How I am coping with grief.

I have had a lot of people ask me lately how my son and I are doing after my husband was tragically killed. My answer is “We have found our new normal.” Tomorrow will mark 7 months since Jim was killed. It seems so surreal sometimes when I look back on how much we have gone through up to today. Jim and I were together for almost 10 years and would have been married for 9 years. We went through an 18 month deployment, buying our first house, infertility woes for 4.5 years, miscarriage, finally having a baby, and building a house – not to mention the every day things. Being a military wife probably prepared me the most for dealing with this tragedy. That is not an easy job, and any military spouse can attest to that. There were days when he was in Iraq that I didn’t hear from him so I had no idea if he was alive or not. I got used to having to do things on my own and being alone (yet married). Despite the hard times, it just made our marriage stronger. I relied a lot of him to do the “manly” things around the house and outside, plus he was a great cook. When he died, I had to learn how to do all of this myself. I didn’t know how to mow the lawn, cook (yes I know), fix the car, and even little things like change batteries in the smoke detectors. Luckily I have some awesome neighbors, family and friends who have helped me out with teaching me these things and/or doing them for me (like mowing the lawn). This would have been so much harder without them, so thank you to all of you wonderful people in my life!

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

When coping with my own personal grief journey, there were 3 things that really helped me. My faith in God, my son Gavin, and exercising. Without my faith in God, I don’t know where I would be or what I would be doing honestly. There were days I didn’t want to even get out of bed in the beginning because I was so depressed and asking myself everyday “why him, why me?”. I did wallow in my own pity for a few months, but the whole time I kept my faith. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. I just kept that verse close to my heart, knowing God had a plan for Gavin and I. This verse hangs in my living room to remind me everyday (thank you Casey).

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

Gavin, my 1.5 year old, was one of the coping methods I have used every day. He is the reason I get up every single day. He makes me laugh all of the time with his adorable personality. Such a happy kid despite not having his dad there to be there for him. I was very used to Jim helping me out with Gavin once he got home from work. Then poof! I was a single mom overnight, unexpectedly. How was I supposed to take care of him myself? I didn’t ask for this. Luckily my mom stayed for a few weeks in December helping me with him and keeping up on the house. I also spent a lot of time with family over the holidays and stopped working for a bit. My step-sister, Mariah, was gracious enough to move in with me to help me out when I needed it.

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

 

Once I started working again, it was again another adjustment to try to muster up the effort to just work. Jim normally watched Gavin in the evening while I did a photo session, now I have Mariah or have to find a babysitter to watch him while I work. I have even brought him with me a few times if I couldn’t find someone to watch him for me. I have some awesome clients who don’t mind me bringing him because they understand my situation. Gavin is so friendly and loving that he can make anyone who is sad smile. I started out trying to find one thing a day that made me happy and feel blessed despite loosing Jim. One thing turned into multiple things, and day by day I became happier. I started surrounding myself with positive people and reading books on how to be a widow. Ugh… I do not like the word widow. I feel like an old maid when I have to tell someone my martial status. There really needs to be a new word for it. Anyway, after deciding to choose happiness over depression my life changed. I became a person that wanted to inspire others to be happy in their own life no matter what their situation. I remember reading on Facebook one day that someone was complaining about being stuck in traffic on their way home, and all I could think about is well at least you get to go home to your spouse because they are alive. I feel blessed to be alive every day, even when things don’t go according to plan. God gave me and my son one more day to live so we are living life to the fullest every single day. If that means that I want to take him to the zoo that day instead of working, then I will do so. I will still get that work done, just while he is asleep at night. I am fortunate enough to have built up my business to be able to do this when I want, but will admit it’s not easy. There used to be two incomes for this household and now I’m the main source of income for Gavin and I. It definitely put things in perspective for me as far as spending money and what I need rather than want.

