I met Sarah a few years ago working on a shoot together with a mutual friend. We, like most people these days, began to follow each other on Instagram. I’ve since kept updated on her life through her open, honest words and beautiful photos about motherhood. She has carried that openness throughout her fraternal twin pregnancy (boy and girl) while also caring for her young toddler Penny. It is because of that honesty that I felt the urge to reach out and ask if she would let me doll her up, chat with her, and put her here in this space.
Sarah, as a photographer, knows how to capture the moments of life in such a beautiful way, but it’s her words that get me. Following someone on Instagram gives you not only the visual of a beautiful picture but also the ability to see thoughts and opinions behind the photo. Sarah has taken to that platform to share her journey through motherhood with transparency, vulnerability, and a sense of humor. And in doing so, she shows all the makings of a truly beautiful woman. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.
“When you’re a new mother you're trying to figure it all out. You don’t really know what you’re doing. The second you become pregnant it seems, the advice and the opinions start to come in. The best advice I ever received was from a friend, who was a single, first time mom, she said “everyone was giving me so much advice, finally I had to shut it all out and do my own thing.” That stuck with Sarah, and so she did that with her first born Penny. "It’s about getting into the rhythm with your baby and your motherly instincts."
With Penny, Sarah took each thing as it came. "From the start of pregnancy, people put their stuff on you, which was a journey in and of itself, learning how to deal with that. In real life and on social media, I am pretty open. I’m a feeler, I can’t really hide anything. I don’t know any other way to be. If you know me, then you know what is going on in my life. When you’re like that, the cost of it is that everyone knows your business, and it gives people access to have an opinion. People have messaged or commented about the way I talk about Penny, like if I post about being frustrated, when she’s driving me crazy...because she is a toddler and that happens. I’ve received something like ‘you should be grateful for just being able to have kids,’ which, of course, is true. I am, but I am allowed to vent. It can be really hard. When you spend every waking minute with someone, whether it is your husband, partner, friend, kid, they’re going to get to you sometimes. With twins it’s a whole new playing field…”
She believes that all moms want to feel like they’ve got it together. When she overshares, she thinks, “Oh great, now I come off as the hot mess mom.” When in fact she’s not. “I’m just a regular mom. My whole day is about taking care of this little human, and it is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But it is challenging...Some people don’t want to be as open, which is great for them, I just don’t know how to do that. I enjoy letting people know it’s tough. I know it’s refreshing for me to see that in other people. If it helps anyone not feel alone, it’s worth it. I gravitate toward the real and authentic. I want to know the truth.”
Giving oneself more grace is Sarah’s goal. “Even in my marriage. We got married and had Penny so quickly...You can feel like you’re never doing enough. I can be hard on myself and learning to give us all [family] a little more grace as we navigate is important. It is an ongoing process. I wouldn't call myself a control freak but I do like having things a certain way and under control. I’ve been joking that with twins you can’t control anything. I keep thinking two things will happen in this next chapter. I’ll either lose it completely, or I will learn to surrender completely and let go.”
Sarah and her husband found out they were having twins two days before Penny’s first birthday and announced it at her party. “Twins don’t run in either of our families, so we were shocked. I mean shocked. It never even crossed my mind until the doctor said it. He even made a joke right before too about ‘finding another,’ and then he did! I was confused at first and thought, ‘Is he allowed to keep joking like that?’ When we realized it was true, we were hysterical, laughing, crying, we couldn’t believe it. It took us a long time to really process it all. The first two days were just excitement. Then the reality of two babies at once, two births, three children…”
She felt a heaviness when she found out she was pregnant again. “I cried because I felt like Penny was too little...and that was when I thought it was one! When we found out there were two, with that shock, I had a little grief over the life I had pictured. Our family was really going to change, in a wonderful way, of course, but it was really scary. I feel like it’s taken the whole pregnancy to truly process it all. Now it is so rad, so exciting, and I feel so blessed.”
