Operation Documenting Mothers and Babies

A huge welcome to the Operation Beautiful and Healthy Tipping Point readers who are visiting for the first time today! I’m extremely flattered that Caitlin decided to make me a stop on her Virtual Book Tour this week. I hope you’ll take the time to join in the conversation that develops in my comment section below. My readers are known for being honest, forthcoming, and often prolific! To help you get oriented, I’m Jenna, I call my husband That Husband or TH, and I refer to my baby boy as T1 which stands for That 1.

Loving your body after baby is a difficult thing to do. I didn’t really get it before, but now I understand what they mean when women say their clothes fit entirely different than they used to. It’s not just because I’m heavier, my body is actually storing fat differently. Things were rearranged a bit while I functioned as an incubator for my little one, and most of it was a change that I would gladly reverse if I could (but let me reverse the changes and keep the baby, I like having him around). With all of this adjusting I’ve had to do, the request from Caitlin of Healthy Tipping Point to be part of her Operation Beautiful Virtual Book Tour could not have come at a better time. Have you heard about the movement Caitlin started with Operation Beautiful? Women write down inspirational messages on sticky notes, with phrases like “You are Beautiful” and “Smile! You look great!” and post them on mirrors, windshields, and inside of books, among other things. It reminds me a lot of Operation Nice, another fantastic movement working to spread a little more love and acceptance throughout the world. This is something I definitely want to be a part of.

Caitlin’s movement has grown so big that she’s even published a book! She sent me a copy, and if I had a coffee table, the Operation Beautiful book would be sitting on it. What I like most about Caitlin is that I interpret her message to be “Stop picking yourself apart. See the beauty in who you are now. Work to change your habits to become the person you want to be in the future.” She is helping so many women banish those icky bad body thoughts and seek a new direction in their life. You can see that she is living that message through her personal blog, Healthy Tipping Point. Her posts are full of delicious looking (healthy) food, notes about her fitness adventures, and the happy musings of someone excited about the direction her life is heading. It’s invigorating to read!

A friend of mine once posted about another movement she had read about on the blog of a friend of a friend. (So many wonderful movements out there!) It was a crusade to get more women in front of the camera with their babies.

How many photos do you have of you and your mom together? Laughing, sleeping, cuddling, crying, kissing, hugging, smiling.

I recently visited home and finished up sorting and labeling thousands of childhood photos. Out of all those pictures, there are only a small handful of my mom and I together. What a shame! I had 4 whole years of  just me and her before my sister came along, but there are very few of me with her when I was a baby. Granted it was a different time, when cameras were loaded with film and each picture cost something to take, but I would trade a few hundred of cute little me all by my lonesome to see more of how I looked up to and loved my mom when she was the center of my world.

I was pretty cute when hamming for the camera all alone.


I want more photos like these!

I asked Caitlin if she would be willing to send me a photo of her mom together.

I hate the idea that people hide away from the camera because they are ashamed or embarrassed by the way they look.  I post photographs of myself on the blog all the time with messy hair, no makeup, looking my “worst.”  Sometimes, I pause before publish but then I realize this is ME – me, me, me.  I don’t need to look “perfect” in every photograph because that’s just not reality.  And in real life, the people who want to take pictures of me do it because they love me and want to have those moments documented.  That’s why I take pictures of my mom, dad, friends, dogs – because I love them and want to remember them in that moment.  Photographs are such a precious gift and reminder of the WONDERFUL life you lead – don’t hide from the shutter! Caitlin-Healthy Tipping Point

Last week I decided to post a video of T1 taking his first swim, and I deliberately left in the part of the video that shows me entering the water (because I liked showing his initial reaction) even though you can see what a mess my body is after baby. You know what though? T1 isn’t going to care about what I looked like when he watches that video years from now. He’s going to be focusing in on the way I smiled at him, held him close, the way his infant self delighted in being close to me.

