Rebekkah | Part of My Healing

In 2018 I married my best friend, a first responder, and the one person who was everything I swore up and down I would NEVER settle for. A month later I started a daycare. A year after that we decided it was time to start trying for one of our own. Yes, there were a lot of things that impacted that decision and a lot of things that changed the plan we had for our life, but it felt right.

I had been diagnosed with PCOS at 14 and we knew that the road we were about to walk was going to potentially be long. We got pregnant that first month, and then became part of the statistic: 1 in 4, our first miscarriage. My first responder husband handled it like any other call. The childcare provider in me handled it like any child care provider would if one of their littles were to suddenly pass. And so began our process of navigating infertility, loss, and heartbreak together with two very different approaches to the world.

Insert all the doctors’ appointments, labs, therapy appointments, and overall questions. Approximately seven months after that we got pregnant again… and had our second miscarriage. This time was different, we had learned how to lean on each other and to provide support, but we had also guarded ourselves. Holding our breath each day of that pregnancy and anticipating the world to come crumbling down again. So when it did, I was devastated but it was almost expected.

This is when my husband brought home an On Angels’ Wings brochure thinking that either I would be able to help or may be able to find relief with their services. It sat on my desk for a year and a half.

I needed a break so we took some time to seek answers, invest in our marriage, and to rest. And in December of 2021, with no fertility medications, no expensive treatments, and no interventions other than just investing in my body we got our miracle baby. It was different. The labs looked great, the numbers were rising, and things finally felt slightly safer than they had ever been. Until it wasn’t and we were back to a space I knew all too well. Except this time, I was further along and completely unaware of what to expect. Alone in the bathroom in the middle of a work day with tiny humans running free, oblivious to the chaos that was wreaking havoc on my body.

Part of my healing process has been to rewrite the things that I can in relation to the loss we have experienced. I have learned that I can’t change the insensitive or hurtful things that have been said but I can love on the moms who are walking through something similar. When we lost our third pregnancy, I applied to be a volunteer photographer with On Angels’ Wings. I needed a space to feel safe and to give back. I wanted to be able to provide moms who were having some of the hardest days of their lives with pictures that they could keep for years to come. I wanted to walk into a room and be cautious of what I said to them so that they knew someone was in their corner rather than platitudes, suggestions or even judgements. I wanted to partner with an organization who would give families a place to grieve no matter what that timeline looked like. Because those were all things that I both wanted and needed in my space of grief. They were things so graciously offered to me by our closest friends and meant more than anything anyone could have ever said or done.

I find solace in the sessions where I end up advocating for the moms (to get more time to process before I come in the room or to not be rushed) or when I’m needed to stay longer than originally planned. It’s usually not a happy ending to the story, but being able to give to those families in those moments makes it 100% worth every second spent sitting in a hospital room or family waiting room.

Every session that I have done has a special story and space in my heart, but one that really stands out is when a dad nudged me in the middle of an emotional moment and whispered, “You’ve got the best job in the world.” In a moment where his world was crumbling, he saw what I had to offer and what value I was able to give. I became a puddle of tears and emotions, but it also hit in a “core memory” way, reminding me that there is so much magic in photography. We capture first and last breaths, milestones, growth, sadness, happiness, and everything in-between. It’s a gift that not everyone is blessed with and those who have it don’t always see what they truly do have – because if they did, they would get to partake in the moments like this.

This summer we lost our fourth pregnancy. I worried how that would look while working with families and taking pictures of such precious infants (as I primarily do emergency sessions in the hospital settings), but it’s been my safe space. It’s been where I have found safety in my hurt and where I feel understood in my own grief journey. It’s been easier to jump back in after taking time off, the nurses have been the most gentle humans to work with, and the parents (without even knowing) have provided a space to just sit and acknowledge that things suck sometimes. It has allowed me to process some of the things we have gone through and to know that my concerns about birth and pregnancy are understood by someone in this world. It’s given me the opportunity to give something back and to provide a safe space to others. But most of all it has given me a place to share my love for photography, infants, families, and the camera’s ability to tell a story without saying a single word in a space where there is still some good left in the world.

If you’re considering becoming a volunteer for On Angels’ Wings, understand that you can take things at your own pace. Speak up when you need a break. It’s a community that understands the need for all of the things, as long as you’re committed to advocating for yourself. But, at the same time – these families have more to give us than we think we have for them.

By Rebekkah LaWall
Owner of Simply You Photography in Springfield, MO
Volunteer OAW Photographer since January 2022

Images Rebekkah has taken for On Angels’ Wings

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