Portrait Series, 2016 | January

San Clemente Family Photographer-9211 San Clemente Family Photographer-9230A portrait of my family once a month in 2016

Good golly miss Molly, talk about waiting for the last minute. Here I am lowering my expectations of myself — having dedicated myself to “a portrait a week in 2015”, which quickly turned into “a portrait a week, most weeks, in 2015″ and ended with “a portrait a week, some weeks, in 2015″ — and still, this go-around giving myself an entire month to snap a pic and here I am just nearly missing the cut off or making the cut off for all those optimists out there. Yes, let’s start this new year off optimistically. I made it! It’s still January, dammit.

Willy: Literally stopped and pulled the car around to show us all the biggest tumbleweed any of us have ever seen. Sometimes the little things really are the big things. No pun intended. But seriously, if you live in Southern California, helllllllllo El Nino.

Hooper: Came home from school and told me he kissed a girl two times (once on the elbow, I might add) and followed it up with, “Mama, I realllllllly like girls”.

Van: Has reestablished the familiar scab between his eyebrows, which happens when he sucks his thumb and uses his adjacent index finger to simultaneously pick at that area. For the record, that means he’s got his thumb in his mouth, his index finger picking that area between his eyebrows, and his other hand on his head, playing with his hair. Hashtag: multitasker.

Me: Have been googling “how many weeks pregnant am I” more and more because I still forget, but also because the countdown, when on my computer screen in terms of days instead of weeks makes it all feel closer. Thirty four days until I reach my due date… never mind the fact I’m destined to go past it.

Jimmie: Remains in these portraits, whether he’s invited or not… The most cooperative member from 2015 starting off 2016 with the same agreeability. Hashtag: he goes where his people go.San Clemente Family Photographer-9191 San Clemente Family Photographer-9192 San Clemente Family Photographer-9197

The reality of announcing a third…

AshleyWilly-130mattandtish AshleyWilly-126mattandtishThere’s a definite let down that comes with telling those closest to you that you’re having another child, a third child.

While the presumably hormonally me wants to hide in a corner and cry, the logical me gets it; I mean everyone jumps for joy when you tell them you’re pregnant with your first. And then when the second comes around, nobody is really too shocked because most people do go on to have more than one child. And I think people place a weird hope that you’ll have one of the opposite sex than what you already have because for whatever reason people think one of each is best. But by the time number three comes along, and presumably any after three, it feels like everyone thinks you’re a bit crazy, a bit over-your-head, or careless in the preventing pregnancy department. People get so excited when you’re pregnant for the first time. No one seems to care when you’re pregnant for the third time.

I think my parents immediately felt the sense that there’d be implications for them. Like when we got Jimmie and their first response was not “what are going to name him” but instead “we’re not going to watch him”. They watch the boys once a week for part of the day and I’m sure they’re trying to wrap their heads around how the scene is going to look (or work, for that matter) with an infant thrown into the mix.

If I could document the faces of both Willy and I’s parent’s faces from finding out about each of our pregnancies, they’d look something like this:

-Hooper: Big eyes, big smiles, lots of confetti
-Van: Big eyes, hands over the mouth as if to say “so soon?!”
-This baby: Straight line to symbolize the mouth, as if to say “I’m too nervous to smile”

For those that have more than two children, was your experience similar? I think as we get closer to the end of this pregnancy and everyone has been given several months of anticipation that excitement, too, has build… but I definitely felt more judgement and less excitement in the beginning. I suppose you can never rule out hormones either… Anyway, curious what other have experienced in this department.

*Images taken back in November by the lovely Tish Carlson

A Mother & Daughter Session, with Catherine + Charlotte

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There is an intimacy captured during in-home sessions that simply cannot be captured outside of the home. It’s the reason shooting in-home is my most preferred, favorite setting. Even more, I love to capture the relationship between a mother and her child; it’s unlike any other relationship, so innate and animalistic. The way we care for our young with our whole hearts; it’s a privilege anytime I’m invited into a home and capturing Catherine and Charlotte was no exception. A love so divine, so true.

Catherine and Charlotte, captured in their home in San Diego, California.

Interested in booking a session? Visit my website and email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

Nesting

bathroomrenovationThe last few months feel like a mission of completion; with the objective being to get things done we’ve talked about doing for some time, all in the name of welcoming another child into our family and home. Downtime on the weekends that we have together have been a productive whirlwind, with several trips to the local hardware store along with trips to drop off donations at the local secondhand stores, not to mention countless loads of laundry and sorting of clothes the boys grew out of long ago. There’s still much to be done, but the dent has been made and with the exception of the daily messes that seem to overtake any house where children reside, things are coming together.

For the bathroom renovations in both our bedroom as well as the bathroom outside of the boys’ room we went with penny tiles on the floor, white subway tile backsplash, custom made vanities using the same reclaimed wood we had left over from our flooring in the garage, and vintage rugs that we’ve scored at some point along the way. Both mirrors are from Ikea and are super reasonably priced. The facet in the boys’ bathroom and the towel hooks are also from Ikea. We went with wall-mounted facets from Lowes in our bathroom and we love them. The hardware on the vanities is also from Lowes.

OBs vs. Midwives

AshleyWilly-160mattandtishWhen I begrudgingly agreed to have an OB deliver our third baby instead of a midwife, I called the local birth center and asked for a few names they felt comfortable recommending. We interviewed an OB they suggested and given the fact I had already been defeated on the decision to birth with a midwife, I agreed with Willy that the OB recommended to us was fine. He didn’t blow me away, nor did he send me running out his door with the nervous energy to continue the interviewing process with additional OBs. And, as I’ve mentioned in posts prior, I’ve been going through the motions and jumping through the hoops ever since.

Each time I leave his office, I leave with the same frustration; it’s like a copycat performance of the visit before, starting with the appointment itself and concluding with me calling Willy on the way home referring to our OB by adjectives that aren’t so nice.

It sucks to be in the care of someone you don’t really feel comfortable with. I’m sure most would say, “why not just find a new doc that you like” and the answer is because I’m tired. And perhaps a little cynical. Probably more of the latter than the former. The fact he was recommended by a birth center truthfully means more than his horrible bedside manner. The other challenge inherent to the place we live is that many of the OBs are part of a medical group; meaning you may see a different doc each time and whoever is on-call when you go into labor is who you get. I suppose there is some comfort in the fact that my guy is a sole practitioner and that come the day of my labor I won’t have to guess who will be there.

In any event, I interviewed a few doulas in hopes of finding the comfort that all along has been lacking and all three of the fabulous individuals I interviewed supported my choice of OBs. They said things like, “Oh I’ve been at a birth where he let the laboring women labor on her hands and knees” and though it was said with zero amount of sarcasm, I couldn’t help but think (with all the sarcasm I could muster), “wow, this is what it’s like when you move away from birthing with a midwife? You celebrate things like a laboring women birthing on her hands and knees?”… I’m still having trouble grappling with the idea of some doctor dictating how a women can or cannot labor and the fact that some insist on a women staying in bed to push just makes me scratch my head.

