Indiana lifestyle photography

Sydni's Senior Session | Broad Ripple, Indianapolis

Ok, so Sydni is pretty much one of the most amazing humans on the planet, and if you're lucky enough to know her, you'll know what I mean. I first met Sydni when we were looking for someone to help babysit our boys, and ever since, I've been constantly in awe of this girl. She is so, so kind. She is passionate, quiet, artistic, talented, beautiful inside and out, and has a heart for others. I see such a spark in her - a love for others and a sense of adventure - and I was so honored to be able to capture some senior photos for her.

We headed to a few spots in Broad Ripple, and basically hung out for a couple hours, talking, taking photos, and dodging the sprinkles that held off enough for us to get some wonderful images. It was kind of amazing. :) Sydni is heading off to college next year and will be studying nursing and is considering studying photography as well. My family and our boys will miss her tons, but I am so excited for her to head off and experience all kinds of amazing things!! 

Enjoy some images from her session below!!

xoxo

Indianapolis senior photography | broad ripple
Indianapolis senior photography | broad ripple

Motherhood Series Wrap Up

When I decided to work on a personal project at the beginning of this year, I knew I wanted to work with mothers. I wanted to hear their unique stories, take photos of them in their own spaces, and share their beautiful stories with others.

This project has been nothing short of amazing to be a part of. It has changed my perspective, and I hope it's helped change the perspective of my readers as well. Motherhood looks as different as each mother, and the stories are endlessly unique and beautiful. I believe that sharing different perspectives can help tear down assumptions, judgements, and break down molds of "shoulds" and "normal" because every person is different and every story of motherhood is different. I also believe listening to another perspective can help foster empathy, draw lines of connection, and help one realize that we are all humans and all in this together. The more we are present and connect with others who are not like us, I think the more beautiful this world will be.

I reached out and asked for a few mamas to interview, and I was blown away with the response I got. Ten beautiful mamas participated in this project, and I have had ten amazing experiences. I can't thank them enough for opening their homes and lives for an hour so I could peek in and listen. Friends, this sort of work is so beautiful and sacred to me. The "everyday" and the "ordinary" are so incredibly beautiful.

I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up this series than picking some of my favorite answers to the questions I asked each woman. So with that, I'll share some of the answers that stood out to me from each mama. Thank you for following along with this series and this journey. I hope it's touched you in one way or another.

xo

Hannah

 

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Tell me one thing you love about yourself as a mother?

“I feel like I’m very passionate and I have a lot of compassion.  I feel like, for the most part, I’m not quick to anger. I try and work through things many, many times with my boys just trying to take the moment and really help them learn from it, and not yell and send them to their room. Although that happens too some days. But just trying to really, maybe the better word is have empathy, and just kind of get in their shoes and try and see things from their perspective and take that step back. And be the all-giving mother - to step back and not yell.”

 

Lindsey

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What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“When I make a new friend, I want them to come over when my house is messy. If we’re going to be good friends, then my house is going to messy. We always think that every mom is judging us for everything we do or say, but in all reality, they’re not. I mean, our kids are alive, and they’re happy, like I said before.”

 

Katie

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What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about being a mother?

“So I consider Glennon Doyle to be my spiritual mentor. I just love everything about her and what she has to say. She is just it in life. And one of the things she talks about is her response when she found out that her husband had been cheating on her their entire marriage. She was obviously devastated initially, and then her next thought was to worry about her kids. Ultimately, she said she viewed that as an opportunity to help her children walk through the fire, and how in life, they’re going to go through fire-like situations, and that will continue happening for the rest of their existence on this earth. She said that any time her children feel like they need to step out, she’s tells them to get their asses in the fire and that she’s going to step in there with them and help them get to the other side. She said that if we don’t teach our kids how to go through tough stuff, we’re going to help them grow up to be incomplete people.

Her words helped me to invite my child into the fire with me and to teach him that we don’t shy away from life’s problems. I’m trying to teach him that we hit problems head on, together.”

 

Kristin

 

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What's something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“I’m a big fan Brené Brown. I found out she is a Texan too, so that made my heart a little bit happier. So I was a reading one of her books and she said we’re just all trying to do the best we can. And I feel like that should be the motherhood anthem: don’t judge and everybody is just trying to do the best that they can. Every time I find myself judging myself, I think of that. Just try to do the best that you can because you’re a hot mess too.” 

 

Erma

 

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How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful life. It’s all-consuming. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s exhausting, and it’s challenging. And yet, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

 

Colleen

 

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What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“I think that it’s ok to take a break, and to have a messy house. Something I struggled with when I first started staying at home was thinking that it’s ok to still have a weekend. I felt like I needed to be doing something all the time. It’s important still to stop and be ok with not doing anything, and trying not to feel guilty about that. I think slowing down and knowing things only last for a certain amount of time, both the good and the challenging.”

 

Erin

 

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What makes motherhood beautiful to you?

“I love being the center of their world. Being needed is nice. Like when they fall and they come running to you to make it better - there’s no greater feeling than that. And as they get older, watching them master things they’ve worked really hard for, just the pride that rises in you is so unexplainable. But they’re my world.”

