Saturday, September 28, 2013

witnessing loss...and love

 Last week, I was asked to photograph a baby who was just a few hours old, but was only expected to live a few mere hours. Of course I said I would. I have done maybe 5 infant loss sessions, but this one was different. Usually when I photograph a loss, the infant had already passed away, whether it was in utero or shortly after birth (in which case I never made it by the time the baby passed away). This little one was still alive.
 His parents knew that their little one would soon pass away shortly after birth, as he had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is a genetic syndrome that is usually not compatible with life, unlike trisomy 21 which is downs syndrome. Many trisomy 18 babies never even make it to full term and survive, let alone be born alive. This little boy, who we will call "J" was born at 40+ weeks. He was a sweet little chucky boy, weighing in at over 8 pounds.
 I was very nervous for this shoot. I had not yet experienced a situation where a baby was born and the family just...waits. I didn't know how the family was responding to this situation, and how they would be when I was taking photographs. Finally I built up enough courage and headed to their hospital room. When I entered the room, mom was snuggling J in her arms. Looking at him, he looked so so so perfect. Looked just like any other baby. He was beautiful.
 I snapped away photos of him and his mommy, him and his daddy, and him and his 6 others brothers and sisters. There was so much love in that room. Everyone was rubbing J's head, rocking him, kissing him.
Then it hit me. They were not mourning the loss that was about to come, but they were celebrating the time that they had with him, right then and there. Taking in his little newborn noises, his scant amount of sweet newborn hair, his pink lips and tiny little noise. That little boy had nothing but pure love surrounding him. I'm only reminded of this even more as I sit down and edit these photos. I hope these will comfort this family in the years ahead.

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