This week I cannot wait to introduce you to Mindy Rainey, a local photographer specializing in family, maternity and newborn shoots. Mindy is one STRONG momma! As some of you may know, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month occurs every October. During the entire month, we take time to honor and remember those who have lost a child during pregnancy or lost a child in infancy. In respect to this month, Mindy has been brave enough to share her personal story with us.
Hi Mindy, thank you so much for being here. We are honored to interview you. Where are you from originally and How long have you lived in Santa Barbara? What made you decide to live here?
I grew up in Los Angeles and have lived in Santa Barbara for five and a half years. We moved here from Riverside because my husband got a job here with an IT company.
Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
I am a photographer! I specialize in maternity, newborn, and family photos. I just love watching my families grow and capturing those little moments that are over before we know it. I’m not about perfectly posed photos. I think real life is beautiful and while I do some gentle, simple posing, I really just let my clients guide me with their interactions and relationships.
I started my business not long after we moved here. It’s been about 5 years. I graduated from California Baptist University with a degree in Graphic Design. Towards the end of my program I took a couple of photography classes and fell in love. I enjoyed it more than design, I trusted my instincts and talent more, and it just felt much more natural than design ever did. I am still very largely self taught because I only got a couple of introductory courses in before I graduated. I decided to focus on maternity/newborn because I find the journey to mother just amazing. It’s not always easy, and everyone is so happy during maternity and newborn photos. It’s such a special time in a family’s life and I love being there to document it!
How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
We have four daughters- Pyper is 6.5, Allie is 3.5, Norah is 1.5, and McKenzie is our daughter who was stillborn in January 2015. We lost her at 24 weeks due to Trisomy 18.
Would you mind sharing with us more about McKenzie and what Trisomy 18 is?
One thing a mama of loss fears is that their child who is very real, will be forgotten. I’m more than happy to share anything about our story. The quick answer is that everything was fine until our 20 week ultrasound. We found out then that McKenzie had several major complications including a deformed skull due to the bones fusing too early (this usually starts around 2 years old), and at the time what looked like one heart malformation (an ultrasound with a cardiologist showed another, far more devastating complication with her heart), amongst others. It was an incredible blow to our excitement, we had our then 1.5 year old at the appointment and our worlds were turned upside down. We opted to have an amniocentesis performed so that we could get a correct diagnosis and be prepared for what would need to be done at birth. Then we had an agonizing two week wait where we went through extreme emotions of hope for a miracle, preparing ourselves for life with a medically fragile child, and everything in between and beyond. We then received her diagnosis of Trisomy 18. It’s similar to Down’s Syndrome which is Trisomy 21- it’s an extra copy of the chromosome on the 18th pair. It wrecks havoc on the body and is considered incompatible with life. McKenzie was born sleeping on January 30th, 2015. Just thinking of that day brings tears to my eyes. It’s the only time I got to hold my baby girl. We had a small memorial service with family in Los Angeles where she is resting in the same cemetery as my grandfather, uncle, and countless friends and family. Navigating life after such a tragic loss is something I am still figuring out.
Yes, I’m not sure how a parent can, other than to lean on your friends and family and be strong and present for your other children.
I’ve been able to use my experience with multiple clients to help them walk through moments of grief. I’ve had two clients have to bury their own babies, and one who I met after her loss. I didn’t have as much support as I needed when I lost McKenzie, and being vocal about our loss has allowed clients to open up to me, and rely on me for support. Although I hate that other families know this pain, I’m grateful that they don’t have to walk through this alone. We had our rainbow baby less than a year later on January 18th. It’s incredible to remember what that year was like for my family.
Did your other children understand what happened to McKenzie?
We only had my oldest at the time, Pyper. She was not even two yet, but she has always been incredibly smart and spoke very well, very early. She understood much more than you would think a two year old could. We had some pretty amazing experiences with Pyper through all of this. Even still she’ll randomly say that she feels McKenzie in her heart. It’s such a special, though incredibly difficult, situation to be in. I was pregnant with Allie three months later, she’s our middle. She’s now 3.5. She knows about McKenzie and though it’s a much harder concept to grasp for her, she gets sad sometimes when she talks about her. We have a few stuffed animals, mainly elephants, that we use to help us remember McKenzie. It’s pretty sweet to see them want to snuggle them.