We have our first appointment with our doula coming up and thus far, I think it’s the best decision I’ve made and perhaps the closest I’ll get to building the birthing experience I not so badly want, but feel that I need.

I left my last OB appointment thinking about the differences in being seen by a midwife versus an OB. I can sum up my appointments with my OB more quickly than I’d like:

-Pee in a cup
-Have same elderly nurse copy my weight down on a post-it and check my blood pressure. Last appointment, she left a snag in my dress from the velcro part of the blood pressure cuff. She’s slightly cold and continues to tell me whether my blood pressure is okay, ignoring the fact it says I’m a registered nurse in my chart.
-Doc comes in and asks the following questions in the same order, every time, without fail and rolls through them in the same intensity as a military drill sergeant: Any bleeding? Any cramping? Any headaches? Any water leaking? Belly getting bigger? He throws the last one in there to try to fool me into the repetitious “no” that precedes the obvious “yes” answer and every time he smirks like he thinks he’s clever and nearly fooled me.
-He performs an ultrasound that literally takes less than a minute, asks me if I have any questions, reminds me to make an appointment in another month, and leaves the room.
-I brought the boys with me to one appointment. Not one person even said hello to them, there was nothing there to keep them entertained, and I got the general feeling that they were expected to be quiet and not touch anything.

I started timing my appointments because I get some (sarcastic) joy in calling Willy and confessing that the entire appointment, including wait time, took 6 minutes and 8 seconds. That’s 30 seconds longer than the appointment before, where he also performed a vaginal exam within the 5 minute and 30 second appointment that included all of the aforementioned in addition to the vaginal exam.

All my appointments with midwives averaged somewhere in the ball park of 30 minutes to an hour and included the following:

-Peeing in a cup and using a urine dipstick to check my own urine. This may seem minuscule and perhaps there are some that prefer not to have that kind of responsibility, but I like that there was a feeling of trust; it built a different kind of relationship where the control was more-or-less shared. I’d also weigh myself, because who needs someone else to follow you to the scale and write the number down when you’re capable of reporting such yourself?
-They’d check my blood pressure, measure my belly using a tape measurer, and use a handheld doppler to listen to the heartbeat. They’d palpate my belly to determine the baby’s position. I remember my midwife with Hooper commenting on how long he was… just by palpation (and, indeed, he was long).
-We’d go over my diet and what foods are good sources of protein. I think I may have received a handout in my “welcome packet” from my OB that had some vague mention of changes in diet during pregnancy, but nothing that has ever been enforced or asked about. In fact, I ate very differently during my previous pregnancies as a result to the constant checking in with the midwives; this pregnancy? Not so much. Of course that’s on me, but it is nice to know the person in charge cares about your overall well-being and is making the connection between healthy mom and healthy baby.
-The remainder of the appointment was more psychosocial related and allowed for time to discuss fears or issues or “what happens if” sorta questions and to fine tune the birth plan, my birth plan. The time spent talking was longer and more in-depth during my first pregnancy and more to the point with the second, highlighting the fact it was all individual and catered to my needs (we needed more time to discuss fears and issues with our first than we did with our second).
-I’d have new reading material to take home after each appointment, along with the reminder to keep doing my kegel exercises… which is a word I haven’t even heard throughout this entire pregnancy, which is unfortunate because it’s kinda a funny word and I like saying it.
-I’d see my midwives once a month until about the 8th month, when the time between visits would lessen to two weeks and by the ninth month, I would see them once a week.
-If I brought Hooper to my appointment, he was always included. He’d get to hold the doppler or play with the stethoscope or hung out in corner where they had toys and books for the siblings they anticipated to be tagging along during appointments.

I asked my OB during my last appointment if research proves that having gone past your due date in the past is any indication that it will happen again (I was 10 days late with both boys), to-which-he-replied, “did you go late with your prior two?”. Going past my due date is one of my biggest fears, given the fact that I fear having another big baby and that more time in the womb equals more time growing in that damn warm and comfy womb of mine, and I felt sad that this (insert negative adjective here) OB has no idea what my fears are or even what my past experiences are comprised of despite conversations we’ve had in the past. To make matters most, he went on to offer inducing me before my due date to “ease my fears of having another overdue, big baby”. And then he was dumbfounded when I told him I’d downright refuse pitocin unless he were insisting that it was something that I’d have to have. Again, forgetting that the induction via pitocin with Hooper led to unrelenting titanic contractions that ultimately landed me on the operating room table. Considering an epidural is not even an option for me this go-around, I felt like saying “you (insert many mean adjectives here)” for even suggesting such (contractions resulting from pitocin are much stronger than your regular, though still unrelenting, contractions). I told him I fear pitocin ten times more than I do being overdue or having a big baby. And I’m hoping I said it with enough stink eye that he remembers such and that we don’t have to have the conversation again, because where is the trust in that?

A few weeks back you may recall that I was experiencing horrible neck pain. I had pulled a muscle in my upper trap so bad that it pulled so taut over a screw in my spine and presumably caused damage to the tissue overlying the screw. Every time I lifted my arm or moved my arm, that injured tissue would rub over the screw and it felt like, because it was, an open cut being rubbed over a metal screw. I got the okay from the pain doc I’ve seen in the past to take something for the unrelenting pain and reluctantly, I took half of the dose I would in the past on three separate, most desperate days. I sent my OB an email informing him of the situation because I felt like he should be involved in my care and the decision to take a narcotic while pregnant. Not only did I never hear back from him, but he also didn’t ask anything about it during my appointment. A midwife would have been all over that. Again, it just erodes the trust I think all of us pregnant women are looking for. And the feeling that we’re being well cared for.

On the flip side, he did agree that the glucose testing was not needed given the fact I have the tools to check my blood sugar from home and it did feel somewhat good that he trusted me to do so. He also agreed, after my coaxing, that the followup with the perinatologist I was dreading was also unnecessary and so, I canceled that appointment which surely would have me fretting even more over the size of this baby than I already am. So I suppose there are some things he’s worked with me on, on an individual level. But all in all, I miss the care I received while in the hands of midwives… hoping that this first meeting with our doula eases some anxieties.

What has your experience with your OB been like? Can you relate? What are things you like / don’t like about the care you’ve received? And curious to know if anyone else has been seen by both an OB and a midwife and has similar comparisons to mine? And lastly, any suggestions for lowering the birth weight of the baby growing inside me? I kid… but no really, the Marlboro man may be calling.

*Image by Tish Carlson, and don’t let the small bump fool it… it was taken back in November…

Tidbits

sanclementephotographerWe finally got the rain we so desperately needed and when I say “we”, what I’m referring to is California. El Nino has arrived and I’m longing for more days that send us all to the window to see just how hard it’s coming down. I secretly hope the rain sticks around come March, when we welcome the baby, because who doesn’t like the freshness of a new baby and the sound of falling rain?

