The Pain in Childbearing | My Brokenness

  One year ago my husband received the worst voicemail he has ever listened to in his life. I called when the bleeding started. He didn't answer; he was at a leadership conference with the rest of Compass Church's staff. I called again. I couldn't hang up because I needed him, and I left THE WORST VOICEMAIL EVER. I only sobbed, very loud. For about TWO MINUTES. I was unable to make words leave my mouth, and so I sobbed as blood left my womb without my permission. I sobbed for the baby that was leaving me in that moment as I stood in my daughter’s bathroom. I sobbed because we waited 2 long years for this sweet baby to be conceived. I sobbed because I felt so ugly. Oh, the pain. The pain in childbearing. Let me give you some back story. We tried for a year and half to get pregnant. Long before that, I knew something was wrong with me. I knew that it was my fault we weren’t able to get pregnant. I felt like a failure. I felt ugly. The one thing I should be able to do as a woman and I can’t do it. So I went to see the doctor. Ultrasounds and blood work confirmed that I had PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome/Disease). Again, with that feeling of ugliness and failure. I mourned the child I had already lost after Paislee and the children I thought I would never have in the future. I truly felt so alone. I felt unimportant. Forgotten. The doctor prescribed some medication that I didn’t want to take and so I sought out a more natural route with essential oils. I started my regimen in late February 2014. I had placed so much hope in these oils. I had faith that they would help me to become pregnant (and regulate my hormones). I was a mess of emotions, likely in large part due to my hormones being out of whack. I started using the essential oils regularly for about a month before feeling very depressed about the situation and stopping. Then I would start again, but I would be inconsistent. I was just so done with the FEELINGS side of it all. I wanted to be done. I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to just know what was going to happen! Of course, that’s never how it works. #amiright I finally decided to stop worrying. I decided that I would focus on the Beauty Unveiled Experience in my photography that I felt called to. At least a year previous I felt that unveiling women’s beauty in photographs was my calling, but I was so afraid. I was afraid of not doing justice to women’s beauty. I was afraid that it was too much for me to be able to accomplish that. I felt like it was too important, and I didn’t want to do it poorly. So, I just didn’t do it. In late June 2014, I started to focus on what God called me to do. I was ready to jump in head first. I set up a meeting with a special lady to discuss some ideas regarding the Beauty Unveiled Sessions. We met the first week of July. I shared all of this story with her up to where I was; my calling to it, my pain and heart ache, the times I felt so ugly. I didn’t feel like I could possibly be the one to unveil a woman’s beauty and empower her to feel beautiful in her own skin because I didn’t feel that way. BUT I knew I had to. I had to go where I was being called. I could not sit back any longer. We met again that week with a dear friend and ministry partner of hers to talk about beauty, and we all felt stirred. She called me not many days after to ask me to be a workshop leader for their women’s retreat and I was able to share the best news ever. I told her I was pregnant. It was amazing. It felt so right. I was coming to the point that I started focusing on God again and then it just happened. Like that. When she emailed me regarding the retreat, the bottom of her email said, "Our verse for the retreat is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.'  Kind of appropriate for our phone call isn’t it?!” I was so overwhelmed by all that God was doing and moving in my life. I mean, talk about the feels. It was just amazing. Not one month later and it would all change. On August 14th, 2014 I miscarried our baby. My sister in law drove me to the emergency room where my hubby and some of our pastors were waiting. It was all such a blur to me; I was emotionally numb. I arrived and was taken straight back to a room. There was so much blood. My husband’s face was strained with feelings he didn’t know how to feel outwardly. He didn’t know what to do. I remember thinking, “There is no way this baby is still there. There is just too much blood." I could only cry. It wasn’t long before we were taken back for an ultrasound. It was painful (in so many ways) to lie there while she examined the remains of my womb. And then she looked me straight in the eye and turned on the doppler. A HEARTBEAT. A FREAKIN’ HEARTBEAT! I did not understand. It wasn’t possible. How? She did a second, more invasive, ultrasound and discovered I was carrying twins. TWINS! (By the way, my hubby's sisters are twins.) In the midst of our pain, there was joy. We lost one baby, but the other was still growing. We already knew what the name would be if he were a boy. Ezekiel. A name we picked for our first born, but that baby ended up being a crazy Paislee! Ezekiel was the perfect name for this child. You see, Ezekiel means “God Strengthens.” Although it started out with a couple months of bed rest, I really had no idea what we were in for throughout this pregnancy. Through my bed rest, I became very depressed. With my personality, I did not do well being secluded in the house for long periods of time (and sometimes with a crazy Paislee). Friends would say that they’d come visit during the day or that we should hang out, but it never seemed to happen. I felt so alone again. Every time we went to the doctor, I had an ultrasound done. And every time I was reminded that my womb was also a tomb for the child I would never meet on this earth. Not only that, but the remains of one baby put the other at risk. It was always on my mind that there were still pieces of my unborn child inside of me. We could only wait for baby to “resorb.” How terrible that word is. It makes my heart sad. Every where I went, pain followed. The pain in childbearing followed me through my whole pregnancy. You see, no one tells you that the pain in childbearing is not just the physical pain of labor. It is the pain during the process with which we bring children into our lives (I believe this also applies to those who are adopting). And it just kept following me. With excitement (and hopes of a boy), we went to the specialist for the Anatomy Ultrasound in October. This was a big day during my pregnancy. It was full of surprises. It was pretty amazing to see the details of this tiny little BOY growing inside of me! And then we got the news- they wanted me back in the office to speak with the Specialist because baby boy was showing markers for Down Syndrome. So, as quickly as was humanly possible, we grabbed lunch, noticed the car was acting funny, and then ate our lunch in the waiting room.  