The words always take the longest to come, when I’m working on blogging about a birth. It is such a sacred thing to be invited into a birth space to bear witness to the arrival of not only a precious new baby…but also the transformation of the laboring woman from simply a sister, daughter, wife, friend to *mother*. This past Mother’s Day, when the sweetest, wee, Tillie Rose arrived, was no different. Carly had the most beautifully supported labor. There were so many hands providing for her, so many words of encouragement woven around her and whispered in her ear, so many bodies holding her up while she did the work. She rocked and soaked, walked and squatted, leaned and hung, and then walked some more. She worked tirelessly and fought so hard, and then surrendering to her body’s natural labor rhythms, did the (mind-blowing) work of pushing her baby out and into the world.
Each birth is different and remarkable in its own way…and now this Mother’s Day that will always be dear to my heart as it was shared with Carly, her mother, her sister, her husband Jordan’s mother, and my mother, GB, who was the midwife. In her sister Mandy’s words, “witnessing the physical and emotional work that it takes to birth a baby, and watching a baby come into the world will change your life.” It’s so true. I’m truly honored that I was able to capture this life-changing day for this amazing family.
The girlie and I took a trip just out of town this past weekend. The temperatures in Central Texas are finally cooling down enough that if you stay near the water during the day, and bring light layers for night, you don’t feel like you’re sweating your very life away. There was just the right amount of talking, and silence, and hiking, and reading, and swimming, and hammock-ing, and photo making. One evening, we had an impromptu meeting at the river with friends, and then blessedly, even more friends. There was the hurried catch-up of a summer passed apart, rope-swinging into the river in jeans (impromptu-like), a beautiful River Story unfolding upstream with said friends, rock skipping, fireflies, fish nibbling my toes, and the sniffing of a new, sweet-baby’s head (*swoon*). I cherish this time out of the city with Grace so deeply, and find that as soon as we’re back in town, I’m on the computer looking for the next opening at a nearby state park so we can get away again soon. Far away adventures are all well and good, but sometimes just getting forty minutes out of town is exactly what’s needed to right the boat. <3
My friend Beth has four daughters. Being the oldest of four myself, it’s possible that that’s why I feel so utterly at home when I’m with her. It also might be that they model so beautifully making family their ‘home’ or that they’re well traveled as a unit, and have a comfortable way about them that will put you at ease in their presence. After returning from a few years in Mexico, their most recent move has landed them in Asheville, NC where they’ve opened a thriving taco shop. Beth also writes (exquisitely) and mentors (heart-centeredly) over at Revolution from Home. My point is, they are busy folks, with just small windows of time where all six of their schedules might overlap to capture them together. They returned to Austin for a few days over the holidays to visit their oldest daughter, families, and their newest (3 weeks) nephew. I met them at Hunter’s sister’s house to reconnect for a spell and capture a bit of them together. I love to be present with a family as they are on that day. Lazy mornings, washing hands to hold the baby, making breakfast, doing the dishes, rolled eyes, crossed eyes, goofing off. My deepest hope is that I am capturing a small time capsule that saves the beauty of the everyday that we often don’t pause long enough to see in our own families. The value that we put on our time together as a family often grows with hindsight. While I remember milestones and celebrations with my family growing up, the memories I treasure most now seemed so small at the time. Like the way my parents held each when they were just doing it for each other, the way my sister fit perfectly on my papa’s knee and how her eyes would all but disappear when her smile was candidly beaming (still does). I remember how for years, anywhere you found my brother, you found him with his guitar in hand or how my other brother often looks off into the distance when he’s telling a story, he’s so lost in it. My goal for every family session is the same. Try and get some of *that*. Some of the “remember how goofy?”, “remember how tender?”, “remember the silly shit we used to fight about?”, “remember what used to make her laugh so hard?”, “remember her carrot soup?”, “remember how she used to knit everywhere?”, “remember how hard he worked to get things off the ground that year?”, “remember what a 3 week old baby sounds like, smells like?”, “remember what that whirlwind trip to Austin felt like?”. To me these just feel like the ingredients of remembering the love and the shared experiences that make a family, a family. This sweet family has it in spades, and as always, I feel so blessed that I was asked see it through my lens. <3
*There are some portraits and posed family shots thrown in at the end, because omigod, when in the world will I get them all in one place again?
It is such an incredible honor to be invited into a family’s home to capture the birth of a baby. The anticipation and love for this sweet baby, Smith, was multiplied out exponentially by his parents and four older siblings. Mama, Joy, weathered most of the labor throughout the night. It wasn’t long after I arrived that things really started moving along. She moved quickly from being read to in the bed by her husband (tears), to the birth tub for a handful of strong contractions. At around 3:30 am, the children tumbled downstairs in their pjs, excited to greet their new brother. It was a few good pushes, and their sweet little blondie brother joined them. There were tears. And hugging. And lots and lots of gentle touches from little fingers. Watching each child examine his little blonde eyelashes was wondrous. When Clementine, one of his sisters, exclaimed “You know what mama? Me and Smithy have a heart connection.” it was pure, heart-exploding goodness. Bearing witness to this beautiful family and their deep ‘heart connection’ has been one of the most beautiful, grace-filled experiences. What an incredible way to greet this new year. <3
We live in a vibrant city and are lucky to have an abundance of opportunities available to us each day. We are rich in friends and family. We are blessed with deep connections with good people….with a good life. There are times though, when I need the space to feel my own heartbeat. I need the quiet to reconnect with my own thoughts, independent of debate or conversation. It seems like this time of year (leading up to the holidays), I get this insane itch to swoop the girlie away from Austin. I just to want to remind her…and for me to know too….that we can find a deeper center when we allow ourselves some distance from the constant hustle and bustle. So we spent some days and some nights away from the city, with our books and journals and cameras. We had hikes and afternoon naps, each other to talk to now and again, and only midnight visits from the raccoons to disturb our peace. It was good to miss those that weren’t with us, and it was good to return feeling that we had been missed. My mind has been quieted a bit, making space for new ideas, and my heart is full up…It was full before I ever left town, I just needed the space to feel it.