This article, shared on NPR, about the little girl smoking a cigarette who was photographed decades ago by renowned photographer Mary Ellen Clark. Always interesting to hear about the people whose image, years ago, became iconic. I love how the girl in the photograph refers to Mary Ellen Clark as “that photographer lady”, even after all these years.

I was published in a Russian Magazine called Veter Magazine. You can peep the digital issue by clicking here. I’m on page 100 or so, I believe.

I was also published in Rangefinder Magazine back in July/August. Here is a link to the digital edition. I’m on page 43.

Photography by Vinca Petersen, from a road trip in 1999, taking me back to the days Janet and I went everywhere just because we could.

Loved watching this video, Rewild the Child, that speaks to the link between children and the natural world. An excerpt: “We have what I think is a very narrow education system which rewards a very particular skill set but completely ignores the great intelligence, the genius, that many children have but that is never discovered”.

I was named as one of 115 inspiring photographers by Delicious Presets. You can check out others who made the list here.

This guy works 6 months out of the year and spends the other 6 months riding his bike and living on $10 a day. Love how he admits that he hates working.

Janet sent me this link to images taken by Photographer Bill Yates in 1972 at a roller rink in Florida.

I shared some tips for beginners on shooting with your iPhone over on Write On Your Heart, you can read the tips by clicking here.

The Bee & The Fox’s ‘Pick Flowers Not Fights’ tee was featured over on Babiekins Magazine with images taken by my dear friend and very talented photographer, Katherine Heise, with Lamb Loves Fox. You can check the feature out here. Or you can screw the feature all together and just check out Lamb Loves Fox, because honestly her work is better worth your time and she’s been a true friend despite never having met and living thousands of miles away.

We finally made the time to watch Montage of Heck and followed it up with Soaked in Bleached. Have you seen either? Loved how well Montage of Heck was done and loved the controversies presented in Soaked in Bleach. We currently started Making a Murderer and are about halfway through. Highly recommended. Can’t stop won’t stop.

Happy Friday, wishing everyone a restful weekend.

A Family Session, with The Simons

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I met the Simon family just before the holidays and was quickly transported back-in-time to when my boys were younger. Even though most days still feel like a defeat, I was reminded that there were times where nearly every single day was a battle; a battle I didn’t even realize was as much at the time… When you’re simply going through the motions and taking care of what needs to be taken care only to get to the end of the day and realize that taking-care-of part of the day never really included yourself. Not to say that Jamie in any way fit this description, she most certainly did not. In fact, she seemed oblivious to the fact that her days are surely harder than mine. I suppose it’s just the territory that comes with having a 5 month old and a 2 year old. Shit’s just hard.

Sweet baby Kaia was a dream, however, to photograph. Intrigued by my camera and go-with-the-flow. And Kane was all-systems-go and rock n’ roll, which truthfully makes for a welcomed challenge; no choice but to capture him as he is, on his terms, which is what I strive to do anyway. And Jamie and Brad were relaxed and natural, making the shoot rather seamless and effortless.

We spent the first hour shooting in their beautiful, newly remodeled, home in Seal beach before heading out to catch a bit of the sunset just a few blocks from their house.

I stopped at a local florist shop on the way home and bought some flowers, something I never do, and made a promise to myself that Willy and I’s next date will take place in Seal Beach because it’s just as cute as can me.

Many thanks to the Simon family for having me. If you, too, are interested in hiring me for a session, email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com. You can also check out my website by clicking here.

Post-Pregnancy-Prize-Pack

 

pregnancyprizepackIt was around the six month mark that I started questioning if my pregnancy style might be better than my regular style; I think there’s something to having something to workaround that forces one to be more inventive and, at times, daring, which both seem to lend to pleasant surprises (albeit a few key misses, I’m sure, too). Willy would ohhh and ahhh with my selections. I’m down to the final two or less months of pregnancy (where it’s easier to know how far along I am by doing simple subtraction) and all of that has gone out the window… this bump proving a harder feat for any sort of ingenuity to conquer. And so I’m down to rotating between the few final things that continue to work; namely a few Free People dresses that I’ve been weaving in and out of rotation for a while now because they’re just that lovely. I dread the day should they no longer fit, though I know it’s coming. And dammit, I just refuse to spend hundreds of dollars on super cute maternity clothes from places like Hatch that will last me all of a few months before I no longer need them and frankly can no longer stand them due to their inherent association with, well, bigger and less glamorous times. Who’s with me?

During my pregnancy with Van, I started putting a few key items away with intentions of surprising myself later when I wasn’t, well, pregnant. Many of the items were clothing related. I realize stashing clothing items away while pregnant may simply be a pre-curser to disappointment when 9 months later they’re not even close to fitting. I also realize that it can be a waste of money, even if it’s just on a $7 dress at a thrift store, if you can’t try it on and have some idea that it’s what you want and/or fits how you’d like. And for these reasons, I chose wisely. I pick one-size-fits-most type of items, skirts with elastic waistbands, and so on an so forth.

This is my favorite post-pregnancy-prize-pack to date… not that it has much in the way of competition, but surely I’m better at this given it my third go-around. Things in this stash that I’m greatly looking forward to: a blue and white striped pinafore dress, an oversized linen top, a fabulous vintage levi’s denim dress, and a suede-like vintage dress with an elastic waist. Most everything in the stash is more-or-less breast-feeding friendly, which is another challenge one has to consider. Toward the end, I’ll also add a few things like my favorite bottle of sweet white wine and my current pregnancy indulgence, chocolate caramels from Sees Candy.

Because honestly, who can gift a gift to you better than, well, you? Ha. In any event, if you’re expecting, treat yourself. I swear you’ll forget all about the items you put away and it feels pretty good after all you’re sure to go through and give to your new little one to have just a little something for yourself. Who’s with me, again?

image on right is from Pinterest

A Family Session, with The Martins

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I met the Martin family at their gorgeous home in San Francisco. We had initially planned on meeting somewhere outdoors and I’m so glad I convinced them to do an in-home session instead. Their home was absolutely gorgeous and with such a beautiful family to match, it only seemed fitting.

Nicole was home with both kiddos when I arrived and we shot some before Jose made his way home from work. Their kids, like mine, are less than two years apart and were all kinds of crazy but in the best kind of way.

I think parents often have some expectation for their children to be well behaved during shoots and it takes some convincing before they realize that I not only expect this on my shoots, but invite it. I’m no Sears Portrait Photographer and more times than not, I’ve found that the more chaos, the more movement, and the more movement, the better. Dahlia and Sebastian were all kinds of fun and played into every one of my scenarios just perfectly. Sometimes what seems like complete and utter chaos is actually pretty darn close to any written script I could have put together.

