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At my births no one said, “Hey, Sweetie wanna see your placenta?”  I would have gasped in horror and politely said, “No thank you. Remember I wanted him spotless before you gave him to me?  And you still gave him to me all gooey…  You’re lucky I didn’t let him slide right off me!”

So photographing my first birth was the first time, I had actually seen a placenta.  And it was memorizing…  Even for a someone who got warned all the time, “YOU don’t do well around blood!”  But I was captivated by the placenta. I kept thinking, “What is the midwife doing?  What’s she actually looking for?  How can she see anything?  Oh.  My.  God.  She’s lifting it off the floor?!  It’s gonna rip.  It’s gonna rip!  Blood is gonna go everywhere!  Woah…  Look how strong it is!!”

Examining the placenta is still one of my favorites parts of a birth shoot.  And it doesn’t get much love from birth photographers.  I get it.  There’s more tender, real, and emotional parts to share.

But the placenta…  People, the placenta is life!

This life sustaining organ is also a pretty decent metaphor for life.

It’s messy.  Confusing.  Dark.  Fragile looking.

But look closer…  Please.  Look closer.

It’s also beautiful.  Mysterious.  Powerful.  And gives you exactly what you need.

How can one not be in awe of the placenta?!

Look past the blood and notice its beauty and strength.

After all it gave you your beauty and strength.  Honor it.

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  • Jill - Love your work! I’ve been flowing yo since I took your breakout on CM. I also love your unapologetic t-shirt. Where did you buy it from?August 10, 2017 – 10:45 amReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - LOVE this ❤August 10, 2017 – 6:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - It’s gross but so incredibly awesome. Like the real definition of awesome. To stand in total awe of. Man.August 11, 2017 – 12:22 amReplyCancel

Birth is completely unpredictable.  You can guess.  But in the end, it’s that.  A big ole Guess.

When will labor start?  First labor 27 hours and the second only 2 hours? Contractions are really close and steady, but I’m only 3 cm?!  Contractions JUST started and I’m pushing?!  So-and-So’s started like this so mine will too?  Nope.

Ladies, it’s a solid guess.  And you just have to roll with it.  Understand “rolling with it” and your labor and delivery will be easier.  Not pain-free, but easier.

I got the Labor Started text, but something told me to go.  I hit the road and I got the next text “She’s complete.  Get here now.”  Not the text you want during a rainy rush hour.  But you drive and roll with it.

So did Melanie and Michael.  He rushed home.  She didn’t worry about setting up the birth pool.  Found an old tablecloth from a previous birthday party and laid it on the bed.  No use ruining good sheets and a mattress.  I showed up and she was calm but in full labor.  There was no smile to greet me.  She was ready to meet her third baby.  She was in her strength.  She was already accessing her power.  Silent.  Strong breaths.  Demanded silence and asked for comfort.  She was in the birth zone.  For a split second she questioned her ability (every woman does).  Amy and Michael supported and reminded her, “YOU CAN DO THIS.  Meet your baby after this next push.”

And then I saw it come over her body.  She knew it was time.

Minutes later she held her baby and introduced her two girls to their new sibling.

I photographed her second birth and she let Daughter 1 announce the Baby 2’s gender.  I loved that scene and was even cuter because she announced the wrong gender.  Easily done, Folks.  But everyone laughed.  Baby 3’s gender would be revealed by Daughter 2.  “It’s a boy.”  Everyone reacts.  Two girls and a boy!  A couple minutes later, the midwife whispers to Michael, “You might want to check again…”  History repeated itself and the room erupts with laughter.  They rolled with it.

Look at those smiles?  Look at the love?

This family rolls with life because they have each other.

And because they have faith.

It was an honor and joyous to watch the first time.

It’s inspiring to watch a second time.

Thanks for letting me roll with you

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Special thanks to Well Rounded Midwifery.  Having a baby soon?  Call her first.  And then call me.  You won’t regret either call.  Just saying…

*Hang with me until the end even if you aren’t a photographer.  I think it could apply to all of us…  Just read something today that’s not an email or the info on your tv’s guide.

 

“Signs” are an asshole.  Mostly because I think people ignore them until they’re in crisis.  For example…  A couple months ago, that big beautiful rainbow stretching in front of the car is simply the product of rain and sun.  But when you’re ready for a sign, that same big beautiful rainbow is a message from you dearly-departed Nana telling you to take the damn leap.

