When you have a baby, it’s safe to say that your life changes… dramatically. Both in entirely beautiful and entirely stressful ways. I became pregnant at 46 with the help of a fertility doctor. I like to say my baby is all science, not a lot of God. My pregnancy was really easy. I felt great. I loved all the sleep my body wanted, and I finally had a reason to eat all the frozen yogurt I could.
I had waited for my beautiful belly for so long, I was happy and grateful every day. My birth on the other hand was hell. I labored for 40 HOURS, no joke. You can read my birth story here. My midwife said, I had a homebirth, a hospital birth and a C-section all in one baby! I would have never survived childbirth if we were in a different time, then again, I would have never gotten pregnant either. I was grateful to have a healthy baby, and very grateful for that epidural.
Motherhood changed me in ways I never expected, but I was at a point in my life where I felt ready to evolve into the next Jennifer.
Entering momhood, I quickly found I lost some of my “mojo.” I can no longer work late to finish that extra project or fix that website page. I now must squeeze a 50 hour work week as an accomplished photographer specializing in pregnancy fine art photography into 20 or 30 hours depending on how many nights I work (as I type this it is 10:05 PM). Scheduling a simple yoga class or cocktail hour with friends has become a complex juggling act of setting up care requiring texts or phone calls and scheduling that takes time I don’t have. So I often opt to spend more time with my little guy. We have a play-date. We go for pizza. We read stories. We play cards. I still get woken up late at night for snuggles or a frightened call saying there is a dragon in his room so I go in and defend him, and cuddle with him until he starts to softly breathe and go to sleep. I cherish it.
In the beginning, I was exhausted and an amateur. I scrambled to make sure that my newborn was latching correctly so he could get enough to eat, that his formula (if I had to use it) didn’t have palm oil in it (yes I imported mine from Germany). I was scared that I or someone else would drop him, or his floppy head would snap off and roll onto the floor. I would check him countless times to confirm that he was still breathing while he slept. He also used to cry so much, I once seriously asked my pediatrician if a baby can cry so much he dies. I sort of laugh now, but also don’t want to forget any of these memories.
He’s five now, and I am so in love and proud of all he can do and say, and how funny he is. At the same time, I mourn that he is five. He is no longer my baby. I mourn that I didn’t get enough time with him. I suffer from Mommy-guilt that I missed something, that I wasn’t there for all the pick-ups and drop offs. I miss my baby; I miss my toddler; I miss my four year old and they will never come back. I don’t feel full up of those memories and I am already starting new ones. It is a sadness around the edges of my big love for him that I never expected to feel but it is there.
My life has become more meaningful because of mothering this little person. Before I had Mo, I was this rock star maternity photoshoot photographer, and I remember asking myself what does it all mean if you can’t share it with anyone? Who cares about all this? I had achieved all my dreams and was creating news ones, but I felt empty. Having this little guy has brought into sharp focus what really matters to me. My work is important and I love it, but now dropping off and picking up Mo are these beautiful rich smiley bookends to my days.
My photographic work in the fine art pregnancy photography world has become more meaningful because of motherhood as well. As a family photographer, I am more thoughtful about what I do for families. I know images that really mean something to me, and I can translate this into individual images or pieces for my clients. As I get to know a mom, I know what she will love. I know what memories she wants to remember about her babies. As a maternity photographer, I can see how important these images are because as soon as we have had our baby, we forget about pregnancy and the feeling of those little people inside kicking you or an elbow poking out.
Now I have to divide my time between my artistic professional maternity photography career and my family life. I am simply unable to book a client in a different state any day I want and fly there in 72 hours. Now, it’s a more meticulous process and requires planning and coordination of schedules. I book clients out several months to ensure balanced time with my family and that someone will be there for Mo. Same goes for vacation, I’m unable to hop out of town whenever my partner, or a friend, and I feel like it. Instead, it’s a well thought out process, making sure the vacation will be meaningful for all three of us and the jet lag won’t make anyone namely Mo unbearable.
Sleep is a HUGE theme of my new life. I used to stay up until midnight building websites or going out to a party. Now the new me, goes to bed most nights at 8:30 including Fridays and Saturdays. I am always exhausted. Parenting actually takes way more mental energy than I ever imagined. It is challenging to get this opinionated human to do stuff you want him to do, like get dressed.
My relationship is important and it is also a huge challenge to dedicate the amount of time needed to keep it nourished. I never thought I would have to negotiate so many things centering around our son. I naively thought we would magically agree on everything. Nope. Two people have two different ideas about raising their son. So we continue to work at it. My partner and I have to schedule date nights or date lunches on the calendar or they just won’t happen. We also try to go camping once a month to make sure we are all away from our devices and hanging in the hammock or hiking.
Meals also changed for me after becoming a mother. They didn’t used to be a priority. I used to be a popcorn-and-red-wine-for-dinner kind of gal, and maybe some breakfast, lunch ehem, kind of. I ate vegetables all the time and meals were very adhoc. Cooking is an art and it isn’t mine. I don’t like spending hours planning meals and doing mis en place. I would rather order takeout. After I had my son, I had to change all that. I had to provide nutritious food for this little dude. I had to have three square meals and a bunch of snacks at the ready and on time or it wasn’t pretty. That took some getting used to. I have it down now, but it is very basic, fresh and nutritional. No popcorn insert sad face here.
One of the more unexpected parts to becoming a new mom is that I have a profound respect for my own mother. She was a single immigrant mama raising two young girls while we were all reeling from a painful divorce, a cross country move, and loss of family. How the heck did she do it? And I was such a bitch. I have worked hard to repair that relationship and we are very close now. My mom has been a godsend so many times and been there for me and my son. She loves him more than I have ever seen her love anyone else other than my sister (inside joke as I always said she loved my sister more).
Now that I have been a mom of five years, I still feel like an amateur. I over research everything. I want the best for him in every way. I would love to say that everything is easier but it is just different. I try to remind myself that I am doing the best I can to raise this little guy. I try not to judge myself and to practice forgiveness if I mess up. I am also not afraid to ask for help if I need it like take a parenting class. The biggest gift is surrounding myself with wise mamas whose parenting resonates with me. These women are my village and they keep me afloat on days when I wonder if I am sinking.