When a couple from Maine learned that their daughter would be born prematurely, they called family, friends and a professional photographer to celebrate and capture her short life.
“Her time with us was short but sweet,” Montell Ross, the father, later wrote on Facebook. “And she felt only love.”
The couple hopes that the professional photos will show other couples facing similar trials across the world not only that they aren’t alone, but also that dads are allowed to grieve, too.
On July 1, 2019, Amber was 19 weeks and 5 days pregnant. She and her husband had been joyously preparing for their little girl, but when her water unexpectedly broke they knew something wasn’t right.
When doctors told Amber and Montell that there were no surgeries that would save their baby’s life, the couple decided to go ahead and deliver their daughter despite the risks.
But before the delivery, they called and asked close friends and family to come, sit and wait with them.
Amber’s mother drove up from New Hampshire to be with her daughter and Lina Wallace, a friend who had lost a baby of her own in 2016, rushed to help Amber and Montell navigate through the emotional day.
Lina contacted Carly Dorsky of Carly’s Lens on behalf of the Rosses to professionally capture the day, including the messy, emotional parts of it.
“I met Amber and Monty on the best and worst day of their lives so far, but when I walked into that hospital room, all I felt was the love,” Carly later wrote on a Facebook album that was later published on Love What Matters.
“There was never one moment when room 114 was not overflowing with love,” she continued.
Others visited the hospital room throughout the day to bring food, hugs and encouragement. Whatever the Rosses needed, someone from their support network brought it.
When it was finally time for the sweet little one to be born, the tension between joy and grief was so thick it could be cut with a knife.
Amber and Montell were excited to meet the child they had waited for but were simultaneously preparing to say goodbye.
Carly said that one of the most amazing things she witnessed that day was how Montell cared for his wife as her body went through labor.
“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,” Carly wrote. “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.”
Even though Montell had pushed his own grief aside to make sure his wife felt supported, Carly noticed that Amber was intentionally aware of her husband and made sure he knew that she was there for him, too.
When Amber asked for a group picture with everyone who had come to support them that day, Montell placed his hand on his wife’s stomach and the grief he had been fighting to hide all day bubbled up all at once.
“It was a moment I will never forget,” Carly wrote. “And I’m sharing this because 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.”
Emily-Anne Olivia Ross was born at 10:52 p.m. on July 1, 2019. She was 10 inches long, four inches longer than she should’ve been, and weighed 10.2 ounces.
She was only alive for 17 minutes — but according to those who were in the room, those 17 minutes were filled with love.
“Amber held her daughter for her entire life. Her tiny heart beating while against her mother’s chest,” Carly wrote. “Sweet Emily-Anne only ever knew love in her short 17-minute time on this earth.”
In a live video, Amber talked about how even though Emily-Anne was born at 19 weeks old her fingers and feet were fully formed and even pointed out how her daughter was already beginning to take after her father.
Family and friends have continued to rally around the Rosses as they grieve their daughter’s unexpected life through raising money to support them through GoFundMe and continuing to show up for them like they did in the hospital.
The Rosses hope that their story continues to help break the stigma surrounding premature birth and show that men should be able to publicly grieve the loss of their children, too.
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