Monday, August 13, 2012

A Tribute to Harper



I've struggled with how to tell this story.

Michaela is one of my sister's best friends. They met in college and she's been on the periphery of my life for many years. A gifted artist, a leggy beauty, an irreverently funny girl, she is one of those people that you instantly decide you want to become friends with. After graduating college in Nebraska, Mac moved to Phoenix where she kept up her friendship with my sister. I'd hear about the milestones in her life and see the stunning portraits my sister would take of her, most recently, for her maternity.

The pregnancy glow is a bit of a cliche, but it was accurate for Michaela. Throughout her pregnancy, she'd received some concerning news about potential problems with the baby's health, but she handled the stress of this as gracefully as the 60 lbs she gained. She maintained an upbeat, optimistic outlook and accepted any challenges without complaint, filled with the unconditional love that mothers have for their babies.

On May 11, Michaela delivered a beautiful baby girl. Tragically, only twelve days later, on May 24th, the baby, Harper Grace, succumbed to Alveolar Capillary Dysplasia (ACD). ACD is a rare malformation of the lungs involving abnormal development of the capillary vascular system around the alveoli. It most frequently presents within 48 hours of birth, and is universally fatal. Life expectancy is short (typically less than a month)*.

How does one survive the loss of a much-loved, deeply-wanted baby?

Three months later, her body betrays few clues to the casual observer that she was a new mom. She's back at work and has resumed much of same routine that she had before the pregnancy. But of course, her life has been changed forever.

Michaela is an incredibly strong person. I cannot tell you how much I admire the balance she is finding between loving her baby, mourning her, trying to honor her by finding the beauty in life, and staying committed to moving forward instead of falling apart. She is the epitome of strength, grace, and courage.

Last Sunday, Michaela, my sister Gina, and I sat poolside in Phoenix, drinking some margaritas while the kids splashed in the pool and ran thru the sprinklers. She showed me all the cherished pictures of little Harper from her 4D ultrasounds to her newborn pics. She was such a beautiful baby. We talked about the balloons at the funeral and the balloons she'll be releasing each year to commemorate her daughter's birthday. Michaela showed me some "white tattoos" she'd like to get on the inside of her forearm. Earlier, we had discussed taking some fun photos while I was in town, but the more we talked about Harper, the more I sensed that she'd like to incorporate her daughter into our photos and when she agreed, our shoot took on much deeper meaning...

Michaela is grateful for the time she had with her daughter and firmly believes they will be reunited someday in Heaven. She has hope for the future, even while she comes to terms with the pain, confusion, and grief she and her husband, Avery, have experienced by Harper's loss.

Because of the nature of this shoot, I will thank you in advance for understanding that I will not be talking about such mundane issues such as locations, lenses, processing, or textures. I will not show before or afters. I never delete comments in threads ordinarily, but in this series of images, I reserve the right to do so.

P.S. The pink balloon is for Harper. I wish I could have met you. Your mom is one amazing lady. I bet you're proud.




When someone treasured disappears, a scar, reminding us of their impact on our lives can serve as a touchstone, a physical manifestation of our enduring love and attachment. In the future, Michaela would like to get a "white tattoo", a scarring of Harper's name, on her inner forearm. While it is perhaps invisible to others, in her heart, body, and soul, the both beautiful and bittersweet reminders of her daughter are everywhere, branding her as a mother for eternity.









30 comments:

  1. so very touching. the photos are adorable and i hope she gets her white tattoo. i hope she and her husband go to grief support! she is so beautiful, it is just not right for her to suffer! may God bless them with another baby.

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  2. Heartbreaking....my prayers are with you
    I don't know how one survives the loss of a child. But I pray for your peace and healing.

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  3. This is such an amazing tribute and GOD BLESS YOU for the compassion and love you feel for Harper and her Mother. I read the story and the date stabbed me in the heart, I lost my son at 21, two years ago. His birthday was May 24th......I wrote this on the website in honor of his memory, and for Mothers like us who know this loss (www.pathwaysofhope.com) Here is my promise! Ryan inspires me to be more, do more, and most of all to Love God with ALL THAT I AM, in the same way I love my only Son. Ryan will live in my heart forever, even on days when I find it so hard to breathe, and I sink to my knees and beg God to please help me, because I do not understand, no matter what:

    ~I WILL look up.
    ~I WILL find Hope in God's promises that I will see my son again.
    ~I WILL stand firm in FAITH that I will be there with him soon.
    ~I will TRUST GOD every day and ONE day all of this will make sense, but until then I will do what God has put me here to do.
    ~I will HONOR my son's life and his memory every second of every day.

