Vicki and Melanie are two of the most courageous women I know. Courageous because they often find love, passion, commitment, and positivity even in the face of adversity. Their entire connection (and it’s a strong one) has consistently been challenged throughout their lives. From realizing they were gay and coming out to their friends and family to meeting each other for the first time, falling in love, and making the decision to marry in spite of legal opposition. Yet these two have always found a way through it all, loved through it all and consistently kept a smile within their hearts, through it all.
Three years ago, Melanie became pregnant with a baby girl. It would be their first. They had made the decision after long debates and precise calculating. They knew they were ready and their excitement grew with each day. I was brought in, to document. First with the pregnancy portraits, which included their two fur babies, the beach, and one adorable baby bump. Later on, we continued the capture with newborn baby portraits.
Newborn baby Tavi was brought into this world on May 20, 2015. She came in fifteen weeks early but she was surrounded by endless love, hope, and a fierce medical team at Cedars-Sinai. Tavi fought hard.She was consistently monitored and wrapped in tubes that gave her everything from fluids to oxygen. She weighed only one pound and nine ounces but I swear it was all heart. Throughout her fight, she would consistently gain weight, open/ close her eyes, breathe on her own, and bond with everyone around her.
One month later, I was asked to document Tavi one last time, before she passed. It was all so heart-wrenching but Melanie and Vicki remained positive and focussed on their sweet baby’s last moments. They made sure that her final moments were nothing short of warm, safe, and familiar. Today, they continue to share her spirit in that same light. Her birthday is now celebrated through a “pay-it-forward” Tavi day that they created so that her life and spirit could continue to inspire.
On this day, I encourage everyone reading this to please spread her joy. Do something nice for someone, unexpected and inspired. Let them know it’s Tavi’s day. If you know of anyone going through a similar fate with a preemie, I encourage you to reach out or help them to find guidance. Talk about it, educate others and don’t shy away from the topic. There are so many women that suffer through silence, help them to express themselves and heal.
“Forever Footprints” is the organization that helped Melanie and Vicki through this time with their preemie. They started their organization in 2005 and now have thousands of volunteers and supporters. They provide families with direct services; educating the medical community on how to improve the quality of care and response while offering up opportunities for remembrance to help families find their own path to healing.
Melanie and Vicki gave birth to an angel, who continues to walk beside them today. She was here for such a short time but her impact was great and she inspired so many. In her mother’s own words,
“Tavi impacted so many people in such a short amount of time. She opened doors to begin difficult, heart expanding and touching conversations about loss and family. She visits us as butterflies, rainbows, clouds, feathers and more. We love you Tavi, thank you for continuing to inspire us through your fierceness and strength. ” -Melanie