Thin Slice of Denial

by Kim Buda

Amateur or professional? If the definition of a professional photographer is one that makes money from their profession, then I guess amateur is my title. Both are intrigued and excited by the idea of capturing a single image in a single moment of time. A moment that can be relived frequently through photo albums or picture frames. I’m not quite sure if my interest in photography started with the birth of my son Jacob, but it certainly began my adventure. What had been a quick snap shot in the moment, a fun way to capture the past, now changed to a razor thin slice of life that showed both emotion and an undeniable truth.

My son Jacob was born in this would with Down syndrome six weeks early. Without former knowledge of his condition, my husband and I planned to make a celebration of his birth. My family spilling in around us, flashes of light imprinting our joyous moments forever on film. We joked and laughed at the upcoming changes and responsibilities we would face after Jacob’s birth. 12 hours into a horrendous labor, my body could give no more. Jacob’s heart rate ceased, and we went into an emergency cesarean section. The mood became somber, and the former happy faces began to slide. We left the hospital days later with a new baby boy, and a new set of fears.

After Jake’s birth and his transition into our home, pictures of his birthday started to surface. It was like watching a strange before and after reality show in still motion. The before shots showed so many joyous emotions. Each snapshot showed just a slight bit of change. Subtle but different. In one photo my eyes would be squinted tight with laughter, a smile lifting off my lips, on another, my eyes would show just a tinge of sadness, and yet another they showed my fear and concern. In such a relatively short period, the changes in just my eyes alone were astonishing.

Getting settled into a new life with our new baby was difficult. All of the hopes and dreams for our son had been crushed with his diagnosis of Down’s. In the early days of adjusting, my husband and I took tons of pictures of our newborn. Although the hospital had suspected Down syndrome, we were still nervously awaiting the official results of his DNA test. During this difficult time we managed to convince ourselves that he did not have Down’s, that in fact, he looked like every other red, small, squished up newborn. We spent countless hours convincing ourselves. His eyes weren’t really slanted. The back of his head was not any flatter than any other newborn baby. His nose was a little broader, but so what?

While waiting in a slow agony for the results to come in, more pictures began to surface. Family members would send them in e-mails and bring them in drugstore packets. My husband I would wait impatiently for our next packet of film to be developed. Denial is a funny thing. It’s easy to talk yourself out of almost anything. Unfortunately, a photo captures the truth. Each new picture pulled at my heart. There it was, plain as day, Down syndrome on my son’s face, right there on a piece of shiny 4X6 paper. As if someone had painted over the original in a cruel joke. Those early photos showed me traits in my son that my own eyes couldn’t see. His eyes slanted just slightly into a china doll’s curve. His nose was broad and small. His rosebud ears lay low on the side of his head. From the side you could plainly see that the back of his head was the tell tale trait of a baby with Down syndrome.

It was the photos of my son that lead me to the inevitable conclusion that he had been born with Down syndrome, not the blood results. Each still shot had revealed, what life’s continuous motion had not. Those pictures of Jacob and his birth are out for all of us to see. Jacob spends hours looking through his photo albums naming all his family members. For me the experience is different and tough. Those split second snap shots pull me back in time as if I’ve been snatched at the belly. Each picture is even more obvious than the next.

I have continued to take pictures of my son through the years. I guess you can say it has become an adventure. I have captured both joyous and demanding moments. Hospital trips, surgeries, camps, vacations, even modeling shots. Whether I am worthy of a professional, or will always be just an amateur, capturing Jacob’s moments have been exhilarating—each photo another thin slice of a life that has amazing worth and possibilities.

Kim Buda is a passionate writer with interests in both fiction and non-fiction writing. She works from home full time while staying home with her two children, the oldest with Down syndrome. Simple Joys 2007 September Issue accepted Kim’s work for publication. She has also been published in AmericanProfile, the Down Syndrome Association Newsletter, and has won first place four times in the Caroline County Arts Council fiction competition – http://www.carolinearts.org.


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