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

The third thing that has really helped me and is still helping me every day is working out. I originally started doing some workout DVDs I already had, then started pinning workouts on Pinterest to do. These were a great start and helped me get on the right track. When you exercise, it released endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. I was one anti-depressant medicine for one month then replaced it with exercise.  I workout every day to help with my grief journey and stay in shape. I am a much happier person that I was. The workouts I had been doing were great for about a month, then I started wanting more – craving more exercises and harder ones.  So I bought Focus T25 by Beachbody. What an amazing workout it has been for me!  I even decided to become a Beachbody Coach! I help others find a workout program for their specific goal and coach them along the way. Not only am I helping others, but it keeps me accountable too. I am on my 6th week out of 10 week program with T25. The great thing is, it’s only 25 minute workout so it doesn’t take hours nor do I have to leave my house. Gavin usually tries to mock me while I’m doing it too (haha). He is my inspiration to keep not only in good physical shape, but also in good mental shape. I am a better mommy to him because of it. After I finish T25, I am moving on to PiYo program to become more lean and flexible – great thing for a photographer who is always trying to get a different perspective. After I workout, I feel energized and happy!! Who doesn’t want to feel happy? I have a website where anyone can order a workout program like Focus T25, PiYo, Insanity, P90x, P90x3, 21 Day Fix, Body Beast, Turbo Fire, etc. www.beachbodycoach.com/frecklefit.  I highly encourage everyone, no matter your situation, to give exercise a try and just see how much your attitude will change. You will feel better physically and emotionally!

“Look forward with hope, not backwards with regret.”

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

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The legacy of Jim Vester

I am blessed. Even though my life plans didn’t turn out the way I thought they would, God has given me a second chance. On December 4, 2013 my life changed forever as my husband was murdered. Jim was the love of my life. He would call me at least 5 times a day while he was at work on top of the dozens of text messages. He always wanted to make sure I was doing okay. He was the type of husband who wanted to always be with me; I loved that about him. He may have been a procrastinator when it came to getting projects done around the house, but it’s because he would rather spend time with myself and our son instead. I didn’t mind. He made dinner every night for us. Boy do I miss his cooking! I miss his smile. I miss his boisterous laugh and loud voice. I miss the way he would look at me with his loving eyes like I was perfect just the way I am no matter what mood I was in. He was my motivator and I looked up to him. He was the one who motivated me to finally take the leap to open my own photography business. He loved being a husband, dad, brother, friend, and soldier. One of his favorite things to do was to invite a bunch of friends over and cook for them. He was such a great guy. Jim was very affectionate with me in public and around friends & family. He let everyone know that I was his and only his. I want Gavin to grow up to be a great man and husband like Jim was. I am tearing up writing this wondering if I am raising him to be a good man. I pray that I am. Raising a child to be a good person and be kind to others takes a village.

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Photo by Sarah-Beth Photography.
The recent violence in Indy has really made me take a step back and wonder what has happened in these people’s lives to make them so angry. Innocent people are being killed for a couple of bucks. It’s sad really. What can we all do to change the community we are living in? For one, we can be great role models for not only our own children, but other children as well. Get involved in volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club in your community. I used to volunteer and work there for a couple of years; it made my heart happy knowing that I was there to help shape those young kids. These children need positive role models in their lives and know that they are loved no matter their home life may be. You can also become part of the Big Brother or Big Sister program. There are so many kids that are desperately wanting to have someone to look up to. There are over 408 boys in Indiana alone who are waiting for a mentor. So men, I am calling you out. Please help become a mentor to these boys. Even if it isn’t through this program, get out there and mentor young troubled kids in your neighborhood/area. Maybe their home life isn’t the best situation, but everyone can overcome horrible situations with a little love in their life. I know I wouldn’t be where I’m at today with my friends and family there for me whenever I need to talk. Even little things like sending a text message with a positive quote to a person can bring a smile to their face. You can help change the life of someone by the smallest gesture.

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Photo by Sarah-Beth Photography.

Speaking of smiles, I would rather get a smile thrown my way than a pity look any day. I want to live amongst the living and embrace this life God has given Gavin and I. Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that I remind myself of everyday.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I do not know why this tragedy has happened to my late husband, but God has a plan. Jim wouldn’t want me to be angry or sad all of the time, rather he would want to me focus on keeping myself and Gavin happy. That is my goal everyday – to try to find happiness. I take it one day at a time, some days one step at a time. The good days are now outweighing the bad. Gavin is my world. He keeps me laughing all of the time. He looks just like Jim (minus the red hair and blue eyes). I will always have a piece of Jim with me through Gavin. He will always know what a great man his daddy was. He points out all of Jim’s photos in the house and kisses his photo every night. It’s bittersweet for me to watch him do this everyday. He definitely misses that male interaction but luckily I have male friends and family who come over to play with him. I will always make sure that Gavin has a positive male role model in his life, no matter what the future holds for us.

