“My daughter was born three months early. My whole life I was told I have several tumors in the center of my brain. My neurologist said I probably couldn’t have kids. I was three months pregnant with Ella Grace before I realized it. I started having problems after the 23rd or 24th week with blood pressure and preeclampsia. I pushed just to let her grow as long as she could. As long as she was okay, we would get through it. At the end, I was near a stroke. They sent me by ambulance to Women’s and Children’s because they couldn’t deliver her at Thomas. My kidneys were failing and everything was going bad. It was pouring down rain across the Bayway and my husband was following in his car. I was going in and out. I heard someone call my doctor saying tell us what to do, we have given her all of the medicine we can give her. I thought Ella and I were going to die. But God’s plans are always perfect.
Ella Grace wasn’t breathing when she was born and they resuscitated her. We spent the next two months in the hospital. I didn’t know about NICU or the Ronald McDonald House but they become my miracles. I was in ICU for a week. My husband got two days off work the whole time. He couldn’t lose his job because we couldn’t lose his insurance. I was alone and lived for the three-hour increments I saw Ella in the hospital. I couldn’t touch her, but I could feed her through the tubes. She had respiratory issues and would stop breathing. When we went home, she wore a monitor to alert us when she stopped breathing. Once it went off and I had to stop in the middle of her the road to get her breathing again. She couldn’t get sick and we had to keep her away from germs. My one job became to protect her. I became obsessed with germs and wiped down every surface and toy before I went to sleep at night. I felt so helpless.
They told us Ella wold be socially and developmentally delayed. I refused to accept that. When she was two, we started making a game out of learning. She is in first grade now and so smart. She is humble and loves Jesus. She is perfect. She is sweet as sugar, but fights for what is right.
My husband is my number one supporter. We didn’t have any money at the time but he bought me a white Canon camera to document everything with Ella. I learned so much about myself and God during that hardest time of my life, but I have very few photos. There were CPAP machines, chords, wires, and tubes. I didn’t want pictures because I just wanted the happy memories. The only photos I have are ones my husband, the nurses or friends took. I now cherish them more than anything because that is our story. It is hard as hell and it hurts. But one day that little baby who was two pounds is going to grow up. I will tell her she can do anything because God brought her from there to here.
Ella Grace got better and we all got better. I got into photography and reached out to the family services director at Ronald McDonald House to take pictures of families with babies in NICU. I wanted to serve families where the mama withdraws herself and feels alone because I was her. I tell parents don’t be afraid of the tubes and the wires and the heartbreak, they will come out on the other side and one day sit down with their baby. The first baby I photographed in NICU brought back flashbacks. The smells, the soap at the sink, seeing the same nurses. Photographing the moments in NICU became healing for me.
Birth is where each story begins. I shot the birth of my best friend’s baby. I knew nothing about birth because I didn’t go through that and didn’t get to witness the start of Ella’s life. I wanted to do that more. I have shot five births and get to document the first moments a mother touches her child. I am constantly in awe of these families and these moments. I get to see these babies grow up.
Don’t be ashamed of the places you were weak. Don’t be ashamed of the places you need to ask for help because that is going to be your greatest ministry. God is going to use those and light up someone’s life. Your darkest times will be the light of hope for someone else.”