‘Go for it!’ they said. ‘You won’t regret it!’ they said. But at 34 weeks pregnant the thought of getting in front of a camera, even if it was being held by the very lovely and supremely talented Janine at Rinkadink Studio, was more than a little daunting.
I hate having my photo taken, to be honest. I’m not especially shy and retiring but point a camera at me and I’m suddenly at a loss as to what I should do with my limbs; I get super-conscious of my face and my brain goes off on a magical mystery tour through everything Tyra Banks ever tried to teach us about ‘smeyes-ing’. Add the fact that I look as though I’ve swallowed a basketball into the mix and well…I wasn’t sure this was a very good idea.
I’ve gazed enviously at many a maternity photoshoot before. Those women are always flawless – perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect, petite bumps. Perfect wardrobe of diaphanous dresses, pretty pastels and touchy-feely knitwear. A million miles away from my capsule collection consisting of four pairs of identical skinny jeans, boring jersey tops and practical jumpers that by 34 weeks were already struggling to contain my epic-sized baby bump. I knew Janine was talented of course, but I wasn’t convinced that even she could take a photo of my pregnant self that wouldn’t make me want to cringe and hide indoors for the remainder of my pregnancy.
And yet, there was that little voice in my head, that little part of me that was curious to see how they’d turn out. This is our third and final pregnancy and I couldn’t help thinking it might be nice to have a photo of myself that wasn’t a deeply unflattering, semi-naked ‘bump progress’ selfie taken in the mirror.
So I asked Janine for a bit of wardrobe advice. Pale colours work best in Rinkadink’s natural light studio, she explained – the light diffuses any hard edges making you look more svelte and more ‘glowy’. And that sounded good to me, so I gathered up a few basics, had my hair cut and blowdried, forced my husband to paint my toenails since I couldn’t reach myself, and off I went.
A girl could hang out at Rinkadink all day long – Janine and Lindsay have tea and coffee on tap and a treat drawer every pregnant woman dreams about – not to mention being great craic.
So we swapped parenting stories for a while before the dreaded camera came out. And when it did, I was still at a loss as to what I should do with my limbs and felt like my face was frozen in some kind of freaky fake-smiling mask – but in between those moments of painful self-consciousness we chatted about the impending baby and laughed at its wriggly antics and right in those moments I forgot that there was a lens pointed at me.
And then we were done, and I spent a few days worrying that when I saw the pics I would be totally scundered at my enormous size and that I’d look nothing like those glowy pregnant urchin ladies you see on the internet. But then I realised that I’d totally missed the point.
I should have known, really, that I would love them – I’ve yet to not love any of Rinkadink’s work. But I was completely unprepared for how I’d feel when I saw those pictures. I was relieved, of course, that Janine hadn’t been lying and that the amazing light in the studio does indeed smooth a girl out, putting sparkle in tired eyes and a glow in even the most anaemic of complexions.
But there was something else, too; something in those moments where I’d forgotten about the camera and was just laughing, girl to girl, about the crazy world of having babies.
I realised that the photoshoot had given me the gift of time out to reflect on this pregnancy, this baby. Away from the madness of life with older kids, away from work, away from the endless cycle of school runs and dinners to be made and laundry and all that other stuff that stops me from taking time to just remember that a miracle is happening, right now, inside of me.
When I look at those photos I don’t see what I’m wearing or how my hair looks or even whether the light is making me seem smaller. I see two things.
I see my body, and my big bump, that has carried and nourished and protected our unborn child all these months – and that is a beautiful, amazing thing that I feel so very lucky to have experienced three times now.
And I see joy. Joy that shines out of my face when I take away everything else – all the daily ‘stuff’ that makes a third pregnancy harder than any one before – and just focus on this amazing thing that is happening right now. Joy in taking a moment to think about the little person inside, and who he or she is going to be, and how much we already love him or her before we’ve even seen that precious baby face.
I would never have booked this session without encouragement – I was so hung up on what the photos would look like that I never stopped to think about how they might feel. And now I have them, I know I’ll treasure them – and so will our family, as a cherished reminder of what is undoubtedly the most exciting, emotional, exhausting, incredible time of my life. I just wish I’d done it every time ☺