no fuss in home family session


October is Down syndrome awareness month and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to share two storytelling photography sessions that took place in a family home in Sligo, with the gorgeous Evie and her Mum and Dad. It was such an honour to part of this family's everyday for a short while. The sessions took place back in February when Evie finally got home from hospital after a very tough few weeks battling for life and some short months later in July, to celebrate Evie's big 1st birthday.

white converse, muddy paws & endless love

-in home family photography


Have you ever arrived at someones front door, without much thought, with a purpose, of course. But only as you step out of the car, the enormity of that purpose hits you? I was a little nervous, I wanted to make sure I did a good job, capture these important moments, be thoughtful, empathetic, professional and be me.


It was February, dark, wet and cold, a complete contrast of Ross and Brana's warm and welcoming Sligo home. It was when front door opened, the dog ran out through the biggest muddy puddle, straight onto my newly washed white converse and both me and Brana laughed out loud, I knew then my nerves had no place here. When I offered to take off my dirty runners at the front door, Brana said "No, we're not that kind of house" and for a second time in as many minutes I knew we would get on just fine.

Extra Chromosome and so much more

EXTRA LOVE, EXTRA GOOD HUGS, EXTRA SMILES

October is Down syndrome awareness month. In Ireland, approximately 1 in 500 babies are born with Down syndrome every year. Down syndrome is a common, congenital, chromosomal anomaly which is found worldwide. The condition occurs when there is one extra copy of chromosome 21 in cells in the body. The extra chromosome 21 material may affect the physical development and learning abilities of people with Down syndrome. It is the most common genetic cause of learning disability.

In a previous life, I worked as a Social Care Worker in Longford, Roscommon and Donegal. I had the honour of working with many beautiful people with Down syndrome. The more time I've spent in their company, the more I wondered, was the only "Extra" they had really just a Chromosome? or was it Extra Compassion, Extra Good Hugs, Extra Smiles, Extra Kindness, Extra Joy, Extra Love? Maybe none of this is "Extra" at all, but something people without Down syndrome are actually missing?


I remember one particular day when I was leaving a job to start a new post, one of the lads told me that myself and Michelle Keegan (from Coronation Street) were his two favourite women in the World. I was delighted with myself! But as I left that evening, he also wished me best of luck on my new baby....nothing like being brought back down to earth with a bang!! It always made me laugh. Our days together were always filled with endless laughs.

Evie ren-LITTLE BIRD


Evie Ren was born with Down syndrome on the last day of July 2021. She is utterly perfect and utterly loved. In February 2022 when I walked into her Sligo home, I was there to photograph some really important everyday moments. No posing, nothing staged, a relaxed, candid, documentary in home family session, of a very sick little baby and her parents.

Family life. Everyday life.


Evie had spent 4 weeks over her very first Christmas and New Year fighting for her life in ICU in Dublin. Like many people with Down syndrome Evie has health issues, one of them being a heart defect, very sadly Evie's is inoperable. She was discharged home under the incredible care of her amazing parents Ross and Brana, supported by Palliative Care nurses from the Jack and Jill Foundation. I will admit, I had thought I would find photographing Evie and her Mum and Dad sad and emotional. However, with my experience in special needs and paediatric palliative care, the relaxed nature of my photography, coupled with the intense love this small family radiated, it meant any sadness was immediately overshadowed. It was a day filled with chats, stories, love, laughter and a little bit of photography!


Evie is Ross and Brana's first born. They, like many others found out early in Brana's pregnancy (16 weeks) that Evie would be born with Down syndrome. The presence of Down syndrome is often identified soon after birth from the baby’s clinical features and confirmed with a blood test. Sometimes babies with Down syndrome are identified during pregnancy as a result of prenatal tests. Difficult for any couple, but throw in a pandemic, endless restrictions and an unknown future, there were many difficult days.


This is a quote from Brana's blog that epitomizes the family Evie was born into

"After weeks of so much uncertainty and heartache, we finally received some good news in the form of an extra chromosome. Our little baby has Down syndrome" 


Since getting home, Evie has thrived on that endless love I spoke about. She is full of smiles and mischief. She can sit up unaided, blow raspberries and is eating solids. She loves walks in the buggy and trips to the beach. In July, she celebrated her 1st birthday, a huge milestone, surrounded by her family and friends. I was so honoured to be welcomed back that day, to photograph her 1st birthday party, and be part of a wonderfully happy occasion. I was also really honoured to meet 5 incredible mothers of daughters with Down syndrome, each of them with their own story and each of them giving everything selflessly to their wonderful babies. I loved meeting them all, hearing their stories, asking a million questions and enjoying their company. It was a day I really felt like I'd been dropped into a party of old friends.

SHOUTING EVIE'S WORTH


Brana is an incredible young mother she is dedicated to giving Evie the very best life. She uses her platform to educate and advocate so well for Evie and others like her. She shares the highs and lows of life with a terminally ill baby, antenatal care, pregnancy, breastfeeding, her experience of miscarriage of her little Baby Bear and lots more. Evie will take up an important role as Big Sister in January to little "Pip" and you can follow the adventures of her and her baby sister on Instagram or on Brana's amazing blog called "Shouting Evie's Worth". Evie continues to be under the care of the palliative care team, but lives every single day surrounded by her remarkable parents, family, endless friends and buckets of love.


I will finish up my very first blog by dedicating this to Ross, Brana, Evie, Baby Bear and Pip. A little snippet from that February session and the happier occasion in July past of Evie's 1st Birthday. The photos I am sharing are all unprompted and unposed, this little family is just bursting with love. The love Brana and Ross have for each other, for Evie and Evie for them both, is something that I won't forget.


Ross told me about how someone once pointed out the hardship of having a child who would never live independently, Ross said to me, "I couldn't think of anything better than always having her with me" and this will stay with me forever.


In a bubble of endless love.


What a lovely place to be.

What a lovely family to be born into.

What lucky parents.

What a lucky little girl.


Oonagh x

Documentary Family Photography


Imagine having your family photos in your home? Embracing everyday life and whatever is happening in that moment. The happy days, the tough days, the ordinary days.


This type of photography is called Documentary Family Photography and it's my passion. I LOVE to meet new people, chat and get to know families. It's relaxed, candid, unposed, unprompted.

Follow Evies adventures here:

https://www.instagram.com/shoutingeviesworth/

https://shoutingeviesworth.com/

Also, If you would like to know more about Down Syndrome in Ireland you will find lots of information here: https://downsyndromeireland.com/


*all content shared with consent of Brana and Ross.