I’m not quite sure why, but lately my almost 4-yr-old son tells me, “Mom, I want to be a baby again in your tummy. I very very want to so badly.” The comment catches me by surprise and I think, really? After all the beauty you’ve seen in this world, all the incredible things you’ve learned how to do, all the sweetness you’ve tasted, all the exhilarating thrills and quiet joys you’ve felt? After being exposed to the light, would you really want to regress into the dark world of ignorance? I seriously doubt that he can remember his life in the womb, but there’s something about it that entices him, and I’m pretty sure what he craves is something we all yearn for at times: Security. Warmth. Certainty. Painlessness. Ease.
There’s this reality about life that becomes especially poignant in pregnancy and birth: joy and pain coexist and it must be so. There is an ebb and flow, and I don’t think you can have one without the other. In pregnancy there is the sweet joy of anticipation, the energy of growth, the awe of life in its most primal and pristine form. But let’s be honest…it’s not all rainbows and roses. It’s nausea and vomiting and stretch marks and swollen feet and heeeellllloooo, hormones. I remember feeling so much anxiety when I was expecting my twins that it nearly paralyzed me at times. I almost dreaded their arrival because, as uncomfortable as pregnancy is, I knew it was so much easier to just house them within where the placenta did all the work. And then there’s labor, with its cycles of ever-increasing pain, but it’s not without purpose as it culminates in the ultimate, joyful climax of birth. There is always a cost. If we were to choose a flat life of security, comfort and ease, we wouldn’t have to feel the pain of loss, or failure, or regret. But we also wouldn’t get to feel the joy of connection, or accomplishment, or redemption.
This family/maternity photo session actually has something to do with this little vignette. Just as the contrast of joy and pain works to give life depth, the contrast of light and dark allows us to perceive visual depth. In art it’s what pushes an object beyond just shape into having form, dimension. In most of my work I seek out soft, diffused lighting. In this set you’ll see that, but you’ll also see some shots where I experimented with harder, more directional light as well as mixed light. With light and dark coexisting in the frame, I feel it giving dimension to the bonds of mother and child, husband and wife. We shot in both the family’s home in San Francisco and the Presidio. Again, I think the dual locations serve to communicate our dual desires for comfort and for experience through exploration. I love the way the mother gently holds the daughter’s hand as she traverses the winding wood line sculpture, which itself is a visual representation of life’s ups and downs.
So how will I respond the next time my son tells me he wants to be a baby again? I’ll wrap my arms around my little boy and hold him as close as I can and tell him, “I know,” and let him sit with that feeling. And then I’ll smooth his hair and kiss him and remind him that I couldn’t hold him and kiss him when he was a baby in my tummy, but now I can, and he can hug and kiss me back.