Erin's Pregnancy Project

Erin is the loveliest. A perfect example of poise, grace, and gentleness. When she reached out to me in the spring and asked if I'd document her pregnancy, I jumped at the chance and was even more thrilled when she said she wanted it to be in the style of The Body Project. Can. Do. 

To start, Erin miscarried last year, and while I wanted to have that be a kind of focus for this project, she decided that she'd truly rather honor her new pregnancy by putting all of her light and love into growing a healthy little one, but is up for shedding light on the fact that miscarriages are not often discussed (and should be!) and that they are devastating, for all involved. I preface with this simply to share that some of Erin's mantras and answers to my interview questions have passion and power behind them related to the loss she experienced last year. This project, however, is most importantly about documenting a woman's changing body, mind, and spirit as she grows new life and reflects on the coming of motherhood.

I think that it’s beautiful to go through the entire process...and I’m really interested in time lapse photography...just had to find someone willing to do that much time. So, I thought of you.

Session 1: June

This first session, while a warm-up, was a deep and beautiful first meeting for me and Erin. After a brief bout of yoga to stretch our bodies, I asked this series of questions to stretch Erin's mind and get her open and ready for her shoot:

  1. Why'd you want to do this project?
  2. How are you feeling as of late mind, body, and spirit?
  3. What is something you've envisioned since you found out you were pregnant? Good and/or bad?
  4. Anything random you want to share about yourself or recent personal life?
  5. What thought or piece of advice do you have for baby right now?
  6. What's heavy on your mind today?
  7. What makes you feel light?

I appreciated her patience with me as I fiddled with my voice recorder on my phone. Lol! I also greatly appreciated her receptivity. Her answers were thoughtful and honest.

To brief you: So far, physically, Erin is thirsty...constantly thirsty! And of course, she feels nauseous, but drinking tends to keep that at bay. She made me laugh but nod in understanding when she said, "I'm very happy that I'm sick because that's a good sign!" Being pregnant does, however, make her feel womanly, sexy, and awesome.

As far as what she's been thinking about a lot lately, she said pregnancy in this beginning stage feels intangible and unbelievable. 

I know I’m guarded, right now, from fully rejoicing because of the loss we went through last time. For me, I need to get past the first trimester.

When she addressed the spirit portion of my first question, I loved her response:

"I could probably use some spirit work. [Laughs] I think that I'm just wrapped up in the stresses with working and balancing things and this party coming up [her housewarming party] that I haven't explored spirit as much as I should right now. I feel really good when I'm out in nature, if I were to write, go for walks, go for hikes, be by myself. I used to make a lot of art. That was a great way [to explore spirit]. I haven't done that in a while. Listen to music. Talk with others. Just a matter of opening up is when I feel great. As far as an actual spirituality or religion...still working on that. [Laughs]"

Please let my baby grow and be healthy today.

She does say a daily prayer, though: "Please let my baby grow and be healthy today" which led to a discussion about manifesting wants based on healthy, good intentions. Instead of thinking, I don't want this or I don't want that, we talked about the importance of stating, I want this or that with the best of intentions, while also understanding that things do change and fluctuate and we cannot attach happiness to expectations, but to what is meant to be in each moment.

She keeps envisioning growth, a big belly, and repeats to her little one: Baby, be strong.

Her personal mantra: Stay calm. 

After talking about a few stressors, this is absolutely my favorite nugget of our first session (my apologies, in advance, for the weird sound that intensifies with my s's. I'll work on that for future voice clippings):

 

Interested in doing a pregnancy project (or any creative personal project!) of your own? Let's do it! Contact me here.


Session 2: August

I was a little nervous coming into this second session because Erin had canceled her July session due to a brief hospitalization. I wasn't sure what to expect from her—fear, worry, tears, anxiety? But when I walked into her comfortable little Madison home, she was calm and collected, talking softly as if baby was already sleeping in the next room. 

She offered me tea and we settled into chairs in her screened-in back porch, and all I could think about was how peaceful baby will feel here with Erin and Rusty tending softly to life. We discussed her neglected flower garden (since finding out she was pregnant), mosquitos, traffic noises, and how much she loves her little piece of nature in the city.

