laura loves… Cecilia Christine
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So much has happened since our last little (huge) life update. I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll pick up where we left off.

After we found out that our baby girl likely had Trisomy 18, we were sent to a specialist to confirm those findings, and to also monitor her growth via ultrasound. We got to see her sweet little cheeks, her tiny ears, her clenched fists, her cleft lip, her feet that always kicked me on the upper right side of my tummy.

Even though we knew her life could be complicated and short, she was still our beautiful baby girl on that ultrasound screen. She was so, so active, and she had her daddy’s large hat size just like her brother and sister – she even looked like both of them from certain angles.

We’ve experienced such an array of emotions.

Joy – Watching her rub her eyes and hide her face from the ultrasound technician. Watching Elodie’s eyes light up when she felt her sister kicking.

Confusion – Wondering how exactly her diagnosis would affect her. Some Trisomy 18 babies don’t make it through delivery. Some live for a few hours, days, weeks (probably with lots of help in the NICU). Some of the stronger ones live for months and even years (probably needing oxygen and/or feeding tubes). There was just no way of knowing her needs until she got here, but we had to try and prepare ourselves for every possible situation.

Sorrow – Just the thought of not being able to meet her alive broke my heart. 

Finally, at 33 weeks along in the pregnancy, baby girl decided it was time. Time for us to meet her and to stop worrying about all the ‘what if’s.

On Thursday, January 31st, in the evening, we checked in to the hospital and I labored through the night. We met with the neonatologists to discuss our wishes for baby girl. We prayed we would get to meet her alive and that she could meet her big sister and brother. We rested as much as we could. We decided on her name.

At 7:56am on February 1st, Cecilia Christine was born. She was given oxygen as the neonatologist declared her heartbeat not strong enough to intervene. She made the decision for us.

She was here, and she wanted nothing but our love and comfort.

We held her, we kissed her, Elodie counted all her fingers and toes. I couldn’t believe how much hair she had. Our priest was there to baptize and confirm her. My good friend Amy was there to photograph every single moment for us to cherish forever. 

At 10:15am they could no longer hear her heartbeat. We continued to hold her and love on her all day until it was time to send her to the funeral home, and we went back to our home to rest.

The next two days were a blur as family members traveled to be with us, and Elodie and Milo fought colds. There’s nothing that will bring you back to reality faster than caring for your other children!!

On Monday, we celebrated Cecilia’s short, perfect life at her funeral, surrounded by family, close friends, and co-workers. We picked readings that gave us strength and showed us God’s love in times of hardship. We had four priests who have been so dear to us on our journey both before and during our time with Cecilia. Fr. Brian Christensen, who was there with us in the delivery room, Fr. Matt Fallgren, who we see most every weekend in Hermosa, Fr. Michel Mulloy, who helped us prepare for marriage and also baptized Elodie, and Fr. Paul Rutten, who knew us in college and presided at our wedding.

At the burial, the sun peeked out, and the tiniest snowflakes sprinkled us all as we prayed over Cecilia’s body one last time. If you look to the West while standing at her grave, you’ll see a beautiful, sweeping view of the Black Hills. As lovely of a view that it is, I know her view in and from Heaven is even greater.

Thank you all for your love and support.

Thank you to our doctors and nurses who gave us comfort and confidence before and during our hospital stay.

Thank you to our ultrasound technicians who gave us the gift of seeing her so active and taking extra pictures of her sweet face.

Thank you to all who were able to join us on Monday to celebrate Cecilia’s life.

Thank you to all who continue to be with us and pray for us as we find our ‘new normal.’

While we will always miss our third child, we know that God’s plan is good, and we are so thankful to have had the time with Cecilia that we did. As we held our tiny, motionless baby in our arms, we understood that we didn’t have to worry about her anymore. She knew nothing but love, and as her heart beat for the last time, she was brought to the One whose love is greater.

styled ELOPEMENT!! Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park elopement
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When Sarah from The Vintage Lease asked if I would be interested in photographing a styled elopement, I said YES without any hesitation for a few reasons:

  1. Her work is so lovely and thoughtful, and I know her enough to trust her vision completely.
  2. Elopements are small, so recreating any part of this shoot for a real wedding would be so easy and realistic!
  3. SUNRISE IN THE BLACK HILLS, need I say more?

On the day of the shoot, I was so excited for what Sarah had put together, but I also wanted to be super intentional about making this look as real as possible, so we had our already-married models do a first look. They were so sweet to play along with all of our ideas, and I hope this styled elopement can provide plenty of real inspiration for anyone out there planning their own elopement. :-)


