Aiden was just 8 weeks and he was full of life during the incredible photo shoot that left photographer Jennifer Ryals in tears
Photographer Jennifer Ryals wasn’t really sure about the newborn photoshoot she was about to make. She was contacted to take photos of an 8-week-old baby who had just arrived home from the hospital.
“I don’t know where to start this honestly,” Ryals wrote in her essay for Love What Matters. “I don’t photograph newborns. Not my thing.”
But the photographer really enjoyed doing lifestyle portraits and decided to take the job. “Can you do the session tomorrow? We don’t have much time,” the person on the other side of the phone said.
Aiden was born with microcephaly. His brain was underdeveloped and his head had an abnormally small size. Doctors believed that Aiden would be stillborn, but the strong boy didn’t want to give up on his life. He was fighting for 8 weeks and broke all odds.
Ryals didn’t know anything about Aiden’s condition until she saw him for the very first time.
“He was so tiny. So perfect,” she said. “As soon as his mom brought him into the room, I was immediately teary-eyed. But they weren’t tears of sadness or pity; it was genuinely pure joy.”
It was a bittersweet experience. Aiden received so much love from his family. Sadly, his time was running.
Ryals talked to Aiden’s parents throughout the entire time. She wanted to know more about the baby because she always bonds with her clients. The emotional photographer was determined to take the best shots.
Aiden’s father, Ricky, had nothing but words of praise for his baby.
“Aiden was supposed to be stillborn, but he came out screaming and has been fighting ever since.
The mother, Kayla, was glowing throughout the entire session. The photo shoot was over, and Ryals started crying. She couldn’t stop the tears! These photos had to be perfect because Aiden was perfect!
“I cried and prayed and yelled and cried some more the entire 45-minute drive home,” Ryals revealed in her essay. “I stressed all day and night over the images and even went to sleep early (early being 2 a.m.) because I had re-edited the entire gallery (272 images) at least 7 times. I needed to just step away from it for a bit. They HAD to be perfect.”
Ryals received a heartbreaking message the next morning. It was from Aiden’s aunt who booked the photoshoot. The poor baby had died.
“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 the photographer. “My heart is shattered for that family that loved that baby so much.”
The photoshoot with Aiden had a huge impact on Ryals. It was an emotional experience, and Aiden’s death made Ryals reflect on her two children. Today, she is grateful for the beautiful experience and the opportunity to meet Aiden.
Ryals deals with anxiety and depression, and this fills her up with doubts about herself and her work. But, Aiden’s story and the photoshoot showed her a different side of all the things we are surrounded with.
“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.”
Microcephaly is a condition where babies have underdeveloped brains and a small head. Sometimes the brain stops growing after the delivery. It’s often accompanied by other birth defects. Remember the avalanche of information confirming its link to the Zika virus?
Microcephaly can be related to other issues:
- Developmental delays
- Intellectual disabilities
- Movement and balance problems
- Difficulty eating and swallowing
- Hearing loss
- Vision issues
The issues are mild or severe, but they are chronic in most cases. Microcephaly requires regular check-ups to monitor the growth and treat the issues.
This condition affects about 2-12 babies per 10,000 births in the US.
Several conditions may contribute to microcephaly, and we have covered some of them:
- Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities (Down syndrome, etc.)
- Chickenpox, rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, and other infections during pregnancy
- Cerebral anoxia (the brain of the fetus doesn’t receive enough oxygen)
- Maternal uncontrolled phenylketonuria (PKU)
- Use of illicit drugs, alcohol, or other toxins during pregnancy and other environmental factors
- Zika virus
There’s no cure for microcephaly and therapies include treating the symptoms and the other issues it’s related to.
Children born with microcephaly have to do regular check-ups and receive speech, physical and occupational therapies.