With each of my babies I've tried to do a little photo shoot sometime in their first few weeks. They're just so squishy and beautiful.
This time I felt a bit more confident going into it. I have, after all, wielded a camera for years and years and, while I certainly don't consider myself to be a professional photographer, I had had a cute little successful newborn shoot just months earlier with my sweet niece, Olivia. So when my own beautiful newborn came along I thought I'd be able to hammer out the session and come away with a few priceless pictures that captured her perfection.
But, it didn't happen that way. I tried one day and couldn't get her to sleep soundly enough. So I tried another day and couldn't get the lighting on her face just right. So I tried another day and didn't like the way the blankets crinkled in the background... and I got discouraged. And then the postpartum tears started. And, since they were postpartum tears, they didn't stop. (What IS it with those postpartum tears?!)
One day, after another failed attempt, I came away with weepy eyes and decided that it was time to stop reaching for that perfection I so desperately wanted. I knew I had plenty of 'good' photos, and I knew it was time to start embracing those.
So I picked that sweet little Eliza up after that last failed attempt and snuggled her close. I let the tears fall and gave myself over to the fact that I would just have to commit her beautiful face to memory.
It's been a while now since I captured these photos (I'm writing this post a whole year later), and looking back on them I'm surprised at how much of a failure I felt they were at the time. I still see the imperfections, of course. And I still don't quite know how to fix them. But they aren't nearly as bad as I remember them being.
Others around me tried to tell me. My mom, Brian... they said that they were good and that I could be proud of them. They said that Eliza looked as precious and adorable in the photos as she did in real life. But I couldn't see it. And I didn't believe them.
To me there was something missing. Something... important. But I didn't know what it was, and I couldn't find it.
Today, looking back, I think I've found it. Not in the pictures, but in the memories. I knew even then that Eliza is probably my last baby... how do I capture that in a photo? The hours and hours spent through the dead of night loving her, nursing her, watching her... how do I capture that in a photo? Her eyes and lips that looked like my own, her nose and face that looked like the man that I love, and the feeling that that generates?... how do I capture that in a photo? The peace in our home, the love from her siblings, the warmth of her belly, the softness of her cheeks... how do I capture those in a photo?
I don't know.
I think I was too close to her to be able to feel satisfied in capturing her. There was too much depth to my feelings to be able to see it in any still frame shot. Because no matter how hard I try, a camera can never see a person the way a person sees a person because a camera can't love. Pictures can be powerful, so very powerful, but they have their limits.
And the depth of love between a mother and her child may be the deepest feeling of all.