When we started the interview process, I prayed there wasn't a threat of loss. I admired her ability to remain calm while sharing the details of her July scare with me, but naturally, I occasionally felt her dip into fear. She mentioned that it was difficult not to recall the timeline of her last pregnancy and had to remind herself that they are unrelated and that she needs to remain positive.

To fill you in: In July, Erin suffered from a small subchorionic hematoma on her uterus that caused hemorrhaging at the end of the first trimester for three weeks. Ultrasounds showed that the baby was fine and healthy, but Erin wanted further answers and help regarding how to take care of her body. With little to no information to go off of, however, she decided to follow her gut and rest, rest, rest and pray that the hematoma shrinks because if it enlarges, the baby will be in danger of being cut off from it’s blood supply, oxygen, and nutrients.

However, baby is still growing!

The baby’s fine. The baby’s great! Baby’s big. Baby’s bigger than it should be. It’s in the 80th percentile!

She said, “It’s getting what it needs, which is great, but I’ve gone in every single week to listen to the heartbeat because I’m so scared that I’m not going to hear it because of all of this.” Soon, she’ll be able to feel the baby move and will feel more at ease.

When I asked her what’s been making her feel light, her answer surprised me in such a pleasant way:

Knowing there’s a life in me. It needs me. I feel important. I feel like I have a real purpose, especially right now.

The threat of loss has obviously made her feel heavy, especially on her lower days.

I kinda want to fast forward and see what happens, but I’m trying to enjoy my pregnancy.

Each session, I ask Erin to choose a pose in the moment. This session, she chose, "Protective."

We talked of the importance of letting go and accepting the unknown, particularly for Type A personalities who always want to do the “right” thing even though so many others survive just fine not doing the “right” things.

Erin reaches for natural remedies and studies/uses herbs for health and healing. She has found many herbs that may start menses, like parsley, so it's been a learning process to figure out what is contraindicated during pregnancy. All the misinformation regarding pregnancy has been frustrating. She’s baffled by the lack of agreed information available even though pregnancy has happened to women since the beginning of time. She’s also convinced being pregnant makes one more aware of what is and isn’t good for you. Newest discovery besides parsley? Propane + BBQ smells = nausea. Propane is on the SO NOT GOOD list.

Time is driving her crazy…

I’ve never been so excited for January before. I’m learning how to be patient.

Her thoughts on miscarriage after I asked if she had any advice for other women who’ve gone through it were incredibly humble and I appreciated her immense honesty. She felt she wasn’t in a place to offer advice because she hasn’t gotten to the end yet. “It’s a psychological battle, and that’s difficult to handle.” 

[SIDE NOTE: At the time of this session, I felt Erin's hesitation to discuss the miscarriage and what she experienced and respected her need for space to process. I had no intention of pushing the subject further as her pregnancy moved forward, but after sending this post to Erin to read over and approve before sharing on social media, she asked me if she could add more about what she thought and felt after the miscarriage because she was finally ready. This is her letter to me]:

I don't wish this devastating loss on anyone. It's truly heartbreaking. Before the miscarriage, I never understood what this type of loss could possibly feel like. I did not know how depressed I would become and that I would not feel like myself at all for months after. At the time, every pregnant belly and announcement was a stab at my heart, which made me feel even worse not to feel joy for others who deserved it. I wanted to hide and not see pregnancy and babies anywhere, but that is impossible in this world. I felt like I was robbed of the pregnancy before it even had a chance of settling in. My heart goes out to every parent who has experienced the loss of a child. Even at this very early stage, your heart, mind, and soul are invested and it's very difficult, or impossible, to go back to how you were before pregnancy.

Through the difficult experience, I learned how truly strong women are who are mothers or want to become mothers (and partners). I learned that so many of my friends, family members, and even acquaintances went through a miscarriage, sometimes more. Miscarriage isn't discussed openly in this culture, but many were willing to share their personal story once they knew mine. I wanted to share my story as a way to help with awareness, to open up a dialogue, and to give hope to someone who is going through it now. 

This experience taught me the strength it takes to process loss but keep trying with life, to keep pursuing my hopes and dreams, not to let my fears and depression win, and to get through the hard times by looking for the joy. 

I will never forget my first baby I was carrying and the love I had for him/her. I can only focus my good energy and love on the baby I am growing inside me now and hope for a much happier ending this time.

