I met Hannah and her gorgeous tribe last fall at a local birth expo and I immediately knew that I wanted to to get them in front of my camera! Hannah and her husband Josh were expecting their 3rd baby girl at the end of the year, and she was absolutely glowing! She entered my contest and expressed her interest in a maternity session wearing a rainbow gown that I planned on adding to my wardrobe. Hannah's name was not drawn as a winner, but just my luck that the mom who's name was drawn didn't use her free session, so I contacted Hannah to see if she would like to model my new maternity gowns at the beach and she was thrilled to do so!
The day of our session brought very strong winds, which isn't an ideal situation for photos (especially for ladies with long hair) but we all decided to make our way to Laguna Beach and do our best to create a beautiful session. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the wind did pose a few problems, but with the gowns I brought for the session, it actually worked in our favor (most of the time). As long as I positioned Hannah the right way, the wind blew her hair and the gorgeous chiffon tails of the gowns beautifully! We started at the park above the beach and I even brought mini-gowns for her two girls Makena (10) & Capri (8) and they loved them! They also loved being a part of the session and tossing the gowns for me. Towards sunset we headed down to the beach and the girls both got to toss an end of a mermaid style gown which they had so much fun doing! I remember as the sun went down and they all stepped into the ocean water to finish off the session, and I just didn't want this session to end. Hannah had texted me after the session thanking me for something so magical and I looked forward to showing her the beautiful images.
Getting to see Hannah's reaction to her images was so much fun! I spent hours in their gorgeous home as she tried to narrow down her choices. While I was there, I noticed the artwork on their walls and just how unique and beautifully decorated the home was. It was then that they began to tell me their family story and about their life together. Hannah has graciously allowed me to share that story with all of you.
Josh and Hannah met and fell in love in 2006. Josh was in the Marines and just as soon as he had proposed, he was deployed to Iraq. Once he returned home they eloped in a simple yet beautiful cottage. Baby girl #1 arrived that next year and after a year of fun with her, they decided to grow their family again. Being parents brought them so much joy but when the girls were only 2 years and 3 months old, Josh was deployed to Afghanistan for 9 months. After a trip back home for much-needed family time, Josh was once again deployed and was in a parachute accident that unfortunately ended his career with the Marine Corps Special Forces. He had suffered an open femur fracture and tore many ligaments and tissues in his arm. There was nerve damage and worse yet he had to learn how to walk all over again. They spent over a year in physical therapy while Hannah nursed him back to health in a hospital bed in their living room. Hannah says that it was a defining moment for them in their relationship and family. They persevered even though there were many nights of tears and pain as Hannah was caretaker for her husband but also a full-time mom. She was so thankful he had survived the parachute accident but it was so difficult for her to see him in so much pain and completely dependent on her to do anything. Their motto during these times was ‘always and forever, no matter what’ which was written on a plaque in their living room so that Josh could see it every day and recover to be the same daddy and husband he was before the accident.
fter many years, Josh made a full recovery and retired from the Marine Corps which is when they decided to move home to Hawaii and enjoy a beautiful life together. They had thought about having a third child, and this had seemed like the perfect time to do so. Surprisingly, they got pregnant right away. Hannah was elated to share the news with Josh and the entire family. Their youngest was 4 years old, so being pregnant seemed like something new for her. She rushed out and interviewed midwives and Doulas to assist her in the exciting journey that they were all about to embark on. They even made a video telling their two girls the big news! Little did Hannah know that she would look back at that video with tears in her eyes and an empty belly. She miscarried a few weeks before Christmas.
