Celebrating TWO…and my First Home-Water Birth

Celebrating TWO…and my First Home-Water Birth

It’s hard for me to imagine, but this time two years ago, I was barely recovering from having my first HOME Water Birth Story session! Yes, me. I was recovering…from photographing it! To say this birth was eventful would be a huge understatement, as this birth was filled with so much peace, joy, love…and also worry, pain, and uncertainty. Our strong Mommy undoubtedly passed her strength and spirit to her incredible, brave, princess fighter, and through some tears and quite literally a “labor of love,” I watched as this life was brought Earth side. We started at my clients’ home, fairly late in the evening, maybe around 9 pm, but ended up at OU Children’s sometime well after midnight. Thankfully, God had His hand over this family the whole time, and I could not have been more thankful to be a small part of their amazing journey while growing their sweet family. Through the joys of having social media and especially Facebook, I have been able to watch this precious little one grow into now a beautiful little “wildflower” as her Mommy likes to say. I’m sharing today as I think of this child often, and am so thankful for her life and that I was able to witness the beginning of it. With the COVID pandemic taking over our ability to do normal, daily tasks, including various types of photography over the past several months, I have missed being able to meet and document our world’s newest blessings. And this birth was so very special to me, so sharing my love for Births and this Birth Story just seemed natural. 

Here are a couple of images from this special child’s amazing Birth Story, as captured through my lens. I love every image from this Birth Story. Documenting this time is truly an honor for me. To be there, in the room, present with Mom, Dad, the medical team, and of course, God, who makes this miracle happen. I’ve been questioned before about how I can document “births.” “Aren’t they…umm…”  … LET ME STOP YOU THERE. Births are beautiful. They are part of everyone’s story, and documenting the details couldn’t be more fulfilling to my soul. If you can’t see beauty in these images, my guess is that you have some preconceived notion of what you think birth is like, and not what it actually is. Because…just look at these! BEAUTIFUL. GOD. MIRACLES. 

Happiest of Birthdays to you, Eden! Thankful to have been among the first to meet you!

                             

 

xx, 

Shelby 

 

Renew: My 2020 Personal Journey to Wellness

Note: If you aren’t comfortable with complete transparency and personal issues, just skip this post! I’m very real, very honest, and this has nothing to do with photography! I wanted to share because I know others are struggling with similar issues, and no matter how personal, this is an important issue. Sharing might just allow someone to change their mind about how they feel about themselves now, or might open their eyes to possible causes of feeling ill. 

Today, April 9, 2020, was supposed to be the most freeing, anxiety-filled, yet hopeful day for me. What a mix of emotions, huh? A day that I thought about, prayed for, and is truly what made me come up with my “word” for this year, “Renew.” For some, this may come as a shock because before Covid-19 changed the course of all of our lives, I was going to be in surgery for a few hours today, and that may not seem like a sense of…renewal. So why did I think having an {elective} surgery would be freeing, and help renew me, body, mind and soul? 

What I know now, that I didn’t know 17 years ago, is that my sense of self-worth and self-esteem probably shouldn’t have come from what my external appearance is. Unfortunately, and I’m sad to say it, I am not alone in this. We are living in a world where our appearance seems like it’s everything, and we all want to do things to improve our external selves. From magazine article tips, to spa treatments, to laser therapies to invasive surgeries, we all want to look better. I’m not sure exactly how many want to improve their internal selves, but for me…I’m working on both, in different ways. 

Back to my need for surgery. Like many women, I had a breast augmentation when I was younger. I had gone through my teenage years wondering when my breasts would grow in, and alas, they never did. So, at twenty-three, after finding the love of my life in college and having him accept me fully and wholly for who I am inside and out, I still pushed the issue for me to have a breast augmentation, despite his concerns. I can justify my decision for enhancement out the wazoo — I was 4’10”, zero boobs, little self esteem on my facial appearance, and definitely had issues finding clothes that fit. I don’t care how many will jump on this and say it was/is easy for people “my size”…it’s not. And please spare me the, “you can always try kids’ clothes!” Just don’t go there. It’s not funny. Again, appearance does matter in our society, and my appearance didn’t seem to fit the mold of success nor beauty. I had the breast augmentation and after about 6 months, I finally adjusted to having them — it was amazing how well I could fit into clothes and feel more feminine. Dresses didn’t just drape down off of me, blouses fit my breast area beautifully, and I do feel I had more of a sense of confidence! I could wear (and enjoy wearing) bikinis for goodness sakes! 

