It was an email that made my heart sink into my stomach. I sat there staring at my computer screen, blurred vision from the tears welling in my eyes, trying to comprehend what she was asking. What she had experienced. What her family was dealing with. I think I re-read her email over a dozen times. I don’t remember what I typed back to her, but I know I did it choking back tears. I hugged my kids just a little tighter that night and I laid in bed, sleepless for hours.
The week leading up to my time with them was hard. If I was being honest, it was difficult. I was in my head more than ever. I was nervous and scared. The mounting pressure was suffocating. I pleaded silently to the universe for strength, clarity and perfect execution. And in the same moment, I was honored and touched. To even be asked to be a part of something so intimate and real. As an artist and having a thirst for all things documentary, I crave things like this. Right? But as a mother, a woman and a friend? I cried a lot that week. It was the worst contradiction.
I found myself pouring through her blog, reading the past two years of her life in order to understand the situation, to gain even an ounce of the pain and a glimpse of the heart ache. As dark as it may seem, I guess I was trying to connect. With anything. In any way that I possibly could. To make sure that I could document my time with them in a way that it needed to be. That she needed. That they needed. I believe in the power of photography and the healing that can happen through a photograph. And there I stood, facing it head on and needing to deliver. Needing to deliver something. I really never knew quite what it was, I just knew she was needing this.
You see, Stephanie has created and loved five little beings in her lifetime. Three of them stand by her side today. And two of them reside in her heart. For the time being. Two years ago, she delivered Baby Jack. Who was stillborn. The beginning of this year, she delivered Baby Piper. Who was stillborn. They both shared the exact same due date. May 28th. So on the anniversary of Baby Jack’s birth date and what would have been Baby Piper’s actual one, Stephanie asked if I would document their family as they celebrated both.
I knocked on the door and tried to swallow down the knot in my throat. I sent the last of my silent pleads out to the universe, hoping they would be heard. The door opened and I stepped inside. I spent the next several hours documenting the five of them. Celebrating the seven of them. On May 28th – blurred vision and all.