Sean and Somer are expecting their second daughter this month. Being the adventurous couple they are, we decided to hike up to Roan Mountain State Park to watch the Sunrise for their maternity session. Roan Mountain holds a special place in their hearts, and we'll get to why in a moment.
Somer and Sean have been through more than most. Their first daughter, Avelyn, was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease and passed away at 18 months young. Instead of telling Somer and Sean's story to you myself, I'll let them share it in Somer's own answers to my client questionnaire.
What do you like to do together?
"Spending time as a family. We especially loved spending quality time with our little Avelyn, who was born with severe congenital heart disease. We spent most of her 18 months on this earth in an ICU, so quiet quality time was more difficult to come by than most can imagine. But every once in a while, she’d have a good day and we could set aside our worries and just be. Those were some of the best days of our lives. Since she died (June of 2017) we’ve sought solace in the wilds of Appalachia. Our grief has always seemed easier to handle in the outdoors."
What would you like people to know about your life's story when I share your photos? Please share any details, life events, struggles, or successes you feel have shaped who you are as a couple today.
"Sean and I have basically grown up together. We met early college and just hung on. It hasn’t always been ideal and it hasn’t always been easy but we’ve never let go. Just after we got married I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. For two years I fought neurological symptoms and often was too sick to acknowledge Sean’s existence. It was physically hard on me, but emotionally excruciating for Sean. I don’t remember a lot of that time, it’s almost like a journal with pages torn out. But I do remember Sean took care of me when I couldn’t remember to feed or bathe myself. I would have wasted away without him and almost did anyway. Yet he never gave up on me. He motivated me to get better and to stick with the difficult treatment that often made me feel worse. Eventually I found remission. Soon after I recovered, we discovered I was pregnant with our little Avelyn. We weren’t ready. I was terrified I would pass her Lyme disease, as it has been shown to cross placental barriers. Little did I know my fears were nothing compared to what her life would entail. She was born with severe congenital heart disease. But we had hopes that via open heart surgeries, we could see her into adulthood. Yet nothing ever seemed to go her way. She experienced every major complication in the books and many no one could have ever anticipated. She fought to stay with us like an absolute warrior. She survived things she never should have been able to survive. As she suffered we fought and advocated for our darling girl in every way we could. For 450 consecutive days, Sean and I stayed by her hospital bed day and night. We made a point to attend to her medical, developmental and psychosocial needs as best we could despite the environment. If we did anything right it was that. After all she went through, our girl was as sweet, loving and trusting as any other baby you’d come across. Which is an absolute miracle considering her negative experiences. The three of us seriously worked as a united team, with her doctors and providers, all fighting the monster that is CHD. Because of this relentless effort on all our parts our daughter lived for 18 months and achieved more than most providers thought possible. While our romance took a back seat to the daily life and death situations our daughter faced, our love didn’t. I grew more in love with the man I saw Sean growing into. His capacity for love, empathy, and warmth still astounds me—he's so unique in his capacity to genuinely feel and express love. Since we lost our daughter, we have taken special steps to not let grief tear us apart—as it statistically does for more than half of parents who’ve lost children. We aren’t perfect, but we love one another and try our best to support each other in our daily struggles in life and loss. As we near closer to the day of bringing our second daughter into the world, we don’t at all feel ready or up for the challenge emotionally. But then too, we know we’ll lean on each other, and our Avelyn’s memory, to live and parent in a way to make her proud."
Here are my favorite photos from my session with this incredibly strong and sweet couple.