When photographer Jennifer Ryals in Texas was asked to do a lifestyle newborn photoshoot for an 8-week-old nephew who was just released from the hospital, she hesitated.
“I don’t know where to start this honestly, I don’t photograph newborns. Not my thing.”
However, she loved lifestyle portraits, and something was tugging at her heart. For this reason, she agreed to do the shoot. When she brought out her schedule to plan the appointment, the boy’s mom said, “Can you do the session tomorrow? We don’t have much time.”
As it turns out, the baby named Aiden was born with Microcephaly, a medical condition in which the brain does not develop properly, leading to a smaller-than-normal head. The doctors thought he would be a stillborn, but despite the odds, he was born and fought for his life the past eight weeks.
Ryals didn’t know Aiden’s exact condition until she saw him for herself.
“When I was contacted initially, all I was told was that he was just released from the hospital and she didn’t know how much time he had. I didn’t really ask for more details so when I showed up and saw him for myself, I was completely surprised.”
“He was so tiny. So perfect. As soon as his mom brought him in to the room, I was immediately teary-eyed. But they weren’t tears of sadness or pity, it was genuinely pure joy. He was the cutest little fighter I have ever seen in my life. He had BEAUTIFUL gray eyes that he let me see for about 3 seconds, and he had the tiniest little wrinkled hands that held more experience and knowledge than the average adult.”
Ryals immediately joined the family in doing the bittersweet photoshoot. As she did the portraits with the parents, she asked the them about Aiden. She likes to interact with clients to get a better feel of their story so she can tell it properly through her photos.
“As I did the portraits with his parents, I asked them to tell me a little bit about Aiden. I was nervous to ask, but I wanted to really get to know them. I wanted to know their heart, their emotions, and their dreams. I value building connections with each and every client I have because I feel like their story can’t be told the way it deserves to be if I don’t. If you didn’t know – if you ever want to see the most genuine smile a parent ever has ever had, ask them to talk about their kids.”
“Ricky, Aiden’s dad, immediately started gushing about his little fighter. He told me, ‘Aiden was supposed to be a stillborn, but he came out screaming and has been fighting ever since.’ That was the first time I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hold back my tears. His beautiful mom, Kayla, had this glow on her face that didn’t leave her the entire session, even through the more somber moments.”
When the shoot was over, Ryals could not stop crying. She began editing the photos and stressed over them.
“I cried and prayed and yelled and cried some more the entire 45-minute drive home. I stressed all day and night over the images and even went to sleep early (early being 2 a.m.) because I had re-edited the entire gallery (272 images) at least 7 times. I needed to just step away from it for a bit. They HAD to be perfect.”
The next morning, Ryals received a message from Aiden’s aunt who had booked the shoot saying that he passed away this morning.
“I wanted to believe it was a mistake or a dream, but I felt in my heart I didn’t have the RIGHT to be grieving when his family must be feeling things I could never imagine. My heart is shattered for that family that loved that baby so much. My heart hurts for my kids that I don’t appreciate as much as I should all the time. In that moment ,as I sat there in bed crying, looking at my two sleeping boys, I could hear my voice playing back every single time I’ve yelled at them. I could feel every tear they ever shed into my chest, that I didn’t think I had time for at the moment. And I could feel a part of myself dying at the thought I could one day be without my children. But my heart is also full with gratitude because I know I am a better person for being allowed in their home and for getting a chance to hold that perfect little boy for a while yesterday.”
Ryals always lives with anxiety and depression, which causes her to constantly doubt herself. However, this inspiring photoshoot gave her a new perspective.
“God is speaking to me through the love, life, pain, and suffering of others and I am thankful He uses me to help bring healing. I do what I do because EVERY life deserves to be captured. Your story matters, and it deserves to be remembered.”
Please share this story with your friends and family members to encourage them to cherish every moment and love what matters most.
Source: Love What Matters