some amazing people and connect with a great organization, The Resource Center for Nonviolence. There, I met Jacqueline Seydel. I instantly liked her because of her infectious personality and intelligence. She was really strong in her political beliefs about women’s issues and appeared fearless! She is a young, adventurous woman who loves to read, ride her bike, and spend time having fun. She is the daughter of a woman who was once described by her children’s soccer coach as a ball of fire. I am very happy to have her write a piece here, especially about her relationship with her mother! Thanks Jacqueline!

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Traveling became a real thing that I dreamt about when I was 12 or 13. A few friends and I would spin a globe around with our eyes closed and let our finger drop somewhere. We held so much excitement and would soon discuss everything we knew or what we wondered about this place. I used to drag my finger until I felt the subtle, braille like ridges of mountains. At the time, we committed to starting a band “The Melancholy Meltdown” – that’s how we would get to these places, meet new faces, and escape the dark places in our head.

Those years will be some of the darkest in our lives, I am sure. The desire to leave our surroundings was real and rooted in our realities as young girls who all had experiences we couldn’t understand at that time. Traveling, getting away, was our manifestation to believe in something else. We needed that faith. We needed a path to transcend our pain. We needed each other to share stories and dreams.

Overtime I let that dream go – well, not the traveling but the band. At that point, I could barely play the recorder and had a few years of flute in school. Jayme could plan shocking stage stunts and create some thought provoking artwork for our publicity. Siera sung briefly in her church choir and years later picked up a guitar. Eventually, she played in a band in Chicago during college. She has a beautiful voice, is a poet, an artist, a world traveler. More importantly, she is an inspiring, badass, breastfeeding Mama.

I eventually found my way to Costa Rica, Peru, and Mexico. It feels incredible to have reached one of my childhood dreams. Many factors played a role – but a significant factor was my mother. A strong woman who worked, cooked, cleaned, drove, helped, gifted and did so many unnoticed things for my siblings and I. And you know what? We gave her hell. But that did not matter. My dreams, my thirst for travel, would not have been possible without her. The fact that I am 25 and still dreaming is proof of her support, sometimes harsh and hard to hear.

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I am not yet a mother. I have not birthed a child or powerfully shot another human through my cervix. However, I am a daughter of an incredible mother. I am a curious traveler, a cyclist, a feminist, an avid book reader, a poet, and a compassionate human being. My mother has pushed me to me. During my childhood I can remember things that helped me, hurt me, and that I slowly grew to be grateful for. It took a lot of time. Yet, I can look at myself now and know that as my relationship with my mother grows, it is her constant belief and encouragement that has given me my strength to keep achieving my dreams. It is her worried concern that guided my forward thinking. It is her values that laid the path of my actions. It is her quick-witted sense that gave me the skills to problem solve in tricky situations.

When I think about what I can offer to the mothers of this blog it’s this. Let them dream – big, weird, funky, unearthly dreams until they choose one or a few or many to work towards. Then, love them even if you don’t understand or agree yet. Work harder than ever to let them know you’re there. Even if you waiver, express your hesitations, and let go. Mend them when they fall. Soothe their sores, aches, and pains. Believe in them when they doubt themselves.  Let them dream.

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She Started It All!

kissingThe evening in question happened some time in January 2008. The Laning couple had just spent a weekend away from each other doing their various social justice work. Mr. Laning had been involved in an action in D.C. with Witness Against Torture, where he was arrested for protesting at the Supreme Court. Ms. Laning was engaging in her first nonviolence workshop with Alternative to Violence Project, where she spent a weekend with ex-gang members in the Bronx. It was one of those rewarding, transformative weekends where you view the world differently. Apparently, we viewed the world so differently we decided to make a baby, our first!

