Life Behind The Lens | A Year In Review | Memphis Photographer

525,600 Minutes…How do you measure a  year?

I don’t post too much personal content on my blog, maybe once a year I’ll open up to my viewers and post about my life. I think 2018 will change that. So many of you become my friends and not just “normal clients” to me. At this time last year I was ready for 2016 to be over. It was, hands down, the toughest year of my life. But career wise it was also the most rewarding. In 2016 I lost my mother, my best friend, to cancer within 3 months of her diagnosis. I was also named Best of Memphis by The Knot and packed my schedule for this year. It was a roller coaster, and I was ready for a quiet, refreshing year of work and healing.

But God had other plans for me. The year came in quietly but it sucker punched me right in the gut when I wasn’t looking. I started January off by saying goodbye to another best friend and family member- my beloved Stanley the Basset. He gave me almost a decade of love and companionship and when it was time I had to let him go. He went quietly while laying my my arms on our living room floor. It was another heartbreak that weighed heavy on my soul.

With Every Season

This year I was determined to be present in my life. To soak up every ounce of it because if 2016 taught me anything it was that your life can change in an instant. My little family of 3 flew on a plane together for the first time! We went back to my hometown in PA for my Mother’s 1 year Memorial and we spent time with family and friends. I took my camera with me and even photographed some friends who I haven’t seen in ages. It’s amazing to me to see how people have grown and changed over the years. I met their kids and husbands and spent time laughing with them!

That trip we decided it was time to expand our family, so shortly after we started trying for a second child. In late spring we got the news that I was pregnant! My pregnancy with my son Brody was very high risk, so I knew what I was in for. I have a clotting disorder that attacks the fetus and causes miscarriages. I started my blood thinners right away and quietly stopped taking bookings for November to almost the summer of next year. My official due date was the middle of March, but my son was 5 weeks early and I knew I could be in for the same thing. I didn’t think it would be fair to my brides to take on their wedding and risk not being able to shoot it.

I started getting really excited, I was super sick to my stomach and my hormones were raging so I knew I was very pregnant. A trip to the doctor’s office confirmed it and we quietly told close family and friends. A few weeks into my pregnancy I started noticing my heart skipping beats, it getting harder to breathe, and chest pain. I was about 10 weeks pregnant when I pulled into my OBGYN’s parking lot and got the phone call that I failed my stress test. I’d need to go back for more testing asap since it was now potentially dangerous to the fetus. (Later I would find out that my beats are mistimed and my valves open too soon. Not something serious, but annoying and causing me to be super tired a lot)

I walked into that doctor’s office with my husband and son, and I just had a gut feeling my whole world was about to change. I climbed onto that bed for my ultrasound and got the news that no mother wants to hear- I’m sorry but I can’t find a heartbeat. Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe my emotional state. My husband was optimistic that everything would be fine, but further testing showed a miscarriage and I was scheduled for surgery later that week.

New Life

About a week later I boarded a plane to go back to PA. My brother and sister in law were having a baby and I was determined to go to the shower. I think everyone was a little worried about my current state of mind but there was no way I would miss it. For the longest time I had been praying they would be blessed with a kid, and I knew my mother had put away gifts for them when it happened and I wanted to be sure they got them. I spent 48 hours in town laughing with family and mending my heart with my two very best friends. It was exactly what my soul needed.

I came home and prepared for fall wedding madness. October and November of this year were my busiest months ever. I shot more weddings in a 6 week time period than I ever had before, I had mini sessions, client meetings, and family sessions. I was so ready to dive into work and do what I love- document love stories. I wasn’t even paying attention to my health because I was so busy working. But one night in October while at a reception I realized how exhausted I felt and how strange I felt. I knew I was about 8 or so days late on my period, and when I went to the bathroom I realized I was bleeding. Something in my gut told me it was wrong, so when I got home that night I took a pregnancy test. It turned positive before it even finished testing, and once again my heart was shattered. I knew it was over before it even began. I was at the doctor’s office every day that week for ultrasounds and tests. Within 72 hours I knew that I had lost another child about about 4 weeks into my pregnancy. My doctor told me to rest and wait it out and I laughed in his face. In 72 hours I was going to be making a 19 hr round trip to Texas, coming home to shoot a family session, then a wedding, then 2 more family sessions. I don’t have time to rest or wait for my body to pass the pregnancy. So with that he scheduled me for another D/C the next morning.

