Don't post that! Boudoir issues

I'm sure there are a lot of "experts" out there who have a better-polished and better-researched thesis than the opinionated ramblings I'm about to write, but I feel like getting this out - if for no other reason than to make a promise to myself as the mother of young girls (and a young boy, for that matter).

I often feel torn posting pictures of boudoir sessions on my public photography page when I know many people are somewhat-to-very offended by nudity. In the past I've lost page likes and deleted numerous comments ranging from elderly women insinuating we're all sinners to very nasty bashing. I hesitate booking outside locations because I know some people would NEVER feel comfortable allowing such debauchery to be taking place inside their establishment (although I do have to say the businesses I dealt with were very open-minded and gracious).

At the same time, I enjoy boudoir photography the most. Not because I'm a perv getting off on pictures of my clients, but because there is immense satisfaction hearing another woman building herself UP rather than tearing herself down once she receives her photos. In a day in age when women cringe before looking at a photo of themselves with one finger ready on the 'delete' button, this is awesome. I spend a lot of time talking with clients beforehand. What are they insecure about? What do they love about themselves? What type of photos are they looking for? The vast majority of women are extremely nervous, and somewhat hesitant to say they love anything about themselves. But when they do finally say what they want to accentuate, they're very confident in those aspects. They love their hair, or their backs, or their backside. Some women have gotten the pictures done with nobody in mind - they had no significant other to share them with. Most women said their significant other loved their bodies, but they had a hard time seeing what there was to love. How heartbreaking is that? If you're a woman, it's heartbreaking because it hits close to home. Having had my own photos done a couple of years ago - it's a very stressful event. It's nerve-wracking waiting to get the pictures back, wondering if you made a complete ass of yourself and will end up throwing the pictures away. I'm on the other side of the lens now, and it really is a journey for a lot of women, just like it was for me. It's huge. Seeing yourself painted in a light where you are viewed as beautiful - man, that's amazing.

One of my favorite artists is Michelangelo. He had an amazing understanding of the human body. Look him up sometime. I'm not being condescending - really find out about him. He knew the human body and used that knowledge to create some of the best artwork the world has ever known. Was he a sinner? Probably. His work was also good enough for Rome, but I'm not going to sit here and discuss religion and its views on the human body (although that's enough for a couple of blog posts). I know art is subjective - so not everyone likes Michelangelo. Not everyone appreciates how aesthetically beautiful the human form is. Fair enough. I'm not here to convince anyone of that.

I do, however, find some views to be incredibly harmful to women and hypocritical. I respect that some people think a woman's body should be kept under wraps, except for her significant other. I respect that, but I completely disagree with it. I was raised with strong emphasis on my intellect, and I am eternally grateful for that. I will agree that no person, woman or man, should place their entire self-worth in their appearance. I think most of us can agree on that. But should we take it so far as to make a woman ashamed that she has a body? Ashamed that she has breasts and an ass? This is where I start to get angry. One side of society thinks women are sex objects. Another side thinks lady bits are dirty. So what is it? Do we allow men to own our bodies for their own purposes, or do we pretend we don't have one at all? Or do we play the nice middle ground - where we don't have one except when it comes time to give it to a man?

I don't know about most women, but I own my body. It's mine. I dress it how I please (which honestly these days is mostly for comfort) and when I do dress it up, it's for me. I know my husband likes it (and if you're cringing here, this blog post isn't for you), and I like that he likes it. But you know what? I like it. I like how certain tops and pants fit me. I like my hair some days (other days it's pretty terrifying, but that's besides the point). I like how my photos from my own boudoir turned out. I like that my photographer and stylist saw those things in me. I won't look like this forever, and no, that's not a bad thing. But I know I'll look back on those photos one day and I'll think what a pretty woman I was. Yes, I am smart, and kind, and strong, but I am also beautiful. And I also have a woman's body.