Erin's advice for baby: Hold on.

Her mantra: Have faith.

A little teaser for you to chew on: 

Erin believes that she’s carrying a boy because her attitude has gotten more fierce and bold, particularly with strangers. After telling me about sharing a few choice words with a jerky driver man, she assumed her reaction to him is because of extra testosterone.

Find out whether Erin was right in the next post. ;)

 

Interested in doing a pregnancy project (or any creative personal project!) of your own? Let's do it! Contact me here.


Session 3: September

The difference between session two and three is night and day. With the scariness of the possibility of miscarriage behind Erin, she was a completely different person. She carried herself taller, was touching her belly a lot more (and having me touch it in the hopes of feeling the baby kick!), and had that most beautiful glow of a joyful pregnant woman. It was clear that we had definitely warmed up to each other by this session, as well, because we were laughing constantly and both feeling very loose and free throughout our precious few hours together.

Like when she talked about the reality that her belly is growing bigger and how that fully set in when she tried on a dress for a wedding that she was sure would fit her, and she said, "It bunched at the belly and was all rufflely!" And this: "I keep saying that pregnancy is making me smarter, and then I mix up my words and say, 'presidency' instead." ;)

One (of many) things I love about Erin is the fact that she’s a caretaker. I had expressed earlier in the day how overwhelmed and low I felt (by various bumps I hit personally in September), but that her answers to my interview questions pulled me back into the core of me and out of my head for the first time in a while. I cried. Told her I had cramps and that I was forever grateful that she was willing to come to me for this session. She brought me two kinds of tea for calming and relaxation, gave me a huge hug, and asked me how I was feeling…at HER session about HER life and pregnancy. Erin will be an amazing mother.

I’m starting to think of myself as a mom, which is super new!

I loved all of Erin's answers to these questions that I thought I'd share all of them magazine interview style. 

 

K: What are you learning about yourself throughout this pregnancy? 

E: I have become very protective of my body and my little one. I always have watched what I eat and drink, but this goes much deeper these days. I find myself not breathing when noxious car fumes are present, going to bed early (typically a night owl), resting way more, speaking up for what is best for us, etc... things I will most likely carry into the days after baby is born. I used to just look out for my own body but now I have developed a mama bear instinct that is highly protective, which I'm sure is completely necessary and normal. 

I always smile when I see a pregnant woman or baby, can’t help it.

K: What are you learning about others? 

E: That people are generally really helpful and receptive to a pregnant woman, especially those who have families because they have been through it. My friends and family are looking out for us and asking what they can do, which is really sweet. I've also felt disappointment with family members about their actions (or lack of actions), which has brought up old feelings that I'm trying to deal with as best as I can. Not sure if pregnancy is the time to drudge up family issues due to the stress it could cause, but it has made me reexamine who is there for me in life, and who is not. 

As for strangers in passing, I'm starting to get smiles now because I'm showing :) It's good energy and kind. I know I always smile when I see a pregnant woman or baby, can't help it. 

Knowing I am growing a life inside me is surreal.

K: Aside from changes in your body, what feels new? 

E: I’m starting to think of myself as a mom, which is super new! It's taken some time. The moment I found out I was pregnant, I was like “Baby, yay!!" but not “Oh, I'm a mom!" It took some time to wrap my brain around it, and I am still getting there as I come more to terms as to what a parent role looks and feels like. I'm sure it's an ongoing learning process. Wish me luck!

 

K: What's getting old? 

E: Nothing really. I will look forward to eating foods I cut out for baby and drinking coffee again in four months, but that is so small. It's all worth it, and I'd give up a million times. 

 

K: What has been making you feel light? 

E: I’d have to answer this the same as last time. Knowing I am growing a life inside me is surreal. It is amazing, there are really no words to describe the feeling. Little baby kicks and moves in me and I feel it (and can now see it too!!), which makes me smile throughout my day. It’s reminding me that it’s there with me at all times.

K: What has been making you feel heavy?

E: Heavy as in a weight... I'd say family stress, pressure to do the right thing…always, noise and air pollution, world politics, fear of the unknown variables in life (always a stress I suppose), bringing a baby into the world we live in. 

 

K: What has been your Mantra to yourself? 