Pris

 

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What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“ I think maybe self-love as a mom after kids. I think that’s kind of a topic that gets brushed under the rug based on expectations of how we expect to be perfect and bounce right back after having kids. And I was never real thin to begin with so for me it’s not as big of a deal, but I think just loving your body afterwards is so important. Because you’re going to teach your kids that. I’m big on that. I’m big on ‘It’s ok that mommy has cellulite and stretch marks, and it’s ok. This is your wonderful mama, and hopefully one day you’ll love a woman and you’ll love her for whatever shape she is.’ I’m not going to engrain in my kids that women shouldn’t look this way.” 

 

Cynthia

 

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How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

"The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not sure those are my own words, but it’s relevant. It’s not just those picture perfect moments, but it’s also not just the bad stuff. It’s the messes, it’s the tired, it’s the beautiful, it’s the when things go right, it’s when you’re kid has been having an attitude all day and that night tells you he loves you. It’s all of that."

 

Sharon

 

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What is one of the things you love most about being a mother?

“I love seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes. I love seeing the wonder in her eyes and seeing how she sees things at face value. She doesn’t have the background or hate of anything bad in the world. She sees everything for good, and I love that about her. And I love that seeing that in her reminds me that there is so much good in the world.”

 

Thank you so much to all these amazing women! If you would like to check out their stories, you can find them each here.

HannahLindseyKatieKristin  ErmaColleenErinPrisCynthia, & Sharon.

Sharon's Motherhood Session

Hello friends! I hope you have been enjoying this series on motherhood I've been working on. When I decided to work on a personal project, I immediately thought of working with some local moms because I have a dear place in my heart for mamas. I wanted to use this space to hear different perspectives on what it's like to be a mom.

I'm involved with a local group for moms, and one of their hashtags for this year is #thisismotherhood. I loved that line so much, and have been honored to be a part of a group of moms who embrace their differences, embrace each other, accept each other just as they are, and our group is really a non-judgmental place for moms to get together. I reached out in my group to see if anyone would be interested in sharing part of their motherhood journey, and I was blown away with the responses I got. I have been able to start meeting with the moms who I'll be working with, and I get to sit down with them for an hour, take some photos, and listen to them share. It's been so beautiful and such an honor for me.

Because I'm sharing parts of the stories of different women who have voluntarily sat down with me, I'd ask that you approach reading these posts with respect and an understanding that these stories are sacred. Please honor this space. The moms I'm interviewing all have a unique and different story of their journey to motherhood. No two will be alike, and that is so beautiful to me. Please honor these women and listen to their story free of judgement, assumptions, or negativity. We deal with enough of that already, right? 

Please accept these stories as parts of the bigger picture of being a mother and being human, and recognize how rich that makes this world. Thank you for taking the time to read and listen. 

With much love,

Leah

 

Sharon

Sharon lives in McCordsville with her daughter, Elly (3). She is a teacher in the IPS school district, working as a Special Education Specialist. 

Sharon was so kind and open as she shared part of her story. It was obvious how much she loves her daughter, and I appreciated how honest she was. We talked about the fears that come with being a parent, the importance of being present with your child, losing a spouse, and the need for having a village. I hope you enjoy her story below.

 

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Tell me a little bit about your journey to motherhood.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom. From a young age I always played house and wanted to be a mom. I realized early on in high school, I wanted to be a teacher and work with kids. But always, my ultimate goal was to get married and have a family.  When Brad and I got married, we knew that we wanted to have a family. For some health reasons, we knew we might have a little trouble conceiving, so pretty early on, we started working with fertility doctors, and it took us a little over a year to be able to conceive our daughter. My pregnancy was great with no troubles and on November 1, 2014, I became a mom. 

We actually went through two additional rounds of fertility treatments and weren’t able to conceive after trying again, and then my husband passed away. It’s kind of a blessing in a way that I wasn’t able to conceive a second time, but at the same time it would have been really nice to have another baby and have my husband here with us.”

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What is one of the things you love the most about being a mother?

“I love seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes. I love seeing the wonder in her eyes and seeing how she sees things at face value. She doesn’t have the background or hate of anything bad in the world. She sees everything for good, and I love that about her. And I love that seeing that in her reminds me that there is so much good in the world.”

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What has been one of the hardest things about being a mother?

“The hardest thing for me was losing my spouse, because it was so completely unexpected. We were both really careful when we were dating, because we both come from families of divorce and we were both kids of divorce, and getting divorced was a non-negotiable for us. We were committed to being together and committed to going through the ups and downs and raising a family together. And that’s exactly what we did. We worked really hard to raise our daughter together, even little decisions we would talk them through together. So the hardest thing was losing him, losing my best friend, but also Elly losing her dad. Another thing that is hard is learning to grieve myself, but also learning how to support her when she’s grieving. A child grieving is completely different than an adult. Hers comes in fleeting moments, and some of those moments I’m really strong and I can help her through, and some of those moments I break down with her. I think it’s really good for her to see both, but it’s still really hard either way.”

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How do you maintain a sense of who you were before you had kids?

