I pulled the photograph closer to my eyes to analyze the setting. Towering loblolly pines, a timber deck stained deep mahogany, my mum dressed in a form-fitting cotton dress cradling her tummy outside my childhood home in Georgia. Inhale, exhale – I can almost smell the fresh air. I smile and glance down at the remaining photographs inside the shoebox, searching for more. That’s the only image, my heart hurts. I know it’s not me that’s growing inside her in that photograph, it’s my brother.
I keep coming back to that image. Five years younger than my brother, did she look the same when she was carrying me? Was her hair still cut short in a bob with a fluffy blond fringe, did she have the same black dress? I’ll never know, I wish I knew.
Maternity portraits matter for now, but the makeup you wore will wash off. The saltwater will be rinsed with fresh and the gown hung in the closet for another day (or perhaps not.) One day, you’ll leave behind a collection of images for your son or daughter to thumb through. Maybe your daughter wants to know more about her mother when she was pregnant – where did she travel, what did she wear? Maybe your son huddles on the floor with two kids of his own, sifting through images of their grandmother, explaining that it’s him in your belly, watching their lips turn upward in a smile and eyebrows twist in disbelief.
Maternity portraits matter for later, when our kids are grown. As parents, the weight on our heart grows as we pack up onesies and bibs, the first time they let go of our hand to run ahead. We’ll send them to school, hug them tight before they fly across the world to write their story, find themselves, find love and grow together with another but further from ourselves. Pregnancy photography is for now, it’s for later, it’s for you – and it’s for them.