This Sunday I was taking pictures of him looking adorable in the pants That SIL sent him, when I realized that T1 and I still don’t have enough pictures together.

So I turned the camera on the two of us.

I bought a wireless shutter remote for my camera back when I was pregnant, and it’s time to start using it more often. We can capture all sorts of adventures on film with this in my hand!

It’s not just photos that are important. If you have the equipment to do it, get some video to!

P and Jenna 7-25-2010 from Jenna on Vimeo.

My photos and videos are the product of expensive equipment and some knowledge regarding how to use it, but you don’t have to have that to capture the time you spend with your baby. Get out your point-and-shoot! Or even your phone! (Although I will caution you to avoid using your phone to document your whole life, the quality just isn’t that good… yet 🙂 )

Thinking about the Operation Beautiful mission has reawakened this desire to step out from behind the camera and prevent my own children from wondering where their mother was when they were young, no matter how full my face looks right now. For me, the missing photos wouldn’t come from lack of access to a camera. I’m a photographer, so photos aren’t the problem. I’ll be in more photos when I make it a priority. When I use the messages that the Operation Beautiful book contains and banish those threads of self-doubt from my life, and revel in the moment. I can make changes today that will lead to a happier and healthier tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean I should be putting my life on hold until that better tomorrow comes. The first step to a better me is to Change the Way I See, Not The Way I Look (yet another movement of Caitlin’s that you can join in on, details here!).

When I was at the gynecologist’s office this week  (everything went awesome!)I posted my first Operation Beautiful notes. It was so fun to think about what the reactions might be when they were discovered.

In some fashion magazines.

And in the bathroom. I’m not sure the doctor would be excited about me posting these notes in her bathroom but I went for it anyway!

And with my new mission of documenting life with baby in mind, I turned the camera on T1 and myself for a few frames.

I feel so excited about this idea, the idea that we should be celebrating those mother-baby moments through pictures, that I’m offering up a free mini mother and baby session with 3 5X7 prints to one woman who is interested in documenting the smiles and huge she shares with her baby. Read the post below for details on who is eligible and how to enter!

Thanks again to Caitlin for inspiring me to be in more photos and videos with T1 and future babies to come! She’s offering up a copy of her Operation Beautiful Book to one person who comments below ( I know, two giveaways in one day!). To enter, comment below by Saturday, August 7, 2010 11:59 PM CST and answer one of the following questions:

Do you have a link to a favorite photo of you and your mom? I would love to see it if you do! What about a favorite photo of you with your baby (if you are a mom yourself!)? If you can’t paste a link, can you tell me one of your favorite childhood memories that includes your mom?

Winner must provide an address in the Continental US for the book to be shipped to.

92 thoughts on “Operation Documenting Mothers and Babies

  1. I have a few awesome pictures of me and my mom together! One of my favorites is this one of my gorgeous mother holding me at about 1 years old – we are at a public event and she’s standing me up on her lap. You mostly see me in the picture, but her genuine, happy smile is seen seen in the picture and it’s just lovely. I wish I had it on my blog already so I could link to it! (I’m not sure how else to ‘link’ to it otherwise).

    As for pictures of me with my babies, here’s a link to a post I did exactly a year ago addressing this very thought!

    I have many photos of Grant and I together (I was thinner then and less apprehensive of getting in front of the camera, but of course I shouldn’t dwell on that!)

    My recent fav is the one in my gravatar and Facebook profile – love that I’m in it AND I like it of me!

  2. Oh, forgot to say, that is so cool that Caitlin has a book! A BOOK! I can’t imagine having a published book- That is just cool!

  3. Operation Beautiful sounds cool. But I am surprised you need the positive messages: you look absolutely gorgeous in all the pictures (and I don’t know you, so you can trust my opinion 🙂 )

  4. I love this movement. 🙂

    Here is a picture of me and my Mom…


    I don’t know what was going on in the picture, but I think it was the first time I was meeting some relatives – obviously (and strangely) I was a little shy, but my Mom is there, holding my hand, encouraging me. It’s really beautiful to me. 🙂

    Jenna Reply:

    Beautiful! I just love looking at childhood photos (even when they aren’t my own!)

  5. Here’s a picture of my mom holding both of us on or around our first birthday.


    Are you digging the baby mullets?

    PS: I’m the one that’s smiling…I think.

    I love that video of you and P and all the pictures too! Some of my favorite pics with my nephew Ty are me laying on the ground with him and we were just making silly face and he was cracking up (and the boy HATES to get his picture taken). You can see one of them here – http://kellinicolephotography.com/pics/blog/2008.12.20/IMG_7951.jpg. I plan on taking lots of pictures like this with my own kids (honestly, one of the only reasons I’m holding onto the 16-35).

    Jenna Reply:

    Oh you KNOW I love baby mullets. Ha!

  6. First of all, thank goodness you were part of the Virtual Book Tour so I can find you!! I’m subscribing to your blog right NOW.

    Okay now that that is out of the way. Love this post! I am a mother to an almost two year old now and she changed my life. I was always too hard on myself and then finally learned it’s okay to not be perfect (as you know – when you become a mom, “perfect” flies out the window). By that lesson, I was able to live a balanced life and be happier than ever. Now, I am pregnant with my second child. I had to gain 20 lbs to conceive this baby and it was really hard mentally to see that physical change. BUT I would never let it get me down more than a moment, because I knew that creating life was worth more than any size or number on the scale. Being a mother is one of the most beautiful things we can do and people we can be. In fact, in my operation beautiful post (its the 2nd on Caitlin’s post list today) I highlighted my stomach for that very reason.

    And I must tell you – you are GORGEOUS!!! Your smile and eyes just light up. I love the movement to get out from behind the camera. I want more pictures of me with my little M. As I’m sure your adorable little T1 does too. Thank you for posting this. I can’t wait to come back again.

  7. You and T1 look beautiful in all of the shots. The happiness just radiates from you…

    I love this post. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Love Love Love this! I had a feminist group in college and we did something like this. It was pretty cool.

    I really have to start taking more pictures of B and I, thank you for reminding me.

  9. Wonderful post! I’m a first-time reader and I really love your blog. I like when I come across blogs of other 20-something married women 🙂 Those photos of you and your son are priceless!

  10. I always get a hard time for handing strangers my camera to take a picture of me WITH my friends and family, rather than me taking a picture of them. It’s my life and I want to remember that I was in all these wonderful places with the people I love. If people call me vein for wanting to be in the pictures… so be it! 🙂

  11. I loved this post, Jenna. I’m the one who takes most of the photos around here, and I worry I come across a bit vain sometimes when I ask, “please will you take one with me in?” It’s not vanity, though! It’s exactly what you said in this post, I want it recorded that I was there too!

    Cate Subrosa Reply:

    Oh, also, you are looking REALLY GREAT. Good work.

  12. This post totally brought me to tears. I have pictures of my mom from when I was a baby, but I’m not sure that I have ANY from after that. When she comes to visit in September I’m going to make sure that changes.

    I also am going to start printing out pictures that I take with my 3 kids. I make sure to get plenty of pics of them with their dad because we’re a military family, but I need to make sure I’m in those pictures, too!

    Your pictures are absolutely beautiful.

  13. great post!

    one of my favorite memories as a child with my mom was when she would take me (along with my older sister and great grandpa) to the farmer’s market/orchard and we would spend the afternoon there then stop at an Amish candy store on the way home. We would do this every year and it was just always someting to look forward to 🙂

  14. Hey there Jenna,

    Thank you for your beautiful post and the precious pictures of you and T1. You look so happy, glowing and gorgeous and T1 is just all around precious. Also, I LOVE the note you posted in the bathroom at the OBGYN. So many women need to hear that post-baby and not enough people are telling them. So, thank you for reaching out!

