Watching my best friend give birth at the age of seventeen was a pivotal moment in my life; it was the moment I realised I wanted to become a Mum. To witness someone giving birth, looking from the outside in, is not only a privilege it is an incredibly powerful experience, and as I write this, I relive the overwhelming emotions of that day. Even at that age, not knowing what the hell we were doing, it had a profound and lasting effect on me. It was the beginning of my journey to Motherhood.
When posed with the question ‘When/how did you know you wanted kids?’, it is an easy answer. I always have and this was just the moment the light got switched on. Am I ashamed to say it felt like that was my ambition, the jobs I’d have would never live up to it and I couldn’t move past the feeling that I was just moving through life waiting for it to be my turn? I thought it would just happen, like I would be that 1% that contraception wouldn’t work for, but as the years ticked by, I found myself growing anxious that it wouldn’t happen for me. It began to feel like I was on a treadmill, racing towards the finish line, but not actually getting anywhere. A conversation for another day perhaps, but I decided that if by aged 35, I still hadn’t found my love (and baby making partner), then I’d go it alone, my desire of children was so strong.
When my Husband and I started dating in 2005, I knew he would be the Father of my children. Forget being the one I’d marry, this was it; we were totally going to make some babies together.
Having come out of an emotionally abusive relationship, a part of my life I wrote about for the ‘From the Heart’ series on Love My Dress, we took it slow, enjoying our single lives, holidays, dinners out and blissfully lazy Sundays. Five baby-less years on however, I was very much channelling the Channel Four Spoons sketch, ‘I want a F**king baby!‘
A trip to Cuba for me, and a skiing holiday for my husband, Huw, later, and our fertility stars finally aligned. All the Après-ski and Havana Club and Cuban sun had obviously done us the world of good as a month later, I was staring at a positive pregnancy test – a moment will be ingrained in my memory forever. I’d already had signs and symptoms so had cautiously known, even before we’d had the positive result. That morning was like any other; wake up, wee on the supermarket own brand pregnancy test, wait, feel disappointed, toss test aside, go to work.
When I returned from work I picked up the test discarded on the toilet cistern and spotted the faint second pink line. I cried, sobbed tears of joy and relief. Twelve years of waiting were over. I felt like I was finally able to breathe!
I called Huw at work crying down the phone, unable to get the words out, and croaking “I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant, I’M PREGNANT!” His was a rather more subdued response – “I’ve just got to send an email”. I think we were both in shock we had been so fortunate to fall straight away. It certainly took some time to soak in.
I loved being pregnant, even though I was plagued with nausea and travel sickness, it was a straightforward pregnancy. I totally absorbed myself in books, researching baby products and writing lists. I’d daydream about what the baby would look like, what sort of personality they’d have and the sort of parents Huw and I would be. The rest of the time I ate pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches. When our son finally arrived, two whole weeks late and after a slightly traumatic entry in to the world, I knew I was absolutely where I was supposed to be. He was *the* best 30th birthday present ever.
Exactly two and half years later I would be staring at another positive pregnancy test. I remember running into my Husband and sleeping son dancing round the room waving the pregnancy test in the air and this time being able to see my Husbands reaction (no emails to send this time – just a huge smile and lots of excitement). Nine months later we were blessed with another son.
This was it. All my dreams come true. The years of wondering what it would feel like to be called Mummy, stare down at my baby as I nursed and rocked them, and be the one they reach for when they fall. Hold their sweet hand in mine, the weight of their head on my chest as they come in for a cuddle. Care for them, nurture them and teach them.
It’s no secret that parenting is hard, there are moments of pure joy and pure frustration and then there are the day to day, normal but no less precious experiences.
Sometimes I forget who I am. I get angry that the kids need me so much, that all they do is take, take, take. Perhaps there is truth in this, but in the quiet hours when I’m rocking my youngest to sleep, I stare down at his ever changing face and remember they are giving so much back.
I have learned to walk at their pace, to slow down and see the wonder in every day. Seeing everything for the first time is a true gift that children give; a rainbow, a butterfly, the way the leaves fall off the trees in Autumn, the feel of the rain and snow on my skin, the hilarious way a woodlouse curls up, a hot air balloon… Every day the love I have for my boys overwhelms me and I can’t believe they are mine.
I know that one day they won’t need me as much and that day will be arrive all too soon. Like the saying goes; you never know it’s the last time, till it’s the last time.
And soo last year, with my eldest reaching the huge milestone of starting school, I started to think about getting myself and the boys photographed at this time of our lives. One day my boys will forget everything I did for them – that the very basic tasks they carry out have been taught by me.
I wanted someone to capture the ordinary day to day of parenting that we take so much for granted; getting the kids dressed, brushing teeth, making lunch, and playing. Nothing posed. I’d be in my Mum uniform, with my Mum hair and no makeup. The boys would be in whatever they woke up in that morning, and whatever state they were in when the photographer arrived.
I got to know Joanna Brown’s work through her incredible wedding photography and have followed it with great interest over the last few years. Jo already had lots of experience capturing families, with her amazing pregnancy and baby shoots through her Joanna Brown Families photography.
I knew I would be in safe hands. Especially with my slightly vague email which read; “I’ve been thinking, for a long time now, I’d like someone to capture a day with my boys doing very normal stuff. Some of my most precious moments with the boys are doing the caring bits like crazy lunch times, bottle feeding, baths. I wanted to capture those very normal moments as my Husband is totally shit at taking pictures that have me in it! Let me know if you are interested! There is a real stillness about your photography that I love and I think you’d get what I’m trying to get…”
Jo understands motherhood. She gets the highs and the lows, the love, the desperation, the chaos and the everyday. She is warm, encouraging, and easy to be around. When Jo arrived, she had a couple of cameras and was clicking away before I’d even put the kettle on. No fuss, the boys just carried on as if she wasn’t there, though my eldest took it as an opportunity to get some of his toys captured!
As you’ll see Jo totally got it.
What she has captured for me never ceases to bring me to tears; me and mine.
All images by Joanna Brown.