Photography by Allyson Wasmund Photography
Meet Hollis. She is Beauty Revived.
We have the most beautiful photos of the moments right after Hollis was born. The photos are raw and real. They show me and Casey, Hollis’ Dad, gazing at a sweet new life. They show my skin on hers flushed with joy. They show big brother Eldon and big sister Mavery meeting their new baby sister. Mavery was reserved but attentive, while Eldon was more expressive. I remember him patting my arm, telling me “You did a good job.” His face shined with happiness. This is what happened in the first hour Hollis joined our world. We were now a proud family of five. We had no idea there was going to be so much more to Hollis’ story.
But there was. The next days were the hardest days of my life.
I knew something was happening when the pediatrician carefully examined Hollis in our recovery room. She double-checked Hollis’ features and then left briefly. When she returned, she sat down to talk with me and Casey. It was then, with Hollis tucked into my arms, I heard the words “Down syndrome”. I gazed fiercely at my sweet baby and thought, I love you so much. But then the tears came. Tears that didn’t stop for three days straight. And the emotions came too. Sadness. Fear. Worry. Despair. Desperation. Disbelief. Fear again. Everything I thought I knew about my life seemed different now and I had never felt so lost.
It has been almost one year since Hollis was born and I lived those first hard days. It’s been a journey getting here but I am not so lost anymore. So much has happened over the course of this past year. It’s been one year of getting to know Hollis. One year of the best snuggles and the brightest smiles. One year of unconditional love. One year of endless support from family, friends and Hollis’ care team. One year of appointments. We’ve seen the pediatrician, lactation consultant, speech therapist, cardiologist, ENT, eye doctor, and early childhood teachers. We’ve had rounds of tests and follow-ups. It’s also been one year of rolling emotions. Tears, processing, letting go. One year of being more present, finding strength in the moment and moving forward. One year of victories and celebrations. Hollis learning to nurse, her first smiles, laughs, clapping, rolling, sitting up on her own. She’s like other babies, yet on a slightly different timeline. It’s been one year of gratitude and surreal joy. Learning and transformation. One year of Down syndrome, an unexpected but incredibly worthy and beautiful path.
Undoubtedly, during her first year Hollis has made a positive impact on those around her. Her bright smile and story have sparked meaningful conversations, stirred hearts, increased awareness and inspired advocacy. Some of her more visible impacts include the Hollis Strong team, a group of family and friends who fundraised over $2000 for Gigi’s Playhouse, an organization that provides free programming for individuals with Down syndrome. Hollis’ impact was also evident when her siblings wrote letters to the American Girl Doll company that asked for a doll with Down syndrome to be made for Hollis. When the company’s response did not immediately meet their request for inclusion, a lesson about advocacy was learned. I know they will keep fighting the good fight for their sister.
Hollis’ positive impact also includes more intimate instances as well. For example, one day when a heavy sadness unexpectedly set in, a conversation left me changed. A mom, who is years ahead of me on this same path, told me that Hollis is my liberation. A liberation from myself and the flawed thoughts that sometimes creep in, as well as a liberation from society’s ideas about certain things. With Hollis, I understand this message more everyday. She has my heart completely and she is making me a better person. In turn, I am sharing about this learning and growing on HollisStory.com. Messages of appreciation for our honesty and an increased awareness of Down syndrome have come our way. Not only is Hollis changing our family for the better, she is shifting others too. We are grateful to be a part of this small but mighty movement.
Ultimately, while I do not know for certain how our story will unfold, I do know that Hollis is making a lasting impact on those around her. The true beauty of Hollis is found in the way she connects people and teaches us about what is important in life. With her pure joy and captivating smile, Hollis often reminds us to slow down. She reminds us to be present, find strength in the moment, have gratitude and to keep moving forward. For many, her reminders are simple, awakening and transformative all at the same time.
About the Photographer
Allyson Wasmund Photography is located in Saint Paul, Minnesota and specializes in outdoor maternity + in-home lifestyle newborn photography. Allyson strives to capture true connection + love in every single image she captures. When Allyson isn’t behind her camera, you can usually find her outdoors somewhere with her husband, two children + one doodle named Gus.