You have to know that I don't post a whole lot about my family online. I like to keep my private life a bit more private than most. I don't share my pain, my heart ache, our struggles. I like to stay positive online, to post happy thoughts instead of the downers.
However, there are times when you just need to let it out. You need prayers or help. You have to just release the inner turmoil that is slowly killing you on the inside. Especially when you are a mom.
When you are a mom, you are the example for your kids. You are strong. You are their teacher, their protector. You are the first line of defense for your kiddos when it comes to the cruel world...the shield that allows them to be kids just a bit longer. But that creates a huge burden on you...worries fill your head and your heart.
Most of the time, you can just brush them off. I mean seriously! Why worry about a tree falling on your kid as they walk to school. What are the chances of that actually happening? Slim. So you let that stuff slide in and right back out.
Then there are the things you never saw coming.
In July of this year, our 8 year old daughter Paige was cleaning up the table after dinner and I noticed a spot on her hand. I was a little upset thinking she had been drawing on her hand with a marker. So, I stopped her and said "What is that kid?" She said "Oh! My teacher accidentally bumped me with a pen before we left for Christmas break."
*Inner Monologe* WHAT!?! That makes NO sense. That was 8 months ago, Kid! UGH! Ok. Just breathe.
After asking to see it, my heart began to sink as I realized it wasn't a pen mark at all. It was a misshapen, discolored mole. The same mole that just 9 months earlier was a tiny little pin head and a nice light brown. Alarms started going off in my head as I looked my daughter in the eye and asked "how long has it been this color and shape?" She didn't know and insisted that it was just a pen mark from Christmas time. However, no amount of scrubbing would make this mark go away.
I knew in my heart something was wrong, and the very next day made an appointment with a dermatologist. Two weeks we would have to wait. Two weeks of me checking her hand daily. Two weeks of my mom worries to build. I kept telling myself "Erika, you are over-reacting. This kid has never had a sunburn a day in her life. It's just a mole. No need to worry." But no matter what I tried to say to myself, my gut knew this wasn't good and my brain reeled with worry. It took all of my strength to not show my concerns to my kids, but I truly think they could sense something wasn't right.
The day of the appointment came, and the Doctor came into the room happy as a clam. "It will all be ok now. It's nothing to worry about, " my brain said. We talked as the Doctor looked over our 11 year old first. Nothing exciting on her. Yay! Then Paige....and the Doctor's face went from happy-go-lucky to concern instantly. I knew that look. It was the same look I had been carrying inside me for two weeks. She could see what I saw, but then said "You know. Moles on the hand can grow weird, but lets just take a biopsy today to make sure. I'm sure it's just a normal little mole that's just got it's own unique shape due to it's location." Yes. It's nothing my brain screamed at me as I said "Sounds good." Better to be safe than sorry, and the Doctor is just being cautious. Nothing to worry about.
6 days later...my phone rings. The nurse from the dermatology clinic says "Hello. May I speak with the mother of Paige?" Here we go I thought...it's all fine...it's all fine. Then she said the results....Severely abnormal cells with a high probability of melanoma. I had no breath. No words. All I could say was "ok." to whatever else she was talking about. What was she saying? Oh, they have to do surgery? This is my baby! How did this happen? What? What did she just ask me? Oh...she wants to set up the surgery appointment and call me back..."Ok".
As I hung up the phone and set it down on the table the tears filled my eyes. She is 8 years old! She has NEVER had a sunburn in her life. Never! I couldn't breathe. My head filled with thousands of scenarios. Cancer treatments. Scars....death...NO! No! No! No!
I got up and walked into the office where my husband was finishing up an email for work. I couldn't even look at him. "That was the dermatologists office on the phone...she has severely abnormal cells with a high probability of melanoma." I said as the tears started pouring down my face. He grabbed me and pulled me in for a bear hug as I sobbed. We cried together and my worries were now our worries for our baby girl.
