As some of you may know, a short while ago I spent the weekend shooting 14 mini sessions for some lovely ladies from a group called M.O.P.S. One of these ladies was a friend of mine, Monica. She, along with her husband and two adorable boys, booked a mini session with me for that particular weekend, and I could not wait to capture these adorable faces (I've taken their photos in the past, and honestly, they're just the cutest family!). However, one family member was both missing and present; her name is Stella Mae.
During these family sessions, I like to break up the kiddos and shoot just the boys, or girls. In this case, it was only fitting to honor Stella with her very own photo.
This beautiful little pillow was handcrafted by the talented Roberta at Delightfully Chaotic.
"Stella" means star, so of course, a star pillow was perfect for her:
Stella was stillborn at 21 weeks on April 16, 2016 due to a birth defect called anencephaly. This means she did not have a brain or cranial vault (top portion of her skull). This happens when the neural tube doesn't close as it should 20-30 days after conception. Researchers haven't found any concrete reasons why this happens. They've found possible reasons (folic acid deficiency, MTHFR gene mutation are a few), but unfortunately in her case we will never know exactly why. She was 12oz and 8" long, and Monica said she had the longest fingers and toes that she'd ever seen.
Monica hadn't originally intended to bring the pillow with her to this session. On a total whim, feeling a bit silly, I sent her a message barely an hour before her session, asking if there was anything she'd like to bring along to honor her beautiful daughter with during the photos. She instantly replied yes, and later told me that she so wanted to bring the pillow along, but felt like others might think it's strange. I found it to be nothing but beautiful and heartwarming to see this family loving and remembering this little girl who was with them for such a brief period of time, but clearly brought so much joy to their hearts, and still does today. Her big brother Levi carried that little pillow around everywhere during their session, playing with it, hugging and loving on it. We even took a moment to simply capture Monica and her husband, Steve, dancing together while their kiddos looked on and laughed/smiled at them.
It was perfect.
So many women I know have experienced the loss of a child, myself included. I've felt the emotional and physical pain of bleeding far, far too early. I've sat in the doctor's office, where the sonogram tech looks at you and says that there's no blood flow, no longer a heartbeat, felt the sickening effects of anesthesia and procedures when things just "don't go as planned"... The pain is indescribable, and lasting. We all grieve differently, but I absolutely believe that there is no wrong way to grieve those you've lost, no wrong way to honor those who you've loved, even for a brief moment of time. I felt both humbled and incredibly honored to capture these images, and hope they brought Monica and her family a bit of healing and joy. I love you, darling little Stella Mae; you have a beautiful, wonderful family.