24 minutes with Thompson

As a photographer, I have been witness to some of the most incredible and intimate moments of people's lives.  Joyful weddings, births, moments of treasuring up the feeling of family and home.  And every time I am just spellbound with the honor.  I frequently capture these moments with tears streaming down my cheeks and a smile on my lips. And then I met Thompson.

2 weeks ago, I was able to witness and capture an entire life.  24 minutes with Thompson.

Several weeks ago, Thompson's mama wrote me an email inquiring about having pictures taken of her son who would be born with trisomy 13 and would not live very long, if he was born alive at all.  This type of photography is something I do fairly frequently with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep but I had never photographed a baby born alive in these type of situations.  Since this was during my only free month without being on call, I didn't feel it was fair to my family to guarantee that I would be able to be there, but somewhere in my heart, I had a peace that things would line up and I would be able to be at delivery.  It worked out for Lindsey and her family to come up to my mountains to do a few pictures of her carrying Thompson.  This was important to me because I wanted to meet them before I was at the birth and death of their son and because I wanted to capture the joy she had in carrying him because even just through email, it was so evident.

5 days after these photos in the river, I got a call that she was 10 cm.  This was her third baby and I knew that her second baby had been a fast labor.  I jumped in my car and just prayed and trusted that I would make it in time to get all the moments I could.  I started my trip (50 minutes from her hospital) with my gas light on...and I didn't stop.  I arrived and ran through the halls with my camera in hand, to arrive 5 minutes before birth.  What a gift!

As soon as I was in the room, I was struck by the peacefulness of it all.  There was no steady heartbeat in the background, only silence.  I'll never forget Lindsey commenting before she pushed that she felt that Thompson was already asleep.  Tears poured down her cheeks as she prepared to meet her son, knowing that he had most likely already passed on.

Two quick pushes and tiny Thompson was born...and he cried...and we all cried and shouted with joy.  He was born alive!  For the next 24 minutes that tiny boy was cradled and whispered words of love, for he was so loved.  For the next few hours I witnessed loved ones pour into the room and cradle him too.  I witnessed his grandmother loving bathe every part of him while singing "Jesus loves me".  I witnessed his strong father wrap his strong arms around his wife and tenderly hold his tiny son.

Those hours were sacred and I just will never forget the strength and love it took to put aside grief and instead rejoice over life, no matter how short it was.

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Sweet Lindsey,

Your grateful spirit, strength and vulnerability make you quite a shining light.  So grateful to know you and your beautfiul family.  Thank you for carrying and birthing your beautiful boy with such grace and gratefulness.  And thank you for allowing me to share Thompson's story with the world.

www.helenjoy.com