The date for her excision of the site was set, and we carried on with life. I became a bit more withdrawn with friends, family and social media. Letting my business slide a bit more than I should...even debating whether or not I want to even stay in business. My kids mean more to me than anything in the world, and I would gladly sacrifice my dreams and passions for their lives in a heartbeat. But I kept telling myself...it will be ok. This is just a bump in the road. You need to focus on the positives. No one is dead! She is strong! Positive focus. Breathe.
I pushed the worries back hard as we went on our Anniversary trip. We laughed. We joked around. It was fun. But the whole time the mom worry in the back of my head nagged at me, and I wanted to be with my kids. Soaking up all of their snuggles. We both kept saying "The kids would have loved this," or "I wish the kids were here."
Now, a parent's worry for their child's safety is constant. You worry about them falling, breaking bones, getting kidnapped, getting in a car accident...just all around doing something stupid and getting hurt from that decision. The normal worries. Most parents don't worry about Cancer until they have to. And it's not because you don't worry about your child getting a severe illness. No! It's because THAT is so hard to fathom, so painfully hard to imagine you just don't let your brain go there. When it does, you feel helpless. This isn't a boo boo you can kiss and make better. This isn't a "learning opportunity" on how to make a better decision. It is an illness that could have just as easily have hit you or your neighbor. A random, invisible enemy. You could never have protected her from this. You know the percentages, the outcomes of so many with similar diagnoses, but you can't stop the path she is now on. You are now a helpless bystander, waiting and praying your baby is strong enough to fight back for herself.
So here we are. The day of the "surgery". Anxious to know how it all will play out next. Two other moles may need to be removed today as well, and my worry for her builds. This isn't what I ever imagined for her. Not ever and definitely not at 8 years of age. I now have to have faith in her strength, to support her on this journey as best I can. Maybe it will turn out to all be just a fluke. Maybe she will never have this issue ever again. We just don't know. But for right now, my "mom worries" fill my days and nights as we wait for the next step.
Our daughter's surgery went really well. She is such an amazing kiddo and only flinched ONCE when the Doctor used a needle full of anesthetic to numb the area. They gave her a sucker and put on cartoons and she just chilled for the rest. We were all so impressed!
The Doctor had said she hadn't ever seen this type of cancerous mole in someone so young before, but that the percent of this type of mole returning is only 4%. So, fingers crossed for our little girl.
The results came back about 2 weeks after surgery, and they did get everything with this second surgery. No cancerous cells on the edges. YAY! However, we still have to take her in for a check up every 3 months for the next year, as they expressed concern over a couple other moles on her back.
It has been a few months now, and I keep checking her all over. Sounds crazy, but this kiddo is one of the sweetest kids on the planet. She is this mommy's big helper girl. My snuggle bug. I couldn't imagine life without her...EVER! So my mommy worries never end.
Las Vegas, NV
This sweet family have been clients of mine since their precious little girl's birth. We have done so many fun sessions, and it is always such a pleasure to come back to Vegas for yet another fun family portrait session with them.
This year we were up at Floyd Lamb Park in North Las Vegas for some gorgeous fall Sunset photos. Check out some of my favorites from this amazing Family sessions below.
Las Vegas, NV
As much as I love outdoor family sessions, there are just some days I'm not a fan of weather. I can handle some rain and snow, but wind can be a true beast for photo sessions.
When on-location though, I usually have very little time....an not much wiggle room for rescheduling. So when the Mounts family arrived at Calico Basin Park, and the wind was upwards of 25 mph in some gusts....we had to work with it.
This family is truly inspiring to me...two sets of twins in under 3 years! Two precious girls, and two adorable little boys. When I asked dad what are the odds of that happening, his response was "Oh pretty high! It's just my luck!". Ha! But they handle their brood with grace and humor. Their patience is immeasurable, and I was thoroughly impressed. Especially when the wind became a bit too much to handle.
