Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Baking Someone Else's Baby

One of the things "they" tell you to do when you're launching a photography business is to maintain a blog. But not just any blog. This blog should be 2 parts recent work and 1 part YOU (or some other magic combination, I guess). I've always kept blogs, but this is a little different for me, so bear with me!

Here's something cool about me you probably didn't know (unless you're reading because you already love me, in which case, HI MOM), and a big part of my love of all things birth: I'm a surrogate. I have a blog that's solely dedicated to my surrogacy experiences so far, and I'll keep the details there.

But surrogacy and why I do it are a big part of who I am. I carry babies that aren't genetically related to me for gay men (who are obviously without uteri). I've never had a lot of money to donate to causes that are meaningful to me, but I do have a lot of heart. And, well, a uterus. So, as my friend Kelly says, My Uterus is an Ally!
C'mon, how awesome is this bumper sticker?
My husband wouldn't be too embarrassed, right honey? Honey??
The point of all of this is that tonight (this morning?) I'm here in Los Angeles again, getting ready to be implanted with Someone Else's Baby (or baby-to-be, as it were). I'm nervous, excited, and for the first time, all alone. Tomorrow morning (later this morning?) is the embryo transfer (11 a.m. PDT), and I'd love to have you cheering me on. ♥

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Self, Fear, Inspiration, a leap of faith

One of my favorite things about the photographers I admire is their ability to blog in their own voice. Maybe it's my background in journalism or my very Hermione-like desire to do everything just. so., but I always seem to sound a little pompous, a little forced, or just plain NOT ME when I write.

So forgive me, and don't believe a word of the tone. Just look over there at my pink hair. That's who I am. Fun, funky, silly, Mandie.

I spent a good part of today checking out photography web sites. I realized that a good number of the photographers I get most inspiration from are wedding photographers. I don't know if it's because wedding photography is The Place To Be, and so their voices are the loudest, or if it's some hidden part of my "I don't do weddings" photographic psyche that secretly longs to tell love stories along with birth stories, but is afraid.

A few of the inspirational sites I added to my facebook "likes" today.

I've worked hard to stop being afraid lately. I spent years avoiding the attempt to become a professional photographer out of fear. When I finally decided to take the plunge, I asked myself, "Self? What's the worst that can happen?"

The worst that can happen is that I spend a lot of time and money chasing my dreams, and end up not quite catching them. The worst that can happen is that I flop. The worst that can happen is that my family and friends look at my efforts and see just another failed crazy idea.

"But Mandie, what's the best that could happen?"

I could succeed. I could bring a little more beauty into the world. I could tell stories of love and joy, and I could give the gift of permanent memory to my clients. I could do what I love and be happy. I could provide for my family while putting my heart into the activity that brings me the most joy - taking pictures, telling stories, and touching lives.

So here's my blog, and I hope to get a web site soon. I'm stepping off the edge of fear, diving into a pool of possibility. ♥

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Birth of Dylan Gray | Chicago birth photographer

On an early morning in May, I was fortunate enough to witness the birth of a beautiful baby girl. It's the first birth (other than my own) I've been present for, and it was awe-inspiring. I'm so grateful to Heather and Demian for asking me to be present for the birth of their daughter. If you're just here for the visual birth story, you can watch this slideshow and view more pictures here. Otherwise you can continue on first, and read the story of Dylan's birth as experienced by the photographer (with a few extra photos) before watching the video.

If you want to watch in fullscreen, click over to YouTube and select the HD format.

On Saturday night, Demian texted me around 6:00 to let me know Heather was having regular contractions and the doctor had asked them to come in to the hospital. Since she was planning to birth in the city, and since this was her fifth labor and delivery, I thought I should probably move quickly. I ran around gathering my things while waiting for Luke (my husband) to arrive home to stay with the kids. As soon as he walked through the door, I was off into the Chicago sunset (Well, sort of. The sun sets on the other side of the state, actually).
When I arrived at the hospital, Demian and Heather's best friend Rebeccah were waiting in obstetrical triage. Heather's water had started to leak, and she was dilated to 3 cm. They eventually sent us all up to the labor and delivery unit, where the fun began.
Heather labored 100% naturally for a long time, despite having always been epiduralized before. She went on and on about how easy it really was so far, and while she knew it would get harder, she was really happy to have decided to try sticking to her natural defenses against pain. I have to say, she was one beautiful, strong, composed mama!
After having been at the hospital and contracting for 7 hours with no cervical change, and with her labor having slowed significantly, the doctors decided she needed pitocin to augment her labor. Heather talked the team into letting her walk to try to get her labor back on track, but after another 45 minutes, Heather and her (awesome! amazing!) nurse agreed to start a slow pitocin drip.
The pitocin increased Heather's pain, but she held off against the epidural. After another couple of hours, she had only progressed by about 1 centimeter. The doctor came in and broke her water bag fully (it had only been leaking before), and that's when the party really started.
During the next two hours, Heather's pain increased steadily as her cervix dilated hard and fast. I stood (and stand!) in awe of Heather's strength. She worked phenominally hard and by the time she really couldn't take any more, she was ready to push her daughter into the world.
I cannot describe the joy of watching Heather work so hard for this moment, and then watching it happen. The looks of awe on the faces of Heather, Demian, and Rebeccah were heart-wrenching. She did it. SHE DID IT!
There were some complications after the birth, and after they explained the situation to her, Heather ended up being whisked to the operating room to get everything under control. Demian and Rebeccah waited anxiously with the baby, and an hour later, they got the news that everything had gone well and Heather was recovering.
A family that was four is now five, and at least seven lives have been permanently altered in an amazing way. Congratulations Heather and Demian!

All my big events are currently shot with rented gear from - 
I recommend them highly (and here's my affiliate link!)
 lens rental

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I *like* being unusual

I'm attending an intensive, week-long leadership conference next month, and as part of the training, we'll be studying up on the Meyers-Briggs personality typing system. The folks running the conference have sent out an official Meyers-Briggs test to all attendees, so that we can talk about our own types during the conference.

I'll admit it, I'm a little nervous.

I've never taken the official test before, but I have taken several adapted versions online, and though I've changed a lot over the past 10 years, my type according to these non-official tests has not. I'm INFJ, also known (in the Keirsey system) as a Counselor-Idealist.

INFJ is the rarest of the 16 possible personality types, and that's just the way I like it. On average, 1.5% of the population contains this unusual mix of introversion, intuition, feeling, and judgment. So when you tell me that no, I'm not special, I can say, "Screw you, I so totally am."

My concern here is that the official test will yield a different result. Other than the Introversion/Extraversion category, where I fall solidly into the camp of the former, I tend to hover somewhere around the middle. The results of one online test were thus:

Introverted (I) 60% Extroverted (E) 40%
Intuitive (N) 51.22% Sensing (S) 48.78%
Feeling (F) 58.82% Thinking (T) 41.18%
Judging (J) 53.85% Perceiving (P) 46.15%

Will I still be special if I come out as an ISTP? Probably, but it's just not as cool. I'll let you know how it goes. :)