Every time we orbit the sun, I choose a word. It's an intention, a word chosen to represent the next 365 days of my life. I choose this word prayerfully, intuitively, and most of the time- it just comes to me.
I have practiced this tradition this since the beginning of my birth photography career and I don't believe in coincidences. When I chose to become a birth photographer, I gave myself permission to pursue something that was simply WILD. No one in my entire life had spoken to me about birth. I didn't know anyone who had their birth documented in this way. I was brand new to this world, but I saw something. Something I couldn't walk away from. Something that tugged at a string in my heart that had been there all my life- laying dormant, waiting for me to pick it up and pull it into action. I saw something beautiful, full of magic, I saw something in birth- and now I know that I saw myself in it. I saw myself birthing, myself supporting, I saw myself as I would become. I LAUGHED at myself when I came up with this dream. Owning my own business, running it on my own, pushing into a field that receives such scorn and criticism from everyone who doesn't understand it. No one understood what I was doing in the circles I was in. To this day, multiple members of my own family think what I do is low, undignified, and disgusting. (I have words for that but lets move on...) I made new circles.
I walked out into a field of snow that no one had walked on, and a drew a circle just big enough to fit me in it. Pretty soon, I met others who had their own circles, and we drew new circles together. Now I exist in a field speckled with stars, and I can see far and wide the great efforts of birth workers everywhere. I can draw lines between the constellations where my work meets theirs, where we meet in birth spaces and living rooms, and clients hearts. This sky is a place that can feel so empty when harsh light is shined upon its face. But it is always full of these stars, these birth workers and birth families. And like many births, this work is of the night. Beautifully beautifully so.
The first year I chose a word, I did so because I was tired of goals, tired of resolutions to be better, work harder, run further. My life has been a marathon, and when I reached birth work- I was tired and traumatized and in desperate need of healing. In helping others find their paths to healing, I really did carve out my own. I came to view birth work as my forever work. I have been in no rush to succeed, no rush to get a certain number of births under my belt, no rush at all. Because I know that this IS my forever work. This journey for me, wasn't a race, it's not a goal. It is a way of life. I have come to exist outside of time, in my spirit and in my work. Im not always trying to best myself, and I am absolutely never trying to compete with anyone else. I am simply existing, honoring stories, and meeting other stars on their soul journeys. I am working, I am living, I am watching the earth orbit the sun. I am creating art, and shining brightly, and honoring my seasons of hibernation when they come.
These are the words that have guided me here.
2017- steady, gentle, grace. I chose three words the first year. I was in recovery from postpartum depression and anxiety, and these words gave me anchor. Steady myself, be gentle with myself, and give myself grace. Accept anything that helps me feel steady, accept gentleness, and accept grace from God and whoever else was offering. As I walked forward, I reached for the sun and these words fueled every step that year, and all the years since.
2018- no fear: These words scared me, and excited me. This was when I really jumped into the pool of water that would grow my business into what it is today. To not do things out of fear, to trust what was laid before me no matter how intimidating it was, and most of all- to find ways to help others face their fears. I had so many births that year with mamas who were terrified of something. We faced those battles hand in hand and I will never forget those stories.
2019- rest: a hard word, a hard task. I have the tendency to give more then I take in every relationship. This year forced me in more ways then one to honor my need for rest, and that's a lesson I am so desperately glad I learned because the following seasons would bring me so many avalanches, things that wiped me out, that I had no choice but to rest and recover from. This is also the year I lost my baby girl Elsie. A year that wrecked me, and gave me a lot of space that I would use over the next years to heal.
2020- I like to call this year the great pause. I only photographed one or two births. The world shut down, and I lost my ability to walk for a long time. This year, was a deep deep pause. My word this year was Fire. I choose it in November or December of the following year- and I truly thought it would be my year for being on fire! Passion! Success! All of that jazz. Turns out, it was actually a year of learning to rest in front of the fires, to walk through the fires, and to patiently battle fires that took a really long time to put out. It burned, it cleansed, and it changed us all.
2021- Were just saying goodbye to this year. Like the others, it brought me tastes of trauma and fire and need for rest. My year this word was Love. It's a word that found me, the real me, who seemed to be buried inside. This year I learned what love was, and what it wasn't. I learned to look at the claim of love and discern the truth from the farce. I learned how to turn off the valves that were pouring the wrong kinds of "love" in, and that made so much more room for true love to exist. I found my inner child, and realized I had wayyy farther to go in my self love journey then I ever imagined. I thought I was pretty good at it before. Now I know there will never be a place where love can not be strengthened. I also know that love is not quantifiable. It just is, or it isn't. If someone is trying to measure, or quantify love- it might just be a mask.
Which brings me to this year.
2022. A beautiful number. Last year, something else amazing happened. My son and I, both started a journey of awakening. As amazing, empathetic, Autistic people. Finding this diagnosis for him, was no big deal because I have always known, but finally got doctors to take me seriously. Finding this diagnosis for myself, was life changing. If you are reading this, I encourage you to learn more about autism, and what it isn't because the stereotypes and tv shows will never give you any kind of glimpse into our reality. This diagnosis for me, has brought light to my heart, grace to my heart, purpose! It has validated and explained so many of my experiences.
This year my word is Unmasking. Autistic people, especially those who receive a diagnosis as an adult, have a very specific skill set, that allows them to "mask" their autistic traits, the way their brains work- in order to appear average, to blend in or make life work for them in a world built for nerotypical people.
Autism is a disability, but it is also an incredible strength. One cool thing about it, is that an autistic person is often very affected by empathy. They either have a very low emotional, or empathy, IQ, or- a very very high one. I am on the latter end, which makes me extremely sensitive to peoples moods, energies and needs. I believe this is what makes me so attracted to birth work, and so good at adapting to situations. That and my ability to mask my own needs to serve others- it's like my own super power I get to bring with me into the birth world.
Speaking about my autism, in this space, is especially scary because of the stereotypes and chance of pushing people away. But in honor of my word this year- im giving myself permission to exist:
As both an amazing birth worker, and an autistic person. Permission to unmask when I need to, to live more authentically, and to just love myself as I am. Unmasking is a vital part of my autistic journey, but it's also just an amazing thing to practice in any journey. It allows you to ask for help when you need it, to speak with intention and honesty. It allows me specifically to be more of who I am inside my head, on the outside.
The photo at the beginning of this post, is one of a series I didn't post because I wasn't smiling. I had taken down many of my masks because I was so into the orb of light, the moon that I was holding. It truly represents my unmasking beginning I think.
So here is to my incredible field of stars, each of us shinning so brightly, so uniquely. Here's to a lifetime of practicing unmasking, and authentic loving. Here's to 2022, I can't wait to experience this orbit. <3