I don't know how many of you know that I am a member of the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep foundation. It is a group of professional photographers who go to the local hospitals and conduct sessions for families dealing with infant bereavement. I think it is the most important work that I do.
Two nights ago I got a call from a photographer in Clarksville, Kandice, who had gotten a call about a baby at Vanderbilt. She wanted to come along and shadow me as she had not done a session before. I agreed and we met at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.
Baby A. was still on life support at the time. The hospital staff did not think she would hold on much longer. She was a beautiful baby. She had a head of curly hair and the most perfect tiny features ever. I met with her family. They were wonderful and really supported and held one another up. I took the photos of the baby and we discussed my coming back if Baby A. passed. The family had hope as did I that the baby may pull through. There have been other babies on the NILMDTS forum who were not supposed to make it and then they would post up a notice that the baby was fine and went home. Baby A. seemed alert and strong. She seemed like a little fighter and I hoped that I would never have to see this family again.
Yesterday went by and I never heard anything and I was so hopeful that she was still hanging in there. I got the call last night about 11:20 that they had removed the life support. I told them I was on my way.
I have been on several of these shoots now. But every other shoot I did was with an infant that had already left us. This was so much harder. Now, I knew the baby and the family. I had seen the baby clothes they had bought her, the bonnet and the tiny shoes. I had witnessed how much they loved this little one during her life - now I had to witness them grieving her death.
So much love, so much pain. We did the photos. Now their baby girl was free of all of the wires and tubing that covered her the day before. This precious little lamb dressed in her coming home outfit hugging the angel that her Grandmother had purchased for her. I tried so hard not to cry, to remain detached. At one point they were dressing her and I turned my back and wept. The grandmother noticed and came over and asked if I was okay. Can you imagine? The grandmother comforting me? I assured her I was fine and finished the shoot.
People ask why or how I do this. How can I not? These are the only photos they will have to remember her by. They won't have her first birthday, sports, first day of school - any of these. They have this brief moment in time. This one chance to chronicle her life and tell the world, "She is here. She is here and she is loved and we will never forget her.". That is why I do this. I do this to honor Baby A. and all those others. To give the parents the photos, taken in a brief moment, that will give them a lifetime of the memory. I do this because I have no choice. I have seen their faces. I have heard their hearts.
With the Month of October being recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, The Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation holds its Annual Fund Drive for six weeks starting in mid-September and ending in October.
President Ronald Reagan enacted Proclamation 5890 in October of 1988 to recognize that each year, approximately a million pregnancies in the United States alone end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a newborn child. Reagan stated, "A national observance offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn or newborn babies. It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members... "
If you are in a place to make even a small contribution to NILMDTS, please know that doing so will continue to allow the organization to provide improved resources, training, communication, and other tools necessary in support of their amazing contingent of professional photographers who provide the gift of free remembrance portraiture to families in need.
By supporting the continued education of our volunteer photographers * By allowing us to further our outreach to hospitals and hospices across the world * By offsetting the costs associated with outreach efforts including Formal NILMDTS Seminars * By supporting the Family Forum which creates a productive and supportive haven for healing * By supporting the Photographers' Forum which provides a helpful environment for our member photographers to express their feelings and receive advice on the various issues that they face in this noble work * By supporting the day to day operations of our Headquarters Offices
If you would like to make a donation, please visit the website at: