I’ve been wanting to sit down and find the time to write this blog post for awhile now. With October being pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, I felt this was a fitting time.
Let me start from the beginning. This is my longtime friend of almost 20 years, we’ve known each other since our early teens. We have been through the ups and downs of life together. Lots of laughter, silly fights, weeks spent together at our favorite Bible camp (shout out to Bair Lake Bible Camp!), probably liking the same boy at one point or another to meeting and dating our now husbands, being in each other’s weddings, being pregnant together, watching each other become a mother. So many memories with this girl. I love her dearly and I know she is a friend that will be in my life forever.
Her little boy Landon was born just a couple months before my Lincoln was born. It was fun seeing our bellies and boys grow together, even though she had since moved to Florida and we didn’t see each other often. One good thing about Facebook 😉 So when she got pregnant with her second, and me being the biggest baby lover on the planet, I was so super excited for her. She wanted the surprise again of not knowing the gender, which always killed me – and probably part of the reason why she wouldn’t find out, just to make me crazy 😉 She’s always wanted a little girl, and has had a girl name she has loved for the longest time.
I will never forget that day. That day I was playing tag at the park with my kids, when my phone rang. It was Joanna. She was just weeks away from delivery, so I got excited inside thinking she was calling to tell me she was on the way to the hospital, or maybe her little peanut arrived. When I answered the phone, I almost said, “Is the baby coming?!?!” but something inside me told me not to. I’m thankful that is not how I answered the phone that day. I said “Hey Jo, how are you?!”….and it was quiet for a minute on the other line….
“I lost the baby.”
I immediately felt like someone punched me in the gut and I ran out of the park, hopped a fence to get to a quiet place to talk to her. I just remember saying, “Joanna….no….no….NO!”
She went on to tell me she realized she hadn’t felt the baby moving in a bit….and so she was a little uneasy….so she tried to do everything they say to do to get baby to move. Still nothing, but she wasn’t really sure what was totally normal….she went to bed that night and went in to the doctors first thing that next morning….and the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. She was 36-37 weeks pregnant. My heart just broke into a million pieces for her. I couldn’t believe this was real. Her pregnancy was perfect with no complications, and she was weeks from delivery. I mean, you never think you’re going to lose your baby that close to delivery. You just don’t.
We talked for awhlie, and my mind was spinning in a million directions. They planned on delivering her via c section the next day. I just thought to myself, “I have to get to her. I have to be there. I have to hug her. I have to meet her baby. I want to photograph her baby. I have to look at flights. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this.” We continued to talk, she asked me some questions on what I thought she should do, if it was a little girl. Should she name her the name she has loved forever? Even though she wouldn’t even take a breath? Or save it in case she got pregnant again down the road. Ugh, I just couldn’t believe we were having this conversation. I remember telling her I didn’t know, that she had to make that decision, but if it were me, I don’t think it would feel right naming her something different, if it was a girl, because it’s the name I already planned to use.
We talked for a bit more, I told her how sorry I am, how I wish I was there, how I’m praying for her so much and we said goodbye. I was totally crushed and my eyes were filled with tears as I went and found my hubby in the park and told him. I went online to look at flights – but flying out the next day was $1k, and I just couldn’t swing it. I felt like I was failing her not being able to be there – on the worst day of her life. Oh how I wanted to be there.
I was able to go on Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep’s website, which is a organization where photographers donate their time and talents to parents who have lost their children. A beautiful gift. And not an easy one on the photographers I can imagine. I went online and was able to find a photographer in her area that would come to the hospital the next day and photograph her sweet baby.
She delivered a beautiful, perfect baby girl that next day. A girl. Oh how my heart broke even more in that moment. To finally have her little girl, and yet she was stillborn. Devastating. Meet Kylie Jo…
It’s not easy watching someone you love very much go through such deep loss. Within a 3 month period, I watched three of my closest friends go through great loss. First my girlfriend lost her mom suddenly, who was her best friend. Then Joanna lost Kylie. Then my other dear friend lost her dad suddenly. They were almost all exactly a month apart. So hard, so so hard.
Jo and I spent many days in the future talking about Kylie, how she felt, how she’s struggling, and just….remembering Ky. During one of our many talks, I told her that when she got pregnant again one day, that I was going to be there no matter what when her baby was born. I was flying myself to Florida – and if I couldn’t, well, I would hitch hike 🙂
On August 3rd – that day happened. Joanna welcomed a beautiful baby boy into this world. I knew this day would be hard. It would bring healing and so much joy, but also I knew it would bring memories. Memories of Kylie. Memories of going through surgery, to just be handed a baby you don’t get to take home. While photographing the birth was a big deal to me, more importantly I wanted to be there for her.
We had to be at the hospital super early that morning for her c section….and then right as she was about to be wheeled back a emergency c section came first and we had to wait. Gah, the nerves! She was in pretty good spirits though, nervous, but laughing and happy – which made me happy. It was the first c section I photographed where I was allowed in the OR. I was so thankful – we didn’t know forsure if it would be allowed – it was up to the anethesologist – and he said he was fine with it. I snapped a couple of her in the waiting room right when we got there… And then let her and Joel have some time together before they called me back. I was ready to go…and getting a little impatient 😉 Joel called me back, and Joanna was in good spirits and was getting ready to be wheeled off to surgery. We got back into the OR and all was going well so far. She was cracking jokes with the surgeon – and as she heard me snapping away asked me if I was taking pictures of her guts – LOL. Always a sense of humor that girl 🙂 Minutes later we welcomed baby Sawyer into this world!!!! What a perfect little bundle of joy!
I would say these photos were the high of the day. The joy of his safe arrival, we were all so thankful. It was the calm before the storm. The storm came soon after big brother Landon came to meet his baby brother. Joanna’s parents were in from Michigan and they stayed with Landon while Joanna was in the hospital. Joanna did not share the name with anyone, so it was a surprise. Landon knew his brother’s name though, and he was the one who was going to announce it to Grandpa and Grandma. Joel and Joanna named Sawyer after her dad….Rodney. Sawyer Rodney. Joanna is very close with her dad, and wanted to honor him in this way.
It was when she and Landon announced the name that the storm came. The tears came. Thoughts of Kylie. The daughter they were missing. All the emotions flooding back. It broke my heart to the core, as I tried to continue documenting this raw and emotional time, without completely sobbing myself. Oh Kylie, we haven’t forgotten you baby girl. In the midst of joy, happiness and love for this new little boy, Sawyer, there was grief, sadness and tears that Kylie wasn’t here.
Joanna requested this shot specifically….her three babies togeher. Landon is the one on the right on the phone, Kylie on the iPad and then little brother Sawyer laying next to his big siblings. Beautiful and heart wrenching all at the same time.
….And then Landon and Grandpa and Grandma Rounke came to meet the newest blessing…and brought us Chick-Fil-A! Yum.
When it was time to say goodbye to Landon and Grandpa and Grandma….these were the moments. The really really hard ones.
This was such a special day for me. To be able to be there to celebrate the birth of Sawyer….and also mourn the loss of Kylie once again. I love you Joanna, you are a brave and strong momma. We will talk about Kylie forever and ever my friend. Thank you for letting me document and share your story.
To all of you out there who have lost a baby….whether miscarriage, stillborn or a child who once lived, I’m so sorry. I’ve been through one miscarriage myself and I know the ache. Your babies will never be forgotten. Forever loved they will be.