“I read that question, and I don’t even know if that happens or if that’s real. Because I feel like as we grow and change and go through different stages of our life, it changes who we are. I feel like becoming a wife made me a little bit different, and then becoming a mom I changed again, and then becoming a widow and then a single mom. And so at this point, I’m still trying to figure this all out. I don’t even know where life is leading me, or where God is leading me. I definitely see his hand in it though.

I feel like with the unexpected loss, it rattles you to your core and it makes you question who you are. And now I have to rebuild and figure out who I am now, because at the moment I don’t have any idea.”

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What is something that makes your motherhood story unique?

“I think just the fact that I am a very young widow with a very young child. I’ve been searching for different avenues of support with this grief and there’s not a ton out there for young widows with young children. I think that definitely makes my story unique. People tell me I’m very strong and I guess to some point I agree with that. I mean, I’ve sold a house and bought a new house, all by myself, which I feel is very big. I do have an amazing support group and an amazing life group; I have a village to help me and that’s been pretty amazing. I feel like my support network is pretty unique and a lot of moms don’t have that network to rely on when they need it.

Even before I think I was pretty honest and genuine, but since Brad passed, I don’t have the energy to sugar coat things or to beat around the bush, I am real, I ask for help and rely on others. People in my life are so genuine and so gracious, and it’s been so amazing to feel their support and love.”

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What is one of your biggest dreams that has yet to be realized?

“I feel like honestly my dream was to be a wife and a mom. And yes, I was a wife and I am a mom, but I loved being married. And I hope that someday God will bring someone else into our path and that I can be married again, but I really wanted to grow old with my husband.  That was one of our biggest dreams.”

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What would you say to your younger pre-motherhood self now if you could?

“Before I got married, I struggled with some self-esteem and confidence issues and such. I would say that getting married doesn’t take those issues away necessarily, but I think I would tell my younger self to take care of me first rather than take care of everything else around me and make sure that I am strong.  I’m definitely a lot stronger now than before I met and got married to Brad, but I would say to worry less about others and make yourself strong.”

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In what ways has motherhood changed you?

“I feel like in almost every way. Because I have to be almost completely selfless for her wants and her needs. It’s made me more real and vulnerable. It’s definitely made me stronger. I think it’s definitely made me more sensitive. I feel like as an educator, this being my 13th year of teaching, there’s definitely a difference between me as an educator before I had Elly and me as an educator now. It definitely has changed my perspective on life and on what’s important in life.”

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What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“I was thinking about this one, and I really think it would be to take advantage of the time you have with them and to really be present. I mean there are a ton of times, and we all do it, where we’re not present and we get so busy. Especially with losing Brad so suddenly, it made me realize how fleeting time is and that every day is a gift, and that every moment with my daughter is a gift. So just I try and take advantage of all the time I have with her.”

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What is one thing you expected to be true about motherhood but turned out to be different?

“I think one I thing I didn’t expect was how much you worry about every little thing. How much you worry about every choice and experience. I just never thought I would think about this kind of stuff, how things would influence and impact her life. Especially being in education, I know how the young years can really set up that good foundation for further learning, and if kids don’t have that I see how it impacts kids later on. I do worry how the grief will impact her later on in her life. I know she’s super young, and people say kids are so resilient, but still it worries me a little bit.”

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What’s something about motherhood that you wish everyone would be honest about but maybe not many people talk about?

“How hard it is. I think I’ve learned a lot through MOPS on how to be genuine and how to have that support group. But I think a lot of moms out there don’t have that system and don’t have that place where being not ok is ok. Because it is hard and it does take a village. I don’t think a lot of moms recognize that.”

What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about being a mother?

“I think just being real. Just enjoy the time we have with our kids, and being present. I’m definitely struggling with grief and depression, and there are days where I physically don’t want to do anything, and I feel terrible that she goes and plays on her own. But at the same time, I’m thankful that she is able to play on her own so I can have a little bit of time to myself on those days. But I know that it’s important to be with her, and she always makes me feel better.”

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What is your favorite way to wind down after a long day with your kids?

“It’s so cheesy, but literally just watching tv. I don’t really drink, except an occasional beer every once in a while. But I like to read or watch tv to relax.”

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Tell me one thing you love about yourself as a mother?

“I feel like I love my daughter well. I feel like I’m very in tune with how she is feeling, naming those feelings and responding. Or preparing her for things that will be coming up that could be scary to her or new for her. I feel like I love her well.”

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Tell me one thing that scares you about being a mother?

“At this point the fact that I am now a single mom, everything is on my shoulders. Everything is on me. Yes I have a village, and yes I have family, but ultimately everything is on me, and that’s terrifying. I have to make all the decisions and I have to make sure we’re both safe and all of that, and it’s just terrifying.”

What would you do if you had a whole day to yourself?

“I thought about that and was like ‘I don’t even know.’ Right now my goal is trying to be better about self-care. I’m in talks with some good friends about maybe taking a night or two away. I’ve only spent maybe two nights away from Elly her entire life. Trying to see if I can get some time away would be really nice and trying to do that on a regular basis. Someone offered to watch her for a few hours so now I’m trying to figure out what to do with even three hours by myself. Go get a pedicure maybe? I have no idea.”