We met with the Specialist and decided a genetic test was the best option at that point. I went in the back room so the nurse could take my blood. She poked me three times. None of which resulted in blood for the tubes. At this point, we were risking being late for my regular OBGYN appointment that afternoon. So, she let me bring the genetic testing kit to my doctor’s office where they resumed poking me two more times before getting a vein. (I’d like to point out that I have never had more than one poke to have blood drawn previously.) Meanwhile, hubby took the car somewhere close by to see what was wrong with it and why it wasn’t starting every time. It was hectic. I had to relay the information from the Specialist to my doctor, which went something like this: It’s a boy, he might have Down Syndrome, take my blood so they can send it in for testing, the remains of the other baby are less visible, they believe I only have a blood clot remaining (but it's situated in just the place where it shouldn’t be), and… did I forget anything?! Just as I was done, hubby picked me up and we took the test back to the specialist. That night I cried for hours and then fell asleep on the floor of the closet. It just felt like the last straw. I was being so strong, and then this day. This. Day. Happened. And I couldn’t hold it in any longer. What a sight I must have been when Gable found me on the floor of the closet with mascara all over my face, puffy eyes, and covered in a shawl! We met with our Senior Pastor that morning. He reminded me that the pain in childbearing is much more than the labor pains and that God was calling me to go through this. I told him that I didn’t care if my child had Down Syndrome; that’s not why I was crying. I was just so done with everything going wrong. I couldn’t handle it any longer and I was tired. Pastor Tim said that God was working and had a higher calling through this journey. Oh boy. That meant it wasn’t over. I continued to have problems in my pregnancy from the hemorrhage and was unable to do my normal work. Beginning in January I was visiting the specialist two times a week and my OBGYN once a week so they could monitor baby Ezekiel. That same month, our brother was hospitalized to receive chemo to treat his newly-diagnosed aggressive Leukemia (he's in remission- AMEN). Our niece and nephew came to stay with us for the month and the distraction was welcome. There was always something. The doctors were concerned that my fluid levels were low, that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen, that he wasn’t developing properly, that his organs were compromised, that I may go into pre-term labor, and the list goes on. The rest of my pregnancy was very difficult for me. I felt so lost. I was afraid that I would have an empty nursery. I was tired of seeing the doctor every other day. I was tired of not being able to work. I just wanted to be done. We went in for an appointment with my doctor at 36 weeks and she decided if baby didn’t come on his own in the next few days, she would induce me that week. I had such a feeling of dread. I asked the people that were in our inner circle to pray for this dread I was feeling. I told Gable that I was afraid to go because I thought that it would end with either Ezekiel or myself dead. I’m sorry to be morbid, but this is really how I felt. I was so broken. Although Ezekiel had a little trouble breathing at first, he was healthy and strong even at 4 pounds 13 ounces. He was my tiny little miracle. This little person I had been praying for was finally here! Again, I have to remind you that his name was the perfect name. Ezekiel means, “God Strengthens.” I did not need the reminder of God’s strength during my pregnancy with Paislee even though I thought she would be a little boy we would name Ezekiel. He knew the pain in childbearing would be great this time around so that He could strengthen me through this process. I am still in this process. The pain in childbearing (for me) was mishandled brokenness. Even after the birth of my little miracle I have mishandled my brokenness. We have all mishandled our brokenness. It hurts so we ignore it, but it doesn’t work. We need healing! We must put God at the center and allow Him in even where we haven’t allowed anyone else. All of these lies we have believed… THEY AREN’T TRUTH. They have definitely felt true and have caused very real wounds in our spirit. We feel empty when God is not at the center. I know we have all felt that emptiness. Take a look at Eve. As soon as she put herself at the center, in place of God, she fell. Her eyes were opened and she was ashamed. Eve was no longer as she was meant to be. Just like Eve, we see in ourselves that we are not as we were created to be. The world, just like the serpent, has told us countless lies and we have believed them. Especially when God is not at the center. The problem is that the world has already answered us with pain before we even came to God for the answer and the result has been soul shattering. We have to remember to go to God with our brokenness. We have to bring our hurting heart to HIM. We NEED God at the center to be the REMEDY. So, now, the pain in childbearing (for me) is the process of sanctification.       Photo Credit: Jenifer Howard Photography

