INDIANAPOLIS PHOTOGRAPHER | tracy

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I have 2 daughters: Leah (3) and Summer (9 months).

Leah has a brilliant personality. She lights up a room with her voice and laughter. She is very intuitive and smart. She’s so confident in her actions and loves to communicate with everyone!

Summer’s smile melts my heart. She is a very easy going baby. She adores interacting with others. Her laughter is contagious and comforting after a long day. She loves her big sister so much and already looks up to her.

There are so many Leah/Summer stories to choose from! One of my favorite is that we let Leah choose Summer’s name (we had it narrowed down to 2 names) and we kept the name a surprise until she was born. It’s humorous how impatient our family members were to learn the name. They constantly asked Leah if she knew the name and she was very good at keeping it a secret, all except for this one time. My sister asked her, and she said “Summer.” I quickly, said that yes, she is going to be born this summer and my sister dismissed Leah’s answer as a toddler reply. My sister came to the hospital to meet Summer; the look on her face and the reaction she had when Leah said her baby sister’s name was priceless!

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom. I’ve always enjoyed being around children and once married, I knew parenthood was a journey I wanted to embark on with my husband. It has been such a joy watching him grow into the role of father.

Not many of my friends and family know that I suffered a miscarriage before having Leah. It was a confusing and challenging time, but our faith and marriage grew stronger through it. Interesting story about the experience: Mercy Me released the song “Beautiful” shortly after we learned of the miscarriage. It was frequently played on the radio and was a comforting message that I am loved and that I would get through it, with the support of God. To this day the song always seems to be played when I need a “pick me up.” The miscarriage made me appreciate my subsequent pregnancies and births as such a valuable experience. My encouragement to other women going through a similar experience is to not punish themselves; you’ve done nothing wrong, and don’t be ashamed to reach out to others for support.

Joe (my husband) and I were getting ready to leave for a houseboating trip with friends. We had just started trying to conceive and I thought it would be a good idea to take a pregnancy test just in case. It was fairly early in the pregnancy and one of the lines was faint, so I took another, and another, and another; each had the same result. I was so anxious because I wasn’t sure. The whole vacation my mind was elsewhere as I kept quiet about it. When we returned, I took another few tests and two solid pink lines appeared. I was overwhelmed with joy and anxiety.

I found out I was pregnant with Summer the day after Thanksgiving. Joe was at work and I decided to take a pregnancy test just to see, and it was positive. I was ecstatic! Leah and I quickly ran out to the store to purchase a “Big Sister” shirt to surprise Joe with the news. It took a few minutes for him to realize why I was grinning ear to ear; I had to point out the shirt!

For both pregnancies we waited until the end of the first trimester to share the news. After the miscarriage I was nervous and cautious until I could feel movement. We had such a great time sharing the news; we purchased onesies and gave them to our parents and siblings as gifts. I will never forget their reactions of surprise and joy.

Based off the old wives tales I guessed I was having a girl (craving citrus and the way I was carrying her). I also found myself referring to Baby Franklin as a ‘she’ more than a ‘he.’ My second pregnancy felt very similar to the first in terms of cravings and the way I felt so I thought it was a girl too.

Overall I enjoy being pregnant; it’s such an incredible and humbling experience creating and growing a human being. I was fortunate with both pregnancies to not experience much morning sickness. The final weeks of the pregnancies were uncomfortable as I ran out of room, but not unbearable.

Labor and delivery was a completely different experience for both girls. Leah was a planned C-Section; we found out she was breeched at 38 weeks. With it being so late in the pregnancy there was almost no chance of her flipping. It was such an odd (but reassuring) feeling knowing exactly when she would be delivered. The C-section went well. Hearing her cry for the first time was a joyous sound and it felt like an eternity until I actually could hold her. Holding her for the first time was a relieving experience; she was finally here and I remember thinking how beautiful she was and how blessed we were.

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I was determined to VBAC with Summer. I was anxious; since I was overdue (I was ready to serve an eviction notice before I went into labor!) I thought I would not have the opportunity, but at 41 weeks to the day I started to feel strong contractions. When the contractions became regular I called the doctor expecting him to tell us to head over to the hospital as soon as possible. Instead he said, “See you in a few hours.” I was shocked at his response and spent the next three hours pacing back and forth in our bedroom and bathroom while my husband tried to sleep. We went into the hospital at 3 AM and the next afternoon she was born. The nurses commented I had a textbook delivery, everything progressed smoothly. Getting to hold Summer on my chest was a miracle; the instant connection I felt with our beautiful baby girl is hard to put into words.

Both times, I was anxious to get home from the hospital and start (and expand) our family. I was excited to get to know both girls – to understand how to comfort and soothe them, to learn what being a mother was really about. I was very nervous with Leah. I wanted to ensure I was doing everything ‘right’ (who really knows what this means) and questioned myself a lot. I was much more relaxed with Summer. I understood that every child is different and part of being a mother is being open and willing to learn and grow in this role on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

What is a full night’s sleep? I cannot seem to remember what it is. :) Leah was sleeping through the night by 3 months. We still have not gotten a full night’s sleep with Summer; she turned 9 months this week! It’s been exhausting, but I know at some point she will sleep and the nights where she needs me to hold her and rock her will come to an end.