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Who has been your biggest inspiration/mentor/go-to someone as you have journeyed through motherhood?

“Brad and I were in a life group for about 5 or 6 years and there’s a core group of 4 or 5 families that have been together for a long time. I really feel like the moms in that group are who I go to. We were the last of the group to have kids, and we were the young couple without kids while everyone else had kids. So the moms in that group would be the ones I would call about any questions with my daughter. I really feel like we are doing life together, we are a village. They are the ones I call in the middle of the night. They are the ones I called when Brad passed away and we were at the hospital all I had to say was ‘Go get Elly.’ And they got her and kept her all day. They’re the ones I go to.”

What are ways you find time for yourself?

“Well right now, I work, so that’s time away from Elly. Then I think it’s just little moments like with MOPS, and mom’s nights outs. Sometimes with life group we’ll do a girls’ night, but that’s really it.”

How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

“It’s real, it’s messy, it’s beautiful.”

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What makes motherhood beautiful to you?

“Elly’s laugh and her smile. Seeing the world through her eyes, and reliving things from childhood that you didn’t even remember. She how she interprets the world, it’s pretty amazing.”

A very big thank you to Sharon for sharing and allowing me into her normal. You can check out the other posts in this series here: 

HannahLindseyKatieKristin  ErmaColleenErinPris & Cynthia.

Sharon's story is my final motherhood series post. I will be doing a wrap-up post soon, but my heart is so incredibly grateful for all the mamas who chose to help with this project. I've loved each and every moment listening to some pretty beautiful stories.

xo

Cynthia's Motherhood Session

Hello friends! I hope you have been enjoying this series on motherhood I've been working on. When I decided to work on a personal project, I immediately thought of working with some local moms because I have a dear place in my heart for mamas. I wanted to use this space to hear different perspectives on what it's like to be a mom.

I'm involved with a local group for moms, and one of their hashtags for this year is #thisismotherhood. I loved that line so much, and have been honored to be a part of a group of moms who embrace their differences, embrace each other, accept each other just as they are, and our group is really a non-judgmental place for moms to get together. I reached out in my group to see if anyone would be interested in sharing part of their motherhood journey, and I was blown away with the responses I got. I have been able to start meeting with the moms who I'll be working with, and I get to sit down with them for an hour, take some photos, and listen to them share. It's been so beautiful and such an honor for me.

Because I'm sharing parts of the stories of different women who have voluntarily sat down with me, I'd ask that you approach reading these posts with respect and an understanding that these stories are sacred. Please honor this space. The moms I'm interviewing all have a unique and different story of their journey to motherhood. No two will be alike, and that is so beautiful to me. Please honor these women and listen to their story free of judgement, assumptions, or negativity. We deal with enough of that already, right? 

Please accept these stories as parts of the bigger picture of being a mother and being human, and recognize how rich that makes this world. Thank you for taking the time to read and listen. 

With much love,

Leah

Cynthia

Cynthia lives in Ingalls with her husband Patrick, and her 4 children, Cole (7), Aurora (almost 4), Payton ( almost 3), and Logan (almost 1). She works at East 91st Street Christian Church Preschool in Indianapolis. She is working towards finishing her Child Development Associate degree and desires to become a lead Preschool teacher. If that all goes as planned, she also has plans to work on her personal training certification. Cynthia is quiet, kind, and during our session wasn't afraid to be completely real, which is a quality I admire so much. She welcomed me into the very real life she leads with her family of 6, and made me feel right at home in their routine. I really enjoyed hearing Cynthia share, and I hope you enjoy reading through her story below.

 

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Tell me a little bit about your journey to motherhood.

"My husband and I met in high school, and we got married when we were 19. I was going into my sophomore year in college and Patrick was going in as a freshman, so we didn’t have plans to start a family right away. I’ve always wanted kids, I grew up around kids, I babysat a lot. In my family you got married, you had kids, and that’s just what you did. 

I got pregnant with Cole the beginning of my senior year of college. And I was so sick, couldn’t keep anything down and lost a lot of weight during the first part of that pregnancy. I experienced preeclampsia with his pregnancy, and enjoyed all the side effects of water retention and feeling swollen. That was really hard because aside from having to deliver early, and even though we were only an hour from family it was just far enough that we couldn’t have much help. Cole was in the NICU after he was born at 35 weeks and 3 days. He was only in the NICU for 10 days, and did really well. He was tiny, but perfectly fine. He was born the week before finals week at college, but thankfully I had really great professors who were flexible with my exams and it was really awesome.

With all that went on, delivering early, being away from family, being the first baby, and having the NICU experience, it triggered some pretty rough depression. It took me about 9 months before I really did anything about it, and the only reason I went in was because I kept experiencing bleeding after the birth. So I figured while I was in there, I’d talk with them about the depression. I started some antidepressants after seeing a counselor, and Patrick was really against it at the time and wasn’t very supportive in the beginning, so I actually took myself off the antidepressants. In high school, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, which is only slightly different than clinical depression, but I still had periods of feeling low. I actually lied to my doctors about my diagnosis when they asked questions ahead of time during my pregnancy. I was afraid to talk to anyone about feeling depressed because I was scared that CPS would be called on me, or they would take my baby, because you hear so many stories of really severe cases of depression where it’s hard for moms to care for their babies. So because of the depression and the traumatic period around Cole’s birth, I feel like I missed out on the bonding time with him, and I feel like he is closer to Patrick because of that.