Trigger warning that the next paragraph is quoted directly from this beautiful mama, as she tells her story more beautifully than I ever could. The details are delicate and powerful; "My baby died inside of me. I. Was. Devastated…I was a healthy young mom at the age of 31 and I had a miscarriage. I knew nothing of miscarriages. All I knew were the stories I heard from friends of mine when they went through it. I said all the wrong things that you don’t want to hear when you’re experiencing a miscarriage. ‘It wasn’t meant to be’, 'its ok, you can try again’….and now that I was the one going through it I couldn’t bare to hear those comments from anyone. I cried uncontrollably on the ground, while waiting for my baby to detach from my body and fall out of me. I wanted to do it all naturally in the privacy of my home instead of a DNC in the hospital. I waited 3 weeks until finally the moment came. I bled for hours. I bled so much I thought I was dying. I cried as I tightly tried to hold the baby inside of me. The feeling that I didn’t want to let it go. My husband stayed by my side the whole time. After a very long and traumatic night, out it came with the chord still attached. It was all so visible. I looked once and walked away. When our older girls woke up the next morning I had to explain to them that our baby got very sick and died. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had to wake up the next day and share it with friends and family..It was a terrible time in my life. My mind went to darkness and depression. I felt jaded. I felt like we would never know happiness again. I felt like my body was somehow broken. I felt empty. but mostly I mourned THAT baby. That exact baby that I would never know... That exact baby that would never know life, our life. It turns out, 1 in 3 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. This was my 1 in 3. But even after research on the topic and trying to heal from my experience, I still felt terrified to try again. Just the topic of conversation on trying for another baby again was rarely spoken and off limits."
Hannah continued on to share her emotional journey; "Josh and I got back up and began enjoying life with our girls again. Family was everything. The joy and happiness of raising my older girls kept me busy and in love with our life. They were growing up beautifully. 4 years went by and we were finally ready to have that talk again. So we did. Our girls were 7 & 9. We began trying again! This time I was 34 and considered an ‘older mom’ at the OB/GYN office. It took us over 8 months to become pregnant again and this was after a lot of tests and hormonal injections. Finally, I took the test and it was positive! We were officially pregnant! We shared it with the girls that weekend. They both cried tears of happiness. Because our last miscarriage left us so hurt, I went to every doctor's appointment thinking I would get news that something was wrong."
Unfortunately, tragedy struck back in California with the death of a close family friend. The decision to move their family (with Hannah expecting baby #3) to their friend's estate in California to care for the property she had left behind was a big one, but this family steps up to help others in need and that is what they thrive on. They will remain here as long as the help is needed in order to honor their friend's life. Hannah continued to share her story of hope, even in the midst of grief; "9 months went by and our baby was happy and healthy in there! I gave birth to another sweet girl on November 10, 2018. We named her Prism. She represented to us all the unforeseen light in our family that she turned into color; beaming color all around us. It is said that when you have a baby after a miscarriage, it is called a rainbow baby. The rainbow after the storm basically. Prism is indeed our rainbow baby. I wanted to contact a photographer that would capture all her light. As soon as I saw Cristy's photos and her gorgeous gowns (the rainbow gown-total swoon!) she uses I knew I had to get our photos done by her! She did an incredible job at capturing our new and completed tribe of goddesses. Thank you Cristy!" This family's beautiful story touched my heart-and I knew that I needed to photograph their new rainbow baby in this beautiful home! So, of course, I did just that.
In-home newborn sessions aren't as time-sensitive as posed in-studio sessions, as it's in the family's natural environment so she was over a month old for this session. Beautiful Prism was dearly loved by her family, and I could tell by their interactions. Her older sisters loved posing with her and the family was just perfectly complete with this precious little one. The property was amazing but as we lost light quickly, I had to return to take a few more photos of mom holding Prism on a tree swing out back which was her precious friend's favorite spot to be-I thought those images were a lovely tribute to the memory of their friend.
I so enjoyed the time that I spent with this family and I'm thrilled that their memories of these, in the words of Hannah; "Magical" sessions will live forever in their albums and on their walls. I don't look at clients as people that I do a job for then send them on their way. I spend time getting to know them, building relationships with them and getting to know their stories so that I can help portray that through their session. Hannah told me that she would love to have another baby just to do another session again. Who knows what the future will bring for this family, but they sure do plan on plenty of adventures to come. They bought a 1989 Airstream that they are currently renovating in order to eventually travel the US to meet others in need. Not only do they help care for people they know, Josh reaches out to help veterans on their journey. Hannah says that by "saying yes to new experiences, and taking care of the people around us in our communities we can all live a life of love, happiness, contentment and connection. The ultimate life of love. Cheers to having a tribe of goddesses and love no matter what".
Best wishes on your journey through life, love & Ohana.
Here's to all of the strong mamas out there who have loved and lost.