Hold the Moment | An Invitation for Mothers to Get in Front of the Camera

Life is so temporary. Baby rolls turn into long-limbed children. Dimples melt away. The sound of their elephant feet running through the house quiets when they leave for college. Faces we wake up with march down their own paths. The doctor calls with a diagnosis. Jobs come and go. Reality hits.

Life is always changing. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t. But this moment that you’re in, it’s worth remembering. It’s beautiful in all of it’s fullness or hardship - in all of its relationships.

I know not all of us are comfortable in our own skin. Earlier this year I booked a photographer whose work I absolutely adore. I loved her style and soul and the way she captured the feeling of a moment in time. I wanted her to catch us that way. I wanted summer and ripeness and color and warmth.

That gave me months to lose a little weight, tone up. Find a beautiful outfit. Maybe even like the way I looked.

And then the months ticked by. The inches stayed put. I never went shopping.

What if pictures just prove what I already suspect...that I’m not as beautiful in these extra pounds and inches?

As the one typically behind the camera, moving into the frame can be a struggle.

And then I watched as my kindergarten sassafras got taller, her expressions and movements morphing into that of a school-aged kid. And my almost-three-year-old ginger boy chasing her around like she had stars in her pockets, just waiting for magic to fall out, his own voice acquiring the affectation of humor and his smile delighting in eliciting laughs.

Oh, I can’t miss this!

When I go home - the one I grew up in - and grab the frilled and faded photo album from the shelf (you know, the one with the cellophane that no longer sticks to the yellowed adhesive and the pictures always fall out) I turn the heavy pages slowly. My eyes hungrily grasp to remember that moment in time, all those decades ago. The terrible green carpet. The bangs. The rolled over socks. That one of me in my acid-wash overalls with my arm slung casually around my cute-as-a-button sister outside. There was a wine cooler on the picnic table in the background.

But where my eyes linger are the faces of my mom and dad, young, fresh, practically kids. My mom’s giant glasses and perfect cheekbones next to my dad’s black mop of hair and big, strong arms. I love seeing my parents, imagining what they were like when they were my age, watching them hold me as a baby, unsure but excited. Maybe my littles will too. I hope they will. I hope they want to see how much we loved them. They deserve to see.

So I readied. I borrowed a floral dress from a friend and begged another to curl my hair. It’s amazing what great hair and a gorgeous outfit can do for the feminine spirit. I still had sun spots and fine lines and outrageous curves, but I felt beautiful that night. The Mister gave me the eyebrow wiggle. Yep, I looked good.

Ms. Crawford came. We made coffee. The kids jumped on the bed. We rocked on the front porch. We played in the garden. It was lovely. Real memories. Real moments. It was us.

This week, those photos became even more precious to me. When we played in front of the camera, we were two weeks pregnant. Dreams of chubby baby thighs and sweet nursing cuddles filled my horizon again. All of those fresh baby smells and gummy smiles were before us. And then this week - at six weeks - I miscarried, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I wouldn’t get to know this baby. I wouldn’t get to smell it or hold it and blow raspberries on its tummy. No cuddles or first steps or tantrums. Just gone.

These pictures are the only ones I have of this baby. The only ones.

Now when I see them, I see life and hope and new dreams. New dreams that will turn into other new dreams, because we still have life and hope, but they’ve changed.

Life is so precious. Its ephemeral nature is part of what makes it so beautiful.

Don’t miss it. Don’t forget to hug a little longer. Don’t forget to say it one more time. And don’t forget to catch it. A picture is one of the only things we have to hold onto as time marches forward. You are able to leave your memories behind in beautiful images for those who love you.

So book the photographer. Put your doubts in a corner. Assemble your tribe. Say “cheese!” And hold on tight.

Originally written for ParentSavvy in August of 2017

Heather Hall