I gave birth to Kaleb, but he birthed me into God’s purpose. Did you ever ask yourself what would my life look like if it turned out a different way? Many times I asked myself that question as my son was fighting for his life with a 5% chance of survival at birth. Kaleb was born prematurely 13 weeks early, weighing 1lb 10 oz, 12 inches long and fitting in the palm of my hand. That is not a story that you wish to hear from anyone. But day in and day out 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely. Some for health reasons on the part of the mother, the baby’s health, and some it is unknown. We struggle as parents wondering what we did wrong, how could we have avoided delivering early until we are blaming ourselves for it. Today I am here to tell you as a surviving mother of a premature baby that premature birth happens, it is not prejudiced. Premature birth affects all races, socioeconomic status, ages, and women all over the world.
When my son was born, I wanted to hide and not talk to anyone, but a wise woman pulled me out of my isolation and had me sharing my story before I could blink. She was the vehicle to make me see premature birth in a different light; a light that would make me care about others even though I was hurting. She encouraged me to go on and live with my son because he was a miracle.
Today he is a happy little boy. He is 9 years old and just full of life. The road here was not easy, but the journey to going home from the NICU was priceless. Join me as we wish our happy little miracle, Kaleb, a Happy Birthday!
In the words of director Andrew Stanton, “make me care.” By saying this to you, it is simple, a great story will make you care. Here at The Gift of Life, we have many stories, some that will make you laugh, some that will make you cry, and some that will make you feel good that you listened to it. These stories are what bring donations, volunteers, and sponsors because every day it is something new and your help can make a difference!
Every year The Gift of Life delivers Love Bears and Santa Hats to the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). This year was no different. What is the story behind this passion that volunteers have to knit and crochet bears and hats? Love is the common denominator. If you can think of what it would be like to have a baby earlier than expected, lying in an incubator, fighting for his/her life, and being told that you cannot bring your baby home, this news is enough to put any parent into depression. Although we cannot change the circumstances, our volunteers get the meaning of the work that they do and with their talents bring a smile to the parents whose babies will not be going home. This year Florida Hospital and Winnie Palmer Hospital received Santa Hats. The families at Florida Hospital and families with babies in the Winnie Palmer NICU staying at the Ronald Mc Donald House also received Love Bears made by the senior citizens of The Good Samaritan Village, If we can bring a smile to ease the day for a grieving parent, then we have all done our job.
Merry Christmas from The Gift of Life!
Thank you to Bruce Reynolds, videographer for The Gift of Life Christmas Bear Delivery. Thank you to Jackie Pettit, mother of a premature baby who is now an adult, she dedicates her time to always preparing and delivering the Christmas hats and bears.
Contact The Gift of Life today to get involved in our knitters/crochet Facebook group who make the hats and bears all year round.
The Gift of Life supports premature babies and their parents through the NICU journey, but what happens when you can’t conceive?
The Gift of Life Welcomes guest blogger Rinat Halon sharing her story in with us during Infertility Awareness Week.
“I recently interviewed a client to create a Photo Marketing Strategy for her business. I asked her, “What is the most incredible experience you’ve ever had?” After a long pause, she said, “I have a hard time answering that because the most incredible experience I’ve ever had was giving birth to my children, but I know you cannot have children, so it’s very hard to share with you.” I thanked her for caring and showing empathy, but I asked her to go ahead and share this truly incredible experience with me anyway.
My life has been divided into 2 parts; before I knew I could not have children and after. As a teenager and young woman, my life plan was to get married and have two children; specifically, a boy named Jonathan and a girl named Natalie. Not too many people know this, but I quit my Walt Disney Imagineer in-house photographer job not just because of shifts in our department, but really because I was ready to make my dream a reality and become a mother. I wanted to raise my children and be a stay-at-home mom. I had decided that the best way to do that was to work from home as a photographer.
This dream came to a complete stop the day I was diagnosed with early menopause at age 34 years young as my ex-husband and I were trying to conceive. My life changed forever. As you can imagine, this diagnosis took a toll not just on my health, but on my life and emotional being. At 35, I was divorced, dealing with a complex and rare medical condition, which I had to figure out how to treat, and I still needed to make a living as a photographer. Photographing weddings. And maternity. And newborns. As my grandfather used to say: Oy yoy yoy, roughly translated as “oh dear God.”
Soon after being diagnosed with early menopause, it took all I had to get through these portrait sessions of pregnant moms and newborns. After the beautifully glowing pregnant women left my studio, I would cry as I was editing their photographs. Photographing newborns ironically sent me into the fetal position on the floor crying my eyes out, it was too much.
Ten years later, I am, first of all, healthy. In the 10 years that passed since that moment I got the call that changed my life, I have been lucky enough (and stubborn enough) to change my life for the better and make the best of it–-as it is. On this journey, I was fortunate to be so loved that I was able to heal from the pain and do what I do best: Turn the pain into an opportunity. The opportunity to capture the cycle of life through my portrait clients. After 18 years of photographing professionally, I know now photography is more than my profession and passion. It is my calling.
Today, one-third of my photography business revenue comes from maternity and newborn clients. The thing is I realized that there is a gift in this pain of not being able to have children and facing a beautiful newborn from behind my camera. It is the gift of living what you don’t have through capturing the beauty of it for others. Being part of the experience of welcoming a new life into this world–literally, over and over and over again–creates peace in my heart. And seeing my clients’ eyes well up with joyful tears as they look through the proofs from their maternity or newborn session, I know in my heart that it is not just that I am receiving the gift of this experience from my clients, but also that I am able to give them a gift: the gift of the energy of all my unfulfilled hopes and dreams to become a mother. I can’t explain it in words, but I know that this energy brings so much love into the portraits I am creating for my clients that it shows in the photographs.
A friend who just gave birth to her second child called me this morning to share the birth experience with me. We cried together, tears of pain and joy combined. “If I could give you anything from motherhood,” she said to me “it is the joy of that moment of seeing your baby for the first time.”
After we said goodbye, I walked into my studio’s sales room, where I have photographs of my clients hanging as samples for other clients to see. Michael, Cathy and David’s newborn’s sample photo was sitting on the chair waiting for me to hang it. I looked up and saw all of my other clients’ maternity and baby pictures I have hanging on the walls and felt the love surrounding me. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we plan it, yet life, in all of its miraculous glory, always finds a way.”
To see some of Rinat’s maternity, newborn, family, and wedding portraits go to rinathalon.com
If you want more information about early menopause, I have created a facebook page with resources I found that helped me through my healing journey. CLICK HERE for more info.