Gift of Life

When it all goes wrong, in order to go just right…

I was one week late when my water broke and on New Year’s Eve at 11:58pm we called the maternity “Bonjour, my water broke, should we come in or wait?”… and with that we were on the dark, frosty country roads of Provence making the hour drive to Pertuis nervous and excited and filled with that sort of panic realization there is no turing back now. 

We spent most of the night in the examination room hooked up to monitors tracking very faint contractions, the baby’s heart beat, my blood pressure, my cervix, which is all very unpleasant but necessary to get a gauge of what was happening. At about 5 in the morning after I declined being induced to speed along the process, they sent us to our room to wait it out. And wait and wait and wait we did.

They gave me a 48 hour deadline to have the baby from when my water broke. I tried everything from birthing ball maneuvers and stretches to deep visualization meditation for hours and lots of raspberry leaf tea but still nothing. In fact, the faint contractions I was feeling eventually stopped. At four in the afternoon the Sage Femme, which translates to wise woman in French and is their version of a highly trained midwife, came in and said it was time.

We needed to start the induction process.

Of course I cried. Why didn’t my body work? I had prepared for months mentally and physically for a natural birth and I chose one of the best maternities in France for natural birthing. My dreams of floating in a warm bath during contractions were gone. My idea of Kevin wrapped around me on an upright birthing stool were being crushed. I had chosen a natural birth because it was most in line with how I live my life. I don’t even take headache medicine! Getting me to go to the doctor for anything is almost an impossible task and I was, up until this point, proud of myself for taking the vitamins and iron they told me to and doing all the lab work on time, even though I loathed every second of it. And now, my body would be pumped full of synthetic chemicals and my mind focused on the fear of more intense pain than I had prepared for. 

We negotiated and they started me out on a low drip to see if it would kick start labor. Hours began to go by with little progress. We played our music, the lights were off and we had the room filled with our faux candles (ok, not a fan of electronic candles in real life but in a hospital they were one of the best purchases EVER!). I had at this point five different cords streaming from my body to devices so I couldn’t get up and walk around or go to the toilet but I was grateful they let me bounce on the birthing ball instead of just lying on the bed which would have been sheer torture for me. Then the sage femme came in and said ok, we are past time, we have to move this along and turned the induction drip all the way up to high and it was as if the room when black and I was thrown against the wall! The pain knocked the life out of me and all I could get out of my mouth, doubled over in pain, was “GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL, GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL NOW, NOW!”  and just like that the doctor was in there and a team of nurses quickly making it happen with massive tears falling out of my eyes from the intensity. It took three people holding my hands for the doctor to be able to administer the epidural and at this point I felt as if my body didn’t even belong to me anymore. I didn’t recognize the sensations, I didn’t understand the forces and behavior I couldn’t control and at this point, to be honest, I was frightened. I had focused all my attention and research on how to have a natural birth I knew nothing about induction, epidurals, and what was later to come…

Once the epidural kicked in I melted into the table. I could relax. The induction machine was left on high and she gave me three hours to progress for a vaginal delivery. Every hour she would come in and check my cervix and for three hours in a row I stayed at 2cm. At 1:30 in the morning she took her gloves off and said, I’m sorry, I think we have to have a c-section. I laughed and said “why not, might as well experience every way to give birth possible.” “Can I still bring my cameras?” In that moment I had to let go of my ideals and just do what needed to be done for the health of the baby who, at this point, was not under distress. I woke Kevin up and said it’s time, right now. From this moment on I kind of just tried to give my body over to science and float my mind above it. It was incredible to watch everyone like a well choreographed ballet, move in perfect harmony through the process instantly. I looked at the female doctor who would be doing the procedure and I said, “just tell me what’s going to happen”. Kevin was changed into scrubs, I was transferred into the operating room and I’ll never forget the anesthesiologist leaning over me in the bright lights and saying in a thick French accent “looks like a movie set right?”, I’ll admit, that made me happy. 

Laying on the operating table, strapped down in the shape of a cross, I was shaking violently from the magnitude of the moment and gravity of fear for the two things that were happening. One, I was about to be sliced in half in a major surgery. (I personally consider a teeth cleaning a major medical procedure.) And two, we were about to meet our daughter. Was she ok? Would she be ok? Is there something wrong with her, her lungs, her ability to survive? This moment of the greatest anticipation of my life was here. They brought Kevin to me, told him not to look and had him hold my hand. We stared into each others eyes, mirror reflections of the same emotions. The same thoughts swirling in our heads. Will the surgery go as planned, will our baby be OK? How are our lives about to change forever.

It got weird fast.

