Three months ago today, my life was touched so deeply. And I want to share a bit of the story with you. It's a personal story, and it's taken me a while to put any sort of words together. I write, and I discard... and I write, and I discard. I think constantly about it, and form the perfect words in my head. But then I come to write again... and I'm somewhat blank.
But I want to honour a little wee life that has had a powerful influence. A perfect baby girl who unfortunately never made it to see the light of day. Sadly my darling niece, Victoria Kate, was stillborn at 38 weeks, to my beautiful sister and her husband Nick, for no known reason.
I want to honour the strength, faith, and incredible love and positivity that Sarah and Nick have. They have so graciously accepted this new and unexpected journey. While this has been a hugely sad time, they are filled with God's peace, and continue to trust in His goodness, which has been proven over and over again during the past three months. They are so thankful for the opportunity to have carried this precious little girl for nearly nine months, and continue to be the most amazing and adoring parents to two year old Penelope. Above all, we honour God for his peace beyond all understanding, for giving Sarah and Nick another beautiful daughter, and for giving them the strength needed to carry on without her on earth.
Many of you have seen a couple of maternity photos that I posted along the journey of Sarah's pregnancy... but because we did small maternity shoots over a few months as her belly grew, I never had the chance to blog the finished product before the unimaginable happened.
I am aware this is a sensitive topic. But I do really want to share the love that was poured into this 'bump', the beauty that is my sister, the cuteness that is Penelope, and the wonderfulness that is this family. I want to celebrate the joy Victoria brought to our lives over those months, and the blessing she has been to so many people... not hide it away as if it never happened. I want you to look and smile!
The hope and anticipation of a second little baby in the house was definitely obvious - we all couldn't wait to meet the new little button in our family. We are a very close family, and I'm an extremely proud aunty... so I jumped at the opportunity to go down to Invercargill for the month of June. I was going firstly as a sister and an aunty - to be there to help around the house and look after Penelope (who you have seen on here many times before!) when Sarah went into labour and was in hospital. And secondly as a photographer - to capture the first moments at the birth, and to do newborn photos as soon as possible afterwards.
Sarah makes pregnancy look easy - full of energy, incredibly healthy, and totally radiant, with a perfect bump. She is absolutely gorgeous inside and out.
(And Penelope? Well she is clearly a model in the making...!!)
But after I'd been in Invercargill only a day, Sarah realised that she hadn't felt the baby move for a while. Some tests and checks later that afternoon sadly revealed no heartbeat. All of a sudden, the day turned from the excitement of a new baby arriving at any moment, to coming to understand that their precious little baby had passed away, for no apparent reason. This was obviously a huge shock after a very healthy pregnancy... especially being at full-term. We were all heart-broken. Sarah was induced later that evening, and perfect little Victoria was born at 5:50am on the 4th of June, without breath.
I am now so incredibly grateful that I was able to do maternity shots for Sarah as her bump grew, and that they have photographs to remind them of the joy and happiness their daughter has brought them, for the rest of their lives. I am also incredibly thankful that I was down in Invercargill and able to photograph beautiful Victoria just after she was born, so they have a record of everything - her little ears, little hands, little feet, little nose. They have memories of their short time with her they can look back on as they work through their grief. Arguably the most important shoot of my life.
Unfortunately stillbirth is not as uncommon as I had thought, and so often there are no clear causes. Apparently six in every thousand babies born in NZ every year are stillborn. And Sarah and Nick join the approximately 300 families each year in Australia and NZ who lose a baby close to term with no known cause. I want to acknowledge those parents who have lost loved little babies through miscarriage, stillbirth, and health issues. It's heartbreaking. I cannot even imagine what that must be like for a parent. As an aunty, I've only experienced a touch of the devastation. And I also acknowledge that everyone is going to have very different experiences too. We have been blown away by how strong and positive Sarah and Nick are, but of course it is so difficult, and there won't be a day go by where they don't think of their beautiful daughter.
Sarah and Nick had prepared Penelope so well for having a little sister or brother, and what that would mean for her. She knew Mummy and Daddy would be very busy, that the baby would cry lots, and that sometimes the baby would need lots of cuddles. She loved to listen to the heartbeat and cuddle Mummy's tummy, and was excited about having a baby at home.