Interested in hiring me for a session? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

 

38 Years…

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It’s always so interesting to look at old photos of my parents… as I’m sure it is for anyone. The idea of them existing in a similar point in time as I am now… parents to my sister and I… struggling in perhaps the same ways Willy and I struggle with parenthood. In any event, my parents just celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary and when I asked my mom what it’s like to be married for nearly four decades, she simply said, “makes me wonder where the time has gone and who those old people in the mirror are”. Hoping Willy and I can make 38 years look as good as they do.

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad, love you guys.

 

 

Before & After: Life on the road, an interview with Kate, from Birch & Pine

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Some time back I had the opportunity to meet up and photograph Kate & Ellen, from Birch & Pine. Kate had actually requested a local pickup of a Mama Bird tee given the fact that they had been living on the road and did not have a shipping address. What started as a shirt drop off turned into a tour of their home-on-wheels, some photos down at the beach, followed by some hang time between their daughter Adeleide and the boys the next day, and then, well, an entire Sunday watching football and cooking food and folding laundry. Never mind the latter, it’s better folding laundry with new friends, let me tell ya. We had a great time exchanging life stories and comparing romantic presumptuous notions about one another’s lives. When they pulled away in their airstream the next morning, Willy and I were both a bit sad (it’s been a long time since he’s had an entire day dedicated to watching football with someone who actually enjoys it). They made promises of return visits and have already made good on their word. I suppose it’s our turn to visit them next. It’s not everyday that you meet new friends that instantly feel like old friends. In any event, I thought I’d interview them here so ya’ll could have the pleasure of knowing a bit about them too. San Clemente Family Photographer-62 San Clemente Family Photographer-69

I suppose it’s best to start out with an introduction. Tell us a little bit about yourselves, what you’re doing, and something unique about each of you.

We are Kate (a photographer, writer, and stylist) and Ellen (an art teacher turned woodworker) – wives (to each other, sometimes people don’t catch that one), and mamas to a beautiful and brilliant daughter, Adelaide. We are currently in month five of a road trip around North America, and live in our renovated 1957 Airstream, on a search for a place to call home and an understanding of who we are creatively and personally.

Let’s see, something unique…I (Kate) went most of my life without understanding the beauty of bluegrass music…until moving to Kentucky to live with Ellen. Now I can’t imagine my life without it! Ellen can make just about anything she puts her mind to making…she’s a natural problem-solver and this comes into play when she is creating.San Clemente Family Photographer-9San Clemente Family Photographer-61

I always say that I prefer travel over vacation and that traveling is synonymous with some degree of difficulty. Vacation is a break in the action but when you return, you jump right back into the action. Traveling is far from a break, and often more difficult than regular life – albeit a beautiful change in scenery – but you often return with a perspective and knowledge and outlook that far exceeds the length of the actual trip. Would you agree?

We would both absolutely agree, one-thousand percent. We weren’t quite prepared for how difficult living on the road would be. The lack of comforts were one thing, but we didn’t know it would affect our marriage so negatively (goodbye date nights, adult conversation, and sex), how little we’d actually get to explore (we’re too busy homeschooling, working to generate income, or setting up and tearing down our house when we get to a location or leave one), or how our emotions could vary from day to day – one day I’ll love every second of traveling and think…I could do this forever…and the next day I’m collapsing on a curb because I’m so overwhelmed by it all.

Yet there are moments that make it all worth it, despite the hard days or circumstances – like meeting new people we’d not have otherwise met, seeing glaciers for the first time up close, when the right song comes on while driving down the road and the temperature is just right. And while we’re not clear on how we’ll feel and what we will have learned when our travels are over and we return to ‘normalcy’, we can definitely say, even now, that we’ve figured out some really vital things about ourselves and our future that we wouldn’t have discovered without this trip.San Clemente Family Photographer-25San Clemente Family Photographer-56San Clemente Family Photographer-3

You travel with a dog and a cat, which I assume many would see as an added challenge. Do you think you could travel with a fish or would you draw the line there?

The line is already drawn at the dog and cat! I knew that I (Kate) would really struggle with having two pets with us on the road, but the fact is: we love them and are responsible for their care, no matter where we are or what we decide to do in life. It’s definitely hard to manage sometimes, but they bring such warmth and love into our lives and our home. It’s just like the travel itself – it’s hard to have them with us, but they make it worth it when they cuddle up with us after a hard day.San Clemente Family Photographer-20 San Clemente Family Photographer-19 San Clemente Family Photographer-17 San Clemente Family Photographer-21 San Clemente Family Photographer-24

Downsizing from a larger home to a smaller one is never a walk in the park. It’s even harder to fathom how to downsize to a 27 foot trailer. You’ve sold or donated many of your possessions, which I think all of us – no matter the size of our living corridors – intend to do. Did you follow any rules as far as getting rid of stuff was involved? Was it difficult or freeing? Is there anything that you got rid of that you regret?

Go with your gut. Don’t hem and haw over every single item you sort through…your first instinct is usually the right one. If you know you’ve not worn that tank top all summer and it’s now autumn, you’re likely not going to wear it next summer. It’s pretty easy to get matter-of-fact about it if you don’t let yourself get to the doubting stage (like having an outbox by the back door – that’s just setting you up for keeping the contents).

For us, it was freeing. It’s pretty fun to know that everything we own can be hauled down the highway. At this point, we don’t regret it. It’s really amazing to get a completely fresh start. Sometimes I miss this broken brass lamp I picked up at a flea market for $2…I sold it for $10, and it’s one of the things I wish I’d saved. A broken, cheap brass lamp of all things…
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Life on the road is much like life anywhere in the sense that it’s always going to have it’s highs and it’s lows. Can you take a minute to paint the picture of what a great day of life on the road looks like and then what a I-can’t-wait-to-settle-down-because-life-on-the-road-is-hard day on the road looks like?

Good day: We wake slowly in some incredible location…perhaps the rocky beach surrounded by waterfalls and glaciers in Alaska, or underneath the moss covered trees of the Hoh Rainforest…or that morning in the Badlands, watching the sunrise and a thunderstorm take place simultaneously, crazily, across the ridiculously vast sky. Coffee together, savoring it, conversation, a child playing at our feet. A hike, a day of exploration. A picnic lunch…songs on the radio as we drive. A dinner over the campfire, beers and singing and playing the guitar together.

*These have rarely happened all in one day – these are merely snippets of time and rare moments for us.

Bad day: I’m melting, purely melting in the heat…and shade and a breeze aren’t found. We’re out of coffee…I walk around to get something out of the car and smack my forehead into one of the open Airstream windows, knocking me to the dirt and I start bleeding profusely. The dog shits in the bathroom and someone steps in it…then the cat vomits on the rug…and someone steps in it. The dinner gets burnt, there isn’t wifi or cell signal and I’m behind on work. We’re driving somewhere and hoping to find a campsite…and keep on driving, because every single one we stop at is full.  Throw a few fits in there, the good and strong kind, where your kid is having a full-on breakdown, complete with hysterical crying, yelling, and gets a few blows to your face in. We stop on the side of the road and hope we don’t get a ticket or hit in the middle of the night…and get a restless night of sleep, especially when the cat has eaten something weird – one of my plants, of course, and pukes again…and then takes a shit and fills the tiny trailer with a smell that would rouse the deepest sleeper.