The groom then surprised his bride with some new earrings to match her wedding ring.The gorgeous ceremony site provided by Custer State Park, and lovely dress from Freckled Fox in Spearfish.The next ‘set up’ that actually turned more real than any part of the day was the couple meeting their officiant – Mary Maisey Ireland from Your Joyful Wedding. I have had the honor of working alongside Mary at many weddings, and she always has a way of putting everyone at ease. Yes, this was an awkward morning (a married couple pretending to elope), but Mary did what she does best and greeted the couple with warmth and sincerity, gave them an overview of what was about to happen, then led them to the spot we picked for them to ‘get married.’Even for an elopement you can walk down an aisle (or grassy pathway)! Again… yes, these are staged photos, but this couple, as well as Mary, were so sincere that I was about ready to sign a marriage license to make this elopement official!! Another thing Mary does that I LOVE is that she gives couples some space for their first kiss as husband and wife.  Even already-married couples can’t stop kissing once they’re pronounced husband and wife!! ;-) Also, I love how the sun is peeking over the Hills, embracing Jake + Tessa for this moment!Now, I’d like to brag on Jenny’s Floral for a bit. Her business in downtown Custer is full of fun home decor, including several items made by local artists, and there is always a happy helper behind the counter, oftentimes Jenny herself. Every time I photograph her bouquets, I fall more and more in love with her work. Every single wedding we’ve done together is a ‘favorite!!’ And this ring from Riddle’s Jewelry? SOOOO BEAUTIFUL!!!! I love that morganite has become so popular – the faint hint of pink is so subtle and sweet, I couldn’t help but stare!Jake + Tessa, our models, also own Ebony & White Design, a local woodworking business. They make the most impressive custom furniture, as well as personalized wooden signs, such as this! How perfect!!
Finally, Sarah’s masterpiece. While we walked around taking portraits, Sarah set up this lovely table just a few feet away from the elopement site (on more level ground – haha)! She grew up collecting antiques with her parents, and has recently turned that passion into a business, renting and styling anything vintage (sofas, chairs, glassware, everything you see here) for small weddings and events. Again – this ring!!! The rose gold wedding bands really highlighted the morganite. Who doesn’t love blush?! Another local find was this gigantic caramel roll from Calamity Jane’s Mercantile in Custer. I *might* have picked up a few extra for all the behind-the-scenes vendors who came out before sunrise for this amazing day.

So, what do you think? Does any part of this styled photoshoot make you want to elope? Or get out to watch the sun rise? Or eat an enormous caramel roll? If the answer was yes to any of those, I think we’ve succeeded. ;-)

 

A huge thank you to the following vendors for putting together this styled elopement:

The Vintage Lease – Sarah had the vision to put this together and style the table

Your Joyful Wedding – Mary, the master of ceremonies and life in general (yes, she’s that good!)

Jenny’s Floral – Jenny puts together the most amazing bouquets ever!

Hubbard Visuals – Nick and Kaylee put together a lovely video of the occasion

Riddle’s Jewelry – provided the gorgeous gems

Freckled Fox – Beth and Amanda (a mother and daughter team in Spearfish) provided Tessa’s lovely dress

Ebony & White Design – Jake & Tessa Wolter – the wonderful models and woodworkers

Calamity Jane Mercantile – the caramel rolls!!!

Emily Costopulous – elopement announcement

Studio LB – I had the honor of photographing all this beautiful-ness!

styled PROPOSAL!! Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park engagement
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“Let’s go for a sunrise stroll, I found a new spot in the Black Hills that you’re going to love!”

Little did she know, this stroll would not just end at a beautiful view, it would be the beginning of the rest of their forever together. You see, he had surprise up his sleeve and a ring in his pocket.
After a moment of soaking in the view, he couldn’t wait any longer. He started telling her how important she was in his life and how he couldn’t imagine his life without her. He wanted her to be by his side forever, for all the ups and downs and sunrise strolls for the rest of their lives.He pulled out the ring, got down on one knee, and asked for her forever, because not a day less would do.She said yes. ;-)  While on their ‘life changing stroll,’ Sarah from The Vintage Lease had set up a lovely little celebration table, complete with coffee, champagne, and peaches and cream. A huge thank you to the following vendors for putting together this styled proposal.

The Vintage Lease – Sarah had the vision to put this together and style the table

Hubbard Visuals – Nick and Kaylee put together a lovely video of the occasion

Riddle’s Jewelry – provided the gorgeous gems

S&Co. Boutique – Sami provided Tessa’s stylish outfit

Jake & Tessa Wolter – the lovely models

Jenny’s Floral – Jenny put together the amazing bouquet on the table

Studio LB – I had the honor of photographing all this beautiful-ness!

grant + hillary ADVENTURE!!
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Grant + Hillary came to the Black Hills to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, and wanted to document their trip with a photoshoot. When I found out they would be hiking several trails along their journey, I asked if they would be up for hiking for their photos and was SO EXCITED when they agreed! We met at Sylvan Lake and hiked to the nearest overlook to watch the most beautiful blush sunset.  I love that they slow danced on top of a mountain at sunset, while thinking back on their wedding day a year ago. It seriously can not get any more romantic than that!!! I had been using the gorgeous pink sunset as a backdrop, but I didn’t want them to miss out on the beauty of it, so they took a moment to just soak it all in. Then, Grant soaked in the beauty of his bride. ;-) 
I love that among all the sweet, romantic photos, they were still quick to laugh with each other – a good sign of a good marriage, if you ask me! :-) Thanks again, Grant + Hillary for reaching out and for going on a little adventure with me! I can’t wait to see where you go for your next anniversary!!

lex + heidi MARRIED!! Custer State Park wedding photographer
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In my mind, mid-September has always been the perfect time for a wedding. Even before I was married, I was photographing weddings at that time and thinking “this weather is perfect – not summer, not fall, just right.” Then, my husband and I got married mid-September because it was the only date that worked for the photographers I wanted. Now, I get to share an anniversary with this lovely couple you see here!

Lex + Heidi traveled down from North Dakota for a perfect South Dakota September wedding day. The morning was foggy, but by lunchtime the sun came out and shined so bright for these two!
After the ceremony, we had a full hour before Lex + Heidi were needed at the reception, so we went on a little adventure! :-)  Lex + Heidi – Thank you so much for having me at your wedding! I loved being able to create beautiful wedding photos that you will hopefully treasure as much as I treasure my own photos from September 15th a few years ago! :-) Thanks for letting me take you on a little adventure as well! I hope you had a fun couple of days here, and enjoy your honeymoon this winter!