 

One year ago my husband received the worst voicemail he has ever listened to in his life. I called when the bleeding started. He didn't answer; he was at a leadership conference with the rest of Compass Church's staff. I called again. I couldn't hang up because I needed him, and I left THE WORST VOICEMAIL EVER. I only sobbed, very loud. For about TWO MINUTES. I was unable to make words leave my mouth, and so I sobbed as blood left my womb without my permission. I sobbed for the baby that was leaving me in that moment as I stood in my daughter’s bathroom. I sobbed because we waited 2 long years for this sweet baby to be conceived. I sobbed because I felt so ugly. Oh, the pain. The pain in childbearing.

Let me give you some back story. We tried for a year and half to get pregnant. Long before that, I knew something was wrong with me. I knew that it was my fault we weren’t able to get pregnant. I felt like a failure. I felt ugly. The one thing I should be able to do as a woman and I can’t do it. So I went to see the doctor. Ultrasounds and blood work confirmed that I had PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome/Disease). Again, with that feeling of ugliness and failure. I mourned the child I had already lost after Paislee and the children I thought I would never have in the future. I truly felt so alone. I felt unimportant. Forgotten.

The doctor prescribed some medication that I didn’t want to take and so I sought out a more natural route with essential oils. I started my regimen in late February 2014. I had placed so much hope in these oils. I had faith that they would help me to become pregnant (and regulate my hormones). I was a mess of emotions, likely in large part due to my hormones being out of whack. I started using the essential oils regularly for about a month before feeling very depressed about the situation and stopping. Then I would start again, but I would be inconsistent. I was just so done with the FEELINGS side of it all. I wanted to be done. I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to just know what was going to happen! Of course, that’s never how it works. #amiright

I finally decided to stop worrying. I decided that I would focus on the Beauty Unveiled Experience in my photography that I felt called to. At least a year previous I felt that unveiling women’s beauty in photographs was my calling, but I was so afraid. I was afraid of not doing justice to women’s beauty. I was afraid that it was too much for me to be able to accomplish that. I felt like it was too important, and I didn’t want to do it poorly. So, I just didn’t do it.

In late June 2014, I started to focus on what God called me to do. I was ready to jump in head first. I set up a meeting with a special lady to discuss some ideas regarding the Beauty Unveiled Sessions. We met the first week of July. I shared all of this story with her up to where I was; my calling to it, my pain and heart ache, the times I felt so ugly. I didn’t feel like I could possibly be the one to unveil a woman’s beauty and empower her to feel beautiful in her own skin because I didn’t feel that way. BUT I knew I had to. I had to go where I was being called. I could not sit back any longer. We met again that week with a dear friend and ministry partner of hers to talk about beauty, and we all felt stirred.

She called me not many days after to ask me to be a workshop leader for their women’s retreat and I was able to share the best news ever. I told her I was pregnant. It was amazing. It felt so right. I was coming to the point that I started focusing on God again and then it just happened. Like that. When she emailed me regarding the retreat, the bottom of her email said, "Our verse for the retreat is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.'  Kind of appropriate for our phone call isn’t it?!” I was so overwhelmed by all that God was doing and moving in my life. I mean, talk about the feels. It was just amazing. Not one month later and it would all change.

