When Erika and Stephen Jones found out they were expecting baby number two, they were no doubt over the moon. But at 18 weeks, the Jacksonville, Florida, couple learned their child would be born with Down syndrome, and just as they were coming to peace with the diagnosis ("We were soon excited and honored to have a child with special needs," the couple wrote in a recent blog post), they received some devastating news: An ultrasound and subsequent fetal MRI detected a rare tumor in their baby's brain. It was most likely cancerous and most certainly causing permanent damage.
Abigail Noelle's birth on August 6th must have been a bittersweet moment for the Joneses. Despite the cancer growing inside of her, their daughter was just like every other newborn: wiggling around, babbling, sticking out her tongue, opening her eyes, and wrapping her hands around fingers. Yet in the back of their minds, the new parents were also aware that her young life could end at any moment. In fact, an MRI performed after birth confirmed that the tumor was too invasive and too aggressive to be treated. The doctor's advice? Take little Abigail home and surround her with love—a job the new parents were all too happy to take on. "We have smothered this little one with love and kisses and will continue to do so every moment we get," they wrote.
Though they're leaning heavily on their faith for support, the Joneses acknowledge that "this situation is tragic and unbelievably difficult. ...We don't want to lose our daughter. We want to see her laugh, dance, fight with her sister, ride a bike, go to school. We want to see her life. But most likely, her whole life will be weeks or months, not years. Our hearts are broken and ache for the time that we don't have."
To help capture whatever time they do have with Abigail, the couple asked their friend, photographer Mary Huszcza, to take some pictures of the family. She did—and the results are breathtaking. I get chills every time I see the shots of Stephen cradling his tiny newborn in his hands or Erika gently kissing the top of her head. And my heart melts when I see the adorable Abigail wrapped in her swaddle or looking sweetly into the camera. You can see the love and devotion in this family, something Huszcza picked up on at once. (Visit Huszcza's website to see more of these lovely images.)
"Often, when photographing families, the parents can be very anxious about everything going just right," she tells Parents.com. "All the Jones family was concerned with was soaking in sweet Abigail. They appeared almost oblivious to me being there and that allowed me to capture real connections and real emotion.
"I've never seen two parents more in love with their child," she adds. "Stephen just couldn't stop kissing her and telling her how much he loved her. It truly was a beautiful experience, and I was blessed to be part of such intimate moments."
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