    I'll be seeing you soon Ryan Blake - Always,"Ryan's MOM"

    She sounds like a spectacular woman of God and I pray that she gets her Harper's tattoo - I never thought of getting a "white" tattoo but love the idea, I pray for her comfort and peace. As a Mother I know time does not heal the loss, but with time I pray she receives the signs she needs to keep her moving, and that she may always remember every day is ONE DAY CLOSER! God Bless YOU both

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  4. Reading this, my heart is breaking. I am so incredibly touched by this story. I am praying for Michaela and Avery to have peace. This is an extraordinary journey taken by them both. It is a very lonely place to be. I say that because, no matter how many other people have lost their child, it's devastatingly and uniquely your journey of grief. My heart goes out to them. I am grandmother with a daughter of my own, who has lost three babies. Yes, it is still painful. However, my daughter has found within her a strength unlike any I've known. She is a survivor and she is "LIVING" life today full of hope for her future. Praying for Michaela's and Avery's hope.<3

    Lori Lockhart

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  5. You have outdone yourself. This is the greatest tribute one could give...you've found a way to find light in the dark. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. These photos are beautiful- such a moving way to honor the sweet, short life of a precious baby girl. Thank you so much for sharing this story- I am inspired by your tribute and by the courage, grace, and faith Michaela is demonstrating through her pain.

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  7. I can not begin to express what I felt when I saw theses pictures before I read the blog. Simply beautiful and loving and adoring.

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  8. Flowers PhotographyAugust 14, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Thank you for sharing, this has touched me so much. I will keep them in my prayers.

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  9. This is such a beautiful tribute to your friend. Losing a child is the most painful thing in the world as I, unfortunately, lost my daughter Maggie almost 2 years ago. Please tell your friend that I send her a hug and will pray that she finds peace with such a loss.

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  10. What a kind and loving act you have done for your friend by giving her these photos. They are beautiful!

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  11. Wonderful! Sometimes children come into this world, not only to gain a body, but to touch the lives of all who encounter them. She will definitely get to see her again after this life.

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  12. Prayers to her and her family, I can't even imagine what she is going through. These images are amazing and so beautiful , they look like paintings
    ~

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  13. What a beautiful tribute to cherish beautiful memories. We lost out grandson 4 years ago to sudden onset flu. He was 4 and loved pink. We release pink balloons every year on his "heavenly birthday" and his regular birthday. My prayers are with you and your friend. ♥

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  14. My heart breaks and aches for her. I cannot imagine. I try, and I just can't. These are beautiful images, and I'm sure she'll cherish them. You're amazing. Jessica. <3

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  15. that is so amazing what you have done. she is blessed woman to have such strong support around her, this is something that will always be cherished.

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  16. As a mother myself, I can't imagine the pain of loosing a baby that you excitedly waiting. Such a beautiful tribute and outstanding photos, Jessica.

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  17. I too know the pain of loosing a child, as my first born child was stillborn just before his due date....those raw feelings, never far from the surface, came flooding back when reading your blog about this touching tribute to Harper. No Mother (or Father) should ever have to bury their child and the feeling of loss & emptiness that goes along with this is BEYOND measure. These feelings get better with time, but do not go away. Had it not been for my Faith and the support of close family & friends, I don't know that I would have made it thru such a tremendous loss. It is my hope and prayer that God fills her soul with peace. She may never have the answers to 'Why?' - I still do not have those answers - but healing can & will come with time. It is such a blessing that she has you & your sister there to help support / lift her spirits and just 'BE there.' These photos are so moving and beautiful. She will cherish these all the days of her life. What a wonderful gift to help capture these moments in time, even if these moments are during a time of pain. God Bless!

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  18. so touching and beautifully written ..<3

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  19. look at what an amazing thing this is- how many people your beautiful little girl has touched through these images...She's here touching us all...( here and on FB) what a blessing....

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  20. much love to you + sweet harper grace. may you find peace + strength in your memories and in your heart. xo

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  21. Stunning photos and a beautiful mother. My prayers go out to the family.

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  22. Beautiful work, I am sure this pictures will be treasured. I have a 3 week old baby boy in my arms right now... I heartfelt prayer goes out for baby Harper and her parents... and thank you for reminding me to appreciate each minute of each day I have with my little ones. May God bless Michaela with a beautiful family!

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  23. So touching! My cousin and his girlfriend recently buried there baby who was born sleeping at full term :( This story brought me to tears. I pray for strength for this beautiful mother and father..Stunning photography and heart breaking, yet beautiful story.

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  24. Soooo beautiful. Tell her to read "Heaven is for real" by Todd Burpo. It shocked me and made me feel happy to hear what they said when they talked about a miscarriage they had. It gives hope and helps look to the future.

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  25. Tears flowed as I looked at these beautiful emotional pictures and Michaela's story. The love of a mother runs deep. Last year my 3 year old son almost died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital after suffering from a brain bleed. will be praying for Michaela as she mourns the loss of her beloved child.

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  26. Beautiful tribute! Well done.

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  27. Though this began my morning with a sad heart, I find that your collaboration with her and the beauty of your images give me hope that something so tragic and sad can be overcome through art, love, faith and friendship. You are an amazing gift Jessica Drossin. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this and for being so open.

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  28. These are the most gorgeous and touching pictures I have seen....EVER. My goodness you can feel her emotions just by looking at these. You are amazing and so is this courageous lady. My heart goes out to her.

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  29. Gorgeous photos...touching story. I'm literally sobbing at this point. As a mother of an 'almost one' baby boy I can't even imaging their pain. I'm praying for Michaela and Avery's healing and helping them find peace in knowing that Harper is watching over them every day!

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  30. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing such an emotional session and for giving Harper's mommy such a beautiful gift.

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