At-Home Newborn Session: Helena

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Wow, there is so much I could say about this beautiful family. In the brief time I have now known them, they have unknowingly become a great source of inspiration in my life.

Andrew teaches elementary school in Washington, DC with my husband Patrick. They are often confused for each other as two young men walking around school with the same haircut, wearing glasses and practically the same outfits. They’re good friends :) Andrew is also connected to my family because he went through cancer treatments with my cousin last year. It’s such a small world. My cousin is close to Andrew in age and the nurses paired them together for treatments as often as they could so that they’d have a buddy. I remember Patrick telling me about this awesome guy he works with who was managing teaching, graduate school, being a dad and husband, and endless doctors appointments and treatments last year. That he always had a smile on his face and positive attitude despite what he was going through.

Patrick came to this newborn session with me and after we’d finished taking photos, we all walked down the street to have lunch. While we were chatting, the topic turned to marriage, children, and how unexpected life can be. Andrew’s wife Courtney shared that as many unexpected stages in their life together have unfolded, they have had faith that it is what is supposed to happen. That regardless of the circumstances, they are perfectly where they are meant to be. With a smile, she shared six words that I have thought of every single day since. “You can’t be your own God.”

You can’t be your own God. You can’t plan, prepare, anticipate, out-think, out-work, or out-worry your life. You can’t control your path nearly as much as you would like to. You can’t prevent bad things from happening. The pain, the sadness, the cancer, the death. It is horrific. And it isn’t up to you.

To me, that sentiment is scary, and yet equally freeing. It’s not entirely up to you. You can’t figure it all out. We live in a time of “you control your destiny,” “don’t be a victim of your life,” and “if you want something, you just have to work hard enough for it.” But you’re not always responsible for what happens. Being incredibly grateful for your strong, sweet brother doesn’t mean he won’t pass away unexpectedly.

There is a plan that is bigger than you that you can’t imagine, with both tragedy and magic. You don’t know what’s coming next, but that is ok. All we can do is trust that whatever happens, wherever we are, is where we are meant to be. And then we do our best to adapt, maybe even gracefully. You can’t be your own God.

Andrew posted a birth announcement on Instagram when Helena was born right before Christmas. It brought me to tears and he said I can leave it here for you…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
-John 1: 1-5 


Your name means “bright light”, and every sweet breath you take reminds us of God’s love for you — for us. I remember holding your mother’s hand when the doctor told us I had cancer, and when another doctor told us that we wouldn’t be able to bring another life into this world. Yet here you are. You defy the blood work, the medical exams, the pain and sting of cancer. Somehow you are here. Cancer made me feel a deep betrayal of myself. The unsettling pain that my body had turned against me. But through grace and love we were able to make you — beautiful you! You shouldn’t be here, and yet here you are! In my arms and forever in my heart. My love for you pales in comparison to Christ’s love for us. Once again, and forevermore, his light overcomes the darkness. 

Merry first Christmas to you, my beautiful baby girl.