*This has all happened in one day.San Clemente Family Photographer-113 San Clemente Family Photographer-111

You’ve met many people on the road. I often feel that in general we’re all very disconnected, that we lack a human connection. But life on the road kind of sets you up to meet a lot of strangers and engage in a lot of conversations. I assume you’ve had to rely on others, at times, which I think can be a very beautiful and connecting experience. Has it been hard to meet people and then move on or are you simply grateful for the people you’ve come in contact with?

We set out to find community on this trip, something that we really lacked back in Kentucky…and we’ve definitely found it. I am so amazed by how deeply we can connect with others when they are open to it…I’m not a shoot-the-shit kind of person. I’m going to get in there and pry and ask you how you really are. We both desire real conversation, to linger over a messy dinner table because no one dares to rise and start cleaning up…the things happening at the table are too good. We’ve found this, from Ontario to Portland to California to Alaska. It’s all been so good, and each friendship forged looks different. Some people we keep in touch with more than others, some we feel entirely comfortable with right away, some it takes a bit more time to get to know. Some relationships have just been pure fun – drinking and talking and being silly…and each friendship is amazing in it’s own right. It’s definitely difficult to move on, especially when you have such a real and vital connection.

Our reliance on others has been hard for us, as we both take pride in our independence. We love that we renovated our Airstream ourselves entirely, that we prepared for this life without support from our families or anyone else – it was just us. We were all we had. In that way, it’s difficult to understand that there are people willing to support who we are and what we do, to accept our family as normal, all of it. Yet we’ve needed that so badly – it has moved us to tears when someone offers us a meal, a bedroom to spread out in, time alone as a couple, a shower, or leaves a bottle of wine, gift cards, and the sweetest message in a grocery bag under my seat in the car (looking at you, Ashley!), or simply speaks to us like we are normal – asks us for parenting advice, asks when we got married, celebrates us as a real couple and a real family, because we are. None of this was had before, and we have that now. We found what we were looking for in so many folks, all across the continent.San Clemente Family Photographer-116 San Clemente Family Photographer-39 San Clemente Family Photographer-60

You’re without many simple luxuries living the way you are. I figure you must either fall into the who-needed-that-stuff-anyway category or the I-can’t-wait-to-take-a-shit-in-a-bathroom-with-a-door category. Which do you each fall into? What has been surprisingly easy to do without? What has been difficult?
 
You know, I think that I fall somewhere in between – and so does my wife. We don’t regret what we did – we didn’t need all of that stuff that filled our house. We don’t miss it, and having everything we own following sort of dutifully behind us as we travel is really amazing to us. Letting go of all of those things gave us the gift of understanding what we truly need. We wouldn’t have known that otherwise. On the flip side, we’ve realized that we are people who don’t do living this simply all that well. We like ice-makers, and washers and dryers, and having a private bedroom with a door, and a flushing toilet (we compost in the Airstream). At first, I felt really guilty about missing those things…but I’m not sure why. I think it’s okay to want comfort – but yet knowing that for five months so far, I’ve gone without anyway, despite the discomfort, gives me a sense of accomplishment. I am able to push through difficult situations and live with less, but I’m looking forward to the day when we settle down again and have some luxuries…yet we plan to continue living with less, mindfully consuming, and purchasing products with intention.San Clemente Family Photographer-103 San Clemente Family Photographer-70 San Clemente Family Photographer-67

I traveled a lot in my mid-twenties and encountered a lot of friends and family that were astonished that I had “that kind of money”. The reality is that my best friend and I worked really hard, saved all of our money, and traveled very cheaply. In India, for example, we paid $2 for the room we stayed in. It had bed bugs in it, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, I think a lot of people look at your lifestyle and discount it as an option because it’s something they feel they cannot afford. Can you touch on how you’ve made it work and how you’ve opted to do without to keep it sustainable?

You’ve hit on something here – people do assume you have to be ridiculously wealthy or something close to it to travel. For us, it was about wanting it more than anything and working our asses off to make it happen. From concept to culmination, it took a year and a half to even get on the road. During that time, we gave up weekends, weeknights – we renovated our Airstream completely (everything new, from the subfloor to the electrical to the design and execution), went through the excrutiating process of selling our house, lost sleep, lost all free time, and I took some pretty weird freelance jobs to save up for our trip. We worked hard to make it happen. We weren’t wealthy – Ellen was a high school art teacher and I am a freelance photographer.

We go without a lot of amenities – we opt for free or cheap dry camping whenever possible, and often don’t have wifi for binge watching Netflix (my favorite!). We don’t eat out much, or buy clothes unless we absolutely need them (not like we have the space anyway). When designing our Airstream, we kept the interior simple so we’d have more money to travel. We live with less right now so we can experience more – it makes sense to us. So it really just depends on what you can do without – or how far you’re willing to push yourself.

Each lifestyle has it’s own trials and tribulations as well it’s beauty and perks. Some want land while others with land know the hard work involved in having land and want less. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it? What do you think is the secret to happiness and deciding on a lifestyle that’s best for you? How’s that for a loaded question?

I love that I’m getting to answer this question right now, as we have been having these types of discussions lately. It’s a constant push and pull of emotions (I love this, I hate this), especially for me. I long for the comforts of home (you might catch me listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s song, Homeward Bound, on repeat one day…then America the next), yet I know when we are done and settled and have sold our Airstream, we’re going to miss the road like crazy. I feel we all tend to romanticize what we don’t have. I’ll be the first to admit that while I understood that living on the road would be rough, I also romanticized it greatly. Currently, I’m neck-deep in fantasizing about a stationary existence…Saturday markets, Sunday football on the sofa, the ability to sprawl out and have a moment to myself in my own shower, et cetera.

I say…you do what you want. Do it wisely, do it because you truly want it – not because someone else has it and you are jealous, but because in your heart, you know it’s absolutely right for you (and your family, if you have one). Life is short. We all know this…if you are looking around at your life and it’s not what you thought it would be, if it’s not as you imagined it, if it makes you sad…change it. Don’t waste a second. Start working toward change, one step at a time. Find what works for you. This may look different in a few months, a few years. That, I think, is the secret. Be open to change, be aware of who you are and what you need, and work for what you want in life.San Clemente Family Photographer-150 San Clemente Family Photographer-58

I imagine you’ve traveled to many different places and I know some are more welcoming and forward thinking than others. Have you felt accepted as a gay couple? 

Surprisingly, we’ve not had too many issues out on the road. One of the biggest reasons we left Kentucky was intolerance and prejudice, and no matter where we’ve gone, we’ve felt comfortable and accepted for the most part. It feels, at times, that we are constantly coming out over and over. We are always meeting new people and gauging their reactions as we introduce one another as each other’s wives.

