Hey Jude- One Mother's Story of Resilience and Bravery

"Hey Jude, don't make it bad. Take a sad song, and make it better. "

-The Beatles

This is a story about the resilience of one mother and the strength that it takes every single day and night to take a sad song and make it better. This is the story of Nykole, her son and the beautiful family that she is creating against all odds. 

You see, at 22 most women don't worry about the what-ifs as life unfolds piece-by-piece in the usual way. For Nykole this meant becoming the wife to a man she loved and beginning their family together. She and her husband Justin wanted a big family, and they soon found out that Nykole was pregnant. She dreamt of the baby boy she would someday hold in her arms as she passed one month at a time through an easy, text-book, perfect pregnancy. They chose the name Jude for their son and celebrated the end of nine long months as his induction was scheduled. Nykole could never have prepared herself for the direction that the birth would take or the way that it would change her life forever. 

Nykole had dreams for her son. She imagined a skateboard-riding, motorcycle-loving musician. His nursery was complete with every toy and gadget that you could imagine for him to play with as he grew and learned. His carseat sat empty and ready in the backseat of her car- just in case- a month before her due date. Nykole imagined Jude's first days of school, his first crushes, and her husband's little sidekick following him around the house. 

On the day of his birth Nykole did everything that a mother should. She did everything that she was told to do. Despite her best efforts and the fact that the baby was, by all outward signs, doing well during labor things didn't happen the way that she had always rehearsed in her mind. After pushing, Nykole underwent an emergency cesarean section. On June 12, 2015, Jude Lawrence Nichols was born. He was not breathing. His apgar score was zero (a fact that Nykole would not know for weeks and would learn as an incidental finding on a medical record from the night of his birth). Nykole awoke from anesthesia to find that her entire world had forever changed. 

The days that followed were the happiest and worst of her life. She finally had her baby boy- the baby that she had waited for- the start to her family. The worst because of the reality before her- a baby on life support with tubes and wires and monitors. After six hours of waiting to see Jude she stared at his tiny body with no idea what was going on, knowing that within ten minutes he would be gone and on his way without her, travelling from Brevard County to Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Children in Orlando, Florida. Questions swirled around her mind as she struggled physically to come around from her surgery. The confusion set in. What went wrong? Why did this happen? What happened in the operating room? What is going to happen to my baby? It was at this moment that Nykole says she went "primal." The instinct to be a mother was crushing her as she watched them wheel her baby away. Everything in her told her to hold him. To feed him. To protect him. She felt helpless and told her husband to go with Jude to Orlando so that he wasn't alone. 

Nykole couldn't stand it. The reports from doctors weren't good and she was told that Jude wasn't going to make it for very long. If she wanted to ever hold her baby she had to get to Orlando. Quickly. With a sense of urgency and the fierce drive of a mother she checked herself out of the hospital just hours after her cesarean section and asked her best friend to make the hour long drive from Melbourne to Orlando. With each breath she took she remembers feeling like there was an empty hole in her chest. She had to be there. 

Finally, standing in the Winnie Palmer NICU, Nykole was reunited with her son. Defying all odds and against all expectations, Jude survived and kept surviving. It was a miracle. Days turned to weeks, and Nykole and her husband lived in the Ronald McDonald House for Families as she pumped constantly to provide Jude with everything she could to help him as he struggled to live. For 57 days and nights he stayed in the NICU. Nykole remembers the lonely life of a NICU parent and credits her family and friends for keeping her going. On July 4th, 2015 she stood beside her husband as he cried on the top floor of the parking garage of the hospital, watching the fireworks from the rooftop. The new normal was so fresh and they had no idea what to anticipate. 

Jude on the night of his birth after being transported to Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Children, Orlando, FL

Jude on the night of his birth after being transported to Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Children, Orlando, FL

During his time at Winnie Palmer, Jude would receive the official diagnosis of HIE, or Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. HIE occurs when the brain loses oxygen and becomes damaged. Hypoxic means loss of oxygen, ischemic means restriction of blood flow, and encephalopathy means affecting the brain. You can learn more about the condition here: Hope for HIE.