Karens-Post

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Photo by Sarah-Beth Photography.

The outpour of support I received from strangers and people who just generally care is amazing. So many people have reached to to me to tell me that Jim’s story has saved their own life. I truly believe that this tragedy has happened to save other people’s lives. Jim was deployed when the war was still going strong and the location wasn’t the best. He saved lives then and he is saving them now even without being physically here. He volunteered his spare time to the Ceremonial Unit with the Indiana National Guard to serve others who had passed away. I cannot thank all of the military members enough for their kindness and support through this rough time. Not only do I have friends who have been there at the drop of a hat, but I also have wonderful neighbors who help me with anything I need. It’s amazing how much I really did rely on Jim to do the “manly” things around the house. I am now learning how to do these things.

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Photo by Sarah-Beth Photography.

It’s been an eye-opening journey so far. I am focusing on running my own business and being a great mommy to Gavin. For now that is enough on my plate :) Four months ago, I could barely get out of bed and function since Jim was killed. Today, I find strength from my son and trying to give him the best life despite the circumstances. Working out has also helped me to become physically stronger along with God helping me to be stronger internally. I encourage anyone who has to unfortunately walk this path to seek the help of others who offer and discover your faith again. I want to be an inspiration to other widows that you can get through this rough time in your life and you will. I am living proof.

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography.

 

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When was the last time you had family photos taken?

I have had so many people tell me lately that they need family photos taken this year because they haven’t had them done in a while. Please, please with sugar on top, DO IT. We had our family photos taken 3 times within a year (4 if you count maternity); yes that may be a bit excessive but now that Jim has passed I am SO happy we did. Never once did I regret spending the money to capture our family together. In fact, I regret that I didn’t get more photos! I wish I would have had hired someone to do the birth of Gavin and his newborn photos (I did those myself but never got a photo of the 3 of us).  I believe it is so important to do this for yourself. It’s an investment that is worth every penny.

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Photo taken by your truly :)

Now if you are one of those people who don’t want to be in front of the camera for whatever the reason, please just be in front of the camera. Don’t wait until you loose those 10 pounds because that may take a while and life is too short to wait. Your kids are not going to care that you had that extra weight on you at that time, instead they will appreciate those family photos when they are older. I have several photos around the house of my late husband Jim and my son who is 16 months now (tear) will take the frame holding a picture of daddy and kiss it daily. It’s part of our routine now. What if your spouse passed away tomorrow and the last time you had photos taken was 4 years ago? Would you regret not having a recent photo of you guys together? We had our last family photos taken one month prior to Jim’s passing. I am so appreciative that we had that done. Even though Jim didn’t particularly like getting photos taken of him, he was pretty used to it by this point since I had my “big” camera out everyday.

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Photo by Sarah-Beth Photography

My advice:

1. Hire a professional photographer to get your family photos done and soon.

2. Take advantage of mini sessions anytime they are offered.

3. Make it your personal goal to get your family photos taken at least once a year.

4. Book it ahead of time. A lot of the good photographers can book up very quickly throughout the year.

5. Do your research. Check out the photographer’s blog, website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc. Look at reviews and recommendations – these are usually on the photographer’s website and Facebook fan page.

6. Take time to pick out your outfits. I send all of my clients a “What to Wear Guide”.

7. Remember, this is an investment. Family photos are so important to have.

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Maternity photos taken by Sarah-Beth Photography

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Gavin’s 3 month photos taken by Sarah-Beth Photography

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Gavin’s 6 month photos taken by Kimberly Reid Photography (lifestyle session)

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Gavin’s 1 year photos taken by Sarah-Beth Photography in November 2013

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Monday, December 9, 2013 – Jim’s funeral. Photos taken by Sarah-Beth Photography

Bottom line: get those photos schedule TODAY. You never know when it might be your last family photos taken.

