We are a testament to "it takes a village." When our girls' were in the NICU our village wasn't our care teams alone - it spanned outside the walls of the hospital, across county and state lines through prayer, love, encouragement and help to get us through one of the most challenging chapters of our lives. People we didn't even know were in our village. One of the most comforting acts was a card from another NICU family. Pretty sure they witnessed my breakdown in the NICU and felt moved to support us when they were navigating their own NICU journey. It included these four words - "you are not alone," a prayer for our family and a gift card. They didn't know us, they didn't know our story, yet provided us comfort in knowing we were in this together and had each other to get through the days ahead. Josh and I knew we had to do the same for another family - there were so many babies, so many families praying for miracle. So we did without hesitation! Our godsend of a primary care nurse helped us with gifting our small token of sympathy and support to another family in need.
Our girls came home, a new normal began. I couldn't shake my experience or let go knowing other families were still there there or the mamas who were longing to hold their babies and couldn't. So I did what I knew I could do - I prayed. One Sunday, our preacher was speaking about God's purpose for our lives and how we don't know what it is, but everything is shaping us for His purpose. The next Sunday was speaking about the gifts God gives us and how can we serve Him. And I knew how I could serve others - my photography. I wanted to support a NICU family by gifting them a newborn session. I didn't have all the details ironed out on who, what, when or how - but I had the why and I knew God would lead the rest of the way.
One night I jumped on Instagram, tried recording a few stories about what I wanted to do and then continued to get cut off - so I was like... I'll just do a live stream. WHAT?! I had never gone live on a platform like this. What was I thinking?! I wasn't. I just knew I had to get the words out of me and into motion. It wasn't planned or scripted, there weren't many people listening - but I started talking, sharing small pieces of our story, I cried... a lot, and asked for friends to help connect me with a NICU family.
Since then, I have photographed beautiful stories, strong mothers and warrior babes. All of our stories are different, but our hearts are all healing from similar experiences. I am so grateful for the families who have allowed me to play a small part in their journey and shared their stories with me. I am thankful they have allowed me to share their stories in hope to support a mama or family walking through their own NICU journey and give them strength to know they are not alone.
I know a welcome home session will never replace the time a mother wasn't able to hold their baby after birth or coming home home following discharge. It will never replace the daily marking of a NICU visitor tag. My intention is to never replace these things or to overwrite the experience - I want to celebrate these journeys and spread joy through capturing a glimpse into their new chapter - home.
No one can prepare you for the NICU - it is a special, beautiful, life changing place. Said best by one of my dearest friends "it's a club you never want to be a part of and can't understand these feelings unless you're in the club." If you find yourself in the club and need a friend, reach out to me - I am here for you, I am in your village and you are not alone.