Now that I have girls of my own to watch grow up, I think about these things more and more. I emphasize their own unique qualities daily. I encourage them to develop their minds and explore their interests. But I will never pretend that they aren't human beings with human bodies. There will be a day when someone notices them. And I want more than anything for them to have a healthy relationship with their bodies so they will know what to do and not have all this confusing BS thrown their way. They don't need to be ashamed. They don't need to pretend. And no man, NO man, owns the rights to their bodies. The same goes for my son. He owns no woman. He should celebrate and love whoever he is with - not possess them or feel threatened that they are their own person.

Perhaps having kids put a lot of this into perspective. Women have a lifelong battle with their bodies and their relationship with it. When I think of how I want my children to feel about themselves, I see more clearly how I should be thinking of myself. It's not an easy road to travel with people throwing rules and expectations at you from all different directions. Hopefully one day women will be in charge of their identities… until then I'll be in charge of mine and encourage others to do the same, one pretty picture at a time :)

Surgery and other musings

It's funny how when I was pregnant with Dibs I dreamed of the days when day-to-day struggles were the biggest thing on my plate. Once surgery was over, I'm amazed how quickly it went back to that. So much so, that I put off writing about her surgery for, oh…. 6 months. I posted a Throwback Thursday picture today taken almost exactly a year ago. I was one month away from Dib's due date. I figured it was high time I actually sat down and wrote about this thing that enveloped my life for so long.

So, like I wrote, surgery was scheduled for December 20th. Dibs had many, many minuscule cysts that made up the lower left lobe of her lung. The surgeon planned on going in with a video feed and a scope, and the whole thing would take around 4 hours. Her recovery in the hospital could last anywhere from 2 days til a week.

We dropped the other three off with my mom and sister the night before surgery. We took Dibs home, I fed her and put her to bed, and we went to bed ourselves with our bags packed. I woke up early to nurse Dibs one last time, finished some last minute things, and we were off very early in the morning.

We arrived at the hospital and got checked in. We played with Dibs in her stroller as we watched other families and children get checked in as well. You'll have to forgive my memory here, we talked to a lot of people and went over the surgery more than once, just as we had many times before. The fear in my stomach wasn't actually as big as it could have been - I was more nervous about Dibs freaking out from not eating for so long.

We were escorted into a private room where anesthesiology came in and talked to us about pain management. At this point I kept thinking, "Take her already! Take her!" The talk leading up to it was almost too much to bear. It felt like we had been sitting in one room or another for days. I kept looking at the clock thinking about Boy Wonder heading off to school and starting his holiday concert soon.

Finally, the nurses allowed us to kiss her sweet, pudgy face one last time before they took her off. I won't lie, it was hard, but I was glad she was in good hands and this thing was finally about to start. This was something I was anticipating since I first found out she had a mass. Please, let's just get this thing out already.

The Hubs and I went to the waiting room, where we sat with all the other families waiting for their children. And man, there are a LOT. I chatted with friends checking in on me, and The Hubs paced around and finally took a nap. Here's one word of advice I remember very clearly. If you are a nursing mother - BRING YOUR PUMP PARTS. I remember being told the hospital had a lactation room with a pump, but totally forgot the part where I was supposed to bring my accessories. Several agonizing hours later, I was finally able to pump, but the damage was done. I had the clog of all clogs. I'll spare you details, but it was so severe nothing was coming out. NOTHING. The pressure building up behind it was horrible. I dealt with clogs for months afterwards. It was honestly horrible, and I have a high tolerance for pain.

We waited. And waited. Dibs' surgery took longer than four hours, but it turns out she was just sleeping off her medication longer than normal. We FINALLY were able to go back and see her. It's amazing when you're separated from your child for so long - they look so small when you finally see them again. She was in a large white crib, and she just looked tiny. The nurses all fawned over her and said she did amazingly. The surge of relief I felt was like nothing else. She was fine. She was recovering. All we had to do now was allow her to heal.