We ended up having to move back in with my parents, Patrick was in between jobs, I was working two jobs, and we found out I was pregnant with our second child. Patrick later got a job in Noblesville, so we had moved from Muncie to this area. My friend was in the hospital in labor at the same time I went into labor with Aurora, and she was born only hours apart from my friend’s daughter. They had the same doctor, so that was fun. 

Aurora was 5 months old when I found I was pregnant with Payton. There’s so much repenting that has gone on through that experience. I’m incredibly impatient, so I always find out when I’m 4-5 weeks along. I had gone out with my MOPS table for a mom’s night out, and another mom said how she always feels phantom kicks when she’s first pregnant, and I said how I was feeling the same thing. My cycle had been inconsistent, so I decided to pick up a test on my way home thinking it would be no big deal. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t wait until the morning, so I got up in the middle of the night to take the test. And after I took the test I think I said every bad word you can probably think and probably made up some and I was every emotion you could feel. I felt panic, a tinge of excitement because it was a baby, but mostly panic. I was trying to think of how to tell Patrick. I had to wake him up and tell him and his response was “great.” So we got through that and had our baby girl.

Then with Logan, he tried to come out a few months early but with the help of medication and the doctors we were able to keep him in until 37 weeks. He was in the NICU for a few days and is doing so well now. So that’s kind of how my journey has gone."

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What is one of the things you love the most about being a mother?

"That no matter how much I mess up, they still love me. Especially with anxiety which made me so stressed that I would yell. There were rough moments, but at the end of the day, the kids were patient with me and showed me such unconditional love."

What has been one of the hardest things about being a mother?

"Functioning with the lack of sleep. Having kids takes sleep deprivation to a whole new level, and I’ll even have to call friends while I’m driving to stay awake. I forget things a lot. I have a heart condition which makes me fatigued anyway, but the sleep deprivation just got a whole lot worse and made me feel so much more tired after having kids."

How do you maintain a sense of who you were before you had kids?

"Growing up in the family that I did, where everyone just got married and had kids, I always knew I wanted to have lots of kids. Four is good, by the way. :) I did a lot of babysitting and was always around kids growing up, so this is who I always was, I think. I mean sure, sometimes I’d love to go out and see a movie and not have to worry about a $20 movie ticket, and $50 for babysitting and having to organize it all ahead of time. I think the only other thing I did before kids that I don’t do very often now is read. We have to schedule time for me to read because I’m not one to only read a couple chapters, I get into the book and end up reading it all. So I would love to have more time to read someday."

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What is something that makes your motherhood story unique?

"Anymore, I think it’s the fact that we started so young. As far as my friends from high school go, some are just recently married or getting married soon and there are no kids, and I have 4! But as far as my family goes, my grandma got married at 15 and had my mom when she was 16. My mom got married when she was 18 and had me at 19. I got married at 19 and I had just turned 22 when I had Cole, so we’re progressing out. :) So with my family, it’s perfectly normal. But as far as my peers, I’m just apparently way ahead of the game."

 

What is one of your biggest dreams that has yet to be realized?

"So I know I said 4 was enough, my body is done, but I’ve always wanted to adopt. We want to obviously wait until these kids are older and until it would work out financially. I’d love to adopt sibling groups or older kids. It’s definitely something that we want. Patrick’s joked before as we’ve driven past a hotel that if we bought it I would want to fill every room with kids."

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What would you say to your younger pre-motherhood self now if you could?

"The dishes can wait. That’s one of the things I really stressed over with Cole and Rory. I wanted to have a straightened up, not necessarily spotless, but somewhat presentable house. It was probably in a MOPS group, somebody said ‘What do you want your kids to remember, that your house was clean or that you played with them and did crazy stuff and had fun with them?’ So as you can tell, I’ve really embraced that. The dishes don’t have to be done every night, and as long as there’s no mold growing on the dirty dishes, we’re good! Patrick is really good at helping me and doing the dishes. We’re a family of 6, so after one meal, the sink is full! So we try to not stress about it too much."

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In what ways has motherhood changed you?

"I think it’s forced me to stand up for myself a little bit more. I was always shy as a kid, and always tried to avoid confrontation. But now, if someone even looks wrong at my kids, I’m ready to throw down. And it translates to me with jobs and other interests too, and I don’t have a problem saying no to things that won’t be best for me in the season I’m in."

What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

"To just try and not to worry about what’s on Facebook or tv, or what other people say. As long as you’re doing your best for your kids, it will all be ok. When I was pregnant with Cole and was so sick, I’d watch shows like Bringing Home Baby, and I wanted to learn as much as I could. But now, as long the kids are fed and taken care of, I don’t stress about all the other stuff."

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What is one thing you expected to be true about motherhood but turned out to be different?

