shelby leigh

M Springtime Family Session | Maryland

β€œOnce in awhile,
right in the middle of an ordinary life,
love gives us a fairy tale.”
Unknown

As I was pregnant with my first child, I photographed Shelby through the story of her third child. We did a (stunning... who looks like that when pregnant... and in labor... and post-partum?!) maternity session, the birth, and the first family portraits with the new baby.  Despite being the oldest of a large family, having a mom who wanted to be a midwife or doula, and preparing for a natural labor myself... I had never seen a real live birth until photographing this family. Watching Esme be born, in her home, as well and healthily and beautifully as she was, meant very much to me. 

A few weeks after I had my second baby, I was able to photograph these wonderful people once more... on a perfectly "Spring As Its Own Analogy" Day. The sky was the color of concrete, the water running through the park was a shade of dark olive, and the brown wood was saturated and looked wet (because it was). And yet, there was GREEN all-around us, and, more excitingly, there were flower buds. Pale white, lively pink, and yellow! It's special to watch the world come back to life. We know the concept of "every winter turns to spring" and how this matches personal life seasons, not just earth's. But what I loved the most about this session, as far as setting goes, was that as we were finished and walking back to our cars sun light ran through the field. As if it had placed its hand on the curtain and slowly pulled the drape-in-the-sky back for a final few minutes.

Even though we had already congratulated the girls on a job well done! And promised them that they were, indeed, done. I had to command/ask the family to gather back for "just two minutes!!" I snapped furiously. When least expected, light has a way of startling and capturing. More beautiful than we thought would happen (at least that evening), and a golden reminder that... the best is yet to come. Spring in a nutshell.

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Esme is one of those people who love instantly upon seeing her. Her enormous eyes, bright lips, full head of red curly hair, facial expressions, and way of walking... ugh. They seize you. 

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So many beautiful girls!

Brian, Shelby, Riley, Laila, and Esme... you're a fairy-tale-come-true, and a family filled with so much love and spunk. (And mom and dad? You're outstanding parents. Affectionate, engaged, helpful to each other, roll-up-your-sleeves-lets-do-this, great sense of humor, relaxed, and a great team. I love getting to watch dynamics like that from behind a camera. You're the coolest!)

Shelby Leigh + Brian + The Three Girls | Newborn + Family Portraits

"is there any way that I can tell you how my life has changed? 
any way at all to let you know what sweetness you have given me?"
elise mckenna - somewhere in time
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Not many hours after Esme Rose snuggled into her first days of "outside" life, this beautiful family and I met up again for one more story time.   We started back in December, with simple portraits of a mama-and-dada-to-be.    Within weeks, we were huddled together in a bathroom, with a couple more daughters and supporters, watching Shelby and pleading to Esme with our hearts - "Come on, sweet girl.  Come out!  We're waiting for you!".   This brings us to early spring and a family of five.
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Inside the white picket fence, and red front door, up the wooden stairs, past the dusty rose and khaki nursery, on a white bright bed was a crew full of sunshine.
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The ladies of the house are, well, stunning.  Each and every one of them.
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And papa is a brave soul ;)
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The delight I had left behind that cold night was just as complete when I came back in the daylight.  The big sisters were still intrigued and comfortable.  The whole house attracts itself to mama and baby.  They all love to be near.
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Esme had quite the stare-down!  It's breathtaking!
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Soon the little cupcake won't be eating every hour or two.  Soon she will know her sister's names.  Soon she will jump on dad, and break mugs, and fill up a little purse with goodies, and count to eleventeen and beyond.  Soon she will clap for herself.  Soon she will ask for what she wants with words.  Soon she will ask dad about his tattoos and if she can play with mom's hair and "are we there yeeeet?"  Soon she won't be a baby.  But today she's quite baby.  And absolutely incredible.  She is loved, and has been for some time now.  She is here and she is there's.
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It's been honor and fun to be a part of this story; to record and tell something that can never be told again.  Esme Rose will never go back into her mother's belly or be delivered or be a few hours old ever, ever again.  And it really resonates in my heart the sweetness I've been able to join in on by photographing this entire, lovely family.  