    I’ve actually followed your blog since you started blogging for wedding bee but I’ve never left a comment. Not sure why, but I do love your posts. You have such a clear voice and I love how sure you are of yourself. While we don’t agree on everything, I think you are an absolutely beautiful person inside and out. T1 is certainly a lucky little man.

    My Mom raised me by herself. My father was in the picture for six or seven years, but not in a significant way. My Mom was and is my rock – I couldn’t be more thankful for her and I love that we do have lots of pictures together. I can’t choose a specific favorite memory, but I just love(d) that she and I had so many shared habits and rituals and time together. We had “our” places we ate out at, “our” park, “our” vacations. I never for a second doubted how much she loved me.

    I’m going home to see her this weekend for her birthday. Your post has inspired me to make sure I get some pictures of us together now too!

    Happy Thursday,

  15. I do not have the pictures with me (I am at work!), but my mom and I always have fun…especially when we are cooking!
    Each year we have a tradition of cooking the Thanksgiving Dinner together, no matter what. Even when she was sick with MS I would cook it while she sat nearby.
    We enjoy cooking and having people eat the food we cooked with love for them!

    And btw, I love the pictures!!

  16. Hi! I found your site through Caitlin’s, but after reading through, I recognized you as Mrs. Avocado! I read your Weddingbee blog throughout my wedding planning (was married August 08, 08) so it’s nice to see what you’ve been doing since then! Your little guy is just adorable!

  17. I’m a first time visitor on Caitlin’s book tour and I LOVE this post. I’m also a first time new mom and you’re right. I’m not hiding from the camera but I haven’t made a priority of taking photos WITH my child. I need to do better because I don’t have any photos with my mom from when I was a child. Very few exist and she keeps them in hiding. I think she was also unhappy with her post-baby body and she’s never loved the camera. I want to do better for my child! He’s not going to look at photos and think “Goodness Mom you could have lost 10 pounds!”. He won’t even see the flaws I see. So I need to get over myself.

    I do have happy memories from when I was a child with my mother. When I was in junior high, my mom and I went to see Pirates of Penzance (spelling?) and we had a great time. It was a special treat since we could seldom afford such extravagences and now PofP always makes me think of my mom and smile.

  18. This is a wonderful post and Operation Beautiful is such a good idea. I just have to add that you always look so polished and put together, while having a 4 month old! I really need to take a page from your book since yoga pants and sweats seem to be my go-to outfits now I’m a Mom.

    Jenna Reply:

    Stretchy dresses are my version of yoga pants 🙂

  19. Thank you for your post…I’m 8 years post birthing babies and I still feel so ashamed of my body. And I don’t have many pics with my boys for that reason…your thoughts and perspectives in this post were very enlightening.

    BTW you look great.

  20. This is a fantastic post that truly embraces the idea Operation Beautiful is all about.

    My mom was hardly ever in any pictures when I was growing up. I hope that every mom gets the message you’re making here – your kid loves the way you look, so don’t hide from the camera!

  21. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than a new mom and her baby! And there’s nothing more precious than a child’s laugh. Thanks for starting my day out with many smiles!

  22. my mom till this day is my bestfriend. words can’t describe how much she means to me. I would have to say one of my favorite memories is us driving together in the car and singing along to our favorite song 🙂

  23. I was just thinking about submitting a formspring question asking to see you interacting with T1! Those are my favorite videos to watch! Love the idea of Operation Beautiful!

  24. this post nearly made me cry. I’m not a mom yet but I do this already with my husband because I don’t want to remember how I look right now. but I don’t want whole years of our life together to be missing! I also need to remember that a good reason to take a lot is that you’re more likely to get one you like and want to keep around, than if you only begrudgingly take one photo every now and then.
    you are so right though with your kids it is so important. my dad was super tech-y back when we were little so we had a lot of video taken that most kids my age didn’t. now we completely treasure it. it is so neat to see ourselves and our parents and grandparents when we were young. and even though I think they were pretty good about pictures with at least one of them in it, you always wish there were more!

