This Image


I am in awe of this image. I am stunned that it is a photograph, not the painting it looks like it is. I am perplexed that it is a picture of me. And I’m proud of it. So very proud to be a part of it. Brienne Shepard created this image of me last week and I find myself staring at it, daily. It is truly a work of art and it means so much to me.

I few days ago, I sat down to write a post about this image, and the artist behind it. I wrote an anecdote about how we met when we were 16 and how I thought her name was “Brie” short for Brianna for over a year. It wasn’t until I saw it written out as “Bree” that I was informed I’d had it wrong and her name was actually Brienne. 🙂 I talked about how 8 years went by between graduating High School and the next time our paths crossed, and how I could never have known just how important to me she, and her amazing talent, would become.

I was planning on posting solely about this image that she created of me and for me, and the story behind her vision. I was going to answer some of your questions, as you have asked me everything from, “How did she do that??” (Very carefully!) to  “Are you really underwater?” (Yes) to “Is that safe?” (Very). But what I truly wanted to write about was what this image means to me. Unfortunately, I had to chuck what I had written and start over because it means something very different to me today than it did just a week ago.

As of today, this image (and the two others Bree created during this shoot) may be the only maternity photos I will ever get. Abigail came too soon to do a traditional maternity photo shoot. Bree was among the first wave of people to be notified of Abby’s early arrival for just this reason – I needed to cancel that session, and beg Bree to drop what she was doing and come take pictures at the hospital, as the possibility that they could be the only photos we might get of her was real. (Luckily, Abby has been the subject of MANY of Bree’s images over the years!)

Once again, I found myself contacting Bree Monday, alongside our immediate family, to let her know that yet another curve ball has been thrown our way and our plans for a traditional maternity shoot are thwarted. Don’t worry – Milo isn’t here yet. (I just heard you all breathe a sigh of relief!) But he could be on his way very soon. On Monday, during a routine ultrasound, we found that my cervix has opened over half way, and Milo is in the head-down position, putting pressure on that opening. The likelihood that Milo will be a full term baby is now very slim. I am now on full bed rest here at home until he arrives. I am allowed to get up for bathroom trips, 10 minute showers, and one round-trip up and down our stairs per day. That’s it.  Other than those exceptions, I must be in a reclined or a lying-down position at all times. Failure to comply here at home will result in full hospital bed rest where getting up for any reason won’t be an option.

The good news is that, otherwise, both Milo and I are in perfect health. I am a very healthy pregnant lady. And Milo is measuring “big” for his gestational age (they estimate him at just under 3 pounds. Double the size Abigail was at birth) and in perfect health. I have zero infections, and no abruptions to speak of. The hospital was able to administer a steroid injection that will help with Milo’s lung development, as well as perform a Non-Stress Test which confirmed that I am NOT currently in pre-term labor. Yippie! These are all good things. I am just over a week away from the 30 week mark. If we can make it there (which all indications say we can) Milo will not be classified as a Micro Preemie. Tomorrow (Thursday) will mark 29 weeks in my pregnancy,  and it means he’ll have at least 5 full weeks more “cooking” than Abigail had. That is significant!

It has taken the better part of the last 48 hours for Anthony and I to wrap our heads around this news and come to terms with it. And to make adjustments. We’ve had to bring in reinforcements. To help with Abby, to help with the day-to-day stuff that usually falls to me, to help care for the three of us as a family, and to help care for me personally. (I can’t tell you how frustrating it is that I can’t get up to get my own glass of water… but I’m coping.) I am so thankful to have family and friends in the surrounding areas that are ready and willing to help. Thank you to all that already have, and will soon offer. We will be taking people up on offers, believe me.

Being put on bed rest has hindered many plans. Events I was very much looking forward to are now canceled. I am sad that I will miss my sister’s birthday brunch, the Wolf/Ledesma Family BBQ, Halloween festivities, Abby’s first school field trip of the year, and more. But it also makes me truly thankful for the things that I’ve already gotten to do. Most importantly to me this time around were actually being pregnant at my shower 2 weeks ago, and that I did get my own version of a Maternity photo shoot.

A week ago, this image meant a lot of things to me. Seeing myself like that made me feel beautiful and womanly. And it will always evoke those feelings. But now, knowing that any sort of Maternity shoot we do will be of me in this chair, or me in my bed, or an outside possibility of me in my backyard, laying on a blanket, this image means so much more. Bree wants to attempt a “Traditional” shoot to the best of our abilities, and I will let her try. But it will never be what it was in either of our heads. And a part of me says, “Let it go.” Mainly because I have this image. I must say, if I only ever get one, it really takes the cake.

I had a moment of clarity the other day. My story is different. I know that sounds so obvious. But the truth is I longed for normalcy. It is what everyone in my life has wished for me – to be the big pregnant lady waddling around, being touched by strangers, craving strange things, and bringing home a fully developed, term baby. I longed to experience it all. I’ve even said things like, “I want the chance to do it right.” Which now makes me cringe because it implies that we did something wrong the first time around. The truth is, this is who I am. These are who my children are. This is who my husband is. Our story is just that – different. I am not meant to be the waddling pregnant lady. I am meant to be the mother who is strong enough to handle this journey. Anthony and I were hand-picked by God to raise these miracles. And I’m proud of that. And for once, I’m owning it, outright.

To me – this image is not just of a pretty woman in a green dress. It is a true representation of my story. I am wrapped in this beautiful cloth that, to me, represents the protection I strive to give my babies, in my womb and beyond. I am floating, being carried by the Lord’s grace and the love of the people who care about us. I have my hand on my belly – my constant reminder that there are things in this world bigger and greater than I will ever be. And I am holding my head high, facing the sky, looking to a bright and magnificent future bestowed on me by God.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds. I have two months left of this pregnancy journey, in the best of cases. And while I do not think for one moment that I have the final say on this (because the big guy upstairs likes to frequently remind me of how silly my “plans” are), Anthony and I do not plan on having another child. So I will do my best to enjoy what little time I have left in this state. As we’ve all come to learn through watching Abigail, our real journey begins when we bring Milo home. Whenever that will be. And if this image, this piece of art that means so much to me, is the only Maternity photo I ever truly have, I am 100% ok with that. It represents a time in my life I will never forget. And it is a reminder of just how many more beautiful works of art Bree will produce over the coming years, with my family at the center of her lens.

As always, we ask for your prayers. Prayers for peace and guidance. Prayers for patience and understanding. And this time, prayers for time. As much time as He can give us.  Thank you for all of your love and support. Thanks for reading. And thanks for the prayers.