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The pregnancy was normal and miserable (I quickly discovered I hated pregnancy). I was working full time, puking part time and growing a gigantic baby. I didn’t really have any pregnant friends or family around, and so I sought out my own community. I joined a yahoo group and arranged pregnancy meet ups after work. The meet ups quickly turned into pregnant ladies complaining about pregnancy and stuffing their faces; basically perfect! It was a great way to meet people and talk about things my husband didn’t understand! I didn’t know much about pregnancy and labor, and so I researched the hell out of everything. I had not been exposed to much about births other than my mother who had two c-sections, and my sister who had two hospital births. I did not know anything about midwives, natural birth or home birth but knew I wanted something different from what I had heard. I remember the first time I watched the Business of Being Born and bawled every time a baby was born. Actually, I watched births on youtube constantly and read birth stories like crazy. I was obsessed with this world and knew I wanted it. I contacted my insurance company and they falsely told me they would not cover a home birth. I did what I thought was the second best option and went to a midwife practice at Beth Israel.

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The midwives at Beth Israel were nice and I particularly liked one. She was British and really open to any of my alternative ways of laboring. She was brutally honest about the hospital and informed me that many of the practices at the hospital were archaic. I tried to ignore this as much as possible because I wanted to believe in my ability to force my needs and wants when it came to labor. As my pregnancy progressed, it became clear that I was going to give birth to a 10lb baby. This was a concern for my midwife because she claimed the hospital frowned against vaginal births and big babies. Around my due date (the first week of October) she intervened and swept my membranes. I agreed to this because I was worried if my labor didn’t get started, they were going to force me into surgery. This was not a healthy mindset for a full term pregnancy.

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The morning of October 4, 2008 I woke up giant, pregnant and leaky. I couldn’t really distinguish between the type of leaky I was feeling and the normal type of leaky. So, I used the bathroom, ate some breakfast and waited to find out what would happen. The leaking kept happening and seemed heavy enough I called the midwife. She asked some questions and then told me to wait 24 hours before heading into the hospital. She explained that if I were to go into the hospital now, they would either send me home or strap me to a machine. So I waited, wet and uncomfortable. I was not feeling any pains other than braxton hicks, waited my 24 hours and I headed into the hospital. They checked me and said I was at most 1cm dilated and no contractions. They tested my leak and claimed it was urine. I had no faith in these people from that moment because it was clear to me that my leak was not urine. Anyway, they sent me home angry, worried and very uncomfortable.

The following morning, Monday, October 6 I went in for post-date, fetal testing. I was leaking like crazy (towels in my pants crazy) and very irritated. The testing went fine, my fluid was good and my baby was healthy. I headed to the midwife, pulled down my pants and she freaked! Not only was I leaking like crazy but now there was meconium, or newborn baby poo. This was a red flag because it was obvious there had been fluid leaking for two days and the baby may be in trouble. Before she sent me to the hospital to be admitted, she told me to stop and eat before because they would not allow me to eat during labor. She also told me to sneak in gatorade because I would need it. I followed orders, worried and scared.

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I arrived to the hospital and they immediately started a pitocin drip, strapped on a baby monitor, laid me on my back and told me not to get up. Until this point, I had not felt any real contractions and so when the pit contractions hit, I was overwhelmed. The contractions were strong and constant but I remained strong and refused medication. This process went on for 7-10 hours and with each hour they would increase my dosage. At around this point the contractions were coming every few minutes and hitting me so hard I cried. I could not get up and walk off the pain, or get on my hands and knees. Everything they told me to do felt opposite to what my body was telling me. I completely lost connection to the baby and could not do anything but focus on fear and pain. Around hour 10 I finally gave into their suggestions for drugs and got an epidural. Not only was the pain too intense but I was not progressing; having only reached 3 cm at this point. Also, I had a fever and could not keep up with the demands of consciousness.

Once the epidural was in, I relaxed and slept. I felt nothing and after 7 more hours in “labor” I began to throw up and I felt her drop. She was in the birth canal and I felt it. It was the only thing I had felt in the second half of labor and I knew it was time to push. I started pushing regardless of who was around, I knew she was ready to come. The midwife and nurse came in to check on things and agreed it was time to go. The baby was doing well and I had enough strength in me to push her out. After I had been pushing for 10-15 minutes a bunch of people came into my room. They claimed because of my fever the baby was in distress and they were worried about infection. They tried to give me a fever reducer but since I was pushing, the medication did not stay in (this is what happens when they try to administer medication to a pregnant woman who is pushing a baby out). So the doctor came in and made a decision, “Ms. Laning, if you don’t push this baby out in 10 mins, we are taking her out.”

