Hi Mamas, happy Saturday. We have a very special Meet a Mom interview for you this morning! Today we are excited to feature Rachel Black, a Mom who is an inspiration to so many! She is the beautiful face behind Rowanberry & Lavender Photography. Rachel is a local Mom, a wonderful photographer, as well as an Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor. A woman of many trades but her beauty truly shines. Her interview really speaks volumes to how light really can radiate. One of my favorite things about Meet a Mom interviews, is not just learning more about the Moms – but also knowing that through each Mom sharing their journey another Mom somewhere is helped. This Mama promotes wellness from the inside out and her story and journey is inspirational and empowering. Rachel opens up her heart and shares all about her experiences in this interview and I have no doubt that it will give a Mom out there strength and hope for making your own future despite your past.
If you have been following along the past few months, I shared our family photo session that was such a joy thanks to Rachel! Her work is completely breathtaking, she has such a vibe about her that you just automatically feel comfortable and at ease around her. My kiddos were so comfortable, you’d think they had known her for years. When we got the images back, my heart literally burst with so much joy. She was not only able to take images, but she was able to help capture such a special moment for us – our 10 year wedding anniversary. If you see her work- you can instantly see the beauty she is able to capture in all of her photo shoots. Rachel is particularly fond of catching that perfect light for all of her clients. Something in Rachel’s website really captured our attention given what a strange 12 months we have lived through – Light is always around us and in the great words of Professor Dumbeldore, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town?
I was born and raised in Nashville, TN and move to Connecticut at 21 years old for school. After graduating I moved to Massachusetts for 2 years and then moved back to CT with my husband. After 15 years of living in New England we decided Cypress, TX would be a great place to raise and grow our family. We have now been here for almost a year but it feels like we’ve been here for 5 because everyone has been so wonderful despite the pandemic. Our neighbors are amazing and we feel that we have chosen the best community and plan to be here for many years to come!
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
We have a son, Rowan, who’s 7 years old and the sweetest little shy guy. He’s my muse and my everything.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I feel like I’m pretty open about it but people are always surprised to find out that in addition to being a photographer I am a Board-Certified Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor. Before moving to TX, I worked for a non-profit and had my own private practice while specializing in trauma of families and victims of gun violence, domestic and mass terrorism.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
My childhood wasn’t easy, though some may have seen it that way, but growing up in a dysfunctional family influenced my reason for attachment parenting. It’s also why I chose to become a therapist as well as an emotive style portrait and wedding photographer. My husband has been such a huge support. He has always been very hands on with our son when it comes to sports and even when Rowan was born he took all the night shifts. Our son is a very shy and sensitive kid but I’m grateful my husband is so gentle and understanding. Oddly enough, we rarely, if ever, have any disagreements about parenting. He also, has been Rowan’s hockey coach since he was 4 years old and it’s a bond that no words can describe.
Can you tell us more about attachment parenting and how you are incorporating it in your motherhood journey?
For me, growing up in a dysfunctional family with a mentally and physically-abusive-alcoholic father influenced my reason for attachment-style parenting. My father was a very successful man who raised us in a wealthy suburb of Nashville. We did all the things growing up that any normal family did, but every night at 5pm life became very volatile for us. My friends never saw that side of my dad because when they were around he held it together even at holiday gatherings. I am a very social and extroverted introvert because surrounding myself with friends has always made me feel protected and I love human contact because of this. I didn’t know what attachment parenting was until someone told me it’s what I was doing. I did more research when I became aware of this term which allowed me to further encourage this style for our family. Basically, we never did the cry-it-out method, we allowed co-sleeping until he was ready to transition into his own bed at 6 months and then he was in and out of our bed until 4 years old. He was skin to skin as soon as he was born via c-section and we often did baby-wearing versus strolling (believe me, it was tiring). He didn’t form attachments to stuffies or lovies for comfort, instead it was us. He learned to self-soothe at 8 months old when he got rid of the pacifier on his own and weaned himself off of the breast at 11months. We were also never rigid with routines (except school) and he is very flexible, always willing to compromise. I definitely think this depends on the child and the parent-work-life balance. As we know structured play, home life, and school makes kids feel very secure, however, as two full-time working parents we had to be flexible ourselves. Research also shows that attachment-parenting is also helpful with immunity and healing which could explain why Rowan has rarely been sick and why I was in and out of the hospital all my life with unexplainable illnesses and constant health problems as my body was in a constant state of stress.
As Rowan grows older we try to help him label his feelings, or self-identify and regulate his behaviors. He also has never seen us fight in front of him and we are very careful to always empathize but give consequences and rarely, if ever, use punishment or shame. At the same time we are nowhere near perfect, as we all have a tolerance threshold when it comes to toddlers and Rowan does not always like to express his feelings. Boundaries are essential to health and survival and we try to lead by example of what they look and feel like. Of course this could all look very different if we were able to have more children.
