October is Down Syndrome Awareness month and I wanted you to meet a little friend of mine who is rocking that extra chromosome.
His big sisters go to school with my kids so I’ve known his family for several years now but it actually wasn’t until about six years ago that I got to know his mama really. She was pregnant with Jase when her oldest daughter and my son were paired together on a school project. She was also just learning that the baby she was carrying possibly had down syndrome.
Everyone wants a happy and healthy baby and when you are facing the possibility that your baby might not be “healthy” it can be hard. But over the months I was privileged to watch Christi and her family not only come to terms with the diagnosis but to have a deep joy in the gift of their son. They navigated the uncertainty with grace and a deep faith that God was at work. Certainly there are challenges that come with that extra chromosome but Jase and his family rise to meet them every time.
I feel in love with him the first time I met him with those beautiful blue eyes and his red hair. Over the last five years I have been able to take his pictures on different occasions and I can honestly say it is a special delight every single time. His smile and sweet spunky personality just pulls you in.
One of the best things born out of Jase’s diagnosis has been the creation of Genes of Joy, a non profit organization whose goal is to establish a community rich in support for those families touched by DS, provide resources for those families, as well as to raise awareness about down syndrome. It has been wildly successful with an annual buddy walk and respite days that serve the community. They also provide baskets through local hospitals to the families of babies born with ds that are full of resources and contact information so they don’t have to feel overwhelmed or alone. How great is that?
It has been such a blessing to be a part of Jase’s life and to see how his family has leaned into his diagnosis and look for ways to help others who also walk this journey. There is joy and delight and an abundance of love and grace that spills over.
Down syndrome will affect 1 in every 700 babies born in the United States. Children born with DS will go through all of the milestones typical to any child…they just meet them at a different pace. As adults with DS they have jobs, manage relationships and navigate life just like everyone else. They might have some additional things to cope with but with love and support from their families and communities they are just as important and contribute just as much to society as “normal” people.
Indeed us normal people are better off for having such resilient and determined friends in our lives.
I love photographing children. I am fascinated by how their little minds work and I love it when they are free to just be themselves during a session. I had been wanting to photograph my friend’s granddaughter for months and I was so happy when we finally managed to make it happen.
We had talked about using apples in the pictures but when she got to my house her little autumn outfit was so adorable I just had grab the pumpkins off my porch. Isn’t she just the cutest?
I swapped out the pumpkins for apples while her Honey (don’t you love that grandmother name?) changed her outfit. She clearly enjoyed the pumpkins but she loved the apples.
I don’t usually go for prop heavy pictures but when photographing little people, especially when it is just them by themselves, it is nice to have something for them to interact with. Autumn lends itself really nicely to natural and colorful things to incorporate into the pictures without being too fussy.
I give very little direction and prefer to just photograph them doing what they do and enjoying themselves. Little Miss C looked like she could be selling apples. She clearly knows how to pick out the best ones!
She also loves to sing and dance so once she put on her chicken dress how could we not do the chicken dance or sing Old McDonald?
Her baby sister arrived a little bit sooner than expected which meant Miss C was spending a little bit more time hanging out with her Honey. Which is why I got to spend more time with her and she is full of such sweet spunk and it was just a delight to get her in front of my camera. I have known her mother for years and it is clear that this sweet little apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
She truly is a beautiful child and I cannot wait to see what an amazing young woman she becomes!
I never approach a session that I am not wanting to be at my best. I start preparing hours (days really) before the time that we actually meet, thinking through poses and working out how to keep things moving smoothly and creating a rough shot list in my head. I troubleshoot and contemplate things like where the sun is going to be when in relation to where we will be. And I think about you. What angles will be most flattering, how to catch the light just right, the best ways to capture your connection with each other and how to make you comfortable in front of my camera.
Every. Single. Session.
But when you are photographing another photographer you really want to be at the top of your game. Even if you’re friends with the other photographer and have known them for practically half of their life. Even if you have done their senior pictures, hidden in bushes to capture the moment their love proposed, photographed their engagement pictures, bridal portraits and their wedding.
It helps on the other hand though because they really get what you’re doing. They understand the process and are pretty much up for anything, even letting their baby sit in a creek.
All that is to say I loved doing a mother and child session with Kait and her baby girl a couple of weeks ago! They were great and relaxed, there was cloud cover so we had fabulous light, and it was early in the day so the temps were bearable. You really couldn’t have asked for more out of a session.
There is just something so precious about the bond between a parent and child.
Our time together was really clicking along and Winter was about as adorable as can be. Her sweet little cheeks are so stinkin’ adorable, don’t you think? And she was so happy to be in the water!
Like really really happy.
Kait and I both knew as we stepped into the creek that the pictures were going to be phenomenal and after I got home I realised just how right we were. They are just about some of the best portraits I have ever taken. I mean, just look at her sweet little profile. How could they not be?
Kait, how special it was to do these pictures of you and Winnie! Thank you for the opportunity and please can we do it again sometime?
I love when things come together in a neat and tidy circle. As I started back with photography I spent considerable time thinking about what kind of work I wanted to do, the types of sessions, the business I wanted to create. One of the the ideas that is deeply rooted in these musings is a desire to celebrate motherhood and femininity. The idea of doing mother and child sessions is certainly not a new one but one I want to keep crafting and developing. Thankfully I have friends that are willing to indulge me in this work and back in May I was able to share a few different sessions of this sort with two of them being sisters-in-law.
Because I like those neat and tidy circles, when I found out Chrisann, another McGee family mama, was going to be visiting I crossed my fingers that we would be able to do a mother and child session with her. I was conflicted over asking because I know time with her family is precious and I didn’t want to take away from that but she was agreeable and we made it happen and oh, dear goodness, I am so glad we did!
I have photographed Chrisann many times over the years in family pictures, some engagement pictures, and we even did a sunrise bridal session so there was something particularly fun about getting to photograph her in this stage of life too.
Just look at how precious her babies are!
I have other pictures of Sophia smiling but this particular shot just stops me in my tracks.
And Jonathon is just a great big chunk of love! His happy gets all over his face when he smiles and you just want to eat him up.
Elisabeth Elliot said that the process of shaping a child shapes the mother as well. Chrisann, motherhood is shaping you in beautiful ways and your children are precious. Thank you for letting us spend this time together so that my McGee mama circle is closed.