It was at this moment that I gave up. I knew there was no way she was coming out now because my body shut down. It went into flight mode and they wheeled me into the O.R. I don’t remember much about my surgery other than feeling cold, exhausted and high. A couple of times I remember them adding more meds because I could feel them cutting me, and I was shaking on the bed. I knew they were done when I heard her cry and it was magic. I wanted her so badly but my body wasn’t able to have her. I felt some comfort knowing her dad could take care of her and that she was healthy (the cry was intense)!

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They brought her over to me and immediately I felt differently. Yes, I was totally out of it but I was so happy to see her, to hold her, to have her in my life. It wasn’t perfect but she certainly was. It wasn’t much later that I passed out and they wheeled me into recovery. Dad had to make a choice between his wife and child, which I know was hard. She needed him more than me but it was the first time he had to chose someone over me.

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I woke up in recovery alone, high, sore and scared. I was in a room with a bunch of empty beds and I yelled out. A nurse came to me and I told her I wanted my baby (it was more of a demand). They wheeled me into the NICU to see her. She was staying in the NICU because they believed she may have an infection from the meconium or my fever. She was huge, 9 lbs 6.8 oz,  20.5 inches and looked like she could eat the other babies (my little sumo)! They had all kinds of wires and machines attached to her, they were giving her antibiotics and pricking her foot every hour to test for infection. It was not something I handled well. This was really our first meeting because I barely remembered the first. She opened her eyes and looked deeply into my soul. She knew my voice immediately and calmed down, it was truly a magical moment. They allowed me to nurse her for a few minutes but made me give her up way too soon.

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From the moment of our first meeting, I fought every second to get her out of that hospital. They bullied me into giving her formula, claiming my milk had not come in. I was producing colostrum (liquid gold) and that was all she needed but I agreed to the formula because they told me they would let her out of the NICU. The formula they gave her distended her stomach and she threw up everywhere. Once I finally got her back I went to see the lactation consultant who became a quick ally. Everything she said made sense to me and was in opposition to what the other nurses were saying. She taught me a lot about nursing and was the one positive thing (other than Emma) that came out of that place. We played the game as best we could so we could get out and after three days they released us. I had never been so relieved as the moment I walked out of that place and was able to take my baby home.

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We adjusted to life as a new family poorly. Emma refused anything but me, and I struggled to deal with my birth. I cried a lot in the beginning and so did she. A wave of anxiety hit me so hard that I could barely function on the inside. My mom stayed with me for a couple of weeks which really helped with recovery but nothing could have ever prepared me for the emotions that hit after her birth. It was so hard to recover physically and emotionally while trying to care for a newborn. I didn’t let any of it stop me from doing my job and she was cared for very well but we struggled. Emma never slept (and didn’t until she was 3), she nursed all day and night and freaked if I put her down. I know now that all of this was related to birth trauma and we both felt very insecure without each other. I tried to go back to work when she was 9 weeks old and it didn’t last because I cried every day for a month and quit. We eventually figured it all out but those first few months were rough.

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We went to therapy together to deal with my anxiety and we healed together. She was a very perceptive and wise baby, and she taught me many things about being a mother. We adored each other and she completely transformed me. I never expected to accept my birth because I was just so angry but I learned to appreciate her birth. Now that so many years have passed, the exact emotions leading up to surgery are a little fuzzy. I can really only see images about the experience and I think that is good. Trauma is emotionally and physically draining, and if I were to continue to carry those intense feelings with me forever, I would not function properly. I have had to let go of those feelings in order to be a happier person and a better mother. It is not an easy task but time has definitely been my friend. Aside from having time on my side to heal, I have also begun looking at my hospital experience in a whole new way. I am not saying I look back and think “that was a good thing, the doctors sure knew what they were doing” but I can look back now and see so much life, Emma’s life. Emma’s life changed my life forever and I cannot thank her enough. Actually, each day I should say that to both of my children but rarely do. When I look back at my birth with Emma, I now see only her life and how it makes everything better. Without Emma, life would be meaningless, without Emma, we would not be a family.