The New Normal

Now the days are a blur of the new normal. Each morning starts at 8:45am with preparation of 7 different medications. At 9:00am Nykole puts on Jude's CPT vest. This vest shakes his little chest and helps to remove mucus from his lungs. While he has his "shakey vest" on, Jude also has an albuterol treatment through his nebulizer. Once the CPT vest is done Nykole begins his cough assist, pulling his loosened secretions out with a plunger-type machine. Throughout this process, she suctions him and ensures that his nasal cannula hasn't left his nose. Next Jude gets his pulmacort breathing treatment. He is also hooked up to his food machine for his morning meal, which is unhooked following the second breathing treatment. They then change his diaper, put gel drops in both eyes, and put sodium fluoride drops into his mouth. Once this routine is complete she carries Jude to the living room or the car, depending on the plans for their day. Jude relies on a constant liter of oxygen, a g/j feeding tube which runs 24 hours as well as a constant suction to keep his airway clear. He has no ability to suck or swallow. With 1:00pm comes a saline treatment, "shakey vest" and more cough assist, which is all repeated again at 4:00pm along with two more medications. Around 9:00pm Nykole must be home to perform Jude's nighttime treatments, which means repeating all of the morning routine. It now takes two adults to transfer Jude from room-to-room, as well as to bathe him and change him as he is what Nykole says is 36 lbs of beefy boy. Jude has a machine to report his heartrate and oxygen levels and wears it 24/7, and his parents wake up again and again throughout the night to suction him as he sleeps in a special bed alongside their own.

Living with a child with disabilities is something that Nykole and Justin are now accustomed to. Life is now focused on daily care, staying sanitary and safe from germs and putting the basic needs of her son before her own. Most days are spent safely within the home, but when they do venture out of the house it takes packing and planning. 

Nykole wishes that more people showed compassion when they encounter Jude in public. She wants people to know that he isn't broken and that he deserves the love and care and respect that anyone else would be afforded. She says that she would like it if more curious people would simply ask to learn more about Jude and his condition instead of staring. Nykole and Justin want to educate people on HIE and what it means for so many young families. 

Relationships are so important to those caring for a disabled child like Jude, and often after the dust settles you learn who in your life you can lean on. Nykole thanks her family for always supporting them emotionally and physically, and says that she is blessed to have the family and friends who have walked with them on this difficult journey. The first year of life caring for a child with a disability is the most trying, and according to Nykole that is an understatement. She felt like their new normal really set in at Jude's first birthday and feels like this experience has brought her even closer to her husband, Justin. 

Hey Jude, don't be afraid. 

Putting the past aside, and with bravery considering all they've been through, Nykole welcomed her second son, a healthy and beautiful baby boy named Jackson Ernest James in 2017. It took courage to have a second child. Fear of the past was never far from her mind. Just as with Jude she had a normal, healthy pregnancy. The delivery was via planned cesarean section and everything went well. Nykole feels now as if she is learning how to be a mother all over again, because Jackson has such different needs than Jude and she is experiencing firsts that she didn't with Jude. 

Jude with little brother Jackson. 

Jude with little brother Jackson. 

Let it out and let it in. Hey Jude, begin...

Thinking back to those first days, Nykole has a message for new parents who are just receiving the HIE diagnosis:

"Just live in the moment. Don't think about the past or the future. Spend every second with your baby and spend it in love. These babies feed off of your love and hope. Don't ever give up."

She encourages parents not to spend the precious time that they have with their child in worrying, but to enjoy this life. 

Citing a lack of information about the condition that was frustrating to her in the early days of Jude's diagnosis, Nykole refers parents of newly diagnosed children to:www.hopeforHIE.org and the Facebook community of parents of children with HIE: @hopeforHIE .

To follow Jude and family, please visit the page Strength for Jude

About the project:

Tamsin Photography selects one mother who has exhibited courage, strength and resilience each year on Mother's Day from hundreds of nominations. This year, Nykole Nichols was chosen to receive a family portrait session to artfully document the love that she has for her children. As part of that process the family also collaborates with the photographer to create a special article to bring awareness to issues that otherwise do not receive the attention that they deserve. This annual portrait project was created with a focus on education and awareness of chronic health conditions. To see more from this and previous projects visit @tamsinphotographyFL on Instagram or @tamsinphoto on Facebook. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Senior Session- Alexandra Class of 2018

Senior Portrait Photography, Titusville, Florida

Senior Photographer- Tamsin

I was so excited to have a break in the recent rainy summer weather that we've been suffering through to shoot with Allie at the adorable Birdsong Barn in Titusville, Florida. Allie wanted a rustic, golden, country vibe for her senior portraits and we totally nailed it!