E: Stay positive. Give my love to my little one. 

 

K: What has been your Mantra to the baby? 

E: Keep growing strong and healthy, baby!

Pregnancy is a stressful time no matter what (even without complications) so try your best to stay calm and do what is best for you even if it is against the grain at times.

K: Funniest thing that's happened, since the last time we saw each other, related to your pregnancy? 

E: Hmmm..... haven't had anymore altercations with rude strangers lately, so that's good. ;) I'm calmer these days, nothing too eventful.

 

K: Now that you've had a pretty rough patch [regarding the hematoma] and worked through it, do you have any advice for anyone who may be going through the same thing?

E: Stay positive, take care of yourself, and listen to your body and intuition about what is best for you. Doctors don't know everything about you, so you need to decide what is best for you. For me, it was resting even though they said I didn't have to. I wanted to give my body the best chance for healing and it's been working. The hematoma has shrunk significantly, and I am hopeful the rest of it will dissolve soon. Pregnancy is a stressful time no matter what (even without complications) so try your best to stay calm and do what is best for you even if it is against the grain at times.

Erin's advice to the baby (complete with an accidental and adorable backward N!): Keep growing!

Her mantra: Stay present

K: Anything else you feel like sharing?

E: I’m in a much better place now that I can feel baby kicking every day. I don't need to go in every week to listen to the heart beat because I feel HIM! Oh yes, it's a boy! I told you I felt I had more testosterone in me, Katy! :) Maybe explains my funny behavior at times. HORMONES!

I'm getting really excited and finally enjoying my pregnancy because I am more relaxed and he is more real to me. I can feel him everyday now. It's a crazy wonderful feeling. :)

 

Interested in doing a pregnancy project (or any creative personal project!) of your own? Let's do it! Contact me here.


Session 4: October

Erin and I entered this session having had sleepless nights, so since we both tend to honor our bodies, we plopped down together on her oversized couch clutching teas, soothed by the sounds of Native American flute, and settled into conversation with the ease of long time friends without concern for the external world or time restraints. I love growing closer to Erin in the process of documenting this pivotal moment in her life. And I love learning so much about the subtle and not so subtle pieces of pregnancy a woman experiences. Erin’s desire to learn and grow throughout this process is inspiring and beautiful. She takes in both sides of opinions about pregnancy, but ultimately follows her intuition. An amazing example of this is when she indulged in very deep self-care and rest much longer than was suggested back in July and August when she dealt with the hematoma, and miraculously following her intuition paid off. The hematoma is non-detectable. She's full on happy, nesting pregnant woman now.

I’m enjoying my pregnancy finally. I like my belly, a lot. I don’t feel self-conscious. I’m like, YEAH!

We veered off in multiple directions after launching from a particular question I'd ask, and we covered such a range of topics that it's easy to see how forty minutes to an hour would pass so quickly, yet it always feels like time slows down as you respect and embrace the glory of that moment in a woman's pregnancy.

At one point, baby boy made us a take a break from our Q&A to give us a wiggle show. We placed our hands on her belly and waited patiently to feel him wiggle around and press up against her so I could feel the difference between the hardness of a baby body and the squishyness of the part of her belly where baby boy wasn’t hanging out. After I felt him, we had a long moment of silence in honor of the amazingness that is growing life and feeling it.

K: I feel like I would have to stop myself from crying a million times if I was pregnant!

E: *laughs*

K: It blows my mind that there’s this tiny thing in you that’s alive! It’s blowing my mind.”

E: Believe me! It’s weird that you get used to it, that this is normal! I’m amazed, but it settles in and it feels normal now, even though it’s a temporary part in my life.

That is EXACTLY why I’m doing this. <3This Q&A is JUICY. Curl up and dig in.

LOOK HOW HAPPY SHE IS TO BE AT 29WKS! This fills me with joy. <3

LOOK HOW HAPPY SHE IS TO BE AT 29WKS! This fills me with joy. <3

K: What is your newest discovery about your mind, body, and spirit as of late?

E: My brain has shifted into preparing for birth and nesting. I'm having a lot of fun building the nursery and gathering items for our babe through garage sales and Craigslist. I'm excited for our baby shower in a week, and celebrating this pregnancy.

