What might one of the hardest parts about being a military wife be?
How about your husband is deployed, can’t make it home for the birth of your child and is going to miss the first few weeks, months, or even year of his new baby’s life.
Army Maj. and Dr. Timothy Judge and his wife Nicole moved to Richmond Hill about a year ago when he was stationed at Fort Stewart. He left for his first deployment six months ago and has been in Afghanistan.
"There are so many times during the day when Wyatt does something really cool – a little smile; seeing his dimples – and I don’t have the camera right there," Nicole Judge said. "And I just wish I could share that moment with my husband. He’s missing all this early stuff in Wyatt’s life. I’ve been taking pictures and video like crazy, but my amateur photography skills don’t always capture it."
Judge called Rowe Photographers because she wanted to get some professional-quality pictures taken, to send overseas.
"Wyatt was just eight days old," she said.
Judge got a nice surprise when she was told the photo shoot would be free, because she qualified for something called E-Stork.
Rowe Photographers co-owner Shirley Rowe started the E-Stork program specifically for military wives whose husbands are deployed.
E-Stork provides new military moms with a free, standard newborn photo shoot within the first month of the baby’s birth. The company also regularly offers a 20 percent discount to all military customers.
Rowe said the E-Stork idea came to her about four months ago, after she overheard a conversation in a local restaurant.
"The man was obviously military and he and his wife had a brand new baby. The woman was telling her friend how very, very fortunate she was that her husband could coordinate his leave time with the birth of their baby," Rowe said. "So many soldiers can’t – and that just made me so sad."
Judge described E-Stork as "amazing and fabulous."
"Even more than the program, Shirley and (her husband) Kelly were so nice and professional – and I got great pictures out of it," she said, noting her husband was excited to see the photos just days after their son was born.
Rowe said her and her husband both know how difficult deployment can be.
"Our fathers served in World War II and my brother fought Vietnam, so we know what the impact is like for a family," she said. "It made me so upset to think about these new fathers not being able to share in the birth of their baby."
In the future, Rowe said she’d like to license and register the program to raise awareness across the country.
"I’m not sure if other photographers are doing this anywhere, but I’m sure they’d love to," she said. "These women sacrifice a part of their family to help serve our country. This is our way of saying thank you. They deserve it and I have a great respect for them – plus, I love to photograph babies."
Maj. Judge is slated to return home mid-July and Nicole said they hope he'll be home for a year before his next deployment.
To find out more about E-Stork or to make an appointment, call 756-6161.