Newbie Session: Meet Zander

Let me tell you a story of faith. Losing hope. Finding hope. And then embracing courage at the end of a very long journey. 

This is the story of:
Carrie +
Dan +
many years +
Henry Danger +
many small angels watching down =
the arrival of Alexander "Zander" Courage.

The blessing of this job is not just capturing moments, but weaving these moments into the story of a family through photography. Most of my clients are friends and my relationship with Carrie started in the mud of Mississippi post-Katrina, took a detour through infertility and landed me as her sister in a post-op recovery room after the most unexpected birthing story. (Yes, I play sister any time it means my dear one doesn't have to be alone in a hospital.)

If you've checked out the blog before, you might have seen Carrie's maternity session / pre-arrival family session. In the months after this session we commemorated every moment to the end of an epic 5 year journey leading to baby #2: belly henna painting parties, showers, water sessions. You name it, we captured it. And we prepared for the big day. And then the day passed and the baby was late. And we waited. Until we didn't wait. Instead Carrie waded. In our hot tub. (While my in-laws visited which added an interesting complexity when you introduce out-of-state family to a laboring friend in your kitchen.) So when Carrie came upstairs flushed and contracting after her tubbie, Dan and I scooted her into the car and put our plan into full effect. I was to come when she was a 7 and hunker down for the duration of a natural childbirth. As they drove the 12 miles to the hospital, I packed my bag ready to document my first birth.

What I wasn't prepared for was the call I got just 20 minutes later. Carrie had already had the baby. I had to get there now. There was an emergency. Dan was separated from Carrie. He was with Zander. Nothing was certain. He didn't know Carrie's status. Get there. Now. Find Carrie. Be her person.

We moved from documentary to real life drama. My car went 100mph down 131 to get there. God opened lanes, parking spots and doors as I made it in record time to the L+D ward. I beat her out of surgery in fact. Carrie's cord prolapsed (came out of her body as her water broke when using the restroom) within minutes of arrival to the ER. The nurse "rode the bed" as they call it, straddling Carrie and pushing Zander off the umbilical cord to prevent oxygen deprivation while Dan helped wheel Carrie into the OR as the nurses inserted an IV and prepped her for surgery mid-transit. From pull of emergency cord in the restroom to delivery took just shy of 2 minutes. The staff at Spectrum are miracles.

But my friend had the unexpected birth of her nightmare. She never thought her goal of no pain medicine would be answered this way. And there was physical pain and questions and emotional scars being formed by the minute. Carrie met her baby boy in the NICU at Helen Devos Children's Hospital. And while I have never been more thankful for the skills of this army of giants that care for the tiniest among us, I have also never witnessed anything as heartbreaking as seeing Carrie meet Zander for the first time, hooked to machines bigger than him while his little body chilled to just 92.6º to preserve brain function. Over the many days after birth, I captured their story: Big brother meeting little brother. Family greeting their newest member. And more miraculous than any conventional birth I could have witnessed, the first time Zander was held by his parents. 

A year later, Zander is amazing. After all this, he's perfect in all the important ways (but still under watchful eyes.) It was an uncertain start. It was a terrifying start to be honest. But it has turned out so very well. Zander is happy, engaging, curious and sweet. And most of all, he carries a middle name representative of his beginning, "Courage."

The pictures below only scratch the surface of all of this. There's much too much to share. But this is the visual synopsis that helps me make sense of the days of Zander's becoming. It's my hope that these images will serve as motivation for Zander as he grows, that they prove to him that he can overcome anything life throws at him. That his parents are strong warriors on his behalf (no NICU parents were as assured and positive as these two). And that God can be found in the tiniest moments, the moments that look like luck or coincidence, in the hands that appear, in the hands we may never see again. On behalf of the Elzinga's and myself, thank you to the medical staff that cared for this family from start to finish.