Jennifer was pregnant with her first child. She was so excited to have a little girl, and everything seemed to be going smoothly. There was a problem with her labor, and before she knew it, she was having an emergency C-section. Her husband watched as things went from the usual stresses of labor, to suddenly fearing that he might lose his child and his wife. Monitors were beeping, doctors and nurses were rushing around. His daughter wasn’t breathing while his wife was also struggling. He was terrified.
His daughter went to the NICU. Jennifer was able to recover. They visited their daughter, but were unable to take her home. She was in the NICU for 5 weeks and was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy. Her blood samples were being flown to doctors all over the world, but no one seemed to have any answers. After her 5 week stay in the NICU, Jennifer and her husband were able to take their little girl home, but only for a little while. Something went wrong and they rushed to the ER where she was intubated. This stay at the hospital, their baby wasn’t alone. Her Grandpa was at the hospital, too.
Jennifer and her husband were able to bring their baby home again, but this time, she was brought home on hospice. She needed oxygen constantly and had a G-Tube for feedings. She had spasms and twitches very frequently. Despite all she had been through, all of the tubes and needles, she remained a sweet and happy baby.
When I first spoke with Jennifer about taking some photos, she said, “I just want one picture of her without all of the tubes and wires. I want a picture I can hang on the wall where she just looks like my baby. My husband and I don’t know how long we will have her with us so we want to make sure we capture everything we can with her.” I was able to go to their home for a photo session. I brought some sweet outfits and headbands as well as a bunch of other stuff that made it look like I was moving in. I met this sweet baby girl. She was finishing her tube feeding, she was connected to an oxygen pump, and she also had monitors monitoring her heart rate. Some of the “usual poses” would not be possible, but we carefully and gently got this little cutie into a few different outfits and photographed her. She only grunted at me once as if to say, “Hey lady, I don’t want me legs like that,” but the rest of the session she was content, curious, and aware. I would wait until she had her spasm, then quickly place her hands where I wanted them and take the picture quickly, because I knew the next spasm was coming. During the session, I watched as Mom and Dad were so thrilled to see their baby looking like the princess they know she is. I saw how they care for her and how she has taken up a huge space in their hearts and their home. The white board with the feeding time schedule sits on the mantle. The caddy with her band aid/stickers that keep her tubes in place sits on the ottoman. It was a privilege to get to be a part of their lives for a few hours.
I came back a few weeks later for their ordering appointment. Grandma was holding the baby while we all watched her video and made choices about which pictures she wanted printed. There were many really good ones, but we all knew which one would be the 20×30 hung above the fireplace. Baby girl seemed to be doing really well. Dad even said, “Who knows, maybe we’ll make it to one year. I’ll help her smash the cake.”
However, a few weeks later I received the email:
This week, we go to a funeral. My heart is aching. I am so grateful that I got to capture these images for this sweet family. I’m grateful I got to meet this sweet angel baby. My heart is sad for Jennifer and her family. I know they see their baby in hummingbirds and feel her presence near them. I wish them love during this time. I am deeply sorry for your loss.