In the last few years, I've found what types of photography makes me energized and excited to book a client and capture images that I know they'll love. Documentary sessions, also known as "lifestyle" sessions are one of the areas that I have grown more and more in love with thanks, in part, to my personal monthly photo project - Project TEN. This session was one that Rae called me about doing and I was excited at the chance to just hang out with their family - all four cute kids - in their typical Saturday evening fashion. Chris and Rae made homemade pizza with the help of their kiddos, and Rae even let the kids wear whatever they want (which I know was hard for her to do seeing that she's a photographer and used to coordinating outfits for sessions). We cooked and ate dinner, played in the backyard (in their awesome playhouse) and then I got to witness the Barnes' family bedtime routine - including all 6 of them in the bathroom to brush teeth.
In my line of work, I encounter families and kids of all types! Some kids cooperate and smile nicely during a session. And, although rare, some hate the entire thing and we pretty much have to hope we catch a moment of connection with parent and that child to make a photo fantastic. Some kids start off very cold and don't want much to do with the camera, and after about 18 seconds of me making a fool of myself or layin' it on thick with my gummy bear bribery, they warm right up and become THE MOST COOPERATIVE CHILDREN EVER! That was Lyla. Photo number one, as you see below, she wasn't amused by all my noises and tricks. But in the blink of an eye she pulled out this ahhhhhmmmaaaazing smile that stuck around for the entire session! Enjoy this "belly" portion of this Belly & Baby Bundle from last fall of the Bahgat family (still just the three of them). And stay tuned for more from the "baby" portion of the bundle that took place over the winter!
Within the last month, I escaped to the beach for two nights with my girls during their spring break. It's the first time I've gone away with just them and no one else...maybe ever! Matt stayed home to work on some ongoing house projects so I took advantage of the time I had with just them and no agenda. The weather wasn't great but it didn't keep these two from soaking up some beach time together before the rain started and I, of course, just spent my time documenting their interactions. It's photos like these that will hopefully remind them one day of the very special bond they have as sisters. A bond they will literally have with no other person in their lives. I am so thankful for my sisters and I am so thankful that these two have each other.
These next few photos are extremely precious to me. I think it may be fairly self-explanatory as to why I will cherish these photos, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about these images and the decision I wrestled with about even sharing them. My journey through infertility and pregnancy loss is not one I've kept close to my chest. I've been fairly open about my experiences. After every loss, I've shared my heart - in almost every condition I found myself in when the pain and ugliness of miscarriage repeated itself like a recurring nightmare. It was an experience that started the moment the test read "pregnant" and I found myself riddled with anxiety about what sort of path I just found myself on. Instead of picturing my life 8 months from that point, I found myself wondering what I could expect in the 4-6 weeks to follow. When it comes to miscarriage, couples often find themselves mourning more than the loss of a child - we also mourn the loss of joy in any other pregnancy. I remember when I found out I was pregnant with baby #7, Matt looked at me and said, "Is it bad that I don't even feel excited?" What I found even harder was the personal struggle of finding joy in the pregnancies of others around me. Miscarriage has a way of isolating you from friends and family who don't battle the same infertility issues you do. It's the hardest truth to help anyone understand who has never stood in the path of miscarriage. Some will sympathize and grieve with you - and I'll always be grateful to those that desired to share my broken heart and even try to bear whatever part of my burden they could even having never experienced loss like I had. I've never hoped for miscarriage for anyone around me, but there was really no comfort like hearing the words "I know how you feel" from a sister who had joined this group of grieving mothers long before me - and I longed to hear those words.
After five miscarriages, you'd think I'd be so overjoyed with my growing bump that I wouldn't even question sharing images like these. But the truth is, I'm surrounded by women - friends of mine - who are in a pit of infertility and pregnancy loss. Miscarriage has bonded me to several women, many of whom still find themselves with no answers and little hope. I know these women celebrate the life growing inside of me and the victory that this bump represents in my own personal journey of loss. But I also know that when they see this bump, and every growing bump around them that they can spot from a mile away, that it is also a harsh reminder of the place where they feel they may never be. My struggle in sharing these photos is out of concern for how it would make the sweet woman feel who is working to console an infant she just met that was entrusted to her through foster care - wondering if she'll ever carry her own child. My internal debate is fueled knowing the excruciating pain another woman feels who is reminded of the child that was just extracted from her body after it was discovered lifeless in her womb on a fuzzy black and white monitor in her doctor's office. The image of a growing belly can bring so much pain to others, "so why should I show these photos?" I found myself asking.
I was talking to a dear friend recently who was once again walking through the cruel, life-altering circumstance of losing a baby before she could hold him in her arms. I tried finding the most perfectly crafted words to say to encourage her when she finally said, "honestly, you're one of the only things that gives me strength and hope. I'm so sorry for everything you've been through but I honestly don't think I could feel hope without thinking of your story." It is no surprise that I found myself weeping from this comment. Eight years of sadness and discouragement, asking over and over, "why do I have to be stuck on this road?" and with one comment from someone who watched me through it all, I saw very clearly one of the many purposes of my pain. It is BECAUSE of each miscarriage and the pain they brought, that I find more joy in every kick and jump in my belly than I ever would had pregnancy come easy to me. And hopefully, its because of the long road of waiting and defeat that I can share photos like these and feel confident they represent hope and triumph. I felt so buried by the burden of hurting others with my pregnancy that I overlooked the power that God has to use it to encourage and give hope to those hurting and longing for the same thing. I'm not special. My situation is not special or unique. But my situation is an example of what God can restore and THAT should not be hidden.
I've stumbled upon a song that says it so perfectly and it's been my prayer for those women around me still in that pit:
"Your promise still stands Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness I'm still in Your hands This is my confidence, You've never failed me yet.
I've seen You move, come move the mountains And I believe, I'll see You do it again You made a way, where there was no way And I believe, I'll see You do it again."
-Do It Again Elevation Worship
Even these little girls know what a victory the birth of this little boy will be. Maelynn prays often for "Theo to still be alive so he can come out soon and we can hold him." Perhaps they don't fully understand the profound ways in which God has restored my situation but they are well aware of how this pregnancy is different from all the others and they know who to thank for this miracle.