This will change in time. I will always be a Mama and an avid life-documenter but as my daughter finds independence I will get more time to create.
April disappears quickly. We haven’t travelled in a while and we miss it. We check flights to Europe now and then and wish we could, but content ourselves planning our November trip instead. We’re going to Bali for a month because this is where we are hosting one of our Photography workshops next year and we have a lot to organise.
Life continues in the every day kind of way it does when you’re not travelling. So we break it and go camping. The camp grounds are strewn with coloured tents and the air is smoky from bonfires. Beyond a dip in the Earth is a beautiful swimming creek running alongside the grounds. We meet new people and we all share food and stories. I collect ‘dinosaur egg’ rocks with my cousins and float on an inflatable mattress in the river.
The night grows cold and I sit before the fire with Alba. Her arms wind around my neck as she watches the flames. In those moments being a Mama is exactly what I pictured. I may never find the right words to describe what it is like to have the gentle, warm weight of your own child in your arms (if you’re a parent, you already understand), but it holds so much meaning to me. It is something where there was once nothing. It is the strangeness and wonder that is life. That weight is the weight of the world.
We don’t have many friends in Brisbane yet but we see my Auntie and her girls a lot. The way Sommer and Alba love one another makes me melt. My auntie was like that with me when I was a baby, and maybe Alba will be that way with Sommer’s baby too.
An advertising agency hires me to shoot a campaign for The Smith Family. I fly to Sydney twice. The first time I am only there for a day to scout school locations and cast. I interview and photograph close to 50 children at Sun Studios before flying home again. A few days later I am there overnight to shoot the ad campaign. It is the first time I have been apart from Alba this long. On the flight over I feel my face burning as I try (unsuccessfully) to pump milk without drawing attention.
I stay in a boutique hotel in the city. There are a bowl of chocolates on the bed and I eat them cross-legged in my underwear, savoring my space. I thought I would be lost with loneliness and missing my family, but instead I’m rejoicing in my time alone.
It only takes me an hour to prepare and pack for tomorrow’s shoot. Then I have all this free time that for the first time in a long time I am not sure what to do with. I have a long, hot shower. I pump some more milk. I go walking in the city. Memories hit me hard. I have spent a lot of time here, a lot of things happened. The memories crowd my head so much I have to grab dinner quickly and rush back to the hotel room.
The bed is too big for just me and I sleep very soundly. When I wake at dawn my breasts are very full with milk. I was teased so much for being flat chested in highschool that I can’t help but laugh when I see myself naked in the bathroom mirror.
Someone from the production agency picks me up and we drive to the location. I have a digital operator and assistants and everyone is asking me about lighting set ups and I am trying to explain how simply I shoot. Just the sun, I say. I don’t need a lot of assisting either. I know I shoot unusually (and probably unprofessionally in some people’s eyes) but this is the way I make my images.
It is hard to foster a connection with a model when there is a big team standing around you both. So I do what I can to make space for us. The shoot is very long but the children are sweet. The clients love the images and we are all exhausted but content. They are a charity I really believe in, you can donate here and see some of my images here.
For the entire flight I keep imagining what Alba will be like when she sees me. Will she cry out “Mama” and run to me with her arms outstretched? Will she say her first ever sentence “Mama, never leave me again”? My imaginings grow more and more far-fetched. When I walk out to the baggage carousels I can see her walking around Papa’s feet. Her strawberry blonde hair looks bright and her skin glows. She is the prettiest little girl around. I can’t believe I get to be her Mama.
When Alba sees me she doesn’t even smile. She just looks at me like I’ve been here all along, as though she didn’t notice I’d gone anywhere. But in the car she holds my hand tightly all the way home.