She has prepared by asking advice of other moms of twins, reading blogs, and getting herself familiar with the process of being pregnant with twins. “I had an anxiety attack over thinking about them coming early, not being safe, us not knowing how to handle it. Everything with twins is just more. If they do end up in the NICU, then that’s okay. They would be safe even if they came now. It’s not ideal and not what I want, but it would be okay… A lot of doctors push for a C-section, but my doctor has been supportive about me wanting to deliver naturally. He said as long as the first baby [girl] has [her] head down, then that is a good sign. The doctor can flip the second baby [boy] if he needs to. When I delivered Penny I did it natural, no pain meds, and I know that is not for everyone, but I really want to experience it that way.”
She also understands that the first year will be chaos. “I can’t even imagine two newborns and a toddler, but I love that they will always be in the same stage of life together. They’ll get to grow up so close. My goal is to be able to start working again once they are three months, but I don’t know what that is going to look like. I breast fed Penny the whole time, and she was never not with me. With these two, I don’t have that option, they’ll need a bottle. I am learning that with twins you have to accept help, even when I didn’t with Penny… Penny lately has wanted to be held a lot, clinging, wanting me to hold her for longer. A part of me thinks I need her to get use to walking…but then I think, no, a lot is about to change, and I want to hold her just a little bit longer too. I can’t wait to see how she’ll react [to the twins] and to watch her become a big sister.”
On Self-care: I could use some work on this. When Penny was four months old, I hit a breaking point. When you are a new mom, you can feel like you lose yourself. I was having a little break down. Stephen [her husband] came home and relieved me for two hours to do whatever I wanted to on my own. I went to the beach, and I was so aware of being alone for the first time because I had had a baby attached to me day and night for four months. I realized I needed to do that for myself. I just sat there, prayed, and listened to music. I realized I really needed to do this regularly. It helps you be a better mom, wife, friend. It’s been hard to find time since that day, but at least I know what I need. Having space for just myself is important. I don’t believe in mom guilt… It’s a good reminder for me with the twins, because it’s going to be an even bigger load. I can’t do a great job if I’m not taking care of myself.
On Instagram: That picture (see here) was such a phenomenon. It was crazy. It just sort of happened. Now Penny does get a lot of free clothes, which is a lot of fun, but I don’t want my personal account to look like an ad. I want to support small businesses, moms/people who are authentic, and trying to create something. I forget sometimes I am not just posting to my family and friends but to a whole bunch of people I don’t know that are going to have opinions. For me, minus not very nice direct messages, it has been cool, because I’ve met other moms through it. My hobby is taking pictures of my kids. I’ve always documented my life; photos, journals. I am a documenter, it’s how I am. I am sentimental, an oversharer, I always joke that my Instagram is like ‘Dear Diary, today I…’ which some people don’t like or find annoying. That’s okay, I get it. But for me, I love it. I don’t know how else to be.
On what beauty is: For me, women in my life who are authentic are beautiful. My mentor, a mother of three, is the most beautiful example of authenticity, of giving, looking for opportunities to help people, and it’s so genuine, natural… She’s not trying to be that person, she just is that person. I’ll think, I just want to be like her, because I don’t think that comes as naturally for me. I am compassionate and empathetic, but like everyone else, I can be selfish, have a bad temper, and be ugly in those ways. She’s always reminding me to speak my truth, even when it’s hard, because that’s how you connect with other people and other women.
When Penny was about six to nine months, I was looking at myself in the mirror and I was bummed out. My body wasn’t where I wanted it to be, and all I could see were my imperfections, which I’ve struggled with. Having a daughter makes you not want to pass that on to her, because if she ever felt that way… when to me she is perfection. I looked down, and she had her hands on the mirror, and she was looking up at me, and in that moment it hit me, you are watching me. You’re watching everything I do, everything I say, how I talk to others, how I talk to myself. I have an audience now...from this little teacher, who is teaching me so much. I want to take care of myself for myself, for my husband, my kids, and to feel confident. Especially having daughters, working on what it really means to be a beautiful woman, how to act like a beautiful woman, but also, when I am not feeling great, that’s okay too. For me, loving people, being selfless and vulnerable, and seeing that in other women encourages me to be that way myself.
Sarah went into labor one week after we did this interview. Everytt Bloom and Smith Lennon were born January 4, 2017, both natural deliveries! They both have been in the NICU since, but are growing stronger every day. If you would like to follow Sarah’s journey, do so on Instagram @thegizzigang
edited by Kristen Fogle
photos by Mary Claire Roman