I've been reading a lot about natural birth, and Rusty and I have started taking our birth classes where we explore a lot of spirit work and transformation, because so much transformation has already occurred and so much more is yet to happen through birth and becoming a parent. We are trying to prepare for the life changing event of parenthood, but how can one fully? Every parent will tell you you can't. 

I'm learning pain management techniques and trying to build my self confidence for birth and release fears of the unknown so I am able to have the least amount of interventions (hopefully). "Birthing From Within" is a guide to finding the strength and spirit within oneself to have the courage to birth naturally. 

Let go of your brain. You have to be able to surrender some control in this process because it’s bigger than you. This has not been from my mind. The body knows what to do. You fight that because the way birth is in hospitals, you rely on doctors since they can do everything for you. But you have the strength to know how to birth a baby with or without intervention.

K: Any changes in your relationship with yourself and with your husband?

E: Yes, I think we have had to examine a lot about our selves personally in this process of pregnancy, and how we can be the best versions of ourselves for the little one and each other. I have an amazing partner. He is not afraid to look into himself and work on things to be a better husband and father. I couldn't have found a better companion for life. This process has brought us even closer together, and we were pretty tight before. Growing together is a wonderful and powerful feeling. 

As for with myself, I take even better care of myself thinking in terms of two now.

K: What makes you feel light?

E: Thinking of meeting our baby in less than three months, and seeing him for the first time. I feel excited every time I feel him move in my belly.

 

K: What makes you feel heavy?

E: Literally heavy. My body is heavy because I am carrying the extra weight now and I can feel it. Harder to get up out of bed, bend over, that kind of stuff, but it's all temporary. I can deal. My heart works harder and I breathe heavier at times. Carrying the extra weight is taxing on the body! 

 

K: In the beginning of this project, you mentioned needing to do more spirit work. Any progress? Reconnection with nature?

E: Yes, our "Birthing From Within" classes really focus on spirit work and birth art therapy. After this session, I'm going to work on some birth art!

I've spent time looking at the changing leaves and sitting in the sun. It's wonderful. I don't have a lot of energy for big hikes, but we have gotten out a few times recently. Nature makes me calm and connected.

January and February are going to be nothing but hibernation and connecting as a family.

K: What do you keep envisioning the most?

E: Dressing my lil' baby in his little clothes and snuggling him with Rusty. I can see it now! January and February are going to be nothing but hibernation and connecting as a family.

 

K: Have you thought of names? If so, can we know? 

E: Thought of many. It may be the most over-whelming part, which was a surprise. We have about ten? No, can't share them. Sorry. Learned my lesson already with telling others. Too many opinions and associations. We aren't going to officially name him until we meet him so it fits.

Perhaps this is an uncontrollable force that my mind need not be centered in.

K: What's been your mantra to yourself?

E: Let go.  I'm trying to control a lot of things. Perhaps this is an uncontrollable force that my mind need not be centered in. The body knows what to do, the mind just complicates matters with thinking too much. I get really anxious when something is wrong or unfamiliar or I feel a way that’s not recognizable. Instead of being like, Oh, I feel bad, I try to make sense of it, and I don’t think I’ll be able to do that. Birth is about surrendering and that’s going to be hard for me.

 

K: What do you want to tell baby boy today?

Keep growing strong! And get fat!

 

Her expression in this photo is beyond priceless. It says, "But seriously. GET FAT! Lol!

We had a good laugh at the end of our Q&A about pregnancy hormones surging and creating outbursts and how you feel a certain person needs to hear what you have to say in that moment, and though we both believe that those thoughts and feelings that crop up during heavy moments of hormones or even PMS are valid and from a deeper part of ourselves that need resolving, perhaps working on tact is in order. Lol!

I can't believe we only have a handful of sessions left! I'm almost as excited as Erin to meet baby boy!

 

*Note from the present time: we had to skip November due to a huge and sudden loss in my family, but December's session is so warm and fuzzy it's going to melt your face off. That write-up will come sooner than I got this October one out! I promise! <3

 

Interested in doing a pregnancy project (or any creative personal project!) of your own? Let's do it! Contact me here.


