“On July 1, 2019, at roughly 7:45, mom-to-be Amber reached out to her friend and told her that her water had broken earlier in the day. She was 19 weeks, 5 days, and her fluid was completely gone. She was given no other choice but to deliver. She was scared and heartbroken, and didn’t know what to do. She asked if her friend, Lina, could come and support them.
Amber asked for professional pictures of the entire process start to finish, no matter how gruesome or what they showed. I immediately packed up my cameras and hit the road into the night. I drove almost 2 hours to get to the hospital. When I arrived, I was stopped and watched a life flight helicopter take off. I assumed I did not make the birth in time and they were rushed elsewhere for some reason. However, when I arrived to the room, I learned I did not miss anything. The room was full of so much love and strength. Everyone was strong for everyone.
I met Amber and Monty on the best and worst day of their lives, but when I walked into that hospital room, all I felt was the love. Amber was on her yoga ball, arms on the bed, Monty behind her with a hand on her shoulder. I got to document two people who were undoubtedly going to survive this loss together, and squeeze every drop of joy out of the time they got with their daughter that they could. I knew this because of the mutual tenderness between them. Though Amber was the one physically giving birth that day, she looked at Monty and cared for him with the keen awareness that he was also losing his daughter. And though Monty was reeling through it as well, he put Amber first for the full 12 hours I spent by their side.
Anne-Marie, Amber’s mom, had driven the 3-hour trip from her home in New Hampshire in only 2.5 hours as soon as she had gotten the news. She is the kind of mom I imagine anyone would hope to have in a situation like the one they were in. Her unwavering support and love for the both of them was tangible.
Amber and Monty had plenty of visitors. Their support system was amazing, and each individual brought something different and necessary to their day – encouragement, coffee, humor, snacks, hugs, distractions, stories… the list goes on. While the circumstances were unthinkable, it was unbelievable to see how each of their friends and family members picked them up and shouldered their grief with them. They walked, they bounced, they laughed, they cried. While I once believed that cheesecake and sadness could not mutually exist, I have been proven wrong. Since Amber was hesitant to eat, Monty fed her as they grieved and prepared to meet their daughter.
There was never one moment when room 114 was not overflowing with love. Monty was an incredible birth partner for Amber. He wiped her sweat away, held her hand, breathed with her, rubbed her back, made her laugh, and reminded her frequently how much he loved her. He is a 6’4” jokester of a man, and it was clear he doesn’t like to see anyone sad. He deflected his own grief to try to make sure that everybody else was okay. But we all knew that deep down, this was tearing him up. How could it not?
Monty was on his knees at Amber’s bedside as everyone gathered around the two of them. I watched as he held her stomach and came into reality. Like a ton of bricks, it all caught up with him. It was a moment I will never forget. It is important to the Ross family that others in this situation know they are not alone, and to know this: Dads, you are allowed to cry, too. Your grief is valid and equally raw. Your tears and heartache do not need to be stuffed away. If your emotions overflow, you can let them. You are BOTH hurtling through this nightmare together. You BOTH feel this loss.
Their family and friends stood there with them. There was not a dry eye in the room as they all felt the weight of the situation and held it together.
Amber labored for another 20 minutes before she pushed her baby out. Emily-Anne arrived at 10:52 p.m. Her husband, Monty, cut the cord and Emily-Anne was placed on her mother’s chest. Amber held her daughter for her entire life. Her tiny heart beating while against her mother’s chest. Sweet Emily-Anne only ever knew love in her short 17-minute time on this earth.
Amber looked up and cried out to her friend Lina, who was by their side the entire time. ‘Lina! She’s here? She’s really here?’ Lina took Emily-Anne’s tiny hand and put it on Amber’s finger as Monty crouched by the bed, staring in awe at the little girl they had brought into this world. Both Amber and Monty were visibly shaking in amazement as Amber called everyone over to look at her tiny fingernails and hair follicles
I can’t say enough how beautiful it all was. For the 17 minutes she was alive, Emily-Anne only experienced love. Her story is powerful, but it is one of many. Her parents want to share their story to help end the stigma around premature infant loss. If you have gone through this or are going through this, no matter how daunting and lonely it may seem, you are NOT alone.
She was surrounded by her family when she was born, and when she passed. Her father held her, he dressed her, he kissed her, and it was everything. To witness a man love with all his heart while it breaks all at the same time was that of a life-shattering and forever life-changing experience. Men should not be hidden when they show their emotions. And babies should not be nested.
If you have pictures of your baby, no matter when he or she was born, you are allowed to share them just like any other parent can share images of their babies. Your child and your story is just as beautiful and just as important. You are loved, and your child will never be forgotten.
Emily-Anne Olive Ross
10.2oz 10in long.”
**This story originally appeared on Love What Matters. It was submitted by Carly’s Lens and Breezy Photography on behalf of parents Amber and Monty Ross. See more of their beautiful work on Instagram @carlyslens and @breezyphotome.