Ah, the Jakemans. It's hard for me to find the words to describe this session, because this family truly touched my heart. My Instagram Sneak Peek of their shoot indicated that the session revolved around the adoption of their second son. And, yes, for the most part, it did. But for this family, events like adopting a little boy isn't just one extraordinary gesture of love. For the Jakemans, adoption is actually an ordinary gesture, by one extraordinary family.
I met the Jakemans through the Phoenix Children's Hospital (PCH), where I've been volunteering as a photographer for the last several months. Many PCH patients spend a great deal of their lives in the hospital, and their parents often miss out on getting photos taken of their kids when they are young. PCH recognizes the importance of family photos in documenting a child's life, and asked me to shoot some sessions for these deserving families outside of the hospital. The Jakemans were one of the first families they put me in touch with. After meeting her on the phone, mom Alex and I set up a pre-shoot meeting at their house.
When I arrived at their house for the meeting, I wasn't there for more than a couple of minutes before Lily came out of her bedroom, walked straight up to me, and gave me a gigantic hug. I was immediately smitten with her, and amazed that she was so tall and looked so healthy and beautiful. When she was just an infant, Lily was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, a terminal illness that has a very short life expectancy. Almost 5 years old, her illness has kept her in the hospital for a quarter of her life, for various treatments and surgeries. She has been fed for the majority of her life via a tube in her stomach. Alex told me there were times when they didn't think she would live through some of her surgeries. Lately, however, her health has improved tremendously. In the past year, she has started to eat solid foods!
I can only imagine the toll that the stress and anxiety of nurturing a very ill child can have on a family. I personally don't think I could handle much more in my life. The Jakemans, though...they are cut from a different cloth. Not only did they have a second son (2 year old Aiden), but they also decided to foster a third child. Eli was a medically fragile infant that they began fostering when he was only 7 weeks old. After waiting for 2 long years, they were ready to finalize his adoption! To document this momentous occasion, we scheduled their Day In The Life session for Eli's adoption day.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived at their house the morning of the shoot. I assumed, with two medically fragile children, that health care was going to make up a large part of their day. And yes, while the children's illnesses were something that had to be addressed (particularly during meals), for the most part the Jakeman household isn't that different from any other family. They still have structured mealtime, they love to play with puzzles and forts, they have tearful breakdowns, and occasionally fall and hit their head on furniture, etc. While the adoption was the main event of the day, what what really struck me during their shoot was the amount of love that Alex and her husband Shaun bestow upon each of their children. They are very affectionate - there were lots of hugs and and kisses for everyone. And they are incredibly fair. Two of their children have medical issues, but those two don't get more attention, or are treated with particular care. There isn't a particular "favorite" child. It became very apparent to me during the shoot that Alex and Shaun truly love having children, and enjoy spending time with their kids. Alex even told me that they aren't done having children, and are considering the adoption of a fourth child!
Shaun and Alex, when you look at your Day In The Life photos, I hope you can see what amazing parents they are :) You are truly an inspiration!
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