Mental Health and My Current State

Life scares the crap out of me most days. The shear potential of each day overwhelms me. As most of you know I self identify as a deep thinker. I have also told you that I struggle with anxiety and depression. This may come as a shock to some of you but I have also recently learned that I am an empath, a super feeler of my own emotions and others. (I honestly had no idea) Mental health and our each individual nature can look incredibly different for each person. Real talk time, for me, all of this presents as avoidance, rumination, and a lot of the time complete isolation where I feel shame, guilt, and envy. This comes from comparison, but it also come from within. Not knowing myself, not listening to myself, and running toward what I THINK I SHOULD be doing with my life. Can you relate? Recently I have promised myself to work on all of the above.

With photography, especially birth photography, I have seen many people burn out. This looks insanely different, just like anxiety and depression, for each individual. I have written a version of this post a few times now and noticed I kept pushing myself down to provide a lesson to you, the reader. This. Thinking I have to provide a scripted lesson over just sharing my own story is where I am burnt out and honestly a bit lost. I’ve started my business and fueled my passion out of a desire to do more, offer more, and provide what I did not have at any given point in my life. While noble, this "why" is incredibly unhealthy. I did not see what I was doing to myself or who I had become. A giver without regard for myself or even my family. This year I plan to simplify and figure out who Nicole is so I can better serve myself and others.

A powerful part of everything above is the lack of validation and the source of the validation. This is a hot topic word for me right now. The concept and definition I want to make clear, because for all intent and purposes I had it wrong. Validation is the "recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile." (dictionary.com) I’m just starting this journey and I do not have all the answers, but growing up the way I did, I did not get validation from my parents, was constantly questioned my friends, and therefore learned to question myself in everything. This lead to chasing likes, making excuses, pursuing leadership, typing lessons, and honestly doing and giving others what I desperately needed to do and give myself.

Recently, I met with a local friend and told her some of my troubles and she simply told me that I had given everyone else everything but have lost myself. The shirt off my back is gone, so to speak. I say a lot, too much probably, at every turn. I give, take on, and learn so that I can teach others, help, and support others. I got stuck. I’m still stuck. Worrying about everyone else’s business and families, everyone else’s reaction - this is something I thought didn’t affect me. I'm a doer, a change maker - I might be those things but I lost all grace and empathy for myself. I have recently learned this exact thing has held me back. Somewhere along my journey I have stopped creating for myself, for my local community, for my own family. Geez, this is all crazy hard to admit to you and to myself. I don’t have answers as to my next move - what is coming next - other than I need to be doing something different and more simple.

Knowing that ‘you can do more’ can become an excuse, a burden of sorts. Doing more is a big reason I stopped celebrating the tiny victories and chased the next thing I could show, share, and tell each of you who follow me. As much I as I believe in "shedding the should," I have should myself into a hole. The funny thing is I don't do this to others. I have spoken to many people over the course of the past couple of years. Helped many get started, been there for others, all while not really accepting myself. This has to change. I’m scared. I don’t know what this looks like. Asking for help doesn’t come easy. Admitting that I’m struggling is even harder. I’m not even sure what or where I need help most days. I’ve always considered myself the strong one, an island if you will, but as much as I have talked about not feeling lonely, I realize I may have been the most lonely.  

You heard that right. I am guilty. I don't reach out or ask for help often because I'm too afraid to do so and my anxiety about life leads me to avoiding everything and everyone. I also don't really know what I need help with other than to say I'm lost. I’m unsure of the questions to ask and conversations to have. Most days I want to sit still wrapped tightly in a heavy blanket. I have no clue if this is a common occurrence for others, so of course this creates doubt, which means I probably again won't reach out for help. Do you see a theme in this entire post. As I have read, reread, tried to rewrite this piece many different times I see how flippantly unsure I am of my own calling. This mental health thing is no joke. I want to talk about it though. 

Are you scared of sharing yourself? Do you have anxiety or depression? How does it present itself to you? Do you validate yourself or wait and hope for others to take up the slack? How are you feeling - really feeling? 

