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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Day I Met Madelyn. | Kansas City Birth Photographer

The Day I Met Madelyn was a dark and dreary day.

The clouds threatened and there was a slight chill to the air. It was fitting, given the circumstances of the day. I had hoped for a beautiful, sunny day...one that would be a sign of hope and possibilities. Of course, that was too much to ask.

The Day I Met Madelyn I was terrified.

Terrified of not being able to do my job. Terrified of failing a family who asked me to be there to document the most important day of their lives. Terrified that my legs would give out and I would fall to the ground, helpless both physically and emotionally.

The Day I Met Madelyn was a whirlwind of emotions.

It was May 19th, a day that will remain burned into my brain for the rest of my days. It all started the night before, on May 18th. I got an email and a phone call from Kyle and Crystal, Madelyn's parents. They were scheduling an emergency c-section for the following afternoon because Madelyn needed to be born...like, now. We knew there would be a c-section and we knew things were unknown, but we didn't know it would have to happen so soon. You see, Madelyn was sick. Very sick. She wasn't developing correctly and there was nothing they could do to "fix" it. She was 32 weeks along. Sadly, we knew Madelyn wouldn't make it, we just didn't know how much time there would be- 5 seconds? 5 hours? 5 days? 5 months?


So late on May18th, I started to prepare my family for my absence, my equipment for the long day and myself for the pain in my heart. I will admit- at one point I didn't think I would be able to do this. I had never been in a situation where there was a life hanging in the balance and I was there to document it. I was afraid of failure, of breaking down in front of everyone, of panicking and not knowing what to do with myself. The I realized "who the hell am I? I am nobody. I am a person with a camera. I am there to do a job. I get to go home at the end of the day and be with my own child. This family doesn't.

So I did it. I turned my fear into determination and set a goal- to give this family something they would be able to cherish for all the years to come. My emotions didn't matter, not one little bit.

I arrived at the hospital a little early and took deep breaths all the way through the parking lot, willing myself to be strong for this family and this little girl. I thought to myself "I'll use my camera as a crutch, to hold me up, give me strength and to hide the tears." Funny how things turn out differently than you think...

The Day I Met Madelyn I witnessed something amazing.

As I walked into that hospital room, with Crystal and Kyle so calm and focused, smiles on their faces and determination in their eyes. Their families surrounded them with love and support, at times cracking jokes and being playful with each other. As I took it all in, I started to cry. Not because I was sad or scared (and I was), but because I felt a huge sense of peace. And love. And happiness. The air was thick with it. They were happy and excited to meet their baby Madelyn. Happy that they could all be there to pray and give words of love and encouragement to Crystal and Kyle. Of course, there was sadness too, but it was so overpowered by hope and calm that it just seemed like an afterthought. I was amazed since this was not the scene I had pictured in my head, it was quite the opposite and it gave me a sense of calm and a strength I could not have imagined. The tears flowed, my heart hurt for Crystal and Kyle, but still, the peace carried us all through.

The Day I Met Madelyn changed my life forever.

Madelyn was born on Wednesday, May 19th at 4:03pm and she.was.beautiful! The first thing I noticed was her tiny cute little button nose :) I could have looked at her all day, she was perfect. I never would have imagined that such a tiny little baby could have such an impact on me. She was so brave, such a little fighter! I knew then that I would carry her with me forever. I hardly knew her and yet she stole my heart the second I laid eyes on her.

Madelyn lived for 10 hours.

Almost every second of that time was spent in the arms of those that loved her so much. Not a day has gone by that I don't think of that sweet little girl with happy thoughts and a new appreciation for my own life. I hug my son and my family a little tighter, see the blue sky a little bluer, sweat the small stuff a little less. In her short time here, Madelyn changed many people, even those that never got to meet her. I'm different now...better, stronger. I thank God I was able to be there that day, to capture those precious moments Crystal, Kyle and their families had with Madelyn, to see the love and inspiration that this tiny girl brought out in their faces. I thank God for my own family, their health and happiness.

I thank God for my own life and I thank God for bringing Madelyn into it.

From those that knew her best, her parents Crystal & Kyle...some beautiful words about Madelyn:

Madelyn was a bit of a night owl, not unlike her Mom, and thought that bedtime was playtime – she was often starting her 10:30 ‘lesson’ (sometimes, Tai Bo, or Kickboxing, Tennis or Bowling) when Mom was trying to get to sleep. Dad was often scolded for playing with her and getting her riled up and would have to settle her back down before he could go to sleep. Dads never learn, I guess. We had some fun times though.

Madelyn loved to eat Cheerios and chips & salsa which made for some very interesting breakfasts at our house.

Madelyn was always a little shy in sonograms. Luckily she was happy to have her picture taken once she was born.

Madelyn saw more of the inside of Nebraska Furniture Mart than any child should ever have to.

Madelyn was able to enjoy many of the Kansas City favorites including watching the Chiefs, Huskers and Wildcats play football on TV, watching KU and K-State play basketball, eating Gates BBQ, going to the plaza, and tailgating at a Royals game.

Every morning Kyle would leave for work and give Crystal a kiss goodbye. She would say, “Madelyn says goodbye too” and sure enough there was a little kick there for Kyle to send him off on his day. “I love you Daddy” she’d say.

We have been blessed in so many ways by Madelyn’s life. These are some of the things that we remember that give us peace:

Madelyn did not know she was “supposed” to live longer. She lived as long as she needed to in order to accomplish her purpose.

Madelyn never felt pain.

Madelyn was surrounded by love her entire life.

Madelyn’s life purpose was complete. Whether 8 min or 80 years, a life’s purpose is complete when God calls us.

Madelyn never knew anything was wrong.

All of her immediate family was there for her birth and was able to say goodbye in person.

Madelyn passed in the most peaceful way we could have ever imagined; sleeping cradled in her mother’s arms.

Madelyn has many family members already waiting in Heaven to take care of her and raise her as well as we would.

Madelyn will always be a part of our family.

Thank you, Crystal and Kyle for asking me to be a part of Madelyn's Day. I will never be able to put into words what she means to me and what this experience has meant. I hope that the photos give you some bit of comfort as you heal and remember. You guys remain in my heart, always.


Katie said...


Gwen said...

Utterly amazing. You captured the day in your beautiful words and your breathtaking pictures. I know this family will always have a special place in their heart for you.

Nanny Linda said...

What a tribute!

Melanie said...

Absolutely beautiful! You did an amazing thing for that family, and did a great job! How you described that day was amazing.

Marla said...

Wow, that was absolutely beautiful. God bless that sweet baby girl and her family.

Crystal Webster said...

Thank you so much Sarah. You have an angel watching over you.

Erin J. Photography Blog said...

Sarah, I am also a photographer and my aunt who lives in KC sent me your post. I volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and what you did for that family means more than you will ever know! Those pictures are such a huge part of the grieving process and in the lasting memory of these families babies. It helps them remember their children as vividly as those brief moments they were holding them. If you're not involved already I hope you'll think about volunteering with us! It's hard, every time and I cry, every time but it's so worth it!

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