"I thought that I could balance being a mom and keeping the house together. My grandma had 5 kids, and her house would always be so put together. I figured it was no big deal, that after the kids went to bed you just tidied up and it would be great. That is so wrong! My heart condition does make me more tired and I need to log more hours to get enough rest, but even people who don’t have that, it’s just this season with young kids. You can’t get anything done unless they’re asleep. I feel like I can’t even load the dishwasher without my kids getting into things, drawing on the walls, stuff like that."

What’s something about motherhood that you wish everyone would be honest about but maybe not many people talk about?

"The postpartum mental illness struggles. If I hadn’t felt like someone was going to come in and take my baby away with Cole, I’d have gotten help much sooner. And I think I would have had more time to bond with him. With Logan, I was stretched to the max and I kept an eye out for signs of signs. I experienced postpartum anxiety with him, and got on top of it and got on medication to help. I would have experiences of feeling shaky, like someone was sitting on my chest and like I couldn’t breathe, and couldn’t talk to people. And people don’t understand, and they just figured I would be in a bad mood. I was able to up my dose after a follow-up appointment, and even though I still get overwhelmed, I don’t get as panicky. If people talk about mental illness, I feel like they talk about it in such a negative way, that it isn’t helpful. I wish we could talk more openly about it and in a way that doesn’t make people feel bad."

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What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about being a mother?

"I know it sounds cheesy, but the saying ‘they’re only young once.’ Because I feel like I missed out on so much of Cole’s younger years, it feels like he is growing up so fast. I think that experience has helped me appreciate my kids and realized that there is something to enjoy at every age."

What is your favorite way to wind down after a long day with your kids?

"Well we don’t keep wine in the house. :) I think its just finding somewhere quiet, even if it’s just for 5 minutes to let my ears stop ringing from all the yelling and the noises. Just a chance to regather my breathing and find some calm."

Tell me one thing you love about yourself as a mother?

"With me wanting to be a preschool teacher, I feel like I do a good job teaching my kids. We get a lot of compliments that Rory can speak so well, so it makes me proud that I can teach my kids well and prepare them."

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Tell me one thing that scares you about being a mother?

"I get angry a lot and can default to yelling. So that’s one thing that we’re working on and finding ways to help me get grounded. My dad was verbally abusive and I come from a long line of people who get angry, and that’s not something I want to continue".

What would you do if you had a whole day to yourself?

"Sleep! I would go somewhere and sleep in a freshly made bed, with blackout curtains, and room service, and of course somebody else footing the bill. That would be my dream."

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Who has been your biggest inspiration/mentor/go-to someone as you have journeyed through motherhood?

"It would be my grandma. It’s hard for my mom to understand sometimes because she only had me and my brother, and my grandma had 5 kids. So I feel like she and I relate in that way. I’ll call her all the time and ask her for advice. She never makes me feel like I’m burdening her when I call."

 

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What are ways you find time for yourself?

"I don’t, but it’s something I’m working on. Right now Patrick works seconds and I work days, so it’s hard to find time. I do try at least once a month to send at least 3 of my kids to a family member’s house to get a small break. And I try to sleep when I can get some extra time in. Patrick is a big help with reminding me to take time for myself when possible, and helping with the kids."

How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

"The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not sure those are my own words, but it’s relevant. It’s not just those picture perfect moments, but it’s also not just the bad stuff. It’s the messes, it’s the tired, it’s the beautiful, it’s the when things go right, it’s when you’re kid has been having an attitude all day and that night tells you he loves you. It’s all of that."

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What makes motherhood beautiful to you?

"We’re responsible for these tiny little souls and we get to impact them in so many ways, and meet their needs. I think it was at the IF Gathering where they said it’s possible for a lot of stay at home moms to feel like they’re not doing enough. But you get to spend 24-7 with your kids and have the opportunity to lead them to Christ. I can be the hands and feet of God to them and show them how to do the same for others someday."

A very big thank you to Cynthia for sharing and letting me see a little slice of her beautiful normal. You can check out the other posts in this series here: 

HannahLindseyKatieKristin  ErmaColleenErin & Pris.

xo

Colleen's Motherhood Session

Hello friends! I hope you have been enjoying this series on motherhood I've been working on. When I decided to work on a personal project, I immediately thought of working with some local moms because I have a dear place in my heart for mamas. I wanted to use this space to hear different perspectives on what it's like to be a mom.

I'm involved with a local group for moms, and one of their hashtags for this year is #thisismotherhood. I loved that line so much, and have been honored to be a part of a group of moms who embrace their differences, embrace each other, accept each other just as they are, and our group is really a non-judgmental place for moms to get together. I reached out in my group to see if anyone would be interested in sharing part of their motherhood journey, and I was blown away with the responses I got. I have been able to start meeting with the moms who I'll be working with, and I get to sit down with them for an hour, take some photos, and listen to them share. It's been so beautiful and such an honor for me.

Because I'm sharing parts of the stories of different women who have voluntarily sat down with me, I'd ask that you approach reading these posts with respect and an understanding that these stories are sacred. Please honor this space. The moms I'm interviewing all have a unique and different story of their journey to motherhood. No two will be alike, and that is so beautiful to me. Please honor these women and listen to their story free of judgement, assumptions, or negativity. We deal with enough of that already, right? 

