I was 23 years old. I found out I was pregnant. We weren’t married yet. My family would never approve. I knew I had to pull it together. James, my then boyfriend and now husband, was super scared. Neither one of us were expecting it. Together, we went to every midwife appointment and everything was going great.
Fast forward to my 20th week of pregnancy. We went in for a routine sonogram and were eager to learn the sex of our baby. I drank more water than they should ever expect a pregnant person drink because they said it would result in better images. We sat anxiously in the waiting room and jumped up quickly as soon as they called our name.
I laid on the exam table and the tech pulled out gel and squeezed some out on my belly. He was chatty and full of smiles. We were all in a great mood and happy to be there.
He then placed the wand on my belly and, like magic, an imaged of our baby appeared on the screen. The tech went silent. His face serious and stiff. I suddenly had the impression he was unable to smile at all; no longer resembling the person we had been speaking to for the last 10 min.
I looked over at James and he looked at me. Both us with worry in our eyes and waiting for any information. The tech left the room and came back in with yet another tech. This one was smiling, but it seemed forced. They quietly chattered in medical terms that, to me, seemed like Chinese while pointing at the screen. She then laughingly suggested that I go to the restroom since my bladder looked like it might give way at any moment. I agreed.
Upon my return, I asked what was wrong. They offered no explanation. “We will send the images to the radiologist and the doctor will call you with results.” That was it. “Absolutely NOT!” I told them. “There is no way you are going to send me home without any information. Clearly, something is wrong and you are going to tell me what it is!” Of course, techs can’t give patients results and the radiologist was not there. I don’t remember exactly what they told us, but they did let us know that something was wrong with the baby. I cried all the way home staring out the window at the pouring rain.
4 weeks later I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He was tinny. His foot fit on the top half of my thumb with just a little room to spare. We named him Nathanial James Fernandez and handed his lifeless body to the nurse before packing up our things and returning home; not only with empty arms, but with a great and heavy sadness that I feared would never leave me.
The baby had a very severe case of Down Syndrome. His heart was missing a chamber and he never stood a chance of survival. He died in my womb and was still born.
Many families are spared the devastation of a still birth. Yet, that means they must endure and flourish for a lifetime while caring for a child that will forever have special needs. The doctor’s appointments are endless, the medications a matter of trial and error each time hoping that this one will work better than the last 15 they tried. Then there’s therapy and education to consider as the child grows. All the while these parents struggle to ensure that their child fits in with other children their own age. Forever hoping and working towards a “normal” life.
Dancing for Donations is a wonderful organization that allows children of every ability to learn dance in a group environment. They don’t separate them based on abilities. Rather, they are grouped together based on their ages just like any other dance school might do. Children that are in wheelchairs learn tap alongside those with various physical and mental disabilities. In this room, being “different” is “normal”. It is a beautiful thing to watch and something that needs to be available to every child!
Tuition is less than half the cost of regular dance classes and a portion is donated to charities. They offer tap, jazz, and ballet to children and adults, ages 2-up and currently have about 80 dancers and 15 classes held each week. They also do a ton of outreach events in the community and fundraising classes for other charities.
They are currently seeking teachers that are interested in working with these amazing children in hopes of expanding their classes and are also hoping to open their own studio soon.
Donations to this incredible organization can be made via paypal at email@example.com or at YouCare.com via this link: https://www.youcaring.com/sarabattaglia-1129262
Feel free to visit their website at: http://dancingfordonations.weebly.com
Struggle has always been a huge part of my life. I don't remember anything ever coming easily to me. By some people's view point, that may not be so. I must admit, I have family members in Cuba that believe I am privileged because of the country I was born in. In some respects, they are correct. But in others, they are terribly wrong. Sadly mistaken. Desperately faulted in their thinking. I would have given anything to enjoy a childhood free of television, seclusion, and the inside of a second floor apartment that faced trees I was never allowed to climb. To swim freely in rivers, play with farm animals, and run the streets with a crowd of kiddos my own age was something I regularly dreamed of.
I was born to a family of Cuban immigrants in Tampa, FL. Yes, they came to this country legally rather than on a "banana boat". My father was a Political Prisoner who'd been jailed many times over for having views and beliefs that did not align with those of the Cuban government. Because of this, an aunt who had come to the US a few years earlier, was able to "reclamar" (claim) my parents and their 6 children. The year as 1969 and I would not be born for another 11 years.
I'll skip all the childhood drama. I know everyone has a couple of those stories to tell. To some degree, we have all been wronged. But that is no excuse to take on the title of failure and go about life displaying a sign across your chest announcing to the world that you are of the firm belief that your life is worse than everyone else's. Get a grip and move on. That's my motto!
I was about 8 years old when I first remember wanting a camera. My brother is a property appraiser and I used to go with him on jobs from time to time. I thought his camera was fancy because the lenses were interchangeable. It was!
However, it would be 18 years before I finally owned my very own camera with interchangeable lenses. Why 18 years? Because, prior to that, I was too broke to buy one. I had a full time job making $8.25/hr and I worked in the evenings as a waitress. I had exactly the amount of money I needed to pay my rent and bills. Nothing extra. I was living on my own and I was SOOOO proud of myself. I simply had no way of materializing my dreams just yet. Then marriage came and our first child. The expenses where many and, just starting out, we didn't have enough to wager on this dream of mine.
