This business has been such a blessing to my life over the last 3 years. The new people I’ve met, and the relationships I’ve been able to reignite because of the photographic needs for families, pups, etc.
I’ve talked a million times about how grateful I am for these opportunities. How my time spent in the food/service industry has brought so many previous coworkers back in my life in ways I never imagined.
This post guys…. will be hard.This took me weeks to finish. Bits at a time. So it may seem choppy. It will be long, wordy, filled with photos and video. This post will be more raw, more emotional, and more real than any post I’ve previously posted. This will also be the most educational. The most touching. The most humbling, and the most eye opening. And lastly, it will be the most heartbreaking, but will have the most heart felt moments sprinkled throughout. I hope you’ll stick with me and learn about baby Gabriel and his beautiful family. I hope you’ll take the time to feel and appreciate how truly fragile life is.
I worked with Mariah for a brief summer at Buffalo Wild Wings on OSU’s main campus somewhere around 2010/2011. I was at a very strange point in my life, I had never really lived in a big city for an extended period of time, and I didn’t know a soul. The gals and guys I worked with for such a short time, impacted my life in such a huge way. I’ll still run into a few of the guys, I’ll text the girls every now and then to see how they’re doing. It’s great when I go grab a drink and I’ll see a few working the bar. There were broken hearts, loss, but there was also some pretty incredible memories. One of my favorites, would be the Mariah had met Josh at my house, just as an accident. She would text me randomly to tell me “We found love at Portia’s Place” (to Rihanna’s We Found Love, she’s so clever).
Needless to say, life happened. We didn’t work together anymore, fell out of touch, but Facebook is great to keep up and see the beautiful things that are happening in the world. I was so happy to see that she and Josh got married, had two beautiful babies, and they were expecting a third! So exciting! When I saw her name show up as a message from my photography page, my heart skipped a beat, I was SO touched.
“Portia! I would love for you to do our newborn pictures if possible. I deliver in February.”
Oh Lordy, was I pumped! I couldn’t believe it! Of course I would do it! She then explained:
“So the situation is different… Sadly this baby won’t make it home with us. And we want to capture all the moments we get at the hospital…. I’m pretty much broken. We both are. One day at a time. Yesterday we received a diagnosis change and that’s when everything changed. We knew something was wrong - but fixable. Yesterday we learned it wasn’t… and josh said he wants pictures done, so. you’re the first person I thought of.”
Whew. Talk about getting the breath knocked out of you. I had no idea what to say, or do. All I knew is that I had to do this, and I wanted to hug them. For hours. It was then the only thing on my mind for months - I was going to be responsible for their memories with this beautiful baby. Thank goodness for cell phones, and the ease of taking photos and videos, but professional quality, and capturing moments that we typically don’t think to grab with our phones when we are in the moment. I prayed a lot about this. I asked for strength. For understanding. For the ability to see the moments they would want forever. We didn’t know how long we had with him. Could be a couple of hours, could be a couple of days.
I was at a loss for words the following months, reaching out and asking her how she is doing, how she was feeling. Guys, you know what? She reached out to ME and asked ME how I was feeling! Gosh. Talk about heart break, and adoration. She said “I know this will be hard for all involved.” Which will stick with me forever. I have not yet had children, but I can only imagine that love you feel when you see that little human that is yours. The time spent in your womb… and spending months feeling them, knowing that you are about to face the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
February 5 I received a message - “Being induced tomorrow night 8 p.m. with hopes of a Wednesday day delivery.” February 7 at 5:51 a.m. she messaged me about the roads and how yucky they were. I had already called off work to make sure I could be available the entire day. She was keeping me posted on her progress, but I couldn’t sit and wait at home. I was SO nervous that I would miss something. I decided to leave on my own accord and just hung out close to OSU Hospital until she told me to head that way. I got there and waited in the waiting room. Watching all of these families run through the room. Some happy, some sad. It’s so hard to look at the capability we as humans have, to feel and understand emotion based on a simple smile or a quick look to the ground. I was just an outsider imagining what everyone was feeling, and as I’m reading my book - Josh comes out to say hello. He thanks me for coming, and updates me on Mariah. Shortly after he heads back to the room, i get the message asking me to come in.
