I am a failure. In every sense of the word, I failed to do what I set out to do. Five years ago, this May, I quit my job at the world’s largest hedge fund where I was working with some of the smartest people I had ever met so I could go back to school full time and become a doctor. And I failed.
I moved out to the East Coast to rediscover myself and figure out what was next in life after a divorce, took the hedge fund job to hold myself over, and landed on this epiphany that I wanted to become a doctor. After acing my first chemistry course while working full time, I decided to make it real and went back to school full time. To achieve my goal excellently, I moved with my then-boyfriend back west to Phoenix, Arizona, where my mom, a doctor, could connect me with other doctors and medical school admissions people she knew out here. After all, it’s about who you know, right? I took to school like a champ and aced every course, even organic chemistry (one of my favorites). I worked my butt off (seriously, the amount of sitting and studying for hours at a time, I’m surprised there’s anything of it left). My boyfriend soon became my fiancé and then husband later that year, and bought me a camera that Christmas to rekindle my film and photography skills I had given up when I moved to New York (he secretly wanted to learn and edit with me, so it was really the perfect marriage).
I took the MCAT 3 times. Third time is definitely a charm – got the score I needed to get accepted. However, after taking it 3 times, finishing all of the pre-requisite courses, and writing application essays over and over again on why I wanted to be a doctor, it occurred to me that medical school and an MD would not help me achieve my goal of shaping and changing the health care industry. I would actually have the most impact pursuing an administrative role rather than a clinical one, and half a million dollars in medical school debt with 10 years of my life would likely hinder rather than help me to achieve my goal. Also, I had my first daughter during this time and did not want to sacrifice my best years with her for medical school and residency (opportunity costs). Remember that camera my husband bought me? I started using it a lot more once I had my daughter, especially since money was tight and we couldn’t afford the really nice pictures of her. I mean why pay for what I can do myself, especially given my background and knowledge of cameras and photography?
Then, I discovered a master’s program in the science of health care delivery. THAT was the answer I had been searching for. It combined the improvement of the health care delivery system with systems thinking and health care administration. I was accepted within days of applying and started the following fall. I killed it in the program. I aced every class, worked my tail off, landed the internship project of my dreams, and even received a passive job offer from the CMO because of my work in my project at a major hospital in the valley. It was amazing and coming together perfectly. At the rate I was going, I would be a director within 5 years, and in the C-suite within 10, all while improving and impacting health care for the better. Except for one minor detail though: I was pregnant with baby #2. Trying to land a job as a health care exec when you have a belly that shames a beer gut is a tough sell. Yes, I know all about the HR laws prohibiting discrimination, yada yada yada. But let’s be honest here, who really wants to hire someone that is going to go on maternity leave for 3 months right after starting a new job? Needless to say, post-graduation (I was 7 months pregnant), my passive job offer fell through due to budget cuts, and since I was on bed-rest with a beluga belly, I wasn’t running off to interviews either. So I did what any reasonable person with a master’s degree would do: I nested, designed the most epic “Star Wars for Her” nursery (this belonged in a Pinterest post, frankly), and potty-trained my 2 year old. I was okay with all of this though, because I had time with my daughter, time to just be pregnant and not thinking about the next paper I have to submit, and time to reflect. I would be working in no time once the baby arrived, so I enjoyed myself.
Well this little flippity flip baby couldn’t decide which direction she preferred, even after 30 weeks when they’re supposed to stay either vertex (head-down) or breech (feet down). She was in a new position daily. By 36 weeks, she was still flipping and started to scare us that she would get the cord wrapped around her neck and I would end up with a still born. She even stopped moving for a day to really drive home the point. So at 37 weeks, to the day, we induced, and out popped my second baby girl (literally). My mom, the OB/GYN doctor, came out of a decade-long retirement from delivering babies to deliver her grand-daughter (with my Dr’s permission, of course). It was pretty special, and she managed to pluck her out of me after just one push with no tears. TMI? Maybe, but it’s impressive for a gal who hadn’t done this in a decade. Given my mom’s subpar photography skills from my first delivery (she’s much better clinically than with a camera, ha!), I insisted on having birth photos, in-hospital newborn photos, and newborn photos (everything I missed out on the first time around).
One of my best friends was a photographer (also in Phoenix, Arizona) and I planned for her to do all of these for me. Well of course she was sick when I delivered, so I instructed another friend on angles and how to get the right lighting, etc., of me during the birth. I used the in-hospital photographer for the postpartum photos, and then ended up attempting my first ever newborn photoshoot with my daughter because my girlfriend wasn’t available to do a newborn photoshoot within the first 5-10 days (I read that was the ideal time to do photos for newborns). I bought a few pieces of baby fabric, used a Boppy pillow, a small heater, positioned her in front of my biggest and brightest window, and dressed her in her best Star Wars attire (these things are to DIE for, seriously, check them out in my newborn gallery).
