Seeing your kids experience joy is one of the best feelings in the world. Thats why we spend thousands of dollars on vacations, Christmas presents, and experiences that bring smiles to their faces. But nobody can prepare you for the intense feelings that parenthood brings. And one of the worst by far is watching your child experience pain.
All pain is terrible but not all pain is equal. Watching your child struggle with an ear infection is different than watching your child be bullied. Watching your child struggle with depression and anxiety is different than watching your child experience a terminal illness. But one thing is for certain... pain... pain is inevitable. And whether physical or emotional, it hurts. And it hurts bad. And it just plain sucks that we as moms know that it will play a part in the lives of each and every individual... including our children.
Mom, Rachel Schultz, was told during pregnancy that her son had a "special heart." And while one might think that early diagnosis can help you prepare you mentally and emotionally. We know that the overwhelming love of motherhood is a surprise to all new mommas. So when the doctors first place that baby in your arms and you hear that first cry... the pain hurts so much more. Knowing all the struggles your child is about to endure is enough to make you physically ill.
Living in the hospital for 169 days. Watching your child cry and thrash in pain and knowing that there is NOTHING you can do to take that away and that it is something they HAVE to experience to live their life to the fullest feels impossible. As a parent... watching your child suffering is worse than suffering yourself.
This is why I know that not only is Eli strong but his parents are heroes. It takes a tremendous strength and resolve to watch your kids suffer and to allow them to endure pain to have a better, longer life. It is a strength that I cannot fathom and a strength that these new parents were required to have from day one.
It was such an honor to photograph this family throughout Eli's first year. Watching Rachel and Dustin grow as parents and Eli grow and have multiple procedures and surgeries is humbling and I am not being cliche when I say that it has truly be an honor to tell their story. <3
P.S. That picture of him with the beads…. each bead stands for a different surgery, procedure, or test he has had done.