Welcome to the brand spankin' new Worthington Photography Blog! We are Sam and Mel, a husband-wife photography team based in the "rivah city" of Richmond, Virginia. We hope you'll come on in, sit a spell, and browse through Mel's journal of our most recent shoots and adventures. If you wish to reminisce, you can still access posts from our old blog here. Enjoy!

Eleven, eleven, eleven and the birth of Reyna Joy

April 5th, 2012

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(I’ve had permission to share this for a long time but its taken months to find my voice.)

Dearest Reyna:  The leaves danced in the road the day you were born.  The sun was warm on my shoulder but the air was brisk.  We had waited for your birth day to come for so long, so much longer than nine months.

Your mother asked me to come over and take a few pictures before she and your dad left for the hospital that morning.   I am so grateful for these pictures but they were hard on me.  Hard to see my sister so swollen and uncomfortable.  Hard to see the wall she put up to protect herself as she protected you crumble as hope, joy and gratitude rushed in through the cracks.

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Your mother is so very strong.  If there’s one thing she didn’t appear to be feeling during our shoot or at any other point during the day, it was fear.  The fear was over and done with.  She and your dad were just so ready to meet you.

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Your room was prepared and everything was packed: you’ll learn this but your mother and I are so different!  She’s so organized and on top of everything… me, not so much.  But we’re both sentimental.  I was especially touched by the words she chose for your walls and the things your father hung in your room and carried with him to protect you.

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todayyouareyou

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This is what it was like in the hours before you were born.

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The day had been chosen by the doctors, completely arbitrarily.  Your mother insisted on saying this to everyone she knew for fear someone might think she deliberately chose a boutique birthday like 11-11-11 when all she cared about was your safe delivery.  Turns out, it was written in the stars even before the doctors had a say.  It was two Christmas’ ago when your parents lost their second baby, this one at 17 weeks, to an incompetent cervix.  In the darkest weeks of grief and confusion that followed their loss, your father remembers your mother saying to him, “Its weird but every time I look at the clock it says 11:11.  Morning, night, it doesn’t matter, that’s always what it says.  Don’t you think that’s weird?”  He did, because it was.  Everything was weird and nothing was right, nothing was just and nothing made sense.  He remembered this strange detail and he reminded your mother of it when she came back from her doctor’s appointment and told him the day they chose.  Your parents kept that part of the story to themselves until you were born.

I don’t know all of what it took for your parents to get to 11-11-11.  The medical records reflect a myriad of procedures and new surgeries.  Through my eyes, though, it was a journey made up of one act of love after another, one leap of faith to the next.  Step by step, hand in hand on a tight rope.  I think this is why your middle name is Joy.

The rest of your family stood on the shore waving them on but feeling helpless.  We didn’t have a map or a GPS or anything to offer them except for our hope.  We tried our best to be a ballast.  The last time we had gathered as a family in the waiting area of the labor and delivery ward at Fairfax Hospital was truly one of the saddest, hardest days of my entire life.  It went without saying that we would all gather in the same place again for one of the very happiest days.  You have no idea what it meant for us to be together again in that place, waiting for you.  While I was disappointed that I wasn’t allowed in the delivery room to photograph your arrival, I am glad I was with the family to witness their reactions when your father texted your first picture to us from the delivery room.  I’m only sad that you can’t see my own reaction… it was hard to pick up the camera when all I wanted to do was pull the cell phone towards me and gawk at that picture of you!

Your grandfathers cried:

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Your grandmothers exclaimed how big and strong you were!

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In short, we were completely and totally freaking out…

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The first photos I took of you were hurried, a nurse was drawing blood from your foot and trying her best to shoo me out.  They needed to take you to the NICU but we were determined to get just one glimpse before they did.  I couldn’t believe how much you looked like your cousin the day he was born.

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And as for the outpouring of love… I don’t think they’ve ever had so many happy people packed into one room in the postpartum ward!  I was sure they were going to kick us all out!

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Of course I will share more pictures of you here and everywhere.  Never forget: miracles happen because you are a miracle.

Here’s the slideshow I made them.  Fun fact: your parents saw Andrea Bocelli perform this song live on their first date night after you were born.

For families who are having difficulty conceiving, have experienced miscarriage or infant loss, are considering transabdominal cerclage for their next pregnancy or have a baby in the NICU, my sister and I want to share the following links.  This is hard but you are strong and you are definitely not alone.

http://www.iamtheface.org/

http://www.abbyloopers.org/index.htm

http://www.ivfconnections.com/

http://forums.fertilitycommunity.com/vitro-fertilization-ivf/

http://www.shareyourstory.org/

And if you know someone who might find this story hopeful, please pass this link along.

Posted by Mel @ 5:56 pm, in Bellies, Newborns, Personal, Portraits, Wee Ones | 9 Comments | Permalink

Normal 2.0

January 10th, 2012

The sun is setting on Christmas Eve as we sit on our front porch swing while Fiver naps.  Sam hands me a glass of eggnog and I will myself to talk about anything…anything at all besides diabetes.  But before I am able he blurts out, “I think we need another Humalog pen.  What if something happens to the pen and we can’t give him insulin?”  He’s right, of course.  But I’m exhausted and all I can think to say is, “Can you believe that at this time last week we didn’t know what a Humalog pen was?”