The dysfunction and violence in my childhood is also why I chose to become a therapist as well as an emotive style portrait and wedding photographer. My husband laughs because every person I meet or client becomes my friend as they often open up to me and I empathize with every personality type. My favorite quote to live by is “it’s hard to hate someone when you know their past and why they are hurting.” I have no room for any hate in my heart, even for my father who had a very terrible childhood himself. My therapist said I was born into this world with a purpose but I have to be careful not to try to “fix” everyone. I suppose God has some bigger plans for me, lol.
As far as my husband is concerned, John has been such a huge support. He has always been very hands on with our son and agrees with our parenting style. When it comes to sports he’s so involved and even when Rowan was born he took all the night shifts and helped with doctors appointments, haircuts, and etc. Our son is a very shy and sensitive kid (perhaps, in part, from the attachment style) but I’m grateful my husband is so gentle and understanding. Oddly enough, we rarely, if ever, have any disagreements about parenting. He also has been Rowan’s hockey coach since he was 4 years old and it’s a bond that no words can describe.
I do think that our parenting has influenced Rowan’s sensitive demeanor and some days I wonder if we messed it all up. I ask myself, is he going to be a failure to launch kid? Will he be independent and confident in himself to follow his goals? Will he set boundaries or will he be an impulsive follower? No matter the outcome we’ll work through it and we’ll probably make a lot of mistakes along the way as long as we hold ourselves accountable and be willing to forgive. I just keep telling myself, I would rather have loved this kid too hard than not enough and that’s okay with me. I harbor no anger towards my father because my child, while not perfect, is evidence that as long as unconditional love persists then epigenetics is real. Meaning, we have physically and chemically changed our genes to stop the abuse and hopefully halt any diagnosis of bipolar polar disorder or other acute mental illness for future generations. I remind myself daily that we broke the cycle, together as a family, and we should always be proud of that.
Can you share with us your favorite things to do with your family around town?
We live in Bridgeland and chose this neighborhood for the amazing amenities. Since our son came from a Waldorf school we are outside 90% of the day, if it’s not a school day of course. Between sports and outdoor activities here in Cypress we stay very busy! We made the difficult decision to not give our son a device when he was little. It was hard at first but it became the norm since most of his school friends also didn’t have one either. No judgement on families who do because what works for mine may not work for others and I’m all about freedom of choice! We do feel very lucky and blessed that Rowan as always been a very introverted adventure seeker. His demeanor worked well in our favor and helped make the decision easier. That being said, we love kayaking, peddle boats, Rock climbing, and biking at every opportunity – especially since Bridgeland has over 200 trails and the even provide storage for kayaks, etc. Living in Bridgeland has been great because they have tons of parks and playgrounds, sometimes they have yoga or movie nights. Rowan’s favorite thing since moving here is fishing and we are looking forward to crawfish farming soon! We all love live music and have gone to just about every outdoor restaurant offering live music since the beginning of the pandemic. We also enjoy going to all of the farmer’s markets, particularly Rowan. I think the biggest thing for us was being able to find a wonderful ice skating rink and luckily we found 2, Aerodrome and Pro Ambitions Hockey academy. I don’t think people realize how much Hockey blood runs deep across the country and we have met so many transplants here who make sure Hockey is not a forgotten sport down here! As for things we look forward to doing, we cannot wait to visit to the space center, zoo, and theme parks when things look a bit more promising with Covid-19 as well taking some road trips to San Antonio and Austin!
Favorite local things to do in the Cypress area?
Towne Lake board walk is at the top of the list because of all the restaurants, shopping, and the atmosphere of kids running around, live music, and holiday events. Fairfield sport association has been really great for Baseball. Also, Inspire Rock gym is by far the most incredible place for kids and adults. We’re so happy to be so close to a climbing gym where we can all participate in.
Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
I hope to be back up and running with my Art Therapy groups and practicing again soon, But until then I’ll be focusing on photographing families and couples here in Texas! Looking forward to offering a fun Mommy & Me Mini session in March or April as well as other exciting Spring & Summer opportunities.
How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
The Local Moms Network made it easy for us while living in CT. I watched the social media page religiously to find out what cool events were happening and whether or not some of the events may have provided any opportunity for networking or sharing my business with other moms. Naturally when we decided to make the move to Cypress I looked to see if there was a chapter down here and sure enough there was an it happened to be run from a fellow CT transplant! I have always enjoyed the community shares through the Moms network and a so grateful for this platform. It has allowed me to meet so many moms that have become friends who have trusted me as both a photographer and a therapist while helping to grow both of my businesses.