Rainbow Baby 🌈
Ellis is an event.
Ellis is a rainbow baby. This means he is a healthy baby born after losing a baby or babies due to miscarriage, infant loss, neonatal death, or stillbirth. A tragedy has no words. This couple endured, barely, the death of twin baby boys. These are Ellis's older brothers. They will always be the firstborn children for this couple, Hailey and Taylor. After a year of agony and emotional torture, a new beginning. Light at the end of everything. Every fingertip. Every follicle of his golden brown hair. To live is to suffer; but to live is also to upend suffering and reinvent one's self in order to live again.
Sometimes it seems like life doesn't want us to experience joy. We feel a prickling at the neck and a fever in the heart that says "You'll never be happy again." Or worse, "You'll never be happy." That sense that we're not worthy of joy is even more profound when we know what we want that will bring us joy and fulfillment, and it is within reach but it's snatched right out from under us. And just like that, we're different. We grieve. We move through rooms and cities and relationships and random acts of goodness or badness and don't see or feel anything. We cry. We invent reasons for living even though we don't believe them.
But then: a miracle.
Miracle not in the divine sense but in the common definition: a surprising wonder, an unusual and extraordinary event.
This couple is alive again. After so much darkness and incredulity, after so much suffering, they have Ellis. Light pours through the house. They hear themselves laugh. The 12-year dog seems spry again. Wine tastes better. And water. And food is ambrosia, honey-rinsed and nourishing. Before the world was not black and white but worse - it was grey on grey on grey. And now it's all in color.
It's not like everything is perfect or easy. This mom and dad need to work long hours to afford the life they live and support their baby boy. They happen to have amazing jobs (Maryland Zoo and a veterinarian) but it's hard work while I'm sure they would much rather watch their baby sleeping and play with his fingers and toes and adore the sunlight splashing his almost translucent blonde eyebrows and eyelashes.
There's still the fact of the pandemic, of sickness in general, of war and of course continued grieving for the loss of their boys. But for now and for always there's Ellis. He's here. He's forever loved and adored.
And I got to photograph him.
I know I'm lucky to have the job I have. I wish so hard that no one had to experience the loss of a baby. I know of way too many friends who've had to grieve the loss of their born or unborn children. It's an unnamable sadness, especially for the mother though I wish it weren't that way.
My job as a documentary photographer lets me appreciate sadness and loss and the new life after all that tumultuous nothingness. I hear and learn so much from each client....life stories that go beyond, or seem to go beyond, the nature and purpose of the shoot. But in learning more about my clients - from entrepreneurs to engaged couples, new parents to party hosts - I glean just what I need. A life story. An old life, a new life. As Donna Tart says in her heartbreaking and triumphant novel I just finished, The Goldfinch:
“You could study the connections for years and never work it out...things coming together, things falling apart, time warp...uncertainties hovering on the edge of a vast brightness. The stray chance that might, or might not, change everything.”