Baby Bray Turns One!
I visited Emily and Sanjay’s beautiful home in Redwood City for their In Home Session to celebrate Braden’s first birthday! I am so happy and honored that Emily and Sanjay chose me to photograph this milestone – Braden was ALL smiles! In addition to that, I am also extremely grateful for having the two of them open up to me about Baby Braden’s birth story – they had me in tears, to say the least.
July 15, 2017
“You scared the living hell out of your mother and me last week… I guess I should probably get used to that happening for the next 20 years or so. I’m writing you this letter so you can read it once you’re big, strong and happy. I hope it will serve you as a reminder of the battle you had to fight at such an early age and how it made you the man you are today.
It’s July 15th. You’re one and a half weeks old. The doctors said your birthday would be October 8th, but life didn’t work out that way.” -Sanjay
“A week ago, Mom and I were sitting on a beach in Maui and we didn’t have a care in the world. We were in complete control of our lives. But in an instant, we were reminded that no one can ever control life regardless of how hard they try. Mom was having some pregnancy complications, so we started driving to the only emergency room on the island. To this point in my life, your Mom was the only person on the planet that could take me down to zero words.
Within an hour, there was a full medivac team on Top Gun jumpsuits, transferring your mother from stationary to transportable IVs. I watched as the doctors pull you out at 6:43 PM on July 5th, 2017. You immediately became the second person on the planet able to leave me speechless. Given the circumstances, it was the most terrifying moment of my life, but also the most exhilarating. You looked like a beautiful hairy monkey.
Another learning I hope you take from this situation is a belief in humanity and a drive to help other people the way they have helped you. Family, friends and random strangers that have been in our situation have sent us money, flown out to see you, made us dinner, bought you clothes, or talked with us for hours on end telling us everything would work out. It’s easy for many to underestimate the importance of human connection, but I hope you never do.” -Sanjay
“Last thing to remember and this is important: you have an incredible mother. The selflessness and care she has dedicated to you over the past 6 months, unexpectedly challenging delivery she handled expertly, and how sleepless nights to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, has been awe-inspiring. All this woman cares about in life right now is you. Make sure to bring her flowers from time to time.” -Sanjay
Braden’s Birth Story
“Where do we begin?! We went to Maui for a 10-day babymoon during second trimester, and came home with a baby 115 days later. I started going into preterm labor on the 4th of July, when I was 26 weeks pregnant, and gave birth to a micro-preemie the following day.
After evaluation, I was medevaced to Ohau a couple of hours before a classical cesarean was deemed necessary. The baby was breech, and he wanted out! My uterus was still quite small, and a classical c-section allows for a larger space to deliver the baby (as a longitudinal incision is made from navel to pubis, as a result, as well as a horizontal incision). I mention this because the recovery was really difficult as a result, and this also means that a c-section will be required for any future births. We spent 109 days in the NICU, away from home and from our closest friends and family. In short, Braden’s birth day was rather traumatic, as were the days and months that followed.” -Emily
“Picking a name was probably the easiest part of the entire process, for us! Before we picked a name, we both agreed we would not tell a soul what our selection was until after the baby was born. I had a list of names that I had been compiling for about a year. Any time I thought of something that I liked, I wrote it down on the list.” -Emily
“After we found out the gender, we went through the list together, and Sanjay picked his favorites. However, we both kept coming back to our ultimate favorite: Braden. The day before Braden was born, we made our final decision. Since Braden was so early, we hadn’t ‘finalized’ his middle name before he was born. Thank goodness I had that list! We made a game decision in the hospital after he made his early appearance.” -Emily
GROWTH // TRANSFORMATION
“We are not and never will be the same people that we were before Braden was born. I’m sure all parents can share in that sentiment, however it drastically changed us. The Bob Marley quote always comes to mind, ‘You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.’ That’s exactly how it was for us. We didn’t know our own strength until we were on an island (literally), trying to figure out how to parent and survive in the NICU.” -Emily
“We are both very optimistic people, and struggled with depression for the entirety of our extended stay. However, we persevered, together. We made it through our first marital test, and life test! Sharing our story, though not same as others’, has revealed congruencies that other families have been able to relate to. We’ve received countless emails, messages, letters (by post!) from loved ones and strangers alike, thanking us for sharing our story, rooting us on, lending helping hands. Human connection is so powerful, and was essential in helping us to heal.” -Emily
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ever. It’s so cliche, but we don’t let small things that are out of our control affect us. Traffic used to frustrate us. Delayed or canceled flights used to really get under our skin. We let all of that unnecessary stress go at this point. If I ever start to feel stressed about something, I just remember… there was a time when I couldn’t drink a latte in the same room as my baby! Life is good.” -Emily
“Motherhood means being selfless. You no longer put yourself first, and it’s a wonderful thing! It has grounded me, and I feel like I was supposed to grow up and become a mom. It has given me an identity that I feel most proud of.” -Emily
“Fatherhood means being a better man – exercising patience, supporting the family, and being a role model for Braden.” -Sanjay
“Before I became a mother, I was so worried about the dreaded ‘mom guilt’ and ‘mom shaming.’ However, I put much less importance in the opinions of others than I used to. I have also learned that I am not ‘Type A’ as a mother, though I am as a person. My house gets dirty, laundry piles up, makeup doesn’t get put on… and I don’t care! I fully immerse myself in the moments and messes with my little one. Motherhood, and Braden’s birth story, has made me cherish each moment.” -Emily
“Words cannot express how grateful we feel about Braden being as strong as he is today. Our journey could have taken many different turns over the course of the last year. We are simply ecstatic that he is able to breathe and eat on his own. Everything else is icing on top. He is over 21 pounds of yummy chunky rolls. He has defeated two illnesses since being discharged from the NICU, and is getting stronger by the day. We are thankful, elated, relieved, and the list goes on…” -Emily
Shefali Parekh is a lifestyle photographer specializing in newborn, maternity, family and engagement photography in San Francisco, CA.
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