The gift of a bad picture

Melissa with her son during his first encounter with a scary merry-go-round.
 
 

By Melissa Haak

Peanut Butter in my Hair

My husband and I both have a love of photography. We both particularly love the candid real style of photojournalism. We grew up in the age of film, getting our first digital camera at our wedding. For you youngins' film had a limited number of pictures you could take so getting over that fear of "don't waste the film!" takes a while. Longer for some of us than others.

My husband had no problem making the switch and happily clicked, clicked, clicked with abandon. He's also a pretty amazing guy who's convinced I'm sexiest when pregnant and prefers me with a little more curve than I would like. He is always snapping pictures of me, sometimes without my knowing, no matter what I look like. Unshowered, messy hair, pajamas, what have you, he'll snap a pic.

It used to annoy me a lot. I would try to ruin his shots with a silly face, sticking out my toungue or giving him the finger. While I have matured a bit, I still roll my eyes at his snapping pictures when I'm not "camera ready".

This past weekend all my digital photos from 2001-2012 were rescued from my old dead desktop. Due to some technical mumbo jumbo they were all dated 2013 which was something my borderline OCD self could not handle in my Picassa window. I needed order. So I spent Sunday redating the folders and looking back at my first year as a parent.

That first year was hard. It was a new, dark and scary place. I suffered with postpartum depression alone for over 8 months before I told anyone, even my husband, about what was going on in my head.

I remember looking at pictures from that year and seeing vacant eyes, an irritated glance, biting lips of frustration. Those are the images stuck in my head. Images that in my broken mind say 'BAD MOM!' I compare those to the images of my youngest daughter's first year, a year when I finally accepted medical help for my PPD. Aside from the occasional tired eyes, I don't see those images. I see a tired but happy mom.

While those pictures stayed stored away on my dead computer I had convinced myself that my first two kids missed out on having a good mom because I tried non-medical methods to battle my demons. Convinced that their memories of me would be the same as mine, a frustrated or vacant mom. Looking back at those pictures I was so angry at my husband for taking I found the greatest gift of all: peace.

Peace of mind and heart.

See those pictures don't show a mom with vacant eyes, they show a mom enjoying life with her child. They show joy as he runs into my arms on the beach. The show his fear at the first time on a merry-go-round and my caring eyes and smiling face as I point out all the fun things to him. The picture on the beach that I didn't want taken at all, with my too short shorts and my post baby belly hanging out, brought me to tears. I will cherish it forever.

There has been a lot of internet chatter since a post about moms staying in the picture went viral back in the fall. A lot of discussion about how we owe it to our kids and their memories to be in the pictures. It's not just the kids. We owe it to ourselves, to our spouses, to see ourselves through their eyes. My husband never doubted me, never doubted my love or ability to mother and by taking those pictures that I didn't want he gave me the greatest gift ever, that confidence that he had in me, in myself.

 
 
 





 
 
 
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