microcephaly

Photographer Jennifer Ryals received a phone call requesting a lifestyle newborn photoshoot for a 8-week-old baby who had just been released from the hospital. Ryals hesitated. 

“I don’t know where to start this honestly,” she said in an essay on Love What Matters. “I don’t photograph newborns. Not my thing.” 

However, she did love lifestyle portraits and something about the caller tugged at her heart. She agreed to the shoot, and as she brought out her schedule to plan the appointment, the caller said, “Can you do the session tomorrow? We don’t have much time.”

The baby was born with microcephaly, a condition that leaves an infant’s brain underdeveloped and its head an abnormally small size. His name was Aiden and the doctors thought he would be a stillborn. Despite the odds, Aiden was born and fought for his life the past eight weeks. His endurance baffled his doctors and delighted his family. Aiden kept breaking their determined life expectancy for him.

The Miraculous Photoshoot

His exact condition was unknown to Ryals until the family showed up and she saw Aiden for herself.

“He was so tiny. So perfect,” she said. “As soon as his mom brought him in to the room, I was immediately teary-eyed. But they weren’t tears of sadness or pity; it was genuinely pure joy.”

She immediately joined the family in showering the infant with love. The photoshoot was bittersweet. The baby was so beloved, yet the family didn’t know how much longer this precious gift would be with them.

Ryals asked the parents about Aiden as she took the pictures. She likes to bond with clients to get a better feel of their story so she can tell it properly through her photos.

Ricky, Aiden’s father, began praising his son. “Aiden was supposed to be a stillborn, but he came out screaming and has been fighting ever since.”

Ryals describes the mother, Kayla, as glowing the whole session, “even through the more somber moments.”

When the shoot was over, Ryals could not stop crying. She began editing the photos and stressed over them. “They HAD to be perfect.”

The next morning, Ryals received a message from the same aunt who had booked the shoot to tell her the news: Aiden had passed on.

“I wanted to believe it was a mistake or a dream, but I felt in my heart I didn’t have the RIGHT to be grieving when his family must be feeling things I could never imagine,” wrote Ryals. “My heart is shattered for that family that loved that baby so much.”

The brief encounter with Aiden and his family left an impact on the photographer. His death made her reflect on her own two kids, wondering if she appreciated them enough. She is deeply grateful for the experience of meeting Aiden and his family during their brief session.

Ryals suffers from anxiety and depression, which causes her to constantly doubt herself, but this inspiring photoshoot gave her a new perspective.

“God is speaking to me through the love, life, pain, and suffering of others and I am thankful He uses me to help bring healing. I do what I do because EVERY life deserves to be captured. Your story matters, and it deserves to be remembered.” [1]

What is Microcephaly?

As mentioned, microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is smaller than it should be because the brain didn’t develop enough in the womb or because it stopped growing after the delivery. Sometimes it is accompanied by other major birth defects. Some may recognize this condition as it did gain some media attention due to its relationship with the Zika virus

Depending on how severe the microcephaly is, it can link to other issues including:

  • Seizures
  • Developmental delays
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Issues with movement and balance
  • Problems with eating and swallowing
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems

These conditions can be mild or severe but are usually chronic. Babies born with microcephaly often need regular check-ups with a healthcare provider to monitor their development and growth and troubleshoot any issues.

Microcephaly is a rare condition, affecting about 2–12 babies per 10,000 births in the United States. [2]

The cause of microcephaly cannot always be pinpointed, but certain conditions can contribute to its development:

  • Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities, like Down syndrome
  • Infections during pregnancy, like chicken pox, rubella, toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Cerebral anoxia, where there is not enough oxygen coming to the brain of the fetus
  • Maternal uncontrolled phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • Environmental factors, like the mother using illicit drugs, alcohol, or other toxins during pregnancy
  • Zika virus 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition. Treatment plans focus on managing microcephaly and the health problems that accompany it. Infants would require routine check-ups, speech, physical, and occupational therapies to help them function with their condition. [3]

  1. Jennifer Ryals. ‘Can you do the session tomorrow? We don’t have much time.’ I couldn’t hold back my tears.’: Photographer captures ‘bittersweet’ moments one day before baby passes from Microcephaly https://www.lovewhatmatters.com/she-didnt-know-how-much-time-he-had-when-i-showed-up-and-saw-him-for-myself-i-was-completely-surprised-he-was-so-tiny-so-perfect/
  2. CDC. Microcephaly https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html November 21, 2017[3] Lori Smith. BSN MSN CRNP. What to know about microcephaly https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305880.php February 13, 2019

The post Just One Day Before Baby Aiden Past from Microcephaly, Photographer Captures These Beautiful Moments appeared first on The Hearty Soul.



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