The pictures were super cute, but something was missing from them. Come to find out editing was whole animal I needed to learn as well (I fixed that in the above). However, I was HOOKED on newborn photography! I had taken all of my oldest daughter’s milestone photos since she was born, and they were beautiful. Something about posing this sleepy cuddly baby just got me though. Maybe it was the fact that I knew she was my last baby so she was the last baby I would ever cuddle like this. I don’t know, but I did know that I wanted more sleepy, cuddly, pose-able babies!
Next thing you know, I bought a bunch of adorable props, a bean bag, and blankets and transformed my spare bedroom into a newborn studio. I attempted to leverage my camera with newborn photography on the side while I job-hunted. After 3 sleepless months and one successful model call with a friend’s baby, I was a total zombie who also realized the prop thing was not for me. I struggled to find my photography style, but also my sense of direction in life. There were days I wanted a job more than anything, then other days where I was faced with my reality and realized I loved snuggling my baby and watching my oldest blossom into an amazing older sister. Was I really prepared to miss out on all of this just to improve some processes in a hospital and lower readmissions? I felt torn and found myself losing motivation to job-hunt, especially because I didn’t NEED a job, I just WANTED a job (and a new minivan). I craved being able to use my master’s degree though, and wanted to continue the work I started during my hospital internship. So I started a non-profit focused on doing exactly that: lowering hospital readmissions by focusing on the post-acute care space with an emphasis on new mothers (postpartum care). Side note: I suffered from severe postpartum depression with my first baby, and vowed to take control of my brain with my second by facing my weaknesses early on in the pregnancy and creating a support structure in lieu of my lack of familial support.
I also started taking pictures of friends and family more and more and even found myself being hired by people I didn’t know for holiday photos, based on word of mouth. All of a sudden photography seemed like a more lucrative avenue for creating additional income than my non-profit, but hindered my goal of shaping and improving the health care system.
I found myself at an impasse. I was having difficulty managing at home with 2 small kids while trying to run a non-profit, job-hunt, and figure out this whole photography thing. I realized I had to choose a path and not continue with being spread as thin as I was. I found myself struggling to find motivation for either though. I knew this was partly my depression creeping in and mostly my own existential crisis. How did I, a very career driven woman, end up barefoot, at home with 2 kids, and covered in baby puke? For the past 4.5 years, I had worked my tail off to become a doctor, which then turned into hospital administrator, which quickly became stay –at – home – mom with a master’s degree and a camera. It seemed crazy, but when I took a step back and analyzed my situation, it all made logical sense. I had this other reality I was battling with as well if I were to take a job: did I really want someone else raising my kids for me and teaching them their ideas instead of me instilling my own crazy ideas in them? Accepting my reality was a challenge because I had failed. I failed to become a doctor. I failed to become a hospital executive. I failed to change the health care industry for the better. I failed miserably at choosing and following a path.
Through all of those failures, something beautiful blossomed though. I had another epiphany! My newborn photography style did not involve dark wood floors with a multitude of props like everyone else out there. I preferred to capture a baby’s essence in their natural state. Minimalist, natural, and simple. Effervescence. Readmissions were my goal in my non-profit, but not my mission. In everything I was doing, I was driven by helping women, helping new moms to avoid anxiety and depression, both pre and postpartum. I wanted to design a better way to have a baby and create a support structure when there was none. I wanted to give moms what I didn’t have: continuous care and a community of support. THAT was the answer. Rather than finding a path to follow, I had to pave my own way. How could I combine these two passions to pave the way for an improved continuum of obstetric care? Incorporating photography as part of my care model! Show new moms that they deserve to be pampered and build my photography business around that mission. It isn’t just about capturing those precious moments of a baby, but HOW you capture those moments and making it possible to capture them. After spending over 3000 hours in the hospital learning how to become a doctor, I learned what doctors do, but also what they DON’T do. Those were the limitations I was determined to change and now I am armed with my expertise in the health care system as well as a cameras and photography.
Allow me to pamper you and show you the love and support you deserve as you bring new life into this world. Your baby may be the center of your world, but you, the mom, are the center of mine. I want to change the way we care for our mommas, one momma at a time. Join me. Together we can change the standard of care (and maybe rule the galaxy too, if you’re a Star Wars fan 😉).