With the holidays right around the corner, today I have a message for all of the moms out there…
For the first 26 years of my life, I felt invincible. I graduated from West Point with degrees in physics and nuclear engineering. I became a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and led men through some of the toughest situations imaginable. I went on to get my dream corporate job making six figures with big bonuses every spring. I felt strong. I felt confident. I even felt beautiful.
And then I got married…
And then, I was THRILLED when we found out we were pregnant – I’ll never forget that feeling!
But at some point, after I gave birth, I realized that not only had my body changed during my pregnancy – but something inside of me changed, also. I just didn’t feel like my old self anymore, and I wasn’t sure exactly why.
And I started to criticize myself.
I knew that I my body had created a perfect baby boy – a little miracle. And my husband told me every single day that I was beautiful, and he really meant it. But I didn’t believe it. Not at all.
Because the truth was: Inside my head, I felt fat. I didn’t feel beautiful. I wondered where my double chin had come from. I hated that my stomach had gone from six pack to squishy. I hated how I looked in photos. I just didn’t feel like myself.
And as a result, I started to avoid the camera….
And so, for my first few years of motherhood, you won’t find me in any “real” photographs with my perfect little boys (other than a few iphone selfies here or there). You guys – I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER. I KNOW that there is nothing more important that documenting my love for my children. How can it be that I refused to exist in photographs with them because I was so critical of myself? I was so selfish and off base. I can never get those moments back.
And you know what? The way that I felt for all those years? That is total BS.
Because my children and my husband (and my friends!) think that I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. And someday, they’re going to look back for photographs of me from when they were babies….and what will they find to show them how fiercely I loved them? How will they remember how I played with them, and laughed with them, and held them in my arms, and nursed them, and loved them?
To all the other moms out there – I see you. Struggling through the same thing. Avoiding the camera like I did. Not wanting the way that you look to be documented in photos. Always the one taking the photo, never in front of the camera.
Here’s what I know to be true today, as both a mom and a photographer:
Despite the way that you feel, you are the most beautiful you’ve ever been (deep down, you know that, don’t you?). You are the most loved you’ve ever been. Everyone sees your beauty and strength as a mother, except for you. There is literally NOTHING more beautiful that steps in front of my camera than a mother who loves her children. You deserve to exist in photographs with your children. You deserve to see yourself the way that the world sees you. Your children deserve to have gorgeous, loving, beautiful photos of their mom.
Please don’t avoid the camera this holiday season. Give yourself the gift of letting go of your insecurities. Don’t worry about that extra weight. Hand your husband the camera for once, and let your children pile into your lap for a photo. Laugh with them. Show them how much you love them. Let that love be documented. Love yourself for who you are today. Exist in photographs with your children.