Brooke was nominated for the Everyday Beauty Project by her husband. In the application I ask, "Why do you want to nominate this person?" His response had me instantly interested. He said, "Brooke has no idea how beautiful , talented, and wonderful she is. She has a degree in social work and is amazing with our kids. Anytime one of them has a special need she researches it until she knows more than anyone about it. She almost has her Master’s degree as well. She needs to know how beautiful and special she is."
I had never met Brooke, but with that response I knew she was someone I needed to meet. I am SO GLAD I did!! This woman is obviously stunning! Even more than that, just as her husband stated, she is talented and I would like to add to the list extremely intelligent. Truly I feel like I ended this day a better person just from the conversations we had in the time we spent!
Brooke reminded me of the importance of compassion and empathy. We honestly do not know the things people have been through. Even if we have known them for a long time, or watched them go through their trials, the way we experience things is something as uniquely individual as each of us. She reminded me of the importance of talking with our neighbors, family members, friends about how we FEEL. Also, of the value of responding openly and honestly. Brooke said something that stuck with me about infertility. She said, "Even after you go through it all, and you have a successful pregnancy, you still carry that pain with you." I have never thought of that. In my mind, after you had a baby, the pain would go away. Things like this are important to know and to talk about so we can be more empathetic to others.
Brooke has been through more than anyone should. As she told me of her life, I agree with what her husband said, "She has no idea how amazing she is." Brooke spent most of her life working with children. She grew up in loving home with biological siblings, as well as foster siblings. At 16, she began working at a daycare. She worked with youth through summer and after school programs. Her husband recounts, "She found herself in a job she hated when we were newlyweds and she was putting me through school. So she started her own daycare, got it licensed and accredited, and served on a board that helped ensure quality childcare." Children have always been a huge part of her life, and she always dreamed of having children of her own. When they decided to start making those dreams a reality, they began to embark on one of the hardest roads of their lives.
Brooke was diagnosed with PCOS, which is a disease that can cause infertility. She went through her first round of IVF which failed, and was told that she would not be able to have children of her own. Brooke would not accept this as an answer. She researched and found all different programs and eventually had a successful round. This is how Brooke describes it to me, "Each of our children are miracles. It took six years and many medical interventions, failed and fraudulent adoptions before our daughter, was born at 30 weeks at 2 lbs 13 oz. She suffered a great deal and almost died twice due to a condition called NEC. She had low grade 3 brain bleeds on both sides of her brain. She was sick for a long time as a baby but has always been brilliant."
Unfortunately this was not the only reason the day their daughter was born was a traumatic day, their daughter was a twin, tragically her brother was stillborn. I can't imagine the devastation and surreal emotions the next days, months, and years brought about for Brooke and her husband. Brooke reminded me of something I have heard greiving people say many times...Please talk to them about it. Having people dodge the subject or somehow act like the loved one didn't exist is excruciating. It is so hard to know how to console someone who has just lost a piece of themselves...but I think the best thing we can do is just listen. Follow their cues.
"After two more "almost adoptions" and two more IVF cycles we had the boys at 32 weeks. I had severe pre-eclampsia. The boys were basically healthy with a few medical set backs. We, as a family have spent a combined 27 weeks in the NICU." Brooke recalled. The boys, are her second set of twins.
"Our latest addition is a foster-adopt situation. She is a beautiful little girl that I believe, God placed in our family for a reason. We are so happy she is here!" She said. Something else Brooke shared with me that I loved is this, "I am a social worker at heart. I like to advocate for people, especially those who have experienced some of the same trials as I have. The big ones are infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature infants, adoption, children with special needs, and people with special health care needs."
This definitely describes her so well! I think Brooke has been being shaped her whole life without even knowing it. The fact that she grew up with foster siblings and wanted to go into social work before all of her struggles even began. Brooke is the type of person that will take her hardships and turn them into help for others.
The above picture, may seem a little strange to some because of the gun, it is a family heirloom passed down through generations. Brooke does not like guns, but her husband does, so she agreed to do a few shots with the gun in the photos. I really wanted to share this one, because I think she looks so stong and confident in it. It also kind of symbolizes the strength our background and ancestors can give us!
One of my favorite things is to get to know people and hear their backgrounds, their stuggles, their victories. l love to take those things and put them into a priceless peice of art. This was as much a growing experience for me as it was for Brooke! I had this vision of what I wanted to do for her shoot one day as I was driving. It was before we had even talked to eachother. I just had a feel of what she was like through her husband and her sister in law. In the application, the celebrity she most identified with was Lana Parrilla, who has a very Old Hollywood Style.
I wanted to have a whole set. The piano, because she has always loved music. She is a very talented Vocalist. I wanted vintage decor, which as we talked I found out her Mother collects. I wanted it to be elegant but in a way, chaos. Randomly placed things. The books on the shelves are a mess. There is lots of random little things all around. To me it was an expression of how, no matter how we try to plan, nothing will ever turn out the way we expect. We can still rise from it, grow from it, see beauty in all of it. We can stand tall put on a smile and charge into this world knowing we can all make a difference! Brooke shows me that! I hope reading her story has helped you as much as it changed me.