The sensations of people pushing and moving your body parts around. At one moment I told Kevin it felt like a waterfall was coming out of me and splashing on the floor. A visualization now represented by the pool of red fabric in the lower left of this image. When I created the first half of this self portrait, 9 months pregnant on the left, the red fabric was the symbolism of the umbilical cord, the last thing that would connect bébé to me and what provided her with life for her first 9 months. I had no idea the pooling on the end would come to represent a story I had never even considered before. 


I asked Kevin to talk about something, anything, other than what was happening. I wanted out of my body. I wanted my brain to go far far away. He told me he’d take me to Geneva for really good sushi and get me a massage at the Four Seasons. We could take bébé for a walk around the lake as a new little family. I dove into the dream and held on to the image of the three of us like a warm beam of sunlight on my face… and then with tunnel vision fixated on Kevin’s eyes we both heard her first cries and our eyes went blurry with tears. I kept asking, is she ok, is she ok?… she’s “Parfait!”. They brought her around to me and put us cheek to cheek. I’ll never forget her warmth, the delicate little sound of her cry, the way she breathed in air in her first moments of life. Our energy is connected yet we’re meeting face to face for the first time. I can’t look at the photograph Kevin took without crying, every sensation purely raw with emotion; love, relief, joy, excitement, wonder, gratefulness. I have never felt pure instant love like that in my life. That moment changed me forever. 

They took her away with Kevin to do skin on skin bonding while they pieced me back together. Lying there on the operating table alone was difficult but it was over quickly and I was being wheeled down the hall to my new little family. We spent the next three hours alone just the three of us, cuddling, talking, nursing, kissing, and just being in that moment. It was extraordinary. 

Après birth.

Kevin and I were both worried about how I would emotionally feel about how our birth ended up playing out. Would I be depressed because I wasn’t a woman who could give birth naturally? Would I feel like a failure, like I hurt our baby with chemicals? Would I feel like my body betrayed me? Here is what I know now: I don’t feel any less a woman because I had an incredibly medically controlled unnatural birth. In fact; the courage you must muster for both moments comes from the same place. I feel just as empowered having made it through, just as proud as if I had been able to have a home birth. What really matters is a healthy baby and maman.

A few days after the birth and things began to settle down, our main sage femme told us her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck twice and looped around her shoulder and arm which is possibly why she couldn’t begin her decent on her own in the world and if she had, could have ended in a lack of oxygen to her brain which might have caused brain damage or worse. When we found this out, our experience turned into a miracle, turned into a gratefulness that we live in a medically advanced era to be sitting here as we are today, all OK.

I look at this double portrait which started with a piece of raw, red fabric of symbolism and now see how significant the umbilical cord played in our story, giving life, almost losing it, and cutting her free into my arms. 

The best advice I can give from my experience is to have a plan and prepare but be ready for anything. If anything comes, it’s ok to ask for a moment to process it. To let go of expectations in order to adapt and in the end reach the same goal of new life. Also, surround yourself with a team of women to support you. I want to think my friends Claire, Erica, Annie and my Doula here in France for being in constant contact with me throughout this process, and not telling me what to do or say but just making each moment ok and less scary. The support was invaluable. For example, Erica told me “every birth is a natural birth!” which helped me accept what was happening. Claire said in her own experience “the 2nd best thing to happen to me in 2018 was an epidural.” which made me not feel like a weak failure in that moment screaming for one. Annie said “you can only plan so much, sometimes stuff just happens. It’s all good, you just want a healthy baby.” … and that is what we got. 

This is our birth story on January 3, 2019 at 2:09am when we welcomed our daughter into the world. 


New Year, New Birth

2017 was by far the best year of my life. This is a surprising statement for me to make considering where I was at this very point a year ago. Having uprooted my life abruptly to move to Provence only a few months prior and still just in the very beginning stages of that journey, I was lost. I was still tired from New York, I still had so much American programming I needed to break free from, I was still needing the winter to rest or rather disappear for a while. Then the spring came and with her I blossomed in my work and in my soul. I can look back now and see through the shifting light of day, the shift in myself and my photographs. Surprising turns, new awareness, presence and inspiration in the everyday. I fell in love with photography all over again. It has been and will always be what I most want to do every day when I wake up but more so now than ever.

Today, January 1st, 2018, I re-read my resolutions from last year and felt proud of the work I put toward them. I love living with less, wasting less. Seeing the emotion, awareness to time, romanticism, thought, and painterly quality come through my work as I outlined for myself gives me a sense of pride and empowerment that I can create what I dream of. I did make a home for what feels like the first time in my life because I’m actually living my life now as defined by me which is as simple as cooking meals and making fires. I built the world I wanted to live in and that is a real accomplishment. I’m proud of myself. I thank you all who are reading this and for being there in spirit with me. 