Being a mom has provided so many opportunities and experiences for growth: recognizing what I value, learning the importance of prioritizing and flexibility, accepting that I am human (and so is my husband!), that appreciating what I have is far more important than wishing for things that I don’t have, and that love is an incredible feeling.

The best things about being a mom are the unconditional love from my girls, the biggest grins and giggles, celebrating first milestones, watching the girls’ grow and learn, witnessing the bond two sisters share with each other, the innocence of young children, the excitement over little things in life, knowing that God has chosen me to be the mother of two beautiful, intelligent girls

The most challenging thing for me is recognizing that there is no such thing as perfect parenting, that it is okay to make mistakes and learning how to accept when I need to ask for help, balancing work and home life, and, of course, lack of sleep!

What has helped me survive the challenges is faith, my husband, my family and friends, and having an identity outside of being a mother.

Since our miscarriage there has been a bible verse that I come to rely on for strength: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). I rely on this a constant reminder that we will get through struggles and challenges.

My husband is a remarkable individual. He is selfless, patient, and has a kind heart. He is the foundation of our family and my stability when I face challenges as a mother and as a woman.

Working full-time as a mother of two has been exhausting, but it is rewarding. It has definitely helped to have an individual identity, to not be recognized only as “Leah’s mom” or “Summer’s mom.” It has helped to establish my self-worth and fulfills social needs.

I mentioned this before, but I think it is so important: there is no such thing as perfect parenting. One of the blessings of motherhood is grace. It’s okay to make mistakes, to be unsure, and to have questions. I grew up having an image of what being a mom is. This image came from watching my own mother, but also from what the media and entertainment has created. Being a mother is being a life learner; there are days in which I “get it.” I have small victories (getting both girls to sleep before 8:00 PM) and there are days in which I realize I have so much to learn. What I wish someone would have told me is to embrace both types of days, and to not compare what I am doing with others around me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the advice or judgments (or making judgments) of other parents. I think as mothers we need to hear on a regular basis that we are doing an incredible job, no matter how that job is getting done.

I joke with Leah all that time, asking her if she will stay little forever. She always laughs at me and says “No Mommy, I have to get big.” I reply then, “Okay, how about for one more day?” One more day of complete trust in me and in the world, of confidence, innocence, the desire to be held, the ability to make it all better with a kiss and a hug, and the simplicity of life. I wish I could hold on to this time forever.

Fears: How do I balance protecting and sheltering our girls, but allow them to learn and experience life? How do I instill self-confidence, self-worth, and humility? Will they love and appreciate learning the way I do? How do I motivate them to reach their full potential and achieve greatness? Am I doing everything possible to ensure they have the absolute best life they can possibly live?

I deal with these fears with prayer and faith. The only control I have is over the present. I recognize that what is important now is setting a good example, being compassionate, and providing love and encouragement; tomorrow is uncertain.

I hope my girls grow to be confident, passionate, altruistic, compassionate, strong, fearless, and driven. I want them to be comfortable in their own skin, to appreciate their unique abilities and characteristics, and most importantly to be content and appreciate what they have.

My purpose as a mother is to provide a strong foundation of support. I want our daughters to know that my love is unconditional, no matter the obstacle or hurdle they face. I must show compassion, and understanding, patience, and flexibility. I believe in respect and consideration, but maintaining firm limits so they recognize and understand choices and consequences. I belief in laughter and play is an essential part of daily life, but it is also okay to want peace and quiet too.

Be confident in yourself. You are doing a remarkable job. It’s okay to cry, laugh, scream, and just breathe (and then repeat over and over and over). Make time for yourself; it will make you a better mommy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to turn it down when it is unwanted. Everyone has an opinion on what you should do, you are the only one that truly understands what it’s like to walk in your own shoes.

Do moms have the power to change the world? Of course! We play such a vital role in nurturing and shaping future generations. Families are one of the most important and strongest factors of socialization in a child’s life. It’s our duty to instill values and skills, to mold and create children who will become model citizens and leaders.

What a remarkable opportunity this is to share women's stories. Thank you for providing me the experience. This reflection has helped ground me and makes me appreciate even the smallest of blessings of day-to-day life.

 leahbug,

What do I love most about you: Your sweet personality and your infectious smile and laugh. You have always been such a loving child and so sensitive to those around you. I truly am blessed to be your mommy. You’ve filled a void in my heart that I didn’t know existed and I cannot imagine ever living life without you. Thank you for loving me and teaching me new things every day. I hope that you will always remember how special you are and know that our love for you is infinite.

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always; As long as I’m living, your mommy I’ll be”

summerbear

I didn’t know my heart could be as full of love until you were born. Your sweet nature, beautiful smile, and outgoing personality keep me on my toes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the way you rest your head on my shoulder and your constant desire to be near, a bond we’ve shared since the day you were born. You fascinate me daily with your determination to learn new things. You are brilliant and bold, and I hope that will never change.

“I love you right up to the moon- and back”

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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