Daddy relaxing with Dibs 

My post for 3 days
We were shown to our room and given the rundown. She was given pain medication, and would be regularly for awhile until she showed signs of not needing it as much. Dibs did pretty well here. She would go fairly long without it, but had a distinct cry when she was in pain. It's hard to describe, but it's very different than a regular cry, and wasn't a shriek or anything similar. I'm sure all babies are different, but that's one sound I'll be able to remember. She had wires everywhere - one tube was in her chest and was draining the excess fluid and air from her surgery site. This tube was the one to watch: once the fluid and air went down, and her lung filled the missing area, we would be free to go. It was also the hardest one to deal with. I was able to nurse her (painfully, for me), but it was tricky business making sure this tube wasn't pulled or twisted, or flipped. Overall, I got pretty used to it, but was glad when they said they could finally take it out.

The tube came out, and she would be given an x-ray to see if her lung expanded to make up for the missing lobe. Unfortunately, air got in when her tube came out, so it had to be put back in. It was a bummer to have to stay another night, but in the end we got over it. We were given the clear to go home the following day, and it almost felt like a dream. Here we were, at the end of a very scary journey, and our little baby was sitting there smiling at us. Is this seriously happening?

It sounds melodramatic, but that's how it felt. I'll never, ever forget those moments of wondering if my baby would live. It almost seemed anti-climatic how it ended. She had a major surgery that she recovered from WONDERFULLY. She has no lasting side-effects. She could become an Olympic athlete if that's in the stars for her. She has the teeniest, tiniest little scar, but other than that, the most troublesome thing at the moment is that she's teething. Just like any other baby.

Her follow-up appointments have been non-eventful as well. She's doing great! Nothing to report. Let's see her again in a year. Really? Really. This is the best outcome we could have hoped for.

I started writing about this because the only thing that kept me holding on in those first days were reading posts by moms out there talking about their experiences, and showing a picture of their child celebrating their 3rd birthday. It gave me so much hope that this wasn't a death sentence. In a place where everything is listed in probabilities, and there is no definitive category to place you in until it plays itself out, that meant everything.

 "Your child could die, but it might not and here are the things we can do to help" is a weird place to be. Pain is a weird thing to experience. It can be extremely alienating. The only other person who knew what I was going through - my husband - didn't even experience it the same way I did. The days where I was feeling optimistic and upbeat, he was sick with worry. The days where he finally saw the light, I couldn't get out of my head and stop wondering if the baby was ok. I have little-to-no advice to give on any of this, and cannot make any promises that any other baby will have the same outcome our Dibs did, but I do have some hindsight on how to make it out sane.

There will be days when others will be complaining about their child teething, or having a cold. And you'll think to yourself "My child might be dying. Right now. INSIDE OF ME." It happens - you can't help it. There will undoubtedly be someone pregnant the same time as you - with a totally healthy and happy pregnancy. You'll absolutely get advice from people trying to help, and it won't help, at all. I spent many, many nights in the bathtub by myself. I won't bore you with the thoughts beating the inside of my skull, but if you've been there, you know. There is no other feeling in the world like wondering if your child is dying. It feels like nobody, even someone who has been there, can relate. You'd do anything to go back to the time when you were in a bad mood simply because you were in a bad mood, and nothing else.

One thing I am grateful for is the example of others who have weathered storms. Many friends and family I know have been through horrible, trying times. And I am in awe of the way they carry themselves, to this day. Their struggles were not in any way related to anyone else. They listened with understanding when someone was having a bad day, and offered happiness when someone else had a good day. In short, they were decent human beings. It can be tempting to hold it against others when you're in pain - but it's a very dangerous road to travel, and can be more alienating than the pain itself.

I'll admit it wasn't easy, but I tried my best to allow others to live outside of my world. I didn't void others' feelings simply because I was going through something extremely hard. And you know what? In doing that I saw other people, really saw them. I saw the pain they had been through. I felt their happiness. I could see when they themselves were having a hard time, and didn't automatically scoff simply because it wasn't as "bad" as what I was going through.

