June 14, 2017

My Scariest Day as a Parent

Photo by Amanda Alessi

EXISTING IN PHOTOS

My first truly terrifying moment as a parent came recently, having rushed my son to emergency we sat in a hospital stall, staff rushing around trying to stabilise him. I watched his little chest sucking in so hard I could see the outline of his ribs, fighting for every breath, he was having his first asthma attack at the age of two.

I sat there numb, analysing his short life our brief time together, thinking of all the things I had done wrong as a mother. I never fed him strictly organic home made, sugar free, grain free, taste free food like I did his sister, he wore girl’s clothes for the first 6 months of his life mostly because I ran out of clean boys ones. I didn’t have a photo of his every milestone and everyday printed and neatly organised in a cute baby album. He didn’t even have a baby album, and that’s when it dawned on me we didn’t have any proper family photos or the ones we had I never didn’t include me.

I remember when my children were born my cousin told me “don’t get mummy syndrome and never get in the photos with your kids” Naturally I dismissed her advice completely. Why would I want photos of me at my worst looking? 5 kilos heavier than usual, okay 15 kilos heavier and bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. Let alone thought of sitting through a professional photo shoot, that would be my idea of torture. Years later I heard photographer and educator Sue Bryce begging mothers to exist in photos, I still didn’t listen. It took a life altering proverbial punch in the face for me to take notice. As I was ushered to the side of the emergency room by staff it seemed like time had stopped I was standing outside my body looking in on not only the scene in front of me but my whole life.

A million scenarios went through my head, what if these were the last moments with my child and I never bothered with photos because I didn’t feel worthy. What if that had been me in the hospital bed and I wasn’t coming home? I imagined the heartbreak of my children when they searched for photos of me and there were none. The thought still crushes me and brings floods of tears to my eyes. I felt so foolish and vain, I knew the pain of losing my sister suddenly and having no evidence she existed. As a teenager she destroyed almost all photos of herself, the very few photos that remained were worth more than anything money could buy to my family. They are our most prized possessions, our heirlooms. I love nothing more than sitting around my parent’s house looking at our old family photo albums laughing and telling stories about the good old days (and don’t even get me started about printing photos) And I realised that in my self loathing I was robbing my children and loved ones the opportunity, to look back and do this. It doesn’t really matter what we look like, or how we felt about ourselves, because in the eyes of our children we are already perfect. YOU ARE PERFECT. And deserve to be remembered.

“One day when your child is 40 years old, they will look at that photograph, and your child will treasure it more than any other photo they have ever seen of themselves” -Sue Bryce Photographer