The lovely Vanessa Lozada, Jordan Shae (14) and Amelia Quinn (2).
Vanessa began her journey through motherhood as a teen mom, when she was just 18. Her pregnancy was uncomplicated and her delivery went smoothly. Jordan was born on September 10, 2001 and 18 hours later, the attacks on the World Trade Center happened. The hospital was on lock down, the city she gave birth in was considered a target and Vanessa couldn't help but think, "What have I done? How could I raise a baby by myself in a world like this?". Before Vanessa conceived Jordan, she never wanted to be a mother, she thought she'd be the cool aunt and spoil her brothers kids. She says that her baby saved her, she changed her life and instantly turned her into an adult at the most terrifying time in her generation's history.
Jordan's father hadn't wanted Vanessa to have her and while she wanted him to stay in her life through those early days, the scars he left through his patterns of abuse stay with them today. Jordan was an unhealthy baby with a lot of minor problems: umbilical hernia, surgery on her tear ducts, chronic ear infections, bilateral ear tubes, gastrointestinal disease, obstructive and central sleep apnea, severe asthma and night terrors. With no help from her father, it was a real struggle for Vanessa as a young mother to navigate the health system while managing an unmanageable home life.
When Jordan was four, Vanessa took her and fled from domestic abuse. She filed a family violence protective order and spent time in a women's shelter/safe haven. They have attended family therapy for years, working through the trauma her father inflicted which escalated after they left. He collapsed Jordan's lung during their last physical fight and Vanessa says, that was the first and last time he physically abused her, but the mental trauma lingers today. Vanessa was awarded sole custody and she has not seen him since 2010. Jordan has been through a lot but Vanessa says she is "the strongest, most compassionate kid I know, and I believe it's going to turn her into a woman who will someday change the world for the better".
Vanessa thought that she'd navigate life on her own with her daughter but has found a safe and supportive partner she is very much in love with. Her pregnancy in 2013 came as a surprise (she was on birth control both times she conceived), but they were happy and have rolled with it all beautifully. She says that her pregnancy and birth couldn't have been more different with a loving partner by her side. She's also learned to accept help this time rather than be so adamant about doing everything herself.
Vanessa was in a severe auto accident in 2008 that left her with a traumatic brain injury, vertigo, cognitive deficiencies, and chronic pain. Years of medical treatment, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, multiple specialists, and sky-high medical bills have made a hard life even harder and she now struggles to make new memories which is much of the reason she wanted to participate in this project. She takes hundreds of photographs of her children each week so she can cement their lives in her reality but doesn't often make it into the frames with them.
She says, "I now realize we’re all fighting our own battle, and you never know what a person is going through behind the scenes. Life isn’t only what you see on Facebook or an Instagram feed. Most people don’t “Check In” at AA meetings, or tag themselves at neuropsych evaluations, because that doesn’t fit into society’s highlight reel. That’s what I love about this project. It shows the beauty in what many, including myself, see or once saw, as flaws or imperfections."
Vanessa asked that we use this poem from Rupi Kaur as a summary for what she hopes her daughters learn from her example,
"I want to apologize to all the women I have called beautiful before I’ve called them intelligent or brave.
I am sorry I made it sound as though something as simple as what you’re born with is all you have to be proud of when you have broken mountains with your wit.
From now on I will say things like you are resilient, or you are extraordinary not because I don’t think you’re beautiful, but because I need you to know you are more than that."