Enough time has passed I think, that I’m ready to share this. Yet the memories of the experience are as real today as they were when I had them. I’ve sat down to write this Story a hundred times, too, thinking it my duty to somehow show the World that miracles happen everyday. Particularly when major events in the world have led people to question whether there is hope and goodness. I’ve wanted to shout “YES! You have no idea how beautiful people are because I’ve seen it and experienced it with my own soul!” But these Stories don’t make media headlines day after day after day, and even if they did, the news couldn’t do it justice in a 60 second bit. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to do it justice in the hours its going to take me to write this.
This is not a normal Blog post. You won’t see but a couple of images. You’ll understand why in a minute. But it started with an inquiry for Photography Services that I did not know would change my life (and I’m not exaggerating). It was from a Mother who was contacting me on behalf of both her and the Birth Mother about photographing the arrival of their Baby Girl. So let’s be clear. This is an Adoption. This is an Open Adoption. The Birth Mother, Lydia and the Adoptive Mother were partnering together on this endeavor. Let that soak in y’all. If that hasn’t hit you in the gut yet..hopefully it will when you read the rest of this Blog, and then go back and read it again.
At the time, I really don’t know why I said yes, but that became clear much later. Birth photography means you’re on call for at least a month before the due date, and even as the Photographer, I had my own bag packed. As the date gets closer, my phone had a special ringtone that would have me peeling myself off the ceiling if it went off in the middle of the night. We even had one scare where we thought Baby might come a little sooner than planned, which was also a very long night and I was on the phone with the Family joking (sort of) that I just had more Wedding to shoot before my schedule was clear for month so if Baby could just hang in there….
I only explain this to emphasize that Birth Photography is a very special field that has no true scheduled date and thus it’s not something I would normally agree to. Even at that, I had some potential schedule changes come up that if came to fruition I would not be able to guarantee I’d be available for the Birth and went so far let the Family know to find another Photographer because I wasn’t sure my schedule would work. I actually thought that the end of it, but I didn’t forget. I kept thinking about this Family. Thank goodness a short time later my schedule did solidify, and as fate would have it, the Family had not found another Photographer they were comfortable with, so I was it.
Fast forward to Delivery Day. When I finally got the thumbs up that Baby was on her way I headed for the hospital. It was about a 45 minute drive. Other than a short meeting at Starbucks in which the Birth Mom, Lydia, gave her approval of me, I knew nothing about this Family or their Story, their background. NOTHING. All of a sudden during this 45 minute drive I found this to be important. I wasn’t worried about photographing the Birth. In addition to giving birth to 3 of my own, I was blessed to photograph the arrival of two of my own Grandbabies. However, I felt at that point, while I normally don’t butt into my Client’s business, maybe I should have asked a few more questions on this one just so I understood more of what I was walking into. Well…too late now. “Good thing Wedding days are chaotic”, I thought, “I’m just gonna go with that experience if the proverbial stuff hits the fan.”
I walked into the hospital room with the same emotional check-in radar that I do when I first show up at the Bridal Suite for a Wedding. Ah, whew, everything was good. Lydia was ready to get the show in the road and any Mother who’s been pregnant can resonate with that feeling. Speaking of Lydia, it’s important to note I’m using her real name because her Adoption Story is featured on a public website (link at the end) and she did many months ago give me permission to share this Story (thank you Lydia). We’ll call the Adoptive Mother “Kim”. She, too, has written a beautiful series of Blog Posts about her own journey with the Adoption process, the emotional ups and downs of it, and the birth experience of this Baby Girl. But that’s her Story, not mine to tell. This is about my Story and my experience with these two Amazing Mothers who joined forces together for the Good of Their Child (caps are important here y’all). I will share safely, I think, that I found so endearing about the strong bond between these two Women, is that it started with a love of powdered sugar on their waffles. Enough said, right?
I also met a woman with the Adoption Agency. She asked me if I was a Birth Photographer. I said, “I shoot Weddings.” At that moment I felt as about as inept as Jennifer Grey’s character in Dirty Dancing when she said “I carried a watermelon.” Moving on now… The contact with the Adoption Agency had known Lydia since Lydia reached out early on in her pregnancy and although had moved on to a new position, had remained in charge of Lydia’s case because, well….you just have to meet Lydia. That was the consensus of all of us. I knew her for less than 8 hours and know her (present tense) to be an incredible Woman. It turns out Lydia has this affect on everyone. She’s not your “Average Joe” y’all. She’s ridiculously wise, mature, responsible, loving, funny, and despite of the challenges life has thrown at her, has an “on point” sense of humor that kept us all laughing…regularly…even in the middle of a contraction. Now that’s talent.
So Doc wasn’t kidding about it being time for a Baby. I arrived in the afternoon, and that Baby Girl was born by sunset. Lydia & Kim labored together. The Adoptive Father was also there and he facilitated Family Feud from his cell phone between contractions (Lydia’s really good at Family Feud). Kim counted the seconds on contractions, and held Lydia’s hand in a vice grip when it was needed.
I have so many memories (images) of this time together for this Family that I could call my Favorite I can’t possibly choose. Here’s what I know. When Lydia collapse in Kim’s arms sobbing in pain and Kim just holding her with all the love she could give, that is who we are as Women. This is where my Threshold Shift began. If you’re not familiar, a Threshold Shift actually has to do with hearing loss. I can still hear just fine. But it’s a measurement taken that basically says you’ve had a major change in how well you hear. In my case, I had a major change. Period.