However, even though we were fighting a windy day and the kids were done with photos after just 40 minutes...we were able to capture some amazing moments for them. Perfect family shots, as well as fun shots of the kiddos.
Here are just a few of my favorites from their session. Enjoy!
When you have photographed a family from the time their eldest was still in his momma's belly, you grow a forever bond with that family. The bond I have with this adorable family has become so much more than friendship. We consider them a part of our family now. They have stolen my heart.
So, each time I travel to the Las Vegas area...or even when they come to visit us in Nebraska...we get together to photograph their sweet little kiddos growing up.
This year we ventured outside of Las Vegas to Nelson, and the results of this season were amazing. Check out just a few of my favorites below.
Las Vegas, NV
Sometimes a client just doesn't need a full session, which is why I always try to evaluate the clients needs and offer them the opportunity to take one of our fabulous Mini Sessions if it works better for their schedule and budget.
Now, when I schedule on-location sessions outside of Nebraska I love to set up several times for mini sessions to make sure I can get everyone in that wants photos done. This year I was so blessed to have so many clients want photos taken, and so many that wanted our fabulous Mini sessions.
The locations for these sessions varied from Floyd Lamb Park, to Nelson's Landing, to Boulder City....but all were memorable with beautiful families capturing memories.
Below are just a couple of the amazing images captured from each of these wonderful session. Check them out!
Las Vegas, NV
To start Sean's story, I first have to tell you a little about my daughters' births.
With my first birth....ALL back labor. Not really something any woman ever wants as it is quite painful. With my second...erratic and very non-typical labor. Contractions were all over the place. Starting and stopping. And then....Bam water breaks and 20 minutes later we have a baby in our arms. Then my third....fast. fast. fast! By the time I realized I was actually in full labor and not that fun prodromal stuff...it was about an hour before she arrived.
Now, the reason I had to start with their stories is....well...it's because Sean decided to combine them all into his story. Back labor, non-typical/erratic labor, and a FAST delivery. But he also added his own special twist too.....
So, his story begins on September 29th at 4:54am. I get awakened with uncomfortable contractions, and think "hmmm...no. It's still two weeks before his due date. I must just need to go to the bathroom." Get up and start my day, but they don't stop. They aren't regular, but aren't really comfortable and are all in my back. Super fun!
By 10am...I'm drinking tons of water and laying down on my side on the couch. Contractions have stopped and I drift off for a nap. Lunch comes and goes with a few contractions, but nothing like prior that morning. By 3pm I'm noticing that every time I stand up the contractions kick into high gear. I keep talking to my belly. Saying "Look kid! You need to stay in there until October!"
So, back to the couch to lay down and take another nap. Ha! Best way to spend the day, right!?!
When I wake up it's almost dinner time. The big girls are running around fighting. My husband wants to know what we should have for dinner. I have to pee...AGAIN! The joy of pregnancy...peeing every 20 minutes. This time though...the pressure I start to feel with the contractions makes me realize...I don't think I'm going to be able to "stop" this until October.
I come out of the bathroom and look my husband in the eye and say "I think we might be having a baby tonight", and he whips out his phone to start timing them. It's now 6:35pm. I feel nauseous and lots of pressure with each contraction. They are still erratic, ranging from 2-8 min apart but lasting over a min each. At this point...we are prepping the tub and texting the birth team to be on their toes.
By 8:45pm calls are being made. Midwife...check. Student midwife...check. Birth photographer...check. Tub is almost full. I've changed into my bikini top...we are ready to have a baby!
One by one the birth team arrives. The big girls are so excited to meet their baby brother. But things aren't speeding up. Instead the contractions are slowing down, and getting...if it were possible...more erratic. The pressure I feel is SO intense I want to push. The back pain is SO intense...I want to scream out loud from the pain, and the only comfortable position is to sit on my knees. But yet...the contractions are getting farther apart.
