ANNA'S STORY | INDIANAPOLIS PHOTOGRAPHY

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I have three children. Grant is 8. Gemma and Evaline are 4.

Grant was always so interested in learning. He was a dinosaur expert at age 3. I learned more about dinosaurs and later about whales than I knew was possible all because of my preschooler. He has a kind heart. He loves his sisters in a way that I could never have hoped. He always encourages me in a way that blows me away. I love Grant's creativity. He was an artist from a young age and has always drawn praise for his art. If he didn't have a toy he wanted, that didn't stop him, he made it. I hope that he never loses that creativity.

Gemma is the life of the party. She is a tiny ball of energy. She meets friends everywhere. Gemma lights up the room with her smile and laugh. She loves to color and I don't think I've ever seen a child so young be able to color in the lines so well. Although she colors in the lines, she still picks the most colorful crayons and is never afraid to color hair purple or skin red. She loves the brightness of all those beautiful colors and isn't restrained by convention. She is a strong, determined and loving child.

Evaline has a quiet way about her but is determined and knows what she wants. She is not a pushover. She has the most amazing memory. She is found most of the time on her head in a headstand. She also loves to be thrown up in the air. She is acrobatic by nature. She's fearless when it comes to that. She is tender-hearted and loving.

When I was a teenager, I didn't want to have children until I was done with school and settled in life. I thought that would be about 27. Life was different, though, and I ended up having Grant when I was 29. I loved the age I was at because I really wanted children and I feel like my life experiences had prepared me, in a way, to be a mother. Although I always wanted to be a mom, I never knew how much I would absolutely love it. I don't think I really could know how much I would love it. It's like when I got married. I loved their dad so much (obviously) and the morning after we were married, I was stunned to discover that my love for him had been multiplied by 100. I didn't know how that was possible but it happened. That's how it was with motherhood, I knew I'd love it but until it happened, I really couldn't even possibly understand the depth and breadth of that motherly love.

Getting pregnant my first time was really that - the first time. There was no waiting. Once we decided, it was done. The second time we wanted to get pregnant, I suffered a miscarriage. I was devastated. I don't think I had ever considered it a possibility because my first pregnancy had gone so perfectly. After the miscarriage, it took us more than a year to get pregnant again. That, again, was a shock and extremely painful. I lived my life in 2 week increments. I cried a lot. My Grant was so kind and loving when I would be emotionally overwhelmed and start crying. It was one of the most difficult times I've ever endured. I had such a hard time reconciling my faith that I would have another child with the idea of submitting to God's will. It seemed like they opposed one another. I don't know that I ever figured out the answer but I did have to just accept the peace and comfort that I could find from God rather than to find answers. But, in the end that was my answer - to seek peace and comfort.

When I found out we were pregnant with the twins, I was so cautious having gone through such a trial before of miscarriage and infertility. In fact, I was cautious and guarded my entire pregnancy. But, when we had our first ultrasound, I just kept thinking, "please, let there be a heartbeat." My doctor said he would take a look first and then let me look. After what seemed like forever, he said that the heartbeat looked good. Both of them. I shot up and asked if he was kidding. From that moment I don't think I ever got over the shock of twins until the day they were born.

I wanted a girl for my first child but shortly before my ultrasound, I totally switched. I wanted a boy. Partly because my neighbor's son was so adorable and partly because I was managing women at work and the drama that they created was just too much for me to handle. I had to have a boy. And I was overjoyed when I found out I was having a boy. For the twins, I was worried about having girls. Mostly from a practical sense. I had boy toys and boy clothes and I was a boy mom. So before the ultrasound my bet was on two girls. And all those worries went right out the window and I was happier than ever.

I was built for pregnancy. I don't get sick. I don't feel terrible. Most women have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm one of those lucky few that doesn't have a problem with pregnancy. I know that's a gift, having many friends with very difficult pregnancies. Even with the twins which is very physically demanding, I handled it okay. I remember crying because my body hurt and I was exhausted toward the end but I still never wanted to complain. It seemed so minimal to the outcome and especially when so many others have it so much harder.