There are a few key moments that stand out, two of which that occurred on the same evening – we were watching the sunset on the Redwood coast, and a woman nearby was scrutinizing us, sizing Ellen up (sometimes people try to figure out if she’s male or female – since short hair, tall height, and small breasts somehow equates masculinity, never mind the lack of stubble or Adam’s apple or frontal junk), which just, for the record, is completely unnecessary – why does anyone care whether or not she’s male or female? No one needs to stare that hard to figure it out, unless they want to somehow feel more comfortable if they can assume she’s male and not female and we’re you know, normal. She was so uncomfortable…we were in this beautiful setting, on a cliff over looking the ocean, and she couldn’t relax into me the way that woman was able to relax into her male partner. It didn’t seem fair…our evening was interrupted and tainted. That same evening, another woman had seen this happen – and took the time to compliment us on being (and I quote), a “neat family unit”, and went on to congratulate us on being so brave. What we remember about that evening wasn’t the incredible scenery, the crashing waves, the feeling of watching the sun dip below the water, what we remember is how two people made us feel like shit for just being us.

I tell this story for a few reasons – one, Ashley asked me this question, and two, she specifically asked me to share the ‘neat family unit’ story, and three…we don’t deserve comments or scrutiny such as those I shared above. We are good people, good parents, and love one another deeply. These are the only things that matter. San Clemente Family Photographer-86 San Clemente Family Photographer-74

I think people are quick to assume that road life is synonymous with cheap food and drive throughs. I know you guys eat pretty clean. Can you give us an idea of what typical staples are in your diet for the following:

Breakfast: Sugar-free organic bacon, lacinato kale, and fried eggs with coffee and water. This is such an easy and filling healthy breakfast.

Lunch: If I could, I’d eat a turkey-and-cheese sandwich and potato chips every day for lunch…but that doesn’t work when you’ve cut out processed foods, sugar, gluten, or dairy. So instead, we make salads or lettuce wraps, and we have a lot of hummus and veggies. Soups are great in the cooler months.

Dinner: Since we only have one stove burner, I try to plan a lot of one-pan meals – soup with a big salad, risottos, rice pasta and homemade garlic sauce, chicken and veggies. We keep it really simple right now, although when we had a full-sized kitchen, our meals were much more involved!

Where do you see yourself and Ellen in 5 years? How about Birch & Pine?

I don’t have any idea – still married, still in love, still mamas. Professionally, geographically – I have no clue. That scares me a little, but to be quite honest – I love how wide open our future looks. I know that if we’d stayed in Kentucky, we’d not be in this position of beautiful possibility. We would have accepted our misery, our pain, and the life we didn’t want…instead, we’ve experienced this insanely beautiful, crazy hard, often ridiculous, amazing, eye-opening, soul-cleansing journey. All I can know right now is the love of my wife, the love of my child, and the love I have for them. The rest will come – we have plans, goals, and we’re working toward those goals…but we never expected this journey, so who knows where all of this will lead us?San Clemente Family Photographer-96

And a few more questions more relative to your life now, in Indiana…

 

You’re no longer living life on the road and though I know you’re still settling in, what are the immediate pros and cons to settling back in that might have taken you by surprise/that you didn’t expect?
Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting to feel so trapped. I thought I was ready. Ready to stop traveling, ready to settle in. I was craving so much, and now that I’m here, I miss the road desperately. A lot of this has more to do with circumstance than being stationary, as we are currently back in the Midwest and muddling through a pretty messy and emotional transition with our daughter’s biological father, who hasn’t been in her life much up until now. So not only are we figuring out life post-travel, readjusting to “normalcy” (over the holidays, no less!), we are learning to accept a new presence in our lives that is changing our family dynamic considerably, and it’s not necessarily for the better, at least not yet. We are in a completely new normal, and it feels foreign, sad, and scary – and daily I wish that things were different.
Outside of all of those things, I was surprised to see how quickly the people in our lives diminished our six-month journey – it’s as if we never left. We came back so changed…in many ways completely different people…and I find that friends and family expect us to be exactly the same as they remember us. We aren’t asked about the trip or how it affected us on a heart level, or even if we’d share some images or highlights. We are just back, and now that we’re here and not these elusive beings sharing snippets from afar, it’s business as usual. It’s the strangest feeling and one that I’m having difficulty putting into words, but it’s just awful to know you’ve been completely, irrevocably changed and no one seems to notice or care. It makes you wonder if you aren’t, and I don’t think I should question that based on what others do or say, but there it is.
The one pro in all of this emotional mess is we’ve realized how traveling is part of us now…that staying still for the rest of our lives just won’t work for us. My friend Su was talking me through a particularly difficult night and said, “once it’s (travel, the road) in your blood, you’re ruined” and that resonated so profoundly and loudly in my soul that it gave me, us, the very obvious answer that we needed – we aren’t done traveling and exploring and experiencing and learning what life on the road can teach us – not even close. With just five short months to go, we’ve set a goal to travel for a couple months this summer and keep adding to our map. Knowing that we can have the best of both worlds – be stationary and travel – was everything to us, the answer to so many questions.San Clemente Family Photographer-91 San Clemente Family Photographer-110
How has your version of the story of your life on the road changed since you’ve settled into your new home? In other words, is it easier now to forget the hardships and simply reminisce on the more meaningful and beautiful parts of what was life on the road? I always think that the view of the past is seen best through rose colored lenses…which is how I justify all of the elderly people urging us young moms to enjoy every moment with young kids.
I haven’t forgotten the difficulties at all…because those were completely present and real and really fucking stressful. When my wife and I talk about our months living on the road in our Airstream, we are using those hard experiences as teaching moments for ourselves. Now that we’ve decided to continue traveling in the summers, we are using those hardships to determine what needs to change for our next go round – such as a newer and smaller Airstream with more amenities (heat, A/C, a hot shower, a real toilet), no cat on board (we’d leave him with a trusted friend or family member so there wouldn’t be a constant worry of him escaping or dealing with the stink of his shit in a tiny space), and a shorter stint out on the road (two months instead of six) with a well-mapped plan that has room for adaptation, as opposed to the vague “plan” we had for the last six months with very concrete commitments to people that were hard to keep when we found ourselves further away from the place we needed to be.

We were completely unprepared in so many ways our first time out, and while it’s hard to admit that, it’s just fact. There were things we did right, sure – but many things we did just didn’t work. It’s such a shift, living on the road in tight quarters, constantly on the move – and how can you ever be fully prepared for that? It’s one of those things that you have to get hands-on with, no how-to guide or advice or research is going to prepare you for it. We learned as we went and came out much wiser. We will learn even more this summer.

