Why I do what I do.
I don’t know if it’s the current climate of custom photography right now or the fact that I have all sorts of extra pregnancy-related hormones currently coursing through my body, but I have been thinking a lot about pregnancy, birth, and that almost inexplicable miracle of new life. Because the vast majority of my professional work allows me to be a part of this special time in the lives of my clients, and because I can’t help but daydream about photographing this new little person about to join our family in a few months, I have been thinking a lot about what I do and why I do it.
Confession. I never wanted to be a working mom. Growing up, I always had interests and was a devoted student, and, like any other kid, I ran through the list of “some-day” dream careers: marine biologist (a.k.a. dolphin trainer at Sea World), investigative reporter, CIA agent (too many of my dad’s Tom Clancy novels, I think), chemist, actress, ballet dancer, chef, curator or even just an art docent. In the back of my head, though, I knew what I really wanted was to be a mom, and I kind of knew I couldn’t be the kind of mom that I wanted to be and work outside the home at the same time. Not that other people can’t, but I knew myself and my personality well enough to know that I couldn’t. Somehow, even as a twelve-year old. I knew I wanted to be the kind of mom that my mom was, and to be there in the home for even the boring and frustrating everyday parts of motherhood. I think my teachers and friends in high school were a bit alarmed when I didn’t express the proper anxiety over choosing a major to list on my college applications, stating, “Well, it doesn’t really matter what I study, as long as I study something and love it. I really just want to stay home with my kids anyway.” I think the words “throwing away talent” were mentioned more than once.
So, I went off to college a declared chemistry major, worked and studied my tail off, switched to art history where I was surrounded by absolute beauty every day and worked my tail off even harder, and graduated near the top of my class with absolutely no intention of putting my degree into action in the near future. The education? Absolutely. The degree? No. Why? Because during the studying and the working off of my little tail, I met the most wonderful man, married him, and had my first baby. I already had my dream career.
With the arrival of each of my children, I was just bathed in this feeling of love and awe for the people who cared for me during the birth process. I would routinely think, “Man, why didn’t I go to nursing school so that I could take care of other women and babies–to be a part of this process every day? That would be bliss.” Then I remembered my own little people at home and wanting to be with them, and eventually that feeling would pass. After the arrival of my second daughter, which was a kind of unplanned and spontaneously unmedicated birth, I thought, “Maybe when my kids are all grown, I would like to become a doula. What a blessing it would be to be there for women in labor. To let them know how amazing they are and to help them through the birth process.” By this time, it wasn’t hard to remember that the schedule required for working with birthing moms was not the easiest to coordinate with my own schedule, or rather that of my growing family. The feeling would pass, but it was always in the back of my mind as a future possibility.
In the meantime, I was discovering the world of photography outside of school. I had a few experiences in college and after graduation that just really convinced me of the importance and power of a visual record of life. That same part of me that longed to be a spy or to spend all day in a kitchen or lit up on a stage, started to yearn for the opportunity to immerse myself in focal length and aperture and composition and the decisive moment and the absolute beauty of an image. But this time, it didn’t pass. I even kind of hoped it would.
So, now I have two careers. One planned for, hoped for, and long-awaited. One that just kind of snuck up on me, but took hold, buried deep in my heart, and would not let go. I do love the visual aspect of my job. I enjoy photography. I love the play of light and shadow. I love the interaction of color and the timelessness and simplicity of black and white. I am amazed by the detail and the moments that can be captured through a camera and lens–by the emotions and memories that a strong image can convey. I like the challenge of trying to make each session new or better than the one before. I adore beautiful things–life is so much better with them in it. But… I could have had all of that (and I did) without running a business. Why I do what I do, I think, is so that I can be near miracles every day. I put countless hours into planning and studying and working my tail off, sometimes at odd hours and at menial and boring tasks (read book-keeping, etc.), because I can’t get over the elation of being invited in to this most precious and magical time in the lives of so many families.
Do I have the same amount of time to be the mom I always wanted to be? No, I don’t. It’s not possible. Is finding a balance painful and sometimes completely elusive? Absolutely. Is it worth the struggle to have the privilege of witnessing the miracle of life over and over and over again? Without a doubt.
As I sit here at 4:30 in the morning, after crawling in and out of bed with baby girl #3 who awoke with nightmares and needed a snuggle, unable to return to sleep myself, I am just overwhelmed with gratitude for a life so full. So full of, well, life. What a lucky girl I am to have found a way to marry two passions and still be able to devote my life to my first chosen career. What a lucky girl I am to be entrusted with capturing these brand new little people as they grow and change and unfold. In between the laundry, the dishes, the calculating sales tax, the nausea and exhaustion, and the occasionally feeling pulled in a million opposite directions and wanting to pull my hair out, life is pretty darn amazing. And for that, I am eternally grateful.