Today, I want to share a bit of my heart and history with you – the reason I love being a family and newborn photographer. And why my heart soars even higher when I am invited to photograph families formed by adoption.
My Journey to Family and Photography
It is amazing to me that my husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this year – 15 years we’ve been riding this roller coaster called life together! Nearly 15 years ago, just as many young married couples do, we dreamed of having a family someday. I loved following along with my friends who were getting married and starting their families, dreaming of growing ours. It didn’t happen easily for us. But you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our two miracles through open adoption are what make us the family we are and me the mommy I am – and honestly the photographer that I am.
I have always been intrigued by photography and loved to take pictures but it was always a hobby – I never dreamed it would become my career. I would take my own snapshots of our travels, friends, and families. I would also look at professional photographer’s websites and dream of the time when I would have my own family and could finally put family pictures up on our walls. But, infertility and adoption are bumpy roller coasters. Those of you who have been there know what I mean. I threw myself into my career as a child advocate/policy attorney in DC. I quite literally had my dream job working for the organization that had inspired me to walk this path all the way back in high school, but still something – someone – was missing. My children.
Nearly 5 and ½ years ago, we finally got the call we had waited years for, our son had been born and needed us in San Antonio right away!. I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on him, the first time I held him, fed him. We have pictures from his first days with us that I absolutely treasure but I wish there had been someone there to capture those precious memories for us so we could all be in the frame together. We were so thankful that we got to visit with his birth family. I treasure those pictures most of all but there aren’t any with all of us. My husband or I was always behind the camera when everyone was together.
When we returned to Virginia, I started looking for a family photographer and planning for our first professional family session. I had heard about this organization that worked with volunteer photographers to discount sessions for new adoptive families but those sessions couldn’t happen until after the adoption was finalized. So we waited (sort of patiently). When my son was 10 months old we had our first family session. My heart fills with joy when I think about how I felt when I finally had canvases of our own little family on our wall.
Fast forward almost 2 years and I was home with my son and learning everything about my camera to capture his baby and toddlerhood while waiting for our 2nd baby. I loved being behind the camera and started to think maybe – just maybe – capturing these precious memories for other families was what I was being called to do. We welcomed my daughter later that year. I was a little better this time at capturing her tiny babyhood but again missed out on professional photos of her first days and with her birth family here in Texas. We have do have images that I treasure of course, but now that I’ve seen what’s possible, I wish I could go back and give the gift of images that truly told their stories of their first days to my own children. This time I knew we had to wait for finalization to contact the volunteer photographer again so I focused on capturing as much as I could of our everyday moments with my own lens and occasionally handed the camera off so I could be in the frame. When finalization rolled around, I discovered the organization we had gone through no longer existed. But I did find another wonderful organization – Red Thread Sessions.
When I researched Red Thread Sessions, thinking also as a potential professional photographer now, I looked at their requirements for becoming a volunteer. One required that you were a professional, fully licensed/registered photographer for at least 2 years. I wanted to be able to give back as soon as possible! So, even though we had in our minds that we would be moving to Texas in a year or two, I knew I wanted to start my business as soon as I could. I was feeling the call to be able to give back to other families who had struggled and this was one way I could do it. So, knowing I would have to start the business over again, we took the leap of faith and I started what would become Elizabeth Nelligan Photography.
Family is so important – no matter how it comes together. This is what is at the core of my business – a desire to capture moments and memories for families – ALL families whether through birth, marriage or adoption – whether you struggled or not. Every family – your family – has an important story to tell and share with future generations. Whether you hang up canvases of the family like we did or have a special album made that you and your children can cuddle up with and look back at how much fun you had just loving each other at your session, my aim is for you and your children to feel that sense of FAMILY when you look at your images.
When we moved to the New Braunfels area last April, I did what I knew I would have to, start all over. I am so thankful that I did and that it has allowed me to capture memories for other families that I wish I had been able to for my own children. Abrazo Adoption Associates, the agency that placed both our children with us and brought us together with their birth families has a very close knit community here in San Antonio and across the United States, so when a new Abrazo family asked me to take their pictures with their son’s birth family my heart soared. I have now worked with three families for adoption sessions with birth family and my heart swells every time. I love to create these images for the families and most importantly for these sweet babies who will have these photographs of their families coming together out of love for them. I’m honestly tearing up just writing that. It is such an honor to witness this love and these connections that happen on behalf of these amazing children. I truly love what I do.
So now I have come what almost seems like full circle. Just this past weekend, I was officially approved and became a Red Thread Sessions Photographer! I cannot wait to serve the broader adoption community in this way while I continue to serve all my families!