I retell Emma her birth story on her birthday every year, partially because she asks and partially because it is amazing.  When I started retelling her story, I had to chose my words carefully. I was pissed about my section but how could I possibly make Emma feel like her entrance into this world was devastating. My birth experience was not her fault and she should in no way feel the weight of that. I started telling Emma that her birth can be explained by her stubbornness, assuredness and attachment to me. These have been her strongest traits since birth! She has such an intense personality and it actually makes sense to me that she was a difficult birth! When I tell her story or think about her birth, I think about how hard it was and how Emma and I shared this truly difficult experience but it was what forged our relationship. We were tested as mother and daughter, we prevailed as mother and daughter, and our love is way bigger than any crappy birth story!

Happy 7 years to the girl who made me a mother. I get to hang out with you and be in your life, and I cannot think of anything better. You drive me crazy with your moodiness, sarcasm and intensity but you balance this with your empathy, kindness, and desire to do good. You are a complex creature who feels beyond your years, and ability but it is these things that draw people to you. Each year you get stronger and I see you being able to handle this gift, and I know the world is going to benefit immensely from it!

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Joyeux Anniversaire mon petit amour!

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In December of 2009 I found out I was pregnant again. Emma was only 14 months old (and never slept), I was in graduate school, I was in therapy for the wild anxiety that hit with the birth of my first and I was totally not prepared for another baby. I liked the idea of another baby in the house but I was completely scared of going through another rough birth and didn’t think our sleep deprived family could handle another. I considered not having the baby but my husband convinced me we should.

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The first few months were rough because I am the lucky recipient of horrid morning sickness in the first trimester, and that combined with a nursing toddler was enough to drain me. I remember when Emma would run into the bathroom and pretend to throw up like mommy, which was awesome! Despite not feeling great, I had the added pressure of figuring out how to deliver the baby. 14 months prior to getting pregnant, I had received a questionable c-section. That story is for next month but as soon as I found out number 2 was coming, I needed to find a different method of care because I was not stepping foot into a hospital again.

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So I did my homework and tried to find a doctor who would deliver the baby VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). I was definitely interested in a homebirth because everything I read told me that it was safe, and was the only real chance I had to deliver the way I wanted but my insurance company told me they would not pay for a homebirth. They were, however, full of shit! Anyway, I researched doctors with high VBAC rates and made appointments. I immediately disliked all of them because they all said the same thing. They would deliver the baby and give me a chance for a VBAC but with the first complication I was going under the knife due to fear of uterine rupture. I knew what they said was wrong because the research shows that uterine rupture is really rare (less than 1 in 100 women) and “a VBAC might help you avoid the risks of multiple cesarean deliveries, such as bowel or bladder injury and placenta problems.” Also, I was not a high risk pregnancy. I was only 32, had a very healthy pregnancy with Emma and my medical records showed a fairly normal labor. It had resulted in a c-section but that was due more to my knife-happy doctor and not a true emergency.

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I knew I wanted a midwife but since I had hospital midwives the first time around, I knew that their power in the hospital was limited. As they were wheeling me into surgery, my midwife turned to my husband and said that if the doctors had given me more time, I would have delivered the baby on my own. They were at the will of the hospital and had to walk on a very thin rope to stay in the hospital. So, I did some more research and found that a homebirth would indeed be paid for by health insurance. The insurance companies like to tell you no but if you have the right people asking the right questions, they have to pay for it! I called around to homebirth midwives in those early months but they were either full or not interested in doing an HBAC (homebirth after c-section). One midwife told me that if in a few months I could not find someone, to call her back. This is what I did and this is what changed everything, and clearly we were happy about that!


