Nothing Lauren Young had planned for her baby’s delivery came true.
Her husband, Joey Young, was supposed to be there.
She wasn’t supposed to give birth to their baby girl so far away from their Ridgeland home.
Her baby wasn’t supposed to pose next to fallen trees for her newborn pictures after Hurricane Matthew passed.
“I just started to break down crying,” Lauren Young said of the night she began to go into labor. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this isn’t happening right now. I don’t want to do this without my husband.’ ”
Joey Young was miles away from the Rock Hill hospital where Lauren was admitted on Oct. 7 after she had evacuated with her 2-year-old son and mother before the storm hit. Joey couldn’t leave because he was called to work round-the-clock shifts as a Jasper County Fire and Rescue firefighter.
But at 6:01 a.m. Oct. 8, Lauren held their daughter Charlotte for the first time. Joey had gotten to watch via FaceTime but was quickly called to help Jasper County recover.
“I was just in denial and devastated that he wasn’t going to be there with us, but it was nice to be able to have him there through the phone,” Lauren said.
When they were finally reunited on Oct. 9, the couple heard about Cassie Clayshulte, a photographer based in Bluffton who is offering free newborn sessions to children born during the hurricane.
They jumped at the chance.
“I can’t wait until (Charlotte) gets older, and we can tell her the stories and show her the pictures,” Lauren said.
Clayshulte said she decided to offer the free sessions as a way to help parents coming back to damaged homes. So far, she has booked around eight sessions.
“I know people are strapped because we all just took six-day vacations we weren’t planning on,” Clayshulte said. “It didn’t even cross my mind to charge for these.”
Unlike her regular newborn sessions, Clayshulte said she wanted to turn the disaster areas into a makeshift studio to show the uniqueness of the time each child was born.
“I wanted to show that there is hope, and that something beautiful can come from something devastating,” she said. “I feel like every tree that didn’t hit a home was a miracle in itself. I wanted them to be a part of something beautiful before they are gone forever.”
Clayshulte said she takes safety precautions before beginning to take pictures at each location by talking to linemen, property owners and power companies to make sure that the area is safe for the newborns. She also uses special lenses to make it appear that the babies are closer to the damage than they really are.
For baby Charlotte, Clayshulte posed her next to downed trees, caution tape, in her father’s fire helmet, and in a field of flowers that survived the storm.
The change in background is one Clayshulte hopes will be a talking point for each family going forward.
“It was just my way to help,” she said. “I’m sure it’s a story their moms are going to tell for the next 30 years.”