Everyone has his or her own path in discovering photography. Mine, well, it was unconventional to say the least. Becoming a Photographer wasn’t in my life plans. I wasn’t inspired by famous names or drawn in by the thought of starting my own business. Instead, photography found me.
When I had my daughter in 2004, I asked my husband to buy us a DSLR camera so we can take pictures of her. How hard could it be to figure out, right? I was wrong. It was very hard. So after briefly trying out the camera, and not “getting it” right away, I got frustrated. Instead, put the camera away and allowed it to gather dust for quite some time.
I was a stay at home mom at the time, and loving it! My daughter and I took music classes together, went on play dates and spent every minute enjoying each other while she was growing. Before I knew it, she was off to preschool and it was the perfect time to have another baby. I was very lucky with my daughter. I got pregnant very easily. I assumed the same would happen the second time around.
I was right. Just a few months into trying I was once again pregnant. My 8 week appointment went beautifully. We saw a little heartbeat and everything looked great. I was giddy with excitement. It was so hard to keep it a secret. I was already showing. Even if I didn’t tell someone, they knew! I lay in bed at night dreaming about my perfect little family that was soon to be.
A few weeks later, my gut told me something wasn’t right. I was feeling TOO good. Sadly, my instincts were correct. On Christmas Eve, at my 12 week appointment, the doctor broke the new to us. The baby stopped growing at 10 weeks. There was no heartbeat.
I was heartbroken, yes. Was I going to let it get me down? No. After all miscarriages are normal, right? At least I convinced myself of that and I kept my head high during this hard time. I had been pregnant twice and I already had a child so I knew it was possible.
My husband and I decided to try again a few months later. Again, a few months in, I get pregnant! I am over run with joy once again. I was so hoping this time would be it and that it would help ease the pain of the miscarriage.
A week after my positive pregnancy test, I was on the way to Florida for a planned family vacation. That morning I felt small cramps in my abdomen. By the time the plane landed, I was doubled over in pain. I went straight to the ER. The Doctors there told me I was having another miscarriage. They gave me some pain pills and told me to “hang in there”.
The pain, both physical and emotional, was unbearable. Upon my second visit to the ER (After the pain medication wouldn’t work) I was told again to just wait for my body to take care of what it needed to. Well I waited. And waited. The waiting was torture. I was stuck in bed and all I could think is how I couldn’t believe this was happening again. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I keep a baby? What did I do to deserve this?
The next morning we returned to NY and saw my OB/GYN. She was confused. She was giving me a sonogram but couldn’t see anything. She sent me to a local radiology office for some further testing. The tech in the radiology office quickly told me to get dressed and wait in the waiting area. A few minutes later, the nurse put me on the phone with my Doctor. I can hear the words in her voice in my head so clearly even today.
She said “Mrs. Rozenbaum, I want you to ask the receptionist for your records. If she can’t produce them in the next minute – just leave and meet me at the hospital. You had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured. You have been internally bleeding for 4 days and if you don’t have surgery in the next hour or so, you will die.”
Die. Do you know what it’s like when someone tells you that you are going to die? I was like stone. Numb. I rushed to the Emergency room and they took me right in. The funny thing is I remember the Doctor telling me that I was, most likely, going to lose my ovaries. That is when I finally felt something.
I felt gapping hole in my stomach. A pit that would make the Grand Canyon seem like a pothole. Rolling into the OR I remember thinking this could be it. Was I going to die? Was it possible I couldn’t have any more children? The gravity of each was equally as heavy.
I ended up losing a fallopian tube. The Doctor was able to save my ovaries. Everyone told me how lucky I was that I was alive. For the first time in a long time however, I didn’t feel so lucky.
It’s not that I wanted to die, but being alive was painful. I felt depressed. I felt I couldn’t protect my children – even inside me. I felt like a failure, less of a woman. I was anxious. Angry. Sad. Confused. I didn’t know if there was any hope of me having another baby. I didn’t know what to say to all the people that told me “It was time to have another”. I didn’t know how to tell my daughter she might not ever have any siblings. I didn’t know how to tell my husband I may not be able to give him the family he wanted.
I was helpless. I felt alone. All of my friends were having children and complaining about how hard it was. I envied them and they didn’t even appreciate what they had. I pulled away.
When my daughter was at school I was bored and alone with my thoughts. The thoughts were plaguing me. It’s because of this I knew I had to find a distraction. I needed an escape from my sadness, frustration and the constant questions in my mind as to why this happened. It was then that my husband reminded me of the camera gathering dust in the closet. I pulled it out, dusted it off and gave it a whirl.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of my photography journey and my work with women. My camera saved me. It was my friend and confidant when I needed it most. It helped me see beauty in the world again. It opened my eyes to incredible women that struggled with their femininity for varied reasons. They were just like me! It was therapy.
As I started talking about my fertility issues, I started hearing more stories from other women about it too. They whisper when they tell me. They feel shame. I felt shame. I got it. I don’t know why though? Why do we feel shame over something we cannot control?
I was very blessed to welcome a son into my family in 2009. Some may say my family is complete. And it is. I love my children more than I can ever explain. But it doesn’t mean that I have forgotten the ones I didn’t have. The difference now, is that I can speak about it, shamelessly.
Letting go of the shame hasn’t always come easily. Sadly, women are shamed every day. We are shamed for things such as working, staying home, being too thin or fat. The list goes on and on. We feel our own shame deep down. We allow others shame us as well. My life’s work as an intimate photographer for women is dedicated to helping women celebrate their unique femininity, shamelessly.
It never ceases to amaze me how the universe works its magic. A terrible time in my life quickly lead to a flourishing business and connections with many shameless women. It’s because of these women that I have gained the knowledge and courage to be #ShamelesslyFeminine myself.
The women I have photographed all tell me how I have impacted their lives. The truth is they have impacted mine ten fold. They have inspired me and made me brave. They have humbled me. Most importantly, they have healed me.