It has been so incredible to see the mind of a two year old processing the fact that Mummy and Daddy's baby had to go and live with Jesus, instead of living at home. She has understood far more than we could have ever imagined. The day Victoria was born, I lay silently listening to Penelope praying, unprompted, to God in the middle of the night... "Dear Dog, Mummy Daddy bit sad. Mummy no baby". "Dear Dog, Mummy tummy get better. Baby Toria in hop-dop... live Jesus now." I will never forget that tiny, sweet little voice speaking in the dark, as tears trickled down my cheeks. So incredibly precious.
Victoria Kate means 'Victorious' and 'Pure'... and she is definitely nothing short of that. Her little life has taught me so much. Love you forever little button.
Sarah, Nick, and Penelope - you are beyond amazing. We are truly blessed to be your family, and to journey alongside you. Love and hugs always xoxoxox
This is something I feel very passionate about, after truly experiencing the importance of those photographs. Without knowing I was writing this at the time, Sarah said to me this morning, "If I could give one piece of advice to anybody in this situation… it would totally be to have some nice photographs taken". I would really like to bless other families that I hear about who sadly have the same outcome, and really want to be able to offer sensitive and private photographs of the baby as a gift to other families who lose children due to stillbirth or sickness. Please get in touch with me as soon as possible if you hear of this happening to anyone you know around Dunedin - if I can help to be part of the grief and healing process through offering photos shortly after the birth, then I will do my best xx
I also hope this opens up some discussion - I think it's so healthy to talk about these things which affect so many families, yet are rarely discussed. Please feel free to discuss, comment, share, think... it's good for all of us :)
Jennifer just oozes grace and beauty as a pregnant lady - she is an absolute natural... born to be a mother. She wrote to me wanting maternity photos in her own home, for their third child. She had never had maternity photos before, but wanted some that were 'homely and loving, just like when you bring home a baby'. I walked into their house and my eyes just lit up. Their beautiful big white villa home was just perfect for such a shoot - clean, stylish and so incredibly 'homely'... and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful subject to photograph!
Jennifer and Jon already have two absolutely adorable boys - Sam and Will - and they can't wait to have a new baby to love and adore! They all have such awesome Canadian accents... the whole family are in Dunedin for a few years, but heading back to Canada soon! Having maternity photos taken was a way to share this incredibly special and exciting time with their families and friends still on the other side of the world.
Enjoy the calm, pure, serene beauty of Jennifer and her gorgeous family.
Oh, apparently the whole shoot wasn't calm and serene... ;)
Jennifer runs a maternity/Mum's health and fitness website called 'Mama Lion Strong
'. I suggest that if you are a Mum (Or 'Mom' as Jennifer would say!), or soon to be... or you just enjoy reading personal, funny, inspiring, honest blogs about the quirks, struggles, charms and joys of parenthood... you should check it out!!
Happy sigh... so, so beautiful.
Jennifer directed me to check out 'A Beautiful Body Project'
- an incredible project aiming to 'celebrate the irreplaceable beauty of women through unaltered photographs and inspiring stories'. I urge you to take a look at this. It so so inspiring and such an awesome shift in the mindset of women.
I often have pregnant Mum's asking me to remove stretch-marks, and to 'tuck in' those extra few kilos they have put on throughout their pregnancy. I understand on a personal level. I do. Unfortunately, we all have things we dislike about ourselves. But this is such
a contested aspect of the photography industry... and in reality, it's very sad. Software makes these things possible. But really, SHOULD it be?! I want people to love themselves, love their photos, and be proud of who they are. I want them to show their friends, hang them proudly on their walls and feel great about themselves in them. But I don't want to change people into things they aren't, all because we buy into the rubbish we hear in the media about what is 'beautiful'.
I absolutely LOVED that Jennifer was so proud of her body, her stretch marks, her scars... the things which make her a woman and a Mum that need to be celebrated. The proof of what she has been through for her children and her family. Would love to hear other thoughts on this topic! It's a big one, I know... but an important one.