Speaking of that Baby Girl, she came into the world among a room filled with so much love it was overwhelming. Here’s another part of my Threshold Shift. It’s an image that I couldn’t fully take in at the time, it sat on the peripheral of the miracle I was a part of. It includes the OBGYN (female), the Nurses (all female), Lydia, Kim, myself (not pictured of course) and a Baby Girl emerging into the world and taking her first breath. It was a room full of Women. Women supporting women. There was no shame, no judgment. EVER. Just pure and positive love. Women banding together to support and bring a new Baby Girl into the World.
Whew. If that wasn’t enough. I did not know until later that Kim’s first child was born very premature so she had not been able to experience a healthy birth. Lydia gave her this gift. Together they held hands and brought that Baby Girl into the world. When the nurses asked Kim if she wanted to come watch while new Baby Girl was being weighed and checked, of course she was so excited she wanted to go. But first, she showered Lydia with hugs and kisses all over her face. Lydia, being Lydia, said “go, be with her”. Ok, another movement in my Threshold Shift.
The hospital was kind enough to let me in the nursery to photograph Baby Girl’s first bath while the parent’s watched outside the glass. Thank you for that gift. Not only could get the up close and beautiful photographs of the water flowing over that Baby Girl, the details of her feet & fingers, and cries of protest, but I could also see two very proud parents looking through the glass and staring and this miracle that had finally arrived from Heaven. It was a perspective I could not normally see and it was beautiful.
Then we all shared some pizza y’all. It was delicious, which says a lot, because pizza isn’t my favorite, and I went home. The next day I was coming back to photograph Lydia with her Baby Girl, and Kim with her Baby Girl. This is where the major Threshold Shift starts to take place for me.
Delivery Day Two. I’m driving in and thinking. Papers have to be signed today. One Mother will Grieve. One Mother will rejoice. Oh. My. Gosh. I never thought about it like that..not ever. This day was so not about me. But I am feeling all of it for them, and helpless in a sea of emotions to do anything that can stop the rejoicing pain they are experiencing. It was a long day. Thank goodness for the Adoption Agency. Lydia grieved but didn’t falter from her decision. Kim was a solid rock of understanding and support to Lydia, knowing exactly where she was at emotionally.
During this time while Goodbyes were being said, Kim and I had some time to chat. I mentioned at the beginning of this Story that I wasn’t clear on why I said yes to this particular Photography request. Kim asked me if she thought I’d do more with Adoption Photography. I said “no”. She asked me why. I said, “I think I was only supposed to say yes to this one.” She understood.
I photographed Lydia with that precious Baby Girl. I photographed Kim with that precious Baby Girl after the papers were officially signed. Then I left. I barely made it out of the hospital before the tears started and once they started I couldn’t stop. I bawled y’all. I bawled an ugly cry bawl. I got in my car and had to dig for anything I could find to wipe my face. I could not stop crying. Threshold shift complete. Do you know why?
I spent two days just being a witness to the beauty of humanity. I saw love, support, affirmation, compromise, patience, more love. I saw people who come together under the most difficult of circumstances and bond together for a greater purpose, regardless of the pain. If you don’t think for one second that Kim didn’t grieve for what Lydia was losing there’s nothing I could write to make you see otherwise. Both Mothers were rejoicing. Both Mothers were grieving. Meanwhile, the world around me is only seeing people who tear each other down. Y’all had no idea there was a miracle taking place. Here’s what’s even better. These miracles take place every day. I went home and suddenly the negativity and yuck on television was just that…yuck. But not reality. While Lydia & Kim’s Story is unique because it is them, people…and specifically women, do this every day. You just don’t have the gift that I received, which was the experience of being a witness. To the miracle. To the goodness. To the love. It’s all around us, and just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. This out-of-the-world experience was happening while people went about their daily lives, thinking life was better back when….(endless examples). Life is still good, y’all. In fact, life is great. It’s just that people like Lydia & Kim don’t put in on the news. They just do it.
In case you’re wondering, Kim did her research on Open Adoption. It turns out children who are raised in this environment are much more emotionally healthy. Secondly, why photograph? Kim is saving all the photographs for that precious Baby Girl. In Kim’s words, “I want her to know that from the moment she was born she was loved by both of us, that we were in it together”. It was Lydia who “approved” the Photography so she was onboard as well. So 99.9 percent of this experience in images is reserved for her to see later, when Kim and Lydia decide it’s time.
Whew. I got that out. I don’t feel like I’ve adequately written what this Family deserves. I have cried as I have written. Not at sadness. Just beauty. Crying at just pure beauty of the gift these Women are. Women, lift each other up, not tear each other down. You can read Lydia’s Story at BraveLove.org. She shares about being a Birth Mom and how she chose who she would entrust with her Baby Girl.
Amber is a photography artist. When she asks her clients why they chose her, every single time they say it's because she captures real moments. Her tagline is #emotionunplugged. She sees life, emotion, experiences, as how they are portrayed on film, an outsider looking in. To learn more about Amber, check out her blog and website here. You can follow her on social media too (Instagram).