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Fun Family Photo Session | IMA 100 acres

I decided to do a preview of this large family session in a blog instead of just posting the photos on Facebook. I have known this whole family for a while so it was a privilege for me to photograph them! I have been photographing the Geesaman’s since Karl was 5 months old and now he is a little over 2 years old. I love my regular clients; they are what make my job so much fun! Some of these family members haven’t had their pictures taken in quite a while so I wanted to make sure I captured those moments for them too. Enjoy!

 

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Darby and John Wedding | The Sanctuary, Zionsville IN

Oh I cannot say enough good things about this wonderful couple! Darby and John live out in California so I first met Darby and her mom a few days before their wedding. Darby is so stylish and trendy – I mean look at her dress! Everyone who has seen these photos on my Facebook page comments on how unique and pretty her dress is.

Darby and John are a FUN couple so I wanted to capture their fun nature in their wedding photos. I think Darby was laughing the whole time which is awesome because you want to have fun on your wedding day right? :) We were so worried the weather was going to be rainy because that was what was predicted for the weather that day. Good ole unpredictable Indiana weather turned out sunny; perfect for outdoor photos before the ceremony. I know I have said this a million times before, but doing the first look photos before the wedding ceremony is less stressful for everyone. Once the ceremony is over, you can actually enjoy your cocktail hour and visit with family and friends – afterall, they did come to your wedding to see you! I’m so happy that Darby and John took advantage of this so they could enjoy their wedding day.

I obviously don’t get to pick where couples choose to get married, but Darby and John did a great job of picking this venue out. The Sanctuary of Zionsville is an art gallery with a full bar! Downtown Zionsville is so cute and quaint too. Everyone is so friendly and helpful around there.

Enjoy :)

Venue: The Sanctuary of Zionsville

DJ: Sure Tones Entertainment

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Pruis Wedding | Advent Lutheran Church & Plum Creek Golf Club,Carmel IN

Jacob and Kristin got married on April 20, 2013 at Advent Lutheran Church in Zionsville. It was a beautiful day even though a little chilly for April, but hey it’s Indiana and you just never know what the weather will be! The trees had just bloomed so they were a wonderful background for portraits.

I know I have said this before, but I just love when couples take the time to think of the small details. It really makes a difference in wedding photos. Kristin’s dress looked like something out of a magazine especially with the pink ribbon tied around her waist. After the ceremony, Kristin, Jacob and I went to Plum Creek Golf Club for the reception and for more photos. Plum Creek has these great silos which you will see in the photos below. At every wedding, we sit at a table with guests from the wedding, and I have to say these guests were the kindest people! Speaking of kind people, Jacob and Kristin are just the sweetest couple and perfect for each other. Congratulations!! :)

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Baby Ashton | Newborn Indianapolis Photographer

Oh Ashton was such a good baby! He slept like a champ for me! It also helped when his parents followed my instructions too ;) Ashley and Shawn are friends of mine, and I am just so happy for them! I actually hung out with them the day before Ashley went into labor, and all of their family and friends were anxious for baby Ashton’s arrival.

Have I said how much I love chubby babies? Ashton doesn’t even look chubby to me, more like healthy. He was just too precious. His cord actually fell off during the session! I was stunned only because my little guy’s cord too 2 weeks to fall off. Ashton you are very loved by your parents. Congratulations you guys!

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Brian & Rachel : Engaged | Indianapolis Wedding Photographer

Engagement sessions are high up on the list on my favorite things to photograph.  Just two people in love – that simple. Brian and Rachel are one of my fabulous couples that I have the honor of photographing their wedding in June of this year. I love that they brought their adorable dog along for photos! I’m totally a dog lover (sorry cat folks). I took these photos in March and of course with Indiana weather, you just never know what you are going to get. The sun peeked out for a few minutes so we took full advantage of it. Can’t wait for your wedding Brian and Rachel!

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Infertility: A Personal Journey

I know this isn’t something I would normally blog about, but one of my past brides has inspired me to write about this journey. Maybe it will help other couples who are going through the same thing. I also hope it will open the eyes of people who have not gone through this to see what it is like and maybe be a little kinder.

