Julie Kulbago Photography is a nationally published photographer who is trained in newborn safety practices and has mastered the technical knowledge & experience to use advanced photoshop techniques to capture challenging poses safely.
Her full service boutique photography studio works with families to capture fleeting moments so they last a lifetime. Let’s plan your perfect session!
I had been dreaming about this photo shoot from the moment that I sat in my bathroom staring at the pregnancy test willing it to change and finally seeing 2 distinctive pink lines. I can even remember thinking about what I would say to introduce our 4th child to the world (yes, I know that is totally crazy). Over the course of the next nine months I shopped for baby clothes, organized the house, changed the kids’ bedrooms around and bought more photography props than I can count! While I will admit that I don’t exactly love being pregnant – – after all, 16 weeks of “all day” sickness, gaining weight, losing all sense of privacy/modesty etc isn’t that much fun. But what I do love is being a mother. I adore newborns and I love watching them change into little people. With this being our 4th baby I pretty much figured she would be the last and I was trying to savor every minute of this final pregnancy. The week before Mae was born I can still picture myself in my kitchen cooking dinner, turning Indigo Girls to max volume and singing/dancing at the top of my lungs . . . I was so ridiculously happy. I was on maternity leave, the house was clean (ha ha) and in a couple of days our new little girl would join our family.
Fast forward a few days and I’m lying on the operating table, the doctors lift her out and say “she’s here”, I hear Mae make a few faint cries and then there is dead silence from all the doctors and nurses. I kept saying over and over again “what’s wrong” and nobody would answer me. I looked towards my husband and without me even having to say anything he said – “don’t worry, I’m sure she’s fine, they are just giving her oxygen”. I didn’t feel any better – I knew something was wrong. I’ve done this 3 other times and I know that at this moment they should have showed her to me, the nurses should be oohing and aaahing over all her beautiful features, one should be saying that with her long fingers she’ll be a pianist, the doctors should be saying “congratulations, you’ll hold your little girl in a second” . . . there was none of that – – just awful, painful silence. After what felt like my 100th attempt for someone to tell me what was wrong someone said “she’s moving all 4 limbs and breathing” . . . not exactly reassuring and I was now certain something was wrong. I have no idea how much longer it took but finally a pediatrician I had never met before, still behind his surgical mask, looked down at me and said “your daughter has Down syndrome”. I don’t remember very much after that but all I remember is crying . . . the kind of cry that is so deep in your soul that you make sounds that you don’t even recognize. I couldn’t even look my husband in the eyes because seeing the pain in his eyes was more than I could handle at that moment. I do remember him taking my hand and squeezing it tight and we just sobbed. Trying to piece together the next few days is still extremely difficult. I can remember my husband calling our family to say that she was here and hearing him say those words sent shock waves through my body . . . even worse than when the stranger said them to me because my husband was now talking about our daughter. I can remember the nurse asking if I could nurse her because they wanted her to eat – – I am so ashamed to say that I couldn’t even bring myself to try because I was sobbing so hard that they ended up giving her a bottle. I can remember crying . . . “I can’t do this”, “I don’t want to do this”, “things like this don’t happen to me/us”, “this is a mistake”, “this is a dream and I’ll wake up soon”, “they’ll be wrong and then they’ll be apologizing soon”, “this isn’t my baby – take this one back”. Everyone has told me that you need to experience that grief so that you can move through it to the joy. At one point I can remember looking at myself in a mirror and not recognizing the person staring back because my eyes were so swollen and actually bruised from crying – – it looked like I had gone several rounds against Mike Tyson.
The next 24 hours were an equal blur — I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this still wasn’t happening. It all felt so surreal. Like at any minute I would finally wake up – – or that the doctors would come in and apologize for their grave mistake. At the same time I knew they were right. I had to start attempting to bond with this new life while grieving for the child that didn’t arrive. It felt like a death to me. The little girl I had been picturing for 9 months had just disappeared. All of the clothes I had bought, the nursery, the books – – they were all for a different child – – I couldn’t picture Mae in them. It felt as if someone literally handed me someone else’s child and said “here, love this one”. I was terrified that I wouldn’t bond with my own child . . . because I had already bonded with a different one that didn’t arrive. I can remember holding her and just saying “I love you, I love you, I really do love you” – – half so she could hear it and half so if I heard it maybe I would feel it.
Our family started coming in on day 2 (in my pain I requested everyone stay away that first day because I was too emotional and just wasn’t ready for what I thought was to come). I can remember being nervous when my family walked in and looked down at my little sleeping angel for the first time. I felt myself holding my breath and wondering what they were really thinking – – would they be analyzing the slope of her eyes or the extra skin on the back of her neck – – could they (or could I) see beyond that and love her like the others? Without missing a beat they scooped her up, held her, kissed her and oohed and aaahed over how beautiful she was. Seeing our family accept and love her unconditionally was one of the greatest blessings.
Ok, so I’m going to fast forward again because I never planned on writing this much but . . .it’s now been 5 weeks since Mae was born and the shock has worn off and I have totally fallen in love with my daughter. I can honestly say that I don’t know how or when it happened – – it’s kind of like watching your children grow up – – you never actually see them getting taller but you look at them one morning and think “when did this happen?” I guess I was afraid that I couldn’t love her like I did the others (kind of like how when you have your 2nd child you wonder if they’ll ever match up to your 1st). It kind of seems like such a crazy thought now because I absolutely do love her! I don’t know when but all I know is I found myself running to her bassinet in the middle of the night after she had an unexpected long stretch of sleep just to make sure she was still breathing (just like I did with the others!)- – I find myself staring into her huge brown eyes and telling her that I love her with my whole heart – – I have totally fallen head over heals in love with this precious innocent baby and will love her and give her the absolute best life possible. I actually already have my eyes on a college she can attend!
People far more wise than I am have told us that “we are not here for her – but rather she is here for us”. I fiercely hold onto that sentiment and I can honestly say that I don’t know exactly why Mae was given to us but I am absolutely looking forward to finding out. I have started to think that maybe God wants me to show the world how beautiful all of his children are. Even before I had Mae I was starting to get really frustrated that there is such great focus in the photography world (and everywhere else) around stereotypical beauty and “perfect” families . . . that’s all you read about in blog posts of moms that weigh 90 pounds and dads that look like they strolled out of J Crew ads and kids who look like “photoshopped” barbie dolls. Maybe that’s real for some families but I know that is not reality for most. When I got home from the hospital after having Mae I actually couldn’t stand the look of a lot of my photography props and put them right on the curb for the garbage collectors . . . everything felt so fake, so staged – – all to give an appearance of perfection – – that’s not real. I don’t know how exactly but I think my photography may start to have a new focus. I want to be able to show all children’s beauty and real family perfection . . . perfection that comes from happiness and love with/for each other. So, with that I present to you my perfect Mae.