Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our Adoption Photo Shoot

Remember how I was mourning my clever maternity shoot? Well, it turns out I don't totally have to let that go.

What's the purpose of a maternity shoot?

1) Show off the baby bump

2) Show off your love and excitement as a couple

3) Show your baby later how filled with anticipation you were as you waited for him/her/them to be born

Number 1)? Not so much.

But Number 2) and 3)? HELL YEAH. We have those in spades. And I really, really wanted an opportunity to have a shoot to capture our period of waiting, without a belly (one containing a baby at least).

There's a whole market for this type of shoot. You can look it up on Pinterest, and find a whole slew of ideas for a "Waiting For You" shoot. Be warned, though, even if you explicitly type in "ADOPTION PHOTO SHOOT," you will be sneak-attacked with people's pregnancy photos. Pinterest needs a better search filter, methinks.

I have always been keen on this idea. Bryce, not so much.

Mostly because most of the photo shoots that I showed him from Pinterest he deemed "too schmaltzy" or "too sad:"

- No empty chairs (Too funereal and ghostly.)
- No obvious replacements for pregnancy (Blackboards over the tummy area with "growing in my heart," or even a really cute idea I saw from a couple adopting from an African country where her hands formed a heart over the country on a globe that stood in for a hugely pregnant belly. These were deemed too much like pretending that you were still in a process that you absolutely were not a part of anymore, and so a little on the sad side.)
- No obvious replacements for a baby or an ultrasound, for the same reasons.

This presented a bit of a challenge.

But then again, not really. Because what we really, really wanted to showcase was how much we love each other as a family of two, how excited we are for the future possibilities, what we have to offer our baby, and mostly just plain anticipation for a future that's not just us two.

So I booked a shoot with the wife of the English teacher I teach with two periods a day. She is just starting out, had amazingly open availability, was very excited at the idea of the added challenge of a non-schmaltzy, non-"those poor sad people who don't have a baby" Waiting Adoption Shoot. She could come one week after I called her, and started emailing me questions.

Questions like, "What do you like to do together?" "What's your sense of humor like?" "Could you come up with some ideas for props/setups that you like, or some quotes?" "What are your favorite books for kids?" And so on and so forth. We were already impressed.

But then, then she showed up at our house a week ago Saturday and her Honda Pilot was a veritable Mary Poppins' carpet bag of stuff. She had so many props -- old suitcases, a rustic pine bench, an old school clock, a 30" square framed chalkboard and colorful chalk pens, a rustic rucksack thing, and a number of handmade banners. We didn't use everything, and we added a few of our own props. It was so much fun.

It was, however, the very first freezing cold and windy day we'd had in months. The weekend before it was 60, and this day it was 38 with a nasty wind chill, which made wardrobe a little interesting. However, it made our choices a little more...real. Which made the shoot more genuine, I think. I just felt bad for her poor freezing fingers. We did about half the shoot inside the house, so we didn't get hypothermia or numb fingers and toes.

One of the reasons why I wanted the shoot was for our holiday card. We didn't send one last year (although we have about 60 in the closet), and if you look through the last few years of cards you can see a combination of anticipation and hope and crushed dreams. Last year was so crushed we couldn't even find the heart to send them. The year before was a New Year's card as well, that showed a year's worth of fun things and silly things that we enjoy, because we totally thought egg donor was going to work for us. Ha. The year before was the infamous cats-in-bowties combined with our 1950s cheeky throwback photos in front of the fireplace. We sent that one to our fertility clinic with the message, "I'm not responsible for what goes on next year's card if we don't have a baby..." The one before that was an indulgent glamour shot series we orchestrated ourselves in front of a rusty barn by the Erie canal, because we felt indulgent and inundated by everyone else's babies and young children. (Incidentally, the picture of the two of us on that card was taken by a man walking by who just happened to be a photographer, and that is the cover of our profile book.) The one before that was pictures from a Maine vacation, and the one before that was our wedding photos. We've had a picture card to commemorate every year of our marriage. And this year, I wanted to card to convey our sense of excitement, and hope, and anticipation, and joy to be adopting. We do not look sad at all.

If you know me in "real life," please pretend you didn't see these, as we want our New Year's card to be a bit of a surprise and they aren't arriving to be addressed until 1/7/16...So enjoy here and then please turn on your Men in Black memory wiping stick. 

Here they are, the photos I deem as the best from our shoot. I was super impressed with our photographer. She did a great job, kept the mood light, and came up with some fantastic ideas. The shoot more than exceeded my expectations, and these photos will be such a treasure to keep for our FutureBaby to look at, and to chronicle this interesting time of excitement and uncertainty that we embraced with joy and anticipation.