Please accept these stories as parts of the bigger picture of being a mother and being human, and recognize how rich that makes this world. Thank you for taking the time to read and listen. 

With much love,

Leah

 

Colleen

Colleen lives in Fishers with her husband Alan and their two sons Oliver (5) and Graham (1). In addition to being a mother, Colleen is a speech therapist, author, and world traveler.

It was so nice to sit down and chat with Colleen about her journey through motherhood. She has such a kind and calm presence about her, and it was a joy to hear her share.

Enjoy her story below!

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Tell me a little bit about your journey to motherhood.

“With Oliver, we had tired for a year and half, and decided to pursue adoption, and that’s when I found out I was pregnant. So that was really nice. We did just a little bit of medical intervention, but we didn’t want to do IVF with such a high rate of not working. So we were going to pursue adoption. My nieces are adopted too, so we have adoption in our family. But ended up getting pregnant, which was exciting.

So Alan is an only child, and we always thought we would just have one child. But after my niece passed away, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer and everything with my family, I didn’t want Oliver to be an only child and I wanted him to have a sibling. My husband agreed, which it took a lot to get him to agree. And so we had Graham, and I got pregnant with him a lot faster, I think it only took 3 or 4 months, so that was nice for sure. So that’s how I got my babies, my boys.”

What is one of the things you love the most about being a mother?

“I think that I just love seeing them experience things for the first time, which is so fun. Something I didn’t realize with Oliver, him being older, is that he gets to experience Graham’s first things too. Which is fun because even if I forget it’s his first time doing something, Oliver will say ‘Oh that’s the first time he ever did this or that!’ And it’s really fun.”

What has been one of the hardest things about being a mother?

“I just think it’s a never-ending job. You’re on 24-7 and it doesn’t matter if you’re sick or tired or any of the above, they aren’t going to change because of that. So I think the constant of motherhood is hard. My oldest loves to talk all the time, loves to be next to me all the time, so that can be exhausting for sure. The neediness and the constant can be hard.”

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How do you maintain a sense of who you were before you had kids?

“I think a big thing for us, even as a couple, is that we really love to travel a lot. So we still try to travel. I took the boys by myself to Florida, and flew with them back in January. So we try to do those things.

And then I also spend time away from them, and I still work a little bit, so I try to do a little bit of what I used to do.”

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What is something that makes your motherhood story unique?

“Maybe it’s not as unique now, but I am older. So being 40 with an infant is more unique. Although it is becoming more common now, and just when I feel like I’m the older mom, I’ll meet someone who’s older than me, which is nice. So that’s maybe more unique. But I also like that I had a long time to do a lot of things. I mean, there are benefits of being older; being more financially stable, just having lived a little longer. But also, I’m tired too.”

What is one of your biggest dreams that has yet to be realized?

“I would like for us to travel with the boys later on. So I think it would be dreams of what our family will do together when they’re able to be potty-trained and such and travel easily. And it will be neat to see what their interests are.”

*I asked Colleen about her and Alan’s travels since I had seen  a map with all of their travels pinned on it and knew travel was important to them.*

“Yes, we went to 5 of the 7 continents - we haven’t been to Antarctica yet - before Oliver was born. We were planning on going to Thailand but then found out I was pregnant with Oliver, so we postponed that until he was two. We were able to go back afterwards though and it was so nice. So traveling is a goal for us, and it will be fun to do it with the boys someday.”

What would you say to your younger pre-motherhood self now if you could?

“I think I would say that it will all work out, and it will all be ok. Just because I didn’t know if I would be able to have kids, and there was stress and anxiety through all of the waiting and worrying. And I think I’d floor myself knowing that I have two kids and I stay home, because that was not on the radar - kids and staying home. But it all worked out.”

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In what ways has motherhood changed you?

“I think it changes you because you’re not first anymore. I think just needing to be the primary person for somebody else, which is a good thing too, has definitely changed me. I think about my kids and my family before I think about what I need to do, which maybe isn’t the healthiest sometimes and sometimes it’s good to think about what you personally need. But it’s fun and good, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them.”

What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“I think that it’s ok to take a break, and to have a messy house. Something I struggled with when I first started staying at home was thinking that it’s ok to still have a weekend. I felt like I needed to be doing something all the time. It’s important still to stop and be ok with not doing anything, and trying not to feel guilty about that. I think slowing down and knowing things only last for a certain amount of time, both the good and the challenging.”

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What is one thing you expected to be true about motherhood but turned out to be different?

“I anticipated the relationship between my boys would be really rough and hard. Because Oliver was so needing of my attention, I thought he would be resentful of his little brother, but he continues to surprise me. He absolutely adores Graham, and he was so proud when he was born. It’s just been really fun to watch him interact with his brother. I mean, he gets mad now when Graham crawls and tears down things or pulls on his hair or clothes, but he really truly adores his brother. I was ready for it to be this horrible experience, but it’s worked out so much better than I could have thought.”