My lovely midwife, Kim Trower, isn't quite concerned...but asks to check me and see if we are actually going to have this baby tonight. She barely made it to our third child's birth, and for a 4th baby...this isn't going quite like we had all thought it would. So around Midnight a quick check....and we are only at 2 cm.
I've given birth to 3 children, been to countless other births, and yet that number...while I knew it's just a number and that labor can go from 2-10 in just minutes...it was a crushing blow. I KNEW I was in real labor. Little man just wasn't in an optimal position, causing everything to take awhile. But it was now after 1am and after being awakened so early, spending all day with on/off contractions....I was so tired. The birth team was super tired. It was best that they all went home to their families. And they did. And I cried.
I didn't want to be alone. I mean, I wasn't. My husband and kids were there, but I felt alone nonetheless. I wanted Kim, Romina, and Jessica there. That was the plan. This ridiculous labor was NOT in my plan! I was mad and sad, and the self doubt started to set in. Maybe I'm not in real labor. Maybe I am having a fun round of prodromal labor. I mean...I had it with my other three. BUT it never felt like this.
After a bath and a small glass of wine...the contractions had all but stopped and I, begrudgingly, fell asleep around 2:23am.
September 30th, 2015...5:43am...the contractions are back with a vengeance. Standing is near impossible, but I don't want to wake the whole household just yet. So I sit on the edge of our bed and try to sleep in between contractions.
8:45am rolls around and I can't breathe through these anymore. My husband says "I'm taking the big girls to school. Be back in a few." OMG! I didn't want him to leave. I couldn't focus my eyes from the intensity of labor pains, and he wants to LEAVE!?! I was so mad, but yet was having to focus so much on the labor I couldn't express my displeasure of him taking the girls to school. I wanted them all to stay, but lost my ability to verbalize most anything. It was at this point that we should have called the birth team back. While the contractions were still very irregular, this was beyond active labor and moving into the transition phase.
At 9:30am, I begged my husband to refill the tub cause I wanted...no...I NEEDED to be in the water. He was running around with hoses, draining water, filling water, back and forth...sitting with me, and holding my hand as I screamed out from the severe back pain that has crippled me to our bed.
9:45am...."You need to call someone! Something is wrong! This isn't how I labor!" I sob through tears to my husband. So, he picks up the phone after that contraction finishes.
9:48am..."Oh my God! I need to be on my hands and knees NOW!" and I flip to my hands and knees just as another contraction begins. My water breaks all over the bed just as Kim answers her phone and I hear my husband say "Oh...her water just broke all over the bed, and there is a head." I know he is on the phone with her, so I scream "Kim! Get here NOW!"....cause every midwife has a teleporter, right?!?
I some how muster up the strength to get off the bed, and start walking down the hall to the birth tub as my husband is trying to convince me that our bathtub is perfectly fine at this point. But dang it! I bought that birth tub. I will give birth in that tub! It's just 30 feet away....I can make it...I can make it...
10:03am and I enter the studio where the tub sits...just 8 feet away. Two more steps...5 feet away, but a contraction begins. I remember thinking "He can't come with this contraction. I will just breathe through, then climb in the tub and he will be born."
I should just stop planning things...
I feel his head shift down and I can't stop him...he is coming NOW and I scream "STEVEN!! YOU NEED TO CATCH HIM!" My husband...slides into the room underneath me just as little man barrels out in less than a push. He is here! Covered in vernix, and screaming out the most wonderful cries.
Over 29 hours of labor...less than 5 minutes of "birth". Ha! He is going to be a stinker!
The next few hours are filled with the birth team arriving, photos being taken, and family bonding. All of which was so surreal after his whirl wind arrival. Our girls were so excited to come home for lunch and find a new baby brother waiting for them. My midwife was sad to have missed his arrival. My husband was still coming down from his adrenaline high. And I was wearing my Wonder Woman jammies feeling like a rockstar.
So there it is...the special delivery of our son. Please enjoy some of the photos from this crazy story below, taken by the amazing Miss Jessica Benson of Jessica B Photography.
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