I walked in, and immediately felt the love and support in the room. The wonderful nurse that was there to help. Josh, standing right next to Mariah. Her mom and sister standing off to the side, but not out of site. The nurse explained to me that I couldn't take photos during certain times, and that I would need to stay behind an imaginary line. I tried not to focus on my racing heart as I realized I may miss some of the massive moments with this family. I tried to focus on how scared they all must be that they are about to meet this little angel, and they just don't know how much time they'll have. Me feeling insecure or scared, was not an option. My heart was hurting for them.
The time came for the doctors to come in. The room seemed to flood with students and doctors, and it was time to go.
Absolutely speechless. Everyone in the room had tears in their eyes and I think we all hoped and prayed we could take this pain away from Mariah and Josh. Feeling so helpless. Yet, standing in this room observing - I was in awe. In awe of the strength of these two. Of this family that was about to endure such excruciating pain. This love that you could feel amidst the sadness. Among the chaos, you felt a sense of calm. They had prepared for this day. For weeks, for months, they prepared. And you could feel the vibe " we got this"... yet you also felt the "but I'm scared."
She was incredible in delivery. She pushed maybe 3 or 4 times. Didn't even make a sound. When Gabriel joined us, they put him on her chest immediately and let Dad cut the cord.
Gabriel was taken over to be weighed, cleaned up, and measured. Once he was returned to their arms, you could feel the room just take a breath. He's here. Josh leaned down to Mariah and said "I'm so happy we got to meet him. I'm so happy we got to see him."
Baby Gabriel was also baptised as soon as he could be. The pastor dipped the rose in holy water and blessed Gabriel shortly after he was born. He had skin to skin with Josh, and the nurses came in to do an Echo on his heart to send to doctor's at Children's Hospital for review.
Everyone took their time meeting Gabriel. Grabbed photos with him, loved on him, kissed, and hugged. Talked. Cried. Everyone tried to crack a smile when they could. Once Harper and Remington arrived (Garbiell's older brother and sister), there was nothing but happiness. When they met their baby brother for the first time... oh my goodness.
So many incredible people handmade or bought blankets, little hats, clothes, and booties. We made sure to grab as much as we could once they were moved from the delivery room to a hospital room. I tried to stay out of the way the entire time, but oh man. It's tough to not want to hug, or cry with the family. They all just soaked up every second they could with him. He was SO loved. From the moment they laid eyes on him.
I didn't want to leave when I did. I had spent just about 8 hours with them, but I just didn't want to miss a second. I told her to let me know if she needed me to come back. Everyone was so tired, and it was time for everyone to 'try' and sleep.
I got a text a few days later (Feb 11) asking if I could come to Kobacker House. Which is an acute care facility located behind Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Umm....ABSOLUTELY! I headed that way and was so excited I got to spend even more time and capture even more moments for them! Oh my gosh, guys. He was just so perfect. I couldn't stop saying it. He looked absolutely perfect.
"Gabriel passed away this morning around five. He waited until Josh and I were both in the same bed holding him."
I don't think I could ever find the words to explain .... how profound this experience was. To witness the start of a brand new life and mourn his death only days later. I have shed many tears for this family, but I am positive it is miniscule in the amount his family will shed for the lifetime to come.
Gabriel was born with an unbalanced AV (atrioventricular) canal defect with pulmonary atresia. He also had a mitral valve leak. Mariah made this video to help explain what was happening inside this seemingly perfect baby's body.
Please take the time to listen.
This side gig brings me so many beautiful people. So many memories that are put into my hands to capture forever.
I will never forget this experience that left me feeling so small. That had me searching for words where I knew 120% there was nothing to do or say. Josh and Mariah experienced something no parent should ever go through. They knew that they wanted as much time with him as possible, and goodness gracious baby Gabriel fought to stay with as long as possible.
Life is precious. And no matter your short time here... you will leave an impact with those that love you, and they will remember and cherish forever. No matter how long or short. Try and be understanding of those going through such a tragedy, and offer what time you have to listen to their story.
Gabriel Allen White. You only knew love. I find it incredible that a human being existed on this planet and never knew hate, or the ugliness this world can sometimes show. You will be forever loved, little man.