  25. I just watched the Today Show where I heard about operationbeautiful.com and ran across your blog when I visited the website. What an AMAZING, AWESOME idea!!! I will be buying some cute post it notes and going on my own mission. Can’t wait! I lost my mom when I was 9 years old and sadly I don’t have a single picture of just me and her. I miss her so much and wish I had something to look at and cherish, something I could show my kids. After reading your blog I am vowing to take more pictures with my kids. I’m also an LDS SAHM!! I am proud to say that this past Mother’s Day I had my husband take pictures of me and the kids. The kids were less than cooperative but you know what? They were themselves! They showed their persoanlities and that’s what I want to remember. So even though I don’t have a picture to share, I am making a promise to take pictures with my kids from now on. I will not feel embarrassed about how I look in front of the camera. Thanks for your inspiration!!!

  26. Wow, what an amazing post. I’ve heard that your body changes after you give birth (I haven’t yet, so I don’t know!), but I’m sure that it can be tough. Your post does an amazing job of reminding people what is important… it doesn’t matter what ou look like, or your weight in a picture… what matters is that the picture is taken so that you (or your family/friends) have memories to cherish! Lately, I’ve been feeling a little heavier than normal, so I’ve been taking most of the pictures instead of offering to be in them. Therefore, over the past few months, I don’t have many pictures of ME doing the activities we’ve been doing- they are all of my husband, family or friends. You’ve made me realize that I’m being silly, and years from now, I will wish I was in these pictures! THANK YOU for opening my eyes!

    As for me and my mom… I don’t have a link, but I have so many wonderful memories. I remember how she used to play with my brother and I and encourage our crazy imaginations! Nothing was too impossible for her to help us dream up!

  27. I think what you’re doing to embrace your own post-partum body, and encourage other women to do the same, is wonderful!

    But I do have one qualm about the note you posted in the gynecologist’s bathroom. Women go to the gynecologist for many reasons–and one of them is infertility. For those women, the note will raise lots of issues about how their bodies are failing to function in the ways they would want.

    Jenna Reply:

    You’re right, there are many reasons to visit the gynecologist. I hope my note didn’t hurt anyone, as infertility is something so many women really struggle with.

  28. You are SO right when you say your body changes after pregnancy! I am at the same weight as before my pregnancies and my pants are a little snug only in the waist area….but that’s okay:) You and your baby are absolutely beautiful and I love that dress you’re wearing!

  29. What a beautiful idea! This brings a smile to my face and I cannot wait to see the book and leave a few notes of my own!

  30. I love this post. Everything you said about moms not wanting to be in pictures is so true! Posts like this are really working on me this week – slowly chipping at way at my negative mindset about myself. Thank you:)

    Oh, and the pics of you and T1 are precious…you are beautiful!

  31. I am right there with you. I don’t particularly like the way I look in pictures with our baby Molly, but I want to be able to look back (or have her look back) and remember, this is what Mommy looked like back then. I am always fussing at my mom because she says “take a picture of the baby, not me”, and I HATE that. I always remind her that when my grandmother died there were NO pictures of her because for years she told people not to take her picture. I want Molly to have pictures of her grandmom too!

  32. I am so glad you posted this. When I look back on all our family photos it makes me so sad that there are hardly any of my mom. She and my dad got divorced when I was in the 2nd grade so I realize that as a single parent it was probably hard for her get in photos, but as you said, she was the center of my life when I was a child and I don’t think there are any photos of the two of us. You truly are a beautiful mom and woman and I am so glad that you are making an effort to have more pictures with your baby. Both of you will treasure them forever.

  33. I was lucky that my dad was usually the photog in my family- so i have lots of awesome pictures of us growing up. My favorite is at a local fair and we look like we are having the time of our lives. I dont remember it, but it was one of those photos that just captured a feeling- and my mind made up the rest.

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