Fast forward quickly to the present, before I jump back again to explain my ongoing health issues. After tons of research and thankfully having a friend take the time to express her deep concern for my health, and share with me her experience via message in February 2019, I finally, in July 2019, decided to accept what was probably there for about 10-15 years. My health had been in steady decline, and though others had brought it up before her, it finally sunk it that it’s at least a possibility that I have Breast Implant Illness. I don’t know for sure if I do. My case – as all things seem to be concerning my health – is different. I had started becoming…different…around eighteen years old (pre-implant). I had some negative experiences, and I wonder if either trauma to my body or just timing of my age and onset of diseases began. I’ll never know, and I’ll likely always wonder. Things started happening my freshman year of college that were out of character for me – I’d have tachycardic episodes, I had several situations where I passed out, likely because of the tachycardia, and depression set in, along with other ailments like stomach pains and extreme fatigue. Unfortunately instead of understanding and help, I was met with questioning and negativity from friends (like passing out with friends was…on purpose? Apparently it was thought that I was attention seeking, instead of dealing with a medical issue. Sigh.). It was a couple of tough years.

Thankfully, time moved on, I continued a relationship with my now husband, and with his support through the drama that my body caused for me, I was able to live somewhat a normal life. And to be completely transparent, my husband never wanted me to get a breast enhancement. Truly. Very bizarre in my mind, but he absolutely loved/loves me for me. He’s always complimented my beauty and never wanted/wants me to change. So, we married, he started making a steady income, and I wanted to change my appearance. That should have been a red flag – face palm! I love you honey…thank you for putting up with me! So in 2003, I got my breasts augmented, and despite hating them for 6 months, I wound up loving my appearance with them. Those dresses fit beautifully now. I felt like a woman. Life seemed great. Minus occasional ER trips for stomach pains that had no known origin, then chronic fatigue syndrome (did y’all know that to combat that, I should get a night job? That’s according to a military doctor, and sadly that’s not even the worst advice ever given), then a fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2006, and then a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2016. Plus fun tidbits like costochondritis, occipital neuralgia, iliosacral dysfunction, a cataract at 38 years old, and honestly the list goes on. And on. It hasn’t been easy, and although it’s been a unique road to travel for my husband, he has supported me and my lack of ability to truly “work” (unless it’s on my own schedule) for necessary income, and he supports my feelings and how I wish to proceed.

I don’t know if I genuinely have Breast Implant Illness. But here are some things I do know: 

I suffer from autoimmune disease
All of my issues revolve around pain in my body
The pain has increased in intensity over the years
My chronic fatigue is debilitating 

Some Symptoms Include (not an exhaustive list):
Inflammation
Joint Pain
Anxiety
Difficulty Concentrating
Memory Loss
Brain Fog
Hair Loss
Depression
Mood Swings 
Shortness of Breath
Weight Gain

Breast Implant Illness symptoms all correlate with what is going on with me

Even if it’s not BII, I want to renew myself with a sense of purpose this year. That’s what I told myself in January. I want to be intentional in how I treat my body. I want to renew the thoughts of my mind telling me my appearance matters that much to everyone else. Seriously, I used to apologize to people for having to look at me. I know I’m not the portrait of beauty in our culture. But I dwelled on that and kept trying to correct it in ways I could. So now, I want to be the kind of beautiful that people like to be around, because I’m good. I’m generous. I’m ridiculously loving. I’m not super fun, but I want to be, and hopefully, even if I have 10% more energy, this surgery will be worth it. I want to be better for my kids. I want to be better for my husband. I want to be better for me. I want to be renewed. 

So, whenever it is that our country opens back up to being social again, and to having elective surgeries, and to having some sense of normalcy again post Covid-19, I will be ready for this *huge,* sort of defining moment for my life. For now, I’m going to mourn what should have happened today, while still realizing there’s a reason it couldn’t happen. God’s always got this. The next surgery date is for May 27th of this year, but obviously all of that is tentative.

