Human Turtles and Mesh Underwear: Why I Didn’t Do a Maternity or Newborn Shoot

I did not do a maternity shoot.

I did not do a newborn shoot.

I regret nothing.

It’s not because I don’t like photos. I like photos. No, I LOVE photos.

Matt and I had an epic engagement shoot at a cocktail bar called “Drink” in Boston. Of course you are not surprised. It was so fun. I had TWO DIFFERENT OUTFITS (who am I? Lady Gaga??), and Matt wore a hat. And most adorably, on the check, our table was listed as “LOVE BIRDS”… I KNOW.

But maternity photos? Nope. I felt like a hot pile of insecure garbage as a pregnant lady. And no, not because my body was different. 

I thought it was kinda thrilling to have my body change so drastically. (I’m not kidding.)  Everyday was an experiment. What’s going to change today? Hair on my chin? Cool, didn’t see that one coming. Hemorrhoids? Curve ball, but ok.


I once got stuck in a giant beanbag chair because during pregnancy you become a turtle, an actual human turtle.

I once got stuck in a giant beanbag chair because during pregnancy you become a turtle, an actual human turtle and once on your back you cannot return to your feet without assistance. Nobody wants pictures of themselves as a turtle.

Listen, bodies are plastic, they are meant to change. Gain weight, lose weight, age. A body is a body, it’s not who you are. But being pregnant is not like gaining weight (trust me, I HAVE EXPERIENCE.) Being pregnant is like being pregnant, there is no analog. 

Being pregnant guarantees attention ONLY on your body as a baby vessel, and exactly zero attention on you as a human. And not because your fellow humans are mesmerized by the miracle of life churning in your guts.

No, people begin to you ignore you and conversations boil down to exactly two questions: When are you due? Are you having a boy or a girl?

Doctors especially, begin to ignore you, even ones you really like. Think I’m making it up? My first baby, perfectly healthy pregnancy, and I wanted to go into labor naturally. Induction scared me, honestly the potential of any medical invention, truly frightened me. The catch? I was approaching my due date and still pregnant, a fact not unnoticed by my doc.

(For those keeping score at home, Veda arrived 12 days past her/my due date, and as the great American poet Tom Petty once wrote,”waiting is the hardest part.” RIP Tom Petty)

You see, the concept of a “due date” is misleading, it’s just the middle of the bell curve. Two weeks before that date and two weeks after that date are within “normal.” The standard of care in Connecticut is 14 days, meaning docs aren’t required to recommend any intervention, provided you are without complications, until two weeks after your due date. 

And I knew all that, so I jumped through all the hoops, all the stress tests, all the urine tests, the membrane sweeps (heck, I wanted this kid out too, just not until she was ready.) I was in the doc’s office every 3 days for those 12 days. Like the due date was this magical point in time, after which the baby was in danger and had to be constantly monitored. Really?

I got my non-induced labor and birth. It was six hours, start to finish. So quick, I never bothered with an epidural.  (Aside: I don’t care how you gave birth, with medication, without medication, dolphin assisted, c-section, as long it was right for you.)

Fast forward a couple years. Same doctor, another healthy pregnancy, another flawless birth by my amazing pelvis. (The only ‘surprise’ was a manual removal of my placenta, but let’s save that story for another post.) This time I was induced, 7 days past by my due date on December 21st. I was terrified. I cried the whole ride to the hospital, pretty sure something was about to go terribly wrong. 

Now, it’s was tougher to resist induction the second time. The pressure from the doc started before my due date. “Want to sweep your membranes? We could schedule an induction now, this baby is big.” At home was different too. Now I had a toddler running around, family was not close enough to swoop in should I go into labor in the middle of the night. Oh, and IT WAS ALMOST CHRISTMAS. 

Old Man Mavis was 10 pounds, 3oz.  As mentioned, it was Christmas time and I might have been adding eggnog to my daily coffee instead of milk. So, yeah, some contributing factors to a Meatball Baby. And during my follow up, my doc commented: we probably won’t let you go that long again if you have a third, even though it was no problem for you. 

WUT.

Sooooo, my healthy pregnancy, my flawless delivery, and my healthy Meatball Baby all point to more intervention, sooner? So much for evidence-based medicine…

The New York Times ran a remarkable option piece in mid-November about maternal death rates in the US, it’s worth a read if you want to get angry about woman’s health. (HINT: you do.)  I pull this quote directly from that article because it’s the New-York-Goddamn-Times, and I can’t write it any better: “I’ve been thinking lately about the remarkable ways in which American women continue to be devalued and disempowered through the prism of motherhood, even as we insist on the pre-eminence of mothers’ status.”

“I’ve been thinking lately about the remarkable ways in which American women continue to be devalued and disempowered through the prism of motherhood, even as we insist on the pre-eminence of mothers’ status.”

KIM BROOKS
new YORK TIMES
YUP.

So, yeah, the experience of being a pregnant lady was unsettling and confidence shaking, and I didn’t want photos of a shook pregnant lady. “Hi, my name is Ariana, I am only a baby vessel. Please take amazing photos of me.” Wasn’t going to work for me. 

And newborn photos? I think all newborn babies basically look the same.

There, I said it. I understand if you have to report me to the Newborn Photographers Union for not participating in the Industrial Cuteness Complex or whatever.

When I first saw my kids, I was like: “Well, let’s hope for sparkling personalities.”

I never even considered a newborn photo shoot. My inclination was solidified when I first saw my kids. I was like: “Well, let’s hope for sparkling personalities.”

(Seriously, if you’ve never seen a baby fresh from the stork – don’t. They are NOT CUTE. They are puffy in weird places, misshapen (birth canals, amiright?), can’t smile, and generally just want to be back in the human hot tub they just exited. Not photogenic.)

And don’t get me started about how unphotogenic I felt newly postpartum. Sweet mother of god. My vagina had just been blown up, my middle was a lot more middle-like than I remembered, I looked hungover 24/7 thanks to zero sleep and stress eating. 

I give major credit to the moms who are like: “You know what? I am FEELING this mesh underwear and my boobs probably won’t leak all over this fancy outfit. Call in the Beauty Squad and the photographer, let’s get documenting!”

My “50 Mornings a Mother” post was my newborn shoot. It was unvarnished and raw because that’s what early motherhood felt like.

And heck, I couldn’t be asked to cover my boobs for the first 2 months of momhood. Any newborn shoot at my house would have been for National Geographic, just saying.

Any newborn shoot at my house would have been for National Geographic, just saying.

Now, family photos. YES. 100% yes. WE ARE IN. Now that my children don’t look like weird worms, I am once again recognized as a human instead of a real live Russian nesting doll/turtle, and my mesh underwear has been retired – it’s family photo time!

We’ve done an annual shoot since Veda was 16 months, and now that we’ve found a photographer that really gets us, it’s become more like a quarterly event. And I flipping love it. These photos capture us the way I think of my family: big personalities, not for everyone, and a lot of fun. 

And below, behold the latest Malutich Family photos taken by our friends Jess and Jake Koteen. Tah-dah! 

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