I have to be honest and say that I was surrounded by supporters. I live in an amazing community of women who focus on helping women find the right birth path, and this makes research and support very easy. I attended regular ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Netword) meetings and these women gave me such great advice. They taught me how to fight for what I wanted and their resources helped me achieve my goals. So, I called back the midwife who said she would help and she agreed to take me on. I could not have asked for a more caring, intelligent, strong and helpful midwife. Joan Bryson (who is now retired) made the remaining months of my pregnancy happy. I didn’t have to worry about my delivery because Joan believed in my ability to birth my baby and taught me to believe in it too. She took such good care of my family, and helped all us feel comfortable and informed. The greatest gift she gave to me was finding my inner birth warrior. I was not afraid of how I was going to deliver the baby because I trusted my birth care and my body!

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At 10:00 pm on September 10, 2010 I felt my first contraction. Emma was asleep, Jason was asleep and I was just crawling into bed. It hit me hard and fast, and since I had never felt a real (non-medicated) contraction, it was totally manageable. At first I worried that the contractions would break my water and I would get thrown into the same situation as with my first child but as the contractions came regularly that feeling disappeared. I tried to sleep between contractions but once they started they came evenly; 15 minutes at first, then 10, then 7, then 5, then… I managed to walk through my contractions and birth alone while my family slept. I paced, I squatted, I sat in the bath, I crawled, I stretched and I labored completely normally. Around 2:00 in the morning Emma woke up and I rushed in to soothe her. I sat in her bed, sang her a song and tried to breath between hard, fast contractions. Luckily the birth gods saw fit to put her back to sleep and I went on.

I woke Jason up because I stopped being able to time my contractions. He woke up, called Joan and timed my contractions. At this point, 3 or 4:00 in the morning I was losing confidence. I couldn’t do it alone anymore and the pain was intense. I told Jason to call Joan and tell her I couldn’t do it anymore. He got on the phone with her and she told him this was a good sign and that the baby was coming soon! At some point I began throwing up and things got better. I screamed from the bathroom “TRANSITION!!!” and knew I could make it. Over the next few hours I pushed, Emma woke up and was rushed to friend’s house, pushed some more and continued to push for an eternity. At some point, I started to fall asleep and lose my ability to stand or push but being a resourceful midwife, Joan asked her assistant to make me some tea. The iced, green tea came at just the right time because the caffeine kicked in and I pushed this amazing human out!

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My memories of this moment are probably blurry and filled with nostalgia but what I remember is a moment when time stood still and I experienced the true meaning of humanity. I delivered a human with only my body and my support team. It was a moment of pure power; pain and exhaustion too but pure power! She came into this world quietly and only cried a tiny bit. While Joan dealt with trying to get me to stop bleeding and get all the tiny pieces of my placenta out (it tore apart during labor), I held the everything in my arms. She was beautiful, strong, big (weighing just under 9lbs) and very sleepy. We cleaned her up, she nursed a little and we fell asleep in our own home. As we laid there together I just could not help but notice how perfectly she fit next to me and how this experience would change my life forever.

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I wasn’t changed because of birth (although truly magical), or because of motherhood (I was already a mother), I was changed because of Adeline. She was what our family needed at a very difficult time. She was the zen in a household of imbalance. She was quiet, joyful, sleepy, patient, gentle and wild at the same time. She continues to teach me to be patient, mindful, creative, sensitive, wild and fun. We constantly find ourselves saying when we do new things that “Adeline will have fun” because she always does. She appreciates life despite too often feeling insecure without her family around, despite finding transitions difficult and despite being introverted. I know we always say that we need to respect and listen to our elders because they are full of wisdom but having this child has made me realize just how much wisdom comes from even the tiniest creature.

Happy Birthday to the most spirited, imaginative and affectionate person I know!!!

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Exploring Light and the Magic of the (Everyday) Moment through Photography with Andreea B. Ballen Photography

Andreea B. Ballen is a magical photographer with an eye for the mythical. She takes breathtaking photographs and really understands light. I’m really happy she agreed to write a little piece about her work and share her photographs.

Andreea B. Ballen is a Romania-born photographer who grew up in Queens, NY and is now a Brooklyn woman. She graduated from Barnard College with a degree in women’s studies-focused comp. lit and psychology. She is married and the mom of two who. She loves (aside of the given, the two amazing kiddos and the family): meeting new people, learning new things, traveling, the beach, the mountains, live events (classical to rock to ska to trance music; ballet and the theater), sushi + Thai + Indian + French food. Andreea shoots with: Cannon, 50D and her favorite lens: 50mm fixed lens.