And, for anyone wondering, I do worry about having the surgery and it not helping my symptoms. I do! My PCM doesn’t even believe in BII (another face palm), and thinks that despite all of my symptoms, taking out man made toxic bags won’t help anything (and that the breast pain I have is…not real? Like, I’m imagining it). She might be right – not about imagining my pain, because I assure you it’s there, but that I might not feel better. Or maybe my surgeon who does believe in BII is right, and maybe a small percentage of my wellness will be improved. We’ve discussed at length how this surgery may not help my symptoms because my case is different – my symptoms were starting before my implants. But, here’s the thing. At the end of the day, God didn’t make me with those silicone toxic bags. I wasn’t even a Christian when I awoke from my implant and felt that I had disappointed God by changing my body that much. I felt “wrong.” I am hoping that with the explant will come a sense of peace over who I am, who God made me to be, and at the end of the day, will also eliminate the possibility that my pains and heath ailments come from man-made implants that shouldn’t be in my body. 

More on Breast Implant Illness to come. 

And, a huge shout out to Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole. What a truly remarkable group this has been in uplifting one another, sharing stories, and truly trying to promote wellness. Without this group, I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to take this necessary step. That, and to my friend who went out of her way to share with me in February of last year – you really got me thinking seriously about my illnesses, and the possibilities that may lay on the other side of explant. Thank you all for sharing your stories, your hearts, and your beautiful scars – all to help us recovery from this illness. Healing is possible – and soon I’ll join you on the lighter side. 

xo

Shelby 

*Picture of me, from my 40th Birthday Session that my daughter captured for me! 

Blogging Again? …. Maybe

Blogging Again?  …. Maybe

Hi! 

I get it. It’s been a while. In fact, unbeknownst to me until this very moment, it’s been a YEAR since I’ve last posted! Where has the time gone? 

Well, here’s a bit of an update. And possibly why it should matter.

Last April, 2018, my husband was deployed and was gone for 374 days! Crazy, right? Well, in that time, I was taking care of our two kiddos, ensuring that we attended all of our end of school events, enjoying our summer vacation…and then the craziness of our school schedule returned! Seriously, I have two kids, but the amount of extracurricular activities they enjoy is insane. Karate (x2, two days a week, and one was on the tournament team last year), piano (x2), gymnastics (competition team, 2 times a week, and then meets), band, archery, golf, academic team…and I’m confident I’m missing something! And, I love it. I love watching my children grow in their chosen activities, whether they are “good” at them or not! That said, I was left with little time for “me” (my undeniably bad health issues) and my photography growth. 

Fast forward through his return in May of 2019, and my husband came home, we went to Europe on a Disney Cruise (AMAZING! I’ll post pictures one day…and maybe even do a blog post!), and….then he moved to Washington DC. He was home 1.5 months total between his return and his departure. Have I mentioned lately how much I <<LOVE>> the Air Force? Note the sarcasm. And, although *some* time away is nice – because, let’s be honest, the running joke with our friends is that the pain in my neck is actually a long-term chronic illness called “being married” – working on a second year without a partner in the home to help me raise our kids, to help with things like home maintenance and bills, and to just be there for each other and to enjoy each other has been difficult. Manageable, thanks to an amazing tribe of friends, but nonetheless, difficult. I actually really love and adore my husband, and he’s my other half. It’s pretty tedious going through life without half of yourself. I miss him. But right now, this is our calling – him to be there for the Air Force and his country, and for me to be here for our children. 

I’m pretty verbose, and condensing anything is rather tedious for me! So, to sum up, it’s been a long year and a half or so, and thank goodness I’ve received a swift kick in the caboose from some AMAZING friends! MY TRIBE! I’ll discuss my tribe more later and the significance of me being able to say that, so be prepared for that upcoming post. So, even though I’ve not done nearly as many sessions as I’d like over the last year (still grateful for each and every client who enjoys working with me for my style and vision), and even though I’ve lost some confidence in myself because of this, they won’t let me continue the negative self-talk. In fact, I have at least four friends literally on a mission to help me in any way they can (life, health, kids…all the things) but for this post’s purpose, they’ve been steering me back on course with my photography goals. And although I’m afraid of failure, they have faith in me. And with that…here I am. Blogging for the first time in a year. 