Meet Lola

After our first miscarriage I had this empty feeling in my gut. I had bonded with this child, and when I lost it I didn’t know what to do. So I started searching the internet to look at basset hound puppies. At first it gave me something to smile about, and then it turned into me begging for another dog. That’s when I found Lola. Another photographer posted about her basset puppies and I begged my husband to get me one for Christmas. He caved and we decided to get a female hound located in Vidor, TX. We had scheduled off work and planned to get her when she was 6 weeks. This was planned for the day after my second D/C. So I loaded myself in the car with pillows and pain pills and slept the 8 1/2 hrs to get her. The moment I saw her I almost burst into tears. She was perfect and she was mine. The 8 1/2 hr trip back was spent snuggling and enjoying puppy breath.

I got home and dove back into work- wrapping weddings and shooting mini sessions. Trying to balance doctor’s appointments, editing, and mending my broken heart. And then something strange happened to me…I opened up a little bit about our losses. Suddenly my inbox was filling up with messages from women in my life struggling with the same problem or infertility. And I realized something- I am not alone. And that is why I decided to write this blog post.

When you go through something like this….it breaks you. It wears on your soul. I, personally, felt like a failure. I can’t even do the one thing women are made to do- I can’t keep my child alive. It hurts, it rips you to the core. The after part of my life without my mother has been so challenging for me. And I would have given anything to have her here for this. To hold me, to listen to me, to tell me it’s going to be ok. And I’m not going to lie- I’m mad at God for taking her from me and putting me though this mess. I’m angry and I’m a little bitter. I always planned that if I have a little girl she’d be named after Mom. I told her this a few years ago and she cried and hugged me. Now I’m left wondering if I’ll ever get that chance.

This year has been a roller coaster of doubt, but I also have faith. Faith that this isn’t where my story ends, that loss isn’t going to be my entire life. I choose to realize that although 2017 has been hard, it’s also brought JOY. I have met so many amazing couples who have given me the gift of laughter and friendship. I’ve been embraced by their family members who don’t know me and have given real hugs- the kind where they squeeze you and mean it. I’ve connected and reconnected with so many other strong women who have felt my pain and refuse to let me give up. I got to spend an entire week with my son and my dad in Pigeon Forge. We rode roller coasters, my dad took Brody on the ferris wheel (those things scare the crap out of me) and we saw breathtaking views. We had a nice family vacation at the beach where my Dad lives, we took my son to his first professional baseball game- go Phillies! And I get to celebrate being an Aunt to a sweet little boy named Chase and spoil him! We spent two amazing weekends in Louisiana with my husband’s parents and they even came to Memphis for Grandparent’s Day at his school!

A New Year

I’m staring at an almost empty calendar for 2018. I have a few projects all out of state early next year and a couple of weddings here or there. This is the emptiest my work schedule has been in a long time. I took off thinking that at this point my belly would be huge and I’d be prepping for a second kid. I stopped advertising, stopped my feature on The Knot, and turned away so many wonderful brides. I’m not going to lie- it’s giving me a tiny bit of anxiety! But I’m also trusting that maybe this is the break I need to stop and reboot.

Whatever 2018 brings…I’m ready for it. My life may never be quiet or without trials. There may always be something that I’m battling, but I pride myself in having strength. 2017 has  been a rollercoaster for me. I’ve been so blessed with amazing clients and I am so thankful for each and every one of you. You fill my life with new adventures, with new possibilities, and with so much laughter. Thank you for an amazing year!

Special thanks to my friend Rebecca Jaffe. She’s another kick ass photographer here in the Mid-South, and our midnight conversations have kept me sane. She’s been a huge cheerleader for me through all of this, and has always encouraged me in all things- especially my career. And for that I am so thankful.

xoxo

Andrea

 

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