Have you ever met a couple that actually finished each other's sentences? Personally, I never had until I met Michael and Christina. From the first time we spoke in the small coffee shop in downtown Knoxville, I knew two things about this couple. One, they were so in love and in sync, and two, they were some of nicest, most genuine people I had ever come in contact with.
They communicated to me how important it was to have a photographer to capture their family during their small, intimate ceremony at the Historic Westwood Home in Knoxville. Their family would be coming from all over the United States, as far as from Texas. As a result of the distance, they did not get to see their families as often as they liked.
Being able to share their special day with their closest loved ones meant the world to them, so much so they even took a portion of their ceremony to completely focus on family. The deep love between Michael and Christina of course touched my heart, but I was even more moved by the way they cared about their families. I felt so honored to be asked to play a part in their wedding day that only thirteen other people would be asked to attend.
The Historic Westwood Home provided an excellent setting for such an intimate wedding. The history and architecture of the house truly made an impression on me and the guests. To say the home is beautiful is an understatement. The staff of the house were extremely helpful to Christina, Michael, their guests, and me. It was a joy to be able to photograph at this perfect location.
Comment below and let me know what you think!
I remember it clearly, even though it was almost ten years. A friend of mine was throwing a party at his apartment, and I sat on his back deck with some people chatting about life. The conversation turned to marriage and children, and I nervously fidgeted in my seat. As I peeled the paper label off my beer I said, "I will never get married or have kids." Although I truly accepted what I had just said, a devastating pain flooded my entire body and a lump rose up in my throat. My mind believed something that was in direct contrast with what my heart wanted.
I thought back to my failed relationships with men and tumultuous childhood, reminding myself I was unfit for motherhood and unlovable. For the next seven years I would live a life that reflected those beliefs, running from my past while also denying myself the desires of my heart.
My life would never be something I would describe as easy or really with many other positive adjectives. I grew up with a single mother who struggled with bipolar disorder in a small town, with no help for her. Mental illness was not discussed at the lengths it is today, (though we still have a long way to go). As a result of this mental illness, my sister and I were abused mentally and physically for years.*
At age ten I was taken away from my mother when the courts ruled she was an "unfit parent." My dad had custody of me for the next eight years, and while the physical circumstances of my life improved, I struggled with mental illness of my own. Of course, as a teenager, I never recognized the source of my issues so I never sought out help.
I was very involved in my youth group at church while I was in high school and acted happy to everyone on the outside. No one had any idea of the self-harm I inflicted on myself because the abusive voice of my mother had become my inner dialogue. Instead of turning to healthy options for help, I tried to silence the negativity with a boyfriend. As many young girls do, I thought a romantic relationship was the answer to all of my problems.
When that relationship came to an end five years later, I was left feeling more devastated than ever. A series of failed romantic endeavors followed, each one reaffirming my belief I was not "good enough" to be loved. Eventually I turned to partying, realizing that blacking out all the time helped me ignore all the pain I felt.
Some photos of me in the club back in the day...I was a hot mess...
At the time I did not realize I was self-medicating with alcohol. During that clubbing phase of my life, I also avoided relationships with any men that would be considered serious. Eventually, I did fall for my bartender, Seth, but he was even deeper in the party life than I was. (He's better now too, for those of you wonder ;) ). Constantly, I would spew my "anti-children" and "anti-marriage" rhetoric for all those who would listen. Everything seemed to be going well for a while, until PTSD reared its ugly head.
Panic attacks became a regular part of my life and almost weekly occurrence. Depression then followed up, and I began struggling with self harm again, though it was not as often as it had been in high school. None of my friends really had any idea of the darkness that was taking over my life.
I was so good at hiding all my pain when I went out. When alcohol suddenly was not doing the job of numbing my pain, I turned to recreational adderall usage, abusing diet pills, and eventually snorting cocaine. Several other people would be using these substances as well, so my sudden interest did not raise any red flags with me or anyone else. In all my life I had never touched any drugs, but during this time, I was not consciously aware of why I was acting out. Of course, all of this behavior just seemed to reaffirm to me I was not fit for motherhood.
Then, one day, I woke up with this gnawing feeling that I should flush the cocaine I was hiding in my bathroom. My inner thought, I kid you not, was that I was pregnant. I pushed the thought away, as I had no real reason to think I was pregnant honestly, just because I didn't want to be. (Ha!). Still, I poured the baggy of drugs down my toilet, just to be safe and because I could not ignore my conscious that day for some reason.
Two days later I had missed my period by only one day and decided to take a pregnancy test. Wouldn't you know, it was positive! I'll speed through this next part, but I kept the baby because I think I had always known deep down inside, no matter what I said, I wanted to be a mom. After I had my daughter, I fell so in love with her and knew I could not even risk exposing her to the same childhood I had. I started therapy and have been in it for almost two years now. My life has dramatically improved for the better, and when I say my daughter saved my life, I truly mean it.
So what does my story mean for you? Maybe you are the woman running from motherhood like I did. Perhaps you believe you are unlovable and incapable of being a parent because you simply are "not good enough." You know that when I say I completely relate I am not lying.
Just possibly though, deep down in your heart you truly desire to be a mother. Maybe you even feel it is your purpose, but have no idea how you could possibly fulfill that destiny. Let me start by saying the one lesson I learned in all of this is that God/The Universe will not let you run from you destiny. It is a a part of you. Your purpose is engraved in you just as your DNA is, and it is impossible to outrun that. Trust me, I tried and failed.
Second of all, no one is beyond help, unlovable or unable to grow. After years of abuse, mental illness, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, and self-harm, I am here to tell you that you CAN get better and you CAN be a good parent. While motherhood did "fall in my lap," so to speak, I chose it as well, and I chose to get the help I need. Make the choice to be better because you and your children deserve more and the best life has to offer.
Remember, your past might always affect you, that much is true, but it is your choice as to how it does so. Your life experiences do not have to define you in a negative way. My goal in sharing my story that it shows that there is hope. My entire career and life revolves around motherhood now, the one thing I never thought I would or should have.
I want to clarify that a child did not fix me, and you should not have children in hopes that they solve all your problems. I CHOSE to get help because I love my daughter more than I love myself. That may not be as easy of a choice for others, but if I can get better, know that you can too. Just because you do not have children now does not mean you cannot prepare your heart and mind to be the best mother/parent you can be, even if it is something for later in life. YOU just have to choose to do so.
*Author's Note: My relationship with my mother is now healed, and she has gotten the help she needed.
Knoxville Maternity Photos
When Brittany first approached me about taking her maternity pictures she also sent me a photo of the gown she was planning on wearing. You know how I always say an outfit can make or break a photoshoot? Well, as soon as I saw Brittany's gown I knew these photos would come out stunning!
Her gown was really delicate, light pink and lacey so I knew that I wanted this photoshoot to have those same soft and dreamy vibes. I chose a field in West Knoxville that usually has a ton of yellow flowers. Unfortunately, it rained that week and almost all the flowers were destroyed! Luckily, there were still a few patches of flowers in the field we could use.
Brittany was a trooper too! The grass in the field was waist high and you could barely see where you were going. At eight months pregnant she still followed me through it all! I love when a client is up for an adventure in order to get some beautiful photos! Hopefully, I made the hike worth it when I fell on my butt not once, but twice in front of her in the field! (My boyfriend will tell you, I am an EXTREMELY clumsy person).
We shot around sunset, and the lighting really made for some gorgeous pictures. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite from Brittany's STUNNING maternity photoshoot! Make sure you comment below and let me know which photo is your favorite!