As a newborn photographer, I often get to hear the incredible details of my client’s lives. I hear about the pregnancy, the birthing experience, how they’re doing now and all the little details in between. It’s one of the most precious parts of my job honestly, and little baby Cruz is no exception! This little nugget was born into the most warm, loving, and proud family. As a child with Down Syndrome, that is the ultimate gift! With Down Syndrome Awareness Month being October, I felt it was the perfect time to introduce you to Cruz! He is the happiest little boy who truly brought rainbows and sunshine to our session from the first minute!
I have had the pleasure of photographing for Jillian in the past, so when she said she was having another kiddo, I was thrilled! Jillian really is a super mom, cape and all. She has the biggest heart, and nothing but the best of intentions for her now 8-month-old son, Cruz. Her pure soul extends far beyond her son though! She is also a strong advocate for the T21 Community, especially during Down Syndrome Awareness Month. She has a mission to reduce the stigma around the diagnosis. A noble act that really seems to come effortlessly to her.
In talking about her journey as a special needs mama, she told me one of her goals is to help families who have the diagnosis realize that “their baby will be happy, healthy, will love and be loved just like you could want for any child”. She’s not necessarily fighting to be seen as “normal” because what family is? She’s advocating just to show that their family (and any T21 family) is no different than anyone else’s. Further stating that “if anything ours is a little too loud or unruly but none of that has the slightest to do with the Down Syndrome diagnosis”.
At the core of any family is love, hardships, laughter, misses, and triumphs, no matter any external factors. That’s what I think is so beautiful about this little family. They know that, and they want others to know and embrace that too. No matter the extra factors, at the end of the day, they are a family doing exactly what everyone else is doing, loving each other!
Cruz has brought an abundance of light, joy, love, and laughter into this family’s home! He is the “purest little light and has already made this world so much better in his 8 months of being here”. His affection and sass light up the room. This is particularly true during therapy sessions where he’ll “fake cry and then laugh when someone tries to check on him”! He’s an absolute little goofball who just loves to cuddle, give kisses, and keep you on your toes!
I definitely got glimpses of that silly personality during our photoshoot. However, this session was also one of my favorites because of how it came together. In discussing how Jillian was envisioning the photoshoot for Cruz, she informed me that not only was he a rainbow baby (a kiddo born after pregnancy loss), but he was born in the car. When I say “in the car” I literally mean in the car…on the way to the hospital…with just Jillian and her husband in the car. Cruz ended up spending a week in the NICU and was then sent home with mom and dad. It was this moment that the family’s new normal really began and was embraced with open arms. She then told me that she personally associates sunshine with Cruz’s warm personality and the light he seems to bring with him wherever he is.
That information on its own sparked the realization that I had the perfect backdrop that I recently bought! Now, add in that she also wanted to incorporate blue and yellow as those are the Down Syndrome Awareness Month colors, and we were both in awe at the timing of this session set up. It was almost strange how perfectly everything lined up, so we scheduled the session and awaited the day!
What was particularly interesting about this backdrop and session was that it inspired the design for an incredible project that Jillian is a part of! Jillian’s friends own a children’s bamboo clothing line (you have to check them out!). With their permission, Jillian had been toying with the idea of creating a print for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As it turns out, the backdrop to Cruz’s session was the exact confirmation and inspiration that she needed! The goal was just “to make a few other T21 families feel seen and celebrated”. With a Facebook community of 27k members though, it’s definitely picking up speed! The print now has the clouds, sun, and rainbows on it, which is something that seems to resonate strongly with families in the T21 community. A portion of every sale made goes to Gigi’s Playhouse, which is an incredible resource for families like theirs!
Our session was such a blast. Keeping the “blue and yellow loud and proud” just like the family is, was so special. Getting to talk with Jillian and learn more about her story, photograph the cutest little boy and celebrate all aspects of him, was truly an honor. Jillian has such a loud, proud, and passionate voice. I wanted to end this highlight with some words directly from the mama herself!
“The Down Syndrome community is amazing. Anyone who is a part of it knows how special this community is. We love hard and we are so proud of our kids. It’s just neat to see how one photo has blossomed into something so much bigger. I never want to hide and act like every aspect of being a medical parent is super fun. I don’t want to act like I have zero fear as a parent to a kid that is disabled, because yes there are some clouds. But those clouds have nothing on our baby’s pure sunshine.”
I hope this family inspired your heart as much as they inspired mine! Feel free to share your story in the comments for Down Syndrome Awareness Month and reach out to me if you have any questions about a newborn session for your little one!