Shelby Leigh + Brian + Their Baby | Birth Story

in these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will diewhere you invest your love, you invest your life
MUMFORD & SONS - AWAKE MY SOUL
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Caleb and I drove down their street.  House after house, virtually the same in story.  Porch lights on, maybe a window or two bright, the yard dark - most of the house dark - cars in park out front.  It was 8:30 pm and the end of a middling workday, in the middle of a fussy winter.   The outside of the Metzger home was forgettably normal in the lines of homes.  But inside.  Inside the walls, where only a select few could see, there was a nativity scene.
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Brian greeted me at the door - he was on his way to heat up a slice.  "Everyone is upstairs! Go on ahead!"  Shelby's laughter made me a little bummed.  "Man, she must not be very far along if she's giggling like that."  She waved and rocked on her bouncy ball.  I "scolded" her ;) "You sound way too cheerful for a lady who is in labor!"  "Oohhh, it's just because I'm not having a contraction right now! Hahah! You'll see!" She barely finished her sentence before she silently buried her head.  Her two daughters eased from the floor onto the bed.  They watched her strength.  And gave pats of honor and love when Shelby's moans were heaviest.   Shelby's mom told her what a wonderful job she was doing.
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Aside from the occasional grunts and "ooooooooOOOOOOOO's!" and the midwives in matching t-shirts, the evening felt weirdly like a typical evening.  There wasn't hub-bub or eerie silence or beeping.  The tub was filling with water, Mumford & Sons was playing, leftovers were on the counter.  Instead of feeling like normal life had been frozen in time with the labor progressing, it felt like normal life was indeed happening.  And it was.  Together.  Eating pizza, making mom laugh, and having a baby.  It was weirdly unweird.
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By 9:00 Shelby was in her own bathtub, in her own clothes, with her own family tipping water onto her working body.  If I could dream up an analogy, it reminded me of highschool soccer games in September: when I'd come off the field at halftime and open my water bottle - not to drink - to pour on my head.  Spill it all over.  Mom and Brian spilled and spilled.  Her body was working harder than a soccer athlete.  And her baby was ready to meet her life on the outside.
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Shelby's midwives were so calm.  They were very hands-off, yet gently "in charge." The first laugh I heard from Shelby when I walked up the stairs happened to also be the last laugh.  It was almost like the baby knew "Alright, everyone is here now."  The hour and a half in the bathtub proved to be terrible and yet efficient, and also genuinely beautiful.  Labor is like war, this battle a mother (and father and "support team") wage for the prize of delivery itself; to win skin-to-skin and eye contact; to obtain a person in your arms and announce "Welcome! You are so loved!"  I'm not sure who the enemy is, but the battle is real and vicious.

Shelby's "breaks" in-between contractions were short and honestly still exhausting.  She would close her eyes and take a few deep breaths and then, a new wave of movement and pain would surround her.  She fought hard.  They all did.Photobucket
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In the final few minutes of the labor, Shelby fumbled out a weary "I can't.  I can't do this. She's not coming and I can't do this."  Brian held her hand tighter.  "Yes you can.  You are.  This is incredible.  You're doing it.  She's coming, baby.  You can do it.  It's almost over."
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With new resolve, Shelby decided she was done.  She had been in consistent labor for over 24 hours, active labor for the last four, and transition for over an hour now.  It was time.  Little Girl, Mama said "Come!"
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In as much time as it would take for me to walk to their mailbox and back, the family changed.  Esme Rose was in their arms, with her pudgy, formed arms, dark soft hair, and immediately kissable cheeks.
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Their joy was full.  In the calming quiet of night, they celebrated like a town greeting the victorious soldiers!  Tears, hugs, emotional feasting!
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To quote the profound Ash Parsons:
"The moments of pain and the moments of joy are not as far apart as we may think."  
Honestly, pain and joy seem to be two hands that are best when held.  One just isn't quite the same without the other.  Pain and Joy tell a story, a story we all know chapters of.  Some understand the story, and others have only heard the story.  Pain is rescued by the promise of Joy, and Joy is sweetened by the demands of Pain.  Pain and Joy tell the story of Esme Rose.
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Happy First Day of Life, young lady.  You'll always know it, but someday when you look at these images, try to let the love of your family hug you even closer.  Your mama is a determined, smart lover.  Your dad is kind and good.  Your sisters are doting, bright and quick.  Your grandmother is loyal and lovely.  And together they worked for you, together they cried and piled onto a bed to fight over who you looked at first.   They studied every little wrinkle and roll.  All eyes and hearts were on you, amazed to just be in your presence.  And I think you'll be pleased to realize this love and devotion isn't rare; it's weirdly typical of your entire life.

Brian + Shelby Leigh | Maternity Shoot | Baltimore MD Photography

sing a song for the ocean, 
a song for the sky
a song for tomorrow, 

love sweet by and by.
john denver - stonehaven sunset
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The houses in Baltimore are certainly not as expensive as the ones in and around Washington DC.  But practically speaking, the commute just wouldn't be worth it.  They thought about it though.  Because, I mean, have you seen some of those new, modern, eco homes built near the park?  They're rad.  And would be fun family homes.  Jessica Simpson as a pregnant woman? Jessica Simpson as a woman.  How did she become famous again?  And cheap jeans always stretch out over 7 times faster than expensive jeans - especially cheap maternity jeans.  And, come to find out, I don't really have any questions to ask or jokes to make when talking to an engineer.  Except to tell them about all my highschool friends who went to school for engineering.  But it was alright - Brian is quick and casual and funny.  And seems for more "graphic-designer"-ish than engineer-ish.  And I like that.  He and Shelby seem like they've been together longer than they've been alive.  Shelby roars with abandon (especially when asked to "fake laugh"), doesn't like double-chins as much as I do, and is smart-beautiful (not dumb-beautiful.  Is it bad to call Jessica Simpson dumb-beautiful on my blog?)  She created an impressive photography business.  They're an everyday, tough, committed, witty couple.  And in February, they and Big Sisters One and Two get to meet Little Sister.  They're a family.  And they're just great.

I'm delighted for their Baby Girl.  She is just weeks away from meeting her creative, vibrant, loud, good family.  I'm happy for her - thrilled for her.  It's going to be a beautiful life.  So, Sister Three, here is a little visual story about your mama and dad while they waited for you.
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(... is there a special trick to making pregnancy look so... spectacular?  Dang, Shelby!)
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Thank you for letting me watch and work with and enjoy you - you're lovely and hilarious.  And I am just longing to meet your new person.  I have a feeling she is going to have a personality like her dad and eyes like her mom.  But maybe that's me being an overly-emotional pregnant lady myself ;)
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Oh, and congratulations ;)
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With love,
Kristen Leigh