Birth + Photography Are Not A Competition

Birth is no place for competition. The the advocacy of birth by birth photographers is misplaced under the guise of an image competition. Are we not sharing our work and stories of birth in our everyday marketing strategy? Connect to your mission, your community, and seek guidance if you need it outside of competition.

judgement and winning | image competition results

put yourself out there

There are so many ways to be judged in this world as a person, so why throw yourself into the limelight? As an introvert, putting myself out in the world is super hard. Now take this concept and apply it to an image competition, and I'm just about paralyzed with fear. Does anyone really ever feel like they have taken an award winning image? 

With any art form, you put a part of yourself into every finished piece. Especially the pieces within your portfolio that you share with the world. I know for me these images are of other's experiences, but it is still through my perspective, with my vision and final styling. Naturally, putting this piece of my heart up to be judged is not done lightly. With that said, without judgement or criticism, how am I supposed to grow and learn?

This year I entered 3 images to be viewed and judged in a new birth photography image competition called Elevate. You can click to read the judging process and rubric here. Further, you can see all the amazing finalists on their website.  

As for my images, thank you so much to my wonderful clients who allow me to hold space with them at such an intimate time in their lives and for allowing me to share their birth love stories with you!

Cherished

Cherished is a frame I adore. Mother's hand gently caressing her new tiny human's cheek, makes you feel the love and awe a parent feels when the finally meet the being they have felt so close for over 9 months. Full Birth Story

mirrored-creation.jpg

Mirrored Creation

Mirrored Creation, again is a frame I love as a member of this families journey to bringing their 4th baby into the world. Mom had felt the tell tale signs of labor early Friday evening. The birth team was on alert and stand by with them in the birthing center from Friday night until Sunday evening. This image was taken in that last tired and delirious hour of wanting to meet their newest family member. I utilized a prism to increase the emotion of the moment and now carry it with me everywhere I go! Full Birth Story

Persistance and Strength

Persistence and Strength is what every mother possesses. I was quite torn as to whether I should submit this image into a competition for it's sheer intimacy of life unfolding. With that said, this frame fully embodies the story of birth in one frame, from my perspective, with a clear focus on mom. I wish, deep down, that every woman could see a similar image of themselves in labor, from an out of body perspective, as she grips on to her lifeline while her world and heart expands to fit another beautiful soul.

with grit and grace,

Every Birth is Beautiful | Nicoleinbold | Richmond

 
Nicoleinbold believes every birth is beautiful
 

When you are just one person with a camera, wondering if you are a professional photographer, debating if your images are really any good, living in Richmond, Va, with one computer. Having clients and life to take care of, it is hard to think about what other people are saying or doing all the time. This week however, it became apparent to me that living in my three foot bubble that one person can effect my entire profession and way of life. 

I am sure you have seen the viral text messages and my response earlier this week. After posting and reading other photographer's responses, it hit me, we need to work together! Birth photographers have an amazing behind the scenes community. We lean on each other for help, assist new photographers, provide critical feedback, guidance, and positivity with anything and everything. 

I would not be here today without the support, love, and assistance from some amazing women in the birth photography industry across the world! 

Community is something I crave as an individual, mother, and artist. So when I had this Oprah style Aha! moment, I knew I needed to reach out to other artists in order to articulate a community response. I was overwhelmed by the amount of women who wanted to contribute and share our collective sentiment that every birth is beautiful.  27 artists in fact,  not including myself, from 14 different states and 3 countries, USA, UK, and Canada! Motherhood, parenthood, and life is hard enough without being shamed! I hope when you view this compilation, you see birth love stories worthy of compassion and documentation, especially cesarean births. 

Transcript of letter to all mamas:

"I'm a professional birth photographer.

I believe, we believe, all birth is natural birth, worthy of documentation and pride. I support my family with this knowledge and hold it close. I and my colleagues wake up and leave our families at the sound of a phone call, at any time - day or night, holiday or during dinner, to be with you and tell your unique story with the art we provide.

Why?

Because it sets our soul on fire to create and serve others.