It’s all about acting when ready because that’s exactly when you’ll experience the most from your life.

Photography always comes into my life when it’s most useful and necessary.  When my boys were younger, it was my way to reconcile the endless boring/frustrating/messy bits of life with two small children, a full time job, a side gig, and relationships.  It’s hard to manage those areas, but you’re expected to skillfully juggle everything.  Photography made me see my life.  To accept it.  To appreciate it.  To make it into art.  Sure, I’d hit ruts.  But it was easy to climb out.  Experiencing my children’s newness towards life.  Navigate Firsts and document the journey with my camera.

And then they grew up…  It’s hard, Folks.  Not because they’re getting older (teenage years are gnashing their teeth as I type), but it’s personally harder when you’ve created a hobby of documenting your early days.

Oh I see a hand up from a young mother teetering a baby on her hip and wrangling a toddler…  Yes?

“But you love photography.  They’re still cute.  I plan on photographing mine forever.  It’s my passion.”

Imagine that I’ve morphed into the old woman sitting at the end of the bar at 11:30 a.m., sipping a warm White Zin while taking a long slow drag off my Pall Mall.  “Oh sweetie. Aren’t you precious?  How about this…?  I’ll keep this ratty seat warm and we’ll talk in ten years.  And please for the love of the lens do not suggest I become a family photographer.  It’s different and you know it.  Another round, Stan.  She’s buying.  ”

It’s hard.  I’ve been photographing and using social media long before FB (shit there was no iPhone when I started. Instagram?  Not even on the radar) exploded with images.  I’ve used it and been rewarded.  I’ve been silent and perfectly content.  I’ve felt hurt by a newly created title by pro-photographer: “Momtog”.  I’ve been using tags before they were Hashtags.  I’ve seen millions of tricycles shot from behind with precious pigtails flapping in the dust.  I’ve seen hundred of dozens (is that even a thing?) of messy floured faces eating cookie dough.  Pouty but adorable time out scenes?  Millionth Check!  I’m seasoned in this arena only because my kids grew up on screens and my camera’s LCD.  I grew up with dozens of other photographers’ kids too.

But how about scenes from middle schoolers doing homework?  A few and they aren’t super cute because it’s NOT (no disrespect to the photographer just not a cute scene).  How about them naturally laughing with their friends?  Occasionally.  A couple times a year, I’ll wonder where a photographer went.  I’ll text a friend and ask “What happen to So-and-So?”  And then I’ll see a random post of a kid’s face and I realize it’s lost all the baby fat.  Oh yeah…  Everyone’s gotten older and it’s gotten harder to maintain the old hobby.  It has to evolve just like your children.  Just like you.  It’s unfair for me to expect anything else.  Before it was easy.  Now it’s changed and more difficult.  But we evolve.  If not, we wither despite our rants and desire.

I swear this isn’t me being bitchy/jealous/defeatist.  It just is.  I knew years ago, photographing my children was going to change.  Out of respect for them, it has to change.  And the scenes are drastically different.  Heads are more in screens and less wrapped around my legs.  Is that a plus or is it a con?  Depends on if you ask the Mom in me or the Photographer in me.  But ask any photographer who has relentlessly documented her children through the years.  Find one if they’re still active on FB.  I’d be shocked if she disagrees.  So trust me and all the other’s who’ve stopped blogging, it’s hard.

But then I got some signs because I was ready:

  • Light was crisp and dewy again.  “Where the fuck is my camera?” started popping back into my head.
  • Even though I knew I wouldn’t use it, I still brought my camera on vacation.
  • A birth client shared a line from a book she was reading.  It was about accepting the one life you’ve got. Oh…  Oh.. Yeah, that’s the key.
  • A friend said, “This is when you should be photographing things.  How come you aren’t?  You’re good at this.”  Paraphrased but you get the point.  The missing camera was recognized by more than one person.
  • And then a damn bird kept showing up at my window.  For a week, the boys mentioned it.  I’d think “Stupid bird.  Just don’t die flying into the window…”  One day I was sitting on my couch, I heard this tapping.  I swore a neighbor was in our backyard trying to get my attention.  But when I looked up, there was a bight lime green bird hovering like a Hummingbird. But it was so much larger.  After I stopped almost shitting my pants, it flew away.  I went closer and it came back.  Tapped and hovered for a minute.  It happened again and that’s when I realized I should probably start paying attention again.