Jennifer, thank you so much for inviting me into your gorgeous home to photograph this time of your life. You really are so incredibly beautiful inside and out. It was soooo lovely to hang out with your family for the morning... thanks for lunch too! I wish you all the very best for the days, months and years ahead with this new wee button who is about to enter your family (or if I read between the lines... who may have already arrived yesterday perhaps?!). You are a wonderful family xoxo
You know how I said I was behind in blogging? I'm catching up on some really important shoots. Like this one. I've been itching to blog this incredibly stunning maternity shoot for AGES! And when you don't blog a maternity shoot quickly... well, babies tend to come before you do it! And then before you know it, they are 8 wks old. Where oh where does time go?!
Welcome to the world little Malachi Turner! You are an adorable little boy who is bringing your parents incomprehensible joy. Your mother is a picture of beauty. A graceful, elegant, gentle woman. Your father emanates strength and character. You have been born to wonderful parents, who are giving you all they have and more! You are loved beyond belief! And you always will be a beautiful little beacon of light for them. Thank you for coming into their world. You are such a blessing! xx
Shane and Sasha really are an incredible couple. The months of Sasha's pregnancy were not easy at all for them for many reasons, and I want to honour them for their strength, faith, and ability to continue loving and smiling amongst hardship. They are the kind of people who are just lovely to be around, and who inspire so many people.
And they love each other, and that little bump, so dearly!
Knowing the gorgeous golden evening sun was just going to get better and better, Sasha and I drove out to Karitane - a gorgeous small seaside town that is particularly special to both Shane and Sasha. My heart was just singing through this shoot - everything was PERFECT! Sasha is just so beautiful.
So, so stunning.
A self-confessed beach-bunny, Sasha looooves the water, and spent many years growing up at the beach at Karitane. So naturally, we went in.
Sasha, you really are an absolutely beautiful woman inside and out. Thank you for sharing this special part of your life with me, it was such an honour to capture this time! All our love and prayers as you venture on as amazing parents to your beautiful son! xoxo
A while back I photographed Abhishek and Puja's maternity shoot - a gorgeous evening shoot at the beach and the gardens! Since then I have also been lucky enough to meet and photograph their gorgeous new baby, little Aashna! I have not been able to share these images until recently, so I thought I would post a few from these two beautiful shoots!
Puja and Abhishek were amazing to photograph - both very natural and easy in front of the camera!
Beautiful colours and a beautiful couple!
Some weeks later, we met again for a shoot of their gorgeous new wee girl! I met baby Aashna at about 6 weeks old. She is absolutely beautiful and was a dream to photograph! She slept peacefully for a lot of the session, and when she was awake, she was so placid and gorgeous!
(Just before anyone freaks out - this is a composite image of two photographs... her wonderful parents were right there holding her... safety first!).
Even got a wee smile....
Thank you again, Abhishek and Puja, for inviting me into this very special time in your lives! Aashna is a beautiful girl and your love for her is very obvious! All the best for your journey of parenthood! I look forward to doing more photo shoots with you in the future!
Catherine and Simon came up from Invercargill for a maternity shoot just before Christmas... and I am now playing catch up with some blogs... because this little bundle has already been born!! Soon you will get to meet the adorable little face behind this bump too...
Pregnancy is such a mystical and beautiful time of life - maternity shoots aim to capture something of three people... one of whom no-one has ever seen! I'm so glad Catherine and Simon booked a last minute maternity shoot, only a few days before the wee poppet arrived into this world!! They were so excited, but were awaiting his arrival patiently, as they needed him to hold on until after Christmas! We set out for beautiful evening light, and we found it...
Pregnancy really suited Catherine, and she and Simon were awesome to work with - they were like a model couple, who were willing to get really cold feet!
Loving this beachy evening light...
Beautiful Catherine looks adoringly at her husband...
...who is thinking his wife is pretty darn hot right now!
Catherine is a French teacher in Invercargill, so it was awesome to be able to include some different little things that were personal to them. Bébé à bord means what it looks like... 'Baby On Board'... cute!
And I was the only one privvy to the gender and name of their precious wee baby... but now that wee Ezra has been born, I can share these!
perfect bump. It was called 'Baby Pea' during the pregnancy, (because their last name is Patterson), so they wanted to include these cute little pea-pod toys they got given too!
Catherine had the
And just after Catherine, Simon and Baby Pea set off for the evening, the sun set on another gorgeous day, lighting the sky many different colours.