Enjoy the beauty of her work, and if inspired contact her for a session!

You can check out her work here!

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Personal Photo: Shot with Olympus ‘point and shoot’

Like many of the photographers I love to follow, I am a self-taught. The fancy college I attended offered photography but being a financial-aid & loans student, my parents thought it more prudent to pursue more ‘worthwhile’ courses (ahhhh – the classic ‘planting and sowing of the dream, deferred’). Also, like many photographers whom I follow, I did not pursue photography professionally until I became a mom.

Don’t get me wrong, I have not just stumbled onto a love of photography in the last 7 years. I have LOVED being behind the camera since one was put in my hands around the age of 16. In fact, I passionately love(d) seeing the world from my own point of view, a view that is slightly whimsical and magically infused, developed on film and printed out in the pictures I can hold and through which my memories and fantasies I can revisit.

I also love(d) the freedom I felt from behind the camera: the freedom to just ‘be’ (the introvert I hide being) and to disappear while still being present. I love the freedom to see and not necessarily be seen; the freedom to fleet and to wander through social functions (that I don’t feel I fit in, or might find uncomfortable) without seeming impolite, but rather to be seen ‘with purpose.’

The capture is what I love(d) most of all about being behind the camera, what makes me so excited to photograph, and what can take my own breath away. The trapping in time of an irretrievable moment that I or others would want not just remembered but re-lived; the capture of that one look or expression that reveals to the very core, the beauty and essence of a person. In fact, I am so stubbornly adamant about my vision and my capture (blame the Taurus in me), that like many other moms, I am rarely present in my family’s pictures. I am barely even in the photos taken from either of my kid’s births. Why? Because as soon as they put baby in my arms, I was the one wielding the camera and taking pictures not just of my newborn babe, but also of those around me, capturing what it meant to them to be witnessing that impossible magic of new life. Crazy? A little. But true story – both times.

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Personal Photo: Shot with Olympus ‘point and shoot’

Which brings me back to my initial points. I am a self-taught photographer, who did not photograph professionally until being a mom.  Being a mom just made me that much more trigger-happy. It gave me a new, gorgeous, ever-changing subject to discover and to play with. It forced me to photograph from way down low; not just shooting from the waist like the old-time pros, but often from the ground, while trying to capture the world from my crawling toddler’s point of view. It taught me to discover early morning light and dusk shadows so that I could create images that were much more magical to me.

Luckily, others saw a little bit of that magic I had tried to infuse into my pictures too. Co-workers in my corporate world asked if they could hire me to photograph their functions, their weddings, their newborns. I got paid shooting with a digital camera only slightly fancier than my favorite, the point-and-shoot.  It was MAGIC to my corporate-job-hating /burgeoning-professional-photographer soul and the beginning of a new hope.

Also like some other moms out there, becoming a mom re-aligned my priorities, and forced me look deep within myself to find my own happiness (and root out my unhappiness). To me, this meant realizing that I was sorely unhappy making my living in someone else’s corporate dream, and that I was even more desperately despondent not spending the time I wanted to with my child. Even so, I wasn’t anywhere near sure yet that I could support our family with the ‘here and there’ photo gigs I was taking on (mostly for fun), and so while I did leave the corporate world to focus on other passions I thought would be more rewarding and still lucrative (becoming a maternal health coach, women’s sexual health educator, and doula), I mostly just kept photographing my own littles.” 

New York City/Long Island natural light family and child portrait beach sunset

New York City/Long Island natural light family and child portrait beach sunset

Motherhood is a wonderful and beautiful thing; and not just my own ‘motherhood.’ The more time I spent with other moms, especially in my new & so very non-corporate doula work, the more I thought so. I started bringing along my camera to capture that beauty and wonder. Being photographed pregnant, to me, was more of an afterthought and I was sad I really didn’t think of it at the time. So, I loved being able to capture the beauty of my pregnant doula clients, and share those images with them. I then started to photograph a few births, and then newborns. I was so happy, and loved that my photographing could allow other mothers to be present (and beautifully so) in their own family photographs.

