By Teri Whitcraft and Carrie Halperin
For Allison Dearstyne of Dunkirk, Md., her first Mother’s Day as a mom may be the best ever.
Last November, when she was nine months pregnant, she and her husband Richard entered a photo in the Million Moms Challenge “Imagine Me & You” contest. The black and white photo, titled “May You Stay Forever Young,” was one of 450 images submitted by moms-to-be across the country, all of whom wrote a message of five words or less on their bellies. The goal: to raise awareness about the challenges facing moms and babies around the world.
“The Bob Dylan lyric ‘May You Stay Forever Young’ was a clJassic song from my childhood,” Allison said. “And I think that all moms and babies around the world – even those who are less privileged – should have a chance at life…a chance to stay forever young.”
Clara Noel was born on Dec. 5, 2012, and the Dearsytnes became preoccupied with caring for their beautiful little girl. Then eight weeks later, they got a call from internationally renowned photographer Anne Geddes in Australia. Via Skype, Geddes told them the news: she had chosen their photo as the grand prize winner in the contest.
“Have you ever been to Australia? ” Geddes asked. “Would you like to come?”
“It was unbelievable. I felt totally blessed,” said Allison. “We tried to maintain our composure, but as soon as we got off the skype call with her we were jumping around the room screaming.”
The prize was something money can’t buy: An all-expense paid trip to Australia for a rare, private portrait of mother and daughter, donated by Anne Geddes to help generate support for the Million Moms Challenge.
Weeks later, the young family boarded an international plane bound for Australia. It was a 25 hour flight, not counting a long, unexpected layover in Brisbane. “Fortunately we have a really really happy baby, so that was good,” said Allison. “And when we met Anne Geddes, she really welcomed us and made us feel totally comfortable.”
On the day of the actual shoot, Allison said she felt more like a fashion model than a 9th grade history teacher. “I’ve never been made up so much, even on my wedding day. I felt really pampered.”
Then, wrapped in translucent fabric and bathed in rosy light, Allison and Clara Noel posed for the picture of a lifetime. Ten minutes later, Clara Noel had had enough.
“She was getting fussy a little bit toward the end. But when we saw some of the shots, I thought I can’t believe that’s me and my baby in an Anne Geddes picture. It was kind of surreal.”
“I hope they love the image as much as I enjoyed shooting it,” Anne Geddes told ABC News. “There is nothing more precious than the love between a mother and her baby. And on this Mother’s Day, we as mothers would all do well to remember every other mother in the world, some of whom are living in far less fortunate circumstances than ourselves.”
As for Allison Dearstyne – who is celebrating her first Mother’s Day - the portrait is “a little piece of Anne Geddes magic…a memory we will treasure forever. One day we will talk to Clara Noel about how she was part of the Million Moms Challenge.”
The Million Moms Challenge is a joint effort of ABC News and the United Nations Foundation to engage a million Americans with a million moms overseas around the shared dream of a healthy pregnancy and a baby who will survive and thrive. For more information about what you can do to help, go to www.millionmomschallenge.com
Anne Geddes’ new magazine, “My Pregnancy: A Woman’s Story, ” documents in photos and words nine women’s intimate and emotional stories of their pregnancies, births and beyond. For more information go to www.annegeddes.com/pregnancy