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What’s something about motherhood that you wish everyone would be honest about but maybe not many people talk about?

“Probably just the struggles everybody has. I think with all the technology of seeing Pinterest pins and Facebook posts and how everything seems perfect is hard. I had seen a post of someone who said to post photos of our dirty houses so everyone could see what they really looked like. I think that’s hard. We can get into our own mom bubble, but we need to remember that it’s ok, whatever is going on, wherever you are, and knowing there are others in the same boat.”

What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about being a mother?

“I found a quote I really liked, and I probably don’t have it down exactly, but it was something like ‘It might not be as important what you do as it is who you raise.’ So I thought that was a nice quote to hold onto. This is valuable what I’m doing, raising a human who will hopefully grow up to be a good person. You don’t know where they will go or who they will influence, and if you feel like motherhood is the monotony of the day after day things, realize that you are still raising a person.”

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What is your favorite way to wind down after a long day with your kids?

“I think I just collapse. :) I think I’m winding down even before they are asleep. But I do like having tea at night, I like getting my cozy blankets and just having silence. Or else mindless tv, either of those where I don’t have to think. But I do fall asleep pretty easily and early. My college-age niece was here and we were going to bed, and it was late for us, it was probably closer to 10, and she was like ‘You’re going to be now?’ Uh, yes. Graham gets up by 6, and it’s just constant, it’s just non-stop. And I can’t even sleep in when we’re on vacation. I’m up so early and think ‘there are no children here to wake me up’ and I still get up. It’s nice to have a coffee and watch tv and not actually get out of bed, but I still get frustrated. I used to be so good at it! I used to sleep in so well. But not so much anymore.”

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Tell me one thing you love about yourself as a mother?

“I love when I just play and have fun with them, which isn’t all the time. Or I love when they do something new and they’re really proud of that, and it’s fun watching them and their little changes that I get to see, being able to be home with them. Because I did work for a year when Oliver was born, and so it’s nice with Graham to be here every day. So that’s nice. I like that.”

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Tell me one thing that scares you about being a mother?

“Messing them up, or doing something wrong. But yeah, it’s scary, it’s scary not knowing how things will be when your kids are older, just hoping they will choose the best and make good choices. But it’s scary not being able to control everything around them or their choices and just hoping that they are raised right and know what’s best to do. It is scary having them in the real world. We’re just doing the best we can and hopefully it’s somewhat right.”

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What would you do if you had a whole day to yourself?

“I would sleep, I would eat a great brunch. It would be great if I was out and traveling. It’s kind of funny to think about a whole day to myself. Usually in that case, we’re on vacation. I think I would enjoy my time, but then I think I would also want to do something with Alan. But it is nice to have some alone time though to recharge. I’m a much better mom when I’m not around them all of the time. We’re actually planning a trip now and it’s just nice to have kind of a light, or something that we can look forward to, something that will be fun. And hopefully later it will be something we can do with them, trips with them, but for now it’s nice to get away sometimes.”

Who has been your biggest inspiration/mentor/go-to someone as you have journeyed through motherhood?

“I would say my own mom has been absolutely wonderful. And also my friend Lindsey who is the same age as me but her kids are 10 and 14, so that is really wonderful to have. I’ll call her over sometimes. One time Oliver was being really hard and we were in this bad phase and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I didn’t really like him at the time, which sounds terrible, but I just was needing help to get out of this cycle of terrible behavior time. And she came over, without being judgmental at all, suggested things to try and it really helped. So she is my go-to for asking perspective questions, which is really nice. But I tease her that when she is an empty-nester I’ll have an 8 year old or 9 year old, so it’s very different from being the exact same age, but with different aged kids.”

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What are ways you find time for yourself?

“One of the big ways is that I signed Graham up for a Mother’s Day Out program when he was 9 months old. It sounds a bit young, but he loves it, and it’s just nice to be able to get a haircut or go to the grocery store alone, or have breakfast with a friend. So that’s been huge. Other times, I’ll have Oliver watch a show so I can think. We feel very fortunate that we have this big open space behind our house in our neighborhood between the houses behind ours. A lot of kids that are Oliver’s age live close, and he just plays back and forth and we have kids coming in here and then they’ll go out to other houses, and that is wonderful. I don’t really have to organize playdates, they just play and just go. It’s very free, and I like it because I don’t have to worry about him being in the front of the house or the street or somebody driving by. This way I can still see him, and as parents we just text if we don’t know which house the kids are at. That gives me a little break, and it’s been great.”

How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

“I would say that it’s different for everybody. We all have that commonality of having kids, but there’s such a wide range of what that looks like. For me being a mom is that I adore my boys, it’s exhausting but it’s fun and it gives me a different purpose. And it’s fun to teach them and watch them grown. It’s quite a journey, a rollercoaster.”

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What makes motherhood beautiful to you?

“Just the relationships I have with the boys and watching them and how much they adore their aunts and uncles and cousins. I also love watching the boys together, it just makes it all worthwhile.”

Thank you so much to Colleen for being willing to share part of her story of motherhood! You can find the other posts in this series here: Hannah, LindseyKatieKristin & Erma.

xo