Motherhood begins the moment you find out you’re carrying a child. Your life changes. From what you put into your body to the risks you’re willing to take, everything you do is now influenced by that tiny being growing inside you. You’re committed. You’re a mother before you ever lay eyes on your child. Your heart is filled with hope and wonder… and fear. Every day that you’re pregnant, you hope and pray that your child is doing well inside you. You would give anything, ANYTHING, to make sure that your baby is healthy and strong. Nine months.
“Come on, baby… nine months. Stay strong, baby. Keep kicking. Come on little heart, keep beating.”
The doctors poke and prod and test… they want to make sure everything is doing well and after each test, your chest is tight. You’re hoping everything is as it should be.
“Please let all the test results come back normal. Father in heaven, touch this baby.”
I have four children. Each one of those pregnancies was a blessing, each birth a miracle. I had four full term babies, all strong and healthy. I rejoiced at each birth, and at the joy of being able to take my baby home the next day. I’ve never lost a baby. I’ve never had a baby in the NICU. I’ve never had to experience that kind of pain. But my heart… Oh, my heart hurts for the mothers who have! It is something I cannot begin to fathom…
"My miracle baby, Ximena, is a rainbow baby born after a stillbirth I had last year at 35 weeks. Ximena was born at 27 weeks, 1 day, due to low amniotic fluid and preeclampsia. She weighed 1lb, 6oz."
My own mother knows the pain. I grew up knowing that a mother never recovers from that loss. My mother had five miscarriages before I was born. I was her rainbow baby. Her miracle. The thing that doctors told her that her body would not do... And I grew up knowing how incredibly blessed she felt when she had me. But that never erased the loss she experienced.
Gratitude. That’s what I feel, more than anything, when I see these babies in the NICU. These tiny little babies, who have to fight so hard for their own survival. These parents who are there every day, all day, talking to their tiny little miracles, encouraging them, touching and holding them whenever possible, praying over them… and hoping.
When I found out about The Tiny Footprints Project, the photographer in me recognized an opportunity to give back to the community. The Tiny Footprints Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. They match affiliated photographers with families of infants living in the NICU to provide one complimentary lifestyle portrait session and one complimentary downloadable gallery with the digital images from the session. As a newborn photographer, contributing in this way was a no-brainer. It was my heart’s way of paying it forward.
What it’s like in the NICU.
Walking through the NICU, you are confronted by a feeling of protectiveness. Everything inside you wants to just pull all of those babies close to you and hold them tight until they are big, strong, healthy babies. But you can’t even touch them. They’re so tiny and fighting for life. So you pray for them and their families and you head to the baby you are there to see.
You look at the parents. They’re smiling. The nurses are smiling. It’s quiet and calm. The place is filled with hope. Filled with a spirit of strength.
"My son was born 23 weeks. At 32 weeks he is doing amazing for only having had a 10% chance of living. He truly is my miracle baby."
You watch as mom takes her tiny baby from the plastic incubator. She’s smiling as she nestles the baby against her chest. This tiny baby that’s barely bigger than her hands… SMILES BACK! Yes, that is the most miraculous thing of all… these tiniest of babies smile when they hear, smell, and feel their moms. Babies that leave their mothers’ bodies months before they were supposed to… KNOW their moms. They respond. And the babies thrive the most when they get the most skin to skin contact with mom. How incredible is that???
I wish there was a way for me to accurately convey what it is like to witness all of this. It is emotional. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming, all in the same breath.
And it makes me want to go home and squeeze my babies to me.
"Lori is an exceptional photographer, and was my first choice for capturing images of my son for his senior pictures!! She made him feel at ease immediately, traveled to the locations he was interested in, and captured who he is perfectly!" ~ Tonia R.
Lori Stead is a fine art portrait photographer in Corpus Christi, TX. She enjoys creating maternity, newborn, seniors, couples, family, children, and boudoir portraits. She is also a wife, mother of four, and adventurer.