Then came what I like to think of as my first real REAL pro client: my first doula baby, who was now turning one. This was a turning point for me because, while I loved supporting mom and dad in their birth journey while he was being born, I LOVED photographing this birthday celebration so much more.

Slowly I realized I love(d) photographing more than I loved doula work, or any other work for that matter. This realization changed my life. It has re-realigned my priorities, and for the first time in my professional life, it has given me the kind of purpose and satisfaction I have never felt before. It’s so empowering to say and mean to the core of my being: I LOVE what I do, I love it completely because it completes me, and I don’t want to do anything else. 

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Personal Photo: Shot with Olympus ‘point and shoot’

So, here it is: I love that what I do doesn’t take away from me being a mother but adds to it. I love seeing the beauty and magic around me, and I love sharing it with those from whom it’s emanating. I love waiting for the right moment before clicking the shutter so that I can capture the essence of a person or of a moment. I love that my intention comes across in my work. I love that others recognize that and appreciate it. I love spending the time with my kiddos during the day, working on the pictures I’ve taken in the long quiet hours of the night, on my own time and at my own rhythm.  

In the end, I love seeing what has developed: not just in my client’s pictures and in the validation I find in their satisfaction, but also in my own life. I have developed a dream that I did not even know I could nor should be nurturing. I have developed a sense of purpose I wasn’t sure I had. I have developed into an artist. It was always there. It didn’t ask for a fancy camera. It just asked to be believed in. And I am SO thankful for every person who believes in me enough to let me take their picture. I am humbled when they believe in me enough to hire me professionally. And I am thankful that I am finally living my dream. Finally. Never too late, you know!

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Personal Photo: Shot with Olympus ‘point and shoot’

Guilty as charged

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I went back to work full time this year after being a semi-SAHM for six years and have yet to shake mom-guilt. I knew there would be fallout from my youngest, but I was not sure of the extent. After four months she still cries when I leave for work, she attaches herself to me when I get home, and she cries herself to sleep begging me to stay home. I do not believe in child manipulation and so I see this as coming from a real place. She truly feels sad, angry, lonely and abandoned. I try to be understanding and comforting but at what point will this get easier? I would be able to cope better if her reaction to me going to work was just some sad feelings, but it has manifested itself into hellacious bed times. There are only so many nights I can handle holding a four year old down while she screams, cries, kicks and pleas with me to stay home tomorrow. I know that she is well taken care of while I am at work and so I don’t sit in the office and worry about her, or feel intense guilt for being here. While I type, she is galavanting all over the city with her sister and Nana having a wonderful time. She is most likely not thinking about me too much, but I know she holds it all in and releases the moment I open the door. Both of my girls have this amazing coping mechanism that allows them to be happy, well adjusted people while at school/with sitter/camp and as soon as I am home it is feelings-vomit all over the floor! So I cope by doing special things for them like leaving drawings on the refrigerator for them to color, or making a special breakfast or waking them up early to hang out.

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I read these articles that are intended to help (or hurt, or anger, or sadden) but I’m still left with this gut-wrenching feeling every time I step out of my house. I was lucky to be at home part-time for 6 years and even though I complained, I was happy seeing my children grow up. I don’t really feel like I am anymore, I sort of feel like I’m running to catch up with them. I used to know what they were doing at school, who their friends were, and what fun events happened after school, but now I hear exhausted, emotional children at the end of their day. I also know that I would not be happy if I were at home full-time because I’ve been there. I do not have the patience or interest to be devoted to my children and their desires. I did not spend 250 years in school to sit at home or spend all day talking about kid shit! Despite this article’s deplorable title (Mom Vs. Mom), and its intent on pinning mom against mom (woman against woman), one quote grabbed me as this mom articulated perfectly: “[t]he working mom wishes she had more free time to be available to her child, and maybe have coffee after drop-off. And the nonworking woman would maybe like to have something that’s a reflection of her as an individual — a label that says she’s a capable, creative person who knows about more than just baby formula or after-school programs.”