I'm sure you are both enjoying wee Ezra being out in this world so much now! I can't wait to blog his newborn shoot very soon! Thanks for letting me be part of this exciting stage of life! xx
Kate is 34 weeks pregnant, and is looking fabulous! I was very excited about doing this maternity shoot for Kate. She is an absolutely gorgeous girl anyway... but give her a baby bump, and she glows.
Kate is a photographer too, and has started her own great business, Still Waters Photography
, in Te Anau. Photographing another photographer always adds an extra load of pressure! But Kate told me she trusted my ideas, and was a blank slate - allowing me the opportunity to be creative. I had an idea I had wanted to play with for a while. For this I needed a grassy field, a cute little white chair, and some gorgeous soft, golden light.
Step One was a grassy field. So, on Thursday Helen
and I set out on an outing to Outram. I found a perfect spot and was sold on it for the shoot on Friday. We also found real fruit ice-cream. So that was a bonus.
Step Two was a chair. On Wednesday I was having coffee with Rebecca McSkimming
and I happened to mention I was just heading to an antique store to find a little white wooden chair. She told me she had one at home, and said I could borrow it if I wanted. Then in some crazy coincidence, she text me 2 minutes after we had left saying it was actually already in the back of her truck! So, ta-daaa! A perfect little white chair, just as I had imagined. Thanks Becs!
Step Three was perfect light. If we are honest, I had no control over this one, and with a mid-morning shoot in autumn, it could have gone either way! We were super lucky though, and out came the gorgeously soft, golden light... just as I had imagined.Kate, you are so, so beautiful. You are going to be a fantastic mother! I can't wait to meet baby 'monkey' xx
Unfortunately Kate's husband, Mark, was unable to come over for the shoot as he was busy running their farm in Te Anau. So Kate invited along our good friend Kristy to join in the fun! Not only was she a great model and friend, she also acted as my wonderful assistant - holding my cameras, and even finding great little locations along the way.
Kristy is a stunner too. She brings sunshine to my life xx
On the way out to Outram, I was telling Kate and Kristy about the perfect little field I found and how excited I was about it. The thing is though, when I was location scouting, I didn't actually get out of the car. What I didn't know was that there were sheep at the end of the field, no real access (especially for a pregnant lady who we weren't going to let jump the fence), annnd... it smelled really bad. Whoops. We managed to find equally perfect and much more accessible and open field just down from it though. Phew!
I loooove this kind of backlighting - it is so feminine and gentle. Kate and Mark know they are having a wee girl, so I think it is perfect. The parasols are also those used at their wedding.
Kate has a special fondness for horses, so we managed to find some of them along the way too...
We then drove right into Outram, to find some locations for slightly more fun, bright photos, as Kate had brought along some meaningful props she wanted to use too. By this stage the sun was beaming down, creating some sharp shadows, which sometimes, you just have to make the most of...
This ribbon surrounded Kate and Mark's wedding cake... another awesome way to represent their marriage and their love in their wee poppet's birth.
Kate and Mark both had well-loved toys as children, and I know their new wee girl will be even more well-loved by them. Meet Panda and Popples... Kate and Mark's favourite childhood toys. Popples is a bit evil looking because Mark coloured its eyes in red when he was little. We will let that slide though...
Kate and Mark are awaiting the arrival of wee 'Monkey', as they fondly call her. Pregnancy is such an exciting time, full of anticipation, hope and joy. Yes, there are many discomforts throughout, but I am sure it will all be worth it when she arrives. And I have no doubt she will grow up to be a cute, cheeky wee monkey...
Kate, you are doing an amazing job - you make pregnancy look so easy and cruisy! You and Mark will be fantastic parents and I am so looking forward to meeting your wee bub.
It was so nice to hang out with you and Kristy in the awesomely hot and wonderful sun, and to capture this amazing time in your life! I hope your last few weeks of pregnancy are easy and you are able to put your feet up and let Mark do everything around the house!
I am super excited about sharing this maternity post with you. Pregnancy has to be one of the most extraordinary, intriguing, and miraculous stages of life ever possible. Even as I sift through over a thousand photos of this precious baby bump, I am still in awe of the fact that there is a living person inside there - growing, learning, and being loved and nutured every second of the day. How does that stomach not burst at the seams?!