Allie is entering her senior year at Melbourne High School and plans to follow in the footsteps of her mom Kristin to study medicine after graduating with the class of 2018. She enjoys cheering for MHS and hopes to continue her years of cheer experience at the college level. 

Allie chose gorgeous outfits from The Salty Shack in Indialantic, Florida. Her long yellow dress and white cut-out romper paired so well with boots to give her session the perfect Florida country look. She was stunning!

Enjoy these images from our time together at Birdsong Barn

Best wishes to Allie for a fantastic senior year!

For more information, or to book your senior portrait session, please visit us HERE

Tamsin Photography is a nationally recognized senior portrait photographer serving the central Florida area with fun, modern and fresh senior portrait experiences. 

 

 

Sunset Maternity Portrait Session- Jetty Park Beach, Florida

Photographer- Tamsin Photography, Melbourne, Florida

When I get the opportunity to work with expectant mothers I always feel so lucky. There is something about capturing this brief period of physical beauty and gracefulness that just makes me feel so fortunate to shoot each and every single time. (Maternity session details here)

I met Rebekah when she came in for her dress consultation appointment a few weeks before her session and couldn't help but notice her perfect little belly and beautiful smile. I could see how excited she was as she tried on gowns and floral crowns and we made plans for her session. She wanted a boho, natural, beautiful shoot to celebrate reaching the last month of pregnancy and I could tell that we were going to be a great team. 

Rebekah says, "Over the span of a year, God taught me how to grow my faith. Despite many health obstacles and doctors' diagnosis, (and against my husband's better judgment) I bought a stroller. Walking out my faith changed my my life in so many ways...the biggest--conceiving our first baby! Now that I'm carrying this tiny miracle, I've become much more mindful of the words I speak, the impact my choices have on the world, my relationships and interactions with people, the food I eat, the way I spend money, etc. Years of self-consciousness and doubt have flown out the window. I'm more myself than ever before and it's beautifully freeing!"

She says that she is most excited to bring up a child who inspires and loves others and brings glory to the kingdom of God. And of course all the snuggles and smelly boy adventures!

On the day of her shoot we met at Jetty Park Beach to begin our work together and she looked stunning! Her make up was perfect (thanks to Crystal Love Billins, click here for more information), her hair was gorgeous, and her first outfit was right out of a bohemian dream- complete with handmade floral crown of baby's breath that she created herself (amazing)!

The night couldn't have been better! The beach was empty and the sunset was the thing of golden hour legends. We capitalized on the breeze and the waves to add drama to the shots and laughed and smiled as we shot together, her husband Leon helping us along the way (he is a total keeper)!

I can't wait to go from belly shots to baby shots and to meet little Elon Kai at the end of May for his newborn portrait session! (Newborn session details here)

Enjoy these images from our maternity shoot together and be sure to leave some love for Rebekah and her husband Leon as they wait patiently for their little boy to arrive!

 

 

 

Little Miss Christina Lee- Newborn Portrait Session, Melbourne, Florida

Tamsin Photography, Melbourne, Florida

It is no secret that I absolutely LOVE my job as a newborn photographer. Newborn photography takes skill, lots of patience, the right equipment and a sense of humor when you get peed on for the third time in one hour (or worse)! I look forward to the days that I am working in my newborn studio and to meeting each tiny little client in their first days of life. Christina came to see me in at five days old to make her modeling debut and she was GORGEOUS!

We started on the newborn poser with froggy, bottoms-up, taco pose and other basic flow posing on a yellow backdrop with aqua wrap and tieback because this little sunshine is a spring baby! We then moved into potato sack pose on flokati, and back to the poser for huck finn and lounging pose. Christina was such a rockstar on the posing bag that we had time to build in lots of posing variations and accessories like rompers, floral bonnets, halos, tiebacks, wraps and bonnets. Then we finished with bowl posing with a gorgeous boho sleep sack and matching tieback on a wood drop!

Enjoy and be sure to leave some love below for her new mommy and daddy, Sheila and Chris!

Attention future mommies- 

Are you interested in booking a newborn session for your little-one-to-be? Be sure to book during pregnancy to get a spot as they fill up quickly and ideally take place within the first ten days of life for posing purposes.

