Essence is a beautiful 18-year old young woman along with her newborn baby boy, Emmanuel, who I had the opportunity to photograph this past year through my give back program in partnership with City of Refuge.
When I first met Essence, she had been living in Kindred Spirit Home for two months. Kindred Spirit exists to assist homeless unwed pregnant teens or pregnant teens that have limited family support in a loving, safe, Christian oriented home.
“Before I got pregnant I had my own place, I was okay. Then I couldn’t work as much and couldn’t afford my place. That’s when I heard about Kindred Spirit.”
When she first found out she was pregnant, Essence was unsure about keeping her baby. She explained some of her fears and uncertainty about becoming a mother.
“Eventually, I figured I’d just have him.”
I asked her how she felt about making the decision to keep her baby and she said she knew it was what she was to do.
“It’s cool to see what you made. I’m just happy he’s here. I was angry my whole pregnancy but now I feel like I changed. I’m a better person.”
She patted Emmanuel on the back, smiled at him and told me, “I feel like God told me I was going to have this baby. Having the baby made me slow down. I thought that when I hit 18 I was grown but it’s not easy with a baby.”
She continued, “The hardest thing is that when things get hard and I want to leave...I can’t. I can’t just think about me anymore. I have to think about him.”
When I asked Essence what she wanted for Emmanuel and his life she replied simply, “I just want him to be somebody.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, Essence told me why she chose the name Emmanuel.
“I wanted it to start with an E, like my name, but I also really liked the meaning. Emmanuel means ‘God with us’ and he reunited me with God. Sometimes I don’t listen and I get in trouble, but having Emmanuel brought my relationship with God back.”
Since giving birth, Essence has been supported by the members of Kindred Spirit, her mom, and the birth father.
“I know I can’t do it alone,” she added.
Here, Essence and Emmanuel have had the opportunity to live in community with other women throughout their journeys of becoming mothers.
Enjoy these photos from the shoot. Essence was humble and incredibly sweet and nothing was going to stop her from conquering motherhood. Emmanuel is a healthy, beautiful baby boy who smiled through our entire shoot.
All participants of HJP's Giving Back program receive complimentary newborn sessions, digital files, and a set of prints from Hayley Jo Photography. Learn more about this program here. Kindred Spirit has been providing a loving, safe, Christian oriented home for girls since 2004. To contribute financially to their work, visit their giving page (donations may be designated to the Kindred Spirit home).