I don’t really know where all of this leads and that’s ok. I don’t always want to know the weather report, sometimes it’s nice to just wake up and discover it’s snowing or find yourself lost in the early morning fog… it’s how I ensure each day is full of life’s simple magic. 

As I write out my New Year’s resolutions in no particular order I wish you all the success in yours on this new day of a new year….

  1. Continue seasonal Provence still lives series 
  2. Greater foraging for my photographs
  3. Find and incorporate more nature to grow stories through a local taxidermist, working with more bugs and personally shaping them and finding French flower growers (farms) to source from
  4. Learn more French *cries*
  5. Even greater carbon conscience diet, less red meat, as locally grown as possible
  6. Discover more independent French brands to support
  7. Find more French artists to collaborate with
  8. Continue to develop my self portrait series with greater storytelling
  9. Share info on artists I follow and admire on Instagram (via stories)
  10. Collaborate with more fashion designers 
  11. Begin flowers, fruits and coups series 
  12. Continue to develop glass plate series 
  13. Save for a chateau 
  14. Experience more French cultural events (ex: Jazz festival, Paris white dinner)
  15. Experience Max Richter’s Sleep 
  16. Go to the Paris Ballet 
  17. Complete Cinemagraph goddess art series in Paris 
  18. Experiment with printing, learn about archival museum quality digital printing options, what they each look like and start experiencing my work in the physical world. Let living with photographs influence the next stage of growth and development 
  19. Accept new photographic art challenges through private commissions outside the digital space 
  20. Learn something new everyday
  21. Continue to focus on community growth via instagram to have more shared conversations on photography 
  22. One photography tutorial a week (saved now to my Instagram highlights!! Yay!!)
  23. Create a short film that represents what life in Provence is truly about. How it feels. Capture this moment in time.
  24. Experience Italy
  25. Experience a nude beach in the south of France and or coast of Spain
  26. Visit a Mediterranean island
  27. Figure out a better direct communication system than Instagram’s DM
  28. Have a book published on my Provence work (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DREAMS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  29. Design and have created clothing to wear in Provence and costumes for my photographs *note, I would like to be able to sew these myself but I’d need to take classes again and I think maybe too much to bite off for 2018’s goals*
  30. Put together my Spotify playlists to share
  31. Greater pictorialism in my work 
  32. Read MORE photography books! (and share what I learn)
  33. Continue to detach further from society norms and cultural standards, live freely 
  34. Become more fearless in my work and photographic experimentation. It’s ok if people don’t like some of my pictures, trust in the process and growth. The value is not in likes but in how much of life I can explore and express. I need to feel safe and free to go further. I can’t let other’s view of the world effect my own expression or experience of it. 
  35. Consider creating photography workshops (design what that would look like)
  36. Continue to learn experiment with cooking and new recipes 
  37. Update a new organization system for inspiration, ideas, goals, notes and thoughts 
  38. Capture raw un-styled everyday life completely free from the “perfection” we are shown daily as what life is supposed to look like. (Inspiration, Annie Leibovitz early years work exhibition I viewed in Arles, France last summer)
  39. Work on creating stronger portraits of people I admire. Create ONE image of someone that says something than multiple quick shots that all together tell a story.
  40. Find gallery representation 
  41. Put together a gallery show 
  42. Make my photographs more like poetry 
  43. Stop and write when the words come 
  44. Consider renting a separate workspace in Provence
  45. Focus my writing to comment on the day to day of life
  46. Extend my photographs greater into the universal human experience 
  47. Travel slowly 
  48. Further illustrate emotional life experiences into pictorial photographs 
  49. Run 2-3 miles every day (or other workout)
  50. Figure out my French visa situation and find a way to make it longer term 
  51. GET A DOG

“In the currents of life, in action’s storm,
I float and I wave
With billowy motion!
Birth and the grave
A limitless ocean,
A constant weaving
With Change still rife,
A restless heaving,
A glowing life-
This time’s whirring loom unceasing I ply,
and weave the life-garmet if deity.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

Family Matters


This summer the most amazing thing happened to me…I became an Aunt for the first time to the most beautiful baby twins: a boy named Ethan and a girl called Emma. It’s been an interesting experience. At first I wasn’t sure how these two little peanuts could ever survive; they looked so fragile, so new to the world. But they did. Now 5 months later they can laugh and smile, they are trying baby food for the first time, and their little personalities are shining through. I can’t believe how fast they grow. I keep waiting for them to stop, but everyday there is something new, making me realize how fast time flies. It feels like we are riding on the highway of life and I have the two most beautiful passengers in the world.

Hope your holidays were wrapped in love…

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