Session 5: December

Erin’s early December maternity session was a giant ball of light in the midst of my very dark fall. She brought her husband Rusty along. It was so beautiful that I wrote about it in my journal the next morning, the first session that wouldn’t leave my brain the next day. I think there’s nothing else I’d rather do than share that entry with you and let the photos speak for themselves.

 

Erin’s maternity session last night was everything. She and Rusty are a beautifully honest couple, and we were all so gentle with each other as we sipped tea and discussed the U.S.’s current state of affairs, the sudden loss of my mother-in-law weeks prior to this session, and their current concern about the possibility of a c-section since baby boy is breach.

Listening to the two of them discuss their fears and joyful anticipations was an honor to witness and hold. I could not be happier that Erin asked Rusty to drive her here so she wouldn’t have to drive an hour with her big belly! And she is happily big...and curvaceous! Baby is 5lbs and she’s gained 20.

When she turned to the side and put her hands on her low back for our standard belly growth shot, she shook her love handles a little and said, “Oh! I’m bigger back here!” and laughed whole-heartedly.

Her session flowed relatively smoothly as we fell into the pattern of core images we’re both accustomed to by now, and we even captured a few of Rusty writing on her belly.

All was light and filled with laughter until we reached Erin’s mantra portrait: Open. This represents not only her heart with regard to releasing fears and worries, but represents the literal opening of her pelvic floor and cervix. It’s believed that babies go breach because that part of the body isn’t open enough. Her doula told her to accept any and all things that could happen with the pregnancy by releasing fears in order to remain open.

It’s possible that Erin felt a block attempting to embrace openness during her portrait. It’s also possible that the poses simply sucked and were uncomfortable. Lol! Regardless, help me send all the positivity and light Erin’s way so that her mind, body, and spirit embrace openness and we can get baby boy to FLIP!

maternityportraits-pregnancyproject-whitewaterwi-katydaixonphotography-112.jpg

It’s evident that pregnancy is very precious to Erin, and she currently seems quite at home in her body and isn’t rushing toward her due date like she was in the first trimester. It’s also evident that Rusty is very precious to her. Our intent was to add him into a photo or two, but their tenderness, genuine goofiness, and humble love was captivating and comfortable.  Two photos turned into ten. Can you blame us?

We were all filled with gratitude for this experience. I rarely capture such honesty in that intimate of a setting. It’s not easy to forget there’s a camera looking at you! Truly honored. Photos they will undoubtedly cherish and hopefully refer back to in those sleepless nights they’ll soon endure and likely never trade for the world.

 

Interested in doing a pregnancy project (or any creative personal project!) of your own? Let's do it! Contact me here.


Session 6: January

It’s finally time to announce the arrival of the beautiful, Elijah River, born January 2, 2017 at 7:23 am weighing in at 6 lbs 4 oz and at 19 inches long.

Erin and Rusty have certainly nested which is exactly what Erin wanted after Eli came. When I let myself in, their living room was so filled with pillows and blankets it may as well have been an actual nest. Erin apologized for the mess, but all I could think about was how much I wanted to curl up and nap! Their soft voices and Eli’s tiny baby squeaks warmed the room even more. Erin was cozied up on the couch with little Eli wrapped in an adorable hooded towel robe while Rusty cooked breakfast in their kitchen.

Erin’s mom, Judy, (whom I had the pleasure of meeting a little later) was asleep upstairs since she had taken late night duty with Eli to help Rusty and Erin sleep. He had just had a bath and Erin was warming him before the debut of his naked bum. It was obvious that she was sleepy (multiple yawns), but it was also obvious that she was in heaven. She couldn’t stop staring at him. 

Many times during our interview, both she and Rusty would fall reverently silent and simply take in what was finally before them. They were joyful and in awe. It was beautiful to be in that energy where time moved much more slowly and gently than past sessions.

He came early, but was still full term, and never did flip as Erin had hoped, so he was delivered via c-section. Erin wished she could’ve experienced labor: “I still wanted to know what it felt like especially after all the prep we had gone through,” but she was happy Eli chose his own moment his way. She clearly felt him break her water.

E: He kicked me SO hard! He was ready. It made it all better that he chose his own birthday. I was really fretting about choosing it, because I had to schedule a cesarean. I was still trying to decide if I wanted to do this procedure called Version, or Exterior Cephalic Version (ECV). It's pretty invasive. That was scheduled for the next day, and I was considering canceling. He made all decisions for me. I was relieved.