On August 14th, 2014 I miscarried our baby. My sister in law drove me to the emergency room where my hubby and some of our pastors were waiting. It was all such a blur to me; I was emotionally numb. I arrived and was taken straight back to a room. There was so much blood. My husband’s face was strained with feelings he didn’t know how to feel outwardly. He didn’t know what to do. I remember thinking, “There is no way this baby is still there. There is just too much blood." I could only cry. It wasn’t long before we were taken back for an ultrasound. It was painful (in so many ways) to lie there while she examined the remains of my womb. And then she looked me straight in the eye and turned on the doppler.

A HEARTBEAT. A FREAKIN’ HEARTBEAT! I did not understand. It wasn’t possible. How? She did a second, more invasive, ultrasound and discovered I was carrying twins. TWINS! (By the way, my hubby's sisters are twins.) In the midst of our pain, there was joy. We lost one baby, but the other was still growing. We already knew what the name would be if he were a boy. Ezekiel. A name we picked for our first born, but that baby ended up being a crazy Paislee! Ezekiel was the perfect name for this child. You see, Ezekiel means “God Strengthens.” Although it started out with a couple months of bed rest, I really had no idea what we were in for throughout this pregnancy. Through my bed rest, I became very depressed. With my personality, I did not do well being secluded in the house for long periods of time (and sometimes with a crazy Paislee). Friends would say that they’d come visit during the day or that we should hang out, but it never seemed to happen. I felt so alone again.

Every time we went to the doctor, I had an ultrasound done. And every time I was reminded that my womb was also a tomb for the child I would never meet on this earth. Not only that, but the remains of one baby put the other at risk. It was always on my mind that there were still pieces of my unborn child inside of me. We could only wait for baby to “resorb.” How terrible that word is. It makes my heart sad. Every where I went, pain followed. The pain in childbearing followed me through my whole pregnancy.

You see, no one tells you that the pain in childbearing is not just the physical pain of labor. It is the pain during the process with which we bring children into our lives (I believe this also applies to those who are adopting). And it just kept following me. With excitement (and hopes of a boy), we went to the specialist for the Anatomy Ultrasound in October. This was a big day during my pregnancy. It was full of surprises. It was pretty amazing to see the details of this tiny little BOY growing inside of me! And then we got the news- they wanted me back in the office to speak with the Specialist because baby boy was showing markers for Down Syndrome. So, as quickly as was humanly possible, we grabbed lunch, noticed the car was acting funny, and then ate our lunch in the waiting room.  We met with the Specialist and decided a genetic test was the best option at that point. I went in the back room so the nurse could take my blood. She poked me three times. None of which resulted in blood for the tubes. At this point, we were risking being late for my regular OBGYN appointment that afternoon. So, she let me bring the genetic testing kit to my doctor’s office where they resumed poking me two more times before getting a vein. (I’d like to point out that I have never had more than one poke to have blood drawn previously.) Meanwhile, hubby took the car somewhere close by to see what was wrong with it and why it wasn’t starting every time. It was hectic. I had to relay the information from the Specialist to my doctor, which went something like this: It’s a boy, he might have Down Syndrome, take my blood so they can send it in for testing, the remains of the other baby are less visible, they believe I only have a blood clot remaining (but it's situated in just the place where it shouldn’t be), and… did I forget anything?! Just as I was done, hubby picked me up and we took the test back to the specialist. That night I cried for hours and then fell asleep on the floor of the closet.

It just felt like the last straw. I was being so strong, and then this day. This. Day. Happened. And I couldn’t hold it in any longer. What a sight I must have been when Gable found me on the floor of the closet with mascara all over my face, puffy eyes, and covered in a shawl! We met with our Senior Pastor that morning. He reminded me that the pain in childbearing is much more than the labor pains and that God was calling me to go through this. I told him that I didn’t care if my child had Down Syndrome; that’s not why I was crying. I was just so done with everything going wrong. I couldn’t handle it any longer and I was tired. Pastor Tim said that God was working and had a higher calling through this journey. Oh boy. That meant it wasn’t over.

