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Megan Kitts The Beginning of Everything
Mother Stories

Portraits Of Early Motherhood

Megan Kitts The Beginning of Everything

Written by Emy Merritt

Photography by Megan Kitts

Photographer Megan Kitts' raw and beautiful portraits of the early days of motherhood were taken to help her answer a big question for herself: "Am I ready to be a mother?"

How did this project come to be?

“This project was a way for me to grapple with the question ‘Am I ready to be a mother?’ I’ve always thought that one day I would be a mother, as I think many young girls do. It was a given and something I just assumed would happen when I met my dream man and we bought that cute little house. I would just wake up one day and know I was ready and then we’d have a baby. Done deal.”

“I never considered the reality of it—whether my body would be able to conceive, whether my partner would also want children, or how much my day-to-day life would change. What really put this into perspective was when my friends started having children. As many friend groups can relate, once it starts, it seems like there's a baby shower every month. Suddenly I was there, seeing these women I’ve known for most of my life drastically thrust into a new role—a complete transition from singular self to selfless mom. It was beautiful to witness, but my goodness, it was also scary.”

“It only added to the pressure. I was already in my thirties, my husband and I were getting ready to move from our hometown in California to England, so I could obtain my master's degree—a lifelong dream. Being someone who likes to be overly informed, I decided to test my fertility before we left, only to receive results that were much lower than expected. All of these events forced me to take a hard look at my priorities. If having children was something I wanted, my time to do so was rapidly running out.”

“I found myself deeply fascinated by the mothers who surrounded me, especially my own mother and all my female ancestors who came before her. What had they given up so I could be here today? How did they know when they were ready? Was it what they wanted or was it what they were given? Was there any way for me to comprehend the indescribable bond between a mother and her child without experiencing it myself? These photos were my way of exploring this world—I was a curious observer with a camera in hand, eager to witness new motherhood in all of its raw, messy, beautiful, life-altering glory. It was incredibly important for me to speak with women from different backgrounds outside of my inner circle and gather as many stories as possible."

Tell us about your background as a photographer.

“I have always been drawn to photography because of its unique ability to preserve memories. I am a very nostalgic person and get sentimental over just about everything. That's how my journey started, capturing precious moments in the lives of my friends when they couldn't afford to hire a photographer.”

“I worked as a wedding photographer for a while and also taught high school photography before I moved to England to pursue my master's degree in photography. I absolutely see myself specializing in these calmer, more intimate motherhood and family shoots going forward. I've never felt so creatively fulfilled. It's been a joy to fall back in love with this medium."

“I saw my friends undergo a complete transition from singular self to selfless mom. It was beautiful to witness, but my goodness, it was also scary.”

When did your ambivalence towards becoming a mother start?

“It may sound strange, but I really started to question my perspective on societal expectations after I got married. Although our wedding was absolutely beautiful and met all the traditional requirements, it didn't feel authentic to us. This experience made me realize that there is often a significant gap between what is expected of us and what we genuinely desire. I started to seriously question my own intuition and desires. A real fear developed in me that motherhood could be a similar experience, but instead of just one day, it would last a lifetime. Ultimately, I want to make sure that having a baby is what my heart truly desires and not just what I've been told is the next step.”

“As I mentioned, seeing my friends become mothers was also hugely impactful. I finally had firsthand accounts of how having a child impacts your life. Before, it was all just daydreams and hypotheticals, but now, I was being micro-dosed by the beauty and terrors of motherhood regularly. I would find myself oscillating between decisions depending on my most recent experience—one day I would be sure I was ready, and the next day I would be sure I wasn't. Of course, there is no picking and choosing, and I knew I had to be ready to accept the whole package, even though there was no way to know what that package fully entailed. It’s such a blind leap of faith that will forever impact our lives.”

How did this project change your perspective on motherhood? Did it help you find clarity?

“This project has completely transformed my perspective on motherhood and answered the uncertainties that I had been holding on to. It was the ultimate guide that I was searching for but couldn't find. I have a better understanding now of what to expect and what this new life could look like. I will never be able to adequately thank these women for opening their homes to me, a complete stranger, and for willingly sharing their happiest and lowest moments. Listening to each woman's story was comforting. Some babies were planned, while some were surprises. Some women easily transitioned into motherhood and felt like they had found their calling, while others struggled with their loss of identity. Many discussed the difficulties of finding a new normal with their partners, of sleepless nights and sore nipples, and the loss of control over their own bodies.”

“I always prefaced the conversation by saying I wanted to hear the whole story, whatever they were comfortable sharing, and not to be afraid of scaring me. When sharing their struggles and negative experiences, they were always quick to add that being a mother is the best thing they've ever done. I think that's the best way to describe what I've learned throughout this journey, that the pain and struggles of motherhood can only be eclipsed by the beauty of it. It's a connection that can only be fully understood when experienced. One mother compared it to trying to describe a color to someone who's never seen it before; you can attempt to explain its various shades and tones, but nothing can truly do it justice.”

“I have talked with so many women, I’ve read so many books, and thought about it so much that I’m now at the point where I’m just excited to see what my story will be. I’m not nearly as nervous as I once was, and I can say with more certainty than ever that I am ready to be a mother.”

What were your biggest learnings from the project?

