I’m so grateful to Misty for sharing her story on being on the other side of the camera:

Growing up, family pictures at Sears were a big deal. I love looking back at the posed shots – my dad with his giant 80s hair and moustache, and my mom with her kind smile and gorgeous curls. We love taking out those pictures and laughing at the hairstyles.

I grew up in the era of film, so taking pictures of everyday life was not the norm. During special occasions I would snap an entire roll, and then rush over to Blacks’ to have them printed. The excitement of getting the images outweighed the disappointment of blurry fingers in front of the lens or strange lighting. I have albums full of questionable pictures, but I cherish those memories of school trips and family vacations.

When my husband and I had our first child, suddenly documenting every stage became imperative. One week our daughter was a sleepy newborn, and the next week she was all wide-eyed and giggly. Time seemed to zoom along, with me huffing and puffing to catch up.

My memory of those early months (heck, the whole first year) is foggy at best. Motherhood felt like a seismic shift, with me straddling the widening gap between my old life and my new life. I felt self-conscious in pictures; uncomfortable in my new skin. My husband managed to capture some amateur photos of the pregnancy and early months, but I found myself becoming increasingly critical of those pictures. I hated my frizzy hair, the bags under my eyes, and the postpartum body that seemed so foreign to me.

As our daughter grew, I knew I wanted a more creative and professional approach to capturing all the milestones. And I wanted to feel more confident stepping into those pictures – mom-bod and all.

Sara and I had met years before, when we both worked in small non-profits. We reconnected over Twitter after she launched her photography business. I saw the images she was taking of families, mothers and babies, and I was hooked. We started with the Christmas Lights mini-session with my daughter, which became a yearly tradition.

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I knew it was time to step back in front of the lens and become more comfortable with my body. We did a maternity shoot at our local apple orchard, and giggled through outfit changes while I tried to hide behind a tree. My favourite shot was of me sitting underneath an apple tree, in a meditative seated position with my eyes closed. It was at that moment I was really able to connect with my baby and my growing body. And although I was worried about my toddler and how she would react to being photographed, Sara was incredible – my daughter followed every single direction (now if only I could get Sara to come and provide direction at home!!)

That same summer Sara and I chatted about doing birth photography. My first daughter had been born at home, and my birth doula managed to get a few pictures of me and my labour team. My mom snapped some shots of the actual birth, but quickly deleted them thinking they were too graphic. I found myself mourning the loss of those memories – the birth had been so overwhelming, and I had hours where I literally could not piece together a timeline of events. I knew I wanted things to be well documented for my second daughter.

We planned another home birth, and as with most second babies, labour progressed quickly. So quickly that I almost forgot to phone Sara! Mid-contraction I popped my head up and shouted “Sara!!” She was there within minutes of my husband’s call, and started snapping pictures of the room – my doggy sleeping on the couch, the midwives’ supplies all set up, and the giant birthing pool that took up most of the space. Sara blended in effortlessly, and I barely noticed her presence.

The images of my birth are powerful, bursting with both gentleness and strength. I see my body working hard, with the entire birthing team by my side through each contraction. The pictures have not changed how I remember my own birth story, but have instead filled in the gaps where my memory is foggy. I delight in scrolling through those photos with my daughter, and telling her our own version of “on the night you were born.”

As the kids grew, I found I had more time for sleep, personal hygiene and other things that new moms have to neglect. But busy kids, work and school schedules also meant that I had less time (and money!) for my health and well-being. My body began to feel run down, and I felt like I had lost a bit of my “spark.”

That’s when I saw an advertisement for Sara’s boudoir sessions. Something in me whispered “do it,” and I signed up before I had a chance to back out. This photography session was ultimately the hardest AND the best thing I’ve ever done. It was hard because of the anticipation of the day – purchasing the right lingerie and outfits, and gearing myself up to take it all off. Boudoir sessions are not just about nudity; but for me, I knew I wanted to strip away all of my comfort, peel back the layers and be real and raw in front of the camera. And this was so different from the birth, when I was focused on getting through each contraction. During labour I had no anxiety about clothing, belly rolls or jiggly bums.

Despite my worries, it became one of the best experiences of my life. Sometimes the poses felt awkward, but I was surprised not to feel any shyness or embarrassment. The pictures are so bright and beautiful. One of my favourite shots doesn’t even involve nudity; I’m happy and comfortable in a white tank top. The boudoir session gave me the confidence to love my “new” body – the one that had grown, birthed and breastfed two babies.

Hiring a photographer can be intimidating, especially when the sessions involve our bodies. By pushing through those hang-ups, we can come to a place of acceptance. It was seeing myself through an objective lens that highlighted all the parts of myself I had never truly seen –my strength, my passion, and yes, even my beauty.

I’m more than happy to get in front of the camera these days, because I know how much my children will cherish these pictures of us. I want to capture the moments of time, and be able to look back at the growth of our family and our life. And some day down the road, these pictures will trace how far we’ve come.