You, beautiful woman grew a human! You brought them into this world. That is as natural as it gets! 
I, your name, see the beauty in every birth story I capture whether it be Cesarean, medicated, un-medicated, surrogate, home, hospital, or otherwise. 
As a member of the greater birth photographer community, I'm here to say, we all want what is best for mother, baby, and their loved ones with love and empathy. 

every birth is beautiful

birth is birth is birth"

 
 

Leilani Rogers - www.photosbylei.com - Austin, Texas
Neely Ker-Fox - www.KerFox.com -  Columbus, Georgia
Kourtnie Scholz www.KEDocumentary.com - Dallas - Fort Worth, Texas
Monet Nicole Moutrie - www.monetnicole.com - Denver, Colorado
Justine Herrera - www.tulsabirthphotographer.com - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Danielle Stokes Hobbs - www.daniellehobbsphotography.com - Gainesville, Virginia
Natalia Walth - www.NataliaWalth.com - Santa Clarita, California
Kailee Ramirez - www.kaileeriches.com - Nashville, Tennessee
Kim Cameron - www.breatheinphotography.ca - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Samantha Ryer - www.samantharyerphotography.com - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Amanda Jo - www.tinybearphotography.com - Parshall, North Dakota
Aimee Durrance - www.AimeeDurrancePhotography.com - Oxford, UK
Hannah Palamara - www.treeoflifedoulaphotography.com - London, UK
Amanda Gipson - www.birthunscripted.com - Dallas - Fort Worth, Texas
Brooke Walsh - www.tcbirthphoto.com - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jen Olson - www.tcbirthphoto.com - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jessica Benson - www.jessicabphotography.com - South Jordan, Utah
Amanda McGhee - www.kimberlingrayphotography.com - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Melissa Schreiner - www.melissalynportraits.com - Lakeville, Minnesota
Ashley Marston - www.ashleymarstonbirthphotography.com - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Ashley Short - www.AshleyShortPhotography.com - Archbold, Ohio
Laura Eckert - www.newcreationphotography.com - Swisher, Iowa
Jennifer Mason - jennifermasonphotography.com - Golden, Colorado
Sophia Costa - thesophiaco.com - Waialua, Hawaii
Morgan Lang - morganlangphotography.com - Kansas City, Kansas
Julie JP Paszczykowski - www.jp-photography.net - Toledo, Ohio
Chinelle Rojas - www.tampabirthphotographer.com - Tampa, Florida

With grit and grace,

Richmond Birth Photographer Nicoleinbold supports the greater birth photographer community

1 Thing I learned on the Radio

I was listening to Diane Rehm earlier this week, she had on Ken Burns talking about Documenting The American Experience. He said something towards the end of the show that really struck me and I wanted to share it with you. 

"History is made up of the words 'story' and 'hi.' So you just walk into a room and say, "hey, let me tell you some stories," and then you have history. 
You don't have to hit benchmarks. If you tell a good story, those things will come along, there will be nothing that is lost! 
If you remember, the way human beings communicate to one another is with stories. We live in a complex and overwhelming universe that seems chaotic and random, and what we do is tell stories to one another; we superimpose the frame of a narrative... We edit human experience the seemingly random chaos of events and we put a frame around it. Sometimes it's the artist's frame, and sometimes it's the storytellers frame, but we put a frame around it." 

I went home and looked up this episode, which I never do, but this was so good! I had to hear his words again, so I listened a couple more times before I ended up writing it down. As a birth photographer I frame narratives, via images, as both the artist and the storyteller!! I'm documenting history! If a picture is worth a thousand words, I have novels written for each family who has chosen me to be with them to welcome their newest "co-productions" into the world.

If you can't tell I am beyond in love with this notion of being a storyteller. I have always considered this title, but never really applied it to myself because I do not identify as a writer. I guess I was wrong, especially as a birth photographer and in how I approach the documentation of life!

 Telling birth stories for family through images, one album at a time.
 Bound albums help tell you birth story every day and for generations to come!
 Thick pages, handmade in the US, and high quality albums to tell our one of a kind birth story
 Linen lay flat albums to tell you birth story via images.

Have you ever considered the images you take, with a "big camera," small camera, or cell phone, would be called a story? Or that these images have the capacity to be your story years from now? Deep thoughts I know, but SUPER cool!!

With grit and grace,