We received this tongue-in-cheek "Owner's Manual" for a baby from a friend, and Bryce had the inspired idea to lay out a ton of math and physics books on the table, but the instruction manual is what's really causing agita and puzzlement. Abner has a cameo on the couch.
And there's both of us, terrified by a poop chart.
I can't remember who I have to thank for this book recommendation, but we just love it. It's also perfect because it's elephants, which are a good luck charm and make race ambiguous. 
Another "Wish" shot. I wish that you could see where it says, "Every family starts with a...Wish"
I loved this idea, although I couldn't seem to look anything but happy. Here Bryce is a little smirky and I'm trying to look like, "Argh, the waiting!" but it's hard not to smile.
I think we both managed to look a little more in character here. I love that the backdrop is my desk. 
It was so cold that my strings immediately loosened and so I had to pretend to play (because when I played for real it was just WRONG). Bryce wishes I wasn't looking at the camera in this one, but I think it's okay.
This was Bryce's favorite instrument shot. Bryce looks very intensely concentrated on his strings, and I just love what a violin does to your chin/jawline. Oh, the struggles. 
I really like this shot for the outdoor Christmas tree behind us, Bryce's more carefree look, and the angle.
Out in the trail behind our house...which necessitated heavier clothing. Someone who saw these "in the woods" shots said they looked like engagement photos, which I took as a tremendous compliment.
I love, love, love this photo. 
I loved that our photographer prefaced this shot with, "it looks like I'm in your personal space but I'm not really," even though she was five feet away. I have a slightly different idea of personal space (like in my lap).
This is my absolute favorite of the "in the woods" shots. I can even forgive my belly for making a bit of a cameo, because it is so sweet and really shows how much we love each other and how happy we are.
This series is my favorite of the whole day. I love the quote that I found, that Bryce didn't find schmaltzy at all, and hello...Carl Sagan! I changed "something" to "someone" because Mystery Baby is a "one" not a "thing," but everything else was perfect. 
The board is big enough not to be mistaken for covering my oh-so-not-pregnant belly, and all I see here is joy for an entirely different process to become parents. Excitement for the unknown and the waiting.
And, just a little silliness. 
Lastly, I lifted an idea straight from Pinterest, and I was not disappointed in how it turned out: 

Love this idea, for so many reasons, but I also love that it takes away any ambiguity of our process. Which is vital for our New Year's card, so we don't have very confused people who we don't see/talk to often wondering what the hell is going on.

A big fat thank you to our photographer, Kelly Zimmerman, who can add "Adoption Photo Shoot" to her repertoire and another incredibly satisfied client to her list. It felt so good to do this shoot, and even better to see the amazing results. It doesn't feel like a stand-in for what once was and was lost. It feels like a joyful celebration of our adoption process and our distinct BEFORE our baby comes. I will be so proud to show our child these photos one day, to share just how eagerly we awaited his/her arrival. 


  1. Beautiful. Absolutely, beautifully, perfect! Happy new year to you and to mystery baby, wherever she/he might be!

    1. Thank you! We were so very pleased with the results. Happy New Year to you too!

  2. These pictures are fantastic!!! What a great idea too. I'm so glad you guys did this. These photos are priceless.

    1. Thank you! I am glad we went ahead and did it even though we could still be waiting later. We really are trying to live in the present joy, and I hope that came through! Thank you so much for your kind words!

  3. Oh my goodness I think that these pictures are amazing! They so just so perfect! Which one(s) did you use for your NY card?

    1. Thank you so much! We used the one my belly shows up in, Bryce's favorite instrument shot, the instruction manual with both of us, the non-silly full-body Carl Sagan shot, one of the Wish shots, and the adoption shot with the scrabble tiles. And a suitcase shot. Pretty much all of them... :) I'll post a picture when the cards are mailed. They came out so awesome, and the message on the New Year's card is just fantastic. Thank you!

  4. How fun! Yet another beautiful expression of joy and expectation.

    1. Thank you! Then the shoot accomplished what we hoped it would. It was so much fun!

  5. LOVE, LOVE this idea. The photos are awesome, you look beautiful! I love the Carl Sagan quote, but I'll leave you with one from Death Cab for Cutie "your heart belongs to someone you've yet to meet.."

    1. Thank you so much! OH, what a great quote! We may use that at a later date, thanks for the beautiful suggestion. And thanks for your kind words! We loved doing this.

  6. Hehe, the bit about the sneak attack made me laugh! The pictures are amazing! I loved everything about it and the quote is just beautiful.

    1. Ha -- it is something else to be looking for other couples celebrating their adoption plans and find BABAM! a big ole giant belly in the mix. :) Thank you so much for your kind words -- we loved doing the shoot, we loved our photographer, and it is just wonderful to have pictures of the celebratory, anticipatory feelings we have right now. Thank you!

  7. Well, you definitely nailed the non-schmaltzy, non-sad adoption shoot! Your personalities and love shine through and bring a smile to my face. Mystery Baby is going to love having and seeing these some day.

  8. This is fabulous! What an amazingly cool idea and they turned out beautifully (despite such a cold and blustery day). The quote is a really good one.

  9. The woods shots are just gorgeous!

  10. I wish you were my parents. Wonderful, beautiful photos! You look GORGEOUS.
    Sorry I've been MIA comment-wise. Still following your story, always.

  11. I love this idea. And I love the direction you all took with it. And I love,LoVe, LOVE your pictures! You both look great, you can feel the fun you had taking the photos and the energy of you both shines!!

  12. The best thing is that I can see how much you two love each other - that's priceless!

  13. What gorgeous photos. I love the sense of fun in them too. And I will admit, I teared up when I saw the one with the quote.