My father loved taking pictures. There are a few dozen albums with pictures of perfect Kodak moments documenting the highlights of my childhood years: Fifth birthday pony rides. Click. Posing with Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disneyland. Click. Middle school graduation. Click. Smiling faces, happy kids, images forever reminding us of these moments.
As I grew older, I discovered a love for photography, and took over documenting my own life. Despite the digital age, I still print pictures, organize them in perfectly curated albums, documenting the highlights of my life.
Among all those albums, there are lots of pictures you’ll never find: My parents’ divorce. No click. First time I was dumped. No click. The death of Tiger, my beloved childhood cat. No click.
Pregnancy isn’t a singular event that can be captured through the lens of the camera. It’s 40 or so weeks of ups and downs, highlighted by side effects none of my friends bothered to mention (or maybe those who have gone through it don’t want to scare us off).
Comedian Steve Write has said, “Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don’t have film.” I used to have film, but sometime during that first trimester, my memory started going fuzzy as I could no longer keep track of dates and appointments, lists, or even TV show characters. I do remember those early weeks of cravings for cherry tomatoes and string cheese (annoyingly not available in all supermarkets!), bowing down before the porcelain throne, and an out-of-character aversion to chocolate.
My second trimester was kinder to me, although as I had a small belly on a naturally curvaceous frame, most people just assumed I had put on a few pounds, and I wasn’t awarded the courtesies given to other obviously pregnant women.
During my third trimester, I discovered heartburn, insomnia, and joint pain.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s many wonderful things about being pregnant, but I find it a lot harder to remember them off the top of my head. My naturally thin hair is thicker, my skin has never been as clear of acne, and my little bump has grown to a size where people feel comfortable enough to comment on my pregnancy.
Because of all the ups and downs, I spent several weeks debating if my husband and I should do a maternity shoot. Google, Pinterest, and Instagram are filled with inspiration: studio photo sessions of a tastefully nude or mostly nude mother-to-be, looking admiringly at her belly as her darling husband (who always gets to stay fully dressed) hugs her from behind; outdoor scenes of a couple holding a clothes line with baby clothes in pink or blue; tiny shoes between the couple’s feet; silhouetted woman with belly wearing nothing but a thin gossamer fabric that floats in the breeze.
Call it cheesy, cliché, kitschy, mushy, tacky, cute, or sweet. Looking at hundreds of images, they all seemed just a bit, or a lot, overdone. I couldn’t picture us doing any of those things. I wanted us to do something different. Not because of an urge to be original, but because I wanted these pictures to reflect us, who we are, and what makes us happy. My husband doesn’t share my love of photography, and getting him to smile and act natural is not easy. In the end, I found a (reasonably priced and nearby) photographer who does outdoor sessions, so I arranged a 45-minute session with her at a playground. We wore our “normal” everyday clothes, jeans and solid-colored shirts. We brought along bubbles because we like bubbles—they make us smile and we usually have a few bubble wands scattered around the house. We swung on the swings, sat on a picnic table blowing bubbles at each other, and sat on the see-saw (no comment on who’s heavier!).
As time distances us from these big life events, we go from being the protagonist of our own story to also the author. We choose and define how we document these moments (photos, diaries, blogs, etc.) and what we highlight from each of them, to remember.
This is why I documented my pregnancy—it’s part of my story—and I don’t want to forget the good parts.
Of the two hundred or so pictures the photographer took, I’ll probably incorporate a mere handful into our daughter’s first album. These photos will never star on Facebook or Pinterest. They weren’t taken to be pinspiration for others. They were taken, so that down the line, when we start talking about baby number two, I can look back and remember an unexpectedly sunny morning when we swung on the swings like children and had ice cream for lunch.
And, being pregnant means ice cream for lunch is valid, so I’ve been told.