Before I became a photographer, I was absolutely petrified of babies. Not in the sense that I actually thought they were scary, but rather because I felt ill-equipped and uninformed on how to handle them in general. Am I supporting his head enough? Am I bouncing her too much? Will everyone secretly laugh at my obvious ineptitude if he starts bawling while in my arms? So when I first was asked to start photographing newborns, I actually thought it was quite laughable that anyone would want to hire me to interact with their babies in the first place. But I decided to go for it, because what better way to embrace your fears than to throw yourself into situations that force you to confront them head on?
So I started to photograph newborn babes and their parents, and I started to see that these little human beings weren’t nearly as frightening or fragile as I had built them up to be in my mind. I had the chance to observe as first time parents practiced their swaddling skills, as they navigated whether the cries were due to hunger or discomfort or sleepiness, and as they looked at each other while discussing what would make their little one happy. And that’s when I really started to understand what the joy of parenthood was all about – it’s when I no longer saw simply the delicate, angelic beings I had seen perfectly positioned in traditional newborn photos of the past, and instead saw that very little about parenthood was angelic or delicate. Instead, it was sweet and comical and challenging and raw, and thus, so much more beautiful than those traditional posed shots had made it appear. Throughout my session with Shelby, Ray, and their little man, Grant, he smiled and he yawned and he cried and he ate and he cried some more and he ate some more, and their dog nibbled on my shoe downstairs while we were upstairs photographing in the nursery because ain’t nobody got time to worry about that.
At one point, Shelby stepped out of the nursery for a second time to feed Grant while I chatted with Ray; he told me how Grant had been up all throughout the night the evening before our session, and how little sleep they’d had, and how much Shelby went through during the delivery. Though he mentioned this deprivation, I couldn’t really see any lack of sleep on his face – instead, he just beamed with pride. Shelby came back into the room with their little man, and they laughed and smiled over every little thing he did while I snapped away. And it’s in these moments that I feel like I’m literally watching a couple grow – both growing individually and together, as they tackle sleepless nights and decoding the cries of their baby and mutually learning that they each have the ability to love another human in a way they could have never understood until they were in the midst of it.