I became a NICU nurse (RN) 3.5 years ago straight out of nursing school.
Around the same time, my passion for photography began to sprout and I was beginning to entertain the idea of becoming a ‘real photographer.’ Once I took a course and learned the basics of photography, I began photographing families, newborns, and mothers. From here I built my brand, Alyssa Marie Photography.
After a couple of years working both as a NICU nurse and a photographer on the side, I thought of the idea to join my two passions. I wanted to begin photographing the journey of NICU babies and their families. I feel incredibly fortunate to be in a position of fully understanding life in the NICU. This very unique place of being a photographer and a NICU RN allows me to see firsthand the NICU journey and understand the importance of every milestone achieved, small and large.
THE NICU WARRIOR SESSION
“The NICU Warrior Session is for parents who have had a baby in the NICU for any reason. The session is designed to acknowledge and celebrate everything the mother, father, family and baby have conquered through the NICU journey. The session will tell a story of strength, perseverance, joy and love.”
I thought of the idea to photograph NICU graduates to let their story be known.
The sessions are styled in a way that shows their journey of being in the NICU, all the challenges they have overcome, and how now, in the present day, they are thriving and healthy. I decided to name these unique photoshoots “The NICU Warrior Session.”
Whenever I explain The NICU Warrior session to NICU parents, they are incredibly excited and feel pride for their child to be photographed with their child in an empowering way. I highly encourage, and prefer, parents to be photographed with their NICU grad. Most parents are hesitant to be in the photoshoot and want the session to be all about their child. After further explanation and empowering the mother and father to be documented with their beautiful child, they are excited to be a part of it. For NICU moms, I provide hair and makeup services from my team, so all they have to do on the day of the photoshoot is arrive at the studio, get pampered and feel beautiful. From there they are effortlessly guided with their child through the NICU Warrior session.
As I plan the session with the parents, I ask them to gather as many memorable items as possible that can be used as props. Some of these items include: preemie diaper, preemie pacifier, swaddles, blood pressure cuff, milestone signs, bedside decorations, name banner, hospital ID band, printed images of the baby in the NICU (especially images of the first time holding skin-to-skin).
These props are laid out in a way that tells the baby’s NICU story from beginning to end and shows the progression of that baby from day one of life until discharge day. The results and final images are always emotionally pleasing for parents and bring about a sense of intense love for their little NICU Warrior baby.
WHY YOU NEED A NICU WARRIOR SESSION
As my love of photography grows, my belief of the importance of getting a
portrait taken intensifies. Whenever we lose someone we love, the first thing we do is go digging in our closet for pictures of that person. This is because when someone we love is gone, the closest thing we can have and to hold of that person is an image of them. A portrait is not simply a photo of a person. A portrait is a window view into their life, their story, and the battles they’ve won.
NICU babies who have graduated and have discharged home have already won countless battles in their short life. A portrait of a NICU graduate shows survival, strength, and victory. Parents of NICU babies are often frightened, especially in the beginning, that their child isn’t going to make it. A NICU Warrior session shows how that infant started out in a state of fragility and uncertainty, but overcame every single challenge and not only survived, but is now home to be held in their loving parent’s arms.
BENEFITS OF THE NICU WARRIOR SESSION
- The NICU Warrior Session ties together the entire NICU journey into one cohesive story. From the day of birth and admission, the highs and lows, the milestones reached, the day of discharge, and your child in current day.
- The sessions can help parents heal. Parents usually have little bits and pieces of the NICU floating around in their memory as their child grows. These memories are lightly overshadowed by post-traumatic anxiety and fear for their child’s future. The NICU warrior session is a frequent reminder and continues to instill the overall success that came from the NICU journey. Rather than being a memory of dread and discomfort, parents can flip through their NICU Warrior albums and prints from the session, and feel an overall sense of pride and accomplishment for their baby.
- Because I always photograph parents with their child in the warrior session, moms feel empowerment toward themselves and their child. A common theme for NICU moms is a feeling of guilt, especially if their baby was born prematurely. Moms are included to be just as an important element of the session as their child. They relax while getting their hair and makeup done, and they can look in the mirror and feel beautiful. Self-love and admiration is enhanced, and is truly the goal of the hair and makeup services. As moms are guided through the session with their child, the sense of bonding and love is strengthened, and the feelings of guilt are lessened.
- In the future, the photos from the NICU Warrior session serve as a reminder to the child of their strength. When the NICU baby grows up and becomes a school-aged child and older, they begin to grasp the concept of what the first few months of their life was like. Looking back on images taken of them that beautifully tells their story, they will feel a sense of pride and love for themselves. They will value the images because they can fully understand how their life began, how tiny they were, and how far they have come.
- The photos bring hope to other NICU parents that even though the NICU journey can be long and challenging, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes NICU parents feel that they will never be able to leave, and every tiny step backwards is devastating to them. Seeing the images of a NICU graduate who started in a similar position as their own child helps alleviate the pain and the stress of NICU life.
- The NICU Warrior session brings out a sense of uniqueness in that child. Most people do not understand just how premature and fragile NICU babies can be. In fact, most people do not completely know just what goes on behind the doors of a NICU. A NICU baby deserves to have their story seen, heard and understood. Having story-telling images that portray the strength of the child out in the world brings understanding to other people of everything that child went through. The images will stand the test of time, and even be passed down within a family for that baby’s own future children and grandchildren to see and appreciate.
As a NICU nurse and photographer, I highly encourage you to look for a photographer in your own area who would guide you through a session like my NICU Warrior photoshoots. The excitement of being photographed with your child, a little NICU Warrior, is an experience unlike any other, and the benefits you will reap last a lifetime.
Looking back on your warrior session album and printed images will serve as a keepsake to have and hold forever. The images will serve as a continual reminder of your incredible child, and will help those memories of the NICU to be seen less as a scary journey, and more as proof that miracles exist!
Are you local to Arizona? Inquire about a NICU Warrior session with me here! https://alyssamarie.org/nicu-warrior-session