I know one way to shoot.  It’s to force myself, but only when I’m ready.  I’m ready.  So it’s 365 time again.  I wasn’t going to make this one public.  “This one will be for me.”  But every single one has been for me.  This one is no different.  My rules are simple…  Photograph something once a day.  Don’t aim for perfection, aim for life.  Accept there are going to be dull days/weeks.  No black & whites.  My life is in color.  Miss a day?  So I missed a day?  Is it going to be harder with older children?  Duh.  Might be lots of cat/food pictures.  Don’t finish?  Don’t care.

But this is it: this is my life right now.  I can wrap myself in excuses or I can get to work.  You want to deal with anything?  You accept it.  And then you work with it.  Not against.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy.  It means you care enough even when it’s hard.  You settle into the discomfort to experience growth and change.  You get ready and then you fucking work it.

Enough with the signs.

Keep your deranged birds.  It get it.

It’s time to get back to work.

Follow along here or on FB

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  • Xanthe - High fives from me!! I love your 365s and your view of the world and your world. Hurray for continuing to photograph teenage boys… it’s real life, it’s my life.
    “To accept it. To appreciate it. To make it into art.”

    x.July 18, 2017 – 9:45 amReplyCancel

    • Erika - I wish I could make more movies too! I loved doing that. Maybe I’ll get solid footing in the 365 and make a movie once a month. I’m a baby-steps kind of gal. And oh sweet sweet teenage boys… We’re at the very beginning of the stage. I swear a cranky newborn was easier! :)July 18, 2017 – 10:24 amReplyCancel

  • Karyn Hlad - Yep yep yep. My oldest is now just one year younger than I was when I bought myself my first camera. Ruts and change and the evolution of it all, but still… still picking up my camera. Thanks for this.July 18, 2017 – 10:57 amReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Love this so much. My youngest started high school about the time I decided to ditch my career. I didn’t have more than a crappy point and shoot, but I used it and yes, it was what got me to blog. That was ten years ago. I’m so glad I was able to document my son’s high school years in all their far from perfect splendor. Paying attention indeed. Good luck with your 365–I’ve done it once and not very well. But I still treasure those photos.July 18, 2017 – 11:32 amReplyCancel

    • Erika - Even when I thought my 365 photos were blah and I hated it, I looked back with fresh eyes and I’m grateful. It’s always one of the motivating factors. <3July 18, 2017 – 2:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Linsey - You just became my best friend and you don’t even know it!!!!! Most of my kids are older now (thank God for that 5 yr old) and I can’t dress them in the cute little clothes because they would flip out! Those cute little faces have some acne now.
    But I desperately want to capture these days before my oldest is on his own (he’s almost 15 but in mom years …..he’s almost gone!)
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this!July 18, 2017 – 5:30 pmReplyCancel

    • Erika - It’s been my crutch. “The boys are too old”

      While it’s true that it makes photography harder, but also it makes it different. So I’m going to roll with that Different. It’s the only way to go. Plus I’ll be pissed at myself in the future. I hate when I’m pissed at myself… <3July 18, 2017 – 9:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Jonica - This is so so true!! I have teenage boys and it is a struggle to motivate myself to pick the camera up sometimes. Everything is so much busier than the younger years – I never would have thought that a few years ago :) I don’t know if you’re familiar with Beyond Boyhood over on Instagram, but a few of us started that hub for this very reason – to motivate and inspire ourselves and others to keep picking up the camera as our boys grow older. We would love to have you share with us over there!! Thanks so much for sharing such a real perspective on photographing our older kids :)July 18, 2017 – 9:21 pmReplyCancel

    • Erika - It’s funny and not necessarily photography related, but I can make all link up 😘… I’ve been telling people, “I’ll take a newborn or cranky toddler any day!” In some ways, easier and other ways so much harder. At least with younger kids it feels like there’s a plethora of support (blogs, play dates, articles on how to “survive”). I will absolutely check out the IG feed!July 19, 2017 – 7:04 amReplyCancel

  • Bonnie - You completely nailed it. I’ve been feeling these exact sentiments for the last few months. It is harder as they get older. Thank you for this.July 19, 2017 – 9:33 amReplyCancel

    • Erika - Anything I can do to help. Just using the internet like a giant support group!!

      <3July 19, 2017 – 10:10 amReplyCancel

I first met Liv and Julie last summer.  I was able to spend a two beautiful days with them.  Both days were intense and incredibly joyous.  So when Liv reached out to discuss photographing their wedding, I did not say NO right away.  I asked if I could take some time with it.  See, weddings aren’t my thing.  I like contractions, vernix, and a squishy newborn.