“Witnessing the bond between a mother and her baby has been the most beautiful part of my journey. There is an abundance of love and understanding between the two, and they move together in such perfect harmony. There is an undertone of melancholy there too, as this intimacy is temporary and precious, and one day that dependency will transition into independence. It's a complicated and captivating relationship that has left me yearning to experience it myself.”

“It's also worth mentioning that it's necessary to let go of any expectations. While you can plan and research, you must be willing to surrender to the experience and understand that things may not go the way you thought they would.”

You mention that some of the subjects were dear friends and others were complete strangers. How did you find and choose the mothers that you photographed?

“I know three of the women photographed very well, but the others were complete strangers I met by chance. I really let fate guide me. If you were a mother walking around Bristol, England last year and you crossed my path, I was going to talk to you. I had only been living in England for five months when I began this project and didn't know any mothers, so I started approaching women in cafes, on the street, in museums—wherever I saw someone with a baby. I think my friendly American accent helped me a lot here too! I had never done anything like this before, but even the women who declined the photo shoot were all so kind and supportive. I believe everyone likes to feel seen and special.”

“It was also important to me that the women I photographed didn’t have to have beautiful homes and fancy outfits and perfectly curated living rooms, I went to every shoot completely blind as to what their homes would look like, and it was honestly much easier to find the beauty than I even anticipated. All of the homes were filled with so much love.”

It’s amazing that you only spent one day shooting each family, the images are so intimate. Can you describe what that day looked like and how you built relationships with each family?

“Thank you, it means so much to hear you say so. It was always my top priority that the mothers and children felt natural and comfortable with me. After I met them on the street, I would email them with some information about the project and some example images from other shoots I had done, so they could see what I was aiming for. I wanted to make expectations incredibly clear so they knew what the images were for and what to expect from our day together.”

“If that all sounded good, I would send them a questionnaire so I could get to know them better, they could share a bit about their daily routine, highlight any special activities they enjoy together, or special moments that summarize this chapter in their lives, and inform me of what they felt comfortable being documented.”

“Building relationships with these women was my most favorite part of every shoot. I would spend anywhere from three to six hours with them and their sweet babies and just soak up whatever they wanted to share. The days were slow and relaxed, we’d listen to music, enjoy a cup of tea, and chat during nap time. It’s been a joy and many of these mothers have become my dearest friends in England. I just can’t say enough about how grateful I am for their continued advice and encouragement.”

What were some surprises you experienced during this project?

“I think one of the sweetest surprises I found was just how similar mothering looked among the women I photographed. They varied in ages and ethnicities, they came from different countries, had different jobs and educations, some hadn’t planned on being mothers at all, but still, they were bound together by a common thread. The way the baby would tug at her hair while breastfeeding or put a tiny hand in her mouth, the gentle way they held their little feet while changing diapers, the soothing rhythm of rocking them to sleep, the intensity of the mother’s grip while holding her child with equal measures of tenderness and security. I found that hands were emerging as a common theme in my work, a symbol of the constant connection between the two, reaching out for one another. It was those sweet, subtle, often overlooked moments that really spoke to me.”

“I found myself deeply fascinated by the mothers who surrounded me, especially my own mother and all my female ancestors who came before her. What had they given up so I could be here today? How did they know when they were ready?”

Do you have a favorite image from the project?

“I know it's a cliche, but I genuinely love all of them. If I had to pick just one though, it would be the photo of my friend a few days after giving birth. The picture was taken on their second day home from the hospital when everything was still new and foreign. Her tiny daughter is on her lap, in place of the oversized baby bump that was there just a few days before. Outside of the womb, she looks so haphazard and untethered. Her phone is out as she times the feed, her bralette is covered in milk stains, and she tries to tie her hair up. It was such a raw and intimate moment that I felt privileged to have been able to share it with her.”

What is your hope for this project?

“My first hope for this project was to provide a resource for women who may be struggling with the decision to become mothers. I wanted it to be a place where all women could come together and start a conversation about the topic. I've enjoyed talking with these women and hearing their stories, and I think others will benefit too. It inspired me to create the photo book that goes along with this series called The Beginning of Everything, which will be available on my website in the spring.”

“My second hope for this project is one that I didn't necessarily have in mind from the beginning, but have discovered along the way. Hearing how much the photos have meant to these women, I hope they inspire other mothers to hop in front of the camera. I know I don't have many photographs of myself as a baby with my mom, and certainly none that are as intimate or natural as these. It always seems like the mom is the one behind the camera rather than in front of it. It has been an incredible gift to be able to photograph these women and make them feel beautiful and seen. Their role as mothers is so important and is often overlooked. I've heard from more than one woman that they never would have thought about documenting this chapter in their lives. Between juggling the stresses of new motherhood and feeling self-conscious in their postpartum bodies, it never crossed their minds. But they now look at them as a priceless time capsule, a cherished family heirloom.”

What's up next for you—personally and professionally?

“We are planning to stay in England for the foreseeable future, but we will be visiting California regularly to see our family and friends. I have a lot of exciting things coming up, including an exhibit in Bristol, and my photo book, The Beginning of Everything, will be available for purchase on my website starting in May.”

“At present, I am booking motherhood and family photo sessions, and I am really excited to utilize my passion for bookmaking by offering handmade heirloom photo albums. I have a few other photography projects that are just getting started too, including one about my journey with fertility and conception. Wish me luck!”

Follow Megan online at MeganKitts.com and on Instagram at @megankittsphoto.

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