With all of that said, however, I know that those beautiful moments happened. I haven’t been able to think about them much; the beauty of them is so absolutely incredible that it hurts to relive them in just memory form. I can’t scroll back in my Instagram feed to see the images I took while out on the road, and my computer houses thousands of images from the incredible places we visited (Alaska, Oregon, Wyoming, the Yukon…the list goes on) that I’ve not had the strength to go through. Certain songs make me break down and cry, others bring back visuals and feelings so strong that I have to turn the song off. Those beautiful things happened and they were so unbelievable, even amidst the stress of road life…and one day I’m going to be able to sift through the photographs and listen to those songs and feel all of the things – but it may be a long while. Right now, I think it’s going to take being out on the road again to be able to begin to truly process all of the things felt and seen and experienced and learned, the awe, the times of feeling tiny yet strong and brave, all of those moments of our breath being taken away by the beauty of everything out there that waits for us to come notice it, to take it in.

I’m sure tons of people may have questions about your airstream, which you guys have renovated entirely on your own and have recently sold… Where can people find more information? 

You can find us at www.birchandpine.co, where I am sorely behind on posting anything about our travels – or find us on Instagram, where I post far more regularly – our main account is @birchandpine, and we also have an account entirely dedicated to our Airstream renovation, where you can see the process from start to finish, @birchandpineairstream.
Writer & Photographer
B I R C H & P I N E
www.birchandpine.co
Instagram: @birchandpine & @birchandpineairstream
Pinterest: Birch & Pine

Polly Alderton, on Childhood Unplugged

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“I want my children to be art literate and to understand as much as they can about my processes. If I have a set idea in my mind, I’ll ask them to do it and if they like the sound of it they will. Sometimes they don’t like the sound of it and they wont. I have a picture I like of my oldest son posing in a flower crown in our back garden, he looks so serene and earthy, he was at the time sitting giving me a list of reasons why he should be allowed to have a computer games console in the house. Another time I let him stick his fingers up to swear as part of a photo trade. I am trying to move in a bit of a different direction with my pictures at the moment and pose them less. I’m really just trying to catch them as they are, I like this idea of collecting a series of what may look like film stills. I realised that the kids were starting to get bored by me, and I was of myself too.”

I posted an interview I did with Polly Alderton, from @dollyandfife, over on the Childhood Unplugged blog. You can check it out by clicking here.

 

 

iPhone shots “most liked” from 2015

IGfavoritesHave you noticed how seemingly curated instagram has become? So many galleries seem to mirror one another; the Christmas garland, for instance, was starting to make me puke. That’s not to say it’s not beautiful, it is. I just can’t help but think that some people go out and go to the hassle of caring for that kinda thing for the sole purpose of it appearing in their feed. Maybe I’ve become too cynical. Whatever the case may be, I haven’t had the best of tastes left in my mouth from instagram these days.

I really value the images I capture with my phone and though I post a few from my blog that are shot with my DSLR, I wanted to take a moment to look back on images captured with my iPhone, all shot in 2015 and edited with the VSCO app. A reminder to myself, and maybe to you too, that it’s not all about professional photography and well-curated feeds. Sometimes the raw and cheap can be just as beautiful and memorable.

Can you tell the difference between DSLR shots versus iPhone shots that show up in your feeds? Do you care? What do you shoot with most?

Rainy day lessons

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San Clemente Family Photographer-35 San Clemente Family Photographer-36 San Clemente Family Photographer-38 San Clemente Family Photographer-40 San Clemente Family Photographer-46I’m coming to terms with the fact I’m not the craftiest of moms, nor am I anywhere near efficient in working with them at home on school-type stuff. Just today I felt like it’d be easier to french braid my own hair with one hand and my eyes closed than it would be to get Hooper to learn the numbers I was trying to teach him. My own mother would equate helping me during my school years to dragging a horse through mud. And, as the saying goes, payback is a bitch.

I’m learning as I go, as we all are. Some of the days that I sit down with Hoop are effortless and dare-I-say enjoyable. Other days, not so much. I feel like I’m at constant odds with myself: do you force a 5 year old to sit down and pay attention to a lesson or do you leave that for their teacher at school and encourage them to play instead? I can argue both sides. Like I said, I’m learning as I go.

Regardless of what the answer is, the other day I had one of those proud moments of motherhood. It was raining out and we were all cooped up in the house when Willy came in from the patio proclaiming that he had caught a lizard (catching lizards is a sport in this family, I swear). Hooper held it, examined it, and said, “hey, it’s a brown skink just like the one in my book”. And so, we got out his reptile book, found the skinks and talked some about what makes a skink a skink and, well, I felt like a winner.

It’s not like that everyday, but when all falls into place – especially on the cabin fever filled rainy days – it feels like you’ve hit the jackpot.

We released the lizard back to it’s home on the patio and watched it wiggle it’s way into it’s succulent oblivion.

Do you take the time to teach your kids at home or do you leave the learning for the school environment? And if you do sit down with them, do you ever want to punch yourself in the face too?

Young In Love, with Jessica & Rich

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The last of my Bay Area sessions was a couples session in Mill Valley and after a few sessions that involved wrangling kids and making myself look ridiculous to illicit the responses I wanted, it was a breath of fresh air to have two beautiful and competent adults in-front of my lens. Not that I don’t love the wrangling, I do. But I also like change. And more and more, I love capturing couples.

Jessica and Rich emailed me a while back and mentioned they’d be in Northern California on a road trip. It just so happened that our paths crossed while I was there for travel sessions, a twist of fate if you will. They were both quiet and reserved yet uninhibited in a subtle way if ever there was such a thing. They were ridiculously easy to shoot and spent much of the shoot whispering things to one another that I couldn’t hear, sharing giggles only they knew the origin of. They could have been making fun of me for all I knew but based on their kind and gentle spirit, I’d say it was doubtful. They truly allowed me to be the fly on the wall and whatever directing I did do was effortless.

I met them at a home, coined the ‘treehouse’ for good reason, which they found through airbnb. I had wrongfully assumed the entire house was for rent but when I showed up, the hosts were there sipping coffee on the sofa. I hand it to these guys for not letting it spoil the mood and for creating such an intimate and tender vibe in spite of it all.

We made it to Mt. Tam just in time to watch the sun go down with views of San Francisco covered in fog, the light on the tower from twin peaks blinking in the distance.

I left San Francisco the next morning, happily ending on a great note, and bought the dress she wore the very next day because, um, heart eyes, no?

Interested in hiring me for a session? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

Birthing Fears

AshleyWilly-423mattandtishI’ve always felt more or less free to share my thoughts and opinions here on my blog and, for the most part, I still do. I think a blog lends itself to a slower pace, where more thought is welcomed and more consideration is given to the voice. The last time I wrote about my opinions in regards to medical care during pregnancy, I received a lot of great feedback here but a few people that felt offended by the snippet of the blog post I posted to instagram. Following that I kinda told myself I’d be keeping my shit to myself and moseying on my merry way. But alas, with a post entitled “Birthing Fears”, I realize I’m opening that door to criticism once again. I guess I’m just okay with that. I’m hardly trying to sell anyone on this blog as a place to go for advice or parenting guidelines; what I share here on my blog is truly a reflection of my own experiences and so much of the conclusions I draw, and we all draw, are drawn from hindsight. In other words, if my experiences were different, so would be my beliefs about them. Anyway, that’s the asterix attached to this post and any post of it’s kind, but especially the birth related posts because people seem to get really sensitive about this shit.