I always knew and I wanted to be a mom and a wife. Being a wife seemed to come easy even with our first year of marriage we were a world apart from each other. Jim was deployed to Iraq for 1 year plus 6 months of training before we got married. There were rough days and sometimes weeks of not hearing from him and not know if he was even alive or not. I thought those hard times were over and we could finally start a family together.

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After we had been married for two years, we decided it was time to start “trying” for a family. So many friends and family around us got pregnant so easily that we thought it would happen for us pretty quickly as well. The first time I held my nephew I knew I wanted a baby – like now. Why wasn’t it happening fast for us? The first 8 months went by slow and I realized that maybe there was something wrong. So I went to my OBGYN to have her check things out and get her advice. She suggested I try a couple of rounds of Clomid to see if that would jump start things. Well 5 rounds later and still nothing, so she referred us to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). Lots of tests were ran on myself and Jim. We were diagnosed as “unexplained infertility”. Great, we have a diagnosis now but insurance doesn’t cover a dime because *there is nothing wrong with us* in the insurance eyes. Unexplained infertility diagnosis was hard to deal with. I almost wanted something to be “wrong” so maybe there was a solution to the problem. The Dr might as well have told us I don’t know why you aren’t getting pregnant.

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{Holding my nephew for the first time}

Here we are two healthy individuals who are struggling for two years with no success and no answers. No one could explain why we weren’t getting pregnant. How frustrating. At the time, I didn’t know of anyone going through this so I really couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Everyone was getting pregnant around me. Everywhere I looked I saw glowing pregnant women who I secretly envied because I wanted that so badly. People kept saying oh it will happen for you guys or stop trying and it will happen. Okay these are things that people who have not gone through this process tell you because that is what they think you want to hear. Not true. All I wanted was for someone to listen and to empathize but instead I got advice on things that most of these people had never had to worry about. Not only did I go through years of physical and emotional pain, but I also had no idea why we weren’t getting pregnant. Obviously something we were doing wasn’t working.

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3.5 years into trying, I actually got pregnant! Oh happy day!! I was so overwhelmed with joy! I went into the RE to confirm that day and indeed I was! But that next day I started to bleed… what was this about? I went into the doctor’s office that day and they had confirmed that I lost the baby. That was very painful and lots of tears came with that miscarriage. I remember thinking will I ever be able to carry a child? I was very depressed after this had happened. I had told a few people about it and most were sympathetic and some were more like oh that happens quite often and you will forget about it one day. Nope sorry. I still have not forgotten that day or the feeling I had. I honestly couldn’t even believe someone suggested that – I would never say that to someone who had just gone through that.

Many years of trying to conceive in every way imaginable, the last hope of having a child ourselves was in vitro. We had tried basically all of the combinations of oral medications with the shots and IUI’s but nothing worked. (Side note: those shots in the stomach hurt and sucked!) I’m not going to go into everything we did/tried up to this point because that is getting a little *too* personal for me. But a new year came in 2012 and I told myself to just focus on my work instead of trying to get pregnant and it will happen when God wants it to. I still remember so many people asking us “when are you guys going to have kids?”. As if it was in our control or something. We would just look at each other and just smile back at the person who asked and say “when God wants us to”. Yes we had been married for 6 going on 7 wonderful years of marriage with no children. People asked us when we were going to have children all of the time – pretty much everyday.  It started to get to the point where it was getting hard for me to be happy when my friends told me they were pregnant. I didn’t even want to go to the baby shower for selfish reasons, wishing that was me and holding back the tears every time. Don’t get me wrong, I was/still am happy for all of my friends who have had kids but it was really rough for a few years.

