Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | The Sandovals

kalamazoo mother and daughter

I love the way this family loves, and When I was considering what to share in this blog post, I thought of the way Emily describes her sweet girl. I was lucky enough to be her photographer through maternity, the newborn days, and now celebrating Miss Nora's one year birthday. I decided to ask Emily if she would share with the world a letter to her baby girl, and she happily obliged.

I truly hope you read her heartfelt letter, but... if you don't, I hope you're atleast inspired to write your own letter, and I pray you'll capture your every day moments and seasons of life in photos. i believe hiring a photographer is an investment, because photos are the one tangible thing that connects us to our past, while at the same time helping us see our future.

Trying to balance work and family and a marriage and a household, six chickens and a dog. I guess you just don’t know, until you know. At 35 years old I’m more humble now than I have ever been. I know now that I waited my whole life for you.

here's emily's letter:

Oh my baby Nora, I cannot believe how time has flown! Everyone told me, “Don’t blink! Your baby will grow up right before your very eyes!” They weren’t kidding, my dear baby girl. You are one year old and my heart is full of memories and love. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with you like it was yesterday! Papa and I were still living in New York City and couldn’t believe that I had a positive pregnancy test. We had tried for three months to conceive. The mixed cocktail of emotion I was feeling, thinking I was finally able to be given the greatest gift of all (being a mama); my cells/ brain/ heart/ soul couldn’t absorb it all! It was 4 am on a Tuesday and papa was sound asleep. So, I hovered over the toilet, tried to chug orange juice and NOT stare at the chicken breasts that I had in the fridge to prepare for dinner that night and immediately made an appt with my doctor there so I could confirm the best news of my life; I was going to be a mother. YOUR mother. (Mind you, I couldn’t eat chicken or even utter the WORD the entire pregnancy and for about two months afterward.) I met your dad in Soho at Dominique Ansel’s Bakery (one of our favorite bakeries and surprised him with my positive pregnancy test in a Misfits t-shirt for your papa with a matching onesie for you! Over some chocolate chip cookie shots and decaf cappuccinos, of course. From that day on, my whole world was different. Do you know that the entire time I was pregnant with you, I thought you were a boy? No matter how I carried and what people told me, I knew you were a boy. How wrong I was! Very early teaching lesson about parenting, I suppose!
 

kalamazoo family

I remember when I was about 12 weeks along, I started feeling something like a fluttering deep inside. Only about once a week, I would feel that until I was about 18 weeks. You were so strong, I could feel you so early! We quickly moved back to Michigan in search of a home that would be the perfect place to bring you to and start our lives together. The second trimester with you, it was such a break from all of the pain that I was feeling, the sickness. I was showing about 12/13 weeks and was so very proud of my baby bump! I grew so quickly, some people asked if I was having twins! Our heartbeat monitor test at Bronson quickly assured me there was just one baby inside of me. Baby Nora, I talked to you every. single. day. Just so you didn’t feel alone in there. I loved you so much and even though you couldn’t hear me, I knew you’d feel my words. We wanted your sex to be a surprise, so at 20 weeks, when we finally saw you on ultrasound, I couldn’t believe how much you were moving inside of me! A true miracle. I was doing anything I could to stay strong and healthy so you could be strong and healthy.

mom and daughter
kalamazoo family

We moved into our home at 24 weeks and I was hyper focused. Getting the house ready, taking our Bradley Method classes, doing my exercises, reading anything I could to get ready for your arrival. The third trimester began and with it came intense swelling and carpal tunnel. I was in so much pain all of the time, but I was so excited to meet you and continued to eat my whole watermelon a day and drink my goats milk (I know.. pregnancy cravings are so crazy!). At 41 weeks and two days pregnant, I finally got to meet you. Only after about 48 hours of labor, of course! You were so resilient and so strong, even stronger than me that whole time! I had lost a lot of blood giving birth to you so we had to stay in the hospital a little extra longed than normal mamas. Everyone was so wonderful taking care of us there, I didn’t want to leave! I was so scared to take you home! Your dad was amazing the whole time, being such a good nurturer and amazing coach. One of my favorite memories in the hospital was when the nurse had to give you a bath and I was still unable to walk the second day you were here on earth. He was taking notes in his work handbook on how to properly bathe you (I have pics to prove it)! Even in the beginning, he’s always wanted to do everything right for us. When we got you in the car seat we couldn’t figure out how to work it and we were so flustered. This kind front desk employee at Bronson helped us get you strapped in accordingly and off we went.

