Today my 5-year-old showed courage I didn’t know she had.
I have three kids, 5, 3, and 1, and they all have very different personalities. And while Grace is a nurturer, sensitive to others, and smart as a whip, well… she’s not the bravest girl by nature. She sees danger in a lot of things, and often lets fear rule her. This is just one of the things that makes her a very close facsimile of her mother.
I never knew fear the way I know it now as a mother. The responsibility of protecting, nurturing, and loving my littles in the best way possible is a tremendous one, and I often fear I am not worthy of this privilege. I admit to being a worrier by nature; the fact that I ended up with kids with potentially life-threatening allergies and one has asthma seems an almost cruel twist of fate. I have many fears for my children, and too often I fixate on them, literally letting them keep me up at night.
But today Grace was my teacher, and I her student. After weeks of having her new bike sitting in the garage and finding various excuses not to ride it (“I can’t find my helmet,” “today I’ll just ride my scooter”), she finally got on (“on flat ground though, mama, if I am going downhill it will be too scary”). It wasn’t that her fears were gone. She just managed to power through them. And isn’t that what courage is? Not the absence of fear, but the deliberate choice to take action, to take back the reins from fear.
I was so proud to see her riding down the street on a “big girl” bike, her trike now happily inherited by her brother.
I pray that I can be a more courageous mother to these little ones… for Grace, who needs to see a strong mama moving past the fear; for Eli, whose health issues have caused my hair to grey at age 34; and for Seth, now so little and indeed needing to be held close… but who even still needs space to grow and learn and skin his knees. May I find the courage to balance loving, protecting, and nurturing them, while still realizing that the training wheels must one day come off in order for them to thrive.
I am always thrilled to be invited to photograph a birth and to take part in such a momentous part in a family’s life. Our Blessed Strength Mama has delivered her new baby boy, and I got to capture every moment!
When I got the text that Kristy’s water had broken in the middle of her 39-week appointment while at the midwives’ office (such timing!), we knew we wouldn’t have too long before baby arrived. Kristy headed home to labor for a few hours, but was promptly headed back to the hospital before too long. Sometimes these third babies don’t waste their time!
With a great support team of best friend, mother-in-law, and attentive husband, Kristy labored with quiet, focused intensity without any drugs. Kristy’s hope prior to labor was to have a more peaceful, unmedicated birth this time around, and she got exactly what she worked so hard for.
The room had an expectant but quiet serenity as Kristy prepared to welcome her new baby boy, and at 7:52 p.m., he arrived with barely a cry, all 8 lbs., 2 oz. of him! It was truly a beautiful, peaceful birth. Baby and mama were surrounded by love and care through the entire process, and it was a joy to be a part of.
I am so thrilled for this family as they complete their family of five with little Tommy. It was truly an honor! Congratulations!
Here are just a few of the images from Tommy’s birth, and I am so thankful that Kristy allowed me to share them with you!
I was thrilled to see the response to the first post of my Blessed Strength project, and today I want to showcase some of the “behind the scenes” of Kristy’s life as a Stroller Strides owner!
Before photographing Kristy, I had heard of Stroller Strides but never seen any of the classes in action. What is Stroller Strides? Basically it’s an awesome set-up wherein moms of young kids get to bring their children with them to workout classes. The kids get to hang out (and in nice weather enjoy the fresh air), the moms get to share in the accountability and camaraderie of working out with other moms, and everyone gets healthier! What’s not to like about that?
What was most impressive to me was that the sense of community and support among these women was almost palpable. There was no “shame-based” weight or diet talk that I’ve seen at other fitness classes (No “I can’t believe I ate an ice cream cone yesterday” type of thing), women of all shapes and sizes were participating, and the focus stayed on staying active and positive. And the friendship goes even beyond that. At the class I attended, there was even a surprise baby shower for Kristy (and no, they didn’t know I was coming so it wasn’t staged). Stroller Strides is about moms getting healthy, doing something positive for themselves, and being great examples for their kids.