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My husband (the dad) tells me that it is egotistical to believe that only you can raise your children properly and he is correct. I do, however, feel as if I’m the best, safest, most lovable person in their lives and should be with them but I’m not naive to think I should be the only adult in their lives. I have tried homeschooling and it was disastrous because I’m not that dedicated to teaching my kids. I am a big fan of public school! Perhaps Plato (book V of the Republic) was also correct in his assertion that children should be raised by a community and not a single family. They will never know. The way will be this: –dating from the day of the hymeneal, the bridegroom who was then married will call all the male children who are born in the seventh and tenth month afterwards his sons, and the female children his daughters, and they will call him father, and he will call their children his grandchildren, and they will call the elder generation grandfathers and grandmothers.” And, perhaps all the scientific research out there is correct that girls fair better when their moms work outside of the home. Regardless of whether you are a SAHM full time/part time or a working mom, you will find yourself dealing with this problem at some point — are there any answers? So what do we do moms? Do we suck it up and oppress our innate desires to be with our children, do we sacrifice income for over-child-exposure, or do we start a fucking revolution?!?!

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“Babies sleep safest alone” and other co-sleeping scare tactics

Now the babies sleep safest alone campaign is old and I’m not really here to rally against it but I did have a very gut reaction to seeing one of the posters on the subway. I co-slept, many of my friends co-slept and I think it is a shame to scare the shit out of new moms instead of offering real advice on the subject.

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My introduction to co-sleeping is like that of many tired, city parents. I had a baby, lived in a tiny Brooklyn box apartment and had no room for a crib (or couldn’t-get-my-tired-ass-out-of-bed-to-pick-said-baby-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night). So, I did my research and found  some solid information on co-sleeping. Despite feeling educated on the subject, I was hesitant about sleeping with my daughter (you know, knives in the bed pics see here and here) and so I chose to use a Snuggle Nest. In those first few weeks, I really felt more comfortable having her close to me even though she woke me up a thousands time to nurse. I would go through this routine of picking her up, nursing her and then putting her back in, which was incredibly exhausting for a sleep deprived mother. So one night I skipped the nester and just laid down next to her. This worked tremendously well for night nursing. My husband was not a co-sleeping comrade and so I would create a barrier between the two and keep sleeping with her. We experimented with many different sleeping situations including wedging a crib between the bed and wall, having a pack-n-play next to the bed and floor sleeping but nothing made our crazy baby sleep. The only relief I got was sleeping right next to her and nursing all-fucking-night on demand. For the first two years of her little life, we slept together on and off.

So, moving on to baby #2. While I was pregnant, #1 had her own room and her own bed. We believed at the tender age of 18 months she was old enough to be on her own. We were FUCKING wrong. She woke up every night, screamed for us and threw massive tantrums. I didn’t know at the time but she was dealing with hellacious night terrors, and so being alone was just intensifying it. Stupidly, we pushed and pushed her to sleep on her own because I was pregnant and dad was tired of sleeping on the couch (she had gotten very good at sleeping horizontally and kicking the shit out of him). Her night terrors did not get better and she kept us up all night/every night until we got wise.

When her sister was born I knew I would co-sleep again and had perfected the sleeping arrangement. I took all the blankets and pillows off of the bed and put up a mesh guard rail. The baby was completely safe between me and the rail, my toddler was between me and the wall (and dad was on the toddler twin in the other room). We slept peacefully like this for a long time until we came across the even-more-perfect solution that we called mondo-bed. We pushed a queen size mattress against a twin bed and voila, enough room for EVERYONE.

We slept this way until the girls were old enough for their own beds (3 and 5) and always left the door open in case they needed us. Even now at 4 and 6, we get little visitors in the night when bad dreams or sicknesses hit. It is not always easy to co-sleep and it is not for everyone but if you want to try it, you should feel comfortable experimenting. There is a lot of good information out there and sleeping with little ones is a very special experience.

This is my own personal campaign poster!

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