Posted by: Kate | February 8, 2010

A Little Bit Awestruck

I’m not camera-shy, exactly. I don’t much like having my picture taken, generally, because I have a gift for contorting my mouth into a weird shape at just the wrong moment, and my nose gets oddly wider when I smile, and I’m just used to being on the other side of the camera… but I’ve also grown to realize that it’s important to document everyone in the family, and I’ve learned a neat little trick* that helps me form a more natural-looking smile on cue, and overall I’ve come to terms with me on film, or in pixels.  We’ve got some lovely family photos, and candids, and they all come together to create some good, solid family and friend-ly and personal memories.

So, I would say, to paraphrase Donald Winnecott and get all psychologisty, that I have learned how to be a good-enough subject.  Not quite a model, nothing that exalted, but a solid subject of my own family’s photography, whenever I remember to shove the camera into someone else’s hands and remind them to take a picture of me, too.

But this past weekend, that self-image took a big step in a completely unexpected direction.  Because I went down to the New York City suburbs, to my friend Lisa’s house, to have her take maternity photos of me – remember when I was asking for advice?  It was not an easy trip to make; it was supposed to be last weekend and then I got strep throat instead, and as we were preparing to go I was having very regular, strong Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Which, for those of you not in on the pregnancy terminology, are like practice contractions – my whole belly goes rock-hard for 30-60 seconds.  It’s painless, but can get strong enough to leave me a bit breathless and unable to focus on anything else until it passes.  More common in non-first pregnancies, and it can be a sign of very early actual labor.

Which was the case, at this same point in my pregnancy with Jacob: 32 weeks, strong and regular Braxton-Hicks contractions… and it turned out that I was officially in “preterm labor,” with some progress happening in terms of dilation, and thus I was returned to bed rest and placed on a strong, very unpleasant medication to stop labor.  So when it started happening Friday, I was anxious… should I really get in the car and drive four hours away from my doctor?  But I spoke with the triage nurse, and she was unconcerned about it to the point of ridiculousness: “Oh, it’s your third?  Then you’ll know whether it’s real labor or just a false alarm, just follow your instincts.  And if you have to, you can always go to a hospital there, instead…”  Great, thanks, lady.

So I thought it through, and decided I was determined to get these photos taken.  The contractions eased off after about four hours, the ride was easy, and we made it safely.  Next morning, we started bright and early, and after an initial awkwardness at the idea of being the sole focus of many, many dozens of photos, it became fun.  Lisa and I have known each other for over five years, mostly online but we’ve met in person before, so we could chat like the old friends we are instead of groping about for topics with a stranger.

And as she clicked away, I started to think, “Maybe this will come out with some nice shots.  She’s taking a lot; just by simple odds it seems like my chances of having at least one great shot are high.”  And the more I relaxed, the more fun it was, and somehow three hours slid by.

I asked, as we were enjoying an enormous French toast brunch afterward – because, clearly, Lisa hadn’t worked hard enough already that day, so let’s make her feed my whole family and hers, too – when she thought I might be able to see some of the photos.  I was thinking about this coming weekend’s no-longer-surprise baby shower, and how it would be great to be able to share some of these photos with the people there, especially my less-technologically-advanced grandmother.  “You’ll have some photos within a few days, and the lot of them – both the ones I have edited and the ones I haven’t played with – on a CD within a few weeks,” Lisa said, and that seemed more than reasonable to me.

So you can imagine my glee to come home Saturday afternoon and find a few photos already edited and waiting for me.  And by today – only two days later, and this woman has children and a life! – there were over 20 edited photos online.  Much quicker than expected, which is lovely all by itself.

And the actual photos?




I don’t remember ever saying this, ever, my whole life, with the possible exception of my wedding day, but I’m saying it now: I look amazing.  These photos do such a wonderful job of capturing exactly the sort of tone and mood that I was hoping for, so much more artistic and moving than anything I could take by myself or direct a family member to do, but without being snobby or cold or distant.  And somehow that’s me in those photos, how wild is that?

So, yeah.  Worth every mile, every penny and more, every bit of effort and interrupted sleep and messing-up of the family’s routine.

Want proof?  Just ye look:

And it wasn’t just me… Willem and the kids joined in, towards the end.

How on earth will I choose which ones to print out and frame? Seriously… help me out here, which do I choose? (There’s a bunch more online here.) And bear in mind, these are only the ones that Lisa edited… there are probably 200 more en route on disc, which I can either play with myself or beg her to tweak if I so choose.

I just love them. All of them. I can’t stop looking at them, and then I can’t stop smiling. Not in a smug, aren’t-I-awesome sort of way, just in a pleased, glowy, pregnant sort of way.

* The trick? Just before the photo happens, stretch your jaw as wide open as you can, like you’re yawning hugely but without the yawn. You want to do it far enough that you feel a little pull at the sides, just below your ears. Then allow yourself to fall into a natural-looking smile, et voila! I’m not sure exactly how it works, but someone from our wedding party clued us into this trick on our wedding day. Something about how your typical fake-for-the-camera smile only uses the lips and mouth, but this causes more muscles to get in on the action just like an actual smile would. And, too, there’s a certain amount of goofiness I feel, lolling my mouth so wide open in front of a camera, so I am truly amused and laughing at myself a little when I do this, which I’m sure helps with the naturalness, too. Whatever the reason, it works. Try it!


  1. They’re all gorgeous!

  2. Ooh! What a treat for you. Beautiful. I especially like the ones of you in black.

  3. I love the ones with all of you, but I think my two favorites of just you are the first one you posted, and the third one, with the scarf.

  4. They’re lovely! I especially like the first one.

  5. :-* Soooooo glad you’re happy!

  6. Oh, Lisa, me too… how awkward would it be for me to have to fake it? “Well, I got these photos taken… and isn’t the, um, background lovely? And, uh, such a great idea for a pose…”

    Instead I can just happily bask. Good stuff.

  7. it’s a miracle getting pregnant since pregnancy is a gift from God, although some people maybe disagree with that.

  8. I’m not surprised these photos are so beautiful because you & your family are beautiful!! I can’t tell you how happy I am that you are enjoying this pregnancy so much!! Beautiful job, Lisa; these photos make me wish I’d had a photo shoot like this with one of my babies!

  9. They are all beautiful. The first one is awesome, but you looking amazing in the one with the scarf!

  10. WOW! Every one and everyone of you is so beautiful in these! The spirit that shines through, the transcendent aura leaps off the screen! What a treasure to have these and that time of togetherness.

    Now, let the labor come 🙂

  11. Awwww – those are all awesome. Gorgeous.

    My favorite though? The first one. It’s stunning.

  12. […] The best reward though is knowing that folks are pleased with the results.  Kate keeps up quite an entertaining blog, as she has a true gift for the written word, and oh my goodness, could she be any sweeter? […]

  13. They are so good! Amazing, really. FWIW, my favorites are the ones with the colored sash under your belly, and the two where you’re lying on your back. But then there’s the one with you and Jacob kissing, and the one with the kids slung over Willem’s shoulders … oh, shoot, they’re just all gorgeous!

  14. Wow, Kate. Just wow.

  15. They’re lovely! And that first one of you is GORGEOUS!

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