Click here to learn more! NEWBORN PORTRAIT INFORMATION

Christina 12.jpg
Christina 13.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Through the Lens- Spotlight on Katie

Sunset Senior Portrait Shoot, Cape Canaveral, FL

Katie came to me to shoot her senior portraits during her recent cheerleading competition trip to Orlando, Florida. Katie lives in Kansas City and has been cheerleading competitively for years as part of a successful team that made it to the world championship the week of her shoot! In other words, she is really, really good. 

Katie brought three outfits, each with a laid back vibe and I loved her beachy, boho maxi dress (Lulus.com) against the backdrop of the jetty! We had an absolutely gorgeous, golden sunset that lit up her long reddish hair with beautiful rim lighting and she was so confident and natural in front of the camera that every shot was on point. We used her cheerleading skills to our advantage for an amazing jumping shot with just the ocean as the backdrop which made for a dramatic portrait to end an epic shoot!

I loved working with Katie and despite the cold (48 degrees- which by Florida standards is SUPER cold) we made the most of the warm light and ocean to create stunning senior portraits for her! The drive up to Jetty Park from Melbourne was totally worth it. I am so lucky to live in Brevard! There are so many gorgeous locations on the space coast to shoot and Jetty Park Beach is definitely one of them! 

Enjoy these images from our work together and congratulations to Katie! I know that whatever the future holds you will shine!

Three Little Princesses

Portrait Session, Melbourne, Florida

The fleeting innocence of childhood, fairy tales, golden light mixed with glitter, ribbon and three little princesses. Megan and I saw eye-to-eye from the moment she approached me with her idea for styled mother and daughter shoot with her three girls. 

Thanks to Tutu du Monde for the incredible dresses rented through Rainey's Closet!

This session was a dream full of bubbles and giggles and confetti and tulle and SO.MUCH.FUN. 

Enjoy these images from our work together!

Sequins and Smoke

Styled Shoot, Model: Breanna Sorensen, Photographer: Tamsin Photography, Location: Melbourne, Florida

I love shoots that allow me to push myself creatively and that force me to try new things to reinvent portraiture as it is known in the traditional sense. When Breanna came to me with a need to collaborate on a fashion-modelling shoot I was so excited.  She knew that this time she wanted something different from the light and airy outdoor shoots and the studio work we had done together in the past. This time she wanted something dramatic and edgy, but feminine with a bit of sparkle and some vintage glamour. That is how "Sequins and Smoke" was born!

Juxtaposition- Creating Drama Through Contrast

As we planned our shoot we knew that we needed the perfect dress, a killer location with strong sunset light, a vintage element and of course- smoke! It was our goal to create dramatic contrast by placing feminine and elegant items into the scene with an earthy location and the edginess of plumes of smoke. We chose a Bagdley Miscka gold sequinned floor-length gown to give the shoot some high-fashion. We then located the most charming little blue velvet chair from Timeless Vintage and painted the legs gold to tie it together. Lastly we found the most amazing smoke bombs from Skyking Fireworks in Melbourne and chose a sunlit grassy field to shoot. It is always so amazing to see all of the pieces come together and when we arrived on the day of our shoot it was obvious that we had styled something super gorgeous. It helps that the golden hour light that night was on point thank you to mother nature for that one!

Technical- Wide Open and Fast

I decided to shoot wide open at about f/1.8 and at a high shutter speed (1/250ish) for most of this shoot. It was important to me to create lots of depth of field to highlight my subject as this was a modelling shoot, while also capturing crispness in the movement as she shifted from pose to pose within a short time while the smoke was present. I shot with my Canon 5d Mark iii and Sigma 35mm Art lens for the duration of the session, being sure to keep my gear out of the smoke to keep it clean and safe. I used available sunset back-lighting and the smoke to highlight different parts of the body of my model and to convey motion and emotion as we shot. Using the smoke bombs was a lot of fun and the unpredictability of the smoke made capturing the shots exciting as it pushed me to shoot in ways that I normally do not. I shot quickly to maximize each smoke bomb, which lasted about 45 seconds. The experience was awesome and I will definitely be shooting with smoke bombs again.

Enjoy these images from our shoot, "Smoke and Sequins" and be sure to leave some love for my amazing model, Breanna!

If you are a photographer who has questions about the shoot feel free to ask below!

Love from the other side of my camera, 

Tamsin