You know how every once in a while you just meet someone who inspires you? Well this mama’s heart spoke straight to mine and every time I think of motherhood now, her words echo through my mind. Dane and I each have one sister. Growing up in a family of four, we have both always assumed that someday we would have a family of four as well. I’ve never thought a lot about having a big family… until I met this one.
As some of you know, I was incredibly blessed to attend Stormy Solis’ first ever in-person workshop in Hawaii last December. I was inspired by her and all of my fellow Stormfest photographers, but one of the things that will stick with me forever was something I overheard this pretty lady say to her daughters on the night we got to work with them. This mama’s heart just spoke straight to mine. Annie Groves is a really talented birth photographer living in Oahu, Hawaii, but she is first and foremost a wife and mother. Her priorities are so clear, that after knowing her for about 10 minutes, I was already taking mental notes on all of the things I want to copy someday when we have a family. I’ll get to her beautiful words in just a minute, but first, let me set the scene here.
To call her daughters a delight is an unfair understatement. They are so warm, loving, playful and giggly- I just found myself glued to them. Even when there were several beautiful chances to photograph Annie breastfeeding her baby boy on the side of a sun-kissed cliff overlooking the ocean, I could hardly pull myself away from a crowded parking lot with very “meh” lighting- just to get some one-on-one time with her girls.
Driving home from the location that night, I told my friend Melody that the evening had helped confirm to me that I’m definitely a kid photographer. She’s a wedding and couple’s photographer and kept oohing and aahhing over beautiful Annie and her equally handsome hubby, while I scrolled and scrolled through pictures of these three sisters zooming in on their sweet little smiles.
The workshop fell right at the end of Christmas card season, and I had eleven- yes ELEVEN- sessions that I was trying to finish up for clients. January held 5 newborn sessions, a birth, two fresh 48 sessions, a maternity and a family session. I promised myself that when I got a break, I would finally sit down and edit this session. I treated it like dessert. Sometimes when I was overwhelmed or felt stuck I’d open this folder in lightroom and edit one or two, but for the most part I waited. Finally this month I got to finish what might be one of the sweetest family sessions I have ever been a part of. When you’ve got three little girls playing, a beautiful baby boy who everyone wants to hold, and a picture-perfect mom and dad… in addition to 12 photographers running around vying for shots- there is A LOT going on. The crazy pace fit this family well.
One of the things I love about being a photographer is the way I get to know my families. I love watching them interact with one another and getting to share in those intimate moments when they forget that there is a camera around. I’ve told and retold this story, but every time I share it, the mama’s I tell get tears in their eyes, so with Annie’s blessing I’ve decided to share it publicly now. This moment is everything that motherhood should be to me and I’m already praying that God will bless me with Annie’s gentleness, wisdom, and ability to connect with her children’s hearts when it’s my turn to raise a family.
About halfway through our session we asked Annie to spin her youngest daughter, who was wearing one of the cutest twirly dresses that you ever did see. The older girls were hanging back with their dad and brother, and as any little girl would feel, each was kind of wishing that she was the one twirling. After we’d all gotten some shots, we started to move on to another spot on the beach when I noticed that both girls looked a little bit disappointed that they hadn’t gotten a turn.
Neither whined about it or made a fuss, but Annie- who had every reason to be distracted by the dozens of cameras capturing her every move, immediately noticed as well. She let everyone walk ahead while she knelt down on the beach and placed a hand on each girl. She was quiet and gentle and I feel so blessed to have been hanging back just enough to overhear her say to her girls, “You might not always be the center of attention- but you are never left out.” She turned to her oldest and said, “You made me a mama.” Then put her arm around her middle daughter and said, “And you taught me just how big my heart could grow.” The girls gave her little squeezes back and skipped off ready to move on to the next shoot, both feeling valued, special and tremendously loved.
This mama’s heart- along with the words- not spoken for anyone to overhear, just might live in my heart forever. And I’m more than certain that they already were, and forever will be, firmly planted in the hearts and minds of those little girls all their lives.