I continued to have problems in my pregnancy from the hemorrhage and was unable to do my normal work. Beginning in January I was visiting the specialist two times a week and my OBGYN once a week so they could monitor baby Ezekiel. That same month, our brother was hospitalized to receive chemo to treat his newly-diagnosed aggressive Leukemia (he's in remission- AMEN). Our niece and nephew came to stay with us for the month and the distraction was welcome. There was always something. The doctors were concerned that my fluid levels were low, that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen, that he wasn’t developing properly, that his organs were compromised, that I may go into pre-term labor, and the list goes on. The rest of my pregnancy was very difficult for me. I felt so lost. I was afraid that I would have an empty nursery. I was tired of seeing the doctor every other day. I was tired of not being able to work. I just wanted to be done. We went in for an appointment with my doctor at 36 weeks and she decided if baby didn’t come on his own in the next few days, she would induce me that week. I had such a feeling of dread. I asked the people that were in our inner circle to pray for this dread I was feeling. I told Gable that I was afraid to go because I thought that it would end with either Ezekiel or myself dead. I’m sorry to be morbid, but this is really how I felt. I was so broken.

Although Ezekiel had a little trouble breathing at first, he was healthy and strong even at 4 pounds 13 ounces. He was my tiny little miracle. This little person I had been praying for was finally here! Again, I have to remind you that his name was the perfect name. Ezekiel means, “God Strengthens.” I did not need the reminder of God’s strength during my pregnancy with Paislee even though I thought she would be a little boy we would name Ezekiel. He knew the pain in childbearing would be great this time around so that He could strengthen me through this process. I am still in this process. The pain in childbearing (for me) was mishandled brokenness. Even after the birth of my little miracle I have mishandled my brokenness.

We have all mishandled our brokenness. It hurts so we ignore it, but it doesn’t work. We need healing! We must put God at the center and allow Him in even where we haven’t allowed anyone else. All of these lies we have believed… THEY AREN’T TRUTH. They have definitely felt true and have caused very real wounds in our spirit. We feel empty when God is not at the center. I know we have all felt that emptiness. Take a look at Eve. As soon as she put herself at the center, in place of God, she fell. Her eyes were opened and she was ashamed. Eve was no longer as she was meant to be. Just like Eve, we see in ourselves that we are not as we were created to be. The world, just like the serpent, has told us countless lies and we have believed them. Especially when God is not at the center. The problem is that the world has already answered us with pain before we even came to God for the answer and the result has been soul shattering. We have to remember to go to God with our brokenness. We have to bring our hurting heart to HIM.
We NEED God at the center to be the REMEDY.

So, now, the pain in childbearing (for me) is the process of sanctification.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Jenifer Howard Photography

My Passion

In April 2011, I decided to begin my journey into photography as a work-at-home mom with my 6 month old (Paislee). I photographed families, maternity, babies, weddings, special events - whatever I could get my lens on! I was learning, experimenting, and having fun. I learned very quickly that the moms, the women, the girls hated being in front of the camera.

"You can 'Photoshop' that, right?"

"You can take 20 pounds off when you edit!"

"Ugh, I hate my smile."

They hated seeing themselves in photos. They hated seeing that one thing that they've focused on for years that no one else notices; the extra weight, the not-so-perfect skin, their smile, and the list goes on. They stayed out of the photos and only got shots of the children. They were visibly uncomfortable in front of the camera. They jokingly demeaned themselves during their session. These things became so pervasive among the women I photographed that I was finally fed up with it. I realized that this self-esteem issue was much deeper in the hearts of women the more I photographed them. In mid-2013, I realized I had to do something to help these women feel beautiful. So, I set my sights on photographing women beautifully, teaching them how to take a good photograph (whether with me or at a family dinner), and allowing them the experience of being dressed up for the camera.

I started by putting out a call for girls of all shapes, sizes, and colors on my personal Facebook page. I had so many women contact me wanting to be photographed (at least 30), but afraid to be in front of the camera! This proved to me even more that women desire to feel beautiful. Every woman wants a beautiful photo of herself even if she feels like she isn't beautiful. Any woman who says they don't is simply not telling the truth. Beauty is so deeply entwined in our hearts. Am I lovely? This is a question we long to have answered... I see it in myself, my friends, the women I photograph, and especially in my young daughter. Because of this, I want to empower everyday women to feel beautiful in their own skin through stunning portraits and imagery. Now, I know that beauty is not just what’s on the outside – it is about who you are as a woman. BUT the two are very closely linked. We must acknowledge both the inside and outside. This is how we were created as women to display beauty in these ways. Our perception of our beauty can be distorted by how we have been taught about self-confidence, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, even social media, and so much more.