 

K: What was your initial reaction to him coming early and what was your experience at the hospital?

R: Calm. It was like, Alright. We have to get to the hospital. He’s breach, so we can’t wait for labor.

E: There was an air of calmness to everything. Nothing was rushed. I never had a labor pain.

R: Once they started surgery, it took fifteen to twenty minutes.

E: His foot came out first. Here’s my kickers! *laugh* It sucks because I wanted to see him come up, but I didn’t want to see myself opened up. I feel like it would make my heart go fast. I just kept saying, “I want him right away. I want him right away. Don’t take him out of me and away.”

R: It was a bit more of a shock because you didn’t have that long experience of labor to adjust to him coming. Her water broke, and then he was here!

E: Having the baby was easy. The recovery is the hardest part, but the scar is part of the story now.

E: Just learning how to breastfeed in the hospital was super intense. It all came in at once. Lots of pain. It’s so much better now! *laughs* Learning how to feed your baby, and for him to latch on…

R: ...it was a high pressure situation.

E: Because you’re like, he has to eat something!

R: It’s getting a lot easier now. He does a good job of latching on.

E: He has a powerful latch!

R: Sometimes he latches onto my finger and it gets numb.

E: *laughs* Yeah! Think of my nipples! *laughs*

K: How are you doing, Rusty?

R: I’m doing well. At first, I took it pretty personally when he was crying, like I was doing something wrong. Now I realize I’m doing everything I can to support Erin and him.

E: You are!

R: To give them that comfort and security is all I can do, and if he’s crying, it’s because he needs to cry. It took a while to figure that out. I was very upset that I couldn’t make him stop crying.

K: What’s been making you feel light?

R: When he expresses things with his face. Smiles at you.

E: Just staring at him.

K: What’s been making you feel heavy?

Both: Lack of sleep. *laughs*

 

When Judy woke up, we had a good laugh about the fact that Eli drank 6oz from 2-4a. Erin said, “Wow! That’s a lot!”

And after she left to go out for breakfast, we lamented about the poor maternity leave that's offered to both men and women alike. Erin was nervous about Rusty returning to work the following week and how she'd have to be home alone navigating caring for a new baby. But Rusty said he was happy they were in a situation where Erin could stay home and not also have to start work again.

E: It makes you think about your parents a lot. I have found more respect for my mom, for sure. My mom had a cesarean, too, but my dad was working immediately after. So she had to do this alone. I can’t imagine doing this alone while you’re healing AND caring for a baby. She’s amazing. I didn’t understand that before doing this.

 

K: What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

E: This little guy is dependent on me. I’m his momma. It’s crazy. I get to hold him...all the time. I get to watch him change and grow. It’s really special.

 

K: About being a dad, Rusty?

R: Watching him grow has been pretty amazing. It’s really fun to watch. He’s part of us, and he’s learning.

 

K: What has changed within you?

R: I think you just have this sense of putting yourself second all the time now. You always have to put him first. That takes some adjustment. You still have to take care of yourself, of course, to care for him, but I never thought of myself as a caretaker. Now it’s just happening. I think I’m doing alright.

E: Instead of worrying about him in me, now I worry about him out of me! *laughs* I’m a mom! That’s the difference. It’s super real. Pregnancy was such a blur and now baby’s here. We're a family.

K: What’s your mantra?

E: Thankful and blessed. Remember this moment.

K: Advice to Eli?

E: Be kind.

R: Be courageous.

And finally, to end with a little laugh....my favorite conversation:

R: I pretty much drew out every song I’ve ever sang in my life for him. He likes it; he goes to sleep when I sing for him.

E: It’s really sweet...I’ve just got boobs! *laughs*

This last session was wonderful and bittersweet. Erin shared with me that this project was therapy for her. I think it was for me, too. Having the ability to photograph the most womanly experience in this world connected me to the deepest spaces of my feminine energy without being pregnant myself, and for that, I am grateful. I wish I could continue documenting the journey, but it was a pleasure to capture the beginning of Erin’s motherhood. This is Eli’s story now.

 

Interested in doing a pregnancy project (or any creative personal project!) of your own? Let's do it! Contact me here.