What’s in store for my clients? New sessions, in studio! Up next…Fall Sessions, Halloween themed sessions, and …Christmas! 

What could be better than all that? Christmas WITH Santa! It’s totally happening! 

Want a sneak peek?  

I thought so! Check it out! 

 

 

The Harry Potter-Themed VP Campaign

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I know, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been back to share some of what’s going on with my family and with my photography! Things have been a little busy around here, and truth be told, that’s a good thing.

I’m jumping back in to sharing with a few personal images that I thought would be fun and hopefully a little inspiring for your children. My Sweet Caroline is amazing, intelligent, funny, and talented. That said, she’s also *very* shy. I guess I should say that she has been very shy…over the course of the last two to three years, I’ve seen this child blossom in front of my very eyes. She’s been trying new things (karate, karate tournaments, school dances, joining school clubs, etc), and she’s learning to excel in all of them. Not to say she started out amazing in these things, and I dare say she may never actually “dance” for you or anyone else. Ever. But…she went to a dance, twice. THAT’S HUGE, PEOPLE! Here’s proof! Two of these are social butterflies that I am so thankful are in my daughter’s life!

Well, the new school year started, and with that came every Mother’s fear of the dreaded years in “middle school.” Let’s be honest, I know of no one who thought those years were great. But, as with most things with a blanket statement like that, my kid has proven otherwise. She came home from her first day at Brink Jr. High and she said she “LOVED IT!” She commented that she loves the freedom that comes from her teachers instilling more independent procedures for them, that the teachers talk to them like they aren’t small children, and that they are actually challenging her. It may help that she’s chosen (on her own…because this Mommy is still a little nervous about pushing her too hard at this level) all Pre-AP courses, and one course that even already counts for high school (Pre AP Algebra I). Y’all, it’s crazy hearing the teacher say in orientation that we need to know that this is High School level work and expectations. She’s still my BABY! Right? Okay, so maybe not, but in my heart she is, and the last thing I want to do is put too much pressure on her – in 7th Grade. But my Bug welcomed it. And though it has proven challenging (YAY!! She’s actually *truly* LEARNING new concepts for the first time since being in Oklahoma) she’s enjoying it and hasn’t wanted to back out of any of it.

When my historically *shy* child came to me telling (not asking) me that she was going to run and campaign for Vice President (the highest she can run for in this school at her grade level) I was a bit shocked. And proud. VERY PROUD. I understand the difficulty it is for her to be up in front of people (most of us have that fear…but for her, multiply that by like a zillion), and she knew she’d have to give a campaign speech – in front of her classmates. Remember, she’s a military kid – she moves around and has only been here for two years. I imagined some of the kids being here their whole lives and feeling more comfortable with being in front of their friends (though, it’s a huge school for anyone!). Anyways, she and I brainstormed things that she could do her campaign around, and there are a few things in this world she LOVES. 1) Reading 2) Reading Harry Potter 3) Reading. And if there’s a fourth, maybe watching Harry Potter. Soooooo, as someone who isn’t *as* in to all of the HP fanatical stuff, I asked if there were things that she could build a campaign around. She immediately came up with a few slogans, and then after hanging out with one of her closest friends, they came up with all of the ideas for her posters and all of the slogans, and even part of her speech!!! She was really excited. A few days later, with the help of two friends, she got her posters finished, her posters put up in the school, and her speech was given. And, I did some praying. I did a lot of praying. Is that silly?

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I’d love to say that my little girl won the Vice Presidency, but alas, the democratic process spoke, and the candidate that was essentially pegged to win, won. He had a crazy awesome speech, and is very well known and liked by all (I was also informed that the cheerleaders would all vote for him…because he’s cute). We were pretty sure this would happen, but I didn’t know how my daughter would handle it. She did great – she congratulated him, and she was happy to know she’d still be in Student Council as a “Senator.” And that she saved her *good* ideas for being able to share them herself at meetings. That girl has a very level (and clever) head on her shoulders!!!