I love being able to talk with my muses about their stories and what they struggle with prior to a session. I want to be able to photograph the personality and the radiance of women, not only their physical beauty. I want them to feel beautiful in their own skin and not feel they have to look like someone else. For this reason, I do minimal retouching and I do not alter the shape of the face or body. Otherwise, I'm just taking your image of yourself and telling you that aren't beautiful the way you are. I had to "Photoshop" this and that so that you could put your best face forward. That is not what I want! I want to put women in flattering positions for their body-type and help them to feel comfortable in front of the camera. We shouldn't, no CAN'T, wait until we reach that "desirable" weight or feel better about ourselves. What if we never get there? What if we don't live to get there? We must BE in photographs not just for those we love but for ourselves as well! It is important to come to a place of self-acceptance and self-confidence no matter what our weight, our figure, our teeth, our skin, hair, or nails look like. There is so much more to you than that. That is what I want to capture. Please don't skirt these times that will make you feel vulnerable. Choose to embrace the beauty you have in the here and now because that is what will truly open you up.

This is my passion.

"Today was the first day I actually felt beautiful."

"The memory of that day is still one of my favorites."

"Seeing these photos helps me to see that the lies I've believed for so long (about myself) are not true."

This is why I do what I do.

 

I'd like to leave you with a poem from Maya Angelou:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Thanks for reading,
Jess

A Simple Introduction

______A SIMPLE INTRODUCTION______

I'm Jess. I like chocolate, pretty things, frames that are hung straight, crazy hair, silly faces, and the color yellow.
I am in love with a handsome man who is loving, talented, and strong.
I am in love with a wild little girl that is funny and beautiful in the best ways.
I am in love with this little one in my belly that is proving to be a fighter so far.
I've lost a lot in this life, but I've gained so much more through LOVE.

I decided to start blogging because I want to share more photos here and what I love about the work I do. I like to share about the muses in my photographs. I am hoping to blog more often, and I hope that this will become a place for Unveiling Beauty. A safe place for women to find strength, courage - to be empowered by their own beauty. To Unveil the Beauty that has been waiting there all along.

This blog is for any girl or woman that wants to learn more about feeling beautiful in her own skin. I really hope to begin including tutorials/tips on beauty and on lifting one another up. This blog is for any girl or woman who has ever felt ugly, less than, tormented, alienated, not enough but too much at the same time for any reason. For all of the girls that struggle to remember that we don't have to fit into the form of what we are told and we do deserve love. Love is not blind.

I'm proud that I am finally finding the courage to really seek out and do what I love; photograph girls and women in a way that empowers them to feel beautiful in their own skin. It's a goal that I've had for over a year now, but I was afraid to jump out there and make it happen. I'm trying to work out a way to provide this service not only for those that have sought it out, but to also volunteer time to shoot with the girls that would never think that they could have their very own shoot. I want to be able to provide an Unveiled Beauty session for girls and women that have been victimized and taken advantage of. I am looking for the right organization to team up with to provide a session for a girl for every session that I book. I am still working on the logistics of how/what this will look like. If you want to be involved in any way or have any ideas, please don't hesitate to contact me.

If you take away anything while discovering this blog, let it be that beauty is so deeply entwined in our (women's) hearts and it was set there to be unveiled. This is in your heart. This is just how you were created. You may not always know how to bring that beauty to the world or if it will be appreciated, but that desire is there. I believe that we all have this very deep fear that we have no beauty within us, but I know it's there and it's just waiting. Don't believe the lies.

with love,

Jess

audrey + keenan | arizona wedding photographer

Remember Audrey + Keenan's fun, animated photo from their engagement session? (If not, you can see it here.) Well, they are just too much fun not to do another on the wedding day! Audrey + Keenan were joined together on a warm day in May with their family and friends present. The vintage pink and champagne theme was present throughout the style of the whole day, and I just loved it. Even the vows were on a cute little color-coordinated notecard.

A big thank you to Ginger Szoradi for her help coordinating this special day!

Colorvale Actions

This week I was informed that I won the Black and White Weekly Photo Challenge over at Colorvale with my black and white image below! You can see the blog post here.

So, in return I'd like to share a review of some Colorvale's awesome products, Only For The Bold Photoshop Actions.

For those that are beginners, Actions are a series of steps/adjustments saved into an "Action". You apply the Action within Adobe Photoshop with the click of a button. If you are looking for more resources on Photoshop Actions or how they work, check out Colorvale's Guide here.