I can’t believe how long it is taking for the dust to settle and for our new normal, the one I call Normal 2.0, to commence.  Parents of children with diabetes assure me that this is as hard as it will ever be, not only because its so new but because of his age. He will get older and learn to recognize and articulate his symptoms.  He will become more active in his own care.  I see it coming, already he likes to press the button to prick his finger and he chooses his injection site at each meal.  His favorites sites are always where he can get the best view of the needle going in as we count to ten.

But with every small success comes a new hurdle.  Every near perfect blood glucose reading has a high or low reading riding right on its tail.  Its only when I have the carbs of his meal counted perfectly that he decides he no longer likes the “favorite” food items I have so painstakingly measured onto his plate.  With every prescription we are able to fill comes another we can’t and more time on hold as we place yet another phone call to the insurance company, doctor or medical supplier while chewing our fingernails and hoping we don’t run out of something we need.  With each reportage of our numbers comes a new dosage and with more carb to insulin to activity ratios to try and wrap our tired heads around.  And always, as the sun sets with the promise of rejuvenation that only a little person’s bedtime can bring a weary couple desperate to hold a conversation or silently watch TV, comes the requisite snack before bed and then BAM, he’s reanimated and running around for yet another hour as we try and wind him down all over again.

But if there’s something we can be very grateful for, its how little of an impact the diagnosis has had on the patient himself.  Fiver remains a happy, active, funny, and outgoing two year old.  He still loves trucks and all things lego and he still runs amuck at the park every day, unlike kids who have to live with more devastating chronic illnesses.  And hypoglycemia, through his eyes, is the coolest thing because he can drink boxed juice and have more sugar snacks.  Its really just his frazzled parents who are suffering from high blood pressure and lack of sleep.  And his parents’ valued clients who aren’t getting enough of their time right now.

Which leads me to the next thing we are amazed and grateful for: the friends, family and clients who have given us the love, support, space and understanding we have needed to get closer to Normal 2.0.  Thank you for the gift of your understanding.  There have been so many great things to share and blog with you on the business end of our lives and I will return to the task of sharing them with you just as soon as I can.

Today Fiver told me that Rufus (the Bear with Diabetes, thank you JDRF for gifting him to us) was feeling sad.  I asked Fiver if he felt sad too and he said no, just Rufus, he’s making Rufus feel better.  Its really nice to see that my boy has learned the transformative power of a hug from all the hugs, literal and virtual, that he has received from all of you.  We wish you peace and love in the New Year and look forward to documenting all the joy its bound to bring each of us in our own unique way.  We each have a story of our own to tell.

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Posted by Mel @ 8:42 pm, in Personal, Wee Ones | 3 Comments | Permalink

Nothing Short of Thankful

November 23rd, 2011

What I’m (especially) thankful for this Thanksgiving:

The birth of my niece, the health of my family, my sweet boys, the amazing strength and warmth of friends, never feeling bored, never feeling like we’ve got it all, and for the way the universe makes sure we have what we need somehow even if we don’t have what we want.

And I’m very, very grateful for a job that continues to reveal, in its own mystical language, what it looks like to love and be loved in return.  Happy Thanksgiving…

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Posted by Mel @ 9:35 pm, in Personal | 1 comment | Permalink

Halloween ’11

November 1st, 2011

fireman

NO.

That was the response every time we pulled out his costume over the past week.  As a last ditch effort, I took him to the firehouse down the street Halloween morning to show him the uniforms that hung on the wall of the house and talk about how firemen can’t fight fires in their PJs.  A fireman spotted us and opened the door.  Immediately Fiver was smitten by this man and went full cherub on him (i.e. big eyes, round face, perfectly pursed lips, polite nods).  “Do you want to see my fire jacket?”, the fireman asked.  “Do we?  Indeed!” I replied (Fiver nodded).  “You know, firemen…”, he began.  “Poop on the potty?!”, my son interjected with great hope, reaching for a common thread between himself and this amazing man in uniform.  (Well, 85% of the time anyway.)  “Um, yes, we do”, the fireman recovered.  He showed us his uniform and Fiver promised he would wear his for trick or treating.

Then, the golden hour of trick or treating was near.  Out came the costume….

NO.

So what do you do as a parent?  You want them to experience something really cool and you know its only scary because its new.  But you don’t want to traumatize your kid by hammering your own values of fun onto them either.  So here’s what you do.  You bribe them.  “Let’s practice trick-or-treating”, said Sam as he handed out a piece of candy to Wonder Woman (aka Merit) and a giraffe (aka Cadence) when given the correct prompt.

You wonder, sometimes, how you measure up in the game of parenting and out of nowhere your kid announces the score.  When Sam turned to our son and said, “Now what do you have to say to get the piece of candy?”,

He said, “Please.”

Needless to say, that one piece of candy pushed him in the right direction.  We never got the suspender pants on him but he couldn’t be bothered, he couldn’t get his boots and jacket on fast enough.  And he did get the hang of saying, “Trick or Treat” pretty quickly.  And for one hour of one evening anyway, we turned the lens on our life.  Hope yours was just as happy a Halloween…

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Posted by Mel @ 7:35 pm, in Personal, Wee Ones | Comments Off | Permalink