A couple months later, we met at a local restaurant.  She discussed that they had a commitment ceremony years ago with a Shot List and they did NOT want another shot list.  She said, “Just show us the day.  Exactly like you did in the summer.  No pressure.”  She bought me a drink and I said, “Yes.”  I’m easy, Folks.

One day this Spring, I was able to show them another day.  It was a small wedding which made it more personal.  Friends and family all helped the decorate the space with unique Couple details. Their children led the procession and Liv surprised Julie with a bagpiper as a nod to her family.  Family and close friends gave speeches that left many crying.  When their children spoke and the women gave their vows, love was flowing out of the tiny space.  It could not be contained any longer.  Surrounded by their closest family and friends, Julie and Liv said “I do” again, but his time it was legal.

They asked me to show them another day.  By allowing me to photograph these three days, they’ve shown me so much more.  They’ve shown me how people respond when you love them deeply.  They’ve shown me the strength of love.  They’ve shown me selfless actions being done for love.  Each time is was easy to show them this love because you couldn’t escape it.  I hope when they look back on their photos, they will remember each day was packed full of the most powerful love.

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Repeat clients are special.  They make the birth photographer’s job a little easier:

  • You know how to get to their house and where their bathroom is (it’s hard to ask a partner or working midwife “Where’s the bathroom…”).
  • You know the kids’ names and you recognize a sweet face that has grown into a toddler.
  • You remember that some clients have the most awesome beds and sheets (Note to self: buy those gray sheets).
  • During the shoot you feel privileged to be allowed back into the the room.
  • You know the client’s labor style (it rarely varies that much).

So repeat clients give the birth photographer a couple of breaks in a job that’s full of uncertainties.

Holly and Trevor’s fourth child is the second birth I’ve photographed for the family.  Baby 4 was very similar to Baby 3, but a little more intense with back labor.  And anyone who’s attended one of her births knows she does labor and delivery with intensity.  And I don’t mean this negatively, she’s simply passionate.  But if you know Holly, I’m guessing you aren’t surprised.  She seems to live life intensified!  Her life is full of color!

Labor and delivery will be no different.

With both babies, she was incredibly polite.  She’d have a strong contraction and would share it with the room (maybe the neighbors).  But each time it slipped away, she’d quickly apologize.  The apology was always greeted with a choir of Midwives, “Holly…  You’re having a baby.  It’s ok.  You got this.”  She loves to labor in the shower and each time the Midwife helped her in, I’d hear, “Thank you so much for supporting me, Jill.”  She’d hug and love on her children even during the strongest of contractions.  She encouraged her youngest daughter to stay for the delivery (psst… It took no encouraging.  I think she’s a midwife in training).

When her fourth baby decided it was time to say Hello, I got to hear her sweetest response a second time.  Within a second of him being placed on her chest, I heard “I love you so much already.  I just love you.  Honey, look at him!  I love him so much.  I love you, baby.”

That kind of love is immediately intense.  And that’s exactly how she does it.  The entire room swells with her beautiful intensity.

Thanks for letting me witness it one more time.

Midwives:  CHOICE

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I was going to write about the dismissive articles for International Women’s Day.  I was going to write about how the ones shared and/or written by women were particularly hurtful.

But you know what?

I’m used to it.

We’re used to it.

Women are dismissed because their boobs are too large or too small.  Women are dismissed by their clothing choices.  Women are dismissed because it’s “their time of the month”.  Women are dismissed because their thighs touch.  Women are dismissed because their ribs show.  Women are dismissed because they had a c-section.  Women are dismissed because they don’t have kids.  Women are dismissed because they have too many kids.  Women are dismissed because they’re too emotional.  Women are dismissed if they don’t smile.  Women are dismissed if they have too much.  Women are dismissed if they can’t pay the bills.  Women are dismissed because we have different health issues.

Women are dismissed every single day.  So yeah…  I’m used to being dismissed.

But that’s what the March, Day With No Women, rallies, protests, every call, email and postcard is about.

More women are realizing their dismissal and that scares the hell out of people.

Women are demanding equality.

To say women are equal now is the ultimate dismissal of facts.

 

I want true equality.

I will not be dismissed.

We will not be dismissed.

That shouldn’t be scary.  But if it sounds scary to you…?

I don’t give a shit.

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