I really adore the Only For The Bold Actions. They are so wonderful and easy to use! You can apply them with just the click of a button to dramatically change the mood of your images. It's really that easy. Plus, you can easily tweak them within the layers if you like the look, but want more of a "matte" look, less contrast, more depth, etc. Colorvale's Actions are high-quality and simple to use. You won't regret your purchase from them.
Not all Photoshop Actions are created equal! If you are going to purchase Photoshop Actions, please buy quality ones. Read the reviews, ask questions, and try some of the creator's Freebies.
You can download the Only For The Bold Freebies here!

Do you have a photo that you know cries out to be bold and moody? Well, I do, and here are some examples of it below.

Mikayla | AZ Beauty Photographer

This girl. What a BEAUTY. Mikayla was such a joy to photograph. She was up for most anything (including the splits inside of a big cement pipe) and has a spirit that won't give up. When she mentioned in our consult that she likes feathers, I just knew I had to make a feather crown for her session. We captured some of my very favorite images during our time together.
Oh, Mikayla! What a muse you are to have in front of my camera... I can't wait til you are in front of my camera again! Don't ever forget that you are most beautiful on the inside. You are lovely.

 You can view all of her images here.

UPDATE/EDIT: Mikayla's session was also featured on the Lemonade and Lenses Blog.

Jenna | Senior Session | Goodyear, AZ Photographer

I knew that Jenna's session would be awesome when she said the words "Unicorn Mask" at our consult meeting. Yes, that's right. : )
Words cannot begin to describe the fun I had with Jenna at her session. Not only is she fun but she is drop. dead. gorgeous. She cracks me up with her jump shots.
I am so blessed to have the best job ever and to get to work with awesome people. As always, Hair and Make Up by the Lovely Holly Mabry. Find her here: http://www.arizonahairandmakeupartist.com/

Sarah | Beautiful Woman | Goodyear, AZ Portrait Photographer

I would like to introduce you to one of the kindest, most talented, and lovely girls ever.

Meet Sarah.

She has this pure, feminine, and vintage quality about her that I wanted to bring out in her images.
She is so beautiful and I love the opportunity to work with friends. It’s so fun! When we got back from the shoot I asked my daughter what she thought of Sarah all dressed up. Her response, “LOVE.” That’s it - Just love.
Speaking of - Sarah is loved by so many and she will be missed when she has gone back to Australia in just under one month. I offered her this session so that I would have a chance to photograph her before she left and I am so pleased with these images.
I hope that you can see the beauty she exudes from her very being.
If you know Sarah, comment with 1 word to describe her and then share the love. : )

As always, gorgeous hair and make up by Holly Mabry. Check her out and book here.

 

"Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are."  

- Markus Zusak

Audrey + Keenan | AZ Engagement Photographer

The day before Audrey + Keenan's engagement session I came across this quote that Sue Bryce posted on her Facebook page. "Imagine giving up all business and just creating art." Feeling inspired, I created a little meme of it on my Instagram Feed (view it here) and decided to put that phrase into action.
I started brainstorming and writing down ideas I had for their engagement session. I know I'm a little bit of a weird person (and not everyone else is) so I still have to create art that my clients will like. I brought along my Instax Mini 7s for some fun. I had this idea to create an animated image from a set of images and I finally did it today! Check it out by clicking on the image (or tapping on a mobile device).

  Super fun and cute. I can't wait to incorporate this idea into more shoots. I want some more elaborate animations, but my first job is to be a photographer so this will just be for fun for now. : ) Here are some of the images from their engagement session that I adore. At the end of their session we had some fun free-lensing. This is a new technique that I absolutely love. I will likely be incorporating it into most of my sessions. Show some love and remember that "Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is CAPTURE FOREVER... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything." - Aaron Siskind. I truly love my job, and I love creating images that my clients will have to remember the little things. Thank you for your support! love, Jess

 

Super fun and cute. I can't wait to incorporate this idea into more shoots. I want some more elaborate animations, but my first job is to be a photographer so this will just be for fun for now. : )
Here are some of the images from their engagement session that I adore. At the end of their session we had some fun free-lensing. This is a new technique that I absolutely love. I will likely be incorporating it into most of my sessions.
Show some love and remember that "Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is CAPTURE FOREVER... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything." - Aaron Siskind.
I truly love my job, and I love creating images that my clients will have to remember the little things. Thank you for your support!

love,
Jess