I hate getting my picture taken.
I never think I look cute enough or thin enough or put-together enough. Even though I am a nostalgic person by nature, I tend to avoid the picture capturing lens. Before I had my son, nearly every picture in my phone was of my cat. No shame here. Cat lady and proud of it! Nowadays, my little goober son decorates my albums and home screen. Ben eating spaghetti. Ben making a kiss face. Ben making a kiss face while eating spaghetti. Sure, not all of them are print-worthy or from special days – but he’s so darn cute, it’s hard not to take snaps at every opportune moment. Over the last year and a half, though, I’ve noticed something missing from my photos (other than a gross lack of photography skills).
Me. I’m not anywhere.
As soon as I delivered Ben, I felt the cloud of postpartum anxiety and depression descend. I was leveled by how quickly this alien feeling arrived. I remember thinking to myself, “This is my life now. I’ve somehow got to get used to this sadness being the new normal.” When the sweet girl taking newborn photos came around in the hospital, I refused to be in any of them. I felt weak, ugly, and detached from the whole experience. My husband took a few with him, but the photos are mostly just of the baby. Looking back at these photos now, I see my beautiful son, but I do not see a mom who just brought this precious gift into the world. I don’t see a family smiling at the new addition. I should be there.
I’m only in a handful of our home pictures from Ben’s first few months, as well – and in nearly all of them I’m puffy-eyed and look terrified at my new position as a mother. I feel sad sometimes when I look at them now, because they are a visual reminder of the emotional battle I waged internally. Now that I’m months past that stage of my life, though, I wish I had pushed myself to take a few more.
Maybe I’ve just gotten into the habit of shying away from the camera nowadays, but I have barely any pictures of myself (with or without my family) from the past year and half.
I can’t help but think that one day when my son looks at these pictures from his childhood, he’s going to wonder where I was. I imagine us looking through photos and me saying: “I was there at the farm, Ben, I promise! I caught you as soon as you came down that slide! I read Goodnight Moon to you every night (about a zillion times) in that rocking chair.”
Thanks to today’s technology, a picture is so easy to take, and such an easy way to capture our lives in the moment. I’ve realized it’s ok to capture the bad and the ugly along with the good. I need to be present more. My son doesn’t care about crow’s feet and my pudgy belly. He loves his mama. That is the only thing that matters. I need to show my son not only what he was like, but what we were like. Pictures evoke the smells, sounds, tastes, and feelings of those life moments. I want Ben to say to me one day, when we’re gazing at the albums of our past, “Mama, you look so happy in this picture. We had so much fun together.”
So here I am. I know I don’t look glamorous or perfectly filtered, but this is me in this picture.
A picture with your mama, Ben. Here I am. And here you are. Happy.