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4.5 years later in February of 2012, I wasn’t feeling the greatest one day so decided to take a pregnancy test (one of many I had stored under the sink). It was early in the morning before work on a Friday (funny how I remember that part) when I decided to take it thinking it would turn out to be negative like the hundreds I had taken before. A few sleepy minutes later I look at the test and my eyes probably bugged out of my head. What’s this?! It’s positive? Surely something is wrong with this one – I must take another one. Sure enough that one was too. I remember calling Jim 2 or 3 times and he didn’t pick up – of course when I wanted him to pick up right at that moment he was busy working haha. I text him to call me asap. I hopped in the shower to pass time because after all I still had to go to work that day. He finally called me back about 15 minutes later (felt like an eternity) and was all sorts of concerned like I had caught the house on fire or something lol. I tried to make him guess what I was calling about but he didn’t want to play that game because he thought something was wrong. I said, “you are never going to believe this, but I’m pregnant!!!” We were both jumping for joy at this point! I was so happy all day but in the back of my mind was the miscarriage I had a year ago. Luckily, I was able to get into the RE office right away to take a pregnancy test to confirm and do all of the blood draws. Even though we didn’t get pregnant while on meds or through any procedure, my RE was the only person I had seen in years so I just instantly called them on what steps to take next. I was about 6 weeks along confirmed the RE. We had the first ultrasound when I was 7 weeks and we got to hear the heartbeat. Sweet, sweet sounds of the heartbeat. I wanted to cry tears of joy right then and there. God has finally blessed us with a child.

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My pregnancy was a bit rough in the sense of I puked pretty much every single day but it was all worth it in the end! It is amazing to know that a baby is growing inside of you. A woman’s body is amazing. We can grow a child and feed a child once they are born – simply amazing. Have I said amazing yet? haha Around 20 weeks we found out that this miracle child of ours is a boy! Boy, oh boy! Time to start decorating the nursery and getting ready for this little guys arrival in September.

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We decided on a name fairly easily. Gavin would be his name. I finally was that “glowing” pregnant woman I longed to be for so many years. No longer were all of the questions of when we were going to have a child and having to explain our story.

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{maternity photo by Sarah-Beth Photography}

At 39 weeks, we were ready to meet Gavin. I was still working up to this point – even did a wedding at 37 wks pregnant!  40 weeks came and he still wasn’t here so we opted for me to be induced. I had to photograph a wedding 11 days later so I wanted to get this show on the road! Yes I should have not photographed a wedding so soon after giving birth but I was determined to keep working.

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Finally the day had arrived to go to the hospital to be induced. Gavin was a bit stubborn and decided he didn’t want to come out the conventional way so I had to have a c-section. First of all let me just say that I have an amazing husband who coaxed me through those awful contractions and every minute of the c-section and I don’t know what I would have done without him there. I had some amazing nurses by my side and I am so thankful for them. Even though I had an epidural, I could still *feel* them cut me during the c-section but I had been through so much, what is another 5 minutes of pain to see this wonderful baby? Side note: I really wished I had opted to have his birth photographed. Not that Jim didn’t do a good job with holding my hand and capturing photos but I was so out of it that I didn’t take any photos of him in the hospital. I just wanted to remember his birth and that moment forever.

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Gavin arrived on October 1, 2012 at 2:31pm at 7lbs 12 oz. We finally got to meet this precious baby boy we had waited so long for God to give us. My heart felt like it was going to burst with love for him.

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Coming home from the hospital and starting our lives as a family of 3 was exciting and well worth the wait. Gavin may never know the journey we went on, but he will know how special he is to us. I don’t know if we will ever be able to have another child or not in the future. So I take photos of Gavin every single day. I never want to forget every moment, milestone and smile. You may get sick of seeing his photo on social media but I don’t care. He is our little miracle baby and I want to the world to see him.

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Gavin is now 6 months and I have loved every single day of being at home with him and watching him grow. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog about our journey and maybe I have opened your eyes just a little bit or maybe you read this being able to completely relate. Either way, my mission is accomplished :)

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{Sadly I don’t really have any photos of Gavin and I on the nice camera verse my iphone – getting photos soon though ;) }

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Karl – 18 months | Indianapolis family photographer

Oh Karl, you are so cute and never stop moving! Seriously, he is on the move *at all times* so this session was almost more of a lifestyle session. But then again, most of my photography looks more lifestyle(ish) anyway! Karl loves when his daddy does superman, and loves when mommy makes him laugh. This is the third session I have done of Karl and not my last :) Autumn and Aric are expecting a little girl in a couple of month to make them a family of four. I cannot wait to photographer her too!

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^^ My favorite image of the session :)

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