When I was pregnant with Hooper, I was a newly employed registered nurse, just coming out of nursing school where my obstetrics portion was taught by a very-well-educated and well-practiced midwife. Until that point, I had never really thought much about birth or envisioned the kind of birth I wanted, despite having dreamed of being a mother my whole childhood. I knew that when the time came, I’d opt for a home birth.

None of this is to say that there isn’t a place for hospital births. I’ve had two now, so clearly I’m grateful they exist and I understand their necessity more than I’d like to. All I’m saying is that when taking the classes in nursing school and then completing my own rounds and observations in the hospital setting, much of what I learned and observed had a profound impact on me.

This is probably more background info than is necessary to share. The simple point is that I knew for certain that when the time came, I’d want an unmedicated birth at home.

What I got instead was an induction with pitocin at the hospital. And that’s just the beginning of the story. What followed was an unmedicated birth involving horrible tetanic contractions (“Pitocin has the potential of causing tetanic contractions—contractions coming so frequently that they merge into one sustained contraction”) and being wheeled, on all fours, butt-booty naked, down the hall to the “c-section room” where I remember a lot of people talking about me but not to me. Hooper was vacuumed out, on the operating room table.

I think the whole experience solidified the idea of birth being a traumatic experience in Willy’s mind. So my pregnancy with Van was met with a lot of anxiety from the get-go and even more so when I insisted, once again, to try for a home birth.

The labor portion of Van’s birth was a dream. It was so nice to be at home and experiencing contractions in the absence of tetanic contractions made regular contractions feel, well, not like a walk in the park, per say, but definitely feasible. The tub of water also worked wonders and up until it was time to push, everything was gravy.

Three hours of pushing later and a look of defeat and worry on the face of my midwife eventually led to an ambulance transfer to the nearest hospital. There’s something to be said for being butt booty naked, once again, on a gurney, being wheeled out of your own home (they did put a blanket over me) and being asked not to push when you’re 10cm dilated and have been pushing with all the strength you could muster for the last three hours.

Van was born within the first 15 minutes of making it to the hospital, assisted not by a vacuum but instead by a large anesthesiologist who literally did CPR-like chest compressions on my abdomen. My mom was outside the door and could hear an audible “pop” when he was born.

These two stories combine to bring us to the present day and the exponential growth in anxiety surrounding the birthing process for both Willy and I.

Willy’s fears are a bit irrational, in my opinion, as his health anxiety leads him to worry about things that have not presented themselves as issues (thank goodness)… things like me and/or the baby dying.

My fear is associated more with how I’m going to get the baby out given my 0 for 2 track record of unassisted births. I fear not being able to trust that my OB will try less invasive strategies. I fear not having birthed with this OB before. I fear birthing with an OB. I fear a hospital birth. I fear that I have not prepared properly (gone are the days I had time to do prenatal yoga or childbirth classes that led you to believe some special way of breathing would ease the pain). I fear my fused spine may have a negative affect on my ability to bear down. I fear this baby will be bigger than both of my prior ones. I fear I’ll go past my due date, allowing even more time for this baby to grow even bigger. I fear another induction with pitocin should I go too far past my due date. I fear returning to the perinatologist who wants to see me again to “see how big the baby is getting”. I fear letting fear take over my natural inclination to trust my instinct and fight for what I know deep down is right for myself.

I’ve considered taking up smoking in hopes of potentially having a low(er) birth weight baby. I’m kidding, but the thought has crossed my mind enough times to turn it into a joke.

It’s crazy how much within the pregnancy and birthing experience is entirely out of our control. I’ve always thought of it as the first lesson in motherhood… the idea of things happening to you that you cannot predict or plan or alter; much like the children we bare. I don’t know what the answer is. I feel like the hippies would tell me to simply embrace this time… to talk to my baby and openly discuss my fears with loved ones that will listen. But when the fear is shared, it tends to compound so I’ve more or less kept my fears to myself. And I’m not hippy enough to talk to my baby and even if I were, asking it to diet and come out on time is not realistic.

What were/are your fears associated with pregnancy and birth and motherhood? Do you feel that they were generalized fears that could be applied to all or were they specific fears that applied to you based on your past experiences?

March is right around the corner and I’m finding it hard to find a grip. Right now I’m more or less riding the wave of if-I-don’t-pay-it-attention-it’s-not-there… but the fear most certainly is there and it’s coasting along and reminding me often that much of what I wish and hope for is entirely out of my hands.

I’m struggling to find peace with that.

*Image above by Tish Carlson

Childhood Unplugged

San Clemente Family Photographer-4671

San Clemente Family Photographer-4581 San Clemente Family Photographer-4587 San Clemente Family Photographer-4594 San Clemente Family Photographer-4604 San Clemente Family Photographer-4608 San Clemente Family Photographer-4610 San Clemente Family Photographer-4614 San Clemente Family Photographer-4616 San Clemente Family Photographer-4627 San Clemente Family Photographer-4636 San Clemente Family Photographer-4644 San Clemente Family Photographer-4652 San Clemente Family Photographer-4657 I swear it’s impossible to get the boys into the car these days without some conglomeration of what they refer to as their ‘bad-guy-stuff’, which really is an assortment of shields and swords and various accessories that seem to rotate in and out. So the other day we packed up the ‘bad guy stuff’ and headed for our favorite wilderness park in search of bad guys, obviously. What we found instead were some wild mushrooms, lots of puddles, and even some turkey vultures.

It was quiet, the dew on the leaves a lingering reminder of the rain that fell on our drive out. We climbed some trees, followed a dirt path to a patch filled with wild cacti, and ended the morning at the playground (which is within the wilderness park as well and is most always empty).

Please join me in supporting the other photographers participating in the Childhood Unplugged movement by clicking here to see all our submissions. You can also follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed.

The Bee & The Fox | New Years sale

new-years-blogWe’re having a New Year’s sale over on The Bee & The Fox. Use coupon code CHEERS2016 for 20% off your purchase of $50 or more. Newly added items include the following:thebeeandthefox

Keeper onesie, available in infant sizes 3-6m, 6-12, 12-18, 18-24  |  Born to Run onesie, available in infant sizes 3-6m, 6-12, 12-18, 18-24  |  Big Brother, available in children’s sizes 2, 4, 6  |  Big Sister, available in children’s sizes 2, 4, 6  |  Happy Camper, available in women’s sizes S, M, L, XL  |  All printed on top quality American Apparel tees, Made in USA