A year long sabbatical to have a baby and reset our family …

I look happy in this photo (and it’s a favorite) but to be honest, this was taken during the darkest season of life thus far.  Just a few months after we lost mom and I felt totally lost.

A year off  wasn’t planned but it probably kept me from having a complete breakdown. I’m no financial advisor, but it’s not the kind of thing you should probably do if it isn’t planned… but it happened. It began as regular maternity leave and morphed into something else entirely.

Mascara warning!!! Tears may follow, maybe come back and read when it’s ok to cry your face off… Lord knows I bawled like a baby writing this!

**But please do come back!

Losing mom is undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure in my entire life or go through rather.  And not just when she was gone, but long before. As weeks driving down to MD Anderson became months. My sister and I never left her side.  We helped move her from side to side in her bed, wet her lips and mouth with a sponge to keep it from drying out, put lotion on her legs and changed her socks, sat with our aunts and our stepdad as the unthinkable unfolded in front of our eyes.  On a Wednesday morning, mom went to heaven to meet our Lord at 8:25am.  I had just woke up from my bedside chair-bed when I heard her last breath.  I stood and called to her but I knew.  A good friend had explained what would happen in these last moments and it gave me a calm peace knowing.  I let the nurses know and then made the hardest call back to the house to tell our family.  After that everything is a blur.

My state of mental health was one of a totally unrecognizable woman standing in the mirror looking back at me.  I was so unhappy and in so much pain and so lost without my mom.

The year (or two) to follow I tried to pick up the pieces but I struggled.

We decided we would have a baby &  name him or her after mom and try to carry on with life. We got pregnant with Taylor and the pregnancy was extremely rough. As with the two  older girls, I was sick almost continuously the entire time. I lost a lot of weight (barely looking pregnant).  And knew we’d have a small birthweight with the baby.

Then enter liver disease at month 8!  Suddenly the pregnancy was no longer about when the symptoms would go away but became if we would get to see our baby healthy and with us at the end of the pregnancy.

Then she arrived and into our lives enters this beautiful, sweet, joy-filled little girl who is quite possibly the easiest baby on earth. She has totally re-introduced our entire home to love, laughter and joy.  And a sense of calm that I used to know so well.

It’s extremely hard to be a new mom, even if you did it 17 years ago.  It’s extremely hard to be a new mom even with an easy baby. It’s so hard to be a new mom when you miss your mom so terribly much.

Unsurmountable amounts of stress and lingering sadness paralyzed me.
Still not having properly dealt with losing mom. The extremely stressful pregnancy. Terrified for my life as well as Taylor’s.

So we became hobbits.  Happy to be home-bodies like we had never been before. We missed parties and events and gatherings.  We missed out on spending time with friends that are now gone or have moved or have simply moved on from us. I was introduced to a social anxiety that was completely and utterly foreign to me, previously a social butterfly of sorts.

My mom was my best friend. We talked almost every single day. I saw her at least once a month even though she lived in Houston.  And there was a huge hole in my life that she had been filling.

We took time and we took a step back for space; we took all these little moments in our new family. The last year has been the fastest year of my life; the most exciting year; and probably the most joyful year. I knew that we needed to take these moments.  There were so many things that I don’t even recall about the older girls as babies or experienced with them as babies because I was working two jobs, going to school 18 hours a semester to finish 2 degrees and was in my early 20s. These moments are gone so fast and it’s not just a cliché that they grow up too fast or that time moves so fast.

The time over the last year that we’ve taken that we’ve spent with Taylor and with each other has been the biggest blessing and gift that I can imagine us doing for ourselves.

And here is what I learned,

❤️

I love being a stay at home mom!! Never saw that coming. I mean, I obviously work at my business, I have sessions and I shoot weddings still. But hours in her playroom with her and getting to make breakfast and lunches on the daily for everyone has brought me a lot of joy!! 

❤️

I will never get over the loss of my mom. Never. But I can treasure the things that remind me of her. I see her in Taylor eyes, in Lauren’s smile, and feel her in Gracyn’s hugs. I think of her when I am reading cookbooks like she did often. And I feel close to her and know that she is with me. I always feel her close to me when I have my camera in my hand. I know that she loved that I found photography and that she was so proud of me. She loved it too and had become an amazing landscape photographer. 

❤️

I learned that I crave creativity. I miss my clients, I miss weddings, I even missed the office tasks of scheduling the social media posts and editing until the wee hours of the morning.

Our year long maternity leave/sabbatical/reset for our family was so greatly needed

I spent a year talking to new clients, taking bookings, taking on new clients but making sure that none of those dates fell during 2018 because it just wasn’t something I could bring myself to do. To take on a wedding day or entire season a family sessions without getting my head straight and my heart straight. Our family had to come first.  I was in no place to serve my clients which is what I had built my business around. With lavender everywhere because I am a sense of calm,  but I wasn’t.  Love, service and gratitude that I didn’t feel like I could properly show because I was so overwhelmed with just trying to figure it out while I got to know the new me and our new family.

So while our priorities have slightly shifted as they do with all new parents, I am excited to feel like my old-new-self again!

And I can not WAIT for wedding season and spending the day(s) with my special brides!! #ImBackBaby

Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for loving us and understanding

xoxox

jen

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