This was one of the most heart wrenching situations I’ve ever been close to and I’m so honored to be able to tell a very, very small snippet of it. Sit tight while I attempt to give you an abridged version of the events that unfolded after sweet Amelia’s birth a few weeks ago and the tale of her Mom and Dad who are both two amazingly strong willed people.
Jess Grib and her husband Kevin were pregnant with their second baby. She was about 37 weeks and had been experiencing high blood pressure. They decided to induce her to make sure she and the baby were ok. While in labor, their little darling decided to turn breech, so they opted for a c-section. The c-section went well and Amelia was welcomed into this world by both her mom and dad. It was in the recovery room when things went South very quickly.
In her best friend’s words: "Jess developed peripartum cardiomyopathy, her heart function was at 10% meaning her heart was extremely weak and vital organs were not getting the perfusion (blood and oxygen) that they needed”. Jess was admitted into the CT ICU. She spent 3 weeks straight in the hospital — with much of it in the ICU. As you can imagine, Jess went through hell and back in those few weeks. She had multiple surgeries, tests, pokes, and prods along the way. If you’d like to read the intricacies of her journey, her best friend, Lindsey, as well as her Mother In Law, Colleen, diligently kept friends and family up to speed here: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jessicagrib/journal
I had the absolute honor to photograph sweet little Amelia as a newborn so that Jess and Kevin, their two year old, Noah, and their families might have some warm memories of such a treacherous time. So here I present to you, baby Amelia!
During Jess’ hospital stay, life at home continued — in a very different way than before, but it continued. Jess and Kevin’s support system is beyond incredible — with thousands of people looking out for and caring for them. When I arrived for Amelia’s newborn session, there were about 7 people there — Kevin, Noah, Jess’ Mom, Patty, her sister, Emily, her sister in law, Julie, her sister in law, Rachel, her husband, and eventually Kevin’s Dad. It was an environment filled with love for Kevin, Jess, Noah and Amelia, and support all around. Everything was done with this family of four in mind. Meticulous feeding and changing notes were taken on Baby Amelia. Kevin's sister, Julia, flew in to stay with Kevin and the kids as soon as she heard the news. She took the night shift so Kevin could attempt to get some sleep. And sometimes in the middle of the night, writing on the mirror is just way easier than finding that pad of paper :)
Not long after I did Amelia’s newborn session, I was asked to photograph Jess meeting Amelia for the first time at the hospital. Technically, she’d already met Amelia in the OR, but things during that time period are a little fuzzy for Jess. There was no question in my mind — I had to photograph this for them. It was a monumental life event and they weren’t sure of where things were headed for Jess at at that time as they were taking it one day at a time.
Since I also photograph births, a hospital environment is one I’m very comfortable in. The only difference this time was that instead of going to Labor and Delivery, I was going to the Cardiac Floor and the baby was going to be arriving to the hospital after me.
As I set my gear down, I heard the faintest whisper from around the corner where Jess was. She said my name. She was hoarse from the tubes having been down her throat, but was also still weak from the whole debacle with her heart. It was SO good to see Jess and to see the improvements she had made. It was hard to see my friend in such a state, but geez, for all that she had been through, the girl looked great! I was so fortunate to be able to spend time with her and her Mom. I’ve known Jess since I was a little kid so this was so comforting to be there with them.
Kevin, Noah, and Amelia arrived shortly thereafter and the emotions in that room were palpable. You know those military homecomings you see floating around the internet sometimes? This was like that only I was in person this time witnessing it first hand. Seeing Jess light up when Kevin and Noah wheeled Amelia in to the room with the stroller was absolutely priceless. She had requested a scarf because she didn’t want to concern Noah with her bandages. There she was in a hospital bed and still completely in her protective Mommy role to Noah.
Jess’ fine motor skills weren’t quite up to par at that point — it was something the doctors said would come back with her strength in time. With Kevin’s adoring help, Jess got to hold Amelia, feed her, change her diaper, and soothe her. She finally got to run her fingers through Amelia’s beautiful head of silky, dark hair. She gave her kisses and loved on her. Everything a new mom wants to do with their newborn, Jess finally got to do.
Noah was nearly oblivious to the situation at hand, which is likely for the best. He played doctor with his “telescope” (otherwise known as a Stethoscope) to Jess, to Amelia, and even to the frame of the bed. He got to help make a balloon glove, eat Cheez Its, and run around beating on Jess’ Congratulations balloons. But the best part was that Jess got to see BOTH of her kiddos and be together as a family of four together. As Jess kept repeating, “this is THE best!” And I couldn’t agree more!
Jess refused to let this get her down and she fought for herself, for her family, for her newborn baby every step of the way in the hospital. She was beyond determined and by some miracle, just three weeks after they rushed to save her life -- many times over -- she got to go home!! As of this blog post, Jess is officially home, healing with her family. Her care is now out of her house with home health nurses. She’s been posting to Instagram and Facebook. She’s celebrating milestones like eating dinner together as a family and trying to get back to life as usual while marveling at how Kevin kept it all together. It truly is the little things in life that we take for granted. Congratulations, Jess, Kevin, Noah and Amelia, on your journey to become a family of four. Everyone is so proud of you and your army is still cheering you on. Jess, thank you for showing us what a Fighter looks like and that we need to be thankful for every day we have. Keep fighting, Grib family. You've got so much to give this world!