Ok, fast forward to 2006. I finally had a camera and could officially call myself a photographer. Right? My pictures SUCKED! Like, for real! They totally sucked! I had no idea what I was doing wrong. I spent all this money on a camera and the photos it produced where terrible. Little did I know that the camera only worked if there was a human behind it who understood how to use it. Thus began my search for proper training.
I knew for sure that I stood VERY LITTLE chance of being hired to work at Disney's Fine Art Photography Department. There had to be a gazillion photographers who actually knew how to use their cameras and would totally get the job before me. But I went to the interview and I got the job. WHOO HOOO!!! I was officially an Assistant to some of the most amazing photographers in the world.
Over the course of the next 4 years I would learn to balance my home life (which included two children aged 5 & 3, a husband, dinner, laundry, and everything else that most moms deal with on a daily basis) and my work. Most days I would set my alarm for 3:30a and pray that the kids would let me sleep. I would get up in the morning and lay out the clothes for the kids so James could take them to school along with breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the whole family. I was exhausted, but determined.
Today, I run my business from home. I take my son (now 10 years old) to school in the mornings and pick him up in the afternoons. I help my daughter (now 12 years old) with her Virtual Schooling and we get to be a family all close and cuddly a lot more often than most others. Yes, there are still a lot of struggles. But I like my life. I'm happy that I pushed through when I was able and that I didn't label myself a failure early on just because I could.
Like they say: "The Struggle is Real". Just, don't let it define you. Don't allow yourself to become bitter as you watch those around you advance at an alarming rate while you wonder how you're going to convince the electric company to not turn your lights off and give you another 2 weeks to pay. Push through and never give up. Your efforts will pay off. You might even find that you have inspired others along the way; even if you can't, for the life of you, understand how. Each of our struggles are unique and we can all learn from one another. Make it your goal to see the good, push forward, and follow your dreams. There's no better career than the one that doesn't feel like a job!
Special thanks to the amazing team of photographers at Disney Fine Art Photography that, as a whole, taught me just about everything I know about photography. Bill Watson who helped me move up in the company (while a boss, who very much disliked me, was on maternity leave) Ty Boyce, Regina Hyman, Cassie Peech, Mike Strickland, Pedro Bonilla, & Felix Rivera. Y'all made it possible for me to become the photographer I am today. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And to James Fernandez who has financially and emotionally supported me and our family while I grew the business. I would be nowhere without you! And of course, to my parents, brother, and sisters who have always believed in me and supported my crazy ideas and outrageous goals. Love you guys sooooo much!
You're a busy parent. Life is hard and fast. Sometimes a month goes by before you realize that you haven't taken a single photograph of your children or pets. A WHOLE MONTH!
Before you allow yourself to be filled with regret, pick up your cell phone or camera and start taking a few photographs as soon as you remember. Here are some ideas about why today is special and how to make the most of the images you do capture.
By the way, most of the images below are of my own family and span the course of about 4-5 years.
Mess? What mess? Who cares?
Literally NO ONE! Seriously, nobody cares. We all have a ton of crap all over the place. The younger your children are, the more crap you have. It's a FACT. Don't avoid photographing your life because you want to hid your mess from the world. It is part of your life today and, just like the humans that live among it, the mess deserves to be documented, too.
Everything is ever-changing
Things change from year to year. Although my 10 year old son has an obsession with stuffed animals and they still live on his bed, my 12 year old daughter gave that up and now has her collection of stuffed animals in bags for "safekeeping" at the top of her closet.
I'm pretty sure that Elijah won't be playing with blocks and legos when he's 15 and Abri will probably be waaaaay more into makeup by then. Which makes the little things they are doing today extra special. So get down on the ground and get proof of what they love today, before this stage passes by and you end up wishing you had a photo of that thing your kid used to do.
Remember, try to view the world from your child's perspective. Kids spend a ton of time playing on the floor. That's where life happens for for them. Get down on the ground! Sitting, kneeling, or evening laying will give you a completely different view of the world. It's a view through their eyes and it makes all the difference.
Regret is Useless!
I look back and wish I might have gotten more amazing photographs of my children, family, pets, and just life in general while we were still in that moment. The truth is, life was busy and things were complicated for us. I got what I was able to get. I worked full time and cared for the kids while James worked outside the home, and doing everything that goes with that. I did the best I could. Although it is too late now to go back and get those shots I missed, it's not too late to work on pulling out my camera a little more day-to-day. And guess what: YOU CAN TOO!
Book a Lifestyle Family Portrait Session
Ok, so you love looking at photographs of your family, but you would rather have something that's a little more professional... I get it. That's actually a great idea! And guess what..... The Fine Art Photography Company does just that!
Check out the Session Information Page on our website to learn more about booking a "Lifestyle Family Portrait Session" in your home. Below are a few samples of what that might look like and we'll work with you to plan activities that showcase your family and the way you live your lives.