Extended Family

Several months ago I was contacted by my friend, Erin, asking me to photograph her amazing extended family from New Zealand. However, this wasn't just a run-of-the-mill photo shoot for some out of town family, this family had an amazing origin story and it's best told through Erin's words.

Photos are below and I couldn't adore this big, happy family more!:

People always want to know why we didn’t have more children. The truth is, like most couples, we agonized over deciding when and how much to grow our family. I**** was conceived as a plan a full year before she ever became a tiny heartbeat in my uterus. She came to us easily and effortlessly – right on schedule. Overnight, parenthood became our greatest purpose. Before you have kids, everyone wants to know when you plan to start, and likewise, once you have your first, everyone wants to know when the next one is coming along. Babies – tiny people – are magical. No wonder whole tribes surround anxious couples with expectant anticipation of their arrival. Those who struggle with infertility spend years, millions of dollars, rivers of tears and parts of themselves to grow their families. When P*** and I used to watch newborn I**** sleep – totally captivated by nothing more than her ‘being’ – we couldn’t get over how lucky we were.

Our family story is different than most. We spent years wavering back and forth on whether to have more kids of our own. Years punctuated with a miscarriage, natural disasters and moves that made for inconvenient pregnancy timing, and a sense of confusion about whether our threesome could feel like “enough”. But in the background of our own journey, an unexpected door opened and we had the opportunity to help another family grow.

So once upon a time, in the Land of the Long White Cloud, we helped our friends conceive their three children – I****’s 3 half-brothers. We hurdled over legal hoops, got ethics approvals, checked boxes, endured cold clinic waiting rooms and proved our mental competencies with mandatory group therapy sessions. We had awkward conversations about expectations and feelings and sperm motility and uterine lining. All along, P*** and I were grateful to be a means to an end – the invisible elves that swoop in to cobble shoes (or conceive babies) and then tiptoe out by morning. We gave space and never wanted to assume that our small part meant we were owed anything in return. But instead of wanting us to quietly fade into the background, A & S set a place for us at the table and asked us to take a seat.

By their generosity, we have been given the best gifts in the world. And so, we have spent the last 7+ years being deeply enriched by our unique connection, and our shared family. Our whānau. The hardest part about leaving New Zealand was knowing how far we’d be from them. P*** and I have been given the greatest gifts in the world – the chance to fiercely love, witness and be a part of their daily lives (even if across the planet). Thinking about I****’s deep, heartfelt connection to the boys leaves me speechless. It’s indescribable. Her only regret in life is that they do not live across the street. Last September we flew back to the Southern Hemisphere and spent 3 weeks together – the highlight of her year. Today, our New Zealand family flies across the world to visit us in Austin for the first time before we embark on an epic road trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.

Our story and our family took unusual turns. We are a threesome, and at the same time, we’re an eightsome. We relish the treasures of both. We are so lucky and so grateful.