Most of the time I spend with clients is filled with joy. We’re celebrating new life and growing families. The hopefulness and wonder of expecting and new parents is contagious – you’re overflowing. But so often, the months and years before a mother reaches out to me to plan their maternity session are filled with heartbreak and grief. So many of you have shared with me that you’ve held off planning your maternity session because you didn’t dare to hope you would make it that far. You couldn’t allow yourself to celebrate your pregnancy because you wanted to protect your heart from the break you just knew was coming. Again.
I spent a very lovely morning chatting with an expectant mother who shared some of the joy and pain she and her family have experienced on their journey to parenthood. We documented a few moments of them in their home – which feels big and open, and ready for the sounds of little feet and a child’s laughter.
Here, in her words, is her experience with pregnancy, loss, and pregnancy after loss.
In November 2021, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child. It wasn’t a surprise but I’d say we were surprised by how quickly it happened. At the time, we definitely took that for granted. My first trimester went smoothly (despite yucky symptoms – mind you I was in one of busiest and most physical seasons of my life, being in the middle of cheering my 2nd season with the Baltimore Ravens). We were thrilled to find out it was a girl and fell in love with her more and more with every sonogram. At 14 weeks, I started bleeding and ended up in the ER. Baby girl, whom we later named Aila Love, was healthy and fine, I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma (which we found out then was pretty common, more so in the first trimester, but not usually something to be concerned about). 10 days later, on Valentine’s Day, I spontaneously went into labor and delivered our baby in the ER without warning. We were devastated and traumatized. We never thought something like this would happen to us, especially in the 2nd trimester.
It took my body a few months to recover. We got pregnant again in June 2022. On the due date of our first baby, August 10, we found out our 2nd baby did not have a heartbeat – at 10 weeks. I underwent a D&C on August 12. We were crushed. We thought baby #2, Asher, was our redemption story, and while cautiously optimistic, we just never thought we’d lose another baby – and in such a different way than the first one.
In September 2022, I got pregnant with our third baby. It was hard for me to even say the words “I’m pregnant”, for fear that if I actually let my heart think it was true, the more it would hurt when it went wrong. I was scared that if I acknowledged my pregnancy, I would become attached to a child I didn’t know if I’d get to keep. Even things like our gender reveal party (which I didn’t necessarily want to have, we didn’t have one with our first baby, I felt like I needed to have to celebrate this baby), were really hard for me to make it through – to be surrounded by people with so much joy for us when I wasn’t feeling that joy but also because it was acknowledging that this was real and could end in heartache like all the other pregnancies did.
I was, and still am, riddled with fear- everytime I would go to the bathroom I fear seeing blood, every slight feeling in my belly I fear is the beginning of the end, and I’m hyperaware of when I haven’t felt him move recently. While I am so thankful to get to carry another life, I am so afraid of losing it. I’ve had to shift my mindset to just being thankful for however long I get with this baby, even if doesn’t end with a healthy baby in my arms – that’s really hard. Still at 22 weeks, every day/week is a struggle. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and (probably irrational) fears. The fear was only heightened at 17 weeks when I ended up in the ER with contractions, horrified that this was the beginning of the end just like my first pregnancy. Thankfully medication controlled the contractions and the baby was fine. I’m now 22 weeks and can’t wait to be just a few weeks further along so that if something goes wrong with my body again, the baby would be OK outside of it. I think I breathe a little easier, and enjoy the pregnancy a little more with each passing day, but I’m sad that I’m still wishing it go fast rather than enjoying it.
Photographs are all I have left of my first 2 babies and I regret not taking more – bump pics, pictures of my husband and I together holding my stomach to show that that baby was there with us in the experience, pictures at every appointment., etc. I look back at the pictures we do have often, to remember them. I have baby books for each of them and I wish I had more photos to fill just a few more pages of the mostly empty book. As time goes on, I don’t want them to be forgotten, and pictures help me ensure they won’t be. So with this 3rd baby, it was really important to me to capture many moments of his developing life – knowing that no future pictures or memories with him are guaranteed. Even if, God forbid, we don’t get to experience his life outside of the womb, he is still our child, I am his mother, and nothing can take away our love for him – photographs capture that love and preserve this time.
This last year may have been the hardest year of my husband and I’s life, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t document it, remember it, and reflect back on it. I know we will look back on these pictures and be proud of how far we’ve come and that we made it through it because grief, uncertainty, and wrecked plans may last a lifetime but they won’t last forever.
Pregnancy loss and the grief that comes along with it has changed so much for me and my husband. First, we are so much more appreciative of the miracle of life – its creation and its progress in the womb. Second, we know that we will cherish moments with our healthy baby in our arms so much more than we would have had we not experienced loss. Our loss/grief has heightened our gratitude for every milestone we make it to, and every moment we get with this baby. Third, it’s made me slow down. To take in life more. To prioritize mine and this babies health in a way I never had before. And finally, it has pushed us to know and understand more fully that God is good and has a plan in all circumstances, even if loss itself is not good. We acknowledge that we may never know why we’ve experienced this path to parenthood, but fully trust that it’s part of His plan.
When you’re pregnant after loss, there is no predicting the duration of this sweet baby’s life. But even in the uncertainty of tomorrow, there is a gift in today. This baby is here with me, right now, being carried in the this little bump with so much love, and that’s worth documenting.
I plan to use these photos to document and remember our journey to this little one, now and in the future. They’re already something I look at daily; they’re one of the few things in this pregnancy that make me feel joy when I look at them. And I can’t wait to share these photos with our child someday. Not only do they honor our journey to him, but Becca has also beautifully captured and memorialized his siblings, Aila and Asher, in the photos.
I hope I never have to use these photos as a “memorial” but even if that was the case, I would be SO thankful to have documented, beautiful moments and snapshots of our time with this baby.
Feb 17, 2023
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Becca is an award-winning maternity and newborn photographer serving Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and surrounding areas. She offers a tailored experience with a full client wardrobe, stunning light-filled studio, and unique locations locally and worldwide.