Home.

Home, safe to the house that we searched for so long for after living at our parents, getting adjusted back to the place we grew up so you could be close to family and friends. Home, to meet Frank, your dog-brother! Baby girl, you were and ARE, absolutely perfect. I remember those first few weeks of your life, not vividly but I do remember them. Even just one short year ago it’s funny how things can fade. I’m so grateful for all the pictures/videos that we have of you to remind me of those tender moments that we shared together. You were definitely a mama’s girl right from the start, and I wanted to do everything I could to breast-feed you, so I did. Honestly, you taught me how to give you what you needed and even though it was painful and trying, it was so, so worth it. Your dad again, was an amazing coach. We made it through and are still breastfeeding to this day! Thank you, for letting me cradle you, hum you songs and pray together as you drift off to sleep. I will cherish these precious times, my love. I will always cherish YOU. Watching you grow and seeing your personality shine over this last year, dear Nora, has been what I think my entire life was supposed to be about; being YOUR mom. I knew it was supposed to be a mother and a very early age, but I had no idea what being a mom really meant. I didn’t know it would be so hard, through the tears and the nursing and countless months of not sleeping, trying to make things safe in the house for you. Trying to balance work and family and a marriage and a household, six chickens and a dog. I guess you just don’t know, until you know. At 35 years old I’m more humble now that I have ever been. I know now that I waited my whole life for you. To hear your first giggles and to see your first smiles. Watching you discover your body, your tribe, your surroundings. Feeling your little hand on my chest as you would fall asleep, just to reassure yourself that my heart beat was close enough to you to feel comfortable to snooze. How did I get so lucky? I’m not entirely sure, honestly. I just know that I am. You are so smart and so incredibly beautiful, inside and out. You’ve always been healthy, SO darn funny and your smile and bright eyes light up any room you walk in to; and you’re just a year old! Watching you learn, playing with you, watching your relationship with your grandparents flourish, seeing how you are with animals and how you wake up every day with a smile on your face, ready to have fun and learn in any situation, makes my heart burst with pride. I know that your dad and I were supposed be together to have you, sweet bear. It’s something I know deep within me. You are truly going to be someone in this world that makes a difference. A REAL. Difference. Nora, you are someone that’s going to continue to grow strong, healthy, intelligently and with grace, to make this crazy world a better place. I know this, because I am your mama. I promise to always make you feel safe, loved and nourished in every way. You have given me countless gifts in just the short year of your incredible life, it’s the least I can do, to give back to you.

kalamazoo family photography

I’ll just say this in closing, honey bear. You are the light of my life. I love you past all the planets in all the galaxies. You have given my life more purpose than I ever knew possible and I will always nurture, trust and love every cell in your heart and body. I’ll protect you fiercely, no matter what. I’ll let you stand on your own when you want your independence. I will let you spread your wings and fly, even though I’ll be scared you won’t ever fly back home. I’ll encourage you when you feel like you are scared. I’ll hug you and hold you when you feel like you need protection. I’ll be your strength when you need it and your listening ear when you need to tell me anything, anything at all, Eleanora Dawn. You are the only one that knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside and we are forever connected in a way that only God could understand. You’re my whole world, darling girl. You will always be my little one and I’ll ALWAYS be your mama. Shine bright in this big world, show people who you really are on the inside and I know you can do anything you set your mind to. You’re everything to me and your papa bear. Te amo, mi hijita.

kalamazoo family photography

hi, and Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m Elyse, the face behind Elyse Rowland Photography of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I love organic movement in images, real connection, and emotional imagery, and I'm always chasing light, especially those last drops of the sunset. i believe in documenting the every day moments for my clients, and my work ranges from warm + sun dappled to dark + moody. most importantly though, I pour my heart into my work in order to tell your stories – your moments, not poses. 

I currently offer both in-home and on-location sessions.  In-home sessions are best for families, newborns, and maternity, while on-location sessions are best suited for family and maternity. I would love the invitation to document your family memories, I promise to give you the space you need to feel comfortable & relaxed, while also giving enough direction to make the session feel effortless.

To see more of my work, please take a look around my portfolio and follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

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