I had lunch with my girlfriends last weekend, one of whom just had a baby and another who is five months pregnant. Among the many conversations moms and moms-to-be tend to have, family photos were brought up, more specifically, maternity photos. It got me thinking, when did maternity photos become a thing? I know I never saw any of my mom, grandmothers or any of the other women in my family. Maybe it was Demi Moore's infamous Vanity Fair cover that started the trend. However, the first time I remember seeing them of someone I knew was around 2003, and honestly, as an immature 20-something I thought it was a bit odd.
Fast-forward a few years, as the internet and social media landscape exploded, professional photos became a pretty common thing in my world. Friends and family slowly but surely became wives and mothers, thus engagement and maternity shoots seemed to be a modern rite of passage into marriage and parenting. Elegantly designed relational, pregnancy and newborn announcements graced my mailbox regularly for years. Traditional Christmas cards were replaced with family portraits. I loved every single one. And I anxiously awaited my turn.
I was blessed to be given the gift of carrying a child in 2012 and I was surely going to have it documented. Coincidentally in that same time period, a childhood friend was venturing into natural light photography, with a knack for maternity. She was excited to test out some ideas with me and I was excited to get in front of a camera. The newly found self-love that came with pregnancy was a joy I hadn't experienced since my youth. Never had I felt so beautiful, so complete. My body was at the height of its created purpose and that brought a strong sense of pride. I had two minds. Two heartbeats. Two souls. I knew it was a feeling I never wanted to forget.
Five years later, I often look back at those photos in awe. Remembering the sweet moments of the unknown. Imagining who he or she would be. What they would look like. The highs and lows of a constantly changing body. Feeling those first flutters. Being tickled from the inside. Trying to come up with a name. Wondering what kind of mother I would be. Embracing the stretch marks. Giving into those cravings just because you can. The kindness of strangers. The longing eyes of veteran mamas. Rubbing my belly. Ice cream. Smiling. Nesting.
In addition to all that, my daughter loves them. She sees the love in my eyes. In her father's eyes. She knows it was HER in my belly. She knows exactly what I was wearing and references them as often as any inquisitive five-year-old would when asking questions about the beginning of their precious little life. It's a time marker for her. Of when it all began. Where our family started. I didn't realize until later, but they also show the importance of celebrating a woman's body in the form it was created for, and the immense joy that can bring to her life.
My young boys are even starting to comment on those belly pictures, providing a worthy teachable moment. As they see reminders of the transformation of a woman's body, especially their mother's, my hope is they will grow to respect and appreciate God's wondrous design and His intended purpose for it.
I didn't think I would do maternity photos a second time but three years later I contacted the same photographer to plan newborn photos for my third child (yep, we took the fast track to being a family of five with spacing each of our kids just 18 months apart). Coincidentally yet again, she had been wanting to do a bohemian maternity shoot and asked if I'd be interested. My style, her talent - I couldn't resist!
Maybe I got lucky considering my photographer situation, but regardless I think every new mom should feel proud to strut their maternal form and take a few professional photos, even if only for your family to look back on. That kind of beauty, that natural glow - it's one of those privileges denied to many, and thus should be captured and cherished for a lifetime.