That is so sweet and special. You and your husband have done an amazing job coping and being incredible parents. What’s your favorite family activity in Santa Barbara?
We love the beach! Now that all of our girls are old enough to really enjoy the ocean, and digging in the sand it’s our go-to way to get out of the house. We also love taking walks around Lake Los Carneros and exploring the Ellwood Bluffs. Jordan and the girls like to go an adventures when I’m working and we have found a lot of fun places that way as well.
Where is your favorite place to eat and/or shop in Santa Barbara?
We really love Padaro Beach Grill. It’s so nice that the girls can play and eat and we often run into friends there. The food is delicious, and we always grab milkshakes on our way home. The girls always love getting ice cream on the pier and going to the candy store too, and they love watching the boats go in and out of the harbor.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I love music. Like a lot. Whether I am dancing or singing, or laughing at the cuteness of my girls singing and dancing, there’s music on more often than not in our house. Dance parties are a regular occurrence around here. I’m currently obsessed with the soundtrack from A Star Is Born.
And I love documentaries. Whether it’s about food, science, surfing, history, the universe, rock climbing, all of it.
How do you balance work/ mom life?
That’s a great question and something I am really working on. I really try to work only when my girls are napping, and when they’re in bed at night. Working from home means that my work is always right there, and it can so tempting to get a little more editing done, or send out one more email. But it can, and needs to wait. My girls are only little once, and I don’t want to regret later on that I put too much focus on work. Sometimes if I really need extra work done, my husband will get the girls dinner and do the bedtime routine so that I can go somewhere quiet and focus. It’s a huge team effort between the two of us.
You two are a great team. What is the best advice given as a parent?
As cliche as it is, the best advice I’ve gotten is to just enjoy my kids while they’re young. I’m not having any more kids and I can’t believe my youngest is already 1.5 years old. It really does go so quickly so I’m trying to be more present than I have been in the past. It’s easy to wish away the long, tedious days, but there are also a lot of magical moments sprinkled throughout and I feel like photography has helped me see those glimpses. I pull my camera out more often for my girls so that I can remember them at this age. And I just let them be them and they are always some of my favorite photos.
What are a few of the most recent things you’ve pinned on Pinterest and/or who do you follow on Instagram?
I’m currently planning our third annual Halloween Party so I’ve been pinning decor and snack ideas for that-
And like many moms I am always looking for new, easy, budget friendly recipes-
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
My husband really helps keep me grounded. We aren’t perfect parents by any means, but we make goals and work on them together. We talk about what changes we need to make in ourselves, in our parenting, or things we girls need, and we help each other follow through. My mom is my best friend. We talk almost daily and she gives the most amazing advice!
How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
I have had so much support from clients who return year after year, as my talents have grown. So many have remained loyal and supportive and that means so much to me. I’ve also connected with several photographers who have encouraged me, shared their knowledge with me, and serve as an inspiration for where I can be one day with hard work. When we lost our daughter, a local photographer graciously offered maternity photos as well as birth photos free of charge so that I could have those special memories forever. Her doing that solidified my desire to help others remember the times in their lives that they’ll never get back.
Mindy thank you for sharing your story and showing us your heart. You are brave, strong, and certainly an inspiration to all mommas everywhere.
Even though we recognize all of October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th is considered Remembrance Day. It offers a day of remembrance to parents, family, and friends for pregnancy loss and infant death. I would like to share with you what Mindy posted on this day last week;
“Today we celebrate the babies lost too soon. Those who never took a breath but were loved every single second they were carried by their mamas, and those who left this earth too soon.
Mamas, I see you. I am you.
Today I miss my baby. And my heart is aching for some of my friends who are honoring this day as well. Many days this pain feels wildly unfair, and other days I’m also grateful for the women I have connected with who have been examples to me of faith, growth, and strength.
I carried McKenzie for 24 weeks. Labored for 23 hours to hold her for 1. And I carry her with me, all day, every day. She is part of my heart. My soul. “
Mindy, you are extraordinary. Your journey shows growth, strength and gives other families courage. If you are looking for a fabulous photographer for family, maternity and newborn shoots Mindy would love to meet you. She focuses on relaxed photos- wanting her clients to have fun, because it shows in their photos. Check out her website and give her a follow!