Here are some of the pictures that she took for her Harry Potter-Themed Campaign for Vice President. I couldn’t be more proud of her – and I am so excited to see where her life takes her! Oh! I should add that she was thrilled to find out that her ideas were completely original and not already on Pinterest!! Originality and creativity for the win!

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This one might be my favorite, though I really like the Sorting Hat one above, too!
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We also had a really good lesson on product placement during her campaign…

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This may not have been the best poster for this particular location 🙂
Am I the only one who thinks that?!

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Anyways, thank you ALL so much for reading this, and for those of you who cheered my girl on and who pray for her on a regular basis…thank you. I don’t have enough words, but she’s a huge blessing in my life, and I already know she is one to others too. She’s come so far, and each day I see more of her personality coming through. I know a lot of people struggle with their children having some issues or different-abilities…just as mine do. God has so much more in store for them and for all of us — we just have to trust Him and the path that he sets us on with our babies.

Blessings,

Shelby

 

 

 

{D} Family : Newborn Session – Twins!

{D} Family : Newborn Session – Twins!

Seriously, how beautiful…to be blessed with two healthy babies, one boy, one girl?!

This family is absolutely precious — just look at these images! You know, I had someone comment on one of the Facebook previews about their Dad proudly serving…actually, while Daddy is proud of his babies and his wife…in this case, the Mommy is the one serving. That’s right — a toddler at home and the Military Momma taking care of these precious littles AND doing her thing at work while serving our country too! Amazing, loving, and beautiful family. Such an honor to meet them, and I know the sacrifices this family is making. It’s not easy, but with that much love, they make it look like it is!

In talking with Mommy, we decided an at home, candid lifestyle session with a few posed images would work best for their family. I call this realistic expectations! With a toddler at home and two newborn babes, although I know it can be done, I think having the best of both portraiture and lifestyle is the way to go!

Also, if you are interested in seeing their maternity session, you can find it HERE

This one is a must share!! LOVE!
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Proudly showing off what Mommy is up to here in Montgomery, Alabama.
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Perfection…
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I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a prouder Big Brother!
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Daddy has his hands full of love…
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Quite possibly, one of my all time favorite lifestyle captures.
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I adore this one so much! Look at those precious faces!
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Gorgeous
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I might have been a little too giddy about capturing this one! Look at those smiles!
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Pure love…and you can feel it!
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One final image to round out this amazing family newborn session!

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{D} Family : Maternity Session – Twins!

I am going to let this beautiful maternity session speak for itself…the only regret that I have is that I haven’t posted this amazing photo session sooner! It’s been in my Drafts folder for so long, but today’s the day to share this with the world! I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year (about 11 months since we were both back in Montgomery at this maternity session), but I’m actually excited to share since I truly want my focus to be on maternity, birth and newborn one day, and that’s a perfect way to share with my local followers here in Oklahoma City!

I am so thankful that this Mom & Dad trusted me to do both the Maternity and Newborn sessions of these sweet and beautiful twins! I cannot think of anything more beautiful than photographing these precious moments! Clearly, I had a difficult time choosing a few images…all of them are so, so beautiful!

I haven’t officially posted it yet, but when it’s published, you can find their newborn session HERE. 

She is stunning…the epitome of a glowing Mom, in love with her babies.

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Such a special and beautiful family connection…I loved every moment of this session. Truly.
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I love when my clients incorporate personal items that are special to them in our sessions.
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I am always a happy photographer when I get moments like this, in addition to a gorgeous, natural sun flare! Makes my photographer heart happy!
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This family is so excited to welcome their sweet new babies, and look at Big Brother!
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If you’ve ever had a session with me…you know you have to be prepared to kiss at least a couple times!
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I adore this moment…
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Absolutely precious! 
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I love everything about this!!!
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I can hardly wait to share the newborn session with you all! I’ll leave you with with this stunning moment…and hope to get those babies up linked here soon as well.
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To my GORGEOUS client and her family…THANK YOU!!! I am so thankful you took a chance with me to capture these moments!