Just about this time of the year three years ago, I photographed a surprise engagement party for my dear friend Cristan. At that party, I was able to finally meet two of Chrissy’s best friends. One of them was Jess.
I was instantly smitten with Jess. She’s free-spirited, lighthearted, and exuberant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face. Jess is someone you just want to be around— she is a magnet. She also has THE BEST personal style and can rock a jumpsuit like no other!
After the engagement party, we became Facebook friends and kept in touch as one does with an acquaintance on Facebook. I was delighted last autumn when our paths crossed once again when she asked me if I would be interested in photographing a vow renewal for a close family friend. Once on board for the vow renewal, Jess and I began to talk more, and she revealed that she and her husband Evan were expecting.
The journey to motherhood looks different for everyone. I know many women who are incredibly fertile and have absolutely no problems conceiving right away. They’re blessed. For many others (12% of the population of men and woman in their child bearing years, actually) the journey takes some time.
There’s ovulation charts and basal body temperatures, diet and lifestyle changes… When those things don’t work phrases like “in-vitro fertilization” and “genetic testing” begin to get mixed into your vocabulary. There’s nights weighing the pros and cons of taking Clomid, and the complicated feelings that can arise from seeing your friends and family members become mothers— sometimes by two or three times— while you’re still wishing for your first.
And sometimes there are miscarriages. Whether a once vital pregnancy ends, or yet another month passes without the desired result of a positive test, there is grief. Grief and frustration, anger, and even more complicated feelings like shame.
I have had the honor of photographing women who have lived these realities, and those whose road to motherhood lead towards fostering and eventually adopting. Jess and Evan were the first couple I’ve photographed who opted for surrogacy.
In our chats over the course of the last year, Jess has been so open and honest about her personal experience with trying to conceive. I’ve been so grateful for her candidness, and I learned so much in the process. My eyes were opened to just how selfless and literally awesome the role of a surrogate mother is, and how much joy and happiness they bring to others.
Needless to say meeting this baby girl, Ryan Avery, was an emotional experience. When I saw her I couldn’t believe how beautiful she is— how much she looks like her mama— and how bright-eyed she is. There were no drowsy baby photos here. Ryan didn’t want to miss a moment.
Watching Jess and Evan in person as parents was an absolutely beautiful experience. They are already wonderful parents. When I delivered the gallery Jess told me she couldn’t believe the photos were real. When she told me that the weight of my job hit me hard. This is my why. Each and every one of us have a story that matters. Photography can remind you that what was once only a dream is now very real.
Whatever season you’re in on your own road to motherhood, we send you love, support, and prayers.