On a much more selfish note, this attitude goes pretty far in terms of self-preservation. Bitterness was held at bay. I had many, many moments of normalcy, simply because I allowed it in. I didn't fight it when the world went on and I wasn't ready. No, it isn't easy to be alone and in pain, but it's much worse to punish others for not being in the same boat as you.

And now, here were are. Surgery is such a distant memory that I can barely remember the details, and they almost don't matter. The world went on, and we went along with it. There are no grudges. It was an incredibly hard time, but it's over. I have no promises about how other stories will play out, but I have complete faith that no matter what happens - it will be ok.

I'm finally able to be upset about day-to-day crap that doesn't matter and enjoy my beautiful life - why in the world would I hold it against someone else for doing the same?

It's hard to imagine the place I was in last year… it wasn't an easy load to bear, but managing the way I carried the weight made all the difference in the world, both then and now. :)

Motherhood and Maturity

"Isn't it hard with so many kids?"

It is. It really is. There are days when I'm just grateful I remembered to get some decent pants on before heading out the door. But in a lot of ways, I feel so much more content, confident, and peaceful than when I was a first-time mom.

Don't get me wrong. Life is crazy-hectic. I haven't even added a post about our youngest's actual surgery (after all my talk about wanting to give those searching late at night comfort. Way to go, me!) I haven't taken our monthly picture of our youngest in… 4 months? I don't even know. I was late one month by a couple days. A couple days turned into a month. And pretty soon I decided it didn't really hurt my feelings if I didn't have a posed picture of her every month.

But that's just the point. I have so much perspective now. I don't really care about all those little cutesy things. YES, I would still love to have ONE family picture of us looking normal for once, and I would LOVE to be able to do all the precious little things I see on Pinterest. But I don't consider it a failure if I don't.

I'm booking maternity sessions for a lot of first-time moms right now, and it got me thinking about how amazing it was that first time. Amazing and freaking scary. I find myself almost feeling sorry for the first-time moms and all that is coming their way - the miracle of a baby set aside. There was so much I didn't know. There was so much I felt like I had to prove. And to be completely honest, it didn't go away after my first.

I was 21 when I was pregnant with our first. There wasn't a whole lot of social bantering about my pregnancy, my mothering… every single choice I made. But when I was pregnant with #2, I had more peers having children. Milestones, weight, feeding choices… everything was a topic of conversation. And I totally got caught up in it. I shared each and every detail and felt the need to defend myself. A lot. I didn't even see that a lot of what I did was for others.

It could be the minuscule amount of time I have on my hands now, or age, or something else, but I definitely don't feel that pull anymore. I don't feel the need to constantly mark my mom territory and let people know I have it together. I still love to offer other moms reassurance or brag when one of my kids flat-out amazed me, but I don't feel that sense of failure when I don't appear to be cookie-cutter and awesome. I'm not ashamed when one of my kids is reaching a milestone later than the others did. My motivation is elsewhere now.

I see that I do things with a different goal in mind. I do it because I want my kids to grow up happy and healthy, and have a comforting recollection of their childhood. I want them to reach milestones because it means they're growing, not because it validates me. I want to take pictures so that I can look back at them when they're grown-up and gone and remember how much fun we had. I want to go to the park and play so that we all get out of the house and have fun. I want them to get dirty, cry if they're hurt or sad, laugh when they're happy, and show love because they want to. I want to get together with friends so everyone has fun and strengthens relationships. The extra motivation of trying to appear a certain way is fading and all but gone.

It's funny that it can be considered not taking motherhood seriously enough when you don't do everything the Martha Stewart way. I'm finding the opposite to be true. I'm in tune with my children and myself (as selfish as that sounds). Living life has become more important than giving our family an image. No, I'm not taking motherhood less seriously, I'm taking putting on an act less seriously. It's such a relief to just be a mom and not have to keep up with anyone else. It's wisdom I hope I can carry with me when my full-time mom gig is up… that I live life to live life, and not to add to my social media account or put another notch in my belt. Many people get there in their own way - for me it just took 4 crazy children to settle me down ;)