Sarah and Nick are very special to me - Sarah is one of my two beautiful older sisters, and Nick is my brother-in-law. They are just two weeks away (give or take some!) from becoming first-time parents, and I have not a single doubt in my mind that they will do a fantastic job.
Sarah makes pregnancy look and sound ridiculously easy. Quite often over the past 9 months, I have questioned whether she IS actually pregnant, or if she just has a giant balloon up her top that she blows up a bit more every day. She assures me there is a baby in there, and I don't know of any balloons that can kick and wriggle like that. But still... Sarah is a mere two weeks from her due date, and she is full of energy, healthy as anything, and she is looking incredible. Her bump is AMAZING - from the back she looks tiny, and you would never know she is pregnant! From the front, she is absolutely bursting. She has been teaching, dancing at our wedding, doing housework, hosting guests, and cruising through the preparation for this new precious wee life in our big family.
This is the first time someone so close to me has been pregnant, and it has just struck me how incredible life really is. Now all we do is wait... wait until little Baby Truman is ready to enter this world for good.
Sarah wanted a real mix of images - fun, beautiful, humourous, sincere, natural outdoor images, and more "studio" type images... so we found a range of different locations and props, and spent the entire day shooting her giant belly! Yep, a whole day. That's what you do when you are family! However, Nick was allowed some time off to play on his iPhone, and we set off with just Sarah for the morning to scout out locations!
Yep, did a wee happy dance when I found this beautifully lit spot amongst the trees.
Hot, hot, hot!! You look amaaazing Sarah!
Love this! Mum was on traffic control while we both lay in the middle of the road.
After lunch, we set out again with Nick in tow, and both Liam and Mum sharing the job of second shooting for me! So it was a real family affair - and between our two big Nikon cameras, a wee point-and-shoot camera, and a pocket video camera... Invercargill didn't know what had hit it!
Hide and seek anyone?
Unfortunately Dad was away for the weekend, but we got a few beautiful shots with Sarah and soon-to-be Nana! Photos of family are so, so important. More and more over this past horrific week in New Zealand, I think we have all realised how precious family is, and how photographs of loved ones are clung on to at times like this.
I know Nick and Sarah will be naturally amazing parents. Sarah has been dreaming of being a mother since she was veeeery young, and it has been so awesome to see the way Nick has supported and adored her, and loved their little baby right through her pregnancy. He will be a fantastic father, and Sarah will be an incredible mother. She even told us a few years ago that she couldn't wait to clean up the mess her kids make and bake them truffles all the time!! I have a feeling that desire might fade over time...
We found plenty of ducks and some beautiful geese!!
Even though she was 8 months pregnant, Sarah was keen to try heaps of different things all day, to get some really diverse images. We even had a very quick wee play at a Carnival!
So you may be wondering what the heck Stardust and Watermelons have anything to do with a maternity shoot. And rightly so. So - watermelons? Well, they are just plain fun.
And Stardust? Well, near the beginning of their pregnancy, Sarah was trying to pin Nick down to discuss baby names, and he was obviously not ready for that, because his only suggestion for a long time was... Stardust. Classy, Nick. It caught on though, and the world now knows in-utero baby Truman as "Stardust". I honestly think I am going to have trouble not actually calling the baby that when it is born - it has become so entrenched in my mind.
No, the words are not photoshopped on... Sarah got the stickers out and we had some fun!
Mum knitted these gorgeous wee booties for Stardust... and I will give her all the credit for the cute wee blocks photo she took with them while she assisted me!
Nick is a die-hard Apple fan. He is pretty attached to his iPhone, his iMac, and his iPad. So it is only fitting that Stardust is pictured on the iPad, and that it is packed full of digital picture books to read. I was taking this shot...when suddenly naughty Uncle Liam popped up behind...!
Sarah, Nick, and Stardust - I love you all to bits and I cannot WAIT to be an Aunty!! It is very special being able to document this awesome time in your lives. And as you know, I have so many more photos to give you! Sarah, you are like super-pregnant-lady... you are so beautiful. Stardust is going to be the most treasured and photographed little poppet in the world.
Stardust, we all truly can't wait to meet you, and Liam and I are very much looking forward to being your favourite Aunty and Uncle! Make sure you just hold on in there until we are back from the Coromandel though... xoxoxo