I am so afraid of labor and delivery. The pregnancy part is fine but when it comes down to it, I am always fearful that I can't do it. Which sounds silly because obviously women can do it. I don't know what it is when I'm there but I get so frightened that I shake. Grant's labor was so long and I was so exhausted. I'd been in pre-labor for 24 hours before getting to the hospital and 14 hours once in the hospital. It was rough. They threatened me with a c-section at the end and that's when I did everything I could and pushed with all my might and he made it. The labor and delivery for my twins couldn't have been any more ideal. I had been told that if I planned to try and do a vaginal birth, that I still might have to have a c-section with the second baby. It was a risk I was willing to take. And I did it. Both of them. It was perfect. 20 minutes in between the birth of my girls. I was shaking and scared but felt so empowered afterward. I give birth to twins! These children of mine are my joy. I love moments with each of my children. I am constantly trying to be better for my children. It's really a miracle - each of them. It's just a joy to be a part of that miracle.

Coming home with Grant was a feeling like, "okay, what do we do now?" It's just life-changing. With the twins, we were in survival mode. I kept telling myself get to six weeks, get to six weeks because that's when you start to see the light a little.

I don't know that I can see that change in myself that motherhood has brought to me. I know that I reflect a lot upon the lessons I've learned but I don't know that I can tangibly see those changes because it's just an evolution of me. We are selfish by nature and motherhood is inherently unselfish. Sometimes we want our own time, our own food, our privacy and it's not always going to happen. To set aside what you want for what your child needs can be hard. But when you stop and listen to what you should be doing as a mother, you know you can set aside that selfishness even for just the moment and give of yourself. That's when you've met that challenge and receive the blessings of loving without selfishness.

My husband has been the most amazing strength to me through any of the challenges that motherhood has brought.

I wish someone would have told me that it was okay to cry like crazy after you have your babies. That it's normal.

I wish I could hold on to that feeling of being loved and trusted by my children. I know their love will evolve as they grow. I'm so grateful that they trust and love me so completely right at this moment. It means so much to me.

I think fears about your children growing up are natural - will they have the right friends, will they be treated right, will they handle challenges, will they find love. We can't shelter them but try to teach them the ways in which to succeed and how to handle failure.

I want my children to be kind and compassionate. I want them to love themselves. I want them to be honest and virtuous.

My parenting philosophy is: Love more.

I believe that raising your children is so personal and so tied to your intuition that while parenting books might be helpful, are unnecessary. You have the ability to discover and know what is right for your children. It takes work and you must believe in yourself but God will give you the tools to help you.

Every night before bed Grant yells down "I love you." You respond and then he'll yell "Good night" again, you'll respond and then he'll usually throw in another "I love you." It's my favorite thing.

Moms have the power to influence so much good in the world. Not only through their children but in the act of teaching their children by example.

Grant is my soul. Gemma is my sunshine. Evaline is my heart. They allow me to live fully.

Dear Grant, Gemma and Evaline,

You three are the best gift I could have been given. I never knew the fullness you would bring to my life. I am so grateful not only that I love each of you so deeply and without measure, but that we are friends. I truly enjoy your company. I love our adventures. I've always known that this time of life goes quickly. That's what everyone told me but they didn't need to tell me. I've felt it and so I've done my best to cherish it and enjoy it and do the most with our time together. I'm so grateful for each of you. My soul, my sunshine, my heart.

Love, Mom.

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Ashlee also provides magical and delightful services for: newborn photography, cake smash photography, baby's first year plans, maternity photography, family photography, and Newborn mentoring for photographers.

If you have a milestone or special moment you want to remember forever, let's chat! Ashlee loves to photograph in the woodlands and around downtown Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, and Greenwood. She also has a professional studio space available for sessions.

EMAIL: ashlee@alaurenphoto.com