In the classes, the women challenge themselves with a variety of fitness activities: relays, contests, races, and more. These women may have little ones, but even the expectant ones are rocking planks and jogging around the park. Just look at them go!
Interested in checking out a class? Kristy owns several local franchises. Find out more about their options here.*
* All comments are based solely on my own opinions and observations. I am not being compensated in any way for this post!
And … psst, Kristy has since given birth, and I’ll be sharing her birth story later this week so stay tuned! You don’t want to miss this special post!
Today I am so excited (and nervous!) to introduce a personal project that is months in the planning: my new photographic series, Blessed Strength.
Blessed Strength is devoted to capturing the strength of mamas–in all its forms, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Mamas are survivors, often unsung heroes, pillars of the family, molding tiny lives and melding disparate spirits into one beautiful whole called “family,” and I am passionate about chronicling powerful examples of maternal strength right here in our community.
The series will be kicking off with three expectant mothers who all have been inspirational to me for a variety of reasons. All of them are models of strength, determination, and love, and all of them are beautiful. As the series progresses I hope to feature a variety of moms and even grandmothers, and I can’t wait to see how this series evolves in ways I don’t even foresee yet.
But for today, I am thrilled to introduce our first Blessed Strength Mama, Kristy Fassio.
Kristy is the owner–and very active participant and teacher–of several local Stroller Strides franchises. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Stroller Strides, check out Monday’s blog post for a sneak peek into a class.) After meeting Kristy at a local fair and following her Facebook feed for awhile, what I was most struck by was that, in spite of being immersed in a fitness world that is sometimes rife with tough expectations, Kristy maintains a refreshingly honest, real and positive voice of self-acceptance and health of the whole person.
I approached Kristy a few months ago with my vision of photographing her teaching a Stroller Strides class, and I told her I hoped she would agree to be my first Blessed Strength Mama. At the time she agreed, telling me that she didn’t think she had ever seen a plus-size maternity model, let alone one being active, and that she was happy to be featured.
But while it would be tempting to view my choice of Kristy as our first Mama as just a counterpoint to a fitness industry in which models are no bigger than a size 4 and even the expectant models are sporting a barely-there bump–no puffy ankles, widened hips, or stretch marks to be seen–that would be missing the real point.
I didn’t choose Kristy because I thought she should be a poster-child for active plus-size mamas; I chose her because I think she should be a model for ALL mamas.
Kristy can break out ten burpees without breaking a sweat, teach a fitness class at eight months’ pregnant, and do pushups that would put a Marine to shame, but that isn’t even touching where her real strength lies. I chose Kristy because her strength of spirit is so immense.
One thing I love about Kristy is that she freely admits that self-love and self-care is at times a struggle, and I think all of us mamas can relate to that. We all have some demons, those nagging little voices that whisper their little lies that we aren’t good enough in some way. But what makes Kristy so strong is that she acknowledges how hard it is to face those demons, and then she blasts them away with a rocket launcher. Kristy is careful to emphasize that the journey to being a strong mama isn’t about reaching a certain size, or BMI, or even completing a half-marathon (which she has, by the way), but it’s about learning to love the person you are RIGHT NOW, not the one you hope to be “someday.” And along the way, she helps other mamas to recognize their own strength as well.
As I hope the images below show, Kristy shines. Even as merely an acquaintance, I can say that knowing Kristy has made me feel stronger and more empowered, and I can only imagine that her lucky friends and Stroller Strides pupils are that much more benefitted by having such a strong, powerful voice in their lives.
Kristy, thank you for trusting me to tell your story. You are full of Blessed Strength indeed.
This project is a real outpouring of my heart. I don’t usually ask for blog comments, but if the Blessed Strength project resonates with you, please tell me how it speaks to you. And if you know a strong mama, please let me know! I am hoping to grow this project throughout